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When Children Visit

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As it starts to get cold all over the rest of the country, we start to get more visitors in Phoenix--what a surprise! When friends and relatives come to see you for a few days, you are going to need some ideas about where to go and things to see in the area. Here are some of the best places in the Phoenix area to take out-of-town visitors, with a focus on places that are uniquely Arizona.

These attractions are specifically geared toward children. Whether they are your grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or the children of your best friends, these places should be fun for everyone.

1. Train Rides

The young ones have many choices around town where they can get on a little train and yell, "All Aboard!" I never met a kid that didn't love a train.

2. Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium

There's another zoo in town on the west side of town that's very different from the Phoenix Zoo. The Wildlife World Zoo focuses on exotic animals, and it is very popular with people of all ages. Don't forget to feed the giraffes!

3. Arizona Science Center

I admit that many cities have a science center for kids, and this one is not especially Arizona specific. Still, it's a fun place for kids to interact with science through the permanent exhibits, big screen films, the planetarium, and unique special traveling exhibits. You adults might enjoy it, too.

4. Butterfly Wonderland

This one is not uniquely Arizona, but it is the largest butterfly atrium in the U.S. The family will enjoy walking among thousands of butterflies of many varieties, as well as the other exhibits in this indoor attraction. (The atrium is enclosed, and climate controlled. The rest of the building is air-conditioned.)

5. Castles 'n' Coasters

There's no Disneyland or Six Flags here in Phoenix, but when children visit, an amusement park is always high on their priority list. Castles 'n' Coasters in Phoenix is the only amusement park for all ages with mechanical rides in the area that's open year-round.

6. Enchanted Island

If your visitors are under 10 years old, they can expend quite a bit of energy for not too much money at an amusement park designed for smaller kids. Enchanted Island is located at Encanto Park in downtown Phoenix. The state's oldest operating carousel can be found here!

7. Arizona Museum of Natural History

The Arizona Museum of Natural History used to be known as the Mesa Southwest Museum. It will give you and your visitors a taste of Southwest history, but this museum pays special attention to its younger patrons. See the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in Arizona, visit a Spanish mission, search for the Dutchman's lost treasure, and pan for gold in the History Courtyard. Frequent special events offer additional interactive programs about the Southwest that are both fun and educational for kids.

8. Children's Museum of Phoenix

The under 10 crowd will have hours of interactive fun (and education) at this museum designed to entertain and inspire creativity. Special programs are scheduled daily, or just drop in any time and wander.

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