The Grand Canyon
While any spot along or in the Grand Canyon will have kids gaping in wonder, two areas in particular make for family-friendly travel. The South Rim offers hiking, horseback and mule rides for exploring the canyon area. Rather than start at the canyon itself, land in nearby Williams and get to the canyon on a train tour that gives you a taste of the Wild West. The train staff will share Grand Canyon history, folklore and fascinating facts about the railway. The ride also includes a recreation of an old-fashioned train robbery and shoot-out. Kids will be thrilled before they even get to the canyon's edge.
The West Rim is the site of the Skywalk, where you and your family can trek out on a glass-bottomed overhang that makes it appear as if you are walking on air. Make sure kids--and adults--don't fear heights and are up for such an experience before you begin.
Grand Canyon National Park
Caves are another thrill for folks of all ages, and Kartchner Caverns is no exception. The showpiece of these amazing limestone caves is the Throne Room, which is open to all ages all year round. Notable features of the Throne Room include Arizona's largest column, called Kubla Khan, which towers 58 feet; a 21-foot soda straw stalactite that's one of the largest in the world; and other totems, helectites and rimstone dams. Another part of the caverns, the Big Room, is only open for tours from mid-October through mid-April; that's so its resident bats can hibernate through the summer months before they migrate in the fall. The Big Room's formations are very close together and can be difficult to maneuver around, so it is only open to kids over age 6. (If you have younger children, you'll still be free to tour the Throne Room.) All tours are led by a knowledgeable guide, and you can find out more at the park's Discovery Center. In addition to the caverns, the southern Arizona park features a hummingbird garden, shaded picnic areas, hiking trails and campgrounds. Tour reservations are strongly recommended.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
(520) 586-4100 Information
(520) 586-2283 Reservations
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Kids will probably be intrigued by the name--and you'll be equally intrigued by the beauty of Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Located on Arizona's western edge, the park offers 423 acres of foliage and fauna and is right next to the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. The Verde River is ideal for canoeing, fishing or just cooling your heels. The park's lagoons are regularly stocked with fish and open to anyone with a state fishing license. Hiking and camping are other staples at the park and the nearby Coconino National Forest. Although the park is named after a dead horse, it is the playground of plenty of live animals, including mammals, birds and amphibians.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.