Experience Gilbert, AZ – My Top 5 Family-Friendly Things to Do

Scott Heywood
Published on April 9, 2016

Experience Gilbert, AZ – My Top 5 Family-Friendly Things to Do


Experience Gilbert, AZ

My wife was 8 months pregnant with our first child when we signed on our first home, the year was 1999 and the home was on Ray and Greenfield which to us Mesa, AZ natives seemed WAY (way!) out in Gilbert. To get to our house we had to pass several farms and huge stretches of empty hay fields. There was no San Tan Mall, no 202 freeway, no Walmart within a 10 mile radius, no Gilbert LDS Temple and no Discovery Park.

Back in those days my wife and I generally had to head into Mesa to find activities for our family. In the 16 years that have passed since then we have added 4 more children to our family and have seen (literally watched with our own eyes) Gilbert transform into one of the most family friendly cities in the nation. In fact in 2014 Gilbert, AZ was ranked as the 20th best city in the entire nation to live in by 24/7 Wall St., a New York-based financial news and opinion website.

So when you are living in Gilbert what do you do for fun when you have 5 kids and an open Saturday? As a resident of over 16 years I feel like I could take a professional job as some kind of certified Gilbert Activities Director. I mean really, give me your budget and I’ll point you in the right direction.


  1. Discovery Park

So let’s start with the 7ish months of the year when Gilbert has the best weather on planet Earth. First off you need to head to Discovery Park.

Discovery Park, Gilbert, AZ

We remember watching the construction of Discovery Park which opened in 2006. My wife will actually tear up if you ask her about Discovery. We have so many amazing memories there we feel like the place is just an extension of our home. Invite your friends, pack a lunch, throw the bikes, Frisbees, fishing poles and sand toys in the back of your car, grab some old bread for the ducks and get over there. Our kids have spent countless hours exploring and playing their hearts out at Discovery. If it’s warm turn on the sprinklers at the sand volleyball court and let the kids cool off, ride your bikes down the grassy hills, find turtles in the shallows and play a game of catch on the fields. If you are lucky you’ll see people having a blast ice-blocking, “card board sledding” and fishing.  Your kids will go home with sun kissed cheeks, dirty hands and grass stains not to mention they will be completely exhausted from a full day of playing outside. Oh and it’s FREE, what could be better?!


  1. Riparian Preserve

Next you’re going to want to hit the Riparian Preserve. This is the place to be if you want to feel like you are truly out in nature without leaving your neighborhood. This place isn’t necessarily for playing at the level of Discovery Park. But it’s sure nice to get a bunch of city kids out to the Preserve to see all the wildlife. The preserve is composed of man-made lakes pumped full of recycled water that attracts more than 200 species of birds with new ones appearing all the time. There is also more than 4.5 miles of trails for walking or jogging. Really, it’s just cool to be in the middle of the city but totally not in the city.

 Gilbert, AZ -Riparian


  1. Freestone Recreation Center

So then comes 120 degrees and Discovery Park and the Riparian Preserve are like ghost towns. Not a soul. Our go-to place on these hot summer days is definitely the Freestone Recreation Center which opened in 2002. For a couple dollars you have access to this amazing 50,000 sf facility that is equipped with a full gymnasium, two fitness areas, racquetball courts, group fitness rooms, an elevated walking/jogging track, HUGE rock climbing wall, sauna/steam rooms and two multi-purpose rooms. They also offer a full service child center for your little ones ages 18 mos. to 7 years. We have been taking our kids to the Rec center for years. The Rockwall is the highlight and definitely our kid’s favorite activity. But we’ve also spent many sweltering hot Saturday afternoons playing dodgeball-racquetball style, shooting hoops and battling it out at the ping-pong and foosball tables. Across the street from the Rec center is Freestone Park with lots of grass, a lake, a mini-train that goes around the park suitable for kids and adults, mini-amusement park with a carousel, ferris-wheel, batting cages and awesome skate park! Truly a unique place!

 Gilbert, AZ -Freestone 4  Freestone 2

Gilbert, AZ - Freestone 1           Gilbert, AZ -Freestone 3


  1. Arizona Ice Skating Rink

The other two summer time faves for us are Arizona Ice skating rink and Top Golf. Now, both these two places are going to cost you a bit more but they are worth it. Arizona Ice offers public skating hours so when it’s September and you’ve spent the last 4 months in the pool you might be ready for an alternative way to cool off and Arizona Ice is your ticket. Check the public skating hours before you go and wear good socks, you’ll have a blast.

Gilbert, AZ - AZ Ice


  1. Top Golf

Top Golf is also going to cost you a bit more but MAN have you seen the place? My 7 siblings and I treated my Dad to an afternoon at Top Golf for Father’s Day last year and it was a hit. It’s fun for kids, fun for adults, fun for those guys that think they are golf pros and even fun for golf amateurs. Plus, even though it’s indoor/outdoor they do a great job of keeping you cool with climate controlled golf bays. Top Golf offers its own game similar to bowling or darts, only players shoot golf balls with embedded microchips at targets.

Gilbert, AZ - Top Golf 1          Gilbert, AZ -Top Golf 2

So there you have it my top 5 things to do in Gilbert, AZ. Tried and true, family tested, Dad approved. Get out there and have fun! Click the link below for even more Gilbert Awesomeness!





Scott Heywood is a Phoenix area, full-time Real Estate agent and online marketing expert. He works primarily in the East Valley and specializes in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and Chandler. Scott was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona and has lived in Gilbert since 2000. He is a member of the HomeSmart top performing Diamond Club and has multiple Real Estate certifications. Scott loves helping clients buy and sell and is also an expert negotiator. Scott and his wife Julianne have been married for 17 years and are the parents of 5 children. If you are thinking of moving to the East Valley or looking to sell, contact Scott today at scott@scottheywoodhomes.com or call/text him at 602-321-3213.

Gilbert, AZ -Family Picture

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