best vacation spots in arizona – Arizona’s heart of the American Southwest is full of natural wonders, vibrant cities, and charming small towns. The Grand Canyon draws tourists from all over the world, but those who venture deeper into the state will find all kinds of unique sights and exciting sites. While cities like Phoenix and Sedona are great vacation destinations, you can go beyond the urban centers to discover Native American dwellings and remnants of ancient cultures, historic ghost towns from the days of mining, and scenery perfect for outdoor adventures. Arizona is home to deserts, lakes, mountains, slot canyons, saguaro cacti, buttes, waterfalls, and even a volcano with downhill skiing, all of which offer a world of possibilities for travelers.
Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, looking out over endless ridges of colorful cliffs and deep ravines, it’s impossible not to be inspired by this natural wonder. The canyon walls shimmer in the afternoon sun, revealing orange, red, and yellow hues and everything in between. One of the biggest attractions in America, and certainly in the state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is nothing short of spectacular. This incredible landscape has been carved by the Colorado River, seen in the distance far below.
Most visitors view the canyon from the South Rim, where numerous lookout areas along the highway and trails run along the canyon’s rim. The North Rim offers a different view altogether, but the course is closed in the winter. For those wanting a closer look, it is possible to hike up to the Grand Canyon or take a helicopter flight over and through the canyon.
Sedona is located between Yavapai and Coconino counties in the Northern Verde region of Arizona, United States. The city is named for Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly, a renowned city pioneer (1877-1950).
If you’re interested in learning about the state’s past, you can visit the Sedona Heritage Museum to learn more about the city’s pioneers. The museum is open every day of the week from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. to 3:00 p.m. m.
After learning about the city’s history, you can take your kids to one of Sedona’s four main hotspots or natural vortexes. A vortex, in this context, refers to a landmass that releases energy into the atmosphere.
You can find the primary vortices in the city at Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, Boynton, and Bell Rock. Although each vortex radiates its unique energy, going on a hike to any of them will allow your children to experience the energetic vibrations of the red rocks.
Suppose your children feel hot while on the red rocks. In that case, you can take them swimming at Grasshopper Point Swim and Picnic Area, Desert Quail Inn Sedona Bellrock, Sedona Athletic Club, or any nearby swimming facility where they can cool off enjoy various water sports.
Don’t leave town without taking your kids on a wildlife exploration safari through Red Rock State Park. Here, your children will enjoy observing fascinating wildlife such as mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, javelina, and other wildlife in the local Sedona Nature Preserve. Also, you can see the fantastic views of the red rocks.
Also, don’t end your trip without choosing art to take home from Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village for your kids. After all, you’ll need something memorable to celebrate your Sedona vacation. If the kids aren’t crazy about local art, you can buy them a piece to take home at Garland’s Indian Jewelry.
After spending the day exploring new places, your kids must be ravenously hungry. You can take them to recharge at Mesa Grill or Golden Goose American Grill, where they can enjoy local and international cuisine.
During the visit, you can stay at Los Abrigados Resort & Spa. In addition to accommodation, you will enjoy quality food and body massages offered by the resort.
One of the most iconic images of the Southwest is the sandstone ridges that dominate Monument Valley. This area, which straddles the Arizona-Utah border, includes jagged rock formations, stone spires and ridges, and dunes. At the heart of the valley is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, where you’ll find an impressive visitor center and a 17-mile highway along a one-way gravel road through the park. You can also take a guided tour to explore the area further. If you don’t have time to enter the park, you can appreciate some of the views from the highway.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a stunning region of blue waters, desert scenery, and spectacular rock walls. Home to Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States, this area is known for land and water recreation.
The Glen Canyon Dam was built between 1956 and 1964 to block the Colorado River and create Lake Powell. There is still a 15-mile section of Glen Canyon downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, extending from the dam to Lees Ferry.
The town of Page is a good base for exploring Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the surrounding region. The largest marina on Lake Powell, Wahweap Marina, is just 7 miles north of Page. However, one of the biggest attractions in the area is the nearby slot canyons of Antelope Canyon. Depending on the section of the canyon, visitors can simply walk through a narrow slot canyon with beams of light penetrating the top, illuminating the red walls, or pushing into a canyon. Photos of Antelope Canyon are often found on postcards or in fine art galleries. In addition, visitors can visit Antelope Canyon on a guided tour.
Phoenix is your place to visit if you’re looking for a fun-filled getaway destination for people of all ages. You’ll find Phoenix in the Maricopa County of south-central Arizona, United States.
Once you land in the city’s heart, you’ll qualify for the opportunity to explore the Desert Botanical Gardens at 1201 North Galvin Parkway with your children. Here, your children will enjoy walking along the paths that run through different species of trees, flowers, and cacti throughout the garden. In addition, you can ask the gardeners for a bouquet to take home for each of your children.
The garden’s botanicals also provide a great focal point for family photos and videos. After all, you’ll need something memorable to mark your Phoenix Botanical Gardens vacation.
In addition to the botanical sights, your kids can also enjoy cooking demonstrations and other live concerts offered in the lush botanical garden.
From Desert Botanical Gardens, you can take your kids for a hike on Camelback Mountain at 5700 North Echo Canyon Parkway. Here, your children will enjoy aerial views of Scottsdale and the cities of Phoenix.
You can reach the top of the mountain via the 1.5 hiking trail, which is moderately steep to give your kids an easy climbing experience. Other beginner trails will get you to the top.
If your kids don’t love botany, maybe seeing wildlife will touch their hearts. So take them to the Phoenix Zoo at 455 North Galvin Parkway, where they’ll delight in seeing various wildlife, including Sumatran tigers, Galapagos tortoises, Asian elephants, baboons, Komodo dragons, and Galapagos tortoises, among others.
If you’re tired of walking, you can take the youngsters on the 25-minute narrated train safari, which will give the kids a good orientation of the zoo.
Alternatively, you can take your children to the Museum of Musical Instruments at 4725 East Mayo Blvd. Here they will enjoy experimenting with over 6,000 musical instruments under the guidance of an expert. There are also plenty of live concerts that you can enjoy watching with your kids.
During your trip, you can stay and dine at Four Points by Sheraton Phoenix South Mountain or any other local budget hotel.
Hoover Dam is one of the great engineering wonders of the world. This massive structure, completed in 1935, crosses the Colorado River, which links Arizona and Nevada. It is 726 feet tall and 1,244 feet long. Lake Mead, held back by the Hoover Dam, is the largest man-made lake in the United States. It is 110 miles long and has two years’ worth of flow from the Colorado River.
Visitors can drive or walk across the dam for free, although there is a parking charge. Another option is to take a tour of the Hoover Dam or Powerplant. On-site is the visitor center, with information about the dam and tours, and a cafeteria with some basic food options.
Situated along a mountainside high above the desert floor, Jerome is a former mining town, turned ghost town, turned tourist attraction. The main street through town is a steep, curvy hill, where visitors will find interesting shops and restaurants. The views from the roads and some of the storefronts are incredible. Many old buildings have been renovated, but some remain in ruins, creating a fascinating dynamic. This city is a popular day trip from Sedona, Prescott, Phoenix, or Flagstaff. There is also accommodation for those who want to spend the night. The city’s history can be seen at the Gold King Mine Museum and Jerome State Historic Park.
This city is unique, to say the least, and has many exciting and quirky sites. The Sliding Jail in Jerome was initially built around 1928. Built on a layer of clay, it soon began to slide and is now 2,500 feet from its original location. The Jerome Grand Hotel, built in 1927, is the tallest public building in the Verde Valley and offers stunning views. The Hotel Bartlett was once one of the best hotels in Jerome, but today it is in ruins.
Near Supai on the Havasupai Indian Reservation is the 100-foot Havasu Falls. The pools at the base of Havasu Falls have a bluish-green tint to the water, and the fall forks, so it looks like there are two falls when the river flows hard. In the canyon of Havasu Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, some 450 Havasupai Indians (the “people of the blue-green water”) live a secluded life, subsisting on their modest farming activities but now relying mainly on the tourist trade. In this heavenly valley, Havasu has created a series of waterfalls and basins carved into the travertine rock that form attractive bathing pools in this sacred valley.
Day tours are not allowed here. Instead, visitors must make reservations, obtain a permit, and pay a fee. Access is through a long walk, on horseback or mule, or by helicopter.
Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to spectacular Native American cliff dwellings along steep-sided canyons, with walls up to 1,000 feet high. Some of the main attractions in the main canyon are the White House Ruins, built around 1050 and discovered in 1849, and Spider Rock. The White House is the best-known of over one hundred cliff dwellings. The only self-guided hike in the park, starting from the White House Overlook on the South Rim, descends 600 feet to the White House Ruins. Other cliff dwellings include Antelope House and Mummy Cave (where mummies were found) in the Canyon of the Dead. Most of the ruins, mainly inaccessible to visitors, were occupied from around 350 to 1300 AD.
You can tour the site on your own by driving along the north and south rim drives and stopping at exits. Although you can quickly see nearby ruins, many overlooks also have scopes that allow you to locate the ruins on distant walls. In addition, you can join a ranger-led hike or take a private canyon tour from spring through fall.
On the southern tip of Arizona, near the Mexican border, is one of Arizona’s most exciting cities and possibly one of its best-kept secrets. The old mining town of Bisbee is a unique little community high up in the mountains.
After the mines closed, Bisbee became a ghost town, and settlers moved in. Eventually, the city became a haven for artists and hippies. Today, it’s a thriving little town with an eclectic mix of residents, unique shops and restaurants, and lots of exciting things to see and do. Homes, many of which are former miners’ shacks, line the hills surrounding the historic downtown area. Many of these residences are only accessible via long stairs leading to the city center. The views from the upper streets and hillside homes are incredible, with views across the mountains to Mexico. In addition, there are several informal hiking trails in the hills above the city.
Bisbee is a popular day trip from Tucson and surrounding areas, often combined with a stop in Tombstone.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead National Recreation Area encompasses 177 miles of the Colorado River and includes Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. The 1.5 million acre area extends into southern Nevada.
The area offers boating and water sports, camping facilities, fishing, and hiking. Lake Mohave is 67 miles long, making it the smaller of the two leading lakes in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Like its counterpart, Lake Mohave is a man-made body of water held back by Davis Dam. Willow Beach is a small resort town on the Colorado River with lodging, restaurants, a marina, and a fish hatchery.
Tombstone offers a modern take on an Old West town. Street shootouts and characters walking around town in period costumes re-enact the glory days of this small Arizona town. Every store, restaurant, and attraction is designed with tourists in mind. However, you can still see some of the city’s history at historic sites, including the famous O.K. Corral and Boothill Cemetery. Also of note is the Tombstone Courthouse State Historical Park, located in the original courthouse, which is now a museum.
Petrified Forest National Park
Large chunks of petrified wood, along with fossilized plants, fish, and reptiles, have been revealed in great numbers in what is now the Petrified National Forest in the Painted Desert. The park access road allows visitors to overlook many of the highlights, and short interpretive trails allow for an up-close look at various unique sights. The Visitor Center provides information on the ecology and geology of the park and is a good place to start before heading out on the trail.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is a great place to experience the desert landscape around Tucson and see the famous Saguaro cacti up close. The park has two sections, an eastern portion and a western part, located on the east and west side of Tucson, approximately 30 minutes apart. Both offer excellent opportunities to view desert flora and fauna with walking paths and trails. Hikes range from easy walks to challenging trails that lead into the high mountains, reaching up to 8,000 feet in height. Visitors can visit both sections of the park on the same admission or park ticket.
Antelope Canyon on Page
As seen in countless photographs in galleries throughout Arizona, Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located just outside of Page. Sculpted and twisted sandstone walls rise around you, with shafts of light opening from the narrow space above as you walk through the canyon. Visitors can visit Upper Antelope Canyon on a guided tour, though once you reach the canyon, you’ll have plenty of free time to explore on your own and at your own pace. The canyon is within the boundary of the Navajo Nation reservation.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an International Biosphere Reserve located in southwestern Arizona, on the border with Mexico. The main feature is the organ cactus with the same name, but the area is home to three distinct zones of desert vegetation and 30 species of cacti. Organ pipes grow up to 23 feet tall and bloom from May to July. However, it opens its flowers only after sunset due to extreme heat.
The area can be explored on various trails and hiking trails, but the two main scenic drives are Ajo Mountain Drive and Puerto Blanco Drive. You can access the hiking trails on both of these roads.
Tumacacori National Historical Park
Tumacacori National Historical Park, located south of Tucson, preserves the ruins of three early Spanish colonial missions on 47 acres in southern Arizona. San José de Tumacácori and Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi were established in 1691 and are the two oldest missions in Arizona. The third mission, San Cayetano de Calabazas, was established in 1756. The site was abandoned in 1848 due to Apache raids, abandonment, and terrible winter. Tumacacori became a national monument in 1908, and the two Spanish missions, Guevavi and Calabazas, were added to the site in 1990.
The following family getaway destination on our list is the city of Flagstaff, located in Coconino County in northern Arizona. Flagstaff is a frequent spot for college students looking for the services and products offered at the boutiques, bookstores, and breweries in the city’s heart.
However, that doesn’t exclude kids from visiting, and it’s definitely on our list as one of the best places to vacation in Arizona with kids, as Flagstaff has something for people of all ages. For example, you can take your kids on an exploratory walk through the Coconino National Forest, where they’ll enjoy panoramic views of Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge.
Kids will also enjoy breathtaking views of Oak Creek Canyon and forest wildlife, such as moose, coyotes, pronghorn, horned toads, bald eagles, prairie dogs, great blue herons, cougars, and black bears, among others.
Alternatively, you can take your kids on a chairlift to the San Francisco Peaks, where they can enjoy bird’s-eye views of the beautiful scenery below. In addition to the scenic views, kids can enjoy skiing and snowboarding on the ski nets running down the mountain. You can also join your kids for an exploratory hike down the hill.
If you’re tired of climbing mountains, take your kids to an exciting extreme event at Fort Tuthill County Park along Fort Tuthill Loop Road. The Flagstaff end offers zip lines, through which kids can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Coconino National Forest as they speed down the zip lines.
In addition to the zip lines, there are ropes courses where your children can climb, fly and swing while you keep an eye on them. However, your children can only use the rope if they are seven years old or older.
You can dine and stay at one of Flagstaff’s hotels and lodgings during the holidays, including Mormon Lake Lodge, Hilton Sedona At Bell Rock, and Pinnacle Pines.
Scottsdale is another top destination in our picks for the best places to vacation in Arizona with kids. It is in the eastern region of Maricopa County, Arizona. The city’s popularity is also primarily due to the beautiful scenery and outdoor recreation for people of all ages and world-class resorts filled with children’s programs.
Scottsdale also has outstanding museums where you and your children can enjoy viewing beautiful art and learning about Native American culture.
For example, you can take your kids to Tolmachoff Farms, located 20 minutes from the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale. The farm offers a petting zoo where your children can enjoy caring for and playing with their favorite pets.
The other amenities your kids can enjoy at Tolmachoff Farms include a bounce pillow, a bouncy house, a spider web, and pedal carts.
You can take your kids on a hike from the farms at Pinnacle Peak Park, where they’ll enjoy the stunning scenery as they make their way to the mountain’s peak.
You don’t have to stop the day’s activities if your kids are tired from long walks. Instead, you can take them to the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium at Litchfield Park, 85340, along 16501 W. Northern Avenue, Arizona.
While riding a tram, your children will enjoy seeing baboons, lions, ostriches, monkeys, and cheetahs. The safari train will also take you to the plains, where you will enjoy observing other animals such as giraffes, antelopes, and gazelles.
Alternatively, you can head straight to the McDonald’s Ranch, where you can enjoy horseback riding with your kids. If you have never ridden a horse before, there is no need to worry. The ranch staff will train you in the basics of horseback riding and then take you out into the picturesque desert landscape, where you’ll be introduced to the place’s wildlife, plants, and history.
You can book food and lodging at the Four Seasons Resort, Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, or any other resort and hotel in the area during your visit.
Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, after Phoenix, USA. It is home to numerous attractions and entertainment activities for people of all ages. Once you get to the city’s heart, you can take your kids on an exploratory hike through the trails of Saguaro National Park.
In addition to the scenic views on the hike, kids can also participate in the Junior Ranger Program, a fantastic initiative within the park to spark an interest in nature conservation from a young age.
If you still have more time to explore the city, you can take your kids to the White Stallion Ranch, where they’ll enjoy horseback riding along the ranch’s trail networks.
If your kids don’t love horseback riding, you can tour The Funtasticks Family Fun Park on Route 221 along Wetmore Road. Your kids can participate in go-kart racing, laser tag games, miniature golf, and float on the water with bumper boats.
If your child is too young to participate in miniature golf or go-cart racing, they can enjoy a ride on a roller coaster or play on the bouncy castles offered at the park.
Don’t end your day without a view of Arizona’s golden sunset from Tucson Mountain Park, located at 8451 West McCain Loop, Tucson. In addition to the beautiful sunsets, visiting the park will allow your children to enjoy bird’s-eye views of scenic landscapes, hiking trails, ski trails, and local wildlife from afar.
Towards the end of the holidays, you’ll need something special to give your loved ones back home. For this reason, you should take your children to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, where they can choose a unique bouquet for their special someone.
In addition to picking the flowers, visiting the garden will give you the chance to chase the colorful tropical butterflies that fill the garden. Don’t leave the garden without trying the local cuisine in the hotel’s cafeteria.
During your visit to Tucson, you can stay at the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon or any other hotels and lodges in the area.
Cottonwood is a charming little town in Arizona’s Yavapai County, and the town is a popular destination for visitors from all corners of the world. Its popularity is mainly due to its many attractions and fun activities for people of all ages.
If you take a walk with your kids north of the town of Cottonwood, you’ll find Dead Horse Ranch State Park eagerly awaiting your exploration. Here, you can enjoy the park’s beautiful scenery and watch the local wildlife, such as Javelin, Cottontail Rabbits, Gray Fox, Coyotes, and JackRabbits, that wander throughout the park.
It would be a terrible mistake to leave the park without taking a photo with one or two friendly animals in the park.
In addition to animal and landscape views, the park offers recreational activities such as kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, and boating. You can watch your kids participate in these activities or join them in water activities like kayaking and boating.
You can take your kids from the park to the Clemenceau Heritage Museum, where they can learn about the Green Valley’s past and see photographs of the valley’s earliest settlers and artifacts used for farming, ranching, and mining during that period.
Don’t leave the museum without choosing a popular souvenir for your children to take home.
If the kids aren’t the historical type, you can head to the Old Town Center for the Arts, located in Historic Old Town, Cottonwood, 20 miles from Sedona. There, your children will delight in watching live music, comedy, theater, and performing arts performances.
If you still have a few more days in town, don’t leave without taking your kids to Cottonwood Riverfront Park. As the largest park in Cottonwood, Riverfront Park offers many amenities for family fun. Examples of services you can find in the park include:
A grassy area that you can use for family field sports.
A golf course with 18 tees for golf lovers
Two sand volleyball courts
Five gazebos equipped with picnic tables, etc.
Simply put, the park offers just about every amenity for family fun. Just take your kids to explore, and you’ll have a story to tell.
While visiting, you can stay at Lux Verde Hotel or Iron Horse Inn if you’re on a budget or Tavern Hotel if you need a residence with a touch of class.