Make Memories Way Out West: 5 Fun Family Vacations in Arizona
There's more to the Grand Canyon State than the Grand Canyon. Although typified by cactus and blazing sunsets, Arizona's varied climate makes it ideal for a relaxing family vacation at any time of year.
Get Wet in the Valley of the Sun: Phoenix
Spring and autumn feature the nicest weather to visit the state's capital, Phoenix, AZ, but summer is when you'll get the best rates. Discover great deals on resorts with their own on-site water park when temps soar over 100 degrees from June through August. Check out Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak (7677 N. 16th St., Phoenix, AZ), Westin Kierland Resort and Spa (6902 E. Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale, AZ) and Arizona Grand Resort (8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway Phoenix, AZ). Kids aren't the only ones enjoying the water: Swim with dolphins at Dolphinaris (9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ) or ride the Sea Carousel through open ocean, seal, turtle and shark exhibits at OdySea Aquarium (9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ).
Go Underground in the Old Pueblo: Tucson
See a side that few visitors see in Arizona—its underground. Two show caves near Tucson, AZ, take you beneath the earth's crust, but also have above-ground activities for the kids as well. Colossal Cave Mountain Park (16721 E. Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ) is on the National Register of Historic places and has a ranch with horseback riding, a petting zoo and a 2,400-acre park where you can hike, camp or ride your horse. Kartchner Caverns State Park (2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ) has on-site cabins, trails for hiking and campsites. Both roll out tours for a variety of abilities and interests. Or let little ones explore a man-made cave at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2021 N. Kinney Rd., Tucson AZ). The realistic cavern has level surfaces and a side cave for kids to explore.
Head to the Piney North Woods: Flagstaff
Check into a Flagstaff, AZ, hotel to put you in the center of all Northern Arizona has to offer. From there, take a day trip to the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, the Navajo Reservation or go for a hike on Humphreys Peak. Ride a scenic chairlift at Snowbowl Ski Area (9300 N. Snow Bowl Rd., Flagstaff, AZ) from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend to get panoramic views of the state stretching to the Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona, AZ. Check out Bearizona (1500 Historic Rte. 66, Williams, AZ) to get close to bears and other North American wildlife in the comfort of your own car or the park's bus. There's also a native raptor show, a petting zoo and baby animals on display.
See Shades of Red and Green: The Verde Valley
There's so much to do in Arizona's Verde Valley with kids. Slip your way down an 80-foot natural water slide at Slide Rock State Park (6871 N. Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ) There are pools for swimming, rocks for jumping, dramatic waterfalls and a historic apple orchard, too. Visit an authentic trading post in Uptown Sedona, AZ. Kids will love looking at Clear Creek Trading Company's (435 N. SR 89A, Sedona, AZ) hides, skulls, drums and Native American ceremonial clothing. Other items to add to your Verde Valley agenda include the Out of Africa wildlife park (3505 AZ-260, Camp Verde, AZ) and scenic Verde Canyon Railroad (300 N. Broadway, Clarkdale, AZ).
Hit the Beach: Arizona's West Coast
Arizona's border along the Colorado River rolls out a recreation area that runs the length of the state. Sandy beaches, water sports galore and dramatic scenery as a backdrop make the perfect place for a family vacation. Summer temperatures creep above 110, but the dry desert heat makes it great for splashy water activities. There's plenty to do on dry land, too. Wild burros congregate in the old mining town of Oatman, AZ, where you'll find activities as diverse as frying an egg on the sidewalk or bed races. Lake Havasu City, AZ, boasts the London Bridge and a picturesque English Village. Four reservations offer opportunity to get to know more about Arizona's tribes at cultural centers.
- Point Hilton: River Ranch
- Visit Phoenix: OdySea Aquarium
- OdySea Aquarium
- Colossal Cave
- Arizona State Parks: Kartchner Caverns
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Desert Museum Exhibits
- Arizona State Parks: Slide Rock State Park,
- YouTube: A Visit to Slide Rock State Park Near Sedona, Arizona
- Clear Creek Trading Company: About
- Out of Africa
- Verde Canyon Railroad
- US Climate Data: Bullhead City
- Only in Your State: Here Are 14 Things You Have to Do on Arizona's West Coast
- Oatman Chamber of Commerce
Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.