Arizona with Kids

Colorado River
••• National Park Service

From ghost towns and historic railways to caves, canyons, and plush oasis-like resorts, Arizona has a lot for families to love.

The Old West of the Westerns

Arizona's Monument Valley defined the landscape for Westerns, beginning in 1939 when director John Ford made "Stagecoach" starring John Wayne. Nearly 500,000 people travel each year to the Navajo Reservation to see Monument Valley's towers of rocks.

Another icon of the Old West is Tombstone, Arizona, "the town too tough to die," At the O.K. Corral you can walk where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday had a famous gunfight, and maybe even see a re-enactment too.

Dude Ranches

Arizona has long been a popular destination for dude ranches. One that we particularly like, Ranchos de los Caballeros, is a low-key authentic "ranch resort" (which means you can expect golf and spa, in addition to horseback riding), with 60 years of dude ranch history.

Natural Wonders

Prescott National Forest has mountains, desert grasslands, chaparral, and place names like Lonesome Pocket and Horsethief Basin. The giant saguaro cactus can be seen in abundance at Saguaro National Monument, while Petrified Forest National Monument contains vast areas of petrified logs that were living trees before the dinosaurs.

Of course, the granddaddy of Arizona's natural wonders is the Grand Canyon, which was created 5 to 20 million years ago through erosion by the Colorado River.

Native American Culture

Awesome in the true sense of the word, Canyon de Chelly, (pronounced "Chey") is near Chinle, in the heart of the Navajo Nation. Centuries ago, the Anasazi (Old Ones) lived in this Canyon. Today, the Navajo keep sheep on the Canyon floor. Visitors can drive on the rim and peer down at overlooks, or descend by hiking, horseback riding, or jeep tours.

Without a guide, visitors can only go into the canyon on the White House Trail, which leads down to the ancient White House Ruins. The hike is steep at times, but very beautiful. If there's water in the Creek at the bottom, the kids can wade.

Arizona Caves

Kids love caves, and Arizona has some great ones: Colossal Caves, near Tucson; Grand Canyon Caverns; and Kartchner Caverns, a state park.

Baseball Spring Training

Every spring, the Cactus League welcomes MLB teams to the Phoenix-Scottsdale area for pre-season spring training. Games are more low-key and less commercialized than the regular season. Tickets are less expensive and ballparks are smaller and more intimate, providing a more relaxed atmosphere as well as opportunities to get up close to the action and even get the chance to meet players and ask for autographs.

Man-Made Attractions

Improbable though it is, the famous London Bridge was moved and reconstructed at Lake Havasu City, and about one and a half million tourists a year come to see it and the English Village built nearby.

Two man-made reservoirs, Lake Havasu and Lake Mead, are both popular house boating destinations.

Arizona Resorts

  • The Pointe South Mountain Resort, fifteen minutes from the Phoenix airport, made itself a magnet for families by building The Oasis, its own private 6-acre water park, golf, and hiking, too.

    This brief profile is meant to introduce these destinations to family vacationers; please note that the writer has not visited all these destinations in person. And always check web sites for updates.

    - Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher