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.)
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:
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.)