Mommy SOS | Free (and Cheap) Summer Activities for Arizona Kids



If you’re new and just stopping in… welcome!  We’re so glad you’ve found Scottsdale Moms Blog!

Today we’re back with another Mommy SOS topic.  If you missed our other Mommy SOS posts be sure to check them out.  We’ve covered some great topics – from pediatricians to preschools.  The posts are all full of great wisdom from all of YOU!

Now for our next topic…Free (and Cheap) Summer Activities for Arizona Kids.

I hate to even say it ladies…. but the dreaded summer months are just around the corner (eek… I know!).

Although the weather is playing tricks with us right now, the 115+ days of summer have been lurking in my mind.  How about you?!

Just the other day while at the library, a friend and I were discussing how the very full (due to spring break) class at the library reminds us of what we’ll all be going through in just a few months.  There are just too many HOT days and too few indoor things to do.

That’s where I need your help!

I’d like to make a list of things to do that I can fall back on when I’m tired of my “tried and true” summer activities.

Now I know some of you are a bit comment squeamish…But – here’s your opportunity to shine!

What free and cheap activities would you recommend other local moms do during the hot summer months?  Comment below with activity, location, price and age specifications (if applicable). 


  1. I can start!
    Some of my favorites include ::

    1) Scottsdale or Phoenix Public Library StoryTimes – Various dates, times and ages. Just check their websites for more info. FREE

    2) Splashpads. My new favorite splash pad is at Altadena Park (36th St and Cactus). It’s actually not very busy and has a playground right next to it so it’s double the entertainment. FREE

    3) The Play Factory – Desert Ridge – A wonderful indoor play land for kids of various ages. They have toddler days where you can get in for 1/2 price ($4.50/child). Nora loves this place.

    Now it’s your turn….

  2. My friend just told me about Arizona Sunrays Gymnastics on Thunderbird & 32nd. They have free baby dance and gym classes for kids up to 2.5 years old on Mon, Tues and Wed’s at 9:30. We haven’t tried them yet but my friend loved them! There’s also City of Scottsdale swim lessons that are only $22 for a 2 week session of 8 lessons (at $2.75/lesson they’re basically free!). And since kids under 3 are in a “mommy and me class” you get in the water too and out of the heat. Excited to hear what other activities people share!!

  3. Here are some of ours…

    1. We bought a membership to the Children’s Museum (downtown Phoenix, 7th Street) last summer. I think I paid $135 so we are NOT talking free here, but for the number of times we have gone and the quality of the museum itself, it is working out to less than $4 per kid per visit – obviously the more you go, the more worth it it is. We have gotten more use out of it than our zoo membership for sure. We pack a lunch (free) and go in the mornings then head home for naps.

    2. Like Jenny above we are longtime AZ Sunrays fans. Typically in the summer their schedule changes and they don’t do open gym on Fridays, but they continue to do it on Sundays (call to be sure). $5 per kid (babies not walking are free).

    3. PV Mall – free if you can avoid shelling out change for the ride-on machines, carousel, and train (not to mention Starbucks for mom). It’s really not my favorite summer activity, but if I’m forced to admit it I’m glad it’s an option. The play area gets crowded and it’s tough for crawling or newly walking babies and it’s not that fun for kids more than 2.5 or so, so it’s kind of a toddler-only attraction. BUT, the carousel and other ride-on machines still are fun for my nearly 4yo. The train is $3/person (I think?) and feels a little overpriced, but once again, it’s an option.

    4. Libraries – yes. We go to Appaloosa on Scottsdale Road just south of Pinnacle Peak.

    5. Kierland – we do the Barnes & Noble/Splash Pad combination. You could do the same at Desert Ridge, but I personally like Kierland splash pad better (less crowded, fewer stores surrounding it). The Barnes at Kierland removed their train table – just FYI – so take away a few points from this option. Again – FREE – as long as you don’t cave into needs for coffee/Cold Stone/new books/etc. 🙂

    6. Imagination Ave – not free (or even that cheap – $9/kid normally), but if you can snag a coupon or groupon or want to splurge on a membership, it’s great. 32nd and Shea. One of my favorite indoor play spaces because my kids are less into the bounce houses and climbing structure places. We also pack a lunch (free) and eat in their cafe.

    7. SMB indoor play dates! Stay tuned for announcements about these this summer!! Typically around $5/family 😉

    8. Here are a couple posts I’ve written on the topic for anyone who is new to SMB 🙂 and

    Thanks for the post, Steph! Looking forward to gathering this wisdom all in one place!

  4. I second all of the places mentioned so far! A few to add:

    1. The splash pad at the Scottsdale Quarter: It’s a great large splash pad and is directly next to a nice big public bathroom. It’s also very close to a covered parking garage which is key in the AZ heat. One nice perk is that it also has an outdoor escalator directly next to the splash pad, too. Are my children the only ones who want to go up and down escalators repeatedly?

    2. Arizona Museum for Youth: It’s in Mesa so it is a drive. However, the annual pass begins at $60 and they also have a 10 pass option, too for $50. It’s a completely different vibe from Phoenix Children’s’ Museum. Much more low key and intimate (and less easy to lose your child if you have more than one to chase after), it is all one level. It still has a separate space for younger children, 4 and under, which is great because PCM is 3 and under, again harder if you have multiple children of different ages. Also, in this area, they always have some sort of special art project available. Last time I went, my 1 year old tottered over to the paint and a staff member actually smiled and encouraged her to try painting. Love it!

    3. Tempe Town Lake splash pad: This is the mother of all splash pads. It has large water features and slides and actually seems more like a mini water park than a splash pad. It is completely free, which is probably why it is always pretty busy. Early morning and middle of the week days are your best bet here.

    4. Library storytimes: I know these have already been mentioned but I wanted to add that as long as you live in Maricopa county you can get a free card at any of the city libraries. I take my kids to storytimes at the Tempe library (though i’m biased because i do them!), the Phoenix libraries and the Scottsdale libraries. Check many different library storytime schedules because different locations have different offerings. Some do afternoon, evening and weekend storytimes, too.

    5. Summer reading at the library: This is a program that runs through the summer months at your local library. It’s a great way to keep kids excited for reading and it is completely free. Again, different libraries will run their programs differently, so feel free to do the program at multiple libraries. Also, in conjunction with the program, nearly all libraries will hold special free programs and events ranging from puppet shows to magicians to live animals shows. Check the calendar and arrive early if they hand out tickets.

    6. Harkins movies: I know Harkins generally does some sort of special for families during the summer. I have never attended but I think you can purchase tickets to children’s movies for really low prices and the showings are usually earlier day showings with a kid-friendly crowd.

    7. BigSurf: They have a special day, I think Mondays, where it is reduced prices for families. It’s not on the website now but check as summer gets closer.

    8. Pools: Last but not least, make friends with someone who has a pool if you don’t own one!

  5. Hi Scottsdale Moms!

    I just wanted to let you know we will be having a Children’s Summer Camp for Painting at the Art of Merlot studio. We are still working out the details, which will be published on our website at the beginning of May.

  6. I visit scottsdale every week. on tuesday n fridays. i need something other then the train park to do with a 2yr n 7yr that is close to train park that is free or real cheap. please help this grandmother rock

  7. MacDonald’s Ranch, in Scottsdale, has a free petting zoo. They also have short pony rides for the little ones (they ask that you tip the guide).

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