Staycation: Enjoying Phoenix on a Budget

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With gas prices steadily approaching $4/gallon here in Arizona, many families will be looking for ways to save money on vacations or may even find themselves staying closer to home this summer. In a large city like Phoenix (and HUGE when you consider the entire “Valley of the Sun”), there is a wealth of family fun to be had–from pro sports team, to zoos and museums, golf courses, waterparks, and a huge variety of outdoor activities. In the summer though, pleasant summer activities typically need to involve at least one of two things: 1. water 2. being indoors! 
Thankfully, there are many good things to do around the Phoenix area that not only fit those requirements, but are relatively inexpensive (many even FREE)! So, whether you’re local and planning a true staycation or will be visiting Phoenix this summer, here are some family fun things to consider:  
If you don’t live in the Phoenix area (or aren’t planning a trip in the near future), then check out the HUGE Staycation list with 85 cities featured!!

 – The Stuffington Bear Factory  

At 1:00pm, every Monday-Saturday, you can drop-in and tour the factory for FREE! There are additional touring/field-trip options, including the addition of stuffing your own bear (for a fee). Get all info on the Stuffington Bear Factory tours here.

Cerreta Candy Company

This long-time, family-owned business in Historic downtown Glendale offers FREE tours Monday-Friday at 10am and 1pm! I remember taking tours there as a kid, seeing how the fabulous candy is made, enjoying some delish samples, and then sometimes getting to make a Chocolate Pizza at the end (for an additional fee). Educational and yummy! A win-win!

With “Wildflower Kids”, every Wednesday at 3:30pm, kids can enjoy a complimentary cookie, milk, and activity.  
Every Tuesday from 10am-12pm, kids can enjoy pizza, drink, tokens for play, and a themed make-n-take craft for only $4.99. Contact your local Peter Piper for more information!
We call the Cabela’s here (at Westgate) “the indoor zoo”. There are hundreds of animals on display in different locations of the store (albeit no longer living)–very much like a museum and store all in one! We enjoy having a piece of fudge and walking around the store checking out all the animals. There’s also an aquarium and every Saturday at 1:00pm, the Aquarium Manager does a short presentation during the weekly in-tank fish feeding. This could be a great (FREE) educational & fun activity for your budding fisherman, ecologist, or general animal lover.
Disney fanatics will LOVE this new store, with quite a few fun & interactive things for the kids. The only trick is getting out of the store without spending a lot of money! 🙂

Children’s Museum

We LOVE the Children’s Museum here, but it can get pricey. So, on the first Friday of every month, you can try it FREE!!! 

Culture Passes  
Members of the Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe public libraries can check out a Culture Pass good for FREE admission for 2-4 people (depending on the venue). Participating venues include some great summer destinations like the Children’s Museum, Arizona Museum of Natural History, Arizona Science Center, Arizona Museum for Youth, and more! 

Baseball is the sport of the summer and Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks, offers some relatively inexpensive family fun. Single-game tickets can be purchased for less than $10 each and each year there are various family package deals that include food & drinks and/or other special promos. Many night games also include a fireworks show following the game.
Chase Field is very family friendly, especially with the St. Joseph’s Sandlot. Features include a kids’ playground, toddlers’ playground, batting cage, future field, Baxter’s Den and more! Additionally, kids under 15 can become a member of the “No Chew Crew” and receive a punch card for FREE admission to any one of 13 Sunday home games. On Sundays, kids can also run the bases after the game!
For the baseball enthusiasts, this summer is extra special as Phoenix is home to the MLB All-Star game. Fans can visit the All-Star Fan Fest (held at the Phoenix Convention Center). For a sweet deal, “Fan Friendly Friday” will be “Buy One, Get One Free” Admission.
If you’re looking for a special thing for baseball fans that is less expensive, then take a take a tour of Chase Field! (And, if baseball isn’t your thing, University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the AZ Cardinals, also offers tours for about the same price!)

While there are some fantastic waterparks around town, those can certainly get pricey. So, instead, here are a few of the bigger & better inexpensive splash areas around town:
Splash Playground at Tempe Beach Park
Aquatic Playground Splash Pad at Western Area Regional Park
Rio Vista Splash Park in Peoria
These splash pads are all FREE. In addition, many of the local malls & shopping areas also have FREE splash pads for the kiddos. Some include: Westgate, Scottsdale Quarter, Kierland Commons, Desert Ridge, and SanTan Village.
If you’re looking for something a little more “amusement parky” without those kind of prices, then check out the Enchanted Island’s Splash Zone (at Encanto Park). For just $3, you can get a splash zone wrist band.

If you’re looking for to spend some money on a desert oasis-type staycation, remember that the summer is “off-season” for hotels & resorts here. So, you can often score great deals of $149 or less per night at some really high-class places (plus sometimes resort credits & other bonuses too), like these:
 –  Arizona Grand Resort (formerly known as the Pointe at South Mountain)
What inexpensive/family-friendly places do YOU like to visit? 
If you know of any favorite inexpensive Phoenix-area places, please comment & let us know! 

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I’m Sara, a mom to three adorable boys living in the Arizona desert. As a former teacher, I love sharing my passions with others. So, have a look around for creative inspiration about cooking, creating, celebrating, traveling with kids, and more everyday mom endeavors!


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6 Responses

  1. Great list! I took Quinn to Cabelas when we visited a friend in SLC a few years ago. Love freebie places to visit, even if it's all hunting and dead animals. 🙂

    We also really enjoyed staying at the Arizona Grand last fall, I am hoping to score another deal there this summer!

  2. Ooh thanks so much for writing this! I bet it took you a lot of time but I'm so glad I found this!! Btw, I LOVE your blog! It's always nice to find a fellow local blogger 🙂


  3. my staycations are great because i live on a tiny island in florida!!! i love to stay and play at home!!! thanks for sharing Phoenix…next time i will visit some of these for sure!!!

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