One of the trips I still take every year is one with my family to visit the Grand Canyon. This has been a long standing tradition, as my parents were always insistent that my sister and I immerse ourselves in the culture of our home state, from the scenic trails of the Grand Canyon Railway to the highest point of Desert Viewpoint Watchtower. Of course, it didn’t hurt that a trip to the Grand Canyon is just about one of the most entertaining things you can do in Arizona as a family—at any age!

The Grand Canyon Railway

Beginning in 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway connected Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Growing up, exploring The Grand Canyon train depot once we arrived was always a favorite activity. It wasn’t until I was older that I truly appreciated the beauty that passengers can see on that train ride. When you arrive, take in the Grand Canyon’s splendor with a guided tour so you can learn more about the mystique of this natural wonder.

A ride on the railway and a guided tour are best complimented by including a pit stop at the historic El Tovar Hotel, perched atop the canyon. Take in the panoramic views while delighting in a glass of chardonnay paired alongside decadent Andouille Cornbread Stuffed Quail.

Yavapai Observation Station

A journey to the South Rim isn’t complete without at least one trip to the Yavapai Observation Station. Built in 1928 for the sole purpose of studying Grand Canyon geography, the museum houses photographs, awe-inspiring artwork and to-scale models of the canyon.

Enhance the experience by taking a journey through geological time with each rock layer of the topographic model at the Yavapai Museum. With added context and historical insight, you can truly appreciate the Grand Canyon in its entirety. When I visit this place I am reminded that we can easily overlook the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Desert View Watchtower

Desert Watchtower- with Frames.jpgBefore our trip is over, my family and I always plan to visit the Desert View Watchtower, also located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Although designed to resemble the Ancient Pueblo watchtowers, the size of this watchtower is massive compared to any known Pueblan structures.

The tower offers views in the east of the Painted Desert and the Colorado River and on a clear day, you can see over 100 miles out on the horizon. It’s difficult to believe that these are things most people only learn about in textbooks at school, I feel so lucky that every year I get to experience this firsthand with my family.

I never fail to have a great time exploring the Grand Canyon and its vast beauty year after year. I find that I always learn something new and still marvel at the breathtaking beauty of this magical place. It is when I escape the hustle and bustle of the city and dive deep into the crux of Arizona’s history that my vacation truly feels complete.

Stephanie S. is a native Arizonan and avid traveler, from the grandest of canyons to the smallest of towns all across the state.