Phoenix with a Baby: Phoenix Bowl Game & New Years Eve

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My husband, Frank and I met in college at Penn State University.  We also got married there, so there’s a clear obsession between us and Penn State.  Each year after the football season ends, we wait in anticipation of the bowl game announcement to find out where Penn State is playing. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to go to a college football bowl game with our son. When I found out it was in Phoenix, Arizona, however, the warm weather in January and the nonstop cross country flight on Southwest Airlines was hard to turn down. Before we knew it, we were heading to Phoenix with a baby to experience his first Penn State football game.

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How to Get to Phoenix

We flew into the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and it was about 15 miles or 25 minutes from our resort, which was in the mountains north of Phoenix.  While I’ve done Scottsdale in the past without a rental car, we needed one for this trip given how much we were jumping around to different locations with a car seat.  

The car rental area was recently changed at PHX and you have to take shuttle buses to a rental car hub for any rental company.  Be sure to give yourself enough time for your departing flight when renting a car, since the buses to get back to the airport can get packed and you may be waiting a while to board.

Related Post: Flying with a Baby: Tips for Before and During Your Flight

Where to Stay in Phoenix

We decided to split our time in Phoenix between two hotels and locations. The first 3 nights were all about the relaxing resort experience and the last 2 nights were in Glendale, AZ right by the football stadium. While we could have spent a lot more money at some of the nearby 5-star resorts, we went the practical route instead. We ended up finding two great Hilton hotels at great rates.

To search some of the best Phoenix hotels and resorts, head here.

I was able to snag a huge suite at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Resort in Phoenix for a really good deal. (Sometimes my obsessive price monitoring pays off.)  It had a separate master bedroom and ensuite bathroom. Plus the room came with a huge living area with a fireplace, large couch, dining area, bar and 1/2 bathroom. The size and layout of the room made it the perfect space for our little family and gathering everyone in one spot. (The separate bedroom and living areas almost made up for the fact that our son acted like the pack-n-play was a torture device and kept us up all night!)

The resort was slightly older than some others in the area, but it was well maintained and had all the amenities we needed. It’s definitely a great option if you’re looking for a more budget friendly resort in Phoenix.

You can book the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Resort here.

Activities at Point Hilton Tapatio Resort

  • Pools– There were several pools on the resort including a large pool with waterfalls and full service.  We lucked out since the weather was unseasonably warm for late December/ early January. Even though we didn’t get into the pool, it was warm enough to lay out and enjoy the sun.
  • Hiking– The resort is connected to the North Mountain & Shaw Butte hiking trail.  Since it was getting fairly hot in the morning, we didn’t think it was the best move to do a longer hike with our son. Having the trail right next to the resort was super convenient to take a short walk hike and catch some of the desert scenery.   I definitely recommend Camelback if your kids are older or the weather is milder, but this was a nice alternative. We love this baby carrier for everyday use and as a carrier for hiking with a baby.
  • Kids Korral– If you’re looking for a Phoenix resort with a kids’ club, the Hilton Tapatio has got you covered. Kids Korral offers several activities for children during peak seasons, including hiking, yoga, crafts, movies and games.   Since our son was still too young at the time, I can’t speak to how good the programs were. I would love to take advantage of the activities in the future, though!

Sample Hilton Tapatio Activity Guide available here

Pointe Hilton Tapatio Hiking

Dining at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Resort

  • Breakfast– We had breakfast each morning at the Point in Thyme restaurant on site, which was included with Hilton Honors.  The Christmas decorations and fireplace were warm and inviting, which was perfect for the chilly mornings.  There was a full breakfast buffet or a la carte menu to choose from, and the service was great. Our son loved sitting near the fire and in a high chair for the first time.
  • Date Night- We were lucky enough to get a date night, which is one of many benefits of traveling with family.  Different Pointe of View is one of the best rated restaurants in Phoenix and we were able to walk up to the restaurant from our hotel room.  The food and service were just as amazing as the view.  Although the ambiance is perfect for a Phoenix date night, there were several kids there with their families as well.
  • Coffee– There is a small coffee shop with Starbucks coffee, pastries and bagels by the gift shop in the lobby, which we took advantage of one afternoon.
  • Grocery Delivery– Our grocery delivery wasn’t through the hotel, but it’s something I’m glad we did. It was our first time traveling this distance when our son was eating solids, and I was making most of his food at the time.   Instacart is an amazing service that offers grocery delivery from many major grocers. Sign up using my referral link or enter the code AEMMERLING18D10C to get $10 off your first grocery delivery order.
Phoenix with a Baby Toddling Traveler

Old Town Scottsdale

Since we were aiming to relax during the trip after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we really didn’t venture much outside of the resort. We did make it over to Old Town Scottsdale one afternoon, though.  I was there a few years ago for a girls weekend and love the fun but slightly cheesy western feel.  Parking on the main street was fairly easy this time of year, and we had no problem getting around on the stroller.  While we were there, we found a bar full of Penn Staters to listen to live music. (Apparently Scottsdale is super baby friendly during the day and we were able to bring our son anywhere.)

For dinner, we went to Cien Agaves for authentic Mexican food. Our son LOVES Mexican food, and we can never go wrong with anything that has cheese and guacamole.  I like to tell myself its because he was born on Cinco de Mayo, but it’s probably just because he has good taste.

Scottsdale, Arizona with a Baby Toddling Traveler

Things to Do with Kids in Phoenix

When our son was 8 months old, we typically didn’t seek out kid-specific activities when traveling. Instead, we just did our normal activities and made sure there were breaks for him to get on the floor and roll around. If you’re traveling to Phoenix with a toddler or older kids, however, below are a few ideas of things to do. We’re definitely keeping these in our back pocket for the next trip to Phoenix!

  • Arizona Science Center
  • Children’s Museum of Phoenix
  • Musical Instrument Museum
  • Desert Botanical Garden
  • Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting
  • Wildlife World Zoo
  • Phoenix Zoo

Glendale- Playstation Fiesta Bowl

We stayed at the Home2 Suites by Hilton Phoenix Glendale-Westgate for the second part of the trip. If you’re looking for hotels near the Arizona Cardinals stadium, it’s the perfect location. (This is where the Playstation Fiesta Bowl is played.) If you’re ever attending a sporting event with a baby, it’s great being able to stay close by if you need to make a quick exit!

This was my first time staying at a Home2 Suites hotel and we definitely will be staying at one again. The room had a full kitchen, living area, and a separate bedroom. The layout and space is ideal for traveling with a baby. Not only does it have all the amenities you need, but the floor space was perfect for a baby that’s just becoming mobile. (If you’re tailgaiting, the full-size fridge is also perfect for stocking up on beer before the games!)

The Home2 Suites by Hilton in Glendale Arizona is located right next to Westgate as well. Westgate includes a large outlet mall as well as several bars and restaurants.  With my son and I both being early risers, I still felt completely safe taking him for a morning walk. There are also sidewalks around the entire area.

Playstation Fiesta Bowl- Game Day

On game day, we had beautiful weather to hang outside before the game. The indoor stadium was perfect to shield our son from the hot Arizona sun.   I was a little apprehensive about the noise and the chaos of the loud game with a baby. Our son had the best time looking around and smiling at all his new friends sitting nearby.  The best part was that there were service dogs at the top of our row and the 2 veterans encouraged him pet them every time we walked by.  He’s obsessed with dogs and loved getting his doggy fix on the trip. Even better, Penn State won the game, beating the Washington Huskies 35-28. I like to give credit to our little good luck charm.  

Tip: These Baby Banz Hearing Protection Earmuffs are a necessity to shield little ears from the loud noises at sporting events. This Clear Vinyl Tote Bag is also perfect to have in lieu of a diaper bag. Most stadiums now only allow clear 12×12 bags or purses smaller than your hand.

Related Post: Tips for Attending a Sporting Event with a Child Under 2


New Years Eve in Glendale, Arizona

We were in Glendale for New Year’s Eve. With an 8 month old on an early sleep schedule, we kept it super low-key. We ended up just having a beer and dinner at the Yard House in the Westgate Entertainment District. This was a great area with restaurants, bars and shopping that we could walk to from our hotel. Another bonus for staying here! After a fun-filled few days though, a casual dinner and early night was perfectly fine with me.


So how was Phoenix with a Baby?

This trip wasn’t jam-packed with our usual sightseeing. We fell asleep well before midnight on New Years Eve. And our son *may* have had a huge diaper blowout as we descended on the flight into Phoenix. But it was exactly the trip and the quality family time we needed.

The other thing I realized even more on this trip is how much these little people encourage us to be our best with everything we do.  My husband, Frank, is usually a very cautious flyer. He grips the armrest at the slightest bump, but he was unbelievably calm for his first flight our son.  I mentioned it to him and asked how he can be scared if our baby boy is being so brave. Can’t argue with that. While it totally melted my heart, I’m also secretly (or not so secretly now) waiting for the day when our son is old enough to try to talk Frank into doing something crazy and adventurous. Just so I can remind him of that very comment : )

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