10 Best Places for Indoor Fun This Summer in Arizona

Fill your family's calendar with cool adventures in art, science, sports, and more.

A family wanders through Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, Arizona
Wander through Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Courtesy Arizona Office of Tourism

When it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the hiking trails, it’s time to (reluctantly) leave Arizona’s outdoor beauty behind. But you don’t have to relegate yourself to TV reruns. The state’s great indoors serves up a wealth of enriching experiences, from cooking classes and cat cafes to a butterfly conservatory and otherworldly caverns.

Frolic with butterflies.

Butterfly Wonderland transports visitors from sweltering Scottsdale to an 80-degree tropical rainforest aflutter with thousands of kaleidoscopic pollinators. As the country’s largest butterfly conservatory, the facility receives weekly shipments of chrysalises from butterfly farms around the world. In the emergence gallery, you can potentially see butterflies break free from their hard, colorful enclosures. The conservatory also hosts special events, including yoga in the rainforest, painting classes, and photography workshops. For the bambinos, they host storytime sessions, coloring contests, and Lego engineering.

Go ice skating.

Break out your sweaters, because at Ice Den in Chandler or Scottsdale, you can instantly shave about 50 degrees off the outside temperature. On select summer dates, these facilities offer two-hour public ice skating sessions when you can practice your spins, your strokes, or just your ability to stay upright as you glide to the music. Pre-registration is required and opens online two days before each event. Skate rentals are included in the $10 entrance fee.

Give your golf game a glow-up.

Arizona’s cactus-studded golf courses may be gorgeous, but the fairways swelter in summer. Thankfully, Glow Putt Mini Golf in Scottsdale offers an air-conditioned alternative. Inside this refreshingly dark space, a jungle safari-themed 18-hole miniature golf course gleams like a theme park at night. The putter, ball, scorecard, loop-the-loop fairway features, and tigers and hippos on the walls all beam with neon-colored UV lighting. From May 15 to August 15, it’s open daily from 10 a.m., making this putt-putt place a fun escape from the sun.


Cook like a chef (or junior chef).

What better way to bond, boost life skills, and get your creative juices flowing than by cooking en famille? Scottsdale’s Sweet Basil, which has been schooling would-be gourmands since 1993, teaches kids and teens to prepare everything from Korean sizzling beef lettuce wraps to angel food French toast. Flour Power Cooking Studios in Mesa hosts classes for families and kids ages 2.5 to 18 years, where you can learn to whip up campfire fare, pizza, seafood, and more. On date nights when you can’t find a babysitter, send your 5- to 12-year-olds to Kid’s Night Out; at the end of the evening, you’ll be relaxed, and they’ll know how to make quesadillas. 

Connect with cats.

Can’t cope with the dog days of summer? Then chill with kitties while sipping iced coffee. At Tucson’s El Jefe Cat Lounge, you can laze with around 35 adoptable cats on three floors designed like cozy, feline-themed living rooms. In the evenings, indulge in sound bath meditations with cats or play cat bingo and cat trivia. At the nonprofit PHX Cat Cafe in downtown Phoenix, you can nuzzle with dozens of adoptable kitties and do yoga, paint nights, and drag bingo with your new furry friends.

a kid plays wooden drums at Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.
Groove to the beat at the Musical Instrument Museum.
Courtesy Musical Instrument Museum & Visit Phoenix

Make music, at any age.

At the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix, families can take their GarageBand dreams and pots-and-pans performances to the next level. In addition to audio-enhanced exhibits showcasing 7,500 instruments from around the globe, the museum hosts classes and special events including family drumming workshops, Greek pan flute crafting, and country dancing. The MIMkids Mini Music Makers classes teach newborns to 5-year-olds how to sing, dance, and play instruments. In Musical Adventures workshops, guides take 6- to 10-year-olds through an exhibit, then help them craft similar instruments from household products. Meanwhile, older kids can join the Junior Museum Guide Program to learn about world cultures, play instruments, and train to lead tours. 

Learn through creative play.

Several scientific studies have shown that unstructured play with blocks and other materials enhances children’s cognitive, language, math, and social skills. At the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, kids can build forts, construct robots, craft puppets, paint artworks, and engage with more than 300 play experiences and several daily classes ranging from yoga to dance to music. While they’re having fun, they’ll subtly learn everything from mindfulness to the physics of aerodynamics to risk-taking and confidence-building.

Become a temporary biologist.

At the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, you and your kids can engage with hundreds of hands-on exhibits that will prompt them to ask “Why?” even more than usual. Explore what life might be like in 2045, crawl through an enormous digestive system, construct an electrical circuit, and much more. In the OceanXplorer special exhibition (through September 2), board a replica of the world’s most advanced research and filmmaking ship. Playing the roles of marine biologists, you can investigate orcas, humpback whales, or hammerhead sharks, studying the animals through augmented reality headsets and recording your research on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wristbands.

Visitors on a cave tour at Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Take a cave tour at Kartchner Caverns State Park.
courtesy Arizona State Parks and Trails

Explore Kartchner Caverns State Park.

We’re going to consider this limestone wonderland near Tucson “indoors” because there is indeed a door at the entrance. More importantly, the inside temperature hovers at a humid 70 degrees. On the Rotunda/Throne tour, you’ll descend beneath the desert into a grotto that looks like it could be 20,000 leagues under the sea. The formations, which resemble rippling coral and petrified jellyfish, were created over the span of 330 million years with dripping water, sediment, and fossilized sea creatures. Marvel at a 21-foot-long soda straw stalactite and at Kubla Khan, the largest column formation in the state.  

Get to know neon.

Jude Cook is on a mission to restore and save Tucson’s neon signs, preserving this whimsical slice of Western history and road trip culture. He created the unique Ignite Sign Museum, where you can admire a vast variety of neon and other signs, thoughtfully arranged in mini milieus such as a diner, a living room, and a theater. On Saturdays, you can watch volunteers restore signs and ask them questions. Also look for special events like showings of the documentary Neon and neon sculpture-making classes.