Why Scottsdale Makes the Perfect Family Getaway

A butterfly feeds from pink wildflowers.

Organizing a family vacation—especially for an extended family—can be a challenge: You need to keep in mind the needs of grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and more. Finding restaurants that will satisfy a kid who will only eat pizza and a teen committed to a vegan diet can be difficult. And picking places to eat is only the beginning. You then need to choose activities that will keep everyone engaged and grumbling to a minimum.

Scottsdale, however, makes the task less formidable. The city has an enviable selection of restaurants that will satisfy both fussy eaters and adventurous gourmets. Plus, attractions include museums that are perfect for a multigenerational group. At Butterfly Wonderland, for example, your youngest travelers may simply stare in amazement at the colorful sight of 3,000 butterflies floating through the air. Older kids will appreciate the insights into their life cycles. Other stops on this itinerary—including an aircraft museum, a rock-climbing studio, and a musical instrument museum—were similarly picked for their accessibility to travelers of all ages.

Perhaps best of all, Scottsdale enjoys some 300 days of sunshine a year, and just like you can count on warm days, you can expect that this trip will delight everyone in your family.

A rock climber


Rock-Climbing Class

The whole family can learn a new skill, rock climbing, on an outing to AZ on the Rocks. (Though if anyone would rather sit that out, the facility also offers yoga classes.)
Carl Grupp, a smiling man with a goatee. He wears a blazer and tie. His slicked-back hair is slightly greying on the edges. A telephone pole is visible amongst greenery in the background.


Carl Grupp

Carl Grupp of Coastline Travel Advisors in Scottsdale has more than 20 years of hands-on experience in luxury travel planning and a proven track record in exceeding client expectations. Few travel consultants know Scottsdale better than Carl, who can customize this itinerary around your interests for a truly bespoke vacation.
Four people tear away parts of a large pretzel.

DAY 1Move into Your Scottsdale Home

Few cities can compete with Scottsdale when it comes to its range of hotels and resorts—from boutique resorts to sprawling properties with multiple golf courses and pools. When it comes to a family vacation, however, a house rental can also be a smart choice. You’ll have your own living room to hang out in, and since you’ll also have your own pool, you won’t have to worry about a lack of lounge chairs. A home rental can also offer big advantages when it comes to your vacation budget. Not only will you not be paying for multiple rooms, but the occasional breakfasts in your Scottsdale home can add up to significant savings. Cooking a dinner together is not only less expensive than eating out, but it provides yet another opportunity for quality family time.

Rentals in Scottsdale can be found on a number of sites: Casago, GoodNight Stay, Holiday Rental (which is focused solely on Scottsdale properties), and Parsons Villas (with a portfolio limited to Arizona properties) are good places to start your search. There’s an abundance of options: apartments in the heart of Old Town with shopping and dining within walking distance; homes in larger developments, with the amenities they offer; and some of Scottsdale’s most luxurious properties, if you want to stay in a house that looks like it belongs in the pages of a design magazine.

After everyone has picked out a room and you’ve explored your home in Scottsdale, head out to dinner tonight at Brat Haus. This urban beer garden features a menu of 25 different craft beers and is a perfect setting to enjoy a warm evening while eating pretzels, handmade sausages, and other German dishes. An aspect that it shares in common with its European inspirations is that it’s a decidedly family-friendly place. Patio games and a dogs-welcome policy add to the festive atmosphere.
A family stands amongst tall flower bushes. A boy points off right.

DAY 2A Day of Butterflies and Rock Climbing

Start today with a visit to Butterfly Wonderland, a rainforest experience in the middle of Arizona. The main attraction is the 3,000 or so butterflies that live here. In addition to seeing some of them in every stage of life, from caterpillars to cocoons to winged insects, interactive displays and a 3D movie provide engaging introductions to butterflies. They share this attraction with other costars: the Spineless Giants exhibit includes some of the world’s largest beetles, walking sticks, and other arthropods; the new Rainforest Reptiles section houses lizards, snakes, and other amphibians that live in tropical environments; and Tropical Waters of the World focuses on colorful freshwater fish that can be found in the Amazon and other rivers in warm climates.

If butterflies produce eyerolls from any of your kids, they may be more interested in your next stop, Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs (located within the same Odysea in the Desert complex as Butterfly Wonderland). Life-size recreations of dinosaurs include the tank-like Ankylosaurus; the enormous Quetzalcoatlus, with its 35- to 40-foot wingspan; and the giant Diplodocus, which was around 90 feet long. Informative displays and fossil dig stations give an educational spin to the attraction, introducing topics related to paleontology in an engaging, kid-friendly way.

You can have lunch at Odysea, but be sure to leave some room for a snack at Sweet Republic, where handcrafted ice cream is made with fresh, local ingredients. Having to choose between unique flavors like Earl Grey Tea and Honey Lavendar may be the toughest decision you have to make all day.

In the afternoon, AZ on the Rocks offers a chance for everyone in the family to learn a new skill: rock climbing. The 14,000-square-foot facility includes climbing walls and terrains designed both for beginners and more advanced climbers. No experience is necessary, and the staff will guide you through everything you need to know before attempting an ascent. If parents want to skip the climbing, kids can join a summer camp program while the adults attend a yoga class—several different ones are offered throughout the day.

Eat an early dinner tonight at Craft 64. This pub in Downtown Scottsdale is known both for its pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired oven, and its long menu of Arizona-brewed craft beers. The selection changes regularly, but you can typically expect around 30 of the state’s best ales, lagers, and other beers to be available.

After dinner, see a Broadway musical or other show at the Desert Stages Theatre inside Scottsdale Fashion Square. This theater company has a mission of introducing young actors, and audiences, to the magic of theater. New shows debut regularly, and with four different performance spaces, you’ll often have a selection to choose from on your night out. If you have an aspiring young thespian in your family, a night here is a must; and if you don’t, the performance may spark a new interest.
A plane's right wing in front of a wall with flags.

DAY 3Military and Medieval Highlights

Enjoy the house you’ve rented for your Scottsdale trip this morning with some low-key family time by the pool. Later in the day, head out to Oregano’s for lunch. This family restaurant dubs itself a “pizza bistro,” and while pizza is a focus, the family-style menu really covers a remarkable range of dishes that are always crowd pleasers: pasta, wings, sandwiches, and several different lemonade concoctions.

In the afternoon, a tour of the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum offers the opportunity for some cross-generational bonding—especially if parents or grandparents served in the military and can provide some personal anecdotes along with the exhibits. That said, this museum ends up being fascinating for all visitors. Located at Falcon Field Airport, the museum includes a working hangar where visitors can see mechanics restoring vintage engines. Exhibits cover the evolution of military aircraft from World War I to the present day, and the aircraft on display range from vintage biplanes to rare bombers. It’s even possible to climb inside the cockpits of some of them.

After an afternoon immersed in military history, this evening you’ll travel back in time to an earlier era with dinner at Medieval Times, a new addition to Scottsdale’s family offerings. It’s located within Scottsdale Castle, the first new fortress erected in the city in, well, perhaps ever. The two-hour feast is best enjoyed eating roast chicken and corn on the cob with your hands, medieval-style. As you have your dinner, six knights will face off in a spirited jousting tournament.
A girl hits a large gong with a mallet

DAY 4Hit Some High Notes

Start today with a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum, which will interest both young rock stars and marching-band members. The museum’s collection includes some 6,500 instruments, among them Steinway pianos, the world’s largest sousaphone, and a collection of both acoustic and electric guitars. The museum’s mission, however, is to focus on music’s role across cultures, and the galleries are organized geographically. Some of the most interesting items are often also the most unexpected ones: a Paraguayan cello made from a repurposed trash can, a Native American ceremonial drum, a Maori war trumpet. Be sure to spend some time in the Experience Gallery, where even the youngest visitors can be musicians.

Tacos surely rank up there with pizza and burgers as foods that every kid, and adult, loves. Given the number of excellent Mexican restaurants in Scottsdale, it would be wrong to not include at least one meal of tacos on your itinerary. You’ll have lunch today at Los Sombreros, which serves both soft and crisp ones in a cantina-inspired space that feels like a bit of old Mexico. In addition to tacos, the lunch menu also includes chilaquiles, enchiladas, and tamales. After lunch, explore the bustle of activity in Old Town Scottsdale.

Depending on where you’re from, you may not be familiar with splash pads. These popular play areas are an ideal way to beat the heat in Scottsdale, with their gurgling nozzles spraying water up from the ground. Think of them as either miniature water parks or big interactive fountains that kids are encouraged to run through. Scottsdale Quarter, located in north Scottsdale, has one that can be your base for part of this afternoon. The adults can take turns watching the kids while others head off to explore the shopping, dining, and entertainment offerings at this luxury shopping center.

While at the Scottsdale Quarter, enjoy your final dinner of the trip at Zinburger. This popular burger spot is guaranteed to please everyone in the family. Kids will most likely opt for the classics—like a cheeseburger and double-chocolate shake—but parents and grandparents may want to try some of the more gourmet options on the menu, like truffle fries or the Zinburger, with Manchego cheese and zinfandel-braised onions. The menu also includes salads and poke bowls for anyone not in the mood for a burger, and there’s a cocktail menu if you want something stronger than the salted caramel shake.
A lake in Arizona

DAY 5Say Goodbye, for Now, to Scottsdale

This morning, visit Chaparral Park, one of nine parks located in the 11-mile-long Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt that runs through Scottsdale. The 100-acre park features a lagoon, playing fields, and volleyball courts, and is a good place for younger kids to burn off some energy before an afternoon of driving or flying.

Before you hit the road, have one last sweet treat at the Gelato Spot. This Old Town restaurant has a full menu of Italian fare, so enjoy lunch before you order a dessert of gelato, its specialty. There are typically more than two dozen flavors to choose from, both traditional ones like stracciatella and tiramisu, as well as more daring ones like Captain Crunch and yellow cake batter. It’s an experience that—much like your trip to Scottsdale—you’ll remember long after you’ve gone home.
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Journeys: United States
Journeys: United States