For a family destination that doesn’t disappoint, head to Arizona with kids. Arizona encompasses a beautifully diverse range of climates, landscapes, and attractions, but where do you begin?
As a native Arizonan, I’ve seen a lot of the beautiful places Arizona has to offer, so I’m sharing some of the state’s best natural wonders and scenic drives. The Grand Canyon State has so many attractions that are worth visiting. Use this Arizona travel guide to help plan your trip!
Fun Things to do in Arizona with kids
Where else in the country can you drive for four hours and pass a sprawling saguaro studded desert, followed by snow-capped mountains? In Arizona there’s never a shortage of spectacular scenery or memorable things to do. This list includes some of the best vacation spots around the state, so find one that appeals to you and start working on your Arizona bucket list!
Things to do in Northern Arizona
1. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
If you are short on time, you could spend just 3 to 4 hours driving through Monument Valley, visiting its main sites. The breathtaking view that featured in the film Forrest Gump is just a 20-minute drive from the visitor center, and the Valley Drive loop, which is a 17-mile road that gives you a quick tour of some of the most scenic parts of the valley. Be sure to check the website before visiting as you will need a permit to explore the park.
2. Grand Canyon Sky Walk
There are three viewpoints to visit when you take the shuttle bus to the Sky Walk. The first is Eagle Point, and the last is Guano Point. In between these, you visit the Sky Walk, this is a U shaped glass bridge at Grand Canyon West. On the glass-bottomed platform visitors are suspended 4000 feet above the Colorado River. This is not a place for those who don’t like heights!
3. Grand Canyon National Park
When families travel to Northern Arizona, they tend to head to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, located about 90 minutes from Flagstaff. Start at the Visitor Center where you can grab a map of the park, or hop on a park shuttle. Walking distance from the visitor center is Mather Point with scenic views of the canyon’s colorful rock layers. Popular Grand Canyon hikes with kids include the Shoshone Point Trail and Bright Angel Point Trail (although there are some dangerous drop offs, so be mindful of children).
The North Rim is typically open mid-May to mid-October, but closed the rest of the year. If you want to avoid the crowds this might be the place to go since only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors go to the northern side of the canyon. Bright Angel Point is one of the shortest trails here, and the Cape Royal trail is good for families with strollers.
4. Grand Canyon Railway
Train enthusiasts need to add this journey to their Arizona bucket list. Take a scenic train ride from Williams to the Grand Canyon National Park. The trip takes a little more than two hours, and gives visitors time to read, sightsee or just relax and enjoy the entertainment provided on the train ride. It offers an opportunity to see the natural beauty of northern Arizona that is inaccessible by car.
5. Petrified Forest National Park
Of the three National Parks in Arizona, Petrified Forest is the least visited, but it shouldn’t be. There are two popular attractions here are the colorful petrified trees that fell 225 million years ago, and the stunning hills of the Painted Desert. The Blue Forest Hike is a 3-mile round trip that will show you these amazing blue, pink and purple hills, with petrified wood scattered around, glittering with quartz crystals. It’s the perfect place to explore with kids as they will be mesmerized around every turn.
6. Havasu Falls
This is one of the most beautiful spots on my Arizona bucket list, and it’s an absolute must! It’s not an easy one to tick off, but it is worth it. Permits are available from the 1st February every year from the Official Havasupai Tribe website. The minimum stay is 3 days and 4 nights, which you will need, as the falls sit a 10-mile hike from the starting point in Peach Springs. Trust me, it’s worth it!
7. Walnut Canyon
You won’t need long to visit Walnut Canyon, however, you will need a good level of fitness. To reach the Island Trail you will need to go down a long set of stairs, there are benches now and then so you can take a breather along the way. Once you get to the 0.75-mile loop, it’s worth it. You’ll see beautiful landscapes, and the cliff dwellings previously used by the Sinagua people.
8. Sunset Crater
The landscape around this meteor crater remains flat, windy, and nearly treeless due to a gigantic meteor that crashed there sometime between 1040 and 1100 AD. There are several hiking trails you can choose from, including the Lava Flow Trail, which takes you the closest you can get to the crater itself. Sunset Crater is open all year round, however, it does get snowy in the winter, so try to plan a visit in the warmer months.
9. Wupatki National Monument
This is one of the most unique places to see how Native Americans lived in Northern Arizona. It is a collection of dozens of Pueblo villages that have long been abandoned, but not forgotten. Families can explore the ancient structures and learn about the Hopi and Zuni lived and farmed this area.
10. Hoover Dam
This is a great stop if you’re taking an Arizona road trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas, or if you want a day trip from Las Vegas. Hoover Dam is an amazing example of engineering and nature coming together. It’s perfect for stunning views and learning about hydro-electricity, you can also stop by Lake Mead for fishing and water sports.
The Dam is just as impressive from land and air. If you’re taking a tour of the Grand Canyon, some combination tours will take you to both in one day.
11. Horseshoe Bend
These are all in close proximity to one another and can be done in a couple of days if you’re planning an Arizona road trip. Horseshoe Bend has probably appeared as an automated screen saver on a device of yours. The giant rock has been eroded by water to form a bend in the Colorado River. You only need an hour or two to tick this off your list.
12. Glen Canyon Dam
Head over to Glen Canyon Dam Overlook once you’ve been to Horseshoe Bend, it’s just before the dam crossing and gives you some more amazing views of the Colorado River.
13. Lake Powell
Lake Powell is a great place to get out in the water any time of year. There are night time boat cruises, kayaks to rent, and beaches for swimming. Consider renting a boat if you want to explore on your own.
14. Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is another place you may have seen in pictures. It’s a stunning maze of red rock slot canyons that all ages will love exploring. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area so you will need to book a tour in advance. Tours are operated by the Navajo Nation and you are unable to explore on your own.
15. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
If you can’t get a tour for Antelope Canyon, try exploring nearby Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The colors and rock formations here are stellar, but you must have permits to hike “The Wave” (Coyote Buttes North) and Coyote Buttes South. Vermillion Cliffs is managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and there is no visitors center on site.
Nature lovers looking to explore this area should consider staying a couple of nights in Page, Arizona. The town is a short drive from all of these attractions.
North Central and Eastern Arizona
Once a mining town, Jerome is now a magnet for tourists. Today visitors ascend the narrow road on Cleopatra Hill to get an inkling of how miners lived 100 years ago.
The city was once an abandoned ghost town, but today many of the buildings have been converted into shops. You’ll find pottery, jewelry, antiques, restaurants, and even accommodations. Jerome is a perfect stop between Sedona and Prescott.
17. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
You can enjoy this Arizona bucket list item in the car or on foot, as there are two great car routes and some hiking trails. The main car route takes you around the canyon to Spider Rock Overlook, so you can get a great look at the formations that make this place so beautiful.
There’s also a 130-mile loop for hikers and bikers. This drive takes you past corn fields, trees, and up to the canyon for a bird’s eye view.
18. Montezuma Castle National Monument
This prehistoric Indian ruin is a twenty room five-story stone masonry structure, tucked under a cliff overhang about 100 feet above Beaver Creek. Although you can no longer enter the Castle, there is a ⅓ mile loop walk that gives you great views of it and the creek.
19. Devil’s Bridge Trail
This popular Sedona trail takes you to the famous red sandstone arch, Devils Bridge. Walk over the rocky bridge as you look out to the breathtaking views of the landscape.
20. Oak Creek Canyon
This is a great stop for an Arizona road trip. The hairpin turns and dizzying heights are for the more experienced driver, and of course, make sure you visit during daylight to make it easier. Allow time for multiple stops to take in the different views, as this popular destination is not one to be rushed.
21. Slide Rock State Park
One of my favorite places to visit as a kid was Slide Rock in Sedona. This natural waterslide runs 80 feet along Oak Creek, and kids will have a blast riding it over and over again. Note, the rocks are covered in algae and can be very slippery, so be very cautious while walking on them.
22. Chapel of The Holy Cross in Sedona
A definite must-see on every tourist’s list the Chapel is an architectural wonder. Completed in 1956 it was meant to be sent to Budapest to be built, however, the designer decided to build it into a thousand-foot rock wall.
23. Cathedral Rock
This sandstone butte is one of the most famous landmarks in Sedona and is known for its energy vortex. Visitors come from far and wide to experience the spiritual energy here. The trail here is a rather easy 1.5 miles with a minimal elevation change, making it perfect for families. Cathedral Rock is visible from most of the surround area and those climbing are rewarded with some stunning red rock views.
Another idea is to book one of the Sedona jeep tours for a completely different perspective of the town’s popular rock formations.
In Prescott visitors find a hint of the old cowboy life, a touch of the frontier past, and a retreat into the mountains. Families can explore town, visit the many lakes to cool off, or visit the Constellation Trail System, a 3.5 loop that takes you away from the busy town.
At the end of the day, head to Whisky Row for the bustling restaurants, bars, and live music. These bars are saloons from the 1800s so keep your eye out for the local cowboys.
25. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park in Payson
A paved road descends into Pine Creek Canyon where mineral springs have created the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. From the bridge you can see into the cave where David Gowan, the man who discovered the area, lived in hiding.
The springs flow to this day and visitors can view the 400-foot long arch from an observation deck or hike down under it.
Phoenix and surrounding suburbs (Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert)
The greater Phoenix area is known as the Valley of the Sun and families could easily spend a week or more exploring everything. There are stunning resorts, golf courses, art galleries, historic sites, and plenty of outdoor adventure families are sure to love.
26. The Heard Museum
Located in the heart of Phoenix, the Heard Museum is internationally renowned for its extensive collections of Native American artifacts. They have more than 32,000 works of art and other objects, plus a variety of interactive exhibits.
27. The Phoenix Zoo
This is Arizona’s largest zoological park and one of my all time favorite places to visit in Phoenix with kids. The zoo houses more than 1300 animals and birds. Visitors can view the international collections of animals including 200 endangered or threatened animals in their natural habitats like the White Rhinoceros.
28. Heritage Square and Arizona Science Center
Located in downtown Phoenix in the Heritage and Science Park, families will love exploring Heritage Square and the Arizona Science Center. Take a guided tour of the Rosson House Museum, a fully-restored 1895 Queen Anne Victoria house, and then head to The Bungalow where you will find beautiful products handmade by locals.
Across the way you will find the Arizona Science Center, a truly interactive museum where kids can play for hours. This is one of our favorite things to do in Phoenix when we visit the grandparents!
29. Camelback Mountain
This is a strenuous, steep hike, but worth it for the views. Best done with lots of water and older kids, but the end result is truly rewarding!
30. Papago Park
This makes a great pit stop on an Arizona road trip, it’s so easy to do it should make it onto your bucket list. The “Hole in the Rock” is a natural formation of just that, a hole in a rock. It’s a short walk up to the hole, but when you get there it frames the view of the valley perfectly. It’s conveniently located down the street from the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden.
31. Desert Botanical Garden
Visitors enjoy over 50,000 plants on display in the various gardens via nature walks. They offer some fantastic programs for kids and teens too. It’s the perfect spot for a day of outdoor exploring and learning with the family.
32. Superstition Mountains
If your family is into hiking, you can’t leave this off your Arizona bucket list. Will one of the trails lead to the legendary gold hidden by minor Jacob Waltz, also known as The Lost Dutchman?
There are tons of routes to take, but I’d recommend the Wave Cave route. It’s 3 miles long, and the wave-shaped rock looks over the incredible desert landscape.
33. Canyon Lake
Forty eight miles from Phoenix there’s a reservoir created by the damming of the Salt River, Canyon Lake. This is a popular recreation destination for families in the East Valley, and you will find them boating, water skiing, and swimming on any given weekend.
Take a tour of the lake on the Dolly Steamboat, a sightseeing and dinner cruise through the canyon. There are several tours to choose from, you can sightsee, dine and even stargaze.
34. Musical Instrument Museum
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix is the largest collection of musical instruments in the world. There are over 14,000 instruments and kids can attempt to play dozens of them while learning about the role of music in cultures around the world.
35. Major League Baseball Spring Training
Every year from February to March, Major League Baseball teams gather in the Valley of the Sun for spring training games. Ball parks are smaller and more intimate than MLB stadiums, so it’s the perfect opportunities for kids to get autographs and up close with the players.
Tucson and Southern Arizona
36. Saguaro National Park
This park has the greatest stands of saguaro cactus in the state. These unique cactus only grow in the Sonoran Desert. The best time to visit is between November and April. As it’s cooler, the park is much more enjoyable, and it’s also when the Rangers organize most activities.
Note: There are two sides of Saguaro National Park, the East and the West. There are fewer cactus in the eastern district, but it has fewer crowds, so it just depends on what you are looking for.
37. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is many museums in one. There’s a zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, and natural history museum. Kids will love the animals and you could easily spend half a day exploring.
38. Pima Air and Space Museum
More than two hundred and seventy planes including World War II vintage fighters and bombers draw visitors from around the world. One of the best things is meeting the veterans who volunteer at the museum. Many of them can answer questions and kids will love hearing them share their combat stories.
Make sure to check their calendar of events, they have an annual Paper Airplane Fly-Off!
39. Kitt Peak National Observatory
Tucson is a dark sky city that has been limiting its light pollution for as long as I can remember. This makes the city and the surrounding area the perfect place for stargazing. Visitors can explore the grounds of the observatory, or join in a tour or night time programming.
40. Mission San Xavier del Bac
The San Xavier Mission was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino. Families can visit the historic mission that was built between 1792 and 1797. It is the oldest European built structure in Arizona and it’s simply breathtaking to explore.
41. Mount Lemmon
If you’re visiting Tucson with kids, don’t miss a chance to drive to Mount Lemmon. Mount Lemmon is only an hour away from the city, but at 9,000 feet in elevation it’s often 30 degrees cooler than the city below. Families can hike, explore the local shops and restaurants, and even camp. Be sure to dress in layers and if it’s winter, you may be lucky and see snow!
42. Sabino Canyon
Another area that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts in Sabino Canyon. Families can hike the trails, keep an eye out for local wildlife (Gila monsters and bobcats are natives), or ride the Sabino Canyon Crawler and take in the views
43. Tanque Verde Falls
This popular hiking trail east of Tucson offers some of the most beautiful waterfalls in southern Arizona. The hike is 1.8 miles ones way and families will be rewarded with stunning waterfall views. Go chase those waterfalls!
44. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Located near Arizona’s border with Mexico, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument showcases the unique Organ Pipe cactus and other native flora and fauna. Bring the kids and explore the desert trails.
45. Chiricahua National Monument
This national monument is off the beaten path, but it’s worth a visit. The park is known for its unusual vertical rock formations and kids will love scrambling over them and exploring or simply driving through the dramatic structures.
46. Kartchner Caverns
These enormous limestone caverns contain an impressive array of colorful mineral formations that have been developing for around 20,000 years.
Take a tour to go deep into the caverns, learn about the ecosystem, the bats who live there, and the fossils of those who used to call it home.
47. Tumacácori National Historical Park
If your family loves history, a trip to the Tumacácori National Historical Park should be on your Arizona bucket list. This is the place where the native O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people interacted with Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, setters, and soldiers.
The self-guided mission tour will show you the lifestyle of those who lived there. From the church to working in the fields, kids will learn a lot about the way of life for our ancestors.
Formed in 1879 as a silver boomtown, many of the famous places such as the O.K. Corral and Boothill Graveyard remain today.
You can truly step back in time to when cowboys roamed the streets and wagons graced the roads. There are even bullet holes left in the side of saloon bars from the 1800s.
Yuma and Western Arizona
49. Yuma Territorial Prison
Originally built in 1876 as the Arizona Territorial Prison, this building housed more than 3,000 criminals who served time in this desert Alcatraz.
Today visitors can roam the prison and peer inside the dark cells, learn about the stories of inmates, and even take a look at how the prison hospital worked.
50. Lake Havasu City and London Bridge
Set on the Colorado Rivers eastern bank, Lake Havasu City and London Bridge attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. The lake is 45 miles long and the bridge was originally built in the 1840s.
So there you have a very long list of things to add to your Arizona bucket list. We promise once you visit Arizona with kids you’ll want to return time and time again!