Emily Buckley, editor in chief

Papago Park Hole in the Rock

Arizona is an easily accessible family travel destination from Northern, Utah. When our family decided to take our visit Phoenix, we opted to pack up the car and make it road trip stopping in Las Vegas along the way and visiting the Grand Canyon on the return.

The desert landscape of Phoenix is so different from what we are used to seeing at home. Our kids were enchanted by the cacti and palm trees.

When we travel, we try and find a balance of free and paid activities, looking for attractions that will keep our children, ranging from pre-school to middle-school ages, entertained.

After digging deep to find the best attractions and personally visiting them all, we’ve complied our list of the top five must-dos and must-eats while in the Greater Phoenix Area.


Phoenix ZooPhoenix Zoo:One of the nation’s largest nonprofit zoos, the Phoenix Zoo is home to more than 1,400 animals. See Sumatran tigers roam the savanna, ride a camel in an up-close encounter and discover the local flora, fauna, and critters of the Sonoran Desert on the zoo’s Arizona Trail. Plan to arrive at the zoo early, drink plenty of water, and wear sunscreen to beat the heat. Plan to spend at least two hours at the zoo if you are only walking through the two and half miles of paved trails, but you may want to give yourself more time to enjoy the hands-on experiences (at an extra charge) of a safari tour, feeding stingrays, riding camels, or riding the carousel.

Desert Botanical Gardens: The winding paths of this 50-acre desert garden are best explored in the morning before the sun gets too hot. There are plenty of kid-friendly exhibits. We loved learning about the desert cacti and other native plants.

Papago Park:Very near both the zoo and botanical gardens is Papago Park, home to red rock buttes looped with trails, scenic views from the intriguing rock formation atop Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. The Hole-in-the-Rock is short and easy enough for even toddlers to conquer.

Water Play:Phoenix is hot! We tried to either hit the hotel pool or find somewhere to get wet every day during our vacation. Two of our favorite places to cool off were at the Arizona Grand Resort and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. Although we didn’t stay at the Arizona Grand, we were able to affordably access the resort Oasis water park with passes from resortpass.com.

Musical Instrument MuseumMusical Instrument Museum: If it is too hot to be outside, the Musical Instrument Museum may be the perfect reprieve. While there, you can explore a collection of more than 8,000 instruments from around the world, including many hands-on exhibits kids delight in. The artist gallery allows you to see and hear instruments played by music legends like Taylor Swift, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash, to name a few. The museums motto is “music is the language of the soul.” While there, you can feel the way music connects people and cultures.

Must Eats:

Organ Stop Pizza: Looking for unique family dinner? Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa provides a fun night of pizza and live music, courtesy of their history Wurlitzer Organ, appropriate for the whole family.

Rustler’s Rooste:Another experience venue, Rustler’s Rooste offers a fun, Western-themed dinner of barbeque chicken, shrimp, beans, baked potatoes, pork ribs, corn on the cob and more. One thing is for sure, you won’t leave hungry. Oh, and your kids will especially be thrilled by the servers delivering cotton candy and the dining ro

Testal Mexican Kitchen: Located in Downtown Phoenix’s Grand Avenue neighborhood, Testal offers hearty burrito at an affordable price. The tortillas are so good you’ll want to buy them by the dozen for just $5.50.

Luci’s at The Orchard: The sun shines nearly 300 days a year in Arizona, so the creators of The Orchard were smart in created a shared outdoor space that includes turf, a splashpad, and eateries all around. It’s the perfect place for parents to hang out and kids to play. Luci’s is a unique marketplace, cafe, coffee and juice bar, and vintage ice cream shop in a casual and welcoming environment.

Sunrise Donuts: If heaven has donuts, these might be them! You can expect a huge variety of fresh and delicious donuts and exceptional, friendly customer service. We always love finding local digs, and this is definitely one of them.