In Arizona, It’s easy to plan a vacation the whole family will enjoy. Packed with history, outdoor recreation, and wildlife, these nine ideas will inspire your next trip to the American Southwest. Whether you check them all off or pick and choose, you’re sure to form lasting memories that bring lasting joy.
This story was created in partnership with Visit Arizona.
Northern Arizona: Shoot for the Stars
Where can you find bears, shooting stars, and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World? Northern Arizona. These active and awesome ideas are real crowd pleasers!
Dubbed the Grand Canyon State for a reason, Arizona is home to one of the most recognizable and beloved national parks in America: Grand Canyon National Park. The perfect cornerstone for any family vacation, it’s easy to build a road trip around the big ditch. Within the park itself, explore the south rim. We always recommend starting at the Visitor Center, where a short 20-minute film in the theater provides a fun and informative introduction for all ages. Then, take the Trail of Time—a 2.83 mile (4.56 km) paved walkway along the edge of the canyon with trail markers and sweeping views. The park also hosts a series of Junior Ranger programs that help foster budding interest in the great outdoors.
An hour south of Grand Canyon National Park, travelers will encounter Bearizona Wildlife Park. Part zoo, part safari, Bearizona offers real family adventure in Arizona. Visitors can drive through over three miles of Ponderosa Pine while viewing North American animals like black bears, bison, and wolves in their natural habitat. Then, walk through a 20-acre setting that is more reminiscent of a classic zoo. This sustainably-focused operation even offers VIP experiences where you and your family can meet animal ambassadors up close and watch a wolf training session. Children three and under get in for free!
Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff
If your kids like to wish on shooting stars, there is no better place to visit than Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff received the world’s first International Dark Sky Community designation in 2001, and it is here that astronomers discovered Pluto in 1930. There is always something going on at Lowell! General Admission tickets include science talks, historical tours, open houses, and stargazing. You could truly spend an entire day exploring this world-famous observatory in the foothills of the beautiful San Francisco Peaks!
Central Arizona: the Path Less Traveled
Go off the beaten path in Central Arizona, where the opportunities for unique exploration are endless. It’s here you can become an outlaw, board a scenic train, and take a history lesson all in a single weekend.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Part of the fun of visiting Tuzigoot National Monument in Central Arizona is having the kids pronounce it. Located just outside the city of Cottonwood, this ancient 110-room pueblo offers a stunning look at the history of the American Southwest. It’s also the perfect destination for curing road trip wiggles. Stroll two short self-guided trails around the archaeological site while contemplating what it must have been like to live here in 1000 AD.
Blazin’ M Ranch
For family adventure in Arizona that combines history with a heavy dose of theatrical flair, look no further than Blazin’ M Ranch. Just ten minutes away from Tuzigoot, this recreated frontier town allows visitors to live out their wildest western dreams. The youngest cowpokes can ride behind a vintage tractor and watch puppet shows. Older ranch hands can participate in axe throwing, shooting, and (mechanical) bull riding—activities that are a hoot for adults of all ages. Afterward, a chuckwagon dinner satisfies all cravings. Dig into BBQ chicken, baby back ribs, cowboy beans, and more.
Verde Canyon Railroad
This is no carnival train ride! All aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad in Clarkdale, Arizona. This historic train glides along on a four-hour, 20-mile journey through history in Central Arizona. It’s a favorite for families, as parents get to relax and enjoy a leisurely afternoon with a glass of local wine in hand. Meanwhile, younger traveling companions can explore responsibly. From the open-air cars, children can look for eagles soaring above towering buttes and canyons and pepper knowledgeable attendants with questions. Sit back and relax while the scenery puts on a show.
Southern Arizona: Adventure Underground
The land of saguaro cactus and chimichangas also happens to be a hotspot for outdoor recreation. This hub for family adventure in Arizona packs in fishing, camping, and plenty of history—all in a driveable region for year-round fun.
Copper Mine Tour in Bisbee
Bisbee, Arizona is a can’t-miss destination in Southern Arizona for families who revel in history, art, and the occasional ghost story. Popular for curious tourists and artistic types, Bisbee is world-famous for its mining history. Make the most of your visit by booking a tour of the historical Copper Queen Mine. Journey 1,500 feet into the earth while learning about what it was like to work here from real miners. Imaginative kids may want to keep an eye out for copper and gold still lining the tunnel passage. This family adventure in Arizona is certainly one you won’t find anywhere else!
Fishing or Boating Parker Canyon Lake
For the family who loves nothing more than fresh air and wide open spaces, journey to Parker Canyon Lake in the juniper-dotted Canelo Hills of Southern Arizona. Feel the anticipation building as the cooler sloshes in the backseat on the drive in. This mile-high lake enjoys cool temperatures–up to 20 degrees cooler–than Tucson in the summer and provides ample opportunity for fishing, boating, and camping. A fully-stocked rental dock and marina store with ice cream make this a great, family-friendly basecamp for an entire weekend.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
For youth of all ages who get excited by exploring underground, Kartchner Caverns State Park delivers plenty of wonder and awe. It’s here that hikers discovered a series of caverns and tunnels–including the world’s longest stalactite formation–in 1974. Meticulously prepared for the public to protect this still-evolving ecosystem, today it is perhaps the most pristine cave in the world. After your guided tour, visit the Discovery Center where you can learn more about the friendly bat population who still dwells here today.