One-mile deep, 277-miles long, visible from outer space and home to a small community of California condors—one of the rarest birds in the world. What kid wouldn't think the Grand Canyon is cool, or anyone for that matter?
Top all of that off with a little adventure, and you are guaranteed to maximize your family's Grand Canyon experience.
Roll on the rails
Yes, kids love Grand Canyon Railway's Christmastime Polar Express. But their regular train ride between Williams and the South Rim gets high marks, too. You'll appreciate not having to deal with driving, and the kids will love spotting wildlife such as elk, mountain lions and bald eagles through the train windows. Singing cowboys strolling among the passenger cars add to the fun of this scenic journey.
Hoof it in or explore on foot
Grand Canyon is a wonder on two legs or four. Choose the latter, and riding into the Grand Canyon on a mule is one of the most memorable experiences you can have.
On the North Rim, Canyon Trail Rides allows kids to experience the adventure with three-hour rides on the North Kaibab Trail to the Supai Tunnel. For children between 7- and 10-years, a one-hour ride along the Rim is available. Keep in mind, due to weather and terrain, the North Rim is only open from May 15 - October 15, and only for day-use until December 1 (weather permitting).
For those who prefer both feet on the ground, the Grand Canyon Conservancy's Field Institute offers kid-friendly (six and older) guided day hikes and tours from the South Rim. The hike starts at the top of Bright Angel Trail. Along the way, the guide gives short geology and history lessons, the latter of which is "illustrated" by trailside rock paintings from the canyon's early inhabitants.
Older children and teens can take their journey further on a multi-day hiking trip with companies such as Cobalt Escapes that offers a 1-4 day trip year-round from the South Rim.
Become a Junior Ranger
If you have children between the ages of 4 and 14, they can become a Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger and earn a badge and certificate by completing a list of activities in the park.
Rangers-in-training can pick up their own Junior Ranger activity book at any of the park's visitor centers, or one of the bookstores operated by the Grand Canyon Conservancy. Activities will get you out in the park, learning about the area's nature and history while you explore. (Online activity books are also available for those unable to make the trip to Arizona.)
The ranger program includes activities for the North and South rims, as well as for those hiking or riding a mule to Phantom Ranch.
Cycle around the canyon
Bicyclists can pedal all of the park's roads, as well as the Hermit Road Greenway Path. In fact, by bike or park shuttle is the only way visitors are allowed to cruise the historic—and incredibly scenic—Hermit Road.
To get rolling, rent a bike for as little as an hour or as long as a full day from Bright Angel Bicycles and Café at Mather Point on the South Rim. Rentals are available for adults and kids, ages 8 or older. If your tykes are really young, Bright Angel Bicycles also rents bicycle trailers.
Note: While all of the park's roads and the Hermit Road Greenway Trail are open to bicyclists, the park's trails only allow foot traffic (no wheels).
See it on the big screen
There's a reason Grand Canyon: The Movie is the longest-running IMAX film of all time: it's awesome!
In front of a six-story screen, encircled by 12,000 watts of digital surround sound, soar over the rim of the canyon and down into the roaring rapids of the Colorado River. Even the most active kids can't help but sit at attention, all the while soaking up a host of interesting Grand Canyon facts. The 34-minute film plays every hour on the half-hour at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center - IMAX Theater.
Hover above the West Rim
Known as Grand Canyon West, the western part of the canyon is not technically part of the national park, though no less grand. From the South Rim, it's roughly 255 miles or 5.5-hours to Grand Canyon West, which features a zip line, cabins, river rafting tours (through Hualapai River Runners), and the iconic Grand Canyon Skywalk.
The Skywalk has become such a part of the larger Grand Canyon experience, it's difficult to believe the glass-bottomed, U-shaped observation deck has been open only since 2007. Jutting 70-feet over the West Rim—which drops 4,000 feet straight down to the Colorado River below—the Skywalk offers amazing views and is a photo-op must.
Come sunset, enjoy another Grand Canyon West adventure at Apache Stables. Hitch a one-hour ride on a horse-drawn wagon that ends around a campfire. Bring along s'mores ingredients for a trail's-end fireside treat.
Skip to the front of the line
If you're traveling to the canyon through Flagstaff, stop at the Flagstaff Visitor Center. As the kids explore the historic train station the visitor center occupies, you can pre-purchase your park pass and get the latest Grand Canyon news.
With your pass already in hand, once you reach the South Rim you can use the pre-paid entrance lane, bypassing the often-long line of cars waiting to purchase passes at the gate.