Phoenix with kids

The downside of living in Calgary is the chilly winter weather. The good news is you can hop a quick, three-hour flight and find yourself in sunny Phoenix, where the average daytime temperature is 73F (about 22C). We arrived on Tuesday amid a “heat wave” and were delighted to experience a high of about 80F (26C). What to do in Phoenix with kids? Lots, it turns out.

We started our explorations at the Desert Botanical Garden, in Papago Park next to the Phoenix Zoo. We strolled around paths that meander through 65 acres of cultivated space, with more species of cactus than I knew existed. There were favourites such as the tall Saguaro and prickly pear cacti, and lesser-known types like the teddy bear cactus (the prickliest plant I have ever seen) and the totem pole cactus, a completely smooth plant. We also saw birds including the cactus wren, Arizona’s state bird; lots of quails running around; and even hummingbirds. After Avery’s finger somehow attracted a bunch of tiny prickles she declared she’d had enough of the cacti.

In happier times, before cacti prickles got Avery's finger.

In happier times, before cacti prickles got Avery’s finger.

Next stop: downtown Phoenix. For a big metropolitan city, Phoenix is refreshingly quiet. It’s clean and modern and the city has invested over $4-billion in infrastructure since 2006, including a new convention centre and a new light rail transit system. From the Renaissance Hotel, it was a 5-block walk to the  Arizona Science Center. This is an amazing facility, more so because we were seemingly the only visitors. It was an hour before closing and it was virtually empty. This made it easy to get hands on with the outdoor ball and water park.

Bennett loved throwing balls into this water whirlpool.

Bennett loved throwing balls into this water whirlpool.

We also explored All About Me, a hands-on exhibit about the human body, where Avery and Bennett walked into a replica stomach and were farted out the intestine slide.  The dramatic Forces of Nature movie was also a highlight. We watched a movie about volcanoes, tornados and hurricanes and actually felt their heat, wind and water thanks to the interactive stage we were standing on.

Avery loved listening to this interactive stomach/intestine gurgle and fart!

Avery loved listening to this interactive stomach/intestine gurgle and fart!

Was this the busiest day ever? Just about. Thanks for entertaining and wearing out my kids, Phoenix!

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