After breakfast at the hotel in Tucson, we made the drive to Phoenix for our last leg of the vacation. If Tucson is desert and cactus, Phoenix is desert and palm trees. And we have been to Phoenix multiple times and there are just too many good options for lodging to list them all, but for this trip we chose the Phoenician Canyon Suites as we love the pool area and location near Camelback.
But before checking in, one of our goals was to visit a spring training baseball game. Being from Texas, this meant a trip directly to Surprise, AZ to watch the Rangers and Athletics play. If you have not been to a spring training game before, it is quite different from the regular season. The star players only appear (and not all of them) in the first few innings of the game often leaving by the third inning. If you want autographs, try to get seats right on the first base line as players often stop there as they walk out to sign autographs. The stadiums are filled with games for the kids and you can buy seats right behind home plate for under $20 a ticket – or bring a blanket and sit in the outfield on the lawn. There’s just something very relaxing about a baseball game with palm trees behind the outfield.
For food, be sure to research whichever stadium you choose as they often have specialized fare for fans. For instance, Surprise Stadium had just introduced Mac ‘n’ cheese w/ brats and a Bacon mac ‘n’ cheese dog. So plan accordingly to arrive early, play some games and walk around, get some good food and find the right seats for your trip (autographs, behind home plate or relaxing in the outfield).
The next day was our biggest outing of the trip and what is a truly unique experience to find in Arizona. Desert Splash Adventures flies sea planes in Alaska most of the year. But they bring one plane to Scottsdale during their slow period and you can take a sea plane from Scottsdale out to Lake Roosevelt. They offer group packages to buy tickets with others or you can even rent the plane for a private tour (but of course, that is quite expensive unless you have eight or ten people willing to split the expense). For our trip, we worked with Lynn who was amazing at helping to go over all of the details and plans. Flights can be short or long and you can combine the trips with paddle boarding on the lake, canyoneering trips, private meals on an island, etc.
This is a truly an amazing day to fly over the aqueducts, mountains, dams and finally land on the water next to a deserted island where a paddle boarding guide will take you out on the lake for a few hours to either explore or learn how for beginners. They (well Lynn actually) also arranged for a lunch and had chairs and tables set up for us. The guide and pilot were terrific flying low over the mountain ranges or working with the kids in the water. Again, this is an expensive tour but may check several items off of the bucket list if you have a larger group.
After the trip, you can visit Old Scottsdale for shopping and sight seeing. Or, on a previous trip with coworkers of my husband, we had rented the Scottsdale Party Bike and did a peddle pub crawl through Old Scottsdale which was different and a lot of fun (especially if you are not traveling with kids and have a group).
This trip we were with kids and wanted to see about bringing something back from our trip so we stopped at the Cosanti Wind Bells in Paradise Valley to see the wind tunnels and world famous chimes. We did not end up buying any but there are some very large and unique sights with the wind halls and massive pieces. For dinner, we ordered room service and rented movies after a long day. However, if you are looking for an amazing meal in Scottsdale, we visited FnB in Scottsdale (farm-to-table menu) on another visit and it was one of the best meals we have ever had so it is worth considering.
The next day – and everyone should do this at least once if you are visiting Phoenix – you can climb either Pinnacle Peak or Camelback Mountain. Camelback is the more challenging of the two. We chose the nearby Cholla Trail up Camelback. As usual, please bring a lot of water and start this hike early due to the heat. The views of Phoenix are great as you ascend the mountain. And some kids do continue on past the first peak but looking back, we are not sure we would have done this again with children. It’s really a decision about their comfort with heights. The final stretch is more scrambling up boulders than hiking and the final ridge is only a few feet wide with steep drops on each side. Our kids hike a lot but this last stretch was a bit nerve-racking for even them so turn back if you feel the last stretch is too much.
After hiking, Arcadia Farms is a nice stop for lunch with salads, sandwiches and an outdoor patio. It can be a little bit dressy for Phoenix (dress shirts and the work crowd) but we came right from our hike and they did not mind. Phoenix is a very outdoor-oriented town so we were not their first visitors to come directly from hiking. You can then spend the afternoon at the pool relaxing and a nice dinner. The J&G Steakhouse at the Phoenician is very good and has a beautiful view.
Whichever hotel you choose in Phoenix, be sure to check their website a month or two in advance of your stay for a schedule of events. Hotels will offer a number of different options. For instance, the Phoenician had Glo at the Pho one night which was a movie night in the pool with neon floats and glowing necklaces and bracelets for the kids. And they had iFly all Summer (they are normally based in the Northeast) offering trapeze lessons for both kids and adults which was an amazingly fun experience and did sell out for the best times well in advance (mornings) so it’s best to check early. After some hotel activities, you can spend your entire day relaxing and enjoying the pool, cabanas and/or water slides.
Our flight home the last day was not until the afternoon, and if you have some extra time to fill, one of the top rated attractions in Phoenix (actually #1 according to TripAdvisor) is the Musical Instrument Museum so we had to see what it was about. And if you read our post on San Diego, you know our kids love Snooze, an AM Eatery for the OMG! French Toast and Pancake flights. There is one in Scottsdale near the museum so we started there with breakfast.
The museum itself is very interesting. They offer a self-paced audio tour which changes as you approach each display, area, country or artist. You can hear the sounds of instruments from around the world as you walk up to each exhibit. Or, you can walk up to different types and styles of music to hear the variety. Or, you can visit the Hall of Fame and see and hear Johnny Cash’s black suit or Elvis Presley’s jumpsuit. We only spent a few hours (plus a quick lunch at the Cafe Allegro on site) but it is pretty interesting if you like music or want to find something different to do on your vacation.
For a quick snack at any time on your trip, you can always stop at Phoenix’s award-winning Sweet Republic for ice cream which was our last stop with our daughters before flying home.
And for more details on surrounding areas see our full itinerary for New Mexico/Arizona or Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce or destination notes for Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Tucson, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Zion/Bryce Canyon and Albuquerque.