Phoenix with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

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Phoenix with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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With mild weather (almost) year-round and a growing list of local attractions, Phoenix is a great place for a fun family vacation. Tweens will enjoy exploring the museums, dining at unique themed restaurants and late-day hiking with the kind of desert sunsets you thought existed only in the movies. Here is a full day's itinerary chock full of things to do in Phoenix with tweens for a perfect day out in the Valley of the Sun. Hint: if you come in the summertime, bring lots of sunscreen and be prepared to sweat, as high temps average over 100 degrees from June through August. Better yet, plan your visit for the spring or fall when the weather is perfect for outdoor activities.




Morning


8:00AM: Breakfast at Over Easy

This tiny yet amiable breakfast spot has been the talk of the valley since Guy Fieri featured it on his popular Food Network show, "Diners Drive Ins and Dives." If you want a table inside (recommended during the hot summer months), get the kids out of bed and line up early, although plenty of spill-over seating is available on the outdoor patio. Chef Aaron May cooks up huge servings of comfort food classics like malted waffles and chicken-fried steak platters drowned in homemade gravy sauce. If you have a sweet tooth, try the French Toast with Bananas and Pecans drenched in cinnamon chocolate syrup. Go ahead and splurge – you'll burn the calories later in the day!

Arcadia neighborhood
4031 North 40th Street
(602) 468-3447
Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30AM-11:30AM, Sat-Sun 6:30AM-12:30PM

10:00 AM: Hands-on fun at the Arizona Science Center

After breakfast, visit the Arizona Science Center in downtown and add some educational fun to your Phoenix family vacation. Tweens, and even parents, will enjoy the more than 300 hands-on exhibits spread across five large galleries. You won't find a bored kid in sight! Check out the daily planetarium shows for a thrilling trip across the galaxies, or see what's playing on the big screen at the IMAX theatre. This attraction is definitely not to be missed if you are traveling to Phoenix with tweens, although there is plenty here for youngsters, older teenagers and parents to enjoy.

Downtown
600 East Washington Street
(602) 716-2000
General admission $12 adults, $10 child 3-17 (IMAX and Planetarium not included in general admission)
Hours: Daily 10AM-5PM (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)

Afternoon


12:00PM: Lunch at Alice Cooperstown

Skip the typical fast food chains and try something unique during your family vacation. Phoenix native and long-time resident Alice Cooper serves as the inspiration for the rock 'n' roll atmosphere of this restaurant, where the food is served by a waiter bedecked in the classic face-paint of the shock rocker (known as "Alice Eyes" makeup). The menu is full of sandwiches, half-pound burgers, pasta, and diner classics like meatloaf and tuna casserole. If you want to impress the kids with a gastronomical feat, order the renowned Big Unit Hot Dog, named after former Arizona Diamondbacks star pitcher Randy Johnson and recently featured on the Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" show. The Big Unit is a full pound of hot dog meat (22 inches long) on a baguette roll, and at $12.99 it's likely to be the most expensive hot dog you've ever enjoyed. For the more sensible eaters in your group, vegetarian and low-carb selections are also available. What the menu lacks in culinary adventurousness is made up by the fun and kitschy surroundings. The place is surprisingly calm when there's not a baseball or basketball game next door, so don't hesitate to swing open the doors if things seem a bit too quiet in there. And for those worried about the rock 'n' roll atmosphere, the restaurant is surprisingly wholesome and family-friendly.

Downtown, corner of 1st Street and Jackson Street
101 E. Jackson St.
(602) 253-7337
Hours: Mon-Thu 11AM-8:30PM, Fri 11AM-9:30PM, Sat noon-9:30PM, Sun noon-4PM

2:00PM: Old West Ambience and Sweet Snacking in Old Town Scottsdale

You probably won't see many cowboys or cattle wranglers practicing their roping and riding skills on the streets of downtown Scottsdale these days. But you will get an eyeful of Old West memorabilia, fancy cowgirl boutiques and artist galleries as you stroll down the well-manicured streets. Time your trip right and you might see a performance on the Scottsdale Mall. Check out Scottsdale Downtown for the latest information on special events. The Scottsdale Trolley, running free daily between downtown points of interest, offers a fun way to explore the area and give your feet a rest.

One place you can't miss is The Sugar Bowl, located at 4005 North Scottsdale Road in downtown Scottsdale, (480) 946-0051, $-$$. It's a classic ice cream parlor in operation since 1958. This pretty-in-pink shop doesn't simply serve up bowls of ice cream--you can also order sandwiches, soups, burgers, and salads if you need a late-afternoon pick-me-up. You can't leave without trying one of their cones or sundaes. Highly recommended is the Gosh-Awful-Gooey Banana Split ($5.75), featuring Turkish coffee ice cream covered in marshmallow sauce, raspberry sorbet, and caramel sauce. You can walk it off later! Don't leave without inspecting the art on the walls, where you'll be pleasantly surprised by original drawings of the popular Family Circle comic strip (cartoonist Bil Keane was a regular at the Sugar Bowl).

Evening


5:00PM: Dinner at Macayo's Mexican Kitchen

The downtown Phoenix location of this regional chain made the local news when President Barack Obama and family stopped here for dinner after a visit to the Grand Canyon. Ask the waiter to put you in the Obama booth and your family will surely enjoy sitting where the President sat. Start your meal with Macayo's Famous Cheese Crisp and move on to the Fajitas de Macayo plate, featuring sizzling strips of chicken, steak, or shrimp with just enough kick of salsa to make you weep a little. Even picky eaters can find something on this menu--burger and fries are available for those with less than adventurous palates.

Central Phoenix
4001 N. Central Avenue
(602) 264-6141
Hours: Sun-Thu 10:30AM-11PM, Fri-Sat 10:30AM-midnight

7:00PM: Sunset Hike at South Mountain Park

You can't leave town without seeing a real desert sunset. The best spot is South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the country with over 16,000 acres of preserved space just south of downtown. Drive the one lane road up to Dobbin's Lookout Point for a dazzling panoramic view of the valley. This is a great way to get a few family photos and walk off some of those extra calories. And with over 10 different hiking trails, it's one of the best things to do in Phoenix to make sure your tweens have exhausted their energy and will be ready for bed! You'll find lots of teenagers and families up here, as well as a vendor or two of Native American crafts on busier weekends. Most trails close at 11PM. Drive south on Central Avenue and follow the signs. See the City of Phoenix website for maps and trail guides.

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