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Family Playcations

by Tori Ward

As summer break melts away and lazy days are replaced with school days, consider bidding farewell to the season with one last adventure

When you’re young, the two longest weeks of the year are the ones leading up to winter holidays and the ones just before school is out for the summer. Conversely, the shortest weeks of the year for children are those weeks from the end of one school year to the start of the next. But if you’re stuck in traffic in the height of the Valley’s heat, however, those weeks can’t fly by fast enough!

While you’re sitting there dreaming of a last summer adventure for your family before school starts back up, we have a few suggestions for you. From staycations to playcations, we’ve gathered a few of our favorites!

Stay and play

If you’re looking for a vacation close to home that has something enjoyable for the whole family, consider Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix. The resort offers suites to accommodate the entire family and boasts a seven-acre seasonal water park with a lazy float river, wave pool and eight-story water slide, as well as the Arizona Grand Golf Course.

While the kids are playing Marco Polo, mom can dash over to do some back-to- school shopping (in air conditioning!) at Arizona Mills Mall located just one-half mile from the resort. Or, spend the afternoon taking one of the 45 fitness classes the resort offers, followed by a spa treatment. For a fun activity for the whole family, the South Mountain Preserve, located next to the resort, has 60 miles of hiking trails.

One of the rites of passage my children still talk about is my oldest son’s thirteenth birthday camping trip. We took him, along with three close friends and his 6-year-old “little” brother to a state park with a creek for fishing and a lake for swimming. The older boys were provided with a tent of their own while we stayed close by in our family tent. Of course little brother wanted to be included in anything the older boys were doing and there were lots of tears when he was told to scram. Suspiciously, the crying stopped and he became mom’s best friend late in the afternoon when the newly-hatched teenagers ran him off when they went to the lake. We prepared dinner while we waited and the temperature in the mountains grew cooler as the sun set. Knowing the water wouldn’t be warm at this time of day, I took the younger son to fetch the older boys. The closer we got to the lake, the slower his feet dragged. As we came over the rise to the lake and the teens saw us, they started yelling and my younger son hid behind my back as they screamed they were going to clobber him. When I realized the cause of the drama was missing bathing trunks, which they had ditched in order to go skinny- dipping, I only had to turn around to discover the thief!

We retrieved the trunks from nearby bushes and threw them like lifesavers to the shivering teens. Little brother stuck to mom like glue the rest of the trip. And today, this remains a cherished family legend.

So if your family, like ours, is up for some adventure, camping is an option with lots of choices. From glamping (glamorous camping with many amenities) to doing it old-school and packing your car with tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear, Arizona provides incredible destinations for many families.

Camping options to suit any family

Epic Private Journeys in Lake Powell is a great choice for families who want a camping adventure, but don’t want to do the heavy lifting. After being transported from the base in Page to a canyon via a luxury boat, you’ll find the campsite already set up for you and your “chef” on site during your trip to take care of all the meals, while you and your family enjoy kayaking, fishing and relaxing away from the distracting electronic devices that prevent us from connecting with one other. There are similar camps throughout the southwest that offer a host of activities such as horseback riding, archery, hunting and fishing.

If you have your own equipment or want to rent tents or an RV, there are so many wonderful sites located throughout the state with the Grand Canyon undoubtedly the top choice for many campers. (PRO TIP: The spaces fill up fast so check availability before throwing the equipment in the car and taking off.) Other options are campsites located throughout the Coconino Forest or Oak Creek Canyon. Both are so much cooler than the Valley and there a lots of day trips within easy driving to Sedona, Prescott and Flagstaff.

As the lazy days of summer near an end, there’s no better time to have a last family adventure or a bit of fun. The freedom of summer may fade for now, but the memories you make with your family will last a lifetime.

More family-friendly staycation options:

Point Hilton Squaw Peak: Kids can have fun with Coyote Camp and a variety of water activities.

Wild Horse Pass Resort: Adults can partake in a multitude of gaming options and spa amenities, while kids enjoy the Sheraton Adventure Club.

Desert Ridge Resort: Pools, water slides and biking equal fun for the whole family. Kids ages 4-12 can also participate in the Family Escape Center.

Fun playcation activities for the whole family:

  • Enjoy interactive exhibits at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
  • Learn about Native American art and culture at the Heard Museum
  • Take in desert beauty at the Desert Botanical Garden
  • Laugh and learn at Children’s Museum of Phoenix
  • Participate in guided horseback and desert stagecoach rides at MacDonald’s Ranch

Victoria “Tori” Ward is a cruise and resort specialist with an interest in traveling and seeing the world since she first began to crawl. For more information on these trips and others, contact Tori at

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