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Kid Friendly Arizona

By: Teresa Bitler

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June 29, 2011

From Wild West towns and goat farms to Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a lot to offer families.

About the author

Teresa Bitler

Teresa Bitler

Teresa Bitler is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Sunset and Valley Guide magazines. She is the author of two guidebooks, as well as four Arizona-related iPhone travel apps. She can be reached at

Grand Canyon Railway

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 Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams.

Think of Lake Powell as a 186-mile-long watery playground. You can boat, water ski, ride personal watercrafts, tube, swim and fish on this man-made waterway. Or, anchor along the nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline and explore the natural wonders of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Rent a houseboat and make a week of it, or at least a long weekend.

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 in Greer or even do a little shopping at one of the charming stores in Pinetop-Lakeside.

The Ranch at Fossil Creek

What kid — of any age — doesn’t love spending time on a farm? The Ranch at Fossil Creek isn’t any old farm, though: it’s a goat and llama farm. Make a reservation for the 4 p.m. guided tour, which includes a visit to the creamery, and don’t pass up the opportunity to assist in milking the goats.You can also sample goat cheese and fudge and maybe even help with a few farm chores.  Looking for a unique experience? Try a family-friendly hike with llamas through the adjoining Tonto National Forest.

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

For most of its 100-mile course, the Hassayampa River flows underground, but just outsideWickenburg, its clear waters emerge and create a riparian area that is home to an incredible display of wildlife. Amble along the self-guided trail system or enjoy a docent-led walk through the preserve. Kids will want to spend time at the Arthur L. Johnson Visitor Center with its interactive displays.

Sea Life Arizona Aquarium

In Tempe, discover displays of starfish, stingrays, seahorses, sharks and more as they roam in different habitats throughout Arizona’s newest aquarium. 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.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

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. Be sure to pick up a Discovery Tour map for each kid at the park entrance. The map directs you to 18 park sites. Visit them all and receive a “treasure” from the gift shop.


Step into history as you walk the dusty streets of the “town too tough to die.” A visit to Tombstone begins at the OK 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.

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