The second Tuesday of every month, the Desert Botanical Garden offers free admission. I took my little ones (4, 2, and baby) on one of these free days. The gardens were beautiful, but my kids were really too young to get it. They didn't want to say on the paths, but go wander through the plants, which was totally off limits. There were volunteers set up with learning stations along the main trail that we enjoyed. The volunteers were mostly great with the kids and tried to explain things on their level, but a lot was still over their heads. For a local, there isn't anything too unique here, but if you are coming from out of town, it's a good place to see all the local plants. With kids as young as mine, though, I would instead suggest going around the corner to the picnic areas of Papago park and walking the nature path there.
I like to make sure we include educational fun in every vacation my family takes which is why we decided to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens. This vast garden is located in Papago Park which is near the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe border and next door to the popular Phoenix Zoo. Botanical gardens do tend to attract an older crowd because it is hard to have plants keep the attention of small attention for very long but this garden does a good job of making the environment kid friendly (minus all the sharp cacti everywhere). Ask for a scavenger hunt card at the admission kiosk and watch the kids actually become interested in desert landscapes.
If you happen to visit in the spring, be sure to experience the butterfly pavilion. The pavilion features a variety of different butterflies and it always a crowd pleaser. Other highlights during our visit were the cactus garden, yucca forest, and the Desert Discovery Loop trail but the most fun was had on the Ullman Terrace near the Patio Café. We came here to get a break from the desert sun and grab a quick bite to eat but it didn’t take long to discover that this was also a prime spot for desert wildlife viewing. We spotted tons of quail, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and road runners all hoping for a crumb. They definitely put on an entertaining show for all.
Bottom line: If you want to expose your children to the beautiful botanical treasures of the desert, there is no better place to go. My 6-year-olds lasted about 2 hours before they decided they had enough of their desert botanical education and just wanted to go back to the pool and swim. I definitely think this spot is worth a visit.
Disclosure: Thanks to the Scottsdale CVB for providing tickets to the Desert Botanical Garden for my family so that I could write this unbiased review. All opinions are my own.
My husband, myself, and our eight-month baby girl visited the Desert Botanical Gardens in April. Loved it! While I'm sure the Gardens is well worth visiting any time of year, spring is especially desirable. The spring wildflowers were in full bloom, as were all the cacti. The weather was in the mid-70s, making it possible to spend the whole afternoon there without being too hot.
The paths were not all paved, but were all wide enough to accommodate our full-sized stroller. The bathrooms at the front entrance had a changing table; however, when I took Joanna to change her diaper at another restroom further into the park, there was no changing table there, and I had to make do by putting her changing pad on the sink's counter.
The Butterfly Pavilion is open in spring, also. Wristbands cost an extra $3.50 each, but it was my favorite part of our visit.
There was a full restaurant and a small cafe open, but you can bring in your own bottled water (highly recommended). Also be sure to wear sunscreen. Sunhats for kids (and adults) would be very helpful. We forgot our sunhats, and I had to spray my baby's (bald) head with sunscreen, and the part on my head got burned.
We spent about 3 hours here and were able to see all we wanted in that amount of time, but someone with more of an interest in plants and landscapes could easily spend an entire day.
Dress up your kids in cute outfits and bring the camera for some great photos!
The Botanical Garden in Phoenix is a nice place to go in the winter or early spring. There is quite a bit of walking, so come prepared with good shoes, a stroller for the little ones and water bottles and snacks. What you see may vary. The flowers are beautiful when they are out and the cacti are interesting. You may get lucky and see some lizards and birds or even jackrabbits.
The best time to visit is when they have their butterfly exhibit that you can enter. This is a very neat experience for both adults and children. Butterflies may even land on you so be prepared!
Overall, this is a nice place to visit and walk around. We only frequent it about once or twice a year. Sometimes they have Target days where you can get in for free and they have kids activities and crafts that are quite fun. Also, they sometimes offer temporary exhibits which I really think add to this place.
Avoid in the summer unless you go early in the morning. The heat is just to intense to be walking around in. No kid will have fun if it's 110 outside (and you probably won't either).
I love the botanical garden but there is not a lot to do for young kids and you might spend all your time trying to keep them from climbing on the cacti! I'm sure there are some interesting opportunities for school age kids and I like that admission is free one day per week!
I have been to the Botanical Gardens many times throughout the year. In the summer, yes it's hot, but there is a trail that leads you up to the top of a mountain. It's a fairly easy hike and the views are beautiful. The winter time is when there is the luminaries. These are little candles inside a brown paper bag. There are thousands of them artfully positioned around the gardens. The spring is when they have the Monarch butterfly exhibit and fall is when they have the herb garden area open with featured sculptural displays. The Botanical Gardens is a great outdoor scenic place to spend with your whole family.
Great staff! Children are allowed, and appreciated, unlike other botanical gardens in the nation. Great activities, especially the Fall/Halloween one. Very educational. Beautiful. Very close in proximity to the Phoenix Zoo. Sometimes if you listen carefully, I think you can hear some of the animals.
What an amazing place! We weren't even planning to visit the botanical garden on our 3-day trip to Scottsdale, but we heard about it from other vacationers and decided to check it out. We have a 6 yr old and 9 mo. old.
We went in April, which is when many of the flowers are blooming. The garden is beautiful, as are the scenic views of rock formations and the city of Phoenix. Our daughter had fun exploring the different trails and never got bored.
We ate lunch at the cafe - they make their own Prickly-Pear tea which my wife tried and loved. The weather was perfect when we went - in the 70s. There are plenty of drinking fountains but I could see how this could get to be a long day with kids if the temperature gets in the 80s or 90s or higher.
We saw the butterfly exhibit, which was incredible. The afternoon we went they were offering free admission to the butterfly exhibit (normally it's $3.50), so the wait was about 30 minutes, but well worth it. Check before you go to see if they are offering free admission to this exhibit and plan accordingly.
The glass sculptures out in the front are very interesting. This is a beautiful garden filled with lots of desert plants. When we went, the garden offered children's crafts. We also went to the butterfly exhibit. Our son thought it was neat to see so many butterflies in one place.
What a beautiful garden! It is especially nice if you are not familiar with desert plants. When we went, they were offering a special where you could return at night for free if you kept your ticket. It is really something to see all lit up at night . The kids also liked the quail that were running around.
The plants and animals of the desert are like nothing else in the world. When we went, there was a special program for kids and a butterfly exhibit that was really amazing. I think in general the older your kids are, the more interesting they'll find it.