Family Fun · Recommendations · Things To Do

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

We recently had the opportunity to visit the Musical Instrument Museum® (“MIM”)  in Phoenix, and our kids cannot stop talking about it! With a variety of galleries, special exhibits, and an incredible museum store, MIM has something for people of all ages!

If you aren’t quite ready to head to the museum in person, they also offer a wide variety of virtual events that you can participate in from home. Keep reading to learn all about their incredibly fun Online Musical Adventures classes for children!

Getting Started at the Musical Instrument Museum

Once you arrive at MIM and check in at the front desk, they’ll provide each person with their own headset. These headsets are used in various galleries throughout the museum, and act as your “guide” for each section. As you stand in front of specific displays, the headphones automatically play whatever sound goes with that display. They even had kids sizes, and our children loved walking around with their very own headset!

With so many galleries and exhibits offered at MIM, it’s helpful to have an idea of what to expect in each of them prior to visiting. Here’s a virtual map of the museum layout for your reference. Now, let’s go over the various galleries and exhibits!

Exhibits and Galleries

Here’s a list of exhibits and galleries you can visit at MIM. We’ll be covering each of the exhibits in more detail below!

  • Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa
  • Geographic Galleries Including:
    • Africa and Middle East Gallery
    • Asia and Oceania Gallery
    • Europe Gallery
    • Latin America Gallery
    • United States / Canada Gallery
  • Artist Gallery
  • Experience Gallery
  • Mechanical Music Gallery
  • Collier STEM Gallery
  • Conservation Lab

Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa

As you start your self-guided tour of the museum, you’ll come to one of their special exhibits. These exhibits are temporary additions to the museum, and feature masterpieces from all over the world! Currently they are hosting  “Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa”. This exhibit will run through September 2021, and features lively traditions from all over Central Africa. Walk through the exhibit to learn about the masks, instruments, and costumes that make up some of the traditions of Central Africa.

Geographic Galleries

Speaking of visiting other countries, the Geographic Galleries give guests an opportunity to travel the entire world through music! These galleries include instruments and artifacts from around the world. Galleries include the Africa and Middle East Gallery, Asia and Oceania Gallery, Europe Gallery, Latin America Gallery, and the United States / Canada Gallery.

Artist Gallery

For music lovers of all ages, the Artist Gallery celebrates the most influential artists and musicians from around the world. Featuring dozens of artists and instruments, this gallery gives you a chance to hear from some of the greatest musical icons including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and more. As you stand in front of each artist’s display, you’ll be able to learn more about the artist and even hear them play their instruments all through your personal headsets. 

Experience Gallery

Another gallery that is sure to be a hit with the children is the Experience Gallery. Here, you get to experience a variety of instruments from around the world firsthand. Kids can explore the gallery as they discover their inner musician, playing instruments like a harp, a theremin, a gong, and more! This hands on gallery is fun for guests of all ages.

Mechanical Music Gallery

The Mechanical Music Gallery features a wide variety of mechanical instruments that play themselves. All of our kids were fascinated by the displays of self-playing instruments throughout this gallery. Perhaps the most intriguing instrument was the Orchestrion. This self-playing instrument is the largest instrument in the Museum. Standing at just over 25 feet long and almost 10 feet tall, the “Apollonia” Orchestrion can be heard live daily at 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM in the Mechanical Music Gallery. 

Collier STEM Gallery

Diving deeper into the science and technology of music, the Collier STEM Gallery explores how science brings music to life. In this gallery, guests of all ages will be able to learn more about how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play a key role in music appreciation and education. Learning about how humans experience music and how an instrument produces certain sounds through interactive technology displays is captivating for the whole family!

Conservation Lab

With so many instruments and artifacts to care for, MIM’s Conservation Lab gives guests an inside look at how these items are preserved for generations and generations. Conservation is such an important part of making MIM what it is today! Instruments go through a very distinct process of cleaning, restoration, repair, and documentation as they are housed at MIM. The Conservation Lab allows us all to enjoy musical instruments and artifacts from around the world here in Phoenix!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should I bring?

MIM does not allow backpacks, food, or beverages in the galleries, so plan accordingly. You may check your backpack at the front desk during your visit if you need to. Cameras are allowed, and we definitely recommend some comfortable shoes because you’ll be on your feet quite a bit!

One of the nicest things about bringing kids to MIM is that they offer stroller rentals for free! So no need to pack up your stroller for those young ones. Simply request a stroller from the front desk and enjoy your visit!

Does MIM offer discounted tickets?

The only discounts offered at MIM are for members. Being a member provides you with free admission to the museum for the entire year, along with several other benefits.

How much time should I plan for visiting the museum?

While you could easily spend all day at MIM and never run out of things to explore, a good estimate is about 3 hours long for your visit. If you’ve got young kids, then be sure to let them get their wiggles out playing instruments at the Experience Gallery!

Will my kids enjoy MIM?

Between the two of us, we have three children under the age of six. I was initially a little bit nervous about bringing my three year old to MIM, because museums don’t usually capture her interest enough to keep her entertained for very long. However, we spent about three hours at MIM and my toddler was still going strong when we left! There’s just so much to look at, so much to do, and so many different galleries to visit. She was fascinated by the different videos throughout the Artist Gallery, and absolutely loved playing the instruments in the Experience Gallery. Kids of all ages will absolutely enjoy visiting MIM!

What types of items will I find in the Museum Store?

The Museum Store is filled with items that will interest music lovers of all ages! Available for in person and online shopping, the Museum Store offers books & journals, apparel, instruments, puzzles & games, kids items, music gifts & technology, stationery, jewelry, ornaments, miniature instruments, magnets, gift cards and so much more! Our kids spent a great deal of time exploring all that the museum store has to offer. Be sure to stop by the store during your visit, or shop online here anytime!

The Museum Store can be contacted at 480.478.6002 or via email at museumstore@mim.org.

Musical Instrument Museum Circle of Friends Memberships

MIM offers a variety of options for those who want the exclusive benefits of being a member

With membership donation options starting at very little, there’s something that fits everyone’s budget!

The family membership gives incredible benefits and discounts for only $119/year or $9.90/month.

Benefits of the 1-year family membership include:

  • Unlimited museum admission for 2
  • Free admission for your accompanied children 19 years & under
  • 10% discount at the Museum Store
  • Subscription to Quarter Notes, MIM’s quarterly publication
  • Recognition at MIM and on MIM.org
  • Free admission to MIM Musical Interludes concerts

Check out their various membership options and other ways you can support the museum here. You’re sure to find something that fits your family’s budget!

Musical Adventures Class

MIM now offers online Musical Adventures classes for kids ages 6-10 years. 

Musical Adventures is an educational program designed for children to actively participate in music making, crafting musical instruments, and virtually exploring MIM’s exhibits with designated tour guides. 

Each registered child is given an instrument-building kit, which can either be mailed or picked up at MIM prior to the class date. These Zoom classes are incredibly engaging and entertaining for everyone involved! 

2 of our kids participated in the most recent Musical Adventures class, and they can’t stop talking about the fun they had!

They learned about an instrument called the “Silly Stick”, and they were provided with all the materials needed to make their own. There were countless laughs and smiles as they learned about the different sounds these instruments can make! 

Even though the class was virtual, the teacher did a fantastic job at keeping their attention with various visuals, videos, songs, and much more. 

Musical Adventures classes take place on the second Saturday of every month from 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM, and cost only $15 per student. The $15 registration fee covers your child’s instrument-building kit, which includes everything they’ll need to build their instrument with the class. 

We cannot recommend these classes enough! The next Musical Adventures class will be held April 10th, and can be registered for here.

Important Information About The Musical Instrument Museum

Location & Parking

4725 E Mayo Blvd

Phoenix, AZ 85050

Parking is free

Hours of Operation

MIM is open daily from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Timed entry tickets will continue through April 30, 2021. We recommend purchasing your tickets in advance to reserve your entry. You can purchase timed entry tickets online HERE or at the guest service desk in the museum lobby.

The Museum Store is open daily in person and online

Cafe Allegro is temporarily closed, but grab-and-go refreshments are available for purchase during regular museum hours.

Admission

1 Day Pass

Members: Free

General Admission: $20

Teens (13-19): $15

Children (4-12): $10

Children (3 and under): Free

2 Day Pass

2 day passes are available for purchase at the Guest Service desk.

Special Exhibition Admission

General (w/ Museum Admission): $7

General (without Museum Admission): $10

Children/Teens (4-19): $4

Children (3 and under): Free

Family Fun · Seasonal · Things To Do

The Science of Ripley’s Believe it or Not

Growing up, we used to watch the TV show – Ripley’s Believe It or Not. It was creepy and cool all at the same time. We were fascinated by the abnormal and freaky. When we heard they were opening a Ripley’s exhibit at the Arizona Boardwalk, we were instantly excited!

The Arizona Boardwalk is full of incredible exhibits and museums that will entertain children for hours. It’s located just off of Via De Ventura in Scottsdale. They have cute shops, yummy food, endless treat options and a wide variety of entertainment that is all family friendly.

The Science of Ripley’s Believe it or Not exhibit will only be here for a limited time. It is not a permanent exhibit. That being said, we definitely recommend you take your kids before it leaves! 

It is full of the weird and abnormal and our children were fascinated at every turn. We saw a giant T-Rex, made from tire rubber, a two-headed calf, a life-size autobot made from actual carparts, an animatronic of the world’s tallest man, the jaw casting of the megaladon and so much more. There were things for science fanatics and animal lovers, shark enthusiasts and even dancers. There were exhibits you could touch and endless cool photo opportunities. 

Our kids loved crawling through the plastic mold of a hollowed out python, figuring out several optical illusions and looking at the deformed animals. Ash and I enjoyed the interesting artwork, some made from toast, some from human hair. We also loved the educational videos that kept our kids entertained throughout the exhibit like discovering how much energy is in a gummy bear!

Your children will not be bored. They will be thoroughly entertained, sometimes grossed out (sword swallowing and bugs), and always fascinated.

Ticket Info

Guests can save 20% when you purchase tickets online at ripleysaz.com You can save even more if you combine Ripley’s Believe It or Not tickets with other attractions at AZ Boardwalk. Tickets are $21.95 in person and $16.95 for ages 2-12. Under 2 are free. This exhibit is open 9am to 7pm and parking is free. Arizona Boardwalk is located at 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85256.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions about The Science of Ripley’s Believe it or Not

How much do tickets cost?

In person, tickets are $21.95 for adults and $16.95 for ages 2-12. Under 2 years old are free.

Guests can save 20% when you purchase tickets online at ripleysaz.com. You can save even more if you combine Ripley’s Believe It or Not tickets with other attractions at AZ Boardwalk

What are the hours for the attraction?

The Science of Ripley’s Believe it or Not exhibit is open from 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM. The last entry time is 45 minutes before closing time.

How do I purchase tickets?

Tickets can be purchased by clicking HERE

What are their mask requirements?

Masks are required for children over the age of 6.

Where is the exhibit located?

The Science of Ripley’s Believe it or Not exhibit is located inside of the Arizona Boardwalk, which is located in Scottsdale. The address is listed below:

Arizona Boardwalk

9500 East Via De Ventura Drive

Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Do I have to pay for parking?

Arizona Boardwalk provides free parking on site for all of their attractions and exhibits.

We hope you and your family enjoy The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibit for a limited time at the Arizona Boardwalk in Scottsdale! Have you been to the exhibit? Let us know in the comments!

Recommendations

Favorite Things Local Gift Ideas

Every year around Valentine’s Day, women get together for their annual Galentine’s parties. Galentine’s Day is an actual holiday on February 13th, and I’m pretty sure it originated from Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec (at least that’s where it originated for us). Either way, it turned February into a month of girls’ nights and galentine’s celebrations, where ladies give each other gifts and eat treats.

bouquet of pink roses
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

One popular galentine’s day theme is a “favorite things” party. This is where you bring one of your favorites for an allotted amount of money and exchange with a friend.

So obviously, as we were getting ready for our favorite things parties this season, we turned to shopping small and local. We came up with an amazing list in a wide range of values for you to shop small and local as well!

One of the benefits of shopping local is that you are very unlikely to come with the same Target favorite thing as anyone else. You are also helping out a fellow mom / woman. Lastly, you will probably have the cutest, most unique thing at the party and probably the most coveted.

So check out our list, and support local this Galentine’s Day!

COZYS

Cozy’s blankets are by far the softest, cutest blankets in the valley. I know it might seem weird to bring a blanket to a party, but I promise everyone will want it. You’ll want one for yourself as well. I have one for my couch, my bed, my kids’ beds and in my car.

You can get a large blanket for only $48

Love Ya Loads Studio

Home decor is always a hit at Favorite Things parties and wood beaded garlands are all the rage right now. It would make for the perfect galentine’s gift! Check out the Etsy shop at Love Ya Loads Studio. They make beaded garlands, macrame wall hangings and so much more!

You can get a cute wall hanging or garland for $28

Mulberry House

Speaking of home decor, the wood working from Mulberry House is amazing! We are in love with their wooden signs and they would make an amazing addition to any farm house style. My favorite is their wooden engraved saguaro cactus sign in their Etsy shop.

You can get that for $55

The Desert Kiwi

T-shirts are kind of tricky for favorite things parties, but a shop credit would be perfect. These shirts are so adorable and any woman would be so excited to get one. We have brought a large or medium shirt to parties and been totally fine and people have loved them!

This cute cactus hearts one goes for about $25

Rosie Luv Apparel

Speaking of shirts, Rosie Luv has the cutest, most comfortable t-shirts and sweaters and they are always supporting good causes with their business. 


Grab an Arizona tee for just $15

Tangle & Tease Co.

Nothing gives a hairstyle more personality than a cute hair accessory! Tangle and Tease has the most beautiful, in-style hair clips and scrunchies. Put a cute scrunchie around a Chick-Fil-A gift card and it’ll be the best gift at the party!

You can get most of their accessories for $5-15

Tani Ties

Tani Ties also has cute hair accessories, but their hair accessory box is what we love! It keeps not only your hair accessories in one place, but there is also a place for a brush and spray bottle. It’d be perfect for any girl mom on the go! (Which is all of us girl moms!)

You can get the hair box fully loaded for $50

Honey Oh Darling

If you want to instantly dress up any outfit, add statement earrings. These handmade clay polymer earrings are not only great quality, but super unique and beautiful. I own a couple of pairs and I forget that I have dangly earrings because they are so lightweight. The cactus hoops are my personal favorite. Every AZ girl needs a pair!

You can get the cactus mini hoops for $25

Lima Hana Studio

You might be thinking, “why am I getting a grown woman a puzzle?” Lima Hana makes more than just puzzles. They make home decor in the form of puzzles. If you have a coffee table, you need one to display on there. They make for the most gorgeous addition to any home and they should be displayed in homes even without children. Their Tic Tac Toe Arizona piece sits proudly on my coffee table and is the most asked about thing in my home.

You can get the AZ Tic Tac Toe for $20

Ava Soaps

Every woman likes to smell good and make sure their home smells good. These soaps and potpourri mixes are heavenly. They’re made with clean ingredients so you don’t have to worry about harsh chemicals on your body or in your home. These would be so cute in a guest bathroom because they’re gorgeous soaps. Pair it with a cute Trader Joe’s goodie for the perfect favorite things gift.

You can grab most soaps for $8-10

Desert Strandz

Beaded bracelet stacks are my favorite trend right now. They’re simple, elegant and you can express yourself without even trying. These handmade, customizable bracelet stacks are gorgeous and simple and give any outfit an instant boost.

You can grab a starter stack for $25

Jaxn BLVD 

Wooden signs are cute in any home, in any style, but Jaxn Blvd does something different. They make these adorable wooden holders for things like utensils, toothbrushes, art supplies and our personal favorite, candles. These wooden containers are well-made and stained beautifully. 

You can grab a wood candle holder for $65

Made It Ate It Loved It

Cooking is something every woman in the world does at some point. A good recipe book is priceless. We’ve been making Scarlett’s recipes for a while now and we absolutely love her cookbook. Plus, it’s gorgeous! We have it on display all the time in our kitchen and we know any woman would love to have it.

You can grab the Making Messes With Scarlett Cookbook for $40

Prickly Pear Lane

Maybe we’re the only ones obsessed with saguaro cacti, but if you’re from AZ, you better embrace them. They’re what makes us unique! We love how local shops make them look cute and the unique take they have on them. One in particular is this gorgeous throw pillow from Prickly Pear Lane. How cute would this be in a living room? I have one on display in my piano room and it makes me happy every time I see it.

You can grab this cute cactus pillow for $48

Creme & Chocolats

One of our favorite treat places is Creme & Chocolats. But one thing we love about it, is they make for the cutest gifts. They package up their crepe mix and fondue chocolate in the cutest containers. Give your girlfriends a chocolate fondue and a gift card to grab some crepes or delicious ice cream. 

You can grab a fondue container for only $8

Events · Family Fun · Recommendations · Things To Do

Gift Experiences in Arizona

No toys please! We have a better idea!

Gift giving can be stressful and superficial. It’s difficult to find the perfect toy or item for birthdays and Christmas. Take the stress out of gift giving and give people what they really want – time and memories!

We’ve made it our goal to give experiences more than tangible gifts and we’ve received amazing feedback! We try to give our children an experience each year for their birthday or Christmas.

One year we gifted them a zoo pass. We went to the Phoenix Zoo nearly 50 times that year and they still ask to go almost every day.

Another year we gave them Disney On Ice tickets. They got to go with their grandparents and have not stopped talking about it since.

Myself and my two children all have April birthdays so one year we gifted Disneyland tickets and went to celebrate all three birthdays. That was an experience they will not soon forget.

I have always given my husband experiences. Some of them included snowboarding tickets, racecar driving experiences, paintball sessions, axe throwing, escape rooms, hotel stays, golf trips, etc. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Any time our parents ask what to get the kids, we always ask them for experiences. We want them to spend time with the kids. That’s the greatest gift you can give someone – your time and attention.

Every year we give our parents experiences to do with each other or with our kids – zoo lights, concerts, musicals, Disney On Ice tickets, etc.

We have compiled a list of experiences in Arizona that you can gift for your children, spouse, parents, friends, siblings, etc. Experiences are priceless and we are excited to share some of our favorite expe riences in Arizona!

  • Top Golf – Gilbert
  • 1689 S. Santan Village Pkwy,
  • Gilbert, AZ 85295
  • 10am-11pm
  • $47/hr per bay (6 people per bay)
  • Phoenix Zoo Pass
  • 455 North Galvin Parkway
    Phoenix, AZ 85008
  • 9am – 3pm (during zoo lights)
  • Annual memberships as low as $69

  • POGO Pass
  • Annual pass includes hundreds of FREE entries to the best entertainment spots in Arizona
  • Use code AZMOMSQUAD to get the pass for only $39.98!

Rooms for 8 people cost about $100

Great for group or family gifts!

Movie tickets are always great stocking stuffers!

AMC – Stapley has completely remodeled their theaters so if you haven’t been recently, you’ve gotta check it out!

Dine-in available!

Cooking classes for kids

Gift card and family fun passes available

Workshops and parties available for adults and children

Ride along starting at $69

Flights as low as $60!

A great gift for the hubby!

$125/hour for private coaching

On sale for $145/person as of Dec 2020

9 am – 8 pm

$120 for private lessons

$23/person or annual passes starting at $36

9 am – 4 pm

$15/child, $25/adult

$23/person or annual passes starting at $36

  • Build-A-Bear
  • 2180 E Williams Field Road
  • Gilbert, Arizona 85295

Costco regularly sells discounted gift cards

This is the gift that keeps on giving! Even if they already have a bear, they can go pick out countless outfits and accessories.

We will continue to add to this list as we discover more of our favorite experiences and activities throughout Arizona!

Make sure to check places like Groupon for discounts and deals before you purchase!

We hope you enjoy a season full of experiences and memories!

Events · Family Fun · Seasonal · Things To Do

Santa Claus in Arizona

One of our favorite holiday traditions is taking the kids to see Santa! Unfortunately, among other things, this year brings lots of changes to this timeless tradition.

We did some research on not only where, but how you can visit St. Nick this season.

Here are some of the best places in the valley where you’ll be able to get that timeless Santa picture with the kids!

While you’re in the holiday spirit, be sure to check out our latest post of the holiday boutiques going on around the Valley!

Bass Pro Shops – Santa’s Wonderland

  • Where: 1113 N Dobson Rd, Mesa, AZ
  • When: November 7th – December 24th
  • Cost: Free
  • Details: Must make reservations within a 7-day period. Santa will be behind a partition and children can sit on a bench in front of it for photos. Face coverings are required and they will submit you to a temperature screening.

Superstition Springs Center – Photos with Santa

  • Where: 6555 E Southern Ave, Mesa, AZ
  • When: December 4th – December 24th
  • Cost: Free visit, photos purchased from professional photographer
  • Details: Reservations recommended, masks required, contactless visit

Doughnuttery of Chandler – Socially Distanced Santa and Doughnuts

  • Where: Various locations
  • When: Multiple visits around the valley – some are still being announced.
  • Cost: Pre-order donuts to purchase and say hello to Santa
  • Details: Drive thru event. 12/5 @ Finley Farms from 9-11 am, and 12/12 @ Autumn Park from 9-11 am. Other locations TBA.

San Tan Village – Photos with Santa

  • Where: 2218 E Williams Field Rd, Gilbert, AZ
  • When: December 4th – 24th
  • Cost: Free to visit, photos only taken by professional photographer that must be purchased
  • Details: Contactless visit, masks required, reservations recommended
man in santa claus costume

Mesa Convention Center – Breakfast with Santa

  • Where: 263 N Center St, Mesa, AZ
  • When: December 12th, 8-11 am
  • Cost: $3 per person – includes a to-go breakfast and goodie bag
  • Details: Drive thru event, participants must pre-register

Merry Main Street – Visits with Santa Claus

  • Where: 1 North MacDonald, Mesa, AZ
  • When: December 4-5; 11-12; 18-19
  • Cost: Free visits, cell phone pictures allowed
  • Details: Contactless visit, face coverings required

East Valley Santa Claus – For Hire!

  • Where: Anywhere! He will do virtual visits, home visits, and parties
  • When: Anytime
  • Cost: Go to www.eastvalleysantaclaus.com to get a quote for your specific needs
  • Details: Serving Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Mesa, and San Tan Valley

Westgate – Santa Saturdays

  • Where: Westgate Entertainment District
  • When: November 28, December 5, 12, 19
  • Cost: Free
  • Details: Catch Santa cruising by on a fire truck and snap a socially distanced picture at designated “Santa stops”. You can also sign up to receive a call from Santa November 27 – December 24.

Chandler Fashion Center – Photos with Santa

  • Where: 3111 W Chandler Blvd, Chandler, AZ
  • When: November 20 – December 24
  • Cost: Free visit, purchased professional photography
  • Details: Contactless visit, masks required, reservations recommended. Visit is free, photos only allowed from professional photographers and must be purchased.

Tempe Marketplace – Virtual Photos with Santa

  • Where: 2000 E Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, AZ
  • When: Everyday through December 24
  • Cost: Free visit
  • Details: Virtual Santa photos only

Merchant Square – Noel Night

  • Where: 1509 N Arizona Ave, Chandler, AZ
  • When: December 4th, 6-8 pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Details: Guest appearances from Santa and the Grinch! Storewide sale going on December 3rd – 6th.

Christmas at the Princess

  • Where: 7575 E Princess Dr, Scottsdale, AZ
  • When: November 20 – December 31
  • Cost: Various packages
  • Details: One digital photo included, personal photos allowed. Must make reservations. Various Christmas festivities to take part in so be sure to check their website to see what they offer.

Christmas at Schnepf Farms

  • Where: 24810 S Rittenhouse Rd, Queen Creek, AZ
  • When: November 24 – December 31
  • Cost: $15/person
  • Details: Admission includes meet & greet with Santa, Christmas movies, hayride, cookie decorating, carousel, bonfires, and more!

Christmas Photo Sessions

  • Where: Phoenix, AZ
  • When: November 28th
  • Cost: $60 for all digital photos from your session
  • Details: Limited space available to pose with Mr. & Mrs. Claus. Call or text for additional details or to book your session.

We hope you have an amazing, safe holiday and get to continue the tradition of visiting Santa. If you end up going, please leave a comment with your review of that specific location or tag us on Instagram so we can share!

Happy Santa visit!

Events · Recommendations · Things To Do

Boutiques in Phoenix

It’s that time of year when local shops come together in hundreds of boutiques around the Phoenix Valley. We absolutely LOVE holiday boutique shopping so we decided to compile a list of our favorite markets and boutiques to make it easy for you to plan and shop in Phoenix!

We’ve included all of the Instagram handles for each Arizona boutique, so be sure to check their Instagram page for the most up to date information!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog if you want to stay in the loop with local events and activities.

Click the images below for more information on each boutique.

Berry Merry Christmas Boutique
November 9th-14th
1501 E Woolford Rd
Show Low, AZ  85901
Highland Yard Vintage Market
@highlandyardvintagemarket
November11-15; 18-22; 27; 28
1509 N Arizona Ave, Chandler, AZ 85225
Kandy Kane Castle Holiday Boutique
November 12-14
2159 E Riverdale
Mesa, AZ 85213
Wildflower Beauty Bar Holiday Event
@wildflowerbeautybar
November 14
861 N Higley Road, Gilbert, AZ
Gilbert Backyard Boutique
@gilbertbackyardboutique
November 14
Online Only this year
Mesa Bazaar Artisan Market
@mesabazaar
November 21
Main & McDonald – Downtown Mesa
So Sassy Holiday Boutique
@sosassyboutiques
December 10-12
3891 E Latham Way, Gilbert, AZ 85297
Pinners Conference AZ
@pinnersconf
November 13-14
Westworld of Scottsdale

Sugarplums Holiday Market
@sugarplumsmarket
November 12-14
2851 E Morrison Ranch, Gilbert, AZ 85296
Holiday Sip & Shop
@vintageandvinoaz
Every Fri-Sun, November 13 – December 20 2180 E Williams Field, Gilbert, AZ 85295
Holiday Bliss Boutique
@powerranchcommunity
November 21
4546 E Haven Crest Dr, Gilbert, AZ 85297
Boutique at Eastmark
@eastmarkboutique
November 14
5100 S Eastmark Parkway, Mesa, AZ 85212
Vintage Charm Holiday Boutique
@vintagecharmboutique
November 19-21
2600 E Southern Ave, Mesa, AZ 85204
Peppermint Lane Holiday Boutique
@peppermintlaneboutique
December 3-5
2668 E Pegasus St, Gilbert, AZ
Backyard Christmas Boutique
@backyardfallboutique
December 13-14
1105 E Sorenson, Mesa, AZ

DIY Projects

DIY Paint On Chalkboard Wall

Our step-by-step guide for building a DIY chalkboard wall in our kids playroom, including tips, tricks, and suggestions for how to make it even easier!

Our tips, tricks, and steps to make an easy chalkboard wall

My husband and I LOVE doing DIY projects around the house whenever we have the time and budget. When we moved into our new house recently, I knew I wanted to do a chalkboard wall in the playroom. When things finally settled down, I was excited to get started!

The chalkboard wall was a very simple and budget-friendly project. It didn’t require a lot of supplies and it only took about 6 hours to complete (split up over two days). I spent a lot of time on Pinterest prior to starting the chalkboard wall, and gathered as much information as I could from people who have previously done them.

Below I will walk you through step by step instructions of how we did our chalkboard wall, including the supplies we used. Make note at the end of the instructions, I also list a couple of tips for what we would have done differently looking back at the project now.

I always love seeing other people’s house projects, so if you find this helpful, please post a picture of your chalkboard wall at the end of this post so we can see how it turned out!

Paint on chalkboard wall step by step instructions

Disclaimer: Please note that many of the supplies listed below are linked to an Amazon page where you can find the product we used for our chalkboard wall. We do receive a small affiliate commission if you purchase the products through the links below.

STEP 1: MEASURE

Measure and mark the wall space where the chalkboard paint will go. Make pencil marks on the four corners and connect the four marks with a level to outline your chalkboard. Keep in mind that you will be painting over these marks, and adding wood trim on top of them, so this is just a rough outline of the finished chalkboard.

STEP 2: SUPPLIES

Time to purchase your supplies! One of my favorite things about the DIY chalkboard wall is that it required very little supplies to be purchased. Most of the supplies we already had on hand, and you may as well! You can purchase everything you need from The Home Depot or other hardware stores. However, I’ve linked most of the supplies below to where you can find them on Amazon to save some money. 

Here’s a list of what you’ll need, as well as a few things you may want to make things easier, though they aren’t necessary.

STEP 3: PAINT

One thing to note about chalkboard paint is that you will definitely need to do several coats of paint to make your chalkboard look nice. We did 3 coats of paint on ours and I love the way it turned out, but it would have been even darker and smoother if we had a few more coats. We ended up having enough paint for exactly 3 coats, though. 

STEP 4: DRY COAT & RINSE BRUSH

Wait for the first coat to dry and rinse the brush.

STEP 5: REPEAT STEPS 3 to 4

Paint your second and third coats the same as the first. I waited a couple of hours in between each coat, but it seemed to be dry before that. You just need to make sure it´s completely dry before adding the next coat.

STEP 6: CUT THE TRIM 

You need to wait 48 hours before writing anything on the chalkboard, so in the meantime, finish your trim! Using the measurements you took at the beginning, cut the boards appropriately. We made it simple and just made the top and bottom boards longer than the two side boards so they would line up evenly. But if you want to get fancy, you could cut the corners at a 45 degree angle to have them meet at a point.

STEP 7: SPRAY PAINT THE TRIM

Time to give the trim some color! We only needed one can of spray paint for our boards, and we were able to coat them really well. We only painted the top and sides to save paint. Let the boards dry completely before bringing them inside.

STEP 8: GLUE ON BOARDS

Using the Gorilla Construction Adhesive glue, squirt glue all down the back of the BOTTOM board in a wavy line. Carefully place the board onto the wall at the bottom of the chalkboard and hold it there for a couple of minutes. It may be easier to have a second person help you with this to be able to put pressure on more of the board. Be careful not to move the board as the glue will still be wet. After a couple of minutes, make sure there isn’t any glue scoring out of the sides, and let it dry.

STEP 9: WAIT

In between coats you need to make sure your chalkboard is completely dry in order to make the coats go on evenly. I waited about 2-3 hours in between coats. During this time you can wash out your paint rollers, and work on the trim boards to save time.

STEP 10: REPEAT

Continue repeating steps 3-4 until you run out of paint.

STEP 11: CUT

You need to wait 48 hours before writing on the chalkboard, so use this time to complete the trim. Using your measurements from the beginning, cut the 4 pieces of wood accordingly. To make it simple, we made straight cuts on all the sides. If you wanted to get fancy with your corners, you could cut at a 45 degree angle to have your corners meet at a point.

STEP 12: PAINT

We only needed one can of spray paint to cover all four of our trim boards evenly. We only sprayed the top and sides to save on paint. Let the boards dry COMPLETELY prior to bringing them in to put on the chalkboard.

STEP 13: GLUE

Starting with the bottom board, squeeze the glue out in a curved line all the way down the back of the board. Gently place the board at the bottom of the chalkboard and hold it. It may be easier to have another person to help you hold the board in place for a couple of minutes. Be careful not to move the board as the glue dries. After a couple of minutes, check to make sure no glue has come out the sides of the board.

STEP 14: REPEAT

Repeat step 8 for all the boards. It’s easiest if you do the two side boards and leave the top board as the last piece. After 30 minutes or so, the boards should be completely glued to the wall. But wait a good 24 hours to make sure the glue dries completely. 

STEP 15: PRIME

After letting the chalkboard sit for 48 hours, you need to “prime” it before writing on it. To do this, take a piece of chalk, lay it on its side, and rub it liberally across the entire chalkboard. This step is VERY important to do before you start writing on your chalkboard! Priming the chalkboard gives it a nice coat of chalk so that when you write, it actually erases. After covering the entire board liberally, use a dry rag to begin erasing the marks. You may need to use several different dry rags as they will fill up with chalk quickly. I went over the chalkboard at least 2-3 times with rags to get as much of the chalk off as possible. You can also go over it with a rag and then follow it with a chalkboard eraser to get rid of the marks.

STEP 16: ENJOY!

You did it! Now you can start using your chalkboard to your heart’s content.

What we would’ve done differently

  • Remove drywall texture and have a smooth surface
  • Use a miter chop saw instead of a table saw

I would love to see photos of your DIY chalkboard walls!

Drop them in the comments below and let me know how yours turned out.

Links for the supplies

Here’s a handy list of supplies you can get on Amazon:

Guest Post

Meet Lynn from Rhyme to Read


Lynn Klaiman has over 25 years of experience as a classroom teacher and a reading/learning specialist at both private and public schools. Her passion for helping young readers was the inspiration behind the Rhyme to Read program. At present, Lynn is a lower school learning specialist at an independent school in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree in Reading Education.


Learn-to-read books

Early in my teaching career, I could not find the tools readily needed to help kids learn to read in an easy step-by-step way that was interactive, progressive, and fun. When I started looking for such a tool, I had no idea that I would end up partnering with a colleague to author learn-to-read books, see the impact of those books on my students and their wonderful families, and learn so much from this journey.

I am not only an educator, but a proud mother of two. One of the things I enjoy the most is watching those “ah-ha” moments when kids start to make the connections needed to learn to read. I guess you could say it is my “why”… why we built these tools, why I am a teacher, an author, a learning mentor, and now a blogger. If I can help one person unlock understandings for how to read, then I have set them on a path to unlock imagination, innovation, and all the possibilities in their life’s journey

The next step

I am excited about this next step in my journey. For years I have shared this tool in collaboration with other educators, on my Facebook page, and the families that reside in the students of their classrooms; now we are taking that next step and sharing this with everyone.

While I am all the things I said above (and like all moms, a little more for all the hats we wear!),  I am also on a journey that has me humbled by all of the wonderful families that I get to learn from every day, putting myself and books out there in hopes to help more children learn to read, and sharing the tools and tips that I collect along the way.

Anyone can learn to read

With the right tools, a little help, and consistency, anyone can learn to read. Seeing as you’re here, I know we have a common goal: share the love of reading with children who can grow up and make the world a better place. I am here to help you because I know you can do this with the children you love

Children are ready for our Rhyme to Read program when they know all of the letter sounds, and are ready to move on to blending the sounds together to make words. Rhyme to Read was designed to make children feel confident and excited as they start their own reading journeys.

Here are some tips for fostering a strong foundation for your own children at home.

Supporting literacy development at home

  1. Read to your child every day. This will expose them to vocabulary words rarely used in conversation, introduce them to new cultures, time periods, raise interesting topics for conversation, and build skills for reading comprehension later on. Plus, it’s great snuggle time.

  2. Talk about print concepts. These are the conventions of book reading. Parents can point out the title and author’s name to their child when reading together, point to words as they read aloud, talk about where reading begins on the page, and show how the words flow from left to right.

  3. Support the development of phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is “the ability to recognize and manipulate the sound properties of spoken words, such as syllables, initial sounds, rhyming parts, and phonemes.” Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. This is done through listening activities such as playing rhyming games and reading rhyming books, listening for the first or last sound of words and making up silly sentences in which all the words start with the same sound – for example: “Mom made me many meatballs”.

  4. Encourage book exploration. When your child sits alone and pretends to read aloud, they are practicing reading behaviors and enjoying literacy.

  5. Create reading opportunities in natural settings. Using a recipe to cook together, reading street signs and reading menus are all good examples of reading outside of books.

  6. Encourage your child to explore toys and games that build literacy skills such as alphabet puzzles, bathtub letters, memory, and board games.

  7. Reading and writing are intertwined. Create fun opportunities for writing such as notes to one another, grocery lists, thank you cards and playing school. Show them what an exciting and useful form of communication writing can be.

  8. Foster good comprehension skills when reading books together. Good readers ask themselves questions before, during, and after reading. Ask your child to predict what might happen next in a story. Ask why a character made the choice they did. Connect the story to your own experiences. With non-fiction, ask what they already know about this subject and what they hope to learn from the book.

  9. Relax and enjoy being a part of this exciting milestone in your child’s development. It’s truly miraculous!

Happy reading!! 

Lynn

rhymetoread.com
facebook.com/rhymetoread
instagram.com/rhyme_to_read

Recipes

The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch

For as long as I can remember, my grandma made her mouth-watering red velvet cake every single Christmas, and 1-2 other special occasions throughout the year. It was something the entire family looked forward to because every bite was quite literally a taste of heaven. As the extended family continued to grow, more and more people were blessed with this amazing dessert during the holidays.

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end I guess. Several years ago, grandma stopped baking the cake. With our rapidly growing family, it would take at least two cakes for everyone to be able to enjoy a slice. We all knew the amount of effort she put in to bake only one red velvet cake, and it was not feasible for her to do two. It was time for grandma to spend more time enjoying the family and the holidays, rather than worry about bringing this heavenly dessert on top of everything else she contributed to Christmas dinners. The iconic red velvet cake was set to be retired with my grandma unless someone else wanted to take the mantle.

A couple of years ago, I reached out to my grandma to ask her if she would teach me how to make it. Since I was a child, I’ve often gone over to her house to cook with her and learn new recipes. To this day, my recipe books are filled with recipes my grandmother taught me in her kitchen.

Lo and behold, it was finally time to add the red velvet cake into my arsenal! My grandma was thrilled for another opportunity to teach me one of her recipes, and I was thrilled to be learning how to make the greatest dessert I had ever tasted. This mouth-watering red velvet cake is one that I hope to continue to pass down for many generations to come!

Before I jump into the recipe, I must warn you: this cake is a labor of love. If you are a baker at heart, then you know exactly what I mean. This isn’t one of those “quick and easy” cake recipes. While it IS simple, it is also time consuming. But the reactions on people’s faces while they eat this red velvet cake makes every second worth it.

Now, enough of the chit chat! With my grandma’s permission, let’s jump right into the recipe!

Thank you so much for reading, and please let me know in the comments how your cake turned out!! My grandma will be thrilled to see her red velvet cake recipe bringing joy to tables all over!

Ashlyn xx

The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad

The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Cake, Dessert
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Hand mixer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • 2 x 9" cake pans

Ingredients
  

Cake ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups oil
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk** (see substitute option below)
  • 1.25 cup red food coloring (2 oz)

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cube margarine or butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (approx.)

Instructions
 

Preheat and prepare:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour two 9” cake pans

Mix the cake batter:

  • Blend 2 eggs and 2 cups oil with a hand mixer
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • In a separate bowl, mix the following ingredients:
    – 2 ½ cups flour
    – 1 ½ cups sugar
    – 2 tsp cocoa
    – 1 tsp each of soda and salt
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Add the dry mixture to the eggs and oil, then mix with the hand mixer. The mixture will look slightly lumpy.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Once ingredients are fully mixed, add the following ingredients and mix again until combined:
    – 1 tsp vinegar
    – 1 tsp vanilla
    – 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Add half the red food coloring and mix SLOWLY to avoid splattering the food coloring. Once that’s combined, add the rest of the food coloring and mix slowly until well blended.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Pour half the batter into each pan. (Try to make them as even as possible – I use a measuring cup to make it even.)

Bake and cool:

  • Bake for 30 minutes – do not overcook! Cakes are finished when a toothpick is inserted into the middle and comes out almost clean.
  • Put cake pans directly on a cooling rack. Go around the edges with a knife.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Let them sit in the pans for about 5-10 mins, then carefully remove the cakes by flipping the pans over onto the cooking racks and gently lifting the pan up

While cakes are cooling, make the frosting:

  • Using a spoon or rubber spatula, mix all frosting ingredients together (except for pecans). DO NOT use the hand mixer to mix the frosting. It will take a little while to get all the ingredients mixed together and for the consistency to be right, but just keep folding it over onto itself using a spoon.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad
  • Once the frosting ingredients are fully combined, add in the chopped pecans. Mix together until well combined.
  • Spread onto the cooled cake.
    The Best Red Velvet Cake Made From Scratch - AZ Mom Squad

Video

Keyword Red Velvet Cake Recipe