Great Wolf Lodge Arizona

The Great Wolf Lodge Arizona in Scottsdale is a perfect family getaway with tons of indoor water slides, restaurants, shops and fun for kids. 

Yes, it's even hotter in Phoenix than it is in Tucson.

...but they have water parks.

So when you can't splurge on a vacation out of state, drive the 100-ish miles north to Phoenix to float down a water slide and visit some cool museums.

Here are some of our picks, organized by Phoenix-area cities.

Tempe and Mesa

Stay at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at The Buttes2000 W. Westcourt Way. It features two mountain-side pools and a whirlpool. Click here for info. 

To do

Arizona Museum of Natural History53 N. Macdonald Ave. in 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. Click here for info. 

Legoland Discovery Center Arizona, 5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle in Tempe, is an indoor Lego playground. It features two rides, mini Lego replicas of Phoenix icons and a 4D cinema. Click here for info.

Sealife Aquarium, which is next door to the Legoland spot, features all kinds of sea life from jellyfish to sharks and everything in between. Click here for info. 

Golfland Sunsplash155 W. Hampton Ave. in Mesa, is two places in one. One side features miniature golf, an arcade, laser tag and a couple water slides. And then there's the Sunsplash side, which is a full-on water park featuring water slides, a wave pool, a toddler pool, a lazy river and an activity pool with games like basketball. Click here for info. 

Salt River Tubing9200 N. Bush Highway in 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. Click here for info.

Scottsdale

Stay at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa6902 E. Greenway Parkway. There's a lazy river, a pool, hot tubs, FlowRider (surfing simulator) and a water slide. Honestly, you probably wouldn't even have to leave the resort. Click here for info.

As a second option, Great Wolf Lodge7333 N. Pima Road, opened in Scottsdale a couple years ago. It's a massive indoor waterpark and resort (say goodbye to the Phoenix sun 👋) with slides, a lazy river, raft rides and a multi-level play structure for kids — plus a ropes course, mini golf course and an arcade. If you stay here, you really won't have to leave the resort. Click here for info.

To do

Check out the Odysea Aquarium, which a few years ago was said to have the best bathroom in the U.S. Yeah, that's really a thing.

Aside from the bathroom, though, the aquarium features penguins, otters, lots of fish, plus touch pools and an interactive exhibit called OdySea Voyager. There are also up-close encounters with the penguins, plus a shark behind-the-scenes tour.

Affiliated with Odysea Aquarium is Butterfly Wonderland  a giant butterfly conservatory with thousands of butterflies and up to 70 different species from around the world. There's also a 3D theater and a reptile exhibit. Click here for info.

Ice Den Ice Skating, 9375 E. Bell Road, is the perfect way to cool down and get moving. And Tucson doesn't have an ice skating rink right now, so this is your chance to slip on your skates! Click here for info. 

Phoenix 

An exhibit at the Children's Museum of Phoenix. 

Stay at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway, and go to Oasis Water Park on site. Oasis is a 7-acre park with water slides, a wave pool, splash pad and a 25-person hot tub. Click here for info.  

To do

Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., has more than 8,000 instruments from around the world. There's also an Experience Gallery where you can play instruments, plus exhibits with instruments from music icons like Elvis Presley. The museum has kids activities and a STEM gallery. Click here for info. 

Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington Street, is home to dozens and dozens of permanent hands-on science exhibits, a planetarium and a five-story-high giant screen theater. Click here for info.

Children's Museum of Phoenix, 215 N. 7th Street, offers 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. There's also an art studio, BlockMania, a book loft, a building area, special toddler areas and role play areas. Click here for info.

Hall of Flame Fire Museum, 6101 E. Van Buren Street, is perfect for anyone obsessed with fire trucks with exhibits such as historic fire alarm systems and fire helmets, fire apparatus on display dating back to 1725. 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. Click here for info.

Enchanted Island Amusement Park, 1202 W. Encanto Blvd., is home to rides for kids, a rock climbing wall, a kids splash zone and pedal boats and canoes. Click here for info.

Other area stuff

Kids scream with glee as they pop out of the Constrictor ride at Wet 'n' Wild. The park is now operated by Six Flags and goes by the name of Hurricane Harbor Phoenix.

Hurricane Harbor Phoenix (aka Six Flags!), 4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Road in Glendale, is the biggest waterpark in Arizona featuring slides (big and small), a lazy river, a wave pool, kid areas and more. This spot used to be called Wet 'n' Wild, but changed over to Six Flags in 2019.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde is about 90 minutes north of Phoenix, but might be worth the drive. The park is unlike your typical zoo, offering behind-the-scenes tours, daily shows, a zip line and close encounters with animals like sloths and even tigers. Click here for info.


This is an update of a story by Angela Pittenger originally published on This Is Tucson in 2018


Subscribe to stay connected to Tucson. A subscription helps you access more of the local stories that keep you connected to the community.

Angela Pittenger | This Is Tucson