15+ Super Fun Things to Do: A Local Activity Guide for 2021
Welcome to our 2021 summer local activities guide! We’re excited to share some new finds with you this year to help make sure your time is well spent this summer. Whatever your age or interests, there’s sure to be something for you in this guide!
Every year, we try to include a range of activities without duplicating the same places named in previous yearly guides. However, there are lots of great places listed in those older guides, too. So, if you want to check them out, you can view them here and here. Just be sure the info has been updated on company websites and, if possible, give them a call before you head out!
And now, without further ado, let’s get a look at these exciting 2021 activities!
Great Wolf Lodge
The Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark of Scottsdale opened in October of 2019. This nearly brand new facility offers registered guests unlimited use of the water slides and swimming pools as well as the other free activities listed, such as Story Time in the lobby.
Choose from standard, themed, and premium suites for your best stay at Great Wolf.
These super-sweet deals on tickets let you save up to 50%, too. Just want to stay for the day and skip the suite? Ask about Day Passes.
Get a gander at some of these adventures before you decide -- and you can even plan birthday parties here! Plus...shopping anyone? There are 4 unique shops for everything you might have forgotten and anything you want to take home with you.
Don’t worry about leaving the grounds to get enough to eat, either. There are 9 dining venues available to suit everyone’s tastes, including but not limited to Timbers Tacos, The Campfire Kitchen for breakfast, Buckets Incredible Craveables for burgers, fries, and bucket-size ice cream sundaes, as well as a bonafide Ben & Jerry’s and Dunkin’ Donuts location on-site.
OdySea Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Southwest United States, holding over 2,000,000 gallons of water and covering over 200,000 square feet. There’s a lot to see here (to say the least!), and all of it is family and kid-friendly. Take your time and spend the day observing the newest aquarium in America which was recently voted ‘Kids’ Best Indoor Entertainment’.
This underwater adventure zone is brimming with everything from sharks to sea turtles to penguins to so much more. You won’t want to miss a thing, especially if you’re into the ocean and water-oriented creatures. It almost seems worthwhile to get an Annual Pass, which is said to pay for itself in two days. If not, check out these other great deals and discounts/events.
Wonderspaces: For the artists at heart.
Located in the Scottsdale Fashion Square Food Court, Wonderspaces has transformed original immersive artwork from across the globe into a 16,000 square foot series of thirteen unique exhibits. Many are interactive; all are unique and exciting to experience, and they change throughout the year to keep things fresh.
Check out ticket prices here. Discounts are available for seniors, military members, teachers, healthcare workers, children, and students. Tickets must be purchased online in advance of visiting the exhibits.
Be sure to pay attention to the dates and times of your tickets. Guests are welcome to stay as long as they wish during business hours; most tend to stay around 90 minutes.
Take a dip in Marilyn Monroe’s favorite
swimming pool at the Phoenix Biltmore.
You can look forward to diving into Marilyn’s favorite pool now that the hotel’s renovations have been completed and the official re-opening took place in March 2021!
Originally built in 1929, the Biltmore was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, joined briefly for consulting by Lloyd Wright himself. Boasting 700 rooms on almost 40 acres, both the Biltmore’s Catalina Pool (the original Catalina was Marilyn Monroe’s favorite) and Paradise Pool have been updated -- including the addition of 15 new cabanas and a triple water slide tower -- in addition to the new spa, fitness venue, lobby bar, and much more.
Aside from Marilyn’s love for the Catalina Pool, the Phoenix Biltmore is also said to be the site where Irving Berlin was inspired to write the Christmas classic White Christmas. Want to visit for a meal, a day, or a longer stay? Check out some of the deals they’re offering for stays in this glamorous space here.
Speaking of Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesin West, the winter home and desert laboratory of the renowned architect, is situated at 12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, Arizona, 85259. Open daily from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm, guests can choose their preference of guided tours lasting 45 minutes for $38 or 3 hours for $75. The ‘Guided by Wright’ audio tour is free for members. The building can be rented for events that are not political or religious in nature, and there is a gift store in front full of nifty Frank Lloyd Wright books, decor, and other items. For more information on the facility, check their site here.
The building is not only the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin but also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Constructed in 1937, Wright referred to the home as, “a look over the rim of the world.” The creation was inspired by the desert nature around it and maintained almost solely by Wright and his assistants.
Warm weather, cool cacti, sports and… food! Phoenix is known for its tasty vittles, among
other things. Come see what’s good for the
belly in the Valley of the Sun!
Phoenix was named one of the top 30 cities for food in the nation by Travel and Leisure. If visiting the region, be sure not to miss:
Mexican food at the Barrio Cafe
Modern Latin cuisine at The Mission in Scottsdale
Seafood at the Salt Cellar in Phoenix
Homemade gelato at Splurge/The Orchard in Phoenix
There’s also a Native American influence on the food here, with specialties like Fry bread, served regularly at the Fry Bread House.
Other fun dishes to try in the area include the likes of:
The PB&J bacon burger at Rehab Burger Therapy
Floats, shakes, ice cream sammies, and nostalgic candies at CHURN
Tuesday night TV Dinner Nights at Angel’s Trumpet Ale House
As the season goes on, make sure you check on new spots opening up like Clever Ramen, Safe Haven Brewery, and the Garden Bar.
*Also, Arizona Restaurant Week is set to begin May 21st, with menus posted here for future reference.
Speaking of Food – are you tired of the same old
thing? Try something unique at the Halo-
If you’re anywhere near the Halo-Halo Kitchen at 3553 W Dunlap in Phoenix, you may as well show up hungry and start with a meal. Check the daily menus first: Are you visiting on a Monday? Try the Pork Adobo. Tuesday? Veggie Egg Rolls or Fried Bangus Belly looks good. Wednesday? How about some Fried Tilapia or Kare-Kare? In the mood for the all-day breakfast silogs? Try that menu. Lechon? Here’s a peek at that menu. There’s plenty to choose from and some that may need some explaining, so get there early and bring your appetite -- and an open mind!
If you just came for dessert? Go straight for the dessert bar and get some Halo-Halo. The word, meaning ‘mix-mix’, or ‘mix-together’ in Tagalog, means this fresh-tasting Filipino dish stirs and blends shaved ice and evaporated milk into a variety of new flavors--including ingredients like sugar palm fruit, jackfruit, banana, sweet beans, gelatin cubes, and similar items. Served in a nice tall glass, this is a dessert you won’t soon forget! Not in the mood for Halo-Halo? You can also get a fresh avocado shake, boba, Ube (purple yam) ice cream, leche flan, and much more.
Grab some grits at the original Mel’s Diner --
straight outta the 70’s/80’s CBS sitcom, Alice.
Sit at the counter and order up an old-school breakfast or lunch combo while enjoying the retro-themed diner complete with the original ‘Mel’s Diner’ sign out front and its giant tipping coffee cup. Located at 1747 Grand Avenue in Phoenix, you’ll need to come hungry to this classic establishment. Rumor has it portions are huge and the menu is extensive. Don’t remember the old ‘Alice’ sitcom? Take a peek here to refresh your memory!
Holy Golf Balls! Did you know? There are over
200 golf courses in the Greater Phoenix region!
Excellent golf courses are another thing our area is known for. There’s something for every type of golfer in the Phoenix area, if you take a moment to learn about the 200+ courses available!
For the budget-minded, Trip Savvy recommends courses such as:
Golf Digest suggests their golfers explore:
For a full alphabetical listing of all the golf courses in Greater Phoenix, go here.
For the days when you’ve got the littles along, try these great mini-golf spots:
- Glow Putt Mini Golf - Indoor, glow-in-the-dark fun -- with some challenging holes to boot!
- CrackerJax - Mini-golf, go-karts, bumper boats, laser tag, batting cages, and more
- Casey’s SportsWorld - Mini-golf is $7/player per game and kids under 4 play free w/paying adult
- Imagine 3D Mini Golf - Check for all the possible discounts; kids ages 4-9 pay $7.95/ea
- Swingin’ Safari Mini Golf - Safari-themed 18-hole blacklight indoor course w/life size animal props
Once you choose your golf course, be sure to call ahead of your visit and check on any discounts being offered, days the courses may be closed for maintenance, or any COVID-related changes.
Phoenix has the perfect skies for hot air balloon rides.
The scenic landscapes of the Phoenix area are said to be especially breathtaking when viewed from the basket of a hot air balloon. This explains why it’s such a popular activity in the region, especially at the time of sunrise or sunset. These are times that not only offer spectacular views, but the winds tend to be calmest as well.
Some of the most popular hot air balloon experiences in the area include:
While companies try to stick to their schedules, balloon launches depend upon wind direction and weather conditions, which can vary greatly.
Be sure to arrive early and leave plenty of time before and after your balloon ride to participate in other planned activities included in your experience. Some rides enjoy a bottle of champagne opening and a toast afterward, while others have a gourmet breakfast or brunch first, and still more have a candlelit dinner after landing.
Tres Rio Wetlands
If you love getting lost in the beauty of nature, this is your destination. What’s more? It’s free! You do need to get a permit, however, but it’s free of charge and you can find the instructions here. So, what will you see when you get to the Wetlands? Let’s take a peek:
According to the website, the Wetlands are an environmental restoration project, which is now thriving with over 150 different species of birds as well as animals like bobcats, skunks, muskrats, beavers, and much more. The birds are attracted to the desert shrubs and trees growing along the trails. Almost 700 acres around the Salt River are part of the project, which is attempting to bring the region back to its early-1800’s condition.
According to guest reviews, there’s a port-a-potty available on-site but you’ll need to bring your own water and snacks as there is nothing else nearby.
Situated on over 1,200 acres, Papago Park is beloved by residents and visitors from all over the nation. You can enjoy all the traditional park activities, like hiking, biking, picnics, etc., as well as exploring the likes of unique formations, intriguing historical aspects, the best places to enjoy a sunset, fishing, and a governor’s tomb. Best of all? Don’t miss “Hole-in-the-rock”! Papago Park is one spot you won’t want to miss if you have free time this summer!
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Check out the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park for a variety of locomotive-related fun on a whopping 30 acres. Smack dab in the center of Scottsdale, this park offers the excitement of all day rides, interesting historical aspects, shopping options, refreshments, and more.
Hobbyists can admire model railroads in the 10,000 square foot Model Railroad Building while events run year-round (like the Sunday night concert series) for the enjoyment of guests and locals alike. Step into the Scottsdale Railroad Museum to explore over 200 years of local railroad history, and finish up by letting the littles have some free playtime on the unique playground structures on-site.
- The Paradise and Pacific Railroad rides and Charros Carousel rides run every 30 minutes on weekdays and non-stop on the weekends.
- Tickets are only $3 each, and one ticket is necessary per rider with a child of 2 years old or younger riding free.
- Discount packs of 8 tickets for $20 or all-day wristbands for $12 are also available.
Hang out for some fun at The Pemberton PHX.
A historic building originally constructed in 1920, The Pemberton PHX has been renovated for a vast array of community (and private) events and activities. Some of these include outdoor movies, holiday celebrations, yoga and wellness classes, live music, cafes serving up gourmet pasta and pizza, creative cocktails, and dishes like grilled octopus to share. And if you don’t find what you want on-site? No worries -- there are usually numerous food trucks surrounding the building during business hours, too! But wait...there’s more!
- You’ll want to check the site in the near future for details on events as many are still in the planning phase (Are you into unique beers on tap? How about super-chic made-to-order dresses? Fish tacos? Tamales? Burgers? Yeah, if you like any of that, you’re gonna want to come back once plans are complete!)
- Pricewise, some of the yoga classes are donation-based, while others (like the Poolside Yoga and Brunch for $39) have ticket prices listed. Browse the site for your class preferences and see what prices are listed, if any.
- The main venue is located at 1121 N. 2nd Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
Harkins Theaters are now open for the Big
Who doesn’t miss going to movies in the summer in a nice air-conditioned theater with the smell and sound of fresh popcorn popping away in the background? Well, Harkins is open in a bevy of locations, including but not limited to these Phoenix-near spots:
Arrowhead Fountains 18
Chandler Fashion 20
Gateway Pavilions 18
- Check their schedule to see what’s playing now and in which theaters.
- Catch these Tuesday Night Classics for only $5 each.
- Enjoy Sensory-Friendly Screenings for patrons with autism/sensory processing issues.
Cool Viator Tours and Adventures
Be sure to glance at some of the fun packages they have on Viator before you’re done, too. Turns out, there are some very reasonably priced adventures on the menu for the Phoenix area, such as:
A word to the wise:
As with anything, make sure to check the reviews first and see what others thought of the experiences before booking or going anywhere with strangers. If anything seems off, cancel or walk away. If you’re under 18, make sure a parent or responsible guardian knows where you are at all times. There are numerous other similar sites you can check too, including:
Now that you’ve seen this year’s guide, what do you think you’ll explore first?
We’re excited to be going out more as COVID restrictions are easing up. That said, please remember to check ahead on all destinations before heading out to make sure the requirements haven’t changed. We’d hate to have you travel any distance to find the location has closed abruptly or changed their seating, activities, etc.
Other than that, we hope you’ll enjoy the activities and let us know what you did! If there’s anything new out there that you think we should include for future guides, don’t hesitate to let us know. Stay in touch and we look forward to seeing you at your next Jungle Roots appointment!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.