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After a year of pandemic-related challenges when it comes to keeping children entertained safely, families in the Valley can expect a more extensive slate of fun things for kids to do in summer 2021.

Metro Phoenix offers countless ways to keep young ones and adults alike busy while school is out. If baby animals are up your alley, Phoenix Zoo and Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park have seen some additions to the family, including white lion cubs and bighorn lambs.

For educational opportunities, the Arizona Science Center and Children’s Museum of Phoenix are open and offer summer camps. If you want to see all the Sonoran Desert has to offer, check out free ranger-led events at Arizona State Parks and flashlight nights at Desert Botanical Garden.

Here are fun things to do with kids in Phoenix this summer.

Arizona Science Center

At the Arizona Science Center, families can learn about the science behind bubbles, be immersed in a 360-degree planetarium experience about the constellations visible this time of year and explore the digital communication technology we use today.

Camp Innovation will offer virtual and some in-person options this summer with five-day camp sessions from June 7 through July 31.

According to the center’s website, “All guests 2 years of age and older are required to wear an appropriate face mask. Masks must be worn properly, covering the nose and mouth and secured under the chin, during your visit.”

To allow for social distancing, the venue is operating at limited capacity; timed ticket reservations are required.

Details: 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix. $19.95, $14.95 for ages 3-17. 602-716-2000, https://www.azscience.org.

Arizona Boardwalk

Looking to be transported to the Jurassic period? Or perhaps the family could use an oceanic adventure with sharks, otters and sea lions.

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Arizona Boardwalk on the Salt River Reservation near Scottsdale is home to several  family-friendly entertainment venues, shops and eateries, including:

  • OdySea Aquarium.
  • Butterfly Wonderland.
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
  • Laser & Mirror Maze.
  • Surprise Your Eyes.
  • Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs.
  • VR Xtreme.

Details: 9500 E. Via de Ventura, on the Salt River Reservation near Scottsdale. https://www.azboardwalk.com.

Castles N Coasters

With 20 rides and attractions plus several 18-hole miniature golf courses and an arcade, Castles N Coasters can keep kids occupied for most of the day. Attractions include a two-loop roller coaster, go karts, bumper boats, free fall and miniature Ferris wheel.

Masks are not required.

Details: 9445 N. Metro Parkway East, Phoenix. From $40 for unlimited thrill rides. 602-997-7575, https://www.castlesncoasters.com.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

After a 15-month closure, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix has reopened its interior spaces to the public.

The museum’s first traveling exhibit, “Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit,” is now on show. Weekly summer camps are scheduled through July 30.

The museum is open daily through Sept. 6. After that, it will be closed on Mondays. It’s operating at limited capacity with social distancing and mask requirements for unvaccinated visitors age 3 and older.

Details: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. 215 N. Seventh St., Phoenix. $14.95, $13.95 for those over 62, free for infants under 1 year old. 602-253-0501, https://childrensmuseumofphoenix.org.

Explore the outdoors with an expert

Arizona State Parks offer a variety of ranger-led summertime activities that encourage kids to learn about the environment. In the Valley, families can take part in events such as nighttime scorpion hunts, saguaro walks and sunset strolls at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. For a full list, visit https://azstateparks.com/events.

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Maricopa County Parks also offer hikes, bike rides and other outdoor summer fun for families. To check out the options — many of which require advance registration — visit https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/events.

Flashlight Nights at Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden is allowing nighttime explorers to seek out the desert’s night-blooming plants and nocturnal animals every Saturday night this summer.

Guests should bring their own flashlights. There also will be a nighttime farmers market with live performances. Reservations are required, and masks must be worn indoors and when social distancing is not possible outside.

Details: 7-9 p.m. Saturdays, June 5-Sept. 4. 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. $14.95, $9.95 for children. 480-941-1225, https://dbg.org.

Cool off at a public pool or splash pad

Memorial Day weekend marked the reopening of public pools and splash pads throughout metro Phoenix.

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Though only a dozen of Phoenix’s 29 pools will be open this summer, most other cities in the Valley, from Glendale to Mesa, are making their aquatics centers accessible. In Buckeye, there is night swim until 9 p.m. most days through Aug. 7.

Metro Phoenix pools: Your guide to the Valley’s public pools during summer 2021

Slip and slide at a water park

For those seeking more aquatic excitement, Glendale’s Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Mesa’s Golfland Sunsplash, Great Wolf Lodge Arizona near Scottsdale and many other water parks are open for the season.

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Water slides at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Sunsplash, the Arizona Grand Resort and, of course, Hurricane Harbor offer a screaming good time for youngsters.

Need some down time? Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Great Wolf Lodge Arizona, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa and Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak are among the resorts with lazy rivers that offer day passes.

Best hotel water parks: 7 metro Phoenix resorts where families can surf, slide, splash

Octane Raceway

Octane Raceway on the Salt River Reservation near Scottsdale offers high-speed kart racing, virtual reality simulators, an arcade and mini bowling. According to the venue’s website, “all racers must be at least 54 (inches) tall and ready to race with closed toe shoes.” Face masks are required.

Could your kid be a future innovator? Octane Raceway has a summer engineering camp during which “campers learn about various fields of engineering and science, enjoy adrenaline-fueled laps around the track and immerse themselves in Velocity VR’s free-roaming virtual reality attraction,” according to a press release.

Details: 9119 E. Talking Stick Way, on the Salt River Reservation near Scottsdale. From $22 for one race, plus a $7 annual racing membership. 602-302-7223, https://www.octaneraceway.com.

Phoenix Zoo

Cheetahs, giraffes, elephants and orangutans — oh my!

Head to the Phoenix Zoo to get a glimpse of some of its 3,000 animals that represent almost 400 species. Some of the newer additions to the Phoenix Zoo family include Lilly and Vermouth, two Goeldi’s monkeys, and two bighorn lambs.

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The zoo also offers a drive-thru option for those who prefer to stay inside their air-conditioned cars. Cruise the Zoo will close the zoo to foot traffic on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays between June 6 and Aug. 10.

Details: 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix. $29.95, $19.95 for ages 3-13. 602-286-3800, https://www.phoenixzoo.org.

Cruise the Zoo: How to get tickets and what to expect at Phoenix Zoo’s drive-thru

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park

If you head to Litchfield Park, you can see a sampling of Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park’s 600 species of animals. The park has a baby animal nursery, amusement park rides, big cat exhibits and a kangaroo walkabout.

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Some new species include a baby leopard, baby warthogs, jackal pups, jaguar cubs and white lion cubs.

Details: 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park. $41.50, $23 for ages 3-12. 623-935-9453, https://wildlifeworld.com.

Reach the reporter at kimi.robinson@gannett.com or at 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.

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