Family vacation? Try Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to its natural beauty, the South Rim is packed with activities that kids of all ages will be clamoring to do. Here’s my list of the 10 best:
#1. Junior Ranger Program – Features nature hikes, field classes, and “ecology” games. Upon completion, kids get sworn in as National Park rangers.
#2. Museums. The South Rim is dotted with some of the area’s finest, including Canyon View Information Center, Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Yavapai Observation Station, and Kolb Studio.
#3. Ride the free shuttle bus. Comprised of the red, blue, and green lines, the bus system is a fabulous (and safe) way to explore the Park. A great transit map is included in “The Guide,” a free publication put out by the Park Service. Use the shuttle to visit Mather Point, Yaki Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and Hermit’s Rest.
#4. Go day hiking. Kid-friendly trails include Bright Angel, South Kaibab, and The Rim Trail. Remember, what goes down, must come up, and the trip back is strenuous. Bring water, sunscreen, and trail mix. During summer, wear loose-fitting clothing and a hat. For winter, dress in layers and wear a beanie and gloves.
#5. Ride a mule. Two types of trips: Rim top and the Phantom Ranch overnight. Mule rides must be booked in advance, sometimes as much as 13 months. I recommend the Three Hour Abyss Overlook Mule Ride.
#6. Go Horseback Riding. Only available outside the Park. Try Apache Stables, located 10 minutes from the front entrance. The twilight rides are the best. Wagon rides are also available.
#7. Learn how to take photographs. These popular workshops have limited seats. Call Park for dates and times. Guest photographers lead “photo safaris.” My kids took this workshop immediately notice an improvement in their skills.
#8. Take a helicopter ride. Flights head into the Dragoon Corridor, the widest, deepest part of the canyon, before turning back at the North Rim. You’ll probably see in 30 minutes what would take days on the ground.
#9. Go to the IMAX theatre – An amazing 35-minute film that takes you into the depths of the canyon. Stadium-style seating puts you in the middle of the action. Managed by the National Geographic Society. Kids tickets: $9.50 – $12.50.
#10. Explore Grand Canyon Village. This is the hub of the South Rim. Built in the early 1900’s, the Village hosts hotels, gift shops, souvenir shops, museums, and more. Recommended: The Lodge’s snack bar, gift shop, and restaurant.
Grand Canyon South Rim, which many refer to as Grand Canyon National Park, is a great place for a vacation with kids. The Park offers a host of activities, ranging from the Junior Ranger program to a digital photography workshop, that will keep your youngsters entertained for days. If that’s not enough, take a family day hike or book a helicopter trip and soar into the heart of the canyon. The South Rim’s got your clan covered, no matter how adventuresome it is.