Family Fun Freebies: No-cost kids activities around the Valley
There’s no shortage of cultural and outdoor activities in the Valley of the Sun. Add in the extra cost of a partner, kids and the family pet (if Fido is even welcome!) and your cash flow can easily transform from a gushing river into a bone-dry creek bed.
From Wild West gunfights to complimentary chocolates, here are some family-friendly freebies that’ll keep little ones entertained without leaving your wallet empty.
Visit a Giant Playground: Let’s face it, even many adults get antsy while checking out traditional art and history museums. Yawn! The Children’s Museum of Phoenix keeps wee ones in mind with smart, interactive exhibits that range from dress-up corners to giant building blocks and a station for budding artists. Thanks to mega-retailer Target, this downtown Phoenix site offers free admission from 5-9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. The best part? There are no signs guiding kids on how to play with the exhibits, so the whole family can feel free to (literally) color outside the lines.
Play with Plants: Admission to Desert Botanical Garden is free the second Tuesday of every month from 8 a.m–8 p.m. Take the whole family and explore an authentic Apache kitchen and sleeping hut, pound mesquite beans into flour, learn how birds nest in a cactus and more! See www.dbg.org for info.
Have a Willy Wonka Experience: There are no guides in top hats or strange little orange men working at Glendale’s Cerreta Candy Company, but it still feels like you’ve scored a golden ticket every time you step foot inside the family-owned factory. Bring some wet wipes, and a bib for tots because it’s nearly impossible to resist free samples of melty chocolate – and buying handfuls of your favorite candy in the onsite store. Score a complimentary 30-minute guided tour of Cerreta’s at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. weekdays, and during special events.
Book ‘em, kiddo: Pop by Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Mesa at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays for a relaxing morning of snacks, story time and free activities in the children’s corner. Each weekend features a unique theme and reading by BookPAL Toni, often tailored to the season (for example, “Witchy Wickedness” for Halloween).
Make a Splash: Year-round sunshine is Phoenix’s major perk — and its biggest curse. Pack a picnic lunch and keep the kids cool at one of the metro’s myriad splash pads and watering holes, most of which are free and accessible to the general public. Tip: You can’t wade into the waters at Cesar Chavez or Steele Indian School in Phoenix, but you can get an angle on free family fun by fishing in the well-stocked lakes found there.
See a Wild West shootout: Howdy, partner! Mosey on down to Rawhide Friday through Sunday for a Wild West adventure complete with gunslinger shootouts, bucking broncos and maybe a visit to the pokey if your little one causes too much of a ruckus. Admission to the mock western town is free; additional cost for events and attractions.