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Things to Do in Scottsdale {and Sedona and Grand Canyon} with Kids!

View in Scottdale Arizona
Just a few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to go to Arizona in July… and I considered saying no.  I was already in the middle of a Houston summer, so why on the earth would I fly over to a Scottsdale summer?

But not one to miss an adventure, no matter how hot, I signed up for a stay at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale.  (And really, saying “yes” to a week at the Four Seasons was not difficult to do. Seriously, look at the pictures.)

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale Arizona
So here I am in Arizona, and guess what?  Arizona’s dry heat has nothing on Houston’s humidity.  Unlike the wet blanket covering my favorite city in July, Scottsdale has fresh air and breezes, making the shade actually enjoyable.  And there are very few mosquitoes.

Plus, we found we had an advantage in Arizona.  While everyone is inside during the heat of the day, the Houstonians have the city to ourselves.

We also found an American landscape that was brand new to us.  Cactus, desert, mountains… and giant canyons.  And we found that we really like Arizona.

So what is there to do in the Scottsdale (and surrounding areas) with kids?  This is what we found:


Riding Train at Scottsdale Railroad Park
1. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

We’ve gone to this park 4 times in 7 days.  It would have been 7 out of 7 if it wasn’t for the roadtrips.

This place is amazing for train lovers (and park lovers).  Old train cars, model train museum, train rides, carousel rides, giant playground, old western town playground and general store.  And it’s very reasonably priced!

The playgrounds and model train museum are free.  Rides are $2/person.  The general store has super cheap meals, with $4 meals and $1.50 ice cream.

Western Town at Scottsdale Railroad Park
Each day we went, the kids would run to the western town, “escape” from jail, run around and around, go the playground and sit in the misters, climb the ladders, swing across the unique monkey bars and then ride the train and carousel.

Brooke Pushing Sensors at Model Railroad Museum at Scottsdale Railroad Park
After that we’d visit the most amazing model train museum I have ever seen, with very well done layouts and sensors the kids could push and turn on.  One would start the construction equipment.  Another would start the circus.  Another would start a train…

I was so impressed with this park that I didn’t mind visiting again and again.

Summer is the slow season, so we had the park mostly to ourselves.  I’m told it gets busy again in September!


At the top of Pinnical Peak Scottsdale Arizona
2.  Hikes {for Non-Hikers}

On my trip to Scottsdale, I heard there was a mountain right next to the hotel… and I dismissed the idea of climbing to the top.

I don’t consider myself to be a hiker or to be even a little outdoor-sy.  Plus, I have 3 kids to wrangle and even the dry heat is hot on a long hike.

That said, I do consider myself to be a good walker that can carry a 3 year old on my shoulders while negotiating with 2 older kids to walk themselves out of the Houston zoo/museum/park/mall.

My 8 year old was determined to try some hiking, so I reconsidered.  It turns out that you really only need sneakers, sunscreen, water and a little determination to get 3 kids up a mountain (or down a canyon)… And the hikes were one of our very favorite things to do in Arizona!

We climbed Pinnical Peak in Scottsdale, Bell Rock in Sedona & a very small portion of Grandview Trail at the Grand Canyon.  For each, I had a plan to turn back with my 3 and 6 year old and let grandpa and my 8 year old continue… and for each one, all the kids completed the hikes and asked to find another trail to explore.

Junior Ranger Pledge at Pinnical Peak Scottsdale Arizona
Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale – This is a smooth trail that is just a couple miles long, up 1,300 feet.  The coolest part is that after the hike, we stopped by the information desk at the trail head and the staff gave the kids stickers and tests.  Once they answered all the questions right about hiking safety and the animals on the mountain, they got junior ranger badges and certificates!

Joe Climbing Bell Rock in Sedona Arizona
Bell Rock in Sedona – This is another short hike but the fun part is that there are several rocky areas you have to scramble up.  Halfway up the rock is a wide open rim with great views of Sedona’s red rocks.  Going higher requires some skill, so we did not venture much further.  I did have to help the 3 year old up some steep inclines, but he talked about this hike for days!

Joe on Rocks at Grand Canyon Arizona
Grandview Trail at the Grand Canyon – This is steep and difficult hike, and we did not go far down the trail.  But I can tell you that we did not really appreciate the beauty of the Grand Canyon until we went down into it.  This required a lot of hand holding and careful steps, but it was beautiful!

Horseback Riding Cave Creek Outfitters Scottsdale Arizona
3.  Horseback Riding

On vacation, we really try to do things that are unique to that city… things we can’t do in Houston.  Going horseback riding in the desert certainly qualified!

There are a lot of options in Scottsdale for horseback riding, and we chose Cave Creek Outfitters.  Only the big kids could go, so we quietly sneaked them out the hotel with grandpa while the 3 year old visited the pool.  The 6 and 8 year old were so pleased when when they returned from the hour long evening ride, it seems like our sneakiness was worth it!


4.  Kid Friendly Restaurants

Finding good kid friendly restaurants in a new city can be intimidating, so we asked a local mom for some recommendations. We tried them out, and here are our favorites:

Wildflower Bread Company from Train Park in Scottsdale
Wildflower Bread Company – This local chain has several locations, including one across the street from our favorite Railroad Park!  It serves soup, salads and sandwiches… and as you might have guessed… the bread is really good.  Order at the counter, fill your drink and take a seat.  The restaurant is casual, clean and a little contemporary.

We went several times, at the request of the kids.  I was happy to keep going back, because the salads and sweet potato sandwich were great.

Splashpad at Scottsdale Quarter outside Zin Burger
Scottsdale Quarter – This is an outdoor shopping complex, with a splashpad in the middle.  It’s not huge, but it’s cold, wet and nicely maintained.  Right next to the water is Zinburger and True Food Kitchen.

We ate at Zinburger and had one of the best veggie burgers ever (and I heard the same reviews about the hamburgers).  When we visited, kids meals were only $3 (instead of $5), so it was really a good dinner out.

Dough at Grimaldis Pizzeria Scottsdale Arizona
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria – This is a chain restaurant (and it looks like a few are in Houston!) with one spot at Scottsdale’s Market Street.  It is casual and fancy all at once.  The checkered tableclothes are cloth and wine glasses are on each table… but they serve mainly pizza and give kids dough to play with!

The pizza is cooked in a coal brick oven and is crispy and delicious.  The price is a little high for pizza (~$20 for a large) but it’s really good pizza.  Right outside the restaurant is a little green space with big cat statues and some room to play.


5.  Day Trips

Bell Rock in Sedona Arizona
Sedona – About a 2 hour drive from Scottsdale are the red rocks of Sedona.  This place is beautiful and worth a look.  Take a hike, like on Bell Rock, take a jeep tour or just enjoy lunch at one of the cafes.  (Also, Houston Mom, Jodi, recommends Slide Rock State Park… and we are certainly adding this to our next trip!)

Jill and Boys at Grand Canyon Arizona
Grand Canyon – About a 3.5 hour drive from Scottsdale, it’s worth the drive to see this mile deep canyon.  You can reach the overlooks from the free shuttles inside the park, or be more adventurous and access the trail down into the canyon.

From the top, the canyon looks like a pretty postcard.  Once you hike down, even just a little, you can really appreciate the scale and beauty of the canyon.  I’ll put together my Grand Canyon tips in another post!


6.  And there is more to do!  Musical Instrument Museum, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Arizona Science Center, Butterfly Wonderland, Phoenix Zoo, Out of Africa Wildlife Park, Rafting, Train Rides, Pioneer Living History Museum.  (Houston Zoo Members get discounts at the Phoenix Zoo & Out of Africa Park.)

Follow ScottsdaleMomsBlog for insiders tips on things to do!


If you are planning a trip to Arizona, here are some tips for visiting with kids:

  • Drink a lot of water.  The air is dry so you won’t be soaked in sweat like in Houston… but you can still be dehydrated if you don’t drink water like you are in Texas.
  • Bring hats, sun glasses and sunscreen.  Arizona has lots of sunny days!
  • Arizona is hot (like 108 degrees in July), it’s just a more enjoyable kind of hot (compared to Houston).
  • Bring chapstick, lotion and maybe even saline nose spray.  The air is dry!  (My son had 5 nose bleeds before we got smart and picked up some saline spray.)
  • Check the hours of venues before you head out.  During the hot summer, venues seem to close early or close during the middle of the day.  During our trip, the zoo closed at 2:00pm and the train park rides closed 1:00-4:00pm each day.)


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1 Comment

  1. María García
    July 24, 2019 at 11:32 am — Reply

    I congratulate you! I loved what you wrote about your trip to Arizona, thank you so much for the recommendations! We are going to stay in Scottsdale and we want to go to the Grand Canyon.
    I would be very grateful if you would guide us to go, since I am worried about distance and time I have 3 children, two of 9 and one of 7, thank you very much!
    thank you,
    María García

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