Warm Up in Sunny Arizona

Last Updated on December 4, 2016 by Jody Halsted

Thousands of snowbirds can’t be wrong.

Every year they pack cars and RVs and make the drive to their “winter homes” just outside of Phoenix where the white snowy winters of the north look pretty from their seats in the sun.

Thaw Out From Winter’s Chill in Sunny Arizona

Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, Arizona
There’s gold (and amazing tales) in them thar hills….

The communities of Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Apache Junction make up the SunnyAZ area, and while they attract “seasoned travelers” by the droves, you’ll find plenty of fun for families.

Fun For the Family in Chandler

Paletas at paletas Betty in Chandler, Arizona
Paletas at paletas Betty in Chandler, Arizona

Every good vacation hotel must have a pool and the one at the Phoenix Chandler-Fashion Center didn’t disappoint.  This hotel is just over a year old and has all the amenities a family would want- including a refrigerator in the room and complimentary hot breakfast.  Comfy beds and free wifi won top points with me.

Historic Downtown Chandler hosts a Third Friday Art Walk downtown which shouldn’t be missed.  Artisans of all types set up booths around the square, showcasing everything from jewelry to paintings, blown glass to cuddly creations.  Wandering through the booths is so much fun!  Every Thursday you’ll find a Farmer’s Market, which is a great time to pick up a few more exotic fruits and veggies to nibble on during your outings!  Tip: bring cash!

Arrive early and have dinner at Serrano’s, the oldest continuous family owned business in Chandler.  Finish your evening at Paletas Betty for a delicious frozen treat.  So yummy!

It doesn’t rain a lot in Arizona, but if the skies are threatening take the kids to Jump Street, an indoor trampoline park.  With a dozen massive trampolines, a trampoline dodge ball court and a special area just for kids under 7, this is really fun for kids of all ages.

Have the kids been especially good, or do you need a few treat for the flight or drive home? Make a stop at Sweeties Candy, the largest candy store in the state.  Lose yourself in the nostalgic candies you can’t find anywhere else.

Very Superstitious?  Take a Family Adventure in Apache Junction

Horseback Riding in the Superstition Mountains, Arizona
Horseback Riding in the Superstition Mountains, Arizona

Tales of the Lost Dutchman mine still draw treasure hunters hoping to discover a vein of gold in the Superstition Mountains. 

From Goldfield Ghost Town, at the base of the Superstitions, you can take Jeep, horseback riding and hiking tours along the Apache Trail, into the Superstitions or the closer Goldfield Mountains.  Or just explore Goldfield,  built in the footprints of the town that disappeared overnight.  Explore the town as it was in 1892, wander the shops, and maybe even see a gun fight.  If time allows be sure to take a tour of the mine that runs below the town, both you and your kids will learn a lot!

Goldfield Ghost Town offers plenty of dining but a quick drive to the Mining Camp Restaurant down the road takes you back to the days of Cook Shanties, where the miners would gather to eat.  Family style meals begin with fresh bread served with sweet cactus jelly.  A trio of meats are offered, with sides of coleslaw and baked beans.  After you begin eating the “Amazing McNasty Brothers” take the stage with a fun show filled with music and good humored banter.

Mesa: So Much Fun the Kids Won’t Realize They’re Learning!

Giant Lite Brite
Giant Lite Brite, Arizona Museum for Youth, Mesa

I believe that travel should be both fun and educational.   If your kids are younger, the Arizona Museum for Youth is a great place to spend a few hours.  Fun activities like a life size Lite Brite, puppet theater and creation stations will keep kids entertained for hours.  For the little ones the ArtVille play place is designed for exploration that can’t be wandered away from.

Older kids will enjoy a visit to the Arizona Museum of Natural History is a must.  You’ll find rooms of dinosaurs, a Paleo Dig and a “great flood” every hour.  Head outside to pan for gold (and learn just how patient those “panhandlers” were).  Or, if the kids need a bit of time to themselves, lock them up in an original territorial jail cell.

Being from the Midwest, I don’t think of Arizona as having farms.  Just outside Mesa is Superstition Farms, a working, family-owned farm which offers tours starring their herd of dairy cows.  New calves are a common site in the maternity pen, and you’ll learn a lot about modern dairy farming.  Cuddle a bunny or chicken, hand feed goats and pet the calf in the petting zoo, then try the farm’s Udder Delights homemade ice cream.

Get a Little Wild in Tempe

Feeding a Giraffe at the Phoenix Zoo
Feeding a Giraffe at the Phoenix Zoo

Built at the very edge of Tempe, in Papago Park, is the Phoenix Zoo.  One of the top 5 zoos in the US for kids, you’ll find a animals from warm climates, a terrific merry go round and plenty to see and do.  Bighorn sheep freely roam the nearby mountain (binoculars are really handy to help see them), while giraffe and Watusi Cattlewander the enclosed savanna.  Get close to adorable squirrel monkeys in the Monkey Village.  Set your watch and get in line to feed giraffe or visit Stingray Bay to pet and feed stingray.  Be sure to bring comfy walking shoes and a stroller for the little ones.  You can easily make a day of your trip by packing a lunch and drinks- coolers are allowed inside the zoo grounds (Note: no alcohol or glass bottles).

If shopping is on your list, the massive Arizona Mills shopping and entertainment center will fill that need.  Send dad and the kids explore the Arizona Sea Life Aquarium while mom has a bit of time to herself.  Filled with touch pools and interactive centers, this aquarium will entrance kids of all ages.  The Ocean Tunnel, a 360° viewing area filled with 161,000 gallons of water, will put you “inside” the tank while shark and rays swim all around you.

More Fun Near Phoenix

Just outside of Phoenix is the town of Gilbert.  And at the edge of Gilbert is the planned community of Agritopia.  While that doesn’t sound like a place to take a family, I’m going to urge you to reconsider.  Not only will you find one of the best restaurants in the metor there, you’ll also see some of the most beautiful produce you can imagine.  You might find that you begin dreaming of spending your winters in Agritopia!

Looking for food?  Check out this round up of some of the best family dining in the Phoenix area.

Baseball fan?  15 Major League teams come to the Phoenix area in March for spring training.  You’re sure to find a game!

Family Vacation

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  1. I love, love, LOVE Phoenix for spring break — to my embarrassment, I’ve now been three times with my family (in our defense, we’re total baseball nuts).  Not only do we geek on the baseball, we also like the Desert Botanical Gardens, the Grand Canyon Deer Farm (okay, not actually in Phoenix), and all the yummy Mexican food.  I’ve written about it all extensively on my

    1. @TravelSavvyMom Thanks for the other Great suggestions!  I’ll have to forward them on to my brother and his family- they are heading there for spring break!

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