When you can't splurge on an out-of-state family vacay, head north to Phoenix for a night.
We know it's even hotter there than it is here, BUT there are some awesome family things to do that we don't have in Tucson. And, you'll still be getting out of town.
We've got a ton of ideas for you, categorized by area with hotel, stuff to do and food for each.
So, drive the 90 miles. Stay in a hotel. Do some things. It'll be fun.
Tempe, Chandler, Mesa
Big Surf, 1500 N. McClintock Drive, is a water park with a huge wave pool, lots of water slides and areas for the little kids. You can rent boogie boards, surf boards and rafts at the wave pool. Admission is $17. Click here for info.
Arizona Museum of Natural History, 53 N. Macdonald Ave., Mesa, exhibits the natural and cultural history of Arizona. The main thing you need to know here is they have a dinosaur hall with skeletons AND Dinosaur Mountain with dinosaurs that move and roar. So, if the kiddos are obsessed with the extinct giants, this is the place to go. Admission is $12; $7 for kiddos ages 3-12 and free for children ages 2 and under. Click here for more.
Sealife Aquarium, right next door, features all kinds of sea life from jellyfish to sharks and everything in between. You can get a combination ticket to visit both Sea Life and Lego Discovery for $24.95 per person or get tickets to just one attraction for $14.95 per person.
Click here for info.
Golfland Sunsplash, 155 W. Hampton Ave., Mesa, is two places in one. One side features miniature golf, amusement rides and a couple water slides. And then there's the Sunsplash side, which is a full-on water park, which features water slides, a wave pool, a toddler pool, an activity pool with games like basketball and more. Admission is $31.99 for guests 48" and taller; $25.99 kids ages 3 to 47" tall; $5.99 kids ages 12-35-months and free for babies under 1. Pro tip: Save some money in June and July by going from 6-10 p.m. and only pay $17.58. Click here for info.
Organ Stop Pizza, 1149 E. Southern Ave., is a pizza parlor with an interesting twist. It is home to the Mighty Wurlitzer, one of the largest pipe organs in the world. This thing is massive with nearly 6,000 pipes and 1,074 switches, keys and buttons. Guests of the restaurant are entertained by an organist playing traditional and popular songs on a stage that moves. Oh, there are also some dancing cat puppet things. Watch this video.
Stay at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, 6902 E. Greenway Parkway. There's a lazy river, pool, hot tubs, FlowRider (surfing simulator) and water slide. Plus, the resort hosts family activities like campfire and s'mores and zoo presentations with live animals. Honestly, you probably wouldn't even have to leave the resort. Summer rates start at $109 per night. Find more here.
If you do end up leaving the resort, check out the Odysea Aquarium, which is said to have the best bathroom in the U.S. Yeah, that's really a thing. In all seriousness, we saw a video of the bathroom and it has shark tanks. So, pretty cool, right? There are touch pools, sharks, various fish and sometimes mermaids. You can also tack encounters and tours onto your admission, which include shark tours, penguin interaction and underwater ocean walking.
Combo tickets are available where you can go to Bodies Revealed, Butterfly Wonderland and Laser and Mirror Maze. Daily tickets to the aquarium cost $37.95 for adults; $27.95 for children. You can take advantage of the after 5 p.m. special and pay $25 to save a few dollars.
Continue your ocean themed desert vacation by going to the gallery at Scottsdale Public Library Civics Center, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd. It has an immersive exhibit with artwork created by Tucson artists, Lex Gjurasic and Rachel Slick. It's called Deep Time and it's an imagining of the prehistoric ocean that once covered the Sonoran Desert. Think huge coral like structures, bright colors and fantastical creations. The exhibit includes family activities like making Deep Time slime and creating mystical sea creatures. This is a free thing to do. Click here for info and events.
The Sugar Bowl, 4005 N. Scottsdale Road, is a traditional 1950's ice cream parlor in "Old Town" Scottsdale. You can get diner fare there too like hamburgers, soups, salads and sandwiches. And, there's an arcade. Fun fact: The Sugar Bowl was often featured in the famous comic strip "The Family Circus". Click here for more.
Stay at the Arizona Grand, 8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway, and go to Oasis Water Park on site. Oasis is a 7-acre park with huge water slides, a giant wave pool, lazy river, splash pad and a 25-person hot tub. You can reserve a cabana and listen to the waves while sipping on a margarita. Close your eyes and you'll feel like you're at the beach minus the sand. Advance purchase rates start at $123. Click here for more.
Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., has more than 6,800 instruments from around the world on display, making it a fun stop for kids AND growunups. There's also an Experience Gallery where you can play instruments. And, there are exhibits with instruments from music icons like Taylor Swift, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and more. The museum has kids activities and a STEM gallery with interactive technology and displays that explore themes of sound creation, technological innovation, the human ear, hearing safety and more. Tickets cost $20; $15 for teens; $10 children ages 4-12 and free for children 3-and-under. Click here for more info.
Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington Street, is the home to 350 permanent hands-on exhibits, a planetarium and a five-story-high giant screen theater. Admission costs $18; $13 for kids ages 3-17 and free for children 2-and-under. Panetarium and the Irene P. Giant Screen Theater are an additional fee. Click here to get tickets.
Children's Museum of Phoenix, 215 N. 7th Street, offers more than 300 play experiences spread throughout three floors of the historic Monroe School Building. There's a climbing adventure made out of building materials, found objects and random objects that towers above the atrium. It's compared to climbing a tree. There's also an art studio, BlockMania, a book loft, a building area, special toddler areas, role play areas and so much more. Admission is $12 for ages 1-61; $11 for 62 and over and free for children under 1 year old. Click here for ticket info.
Hall of Flame Fire Museum, 6101 E. Van Buren Street, is perfect for anyone obsessed with fire trucks. The museum has fire apparatus on display dating from 1725 to 1969. Admission is $10; $8 children 6-17 and seniors 62-and-over; $4 children ages 3-5 and free for children ages 2-and-under. Click here for info.
Castles-n-Coasters, 9445 N. Metro Parkway E, has miniature golf, a huge indoor arcade, roller coasters and water rides. Think Golf 'n Stuff, but with more stuff. Get all day unlimited rides for $29.99. Click here for more.
Rustler's Rooste, 8383 S. 48th Street, is a cowboy steakhouse on a butte in the foothills of South Mountain. There's live country western music every night and there's a general store to get fun novelties and collectibles. And get this: It's two stories with an indoor waterfall. The lounge is on top and you go down a slide to get into the dining room. There are stairs, too, if sliding isn't your thing. Click here for more info.
Other area stuff
Wet 'n Wild Phoenix, 4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, Glendale, is the biggest waterpark in Arizona featuring slides (big and small), a lazy river, a wave pool, kid areas and more. Admission is $30.99 on weekdays; $33.99 on weekends and $19.99 after 4 p.m.
Salt River Tubing, 9200 N. Bush Highway, Mesa, is an Arizona rite of passage. Bring a cooler, park, rent tubes (one for each of you and your cooler) and ride the bus down to the river. From there, tie your tubes together and enjoy floating down the Salt River. There are some rapid(ish) sections, but it's mostly pretty chill. Kids MUST be at least 4 feet tall AND 8 years or older. The cost is $17 per person and includes tube rental and bus ride. Click here for info.