If it’s one thing that we love to do as a family, it’s taking our kids out on small road trips to see lots of fun things in Arizona. We’re really thankful that Arizona has so many unique places to visit – and both of us remember spending lots of time doing road trips with our parents in our youth.
My dad used to take us all over the U.S. when we were kids and those experiences are what I remember most from my childhood. I grew up in a family of 6, and we didn’t have much money – but he always managed to give us the gift of experience and that meant more than anything else.
Now that we are adults and we have 5 kids of our own, we love to get out of town and do the same for our kids. From Flagstaff down to Sierra Vista, there are so many fun and educational experiences for kids.
Of course, staying “in” the Phoenix area can be fun too – but with 5 kids, the cost of a resort is not in any way affordable considering we have to have 2 rooms, combined with multiple days, it’s easy to hit $1 – $1,500 very quickly. Some of these trips we outlined below are much more affordable, especially for larger families.
Our kids are pleasantly happy at any hotel – provided it has a pool. We also try to look for hotels with a free breakfast, to save us the cost of eating out. Of course we bring snacks and sandwiches for our road trip up – there is plenty of space for cost savings.
We hope you enjoy some of these Arizona Family Vacations for families as a way to get out of town and see what Arizona has to offer.
#1: Animal Adventures
Head up to high country – take the kids up to the Flagstaff/Williams area for outdoor animal adventures. Start at Bearizona, and then the next day, you can visit the Grand Canyon Deer Farm in Williams:
Bearizona allows you to see animals roaming around in their natural environment. Thereaer NO cages or enclosures – you simply enjoy the wildlife through the windows of your car.
They have black bears, bison, Arctic and Gray Wolves… and more.. kids LOVE this drive, and you can take as long as you like to drive through the park. Take photos, and watch them up close – paid admission also allows you to drive through not just once but as many times as you like.
After you drive through the wildlife park, you can park and walk through Fort Bearizona — where you can see the smaller animals (bear cubs, mini farm animals and birds, otters and more). Bearizona is open from 8 – 5, and located at the intersection of 1-40 and US Hwy 64, 25 miles West of Flagstaff in up in Williams.
60 miles south of the Grand Canyon National Park Entrance in Williams is the Grand Canyon Deer Farm. It’s a great place to teach the kids about animals – your kids can sit among them, watch them from a distance and even give them a big hug. There are also reindeer, birds, wallabies, marmosets, mini cattle and even camel/bison.
Rates vary from $6.75- $11.50 per person – and they are open all year with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas, weather permitting.
Round off your stay at the Hampton, Drury Inn or even Springhill Suites – all in Flagstaff and priced between $100 – $120 per night. Each hotel has a hot breakfast, and an indoor pool that’ll allow your kids to have some fun each night without doing too much damage to your pocketbook.
#2: Tour the Caves
Head down to Southern Arizona and tour the Karchtner Caverns just south of Benson, and then head to Colossal Cave in Vail the next day for a tour of the caves.
Colossal Cave is a large cave system in southeastern Arizona, near the community of Vail, approximately 22 miles southeast of Tucson. It contains about 3.5 miles of mapped passageways, and was discovered by Soloman Lick in 1879. Temperatures inside average 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
The cave is open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Experience a stunning limestone cave in Southeastern Arizona that boasts world-class features. This “live” cave, discovered in 1974, is host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. Water percolates from the surface and calcite formations continue to grow, including stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground. Tours are 1 1/2 hours and ranges from $13 – $25.00 per person.
The caverns are located 9 miles south of Benson on HWY 90. *The caverns also meets the Natural History Curriculum for grades K-6.
Close out your trip with a stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites East Williams Center, or stay at the La Quinta, Days Inn or even Courtyard by Marriott – they all have outdoor pools and a hot breakfast.
#3: Open Pit Mine, Titan Missile, and Pima Air & Space Museum
Head down to Tucson with the kids and knock out two educational experiences in one weekend – start with the Asarco Open Mine Pit in Sahuarita (Saturday tours only) – and then move on to the Titan Missile Museum (also in Sahuarita) and if time permits, stop by the Pima Air & Space Museum on your way back into Tucson.
Take the kids to see a working, open-pit mine – the ONLY open pit mine in Arizona open for tours without reservations. Mine tours are conducted Saturdays only – with the exception of major holidays. Mine tours are conducted at 9:30am, 11:00am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm, 3:30pm.
On your tour, you’ll see how copper ore is mined in the open-pit and then at the center you can see how it is processed in the mill to extract the copper minerals.
The mine tour begins at the Mineral Discovery Center. There you can purchase tickets for the tour and become familiar with the copper mining process in our exhibit center and video theater. There is no admission charge for the Mineral Discovery Center exhibits, Discovery Theater, or gift shop.
The ONLY megaton Missile Silo from the Cold War that is open to the public, the museum is located on Duval Mine Road in Sahuarita – a very low-key area perfect for a missile silo. The titan was the largest nuclear missile silo in the U.S. until it was decommissioned in 1982 by Ronald Reagan.
Inside, you can see a closeup of a missile used for training exercises (the original was moved when the silo became a museum). You can also see the control room and living quarters. Only a few nights each year can you arrange to sleep in the rew’s old quarters.
The museum is located at 1580 Duval Mine Road in Sahuarita.
The Pima Air & Space Museum, located in Tucson, Arizona, is one of the world’s largest non-government funded aerospace museums. The museum features a display of nearly 300 aircraft spread out over 80 acres on a campus occupying 127 acres.
The museum is located on Valencia Road in Tucson… and tours are conducted 7 days a week, the last tour beginning at 3 p.m. Cost ranges from FREE to $15.50 per person (adults).
Stay at a nearby hotel – they have The Hampton Inn (Airport), Radisson Inn & Suites and even the Quality Inn.
#4: Tour the Monuments
Head up to Northern Arizona to take the kids on several tours of some of the most notable canyons and monuments.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. The monument preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples (also called Anasazi) and Navajo. The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument.
There is no entrance fee for the park! Begin your visit at the Visitor Center to pick up a brochure, stamp your passport, browse the park store and watch the orientation video. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. During severe weather, the Visitor Center may open at a later time or be closed for the day.
This U.S. National Park is located in Navajo and Apache Counties in Northwest Arizona.
The Petrified Forest has one of the world’s largest and most colorful concentration of petrified wood.. .. the park covers 170 square miles, and encompasses semi-desert shrub and beautiful badlands. Half of the park is designated as wilderness. A 7-day pass to the park is just $20 per vehicle – and the people within.
The crater was formed as a result of a collision between an asteroid traveling 26,000 Miles per Hour and Planet Earth 50,000 years ago. WE LOVE the crater, my kids rank this one as their favorite place to go.
The crater is 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. It’s a tourist venue – great for people who come in from out of town.
Take a tour of the crater from the staff, which runs $9 – $18 per person. The crater is located East of Flagstaff off the I-40; exit on Meteor Crater Road (exit 233) and turn right. The crater is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Petrified Forest (if you are visiting there too!) They are open Memorial Day to Labor Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and non-Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Christmas, and open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tip for traveling: Canyon de Chelly is just under 3 hours out of Flagstaff – so you would want to hit that visit first. Then work your way back to the Petrified Forest and then the Meteor Crater (as time permits), then gradually make it back to Flagstaff. Or, return through Payson by driving through Winslow.
You can stay at the Holiday Inn in Chinle on the first night, and then work your way back to the Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater the next day.
#5: Sunset Crater, National Monument and Observatory
This would be such a fun and educational trip for ANY age! Start by visiting the Sunset Crater in Flagstaff – then drive to the Wupatki National Monument … and stop at Lowell Observatory if time permits!
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a U.S. National Monument created to protect Sunset Crater, a cinder cone within the San Francisco Volcanic Field (now dormant). The monument is managed by the National Park Service in close conjunction with nearby Wupatki National Monument. The crater/national monument is open 9 – 5 for part of the year and 8 – 5 the remainder of the year. A vehicle pass is available for $20 (for both Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments).
Wupatki National Monument is one of several sites preserving pueblos (villages) of ancient peoples. The ruins/village are scattered over a relatively large area of desert northeast of Flagstaff. The pueblos all have a distinctive deep red color and were made from thin, flat blocks of the local Moenkopi sandstone.
Most visitors drive through the 34 mile scenic loop that winds from Highway 89 through Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments. The scenic loop leads you from the high Ponderosa Pine forests of Sunset Crater, down nearly 2,000 feet in elevation to the red rocks and painted desert vistas of Wupatki.
Lowell Observatory is an independent, non-profit research institution located in Flagstaff, Arizona – the world’s first International Dark-Sky City. Their mission is to pursue the study of astronomy, especially the study of our solar system and its evolution.
At the observatory, you can peer through telescopes at night or see the instrument that helped gather the first evidence of the expanding Universe. Tour our facility with friendly, knowledgeable guides. They are open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Flagstaff has so many nice places to stay that won’t break the bank – from the Hampton Inn, Drury Inn or even Springhill Suites. These hotels range from $100 – $120 per night (varies) – they have a nice breakfast and an indoor pool.
Looking for more things to do in Arizona? Visit our Pinterest Board to help you plan more family vacations, road trips, and adventures with your kids.