Phoenix with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Lisa Pratto, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 5th 2010 09:16 PM

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Phoenix with Kids: A Family Vacation

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My family of five loves spending time in Phoenix. The kids are still little (4, 3 and 9 months) so we tend to go to places that don't mind if they run or are too loud – the kind of places that are completely unfazed with a three-year-old temper tantrum or a bad diaper. We need changing tables in the men's restroom or, better yet, a family restroom. If I could plan a perfect family day in Phoenix with kids, I would get everyone up early, pile them all in the car, and head into town.


Morning


The Farm at South Mountain offers yummy breakfasts every day. The farm, originally established in the 1920s as a forward thinking, self-sustaining community, has tons of stuff to do including art galleries, organic gardens and various shops. We are here to eat, though, so head over to the Morning Glory Cafe. It's an open air patio that allows pets - so my noisy kids are welcome, too. My favorite dish is the Cowboy Breakfast Chili and Eggs ($12), definitely a stick to your ribs breakfast with lots of melted cheese. (I don't have to diet if I am on the perfect family day, right?) My kids usually go for the French toast with pecans and warm syrup ($9 but my kids split an order). On the weekends, they also have Eggs Benedict ($12), my all-time favorite dish, and breakfast tacos ($8). Fill up those bellies but don't dawdle. We have a lot to do today! Call first as they are closed the last week in June through Labor Day.

The Farm at South Mountain, 6106 S 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85042; 602-276-6360, 602-243-9081; Tue-Fri 8AM-11AM, Sat-Sun 8AM-1PM

Next up: The Phoenix Zoo. It's our all-time favorite and is a must-see when on family travel! My kids would go there daily if I let them. With 125 acres, it's huge and one of the best zoos for children in the country. We always feed the giraffes; I wish they had offered that when I was a kid. They eat from 10AM-11AM and again from 1PM-2PM. It's $4 per person but worth every penny. Don't forget to whip out the camera for a great photo op. Also top on our list is Monkey Village where you get to walk right into the squirrel monkey habitat. Awesome! My 3- year-old also loves to brush the billy goats at the farm.

The Phoenix Zoo, 455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ; 602-273-1341; Adults $18, Children (3-12) $9; Hours vary, check website or call

Afternoon


You could eat lunch at the zoo but, if you're ready for something different, head on over to Oregano's. Loud, fun and fabulous! You can eat outside on the patio or inside – either way there are kids everywhere. Mine only add to the noise level and they blend right in. The food is Italian and very good. The kids menu is simple and to the point, exactly what a hungry little one needs and wants: pizza or pasta. Choose your style of pasta, sauce and add-on (chicken, meatballs). My kids always go for the penne with butter and Parmesan cheese and they eat every last bite. For adults, the thin crust pizza, stuffed sub rolls and salads are all good choices. They have lunch specials during the week that are super cheap, too. And, as an added bonus, every kid gets a plate of raw pizza dough to play with while they wait. Someone had a great idea there because my kids are busy the whole time. Oregano's has locations all over the valley but the Tempe location is right down the street from the zoo.

Oregano's Pizza Bistro, 523 W University Dr; Tempe, AZ 85281; 480-858-0501; Sun-Thu 11AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-11PM

Time for a little indoor fun at the Children's Museum of Phoenix. One of the best things to do in Phoenix with kids, this museum is a parent's dream, with no need to constantly tell your children not to touch. It's a free-for-all, touch all you want. This museum is fun, hands-on and interactive for kids from 0-10. And, yes, there really is stuff for the baby to do. Mine has a blast. I can't even begin to describe all there is to do inside: things with wheels, things to race, things to climb, things to touch, things to throw, things to build, things to blow. Phew! It's exhausting, but that's the point, right?

Children's Museum of Phoenix, 215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034; 602-253-0501; Tue-Sun 9AM-4PM, Closed Mon; $9 (ages 1 and up), Under 1 free


Evening


Hungry? Time for dinner! Pile those wiped out kids in the car, let them zone out for a bit and head over to Rustler's Rooste. This cowboy themed steakhouse is always fun, and it starts the moment you enter the front door. You can take the stairs down into the dining room, or for a change of pace, head down on the kid-friendly slide. Get a window seat if you can, and check out the amazing panoramic view overlooking the city. There's live country music, too. You can start with the crispy snake appetizer with cucumber sauce, and make a fun pact to try it as a family. We always say we will but then chicken out! Snake aside, the steaks are some of the best in the valley. They have a kids menu with the usual cheeseburger, spaghetti and grilled cheese offerings, but my kids are a little more adventurous than that. We order the cowboy stuff. It's a huge spread to share including salad, fried shrimp, BBQ chicken, cowboy beans, fruit, BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, steak kabobs, veggies with dip and fresh warm rolls. Fills us up every time and at only $21.95 per person (we order for 3 people), it's not too expensive. We rate meals out on not only the food but also the ability to eat it in peace with three kids. Rustler's Rooste keeps them happy, fed and occupied while we eat, and that's always a plus in my book!

Rustler's Rooste, 8383 S 48th St, Phoenix, AZ 85044; 602-431-6474; Sun-Sat 5PM-10PM

So these are some of my favorite things to do in Phoenix with kids. This perfect family day is busy, fun-filled, and tasty. You could even stop for ice cream somewhere but I imagine you are too full and tired at this point. The best part of the day is yet to come; everyone will sleep all the way home. You can actually have an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. Now that's amazing! Enjoy!
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