10 Great Things to Do with Kids in Metro Phoenix



A kid-friendly Phoenix destination that even adults will likely enjoy is the Arizona Science Center. This downtown venue has more than 300 exhibitions, most of which are hands-on and interactive, as well as an IMAX movie theater and planetarium. Your kids will delight in exploring the seven themed halls, and pick up a few new fascinating science facts along the way.

If you're visiting Phoenix with younger kids, make sure to plan a stop at the Children's Museum of Phoenix, which is housed in a historic school building just across the street from the Arizona Science Center in downtown. The two-story climber, securely constructed out of a whimsical selection of recycled materials, is worth the price of admission alone.

If you want to give your kids a taste of Phoenix's historic past, plan a trip to Pueblo Grande Museum and Archeological Park. The 1500-year-old archaeological site, which is operated by the City of Phoenix, is easily accessible by the airport Sky Train and Light Rail. The site features a 2/3 mile trail that takes you through a partially excavated prehistoric Hohokam archaeological village platform mound, ball court, and replicated prehistoric houses.

For hands-on fun and learning, take the whole family to the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix, where kids can explore the musical instruments and traditions of every corner of the globe. 



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Enchanted Island is located in the heart of central Phoenix's Encanto Park, one of the city's oldest and most picturesque parks. This small amusement park offers the perfect budget-friendly escape for families with young children. The park features nine rides, a carousel, a C.P. Huntington train, a small selection of arcade games, and snack bars. When the weather is cool, don't miss the pedal-boats, which allow you to travel across Encanto Park's fish-filled lagoons. There is also a splash zone for those hot summer days. When you're done exploring the park, explore the grounds of Encanto Park, which features recreational opportunities, trails, and plenty of shady trees for picnicking. Admission is always free at Enchanted Island. Visitors pay for individual rides and games.


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Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park


 

This museum and its adjacent park are built on the site of 1500-year-old Hohokam Indian ruins. Exhibits showcase lifestyles of the Hohokam and of other Southwestern tribes, and visitors learn about Phoenix's cultural heritage through displays of arts and crafts created and used by Native Americans. An informative and fun hands-on exhibit encourages children to learn more about archaeology. A marked, fully accessible trail leads you to the site of a ball court, partially excavated platform mound, and replicated prehistoric houses. There is also a small museum with interpretive displays. The archeological park is easily accessible by light rail and the airport Sky Ride.


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Presenting the world's largest display of firefighting equipment, this museum highlights 100 restored pieces of hand-to-hand, horse-drawn, and mechanized firefighting equipment from 1725 to 1961. Additional exhibits include a fire truck for children to climb on and several other restored fire engines. A firefighter wannabe can dress up in official-looking coats, hats, and other gear, just like the real thing! The Hall of Flame is located near the borders of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe in the Phoenix Papago Park area, across from the Phoenix Zoo and next door to Phoenix Municipal Stadium. It makes for a convenient stop if you're checking out these other attractions.


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Housed in a dramatic building, the Science Center offers well over 300 interactive exhibits. A giant-screen theater shows educational films, and the planetarium boasts one of the largest domes in the west. Exhibits are organized into galleries that explore human physiology, physical forces, transportation, geology, computers, and applied sciences. Most of them are hands-on and cater to children of all ages. Whether you come with small children, tweens, or teenagers, the Arizona Science Center has plenty of attractions designed to appeal to all ages. Get a fascinating glimpse of outer space with a show in the planetarium, or catch an educational documentary at the IMAX theater.


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Litchfield Park


 

This friendly zoo, located 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix, is home to over 1300 rare and exotic mammals, fish and reptiles. Special attractions include a tropical bird aviary, a children's carousel and petting zoo, animal feedings, and train rides. Make sure you see the exotic white tiger and watch the penguins frolic in their aquatic habitat. There is also a new 7,000-square-foot aquarium that holds close to 60,000 gallons of water. Check out the aquarium's Amazon River Monsters, which displays freshwater giants like the arowana and arapaima. Also on display are the payara fish, often referred to as "vampire fish" because of their six-inch fangs.


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Pioneer Living History Village


 

Arizona's territorial days are recreated on this 85-acre property, where costumed craftspeople work among authentic and reproduced buildings. Special events like a lively bluegrass festival, a Civil War reenactment, and an antique tractor show are held throughout the year. Adults and children of all ages are invited to stop by and enjoy an afternoon of family fun. The village is a mix of authentic buildings and historically accurate reproductions. You'll get to see the Opera House where Lilly Langtry sang and explore the real-life cabin that survived Arizona's bloodiest range war. There is also a blacksmith shop, sheriff's office and jail. Costumed interpreters bring the whole thing to life.


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The Musical Instrument Museum, also known as the MIM, celebrates art, music and culture by documenting the history of musical instruments from around the world. Everyone from Carlos Santana to Tony Bennett have sung the praises of this bright, open museum, which also hosts a full calendar of live music events. The museum collection includes instruments from 200 countries from around the world, with emphasis on ethnic, folk, and tribal music. Guests are given wireless headsets so they can hear instruments being played at each display, and flat-panel monitors throughout the museum give guests the opportunity to see instruments being performed live. Whether you love Chinese opera or Big Band jazz, the MIM celebrates the joy of musical expression in all its forms.


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Located in Papago Park, this garden features the world's largest outdoor desert plant collection. A vast array of colorful wildflowers has been strategically placed to create a spectacular display and delight visitors in the springtime, and every other season. Not only is this park a treat for the eyes, but it also provides exercise for the body and mind. One of the main highlights, an informative ethnobotanical walking trail, meanders through the grounds. The trail explains the many vital ways in which plants were integrated into Native American tribal life, thus illustrating the importance of plants beyond their natural beauty.


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Plan to spend a day with the animals, over 1200 of them (including many endangered species), in this expansive park. The animals live in spacious enclosures, similar to the habitats they would have if they were in the wild. in addition, visitors can enjoy attractions like the tropical rainforest exhibit, train rides, and a fabulous childrens' petting zoo. Get up close to a giraffe, ride a camel, and pay a visit to the Stingray Bay. During the summer season, arrive early to see the animals when they're most active. Special seasonal events, including the mega-popular holiday celebration known as ZooLights, are held throughout the year.


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The Children's Museum of Phoenix, located in the 70,000 square foot historic Monroe School building in downtown Phoenix, offers three floors of exhibits designed to engage young children and the adults who love them. Exhibits are hands-on and interactive, making this a fun place to spend the day with the favorite child in your life. Kids will love exploring the nooks and crannies of The Climber, an amazing multi-storied exhibit created with recycled materials. The Noodle Forest gives kids a sensory adventure in a safe environment, while The Market allows kids to roleplay in a fun grocery store setting. An art studio, book loft, and designated tricycle area add to the fun at this colorful and always-busy museum.


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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.

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