Family-friendly attractions in and around Scottsdale
It’s been so much fun for us to explore new places in and near Scottsdale, and it’s been especially fun when we have visitors to show around. There are many things to do for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities. Here are a few tips on places that will have something for the whole family to enjoy.
Kovach Family Nature Trail
Lost Dog Wash Trailhead
12601 N. 124th Street, Scottsdale
The Kovach Family Nature Trail is a fun and educational one-half mile walk in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve that is great for children of all ages. The trail begins at the entrance to the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead. There are signs along the way that cover many of the key facts about desert flora, fauna, and geologic history.
The trail is ADA accessible with smooth surfaces for wheelchairs and strollers. If you and your companions are in the mood (and prepared) for more challenging hiking, other moderate and difficult trails can be accessed at this trailhead.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale
I must confess that I enjoy taking train rides through parks and the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park at the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Indian Bend Road is a really fun one.
Besides the ride on the train, kids will also enjoy exploring the old western town play area and riding the carousel. There are also picnic tables, playgrounds, model railroads, and an interesting museum that includes the Roald Amundsen Pullman Car, a luxury car of its day. This car was one of the last built by the Pullman Company and its passengers included the presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.
9500 East Vía de Ventura, Scottsdale
Butterfly Wonderland is the largest rainforest conservatory in the United States. This is an amazing exhibit of over 3,000 butterflies from around the world. As you walk through the conservatory, it’s almost magical to see the butterflies freely fluttering about.
Mr. TWS wasn’t overly excited when he first heard about this activity, but after he got there he was very impressed. Just being in the tropical setting with its vegetation is almost worth the visit alone.
Having butterflies land on you is part of the fun (and thought to be lucky). Wear white if you want to increase the probability of them landing on you. Be careful not to step on any butterflies that may have landed on the walkway and make sure the kids don’t touch them, as tempting as that might be.
Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, just on the border with Scottsdale at McDowell Road and 64th Street, has five trails showcasing more than 50,000 plants and wildflowers in dramatic desert landscapes. Each themed trail highlights various characteristics of conservation and desert life.
Though we had already walked a number of local desert trails and seen a lot of cacti and other flora, we were amazed at the diversity and number of new flora we saw here. We also learned the names of a few things we had seen before.
Throughout the year, there are special exhibits, lectures, workshops, and tours. When we visited, the featured experience was the Spring Butterfly Exhibit in the garden’s new butterfly pavilion which was still a treat even though we had already been to Butterfly Wonderland. Although we haven’t dined here yet, the on-site restaurant, Gertrude’s, has come highly recommended. In our interview with Scottsdale resident, Mike Shubic, he told us about the free outdoor concerts at the garden during the summer.
Consider getting an annual membership. You will receive free admission during the year, guest passes, reciprocal admission to 300 gardens and conservatories in the United States, and other benefits.
Family travel tip: “It’s a dry heat”
As Phoenix area resident, Julie Cohn, mentioned during our interview with her — it’s important to stay hydrated when being outside and active in the desert.
Many visitors do not understand the heat index in Arizona. Arizona has a “dry heat” with low humidity, so people do not feel as hot as they actually are. It is easy to overheat and become dehydrated, especially while hiking, jogging, etc. Keep water with you at all times and drink twice as much as you normally would, plus watch the local weather reports, as our local news will post warnings when it is too dangerous to do outside activities.
There are more family-friendly Scottsdale attractions that we’re planning to visit soon. Stay tuned.
Love your photos! I remember taking our now 29-year-old son to McCormick Park eons ago!
I’ll take dry heat anytime over humid, hot weather like we have in Toronto in the summer. I think my initial reaction to going to the Butterfly Wonderland would have been the same as Mr. TWS, but upon looking at your photos, I would now change my mind. Those little butterflies are beautiful.
Great selection of family activities. I’ve been to the Desert Botanical Gardens, but not the other attractions. The dry heat does require lots of water!
Cathy, I’m sold on all these sites for family travel to Scottsdale. I love getting above the city in Scottsdale and finding nature center trails, botanical gardens, and butterflies. Scottsdale makes such a great getaway, especially for us northerners. Thanks for the reminder.
The children are adorable and were certainly having a fantastic time!! Of the three locations, I have only visited the Desert Botanical Gardens, but all the locations look like fun especially Butterfly Wonderland!
It’s been way too long since I’ve been in Scottsdale. This reminds me I need to get back soon, especially now that I have a family that could enjoy these attractions!
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