Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scottsdale rides waves of fun

Families warm up to Arizona hot spot

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There are things you expect to see in Arizona and things you don't. You expect to see saguaro cacti; you don't envision surfers. But there we were, standing in front of the FlowRider at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., watching a 15-year-old boy performing surf tricks on a giant wave.

He made it look so easy.

The FlowRider looks a little like a miniature ski hill with water rushing upward at high speed to create a massive surfing wave ideal for boogie-boarding or wakeboarding.

They say that even the desperately unco-ordinated can be taught to surf on a FlowRider, so I decided to put that promise to the test and my teenagers decided to join me.

A small crowd had gathered near the FlowRider to watch the action.

"I think it would be wise for you girls to wear a T-shirt over top of your swimsuits," advised my husband as we got in line to give FlowRider a try.

Thinking he was being overly protective about their modesty, our teenagers completely ignored the well-meant advice. Moments later, one of them almost lost the top half of her bathing suit while she was being pummelled by the high-pressure water following a spectacular wipeout.

Back on the boards with T-shirts over our suits, we each took turns practising our surfing skills on the giant wave. After multiple attempts, every member of the family did indeed manage to stand up on a wakeboard and surf. It was a thrilling experience and one that we never would have expected to find in the middle of the Arizona desert.

There are plenty of amazing activities for families to experience in the Scottsdale area of Arizona. Though the destination has long been known as a getaway for retired Canadian snowbirds, in recent years it has come into its own as a family-friendly vacation destination.

With a host of great family activities and attractions, the city was voted by Sunset Magazine as the best place to raise kids and by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the best warm-weather family destinations.

Top Family-Friendly Activities near Scottsdale and Phoenix

Hang 10 at the FlowRider

Surfing in the desert is a new feature of the Westin Kierland Resort's adventure water park. Riding the FlowRider's simulated wave uses a combination of the skills of surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding. At the moment, it is only open to resort guests. (kierlandflowrider.com)

Musical Instrument Museum

The largest museum of its type in the world, the MIM contains more than 15,000 musical instruments from countries all over the globe. The museum is interactive and wireless headsets allow guests to listen to recorded performances from many famous artists. (themim.org)

Desert Botanical Garden Night Tour

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix will mark its 75th birthday in 2014 and to celebrate, the garden will be having after-dark Luminaria tours for 31 nights in November and December. The gardens will be lit up each evening with more than 8,000 hand-lit Luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. There will also be Chihuly's artwork on display. Hand bells, cider and carollers will bring out the holiday spirit. If you aren't visiting during the holidays, there are other after-dark events hosted at the gardens throughout the year. (dbg.org)

Butterfly Wonderland

Home to America's largest butterfly atrium, Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale has a 3D theatre, a butterfly-emergence gallery, honeybee displays, an ant colony and large freshwater aquariums and touch pools. (butterflywonderland.com)

Scottsdale's top family-friendly resorts

Westin Kierland

A large water-park resort, whose highlights include a 274-metre lazy river, a huge waterslide, multiple pools and the FlowRider surf machine. There's also a great on-site kids' program with daily activities organized by age group. Eight restaurants, a spa, tennis courts, two nearby shopping malls and a fine on-site golf course ensure there is something for every family member. (kierlandresort.com)

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The Sonoran Splash recreation area at this resort features two large waterslide towers. The resort has five pools in total, tennis courts, a kids fishing pond, an on-site golf course and one of the best spas in the country. Children's activities and great on-site restaurants make this resort quite popular with families. (scottsdaleprincess.com)

Four Seasons Scottsdale

Sitting in the shadows of Pinnacle Peak, this resort has large casita-style rooms -- some with outdoor wood-burning fireplaces -- great for making s'mores -- patios and telescopes with star charts. There is also a complimentary kids program and activity area for children ages five to 12 with activities ranging from cooking classes to scavenger hunts. An on-site spa, tennis courts and two excellent golf courses keep adults busy while their kids play. (fourseasons.com/scottsdale)

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch

Hyatt's one-hectare water playground has 10 swimming pools, 45 waterfalls and a three-storey high-speed waterslide. The resort also offers a host of other activities to enjoy -- including tennis, golf, running and biking trails, gondola boat rides, horseback riding and a daily kids camp for children ages five-12. (scottsdale.hyatt.com)

More information is available at www.experiencescottsdale.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 E3

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