My husband and I were on our way to breakfast when a pirate blocked the footbridge. “You’ll have to answer this riddle to pass”, he told a little boy who was staring up at him in amazement. “What has eight legs and eight eyes?” No one could guess. “Eight pirates!” was the answer and he let us go with a wave of his sword. It was a great way to start the day and a sample of the kind of pop-up fun to be had at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona. This luxuriously landscaped AAA/CAA Five Diamond 65-acre resort property is surrounded by the cactus-studded Sonoran Desert and it’s full of surprises for kids and parents alike.

Going to the Dogs

Official Canine Ambassadors Gibbs (a golden retriever) and Bixby (a golden Labrador retriever) might be the first four legged friends your kids will meet at the Princess but they won’t be the last. These two furry greeters will keep the family entertained in the lobby while you breeze through check-in. Feel free to pop in and say hello when you’re passing through the lobby during the day. They love the attention. The Fairmont is ready to pamper pet visitors too. Fido and Kitty will have a plush bed to snuggle into, as well as dedicated food and water bowls, pet toys and treats as part of the Princess Posh Paws experience. If you’re too pooped to scoop, put your pup in the hands of the on-call dog-walker. In Room Dining can provide an upgrade from kibble with special pet meals upon request.

It’s a Zoo in Here

Cool Arizona mornings are the perfect time to join nature enthusiast Ranger Rick and discover furry, feathery and fishy friends on a complimentary family Nature Walk & Talk. For budding fishers, there’s a kids only catch-and-release fishing derby with prizes on Lagoon Lawn. Fish like Tom Sawyer anytime by casting for catfish, bluegill and tilapia in the three lagoons with lines, poles and tackle boxes rented from the Trailblazers Family Adventure Centre. The Trailblazers Kids Club features half or full day themed activities, games and crafts for children ages 5 to 12. Skittles, the bearded dragon, King Tubby, a king snake and Rosie, a rose hair tarantula are Club regulars. Afternoons are swim time and the day finishes with an ice cream social. There’s a fee, but multiple children can attend at a reduced rate.

Test your fishing skills at one of the lagoons
Photo by Debra Smith

On our way to the South Pool we were surprised to see two guides from Sonoran Desert Falconry strolling by with Cain and Abel, two Harris hawks. Every morning you can find them at the Princess Pool for a close encounter with tame birds of prey and learn about hawks and desert falcons. During the day, you can find them patrolling the grounds and chatting with spellbound aspiring birders.

Cecil the tortoise at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Cecil will stick his neck out for company at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
photo by Debra Smith

Across from the Cactus Lawn, near La Hacienda restaurant, Cecil, the resident African spurred tortoise, is always ready for his close up. He’s become a bit of a celebrity and he may stop nibbling hibiscus flowers long enough to stick his neck out for a selfie if he hears you call his name.

Little Extras Your Little Ones Will Love

Keeping tiny toes cool by the pool is a done deal at the Princess’ newest pool, Sunset Beach. The 830 tons of pure sugary white silica sand around the pool reflects light to stay naturally cool. We stayed close to the action in one of the Beach Signature View rooms. Newly built and opened this spring, we loved the Southwest-inspired décor like wooden shutters on the sliding doors that opened to a view of the pool. The oversized spa shower and Fairmont signature Le Labo’s Rose 31 amenities made freshening up after a day at the beach a breeze.

Handy options you can request include microwaves and mini-fridges for snacks and cold drinks. After an exciting day of activities, it’s nice to wrap your little ones up in their own cozy kid’s size Fairmont robes and soft slippers.

Pool School

On the weekends, parents can relax at the adults-only rooftop pool at the desert-inspired Well & Being Spa while the kids go back to school – pool school that is. Little mermaids and mermen in training, ages 7-12, can learn to swim with a colourful monofin mermaid tail and googles at Sunset Beach, then enjoy story time with the instructor, Moon Mermaid. Graduates receive their own mermaid name, a diploma and The Treasure of Friendship book to take home, along with their new tail, of course. Reservations are required.

Little mermaids in training with Moon Mermaid <br> photo Debra Smith

Little mermaids in training with Moon Mermaid
photo Debra Smith

Pint sized pirates, ages 5-12, will be ready for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (yes – it’s a thing!), after a course at the Swashbuckler Academy. Under the watchful eye of Captain Jack and his crew, budding buccaneers will learn to talk, sing and swing sabers like real pirates. Booty includes a pirate hat, eye patch, sabre, a new pirate-y name and more puns than you can shake a hook at.

Sweet Summer Nights

The new Sunset Beach pool is the place to be for Dive-In Movies after dark - Photo by Debra Smith

The new Sunset Beach pool is the place to be for Dive-In Movies after dark
Photo by Debra Smith

With six pools on the property, you’re bound to find a beach that’s right-sized for everyone. The Sonoran Splash pool has two 60 metre (200 ft.) water slides for older kids while toddlers will enjoy the sandbox and paddling at the zero-level entry pool deck. Weekend evenings at the pools take on a special glow after dark with DJ Splash spinning to fog and strobe lights at the Techno-Glo Pool Party; SplashRider X-treme’s spinning, twirling wave ride; and Dive-In Movie nights where you can float with the kids on inner tubes while watching family favorites like Lilo and Stitch, Minions and The Jungle Book on a giant screen at Sunset Beach. The state of the art sound system is amazing at poolside, and the speakers face away from the new wing so little ones can have an early bedtime. Even with a pool party going on, our room was exceptionally quiet.

Slide into the Sonoran Splash pool - photo Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Slide into the Sonoran Splash pool
photo Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Summertime pool fun ends on Labor Day (September 5th), but check the website for upcoming fall and winter promotions for activities like the magical Christmas at the Princess. There’s an outdoor skating rink, a four-story musical tree, and dozens of holiday themed sculptures trimmed with three million lights in the Lagoon. And Santa and his friends will be there too. There’s always something special going on at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.