Just minutes away from Phoenix lies the city of Scottsdale, Arizona. This area is a popular choice for vacation rentals thanks to its upscale atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and convenient location. If you’re planning a family vacation to the area, here are some fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

1. Explore the Trails

Arizona’s vast deserts provide plenty of room to explore, and there are plenty of trails just minutes from the door of your vacation rental. The Bajada Nature Trail is easy and accessible for strollers, so it’s a great choice for young children. For a slightly more challenging excursion, try Tom’s Thumb Trail or Pinnacle Peak. Just remember to plan around the weather, as most trails have minimal shade and temperatures can reach dangerous levels. Hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water are essential.

2. Commune With the Butterflies

Scottsdale is home to the largest indoor butterfly pavilion in the United States. Butterfly Wonderland lets you wander through a massive atrium that is home to thousands of free-flying butterflies. Other exhibits include a reptile zoo, a 3D educational theater, and interactive exhibits to help your little ones learn about the role butterflies play in the ecosystem.

3. Check Out the Zoo

With 125 sprawling acres to explore and more than 1,400 animals to see, the Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the United States. In addition to the standard viewing exhibits, it also offers numerous up-close encounters. Your kids can take a ride on a camel or feed and pet a stingray. Availability may change depending on the season and other conditions, so check their website or call ahead to plan your visit.

4. Visit a Museum

The Phoenix area is home to numerous museums, and all are just a short drive from your vacation rental in Scottsdale. The Musical Instrument Museum is a popular option. Adults can enjoy learning about global musical traditions and the history of various instruments, while kids love the hands-on exhibits that allow them to try their hands at making music. The Arizona Museum of Natural History features amazing dinosaur fossils and information about the area’s unique geologic history, while the Arizona Science Center has interactive exhibits explaining everything from how your body works to the wonders of outer space.

5. Discover Amazing Architecture

The unique architecture and austere desert surroundings of Arcosanti are often compared to a scene right out of a science fiction movie. This unusual planned community is the brainchild of Italian artist and architect Paolo Soleri and offers guided tours. For adults and older kids, there’s fascinating information about renewable energy and unusual architecture. Younger children tend to simply enjoy the otherworldly atmosphere.

6. Take a Train Ride

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park offers a unique glimpse into railroad history. This public park has a working 5:12 replica of an old-fashioned train that you can take a trip on, as well as playgrounds and a carousel. There are also model train exhibits and other educational materials in the Scottsdale Railroad Museum attached to the park.

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7. Play In a Splash Pad

The Phoenix area is famously hot, so cool down by visiting one of the area’s many splash pads. These fun miniature water parks are located everywhere from public parks to private shopping centers and can range in size from small ones with occasional shots of water to larger ones that resemble water-based obstacle courses. As an added bonus, many of them are completely free to use.

8. Learn About Local Flora and Fauna

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix lets you get up close and personal with the famous saguaro cacti and other desert plants without leaving the comfort of the city. It is home to more than 50,000 plants and several easy walking trails to let you and your family explore the area’s natural beauty and learn about the fragile desert ecosystem at the same time.

9. Watch an Old West Gunfight

Arizona was home to some legendary events from the Old West, and modern organizations keep that legacy alive with scripted shootouts, old-fashioned storefronts, and living history demonstrations. Rawhide Western Town in nearby Chandler offers stunt shows, gold panning, western-themed rides, and more. Goldfield Ghost Town is about 45 minutes away in Apache Junction, but it was an authentic mining town that thrived during the 1800s before being deserted and eventually reopening as a tourist attraction with a shooting gallery, fun house, museum, and live scripted gunfights.

10. Go Horseback Riding

Scottsdale is in the heart of cowboy country, so there’s no better way to explore the area than on the back of a horse. There are numerous horse rental options in the Phoenix area, but a particularly family-friendly one is Scottsdale’s own MacDonald’s Ranch, which lets you ride on horseback or in an authentic western stagecoach. For little kids, there is a petting zoo and pony rides.

11. See the Aquarium

If the dry desert climate starts to get to you, enjoy a change of scenery at the OdySea Aquarium. Multiple exhibits provide education about river, reef, and open ocean habitats. In addition to the fish, there are otters, penguins, and other animals, as well as a touch pool where you can interact directly with aquatic creatures.

12. Ride Ollie the Trolley

Take a tour of Old Town Scottsdale on the charming Ollie the Trolley. This free service uses old-fashioned bells and other quaint details to give the experience of an old-fashioned trolley ride, but it’s safe and comfortable enough for the whole family. The slow ride gives you a good view of many of the town’s sights, and you can get on or off at any stop to explore the city.

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