If you know Arizona as the “Grand Canyon State,” remember that this geographically diverse state boasts sprawling parks, modern ski resorts, renowned golf courses, and Native American reservations. Include the state’s stunning canyon in your itinerary, but don’t forget to enrich your Arizona family vacation by considering a few other kid-friendly tourist attractions.
1. Grand Canyon National Park
The size and shape of the dramatic Grand Canyon National Park combine to leave an impression as deep as the ancient gorge itself. The mighty Colorado River cut this red canyon over the course of millions of years, leaving behind a stunning gorge as wide as 29 km (18 mi) and as deep as 1.6 km (1 mi). Most visitors take their views from the South Rim, while the less-crowded North Rim remains reserved for those willing to either drive the 350 km (220 mi) around the canyon or take a two-day hike down the south side.
2. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Blending elements of a zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum shelters more than 230 animal species and 1,200 varieties of plants, many of which you can see by walking a network of paths intersecting almost 9 hectares (21 acres) of desert landscapes. Frequently described as the “lushest desert on earth,” this open-air museum displays the varied ecosystems of native cacti, agaves, grasslands, and yukka. Visit the zoo area to observe coyotes, bears, and mountain lions.
3. Desert Botanical Garden
A hugely popular family-friendly tourist attraction in Arizona, Desert Botanical Garden shelters over 21,000 plants. The garden also features several “shadehouses,” designed to protect sensitive plants transplanted from the less-extreme climates of Australia, South America, and California. Take a family walk through the garden and try to spot the differences between semi-desert grasslands, upland chaparral, and mesquite bosque.
4. Phoenix Zoo
The largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States, Phoenix Zoo houses over 1,400 animals and hosts a range of family-oriented events throughout the year. Renowned for its commitment to conservation, the zoo is also recognized for its themed trails, which include Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, and Children’s Trail. Don’t miss the entertaining Enchanted Forest, a kid-friendly adventure complete with its own tree house.
5. Musical Instrument Museum
To add a bit of indoor fun to your Arizona itinerary, head to Musical Instrument Museum. A collection of over 15,000 musical instruments makes this the largest museum of its kind in the world. The artist gallery houses instruments once owned by famous music icons, like Elvis Presley and John Lennon. High-resolution videos used in some displays enable visitors to see instruments from over 200 different countries played in their original context. Be sure to visit the experience gallery, where you can test your musical skills on a harp or piano.
6. Old Tucson Studios
Stroll down the streets of an Old West town at Old Tucson Studios, which provided the setting for several episodes of the iconic TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” A great addition to any Arizona trip planner, this site hosts living history demonstrations, stunt shows, and saloon dances, all designed to transport visitors back in time and experience life in 19th-century Arizona. Remember to have the family photographed dressed in Western attire.
7. Pima Air & Space Museum
Equally popular with children and adults, Pima Air & Space Museum houses a huge collection of commercial, private, and military aircraft. The museum contains about 300 craft, including the infamous supersonic SR-71 spy airplane, the world’s smallest biplane, and the aircraft that carried the Hubble Space Telescope. While there, you can also visit the standalone 390th Memorial Museum, dedicated to aircraft flown during World War II.
The Southwest’s Kid-Friendly Tourist Attractions
Tailor-made for outdoor adventures, Arizona also boasts numerous indoor attractions suitable for an entertaining family itinerary. Feel free to start your Arizona family vacation at the Grand Canyon, but don’t miss the chance to explore the state’s other notable attractions, guaranteed to delight and surprise you like few other places on earth.