A Warm Weather Winter Holiday – Scottsdale, ArizonaJanuary 2, 2012 No Comments
So maybe your family isn’t so big on snowy holiday vacations. And you can’t quite swing the flights to Hawaii, the Bahamas, or Tahiti this year. What’s a family to do? Try Arizona! Central Arizona’s Scottsdale is close to Phoenix and the museums and restaurants that make Phoenix buzz, but offer a lot of affordable, child-friendly accommodations, great swimming pools, and other outdoor activities families will enjoy.
First choice for any child-friendly vacation in these desert parts of course is the pool. So you’ll want to make sure that you select one that will keep everybody smiling throughout your vacation. On the elegant end, check out the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa with eight pools to choose from, plus a water slide. Kids will love the play area with a floating jungle gym, the extensive pool children’s menus; and family programs ranging from cooking to hiking.
Costs are a bit lower and beyond the pool there’s a full children’s playground with sand box and swings at the Doubletree Paradise. Less full scale resort and more hotel, the Hotel Valley Ho has a nice pool and offers a great location walking distance into downtown Scottsdale, with its shops, restaurants, and galleries. While a solid wallet saver, the 3 Palms Resort Oasis has modern rooms, comfortable beds, and a decent sized pool with view of Camelback Mountain.
Scottsdale Family Attractions
So you’ve found a place to stay with a pool, now what? Check out the fascinating Native American artifacts at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. My young children enjoyed the courtyard area most of all, where under Phoenix’s blazing sun they experienced a traditional step in Native American meal making – pounding corn into meal.
Young tourists will also enjoy the Arizona Science Center, where you must head down, down, down into the ground to find the planetarium. My kids found it an interesting oxymoron, viewing the heavens from beneath the earth. Lots of interactive exhibitions, many focusing on the Arizona area, make this a must-stop for families.
So for that matter is the Phoenix Zoo, a nice habitat for over thirteen hundred animals, including the endangered Sumatran tiger. Yes, there’s a petting zoo and a carousel ride, too, which will keep the smallest tots easily occupied. We liked best the exhibits of local animals such as the prong horned sheep and desert fox. The simians cavorting in the monkey village were also a big hit. Be warned, the zoo can get hot, even in the winter months, and we were ready for some time in the shade.
We found it by decamping for a siesta-inducing meal at La Hacienda at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. We found that many of the more sophisticated dining options in downtown Phoenix were either beyond our budget or not as child-friendly as we’d like. Given that we’re not chain restaurant or fast food diners, the alternative in Scottsdale are hotel restaurants, and this was a good one for all. Mariachis played soothingly and the menu had tasty grown up options like vegetarian ancho chiles, as well as tried and true favorites like cheese enchiladas for the kids. The kids menu was very reasonable, and it’s a restaurant you can linger in for awhile – something we particularly enjoyed after several hours at the zoo.
Ready to head outside again? Try The Desert Botanical Garden with cacti from the familiar saguaro to the far less common octopus and pleated varieties of cacti. We liked that children are offered checklists to help them identify the types of plants they’re seeing, making it a kind of where’s Waldo? for the desert flora.
While these attractions are in Phoenix proper, we particularly liked Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Playgrounds, green space, a small but interesting railroad museum inside a baggage car and Pullman car. A good place to run around, inexpensive, and completely child friendly.
Sticking close to Scottsdale for the evening, we followed our time at the park with some downtown strolling. Scottsdale’s open air sculptures and open-late shops make an appealing warm evening browse when the stars come out. Scottsdale’s old town offers access to many galleries with Native American art, contemporary and western themed pieces, and of course erasers shaped like chiles, water pistols with cowboy holsters, and packages of Christmas lights shaped like cacti, lizards, and sombreros.
A good and reasonable dinner choice is Malee’s Thai. With plenty of vegan and vegetarian options and the ability to eat family style, trying many different flavors, we loved the casual vibe and organic produce as well as the Pad Thai. During Christmas time Santa strolled through doling out candy canes, making our warm-weather holiday complete.