Things to Do and Activities During the Summer in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and all over Arizona in the Summer with your kids to have your most memorable summer yet! Fun activities and ideas for the whole family!
**FEATURING UPDATED + NEWLY added activities!**
130+ Epic Summer Activities To Try Right Now :: Boredom Busters to Beat the Heat in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe
1. Take a tour of Chase Field. Learn more + book your tour HERE
2. The Phoenix Children’s Museum is a great museum that is housed inside of an old school house. My kids love it! FREE 5-9 pm on First Fridays
3. Day Trip it to Jerome, one of my favorite little spots in all of Arizona. Quirky, rumored to be haunted and so much fun to get lost and explore in. Fun little ice cream spot, best little old school playground that overlooks the valley below (helllooo all metal, super tall slide!!) and old trucks and cars galore (a photographer’s heaven!).
4. Volunteer with your children at Feed My Starving Children in Mesa (they just moved locations from Tempe). FREE (donations welcomed) I have to tell you, this is INCREDIBLE. Moving, amazing, wonderful and I cannot say enough about it. Likely just like you, an important part of being a parent to me is instilling in our children a sense of compassion and the will to help those around them and those in need. I want them to have the heart of a volunteer, and I wanted them to start early. It’s actually rather hard to find really great volunteer opportunities for young children, at least with established organizations. Children can begin volunteering with FMSC as young as 5, and you really feel like you are making a difference. You are given a time when you sign up online (I just signed the three of us up, but lots and lots of groups sign up, too), are trained, handed a hairnet and put to work and you will LOVE it. They do give you a talk on who you help, how you help, how many each bag of rice you pack helps and they do ask for money, but in an honest way. There is no pressure to give, and you can even purchase from their gift shop where many of their goods are handmade in the countries they help.
5. Go indoor rock climbing | A basic yet really fun option is to go rock climbing at Freestone Recreation Center in Gilbert. They provide the climbing equipment, there is one 43 foot wall but three separate spots on the wall, and the price is perfect. It’s $2.50 for Gilbert residents per day (hours vary each day, so be sure to check) and $3.75 for non-residents. The wall is open for kiddos and adults alike. You must sign a waiver for your children prior to climbing. Other options in the valley that do cost more and are more involved with both equipment and wall options are: AZ on the Rocks, Focus Climbing Center, Climbmax Climbing Gym, Phoenix Rock Gym (FREE admission with POGO PASS ) and Ape Index.
6. Tour Tovrea Castle–this wedding-cake like tiered property is a Phoenix landmark
7. Go to the Drive in Movies at the Westwind in Glendale, where you can bring your own food or find something to eat at the snack bar and often find a bounce house for the kiddies, too. Tuesdays are Family Fun Night, with admission just $1 for kids 5-11, kids 4 and under are free and adults are $5–and most movies include another one for free right afterwards!
11. Take the light rail to Mill Avenue for frozen yogurt at Mojo Yogurt, then hop back on and head downtown to one of the museums. Not in a yogurt mood and craving something else? I also love Snooze for breakfast or brunch and Postino! Funky photo op tip: I love the bike art installation on the corner of the shop “Here on the Corner“! Head on over, snap some pics + then head inside the cool shop and pick up a locally-owned State Forty-Eight shirt (get it? ;)) They are fabulous! I first learned of them when my super awesome clients all had them for their family session and fell in love with them!
12. Visit a super-fun public swimming pool with all the bells and whistles (but with a less-expensive price tag than a water park!). Try:
Mesquite Pool, Chandler chandleraz.gov
Rhodes Aquatic Center, Mesa mesaaz.gov/parksrec/aquatics/pools/
Pecos Pool, Phoenix phoenix.gov/sports/pools.html
Surprise Aquatics Center, Surprise surpriseaz.gov/aquatics
Kiwanis Wave Pool, Tempe tempe.gov/pools/kiwaniswavepool
13. Go see a play.
14. Tour Cerretta’s Candy Company
15. Visit the library for story time, check out books and start a summer reading program FREE
16. Check out the more than 400 animals on display at the Cabela’s store in Phoenix, or visit the furry friends at the Bass Pro Shop in Mesa. FREE, Bass Pro Shop also has a free Kid’s Night every Tuesday with crafts, a small archery lesson, popcorn + more
17. Take a tour of the Stuffington Bear Factory. FREE
18. Visit the serene Japanese Friendship Gardens FREE the first Friday of every month from 4-9
19. Hit up Churn for some of the best ice cream around, and be sure to ask for the toasted fluff on top.
20. Head to the Queen Creek Olive Mill for lunch and a Gelato, be sure to pick up some local olive oil as a hostess gift for the next party you attend.
21. Tell the kids they are Elsa, Anna and Sven and head to the ice skating rink and get frozen.
About Little Howlers Hockey
Little Howlers Hockey is an on-ice youth hockey program hosted in cooperation with the Arizona Coyotes Hockey Development Program, Arizona Amateur Hockey Association, One Goal and local hockey rinks. The program consists of four one-hour sessions designed to provide kids ages 4-8 a risk free introduction to the sport of hockey. Click here to view a video of a Little Howlers Hockey session.
Each child receives a FREE set of One Goal rental equipment to be used during the four-week clinic including a FREE pair of rental skates provided by the rink. There is an equipment fitting session before the first on-ice clinic to ensure all parents and children are aware of the proper manner in which to dress the child.
23. Visit your local fire station. If you have a small group, just call to arrange a tour, I have always found them to be very accommodating and willing. Every Christmas, we also bring cookies to the fire station unannounced and we never ask, but they ALWAYS have offered to give us a tour of the station and the kids are in heaven. They also give the kids coloring books and fire hats, one red and one pink. Try stopping in one day or calling ahead to see if you can introduce your child to this important part of our community. Oh, and if they have already been on a tour of the fire station? I’m here to tell you that it never really gets old seeing their kitchen or the huge fire pole they have to slide down. 🙂 FREE
24. See the dinos at the Arizona Museum of Natural History FREE the first Sunday of every month
25. Get passes to the Harkins Summer Movies
27. Have dinner at Joe’s Farm Grill and let the kids run around while you sit at the picnic tables under the misters. Make sure to check out the G.I. Joe in the bathroom and finish off your dinner with an award-winning cupcake or whoopie pie at the neighboring Coffee Shop.
33. Organ Stop Pizza This is always a fun spot for the whole family–The Mighty Wurlitzer organ player takes requests as you sit at long tables that remind me of the German building at DisneyWorld while you eat your pizza.
34. See the animals at Out of Africa Wildlife Park
35. The Biosphere 2 This always reminds me of that Pauly Shore BioDome movie of the 80s and causes me to giggle a bit, but I am looking forward to taking J+A at some point. We have not gone yet because I think this is for kids that are older as the younger set wouldn’t enjoy the longer tour. Note: Deal Alert HERE
36. The Plane Boneyard in Tucson at the Pima Air and Space Museum We all loved this–super fun! The plane boneyard is my FAVE!
37. Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch Because it’s an Ostrich Ranch. The end.
40. Go Kart Racing
41. Go Bowling, FREE with several summer programs
44. Visit the majestic red rocks of Sedona.
46. San Xavier del Bac Mission in Tuscon
48. National Geographic Kid’s Club at your local mall, FREE When you go for the first time, you will sign your kiddo up and receive a Kid’s Club card. This allows your child to receive a free cookie each Thursday when they go as well as a free ride on the carousel AND a free admission to the movie that day (at the Superstition Springs mall location).
49. Indulge your future Major Leaguer at MVP Zone
50. Bring out your child’s inner Picasso at the Phoenix Art Museum with their PhxArtKids days. We LOVE these! The museum is free the second Sunday of every month, and we recently went and there were children’s activities throughout the museum–music, dancing, story time, crafts, sidewalk chalk. So wonderful!
51. The Arizona Science Center We have been members for a year or so and Jack even had his 6th birthday party there–we love it here! The water feature is a big fave. Deal Alert: Find it on Groupon HERE
52. Take a trip to Tombstone | I think you should visit Tombstone at least once, but to be absolutely honest, it was kind of a tourist trap IMHO. I was itching to get up outta there. I did find the graveyard just outside the town interesting, and my hubby enjoyed the history of the whole thing. My great-great-great-great grandfather or something like that is Texas Jack Vermillion, the outlaw who rode with Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, so that was cool to see the history of that for me. Otherwise, it was kind of lost on me, but then again, you might like it, and if you have kids the right age, they will love it.
53. Ride bikes around downtown Phoenix | Phoenix is now part of a bike share program that includes access to over 500 bikes at 50 locations 24/7 at very reasonable fees depending on the plan you choose (hourly/monthly/annually) Sure, it’s hot as HECK but this would be a super fun way to get around from spot to spot early one morning (or, if you have older kiddos, in the evening/night for dinner downtown). Deal Alert HERE
55. Head to an indoor trampoline park like Jumpstreet.
59. Sign up for a class with your local recreation center, they are often very reasonable!
61. Visit the Grand Canyon
63. Visit the LOVE Sculpture in Scottsdale for an early morning run around the green area–super great idea if you have early risers to beat the worst of the heat. 🙂 FREE
64. Visit the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration Museum, FREE
65. Visit the Studio Movie Grill for their 11:00 am Children’s Summer Movie Series, when they show a different movie each week for $3 a person!
67. If you have a coupon, head to the Sea Life Aquarium in Tempe (just my opinion, but it’s rather pricey for what it is otherwise).
69. Head to downtown Gilbert, stop into Petite Party Studio to do some shopping for your next party (or just because!), eat at one of the MANY fabulous restaurants (the hard part is choosing which one), then be sure to bring a change of clothes for the kids and let them run through the splash pad under the Water Tower after lunch! My fave spots to nosh are Liberty Market, Postino, Zinburger (they give the kids an Etch-a-Sketch when they sit down!) and Joyride (you must try the street corn!)–I have yet to try Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles, but of course everyone loves it!
70. Head to Benson and check out Kartchner Caverns
71. The Mystery Castle | a quirky, interesting, man-made monument to enduring love
72. Visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, it’s FREE for those 15 and under everyday, and FREE for everyone all day every Thursday (and FREE after 5pm Fridays and Saturdays)! There’s no excuse not to expose the kiddos to some new art when it’s free–and a cool spot inside!
73. ASU Art Musuem FREE
74. Visit the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix FREE
75. Stalk one of the many drool-worthy food trucks in the Phoenix area to see if they pop up in your neighborhood on any given day. Some to start following RIGHT NOW–Waffle Love Arizona (IG: waffluvaz), Hot Cookie Truck (IG: @hotcookietruck), Waffle Crush (IG: @mywafflecrush). They typically release their schedule and where they will be at the beginning of each week on their Instagram accounts.
77. Splash Pads FREE
78. Amazing Jakes
80. Dress the whole family up and head to Chick-fil-A for FREE breakfast, lunch or dinner (or, heck, make it a trifecta and go for all THREE meals!) on #CowAppreciationDay , an annual event that this year will be on Tuesday, July 12th, 2016. I have done this with my own kiddos for about 5 or 6 years in a row now–it’s our little tradition, and although a bit corny, that’s what makes it so much fun and something I know they will always remember. If you get up early for the breakfast, depending on your location there is hardly anyone there! Hit up yet another one for lunch or dinner if you dare! Dress in full cow costume for an absolutely free meal of your choice, and just wear an “Eat More Chicken” sign for a free sandwich. Seriously awesome people-watching day, take my word for it. A lot of the locations even have games for the kiddies and cute activities. They had these milks for them in the little milk bottles, complete with straw and twine, and they got to choose what flavor they wanted! (Oh, and just a PSA while we are at the whole sell-your-soul for free food kick, on September 19th you can dress + talk like a pirate at Krispy Kreme to snag yo-self a dozen hot ones. You’re welcome. Ay matey.) Other summer food dates of note: National Donut Day | June, National Hot Dog Day | July, and of course the ever-awesome FREE SLURPEE Day from 7-11 on July 11th! Look for deals from Krispy Kreme + Dunkin Donuts FREE
82. Apple Camp, a free camp at your nearest Apple store for kiddos ages 8-12 FREE
83. Pottery Barn Kids Storytime every Tuesday from 11-11:30am FREE
84. Take your little artists to Menchies for some fro yo (can you tell we are HUGE fans of ice cream + fro yo spots in the summertime?!) and coloring. I love Menchies and so do the kiddos because they always have little cups of crayons, the cutest little coloring sheets, fun stickers, the sweetest array of colors of spoons and a big, round chalkboard for drawing, too.
85. Main Event
87. Head to your local Lego store on the first Tuesday of every month for a FREE lego mini build for children ages 6-14. Each child receives a free mini kit while supplies last. Currently there are stores at Chandler Fashion Center and Arrowhead Towne Centre. FREE
90. Head to Riparian Preserve in Gilbert to participate in programs like early-morning bird walks or evening night-sky star-gazing through their large telescope. Check out their calendar for more info on their schedule. FREE
93. Pollack Tempe Cinema | Movies are $2 on Tuesdays and $3 every other day! Afterwards, hit up Rita’s Italian Ice for some frozen custard. YUM!
96. Rockin’ R Ranch–Dinner and a show!
98. Barney Family Indoor Sports Complex/The BARN, Queen Creek | Organized classes and more, plus drop-in options, too.
99. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West | For the older set of kiddos, but I have always wanted to go here! I think it’s so important to expose children to all kinds of things, so why not? Great spot when you have out of town guests, too.
101. St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery | Florence This reminds me of Italy, it seems rather magical, and the 43 monks that still live there welcome all who come, though there are no visitors before 10:30 or after 2:30pm.
102. Tempe Beach Splash Playground NOTE: This is closed for construction this summer, 2016
103. PING Golf Factory Tour (children 10 and up) for the golf enthusiast
104. University of Phoenix Stadium Tour tour the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play
105. Butterfly Wonderland (suggested by blog reader Misty) There will soon be an aquarium next to this popular Scottsdale attraction
107. The Apache Trail (suggested by blog reader Sandra) make your way down the (sometimes winding and precarious!) historic trail dotted with plenty of interesting finds and stops along the way. Parts of this were too much for the back-seat driver in me (and my knuckles), but it’s gorgeous! A great drive, and of course you are nicely tucked inside of your air conditioned vehicle until you choose to hop out. 🙂
109. Kids That Rip (KTR) Indoor Skate Park, Mesa Not just skateboarding but scooter + BMX, too
110. Arizona Rookie League Baseball Games for the true baseball lover, these games are played at various locations throughout the valley on summer evenings. They are casual, free to get in and no concessions are sold, so bring your own snacks. This article gives a good rundown of what they are all about. FREE
112. Arizona Cardinals Training Camp open practices, Glendale FREE
113. Halle Heart Children’s Museum, Tempe // Last summer (and maybe this summer), they even gave children a free healthy lunch in their cafeteria during certain hours. It’s fun for the kiddos, too, and teaches them healthy habits. They also offer classes like CPR, cooking, Zumba and music for kiddos. DEAL ALERT: Find it on Groupon HERE
115. Schnepf Farm Peach Festival, Queen Creek
116. Glow Golf, various locations
117. Legoland Discovery Center, Tempe/Arizona Mills While there are others throughout the country, this location just recently opened, so we have yet to go. Let us know how it is in the comments below if you go or have already been!
120. Airtime // FREE admission with POGO pass
121. Go to a Rattler’s arena football game! // FREE games with POGO pass
122. Take your pick from bowling, glow golf or a movie in recliners (or all three!) at Fat Cats // FREE with POGO pass
123. Eat chocolate at Chocolate van Brugge, Scottsdale
125. Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve, Phoenix // FREE Summer Saturdays the 3rd Saturday of the month and for Sunset Tours
126. Outdoor Summer Concerts, Murphy Park Amphitheater, Glendale // FREE Every Thursday at 8 p.m., June 2 through July 21, 2016. Bring your own chairs + blankets and pack a picnic dinner!
127. Take the kiddos to one of the many Skate Parks throughout the valley // here is an excellent resource for locations HERE // FREE
128. Free Art Friday, City of Tempe // FREE
129. Tempe Center for the Arts (Museum), Tempe // FREE, various exhibitions
130. Summer Concert Series, Mccormick-Stillman Railroad Park, Scottsdale // FREE, every Sunday from 7:30-9pm
131. Artwalk in Scottsdale // FREE, every Thursday evening