Kid-Friendly Arizona

From the Wild West and wildlife to child-friendly museums and the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a lot to offer families.

Three boys play football on a desert trail with the Superstition Mountains range in the background.
The Superstition Mountains and Lost Dutchman State Park (Credit: @kristilphotography)

Arizona's great outdoors for the whole family

Grand Canyon Railway

Two boys stare out the window of a train as a man on horseback rides by

"Bandits" prepare to board the train to Grand Canyon. (Credit: Xanterra Travel Collection)

Travel to the Grand Canyon in historic style aboard the vintage trains of the Grand Canyon Railway, and you won't hear the age-old question, "Are we there yet?" Strolling musicians and performers keep the kids occupied during the two-hour journey from Williams to the seventh natural wonder of the world, and "bandits" rob the train on the way back. Want more than a few hours to enjoy northern Arizona? Extend your trip with an overnight stay at the Railway's hotel in Williams.

White Mountains

Active families appreciate the wide range of activities available in the White Mountains. You can camp, hike, mountain bike, fish, horseback ride and more. But you don't have to be an outdoorsy family to have fun among the pines. Stay in a log cabin, tour local attractions such as the Show Low Historical Museum, people-watch while dining at Molly Butler Lodge & Restaurant in Greer, or even do a little shopping at one of the charming stores in Pinetop-Lakeside.

Verde River

During the warmer months of the year, spend the day with your family floating serenely along the Verde River—until one of your kids blasts you with a water gun! Unlike many river-tubing experiences, the Verde River is kid-friendly. Rent tubes and water guns from Sedona Adventure Tours, and drift from Beasley Flats Recreational Area through the lush Verde Valley. Single and double kayaks can also be rented.

Hassayampa River Preserve

A wooden bench faces a small lookout beside a lake, surrounded by green trees and shrubs.

A moment to breathe at Hassayampa River Preserve (Credit: An Pham)

For most of its 100-mile course, the Hassayampa River flows underground, but just outside Wickenburg, its clear waters emerge to create a riparian area that is home to an incredible display of wildlife. Register for a tour of the trail system or enjoy a docent-led walk through the preserve as you learn about its many inhabitants.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Fifteen minutes southeast of Tucson, in Vail, you can go underground at kid-friendly Colossal Cave, a "dry" cavern where touching the rock formations is actually encouraged on the 45-minute tour. Although the cave is the main attraction, the park also offers a butterfly garden, desert tortoise exhibit, ranch museum, gemstone sluice, and trail rides.

Kid-friendly activities in the Phoenix-area

Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs in Scottsdale is a wonderland for kids to experience prehistoric times. From guided tours and a gaming arcade to excavating fossils or building your own dino—this destination has it all. With more than 80 lifelike dinosaurs, families can experience immersive activities together. Of course, enjoy tasty treats at Pangaea Dinosaur Grill for a delicious dining experience inside the attraction.

© SEA LIFE Arizona: A group of children plays on a deck overlooking an aquatic tank filled with sea life.

See the sea life. (Photo property of SEA LIFE Arizona)

In Tempe, discover displays of starfish, stingrays, seahorses, sharks and more as they roam in different habitats throughout SEA LIFE Arizona. Explore the local ecosystem with a tour of the state's lakes, river canyons and caves before strolling through a glass tunnel walkway, which offers an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of marine life. Not to miss: the coral shoaling ring.

Channel your inner scientist at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix where kids can let their imagination soar. Whether learning about the science of bubbles to innovating their next creation in the Build It! exhibit, kids will have a blast while learning and creating. Don't forget to make a stop at the Dorrance Planetarium for an immersive art and music experience. ASC is now open seven days a week.

Arizona State Parks offers a variety of ranger-led summer activities including nighttime scorpion hunts, saguaro walks and sunset hikes at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction.

Get wild at the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park in Litchfield Park where more than 600 species are waiting to be explored across the safari park, aquarium, adventure land and the reptilian home of the dragon world. From a giraffe feeding station to a kid's petting zoo, activities for the entire family are endless.

Children play with brightly colored foam squares in a playroom as two women look on.

Imagination time at i.d.e.a. Museum (Credit: An Pham)

The I.D.E.A. Museum in Mesa recently opened its newest exhibit Robo Art on July 1. Explore a variety of hands-on activities with the HUB Gallery featuring a Junkyard Jungle and Optical Illusion activities. For kids ages four and younger, ArtVille offers a colorful socks-only space with activities like shadow dancing and color your world. The Black Light Room and Zen Den have also reopened to all ages.

The Children's Museum of Phoenix is a fun option for kids of all ages with an art studio, climber mazes, a book loft and more. Not only are there games for kids' learning and growth, but the museum also has specific play zones for those under the age of three. Visit the events page to see more back-to-school topics like a dental hygiene program to encourage kids to form good dental habits, a members-only extended hours event and of course free admission on the first Fridays of each month.

Kids will love the experience gallery at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale as they celebrate the joy of music-making while playing instruments from around the world. Additionally, you can bring your kids to the encore gallery highlighting hands-on (and safe!) instruments designed to enhance early childhood learning. Travel through the geographic galleries where kids can experience new cultures and listen to music from around the world. Plan your visit with a kid-friendly events page offering online and in-person opportunities.

Kid-friendly activities in Tucson and southern Arizona

The Children's Museum Tucson offers interactive experiences for children of all ages. Attend the "Discovery Nights" from 5-7 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month and receive half-price admission, including opportunities for bilingual (Spanish/English) programs that facilitate STEM activities for kids. On the fourth Saturday of each month, bring the entire family for the "Make It! Workshop" from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in the courtyard, where the museum provides tools such as hammers, saws, glue guns, wood slats, etc. and families can build and create their own projects. ($15 per ticket, buy one get one free).

Experience the wonder of science at The Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium with exhibits ranging from deep-sea explorer simulators to learning all about the solar system with interactive games. Step into the Eos Planetarium Theater with expanded showtimes. The museum is open Thursday-Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a full-day experience as it offers a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, aquarium and history museum all rolled into one. The zoo recently partnered with Avian Adventures for a new indoor program to meet birds of prey up close (for kids ages 8+) and speak with Raptor Free Flight trainers directly.

An elephant in a zoo enclosure faces the camera. We can see two people from behind looking back at the elephant

Face-to-face with elephants at Reid Park Zoo (Credit: Andrés Lobato)

Reid Park Zoo is offering Summer Safari Nights every Saturday evening through mid-August. Enjoy the zoo during cooler temps with live music, games and wildlife activities, on-site "Ready, Set, Rec" activities by Tucson Parks & Recreation, carousel rides, and of course food and beverage specials. Each weekend has a special theme from animal athletes to all things elephant! The offers fun walkable attractions like the temple of monkeys or the flamingo lagoon as guests enter the zoo. Open daily from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Two people walk between a row of small-engine aircraft of varying designs. Above them hang even more plans in yellow and red.

Pima Air & Space Museum (Credit: Andrés Lobato)

Pima Air & Space Museum allows you to immerse yourself in all things aviation as you roam the world’s largest aviation collections. See up close some of the fastest planes ever made, learn the history of planes from World War II and admire the giant 787—just some of the museum’s over 300 aircraft. Bring along the entire family—even Fido, as the museum is pet-friendly, too.

Step into history as you walk the dusty streets of the "town too tough to die." A visit to Tombstone begins at the O.K. Corral, where performers reenact the infamous gunfight between the Earps and Clantons. From there, tour the Tombstone Courthouse, the Bird Cage Theater or Boothill Graveyard. Add some extra fun with a trip to Bisbee, less than a half-hour away, where you can tour the Queen Mine. Kids will also enjoy the hands-on exhibits at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum.


Author and blogger Teresa Bitler contributed to this story. Bitler is the author of two guidebooks and a contributor to Fodors Arizona & The Grand Canyon.

About the Author

Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.

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