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23 of the Best Things to Do in Phoenix with Toddlers

23 of the Best Things to Do in Phoenix with Toddlers

Traveling with toddlers can be a challenge. Luckily, there is an abundance of things to do in Phoenix with toddlers. From train rides at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park to exciting animal encounters at the Phoenix Zoo, the Phoenix area offers activities little ones will love. 

Museums designed especially for kids, like the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the i.d.e.a. Museum, provide hours of rug rat recreation. And toddler-friendly water parks provide a summer respite. Keep reading to learn about educational and entertaining things to do in Phoenix with toddlers.

Have older kids? Here are our favorite things to do in Phoenix with kids.

Best Things to in Phoenix with Toddlers

Phoenix Zoo

The best things to do in Phoenix with toddlers include visiting the Phoenix Zoo
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Zoo via Visit Phoenix

One of the most popular things to do in Phoenix with toddlers is visit the Phoenix Zoo. The beautiful grounds have stroller-friendly paths past over 1,400 exotic and local animals. And uniquely designed playgrounds, splash pads, and interactive animal experiences keep the fun going.

The Children’s Trail is where toddlers will have the most fun. This area features a petting zoo, up close animal encounters, and the Discovery Farms playground designed for children ages 18 months to 5 years old. Kids can climb on a real tractor and pretend to milk a cow. 

In addition to the Children’s Trail, families with toddlers should not miss Monkey Village, where squirrel monkeys swing overhead in the walk-through exhibit. A carousel, camel rides, and giraffe and stingray feedings are also available for an additional fee. And be sure to pack a swimsuit in the summer so your little one can play in the splash pads.

SEA LIFE Aquarium

SEA LIFE Aquarium in Tempe

Take a trip under the sea at SEA LIFE Aquarium in Tempe. The 360-degree ocean tunnel immerses guests in an underwater world full of sharks, sea turtles, and colorful fishes. Hands-on activities and play spaces keep little ones entertained.

Many exhibits have special tunnels where kids can pop up inside a domed bubble and feel like they are in the water with the fish. You can get even closer to sea creatures at the touch pool, which allows visitors to pet baby sharks, sea stars, and underwater flowers. And when you need a break from animals, kids burn off energy by climbing and sliding in the Play Zone.

Odysea Aquarium

Odysea Aquarium in Scottsdale
Photo courtesy of Odysea Aquarium via Visit Phoenix

Find even more sea critters at Arizona’s largest aquarium, Odysea Aquarium in Scottsdale. Three hundred different species of animals are on display in over 70 exhibits. In addition to fish, you’ll find playful otters, cuddly penguins, and even a sloth.

The most unique exhibit is the Odysea Voyager, the world’s only rotating aquarium experience. While sitting in a plush seat, you take a 20-minute narrated journey past sea turtles, sea lions, sharks, and other sea life. Other exhibits toddlers will enjoy an underwater escalator, touch pools featuring sting rays, and an interactive water table.

Butterfly Wonderland

23 of the Best Things to Do in Phoenix with Toddlers 1
Photo courtesy of Butterfly Wonderland via Visit Phoenix

Surround yourself with thousands of fluttering butterflies at Butterfly Wonderland, also located in Scottsdale at the Arizona Boardwalk. Inside the tropical conservatory, colorful varieties of butterflies perch on tropical flowers or fly overhead. This area also holds a pond with koi fish, tropical finches, and even some chickens. 

Outside the conservatory, check out the 3D theater to learn about a butterfly’s life before heading to the Emergence Galley to see the live chrysalis. Then, meet the snakes at the Reptile Rainforest Exhibit before finding the insects of the rainforest in the Spineless Giants section. Before leaving, stop by the vending machine for edible insect treats. 

Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium

Bird feeding at Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium

Can’t decide between land and aquatic animals? Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium in Litchfield Park offers the best of both worlds. Exciting shows, animal feeding, and touch tanks give visitors a unique view of over 600 species of animals.

Included with your admission is the Lory Parrot feeding. Step inside the enclosure and let the brightly colored birds land on you as you feed them fresh fruit. You can also feed giraffes, pet sting rays, and visit the animals in the petting zoo.

Desert Breeze Park

Desert Breeze Park
Photo via Visit Chandler

Toddlers love to ride the Desert Breeze Railroad and 1950s carousel at Desert Breeze Park in Chandler. In the summer, the park’s splash pad provides a nice respite from the summer heat. This park also features a toddler-friendly playground, stroller-friendly walking trails, and a large lake in the middle full of resident ducks.  

Freestone Park

Freestone Park in Gilber

In Gilbert, Freestone Park also has some kiddie rides and a train that drives around the lake. There are multiple playgrounds and lots of grass areas for kids to run and play. If your toddler is starting to take an interest in sports, take them over to the batting cages or one of the many sports courts where there is sure to be a game to watch.

Gilbert Regional Park

Gilbert Regoinal Park

Another fantastic park in Gilbert is the Gilbert Regional Park. The unique playground features provide hours of fun. Kids especially love the ziplines and the giant cement slide. The 4,000-square-foot splash pad ensures this park is a hit, even in the summertime. 

Encanto Park

23 of the Best Things to Do in Phoenix with Toddlers 2
Photo via Visit Phoenix

The beautiful Encanto Park sits just minutes away from downtown Phoenix. In addition to playgrounds and walking paths, families can take a pedal boat or canoe out on the beautiful lake. They even have a public swimming pool.

But the biggest draw for families with toddlers is Enchanted Island Amusement Park. Children under 11 love the classic amusement rides, such as the mini-dragon coaster and the carousel. And in the summer, toddlers can cool off in the Splash Zone.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

McCormick Stillman Railroad Park

When my kids were little, one of our favorite places to go was the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale. For a small fee, families can hop aboard the Paradise & Pacific Railroad for a tour of the park and then take a spin on the vintage carousel (kids two and under ride free!).

Stop into the model railroad building, where toddlers love pressing the buttons to activate tiny trains on the many interactive model trains.

Two themed playgrounds keep the fun going; there is even a water feature so toddlers don’t overheat. Be sure to bring a picnic lunch to take advantage of the many picnic tables and grassy areas. 

Tumbleweed Park

Tumbleweed Park

Another one of our favorites is Tumbleweed Park. The playground, Playtopia!, features a vast farm-themed area with toddler-friendly climbing features and slides, City Land with climb-on vehicles and a road for little bikes, and Critter Land, where little ones can climb on a Gila monster or dig up dinosaur bones.

The tire swing and zipline are also popular with the kids. There are plenty of shady areas for picnics or just relaxing on the grass.

If your toddler loves trains, check out the Arizona Railway Museum on the southwest corner of the park, open on weekends during the cooler season. Visitors can walk through historic train cars, sitting in the passenger seats and pretending to take a ride as they go. Families can also ring the bell on the giant steam engine.

There are so many great parks in the Phoenix area. Check out our favorites in our article, The 15 Best Parks in Phoenix, Arizona for Families.

Indoor Play Areas

Indoor PLay Areas in Phoenix
Makutu’s Island

The Phoenix area enjoys beautiful weather in the winter, but in the summer, it’s just too hot to play outside without being in the water. Because of this, indoor play places for toddlers fill the valley. Uptown Jungle, Giggles, and Kids Empire have multiple Phoenix locations and feature areas just for toddlers. 

In Chandler, head to Makutu’s Island for lots of soft climbing features with a jungle theme. TeenyTown Playland in Litchfield Park is perfect for kids who love to play pretend. And Pump it Up in Scottsdale provides hours of jumping fun.

Great Wolf Lodge Arizona

Great Wolf Lodge in Arizona

The indoor, 85,000-square-foot water park at Great Wolf Lodge offers year-round fun for all ages. There are some thrill rides for the bigger members of your family, but there is plenty to keep the younger ones entertained.

Don’t head to this resort without first checking out our Great Wolf Lodge tips article!

The Cub Paw Pool provides a safe place for toddlers to splash and play. It features tiny kiddie slides, spraying geysers, and zero-depth entry. Little kids can also float around the lazy river, jump over waves in the wave pool, or just swim around in the giant outdoor pool. 

An outstanding feature of Great Wolf Lodge water parks is that each child gets a wristband based on their height. This allows kids to see and workers to monitor which rides are safe for each child. Life vests are also provided for non-swimmers, and there are lots of lifeguards around.

Two days of water park admission is included for overnight guests, but day passes can be purchased as well.

Looking to stay at a different water park resort? We’ve done the research and found 14 Awesome Resorts with Water Parks in Arizona for your family to enjoy.

Golfland Sunsplash

Golfland Sunsplash
Photo by flickr/Mike V

The East Valley’s favorite outdoor water park, Golfland Sunsplash, provides refreshing summer fun for the whole family. Grab a lifevest and bob around in the giant wave pool, or float around the lazy river together.

The Toddler Tadpole Pool is just for children under seven. This area features a couple soft slides and a one-foot-deep play pool. It is also fenced off so parents can relax, knowing their little one isn’t going to run off to a deeper pool. 

Toddlers will also have fun on the Caribbean Water Works splash pad. A pirate ship play area has slides, spraying water features, and a giant tipping bucket that drenches kids with 300 gallons of water. 

Hurricane Harbor

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix
Photo courtesy of Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department

West Valley residents beat the summer heat at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix. At the largest water park in Phoenix, families can just choose to take it slow by floating around the Adventure River or pump up the adrenaline with thrilling water slides.  

Hurricane Harbor has quite a few areas created with little kids in mind. Toddlers love Splashwater Beach’s 4,700-square-foot pool, spray features, and play structure. Coconut Bay has kid-sized slides, but you do need to be at least 36 inches tall to ride them.

Soak ‘em Playground and Splash Island are the most exciting splash pads you’ve ever experienced. Run and slide through the interactive playground and water features, avoiding tipping buckets and spraying pelicans.

There is no minimum height requirement for these areas, but for the slides, kids have to be over 36 inches, and guests 60 inches or more must be accompanied by a child.

Phoenix Area Splash Pads

Phoenix Splash pad
Photo by TACC Photography via Visit Phoenix

With the summer heat, the only way to play outdoors is in water, so many Phoenix parks feature free splash pads. Civic Space Park, right in downtown Phoenix, shoots lighted jets of water in the air. Or head over to Altadena Park for water canons and spraying tunnels.

One of the most popular splash pads is the Mansel Carter Oasis Park in Queen Creek, which has a pirate ship theme and huge dumping water buckets. And the splash pad at Espee Park in Chandler has always been one of our favorites. To find more splash parks in the area, check out our guide, Splash Pads for Toddlers and Kids around Phoenix, Arizona.

Arizona Science Center

23 of the Best Things to Do in Phoenix with Toddlers 3
photo courtesy of Arizona Science Center via Visit Phoenix

The variety of activities at the Arizona Science Center entertains toddlers, older kids, and adults. This was one of our regular activities when my kids were younger since it has something for everyone. There are lots of places to press buttons, participate in imaginative play, and build with various objects, all while learning about science.

One of our favorite exhibits is the digestion exhibit downstairs, where kids can climb inside a stomach and slide out through the intestine. On the top floor, the Forces of Nature exhibit lets visitors experience natural disasters, including an Arizona monsoon. And outside in the atrium, kids can create giant bubbles in the Pop! The Science of Bubbles exhibit.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Childrens Museum of Phoenix
Photo by Brandon Sullivan via Visit Phoenix

One of the best things to do in Phoenix with toddlers is play at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. The whole museum invites imaginative play and exploration through unique exhibits and toys. 

Upon entering the museum, kids are whisked away to a fantasy land. Scarves fly through the air after zipping through transparent tubes. A winged bathtub waits to be boarded in the three-story climbing structure. And over a thousand pool noodles hang from the ceiling to create a dense make-believe forest.

In addition to the fantastical, this museum also has more typical play areas, like a grocery store and restaurant section. Each exhibit has a soft-padded area for babies to crawl and play without getting trampled by bigger kids. On the third floor, a section of the museum is reserved just for toddlers, with soft climbing areas and toddler-sized role-play toys. 

Children’s Museum of Phoenix, along with some other area museums, offer free days. Find out more and discover other free adventures with our article 21 Free Things to Do in Phoenix.

i.d.e.a. Museum

idea museum in Mesa

Another museum that caters to toddlers is the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa. This museum encourages children to enjoy art through creating, interacting, and observing. 

Almost half of the museum is designed specifically for kids ages four and under. The ArtVille section features soft blocks for climbing and building, a dress-up theater, imaginative play areas, and more. Older kids are allowed in this area only as helpers for their younger siblings. 

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Legoland Discovery Center Arizona

Have a little one who loves LEGO? Then head to LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Tempe for creative building opportunities, as well as a couple toddler-friendly rides, a virtual factory tour, and some interactive 4D movies. Be aware that one of the rides, Merlin’s Apprentice, has a 36-inch minimum height requirement due to the fact that riders need to reach the bike pedals.

The DUPLO farm play area invites toddlers to create masterpieces with larger DUPLO bricks. There is also a smaller play structure, just the right size for the littlest LEGO fans to slide and play. And the LEGO City play zone, available to all children under 56 inches, provides even more energetic climbing, sliding, and imaginative play opportunities.

Be sure to check out the intricate details in Miniland. Look for local landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Tempe Town Lake. The young ones appreciate the interactive features that make some of the LEGOs move.

Crayola Experience Chandler

Crayola Experience in Chandler
photo courtesy of Crayola Experience

Let your toddler unleash their creativity at the Crayola Experience in Chandler. First, watch the Chaos and Creativity Show to learn all about Crayola. Then, explore over 15 activity stations while making unique masterpieces to bring home. 

Kids can melt crayons to create molded figures or drip art. They can also use modeling dough, paint, markers, and, of course, every color of crayon to make a variety of artwork. Interactive screens allow children to become part of the art or even design digital masterpieces.

One of the best exhibits for toddlers is Scribble Square. As they scribble through the little neighborhood with chalk and dry-erase markers, their dreams of writing on the walls and floors come true.

Musical Instrument Museum 

Musical Instrument Museum
Photo courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum via Visit Phoenix

The Musical Instrument Museum is one of the coolest and most unique museums in Phoenix, but I do have to admit it is not all toddler-friendly, so you will need to plan your time here wisely. The museum invites visitors to grab a pair of headphones and hear the music of different cultures while looking at the instruments and costumes of the region.

When visiting with toddlers, limit your time in the Geographic Galleries and plan to spend the majority of your time in the Experience Gallery, where touching the instruments is encouraged. In this room, visitors can try some of the unique instruments they’ve seen throughout the museum, like the Peruvian harp, the West African djembe, or the Javanese gamelan.

If you need a little break but aren’t quite ready to leave, head to the PNC Bank Family Center. This quiet space on the first floor contains books and toys for little ones, as well as a private restroom and nursing room.  

Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens
photo by Laura Segall via Visit Phoenix

Wander the stroller-friendly paths of the Desert Botanical Garden, marveling with your toddler at the colorful flowers and pokey cacti along the way. The plants here are so unique, and even littles will appreciate the variety for at least a little while. Luckily, there is more than just looking at plants here.

The Cacus Clubhouse engages kids ages 12 and under in learning about the natural world through play. Toddlers love climbing and balancing on logs, building with natural materials, and digging in the garden. This area is only open during the cooler months of October through May.

The Desert Botanical Garden also offers a bi-weekly storytime. Children learn about the desert through play, activities, songs, and, of course, a story.

If you happen to be visiting during the spring or fall, make sure to visit the seasonal butterfly pavilion. Over a thousand butterflies, native to the southwest region, fly around the enclosure and perch on blooming flowers. All these additional activities are included with general admission.

Tiffany Vaughn