We are so lucky that my husband’s father and his wife live in Arizona for part of the year and that they have a home in Scottsdale. We typically celebrate Christmas and the New Year in Florida all together every year on Anna Maria Island. We decided to switch things up this year and go out to Arizona in early December and visit Olivia’s Grandparents and Brian’s brother (Uncle Adam) and his new wife, Aunt Laura. Olivia loves her family and we were excited to celebrate Christmastime in Arizona and show Olivia cacti for the first time and explore the Valley of the Sun as a family!

Hikes in Phoenix

Hole in the Rock Trail is an easy hike that takes only 5 minutes to get to the top. We’ve never hiked with our 4 year old before and I thought this would be an easy way to see if it’s something we can all handle.

Hole in Rock Phoenix Hike
Hole in Rock Phoenix Hike

Camelback is a very well known trail in Phoenix and Brian and I have hiked it many times. I’m a little concerned this hike might be too much to take an active, adventurous toddler though and not kid-friendly.

Hikes in Scottsdale

Tom’s Thumb Trailhead  doesn’t seem like a scary hike to take a four year old and it is supposed to be very well maintained so taking our active toddler here might work. We’ll give it a try but if it seems too steep or scary we can always turn around.

Pinnacle Peak Trail is a 3.5 mile, kid-friendly trail that has beautiful views of Scottsdale. It is not a loop trail, you come back the way you came. The highest point of the trail reaches only 2889.

Brown’s Ranch Trail was the most toddler and kid-friendly hike that we did as a family. It’s pretty flat and doesn’t have jagged rocks.

Brown's Trail | Scottsdale | Kid Friendly Hiking
Brown’s Trail | Scottsdale | Kid Friendly Hiking

Restaurants in Scottsdale

Culinary Dropout looks casual but has very good review and food. Flower Child is a chic, fast-casual restaurant with a veggie focused menu. Postino is a wine bar set in a restored building, it has unique wines with delicious locally grown fare.

Proof Canteen is located in North Scottsdale and has patio dining, with  incredible views of Pinnacle Peak and the Valley beyond.  The Original Chop Shop is a cafe with outdoor seating, that serves healthy juices, salads & sandwiches, plus beer & wine.

Diego Pops seems to be the hot spot right now. It has poke, tacos and salads. Watermelon mint blossom margaritas and snow cone margaritas, churro sundaes and daily happy hour specials with $3 margaritas are calling my name.

Restaurants in Phoenix

Organ Stop Pizza – the food doesn’t look appealing – the pizza looks similar to frozen grocery store pizza, however the concept looks unique and maybe it’s worth a quick pit stop. Also to note – it’s cash only. Matt’s Big Breakfast looks like they have great omelettes and coffee.

Family Christmas Activities Scottsdale

Lights of the World Exhibit. The Lights of the World Exhibit has over 10,000,000 lights on display. It’s the largest light and lantern festival in North America brightens the downtown Phoenix skies t the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The festival combines Chinese tradition of lanterns and cutting edge technology and lights. With over 11 exhibits and 75 displays, Lights of the World has carnival rides, games and daily performances.

Butterfly Wonderland is the largest butterfly pavilion in North America. It is located at Odysea in the Desert, the entertainment complex near Loop 101 and Via de Ventura. Their large conservatory has more than 3,000 butterflies. They also have a reptile exhibit, a bee exhibit and a small aquarium. They have a bug vending machine – a vending machine stocked with real, edible and flavored insect snacks, candy and protein bars! They have face painting on the weekends for children. For the holiday season. Tickets are $24/per adult and $16/per child 2 years to 12 years old. Butterfly Wonderland has an angel exhibit where real life people dress up as angels throughout the park.

Butterfly Wonderland | Scottsdale
Butterfly Wonderland | Scottsdale
Butterfly Wonderland | Scottsdale, Arizona
Butterfly Wonderland | Scottsdale, Arizona

Railroad Park has a historic train ride to see the holiday lights and displays. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is its’ official name. It is a 40-acre railroad park located in Scottsdale, Arizona. It features a 15 inch gauge railroad, a Magma Arizona Railroad locomotive, a railroad museum, three model railroad clubs and a gauge live steam railroad. We can ride the historic Charros Carousel. This event requires a special ticket and tickets can be purchased started 11/1. The Holiday Lights Train Ride is $5 and the Carousel is $2. The Holiday Lights Train Ride Fast Pass is $15 (limited availability nightly and passes can be purchased online beginning Nov. 1)  Purchase your Holiday Lights Fast pass here. 

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This year is the 8th Annual Christmas at the Princess. Every year the hotel is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland during their Annual Christmas at the Princess festival November 22, 2018 through December 31, 2018. There is ice skating, plaza shows, village lights shows, Santa and more.

Drive to the Santa Train House which is 20 miles south of Scottsdale. For the past 27 years in Arizona, this family in Phoenix decorates their house every year to receive donations for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Visitors control a homemade 1/6-scale train as it travels over 80 feet of track, activating several features along the way. There is a crossing gate, an erupting volcano, a Ferris wheel, a light bridge, a carousel, a candy cane factory and a candy cane dispenser. Free candy canes are presented to all young visitors. The display is open nightly, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. (FREE)

The Phoenician has breakfast with Santa. It  is where we got engaged and I’d love to take Olivia to see Santa here.

Westin Kierland’s PaintScaping 3D Holiday Music Animations. The walls of the Westin Kierland come alive with 3D images and animations set to holiday music. Paintscaping uses the Westin Kierland as a canvas and Paintscaping shows will be at 6:30pm, 7pm, 7:30pm and 8pm nightly from November 28th-December 31st. Admission is free and open to the public. (FREE)

Drive Through Christmas Lights

World of Illumination is one of the holiday activities we are most looking forward to. This is a drive through holiday lights experience – it’ the World’s Largest Drive through Animation show – 1.5 million lights! It’s $29 per car and they have a market and bounce house for the kids after you see the lights. The lights are set to music on a specific radio station. We purchased our tickets online for a Thursday night and we made a point to make sure our rental car has a sun-roof so we can really take some amazing photos! Make sure you have a car with a sunroof for the kids – convertible – EVEN Better! It’s such a fun, unique way to see the lights. The World’s Largest Christmas Obstacle course at the end of the lights is so fun for athletic, active kids!

Illumination Lights Phoenix Arizona
Illumination Lights Phoenix Arizona
Illumination Holiday Lights in Phoenix
Illumination Holiday Lights in Phoenix
Illumination on Black Canyon HWY
Illumination on Black Canyon HWY

Christmas in Color is another drive through holiday lights experience. Starting at $25 per car the lighted tunnels are really cool and beautiful. Located in Goodyear, Arizona and a few other location in Utah.

More Family Christmas Activities Phoenix

Glendale Glitters. Located 20 miles west of Scottsdale, and 10 miles northwest of Phoenix, is an annual tradition consisting of holiday entertainment, delectable food, hand-crafted holiday gifts, a children’s snow field and petting zoo, shopping and, of course, visits with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. It takes place in downtown Glendale.

Phoenix Zoo Lights has holiday lights every year. It starts around Thanksgiving each year and then takes place every evening thereafter through January 14, 2018. Tickets are $11 to $20/per person depending on when you go.

Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade at Tempe Town Lake. We won’t be in town this year for the boat parade as it’s December 8, 2018. However it looks fun and they do it every year so maybe one year we will catch it!

Desert Botanical Gardens is located in Phoenix and their luminaries exhibit for the holidays is beautiful. Las Noches de las Luminarias has been going on for 40 years and tickets are $40 per adult and $15 per child. We went a few years ago before Olivia was born and it was a gorgeous display. Be sure to  bundle up and enjoy the hot chocolate.

Real London Bus Holiday Lights Tour. Unfortunately this tour requires you to rent the entire bus, which is around $700-$900. Maybe next year they will start selling individual tickets. It would be so cool to ride a real London Bus in search of Christmas lights!
This list from ABC News does a good job of summarizing the Holiday activities around Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Family Christmas Photo Ops

Hotel Valley Ho  has a sign that says “It’s always sunny in Scottsdale” which makes for adorable photos. We might need to do our family holiday photo here!

Valley Ho Hotel | Scottsdale, Arizona | Instagram Site
Valley Ho Hotel | Scottsdale, Arizona | Instagram Site

Day Time Activities for Toddlers

We need a few activities outside of hiking to keep our toddler happy and entertained while in Scottsdale. I found a few toddler play grounds and bounce houses to check out. Mini Social has a drop in play on a few of the days we are in town. This indoor play venue looks clean and fun.

The Stomping Ground is in Scottsdale and is an indoor play land and parent cafe. It has bounce houses and a toddler area. Enchanted Island Amusement Park is located in Phoenix and has rides, games and food. Cracker Jax Family Fun and Sports Park has laser tag, mini golf and go-karts.

Ice Cream

Fatty Daddy’s is a vibrantly colored dessert shop in Scottsdale featuring coffee, baked goods & handmade ice cream with unique flavors of ice cream like Grapefruit Mint Sorbet, Malted Milk Ball and their famous “Fatty Daddy’s Cookie Cup” is made with layers of ice cream, topped with a fresh macaron and a toasted marshmallow.

The Sugar Bowl is also in Scottsdale and is an  adorable, vintage ice cream shop that has been open since 1958.

Things To Pack for Olivia’s Entertainment

For downtime at Grandpa’s house we need to pack some play-doh and a new box of lego’s kept under wraps until we arrive. She’s the only child on this trip so I want her to be able to have things to do while the adults have time to chit-chat and catch up. We can always find fun toy stores in Scottsdale and Phoenix while out and about but I like to come prepared as well.

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