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Explore Phoenix for Free! 20 Kid-Friendly Activities for Families

by | Oct 13, 2023 | Things to Do

Having fun doesn’t have to cost tons of money, especially in the Valley. Looking for ways to cut costs while still offering your kids a chance to experience fun, free and educational activities throughout their city?

We’ve got you covered. Phoenix has no shortage of free playgrounds, museums with discounted admission, and cultural happenings that will entertain both you and your kids. 

And that’s great, because finding free things to do with kids doesn’t just help fill the day—it helps them develop the 5 C’s at the heart of the Begin Approach to helping kids thrive in school and life.

Whether you’re stoking Curiosity at a museum, building Core Skills at the library or playground, or firing up Creativity looking at art, you can make a big difference by getting out there to explore.

So grab the kids, press pause on your to-do list and put your wallet away. Here are 20 free activities to do in Phoenix with your family!

The Short Cut

  • Free things to do with kids are a great way to build the 5 C’s while having fun with your family
  • Taking your kids out to events and new places inspires them to explore and move their bodies, which helps them form new neural connections
  • Phoenix has a ton of free things to do, from touring a candy company and hiking in the mountains to museums, baseball games, and botanical gardens


1. Visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Kids will love walking through the noodle forest, making art in the in-house studio and shopping at the grocery store at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. The museum also regularly hosts extras like magic shows and craft projects, so check the schedule before you go.

When: Admission is free on the first Friday of every month from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

2. Grab a culture pass

Check out a culture pass from the library, and you can get free admission for two to a whole host of great artistic and cultural venues around Phoenix! From the butterfly pavilion at the Desert Botanical Garden to the artifacts and hands-on activities at the S’edav Va’aki Museum, there’s tons to tickle your kids’ curiosity.

When: If you can snag a culture pass from the library, admission is free for two people.

3. Visit your local library

There is a whole world waiting at your local library. The Phoenix Public Library system offers story times, crafts, and science demos completely free, especially during the summer months. Grab a few new books and explore your neighborhood branch!

When: Check your local branch for hours.

4. Visit the Mesa Arts Center

The museum and public art you’ll find at MAC is super fun and kid-friendly. Make music with your shadow outside on a magical sidewalk and then head indoors to explore some wild works of contemporary art.

When: Tuesday-Sunday; hours vary.

5. Ride the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

This destination has an always-free playground, plus a model train display and a train museum that’s free for kids 13 and under (with a paying adult). There is a nominal fee to take a ride on the carousel or train ($3), but it’s totally worth it—and children two years old and younger are always free.

When: Open daily; check the hours here.

Ad. Little girl holding package with Sesame Street characters reading All Aboard! Managing Big Feelings. Text reads: Need Help with BIG Feelings? Explore Them with Elmo. Ages 2+. Illustration of Elmo waving on side.

6. View the artifacts at the Arizona Capitol Museum

Get to know Arizona better with hands-on exhibits like a LEGO recreation of the Arizona state flag, plus technology and cultural artifacts at the state capitol. Your kids might even learn a little bit about local government and politics!

When: Admission is always free; Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.


7. Take the kids to see Minor League baseball games

Once the sun sets, take your kids to see a game in the Arizona Complex League at your local ballpark. There are games in every part of the city, including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe and Surprise. Parking is also free!

When: Games are played from June 24 to September 7; check local calendars for specific times.

8. Go for a family bike ride

The natural landscape around Phoenix allows families to easily venture on a beautiful bike ride in the morning or evening. Ride through your neighborhood or load up the car and head for an adventure at South Mountain Park where there are 50 miles of trails to choose from.

When: Anytime! If your family would like to explore South Mountain, park hours are from 5am to 7pm.

9. Visit Singh Meadows

Enjoy the chance to sit by the water, relax on the grass and admire the views, or play cornhole or frisbee with your kids at Singh Meadows. There is fresh food available at the market for breakfast or lunch. While food isn’t free, you are welcome to try some samples!

When: Hours vary with the season, but typically it’s open Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 2pm.

10. Hike local trails

There are more than 200 miles of trails to explore in the greater Phoenix area, so you’re basically guaranteed to find a trail that fits your family’s needs. Some trails allow your furry pets to come along, too.

When: Most local trails are open from sunrise to sunset.

11. Attend an Arizona Cardinals Training Camp practice

If your children love football, the Arizona Cardinals Training Camp is a great way to see how players practice and execute plays without spending a small fortune. Both parking and admission are free!

When: Check the Cardinals website to verify dates and times.

12. Float on the Salt River

Looking for a water-filled adventure? The entire family can bond while floating on the Salt River. You are welcome to bring your own tube and plan a trip independently (make sure you have a Tonto National Forest pass and a second car to leave at the pick-up site!). Or you can visit Salt River Tubing for a (paid) full-service experience.

When: Season starts on May 1.

13. Climb Camelback Mountain

Views are spectacular on the top of Camelback Mountain, which is why most tourists hit this spot when they come into town. Be aware of the hike’s difficulty as small kids will likely not be able to manage the climb! Save this for a slightly older bunch.

When: Sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.

14. Stroll (and sample) at the Phoenix Public Market

Take in all the fresh foods, fun colors and people-watching that come with visiting the open-air Phoenix Public Market. Even in the summer, there’s tons of shade and misters to keep you cool. Enjoy samples from the vendors, and take advantage of events like yoga, story time and gardening tips!

When: Saturdays, 8am-noon.

15. Get wet at a local splash pad

Maybe your kids aren’t ready to swim yet, but you want to enjoy the water. Luckily Phoenix has plenty of splash pads near fun places to eat and shop, making them an easy way to cool off! Some favorites include Riverview Park in Mesa, Tempe Marketplace and Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix.

When: Check specific splash pads for times.

Ad. Little girl holding package with Sesame Street characters reading All Aboard! Managing Big Feelings. Text reads: Need Help with BIG Feelings? Explore Them with Elmo. Ages 2+. Illustration of Elmo waving on side.

16. Stroll through the Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a cool opportunity for kids to feed koi fish, learn about bonsai trees and listen to music. The first Friday of every month, admission is free and there’s usually a demonstration or live music happening!

When: First Fridays of the month; hours change so check the site.

17. Get artsy at the First Fridays

Introduce your kids to contemporary and locally made art during First Fridays in the city! There are usually live performances, too.

When: First Friday of the month from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

18. Get a history lesson at Downtown’s Heritage Square

Go back in time on Phoenix’s oldest city block! Walk by beautiful Victorian-style homes in Heritage Square and enjoy the scenery and cool architecture. Then, grab a meal at a nearby restaurant to top off the day.

When: Anytime.

19. Connect with nature at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

With beautiful mountains and natural scenery, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve allows kids to connect with nature, hike protected trails, and see lots of native plant life. Check out tips (and events!) specifically for visiting families here.

When: Sunrise to sunset.

Keep Learning with Begin

Photo illustration showing photos of kids using the Begin brands: Little Passports, HOMER, Learn with Sesame Street, and codeSpark

You’ll be amazed how much your kids discover while you’re out and about in Phoenix, and with Begin’s award-winning early learning products you can keep them exploring at home too. We know what matters in learning, and we make it easy—for your kids and for you.

See what we can do for your family today!


Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos
Jody has a Ph.D. in Developmental Science and more than a decade of experience in the children’s media and early learning space.