Scottsdale with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

Scottsdale with Kids: A Family Vacation


Haute and health reign in Scottsdale, Ariz., from the posh boutiques to the upscale restaurants and the world-class spas to the golf courses. On the surface, Phoenix's chic neighbor seems geared towards retirees. But there are plenty of things to do in Scottsdale with kids. Otherwise why would Parents magazine have ranked it the No.1 city for babies in 2010? Its survey cited the area's warm climate, safe streets and 22 playgrounds with baby swings, among other factors. Here's how visitors can soak up some of that goodness as they plan their family vacations in Scottsdale, a.k.a. Paradise Valley.


Dare your kids to try jalapeño biscuits or chipotle cornbread at the sunny Breakfast Club. From carved Virginia ham to cinnamon Challah French toast, this hot spot showcases Scottsdale residents' sophisticated palette, but also serves up classic eggs and short stacks. Skip the lines with takeaway, then drive five minutes northeast to picnic on the shores of 10-acre Chaparral Lake. The surrounding park's greenbelt includes a playground, fishing pier and public swimming pool (open May-August), making it a great stop for family vacations to Scottsdale.

The Breakfast Club
4400 N. Scottsdale Road #100
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Mon-Fri 6AM-3PM, Sat & Sun 8AM-3PM

Chaparral Park
5401 N. Hayden Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Start early, so you can roam for half a day with Desert Wolf Tours, investigating a turquoise mine, Indian ruin and ghost town. The route even splashes across a river, thanks to Tomcars: fast and super-durable buggies designed as off-road military vehicles. Their fully welded steel-tube chassis and four-wheel-drive independent suspension will keep your family safe on this rugged adventure.

Desert Wolf Tours
6501 E. Greenway Pkwy #103-439
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Adults $145, children under 12 $87
June-Oct 7:30AM-11AM; Oct-May 8:30AM-noon, 1:30PM-5PM

Further north lies an alternative family travel experience: the rustic MacDonald's Ranch. Older children can saddle up for a trail ride, while those under five can ride ponies for free (just remember to tip the wrangler). Horseshoe games, a gem mine and walk-in petting zoo give youngsters plenty of things to do.

MacDonald's Ranch
26540 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
One-hour ride: Adults $45, children $40


Keep the Old West mood pawing and snorting with a whistle-stop tour of Scottsdale's best family vacation attraction: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Ride the 1950s carousel or the Paradise and Pacific Railroad, a scaled-down replica of a Colorado narrow-gauge service. Reserve one of the nine ramadas – shaded picnic areas – if your family or group plans to rest and refuel here. The smaller ones cost $25 for residents, $50 for visitors.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
7301 E. Indian Bend Road
Scottsdale, Arizona, 85250
Mon-Fri 11AM-4PM, Sat & Sun hours vary. The McCormick Historical Railroad Exhibit is closed Jun-Sep.
Each ride ticket costs $1. Purchase a pack of 12 for $10. Children under 3 ride free with a paying adult.

Swing by Scottsdale's Old Town to stock up on provisions like malted milkshakes and patty melt burgers at The Sugar Bowl. Its old-time lettering may look familiar from The Family Circus cartoons (artist Bil Keane lives nearby and is a fan).

Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant
4005 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Sun-Thu 11AM-10PM, Fri & Sat 11AM-midnight


Even parents who are in Scottsdale with kids can slip in some pampering, thanks to spas offering treatments for little ones. For instance, the Centre for Well-Being inside the Phoenician resort dishes up an ice cream mani-pedi. Or nestle into child's pose together at Zenergy Yoga, which teaches parent-newborn classes, as well as sessions targeted at ages 3-5 and 6-10.

The Phoenician
6000 E. Camelback Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Zenergy Yoga
(Inside AZ on the Rocks)
16447 N. 91st Street, Ste. 105
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Wrap up your Sonoran Desert adventure with a gondola ride at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. The McDowell Mountains frame the sky behind the water gardens, lush with bridges and vine-swathed trellises. Gondoliers – classically trained singers – serenade guests as they pole around the seven-acre lake.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road
Scottsdale, Arizona, 85258
Gondolas daily 6PM-10:30PM (weather permitting)
Adults $10, children age 4-12 $5

Family vacations can end with a flourish, especially in Scottsdale with kids. After all, no better classroom exists for teaching the Southwest's special blend of grit, grace and sophistication.

Go haute. Go hardcore. But don't go home without trying those jalapeño biscuits!
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