Trying to find a great place to spend you family vacation? Try the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This National Park is packed with a variety of physical and educational activities that will appeal to kids of all ages. Here’s a list of ten activities to get your planning “juices” started:
Ranger Programs – Learn from the best. Attend a lecture or workshop by a park ranger. Trained naturalists, they are experts on the Canyon and know how to present it in a fun way. Subjects include geology, archeology, astronomy, among others. The Junior Ranger program takes kids in the field on adventure hikes and teaches them how to use the tools of the trade – binoculars, field guides, and other exploratory tools. Includes games based on the local ecology, too. The course concludes with the kids graduating as certified Junior Rangers.
Museums – There numerous great museums at the South Rim. Canyon View information Center by Mather Point has series of outdoor interpretive signs. More exhibits inside, including a ranger’s desk where you can get questions answered. Verkamps Visitor Center, located near El Tovar Hotel, offers similar services, plus an outstanding bookstore. The Yavapai Observation Center’s Museum of Geology is the perfect place for understanding how the Canyon was formed (make sure to check out the view from the station’s glass wall). Kolb Studio, near Bright Angel Lodge, was built in 1905 and lives right on the Rim’s edge. Its home to a huge early 20th Century movie camera used by the famous Kolb brothers and an art museum.
Ride the Shuttle – Shuttle buses are free and go to all key South Rim destinations. The system is comprised of three color-coded routes: Blue (Village Route), Red (Hermit’s Rest), and Green (Kaibab Trail). The blue route is between the red and green and connects them. Recommended rides: Hermit’s Rest (red), Mather Point (green), and Yaki Point (green)
Day Hikes – There are several great hikes for kids. Bright Angel Trail is located next to Kolb Studio in Grand Canyon Village. The well-maintained trail is a delightful stroll down. It’s the hike up via steep switchbacks that will determine how far you will go (consider taking the Ranger-led adventure hikes for kids). Two places to consider: Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse and Three-Mile Resthouse. The South Kaibab Trail, too, is in excellent condition and offers several outstanding lookout points for kids. The Rim Trail skirts the Canyon’s edge from Hermit’s Rest to South Kaibab. For the most part, it’s flat terrain and never goes into the Canyon. It’s excellent for strolling and includes access to the key South Rim lookout points. Note: Dress according to the season and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and foods like salty trail mix.
Mule Treks – These must be booked in advance, especially the trips down to the bottom to Phantom Ranch. If you don’t have a reservation, check availability at the Bright Angel transportation desk inside the Lodge. Popular day trips for kids is the Abyss Overlook Mule Ride, a three-hour adventure that follows the Rim into Pondersoa, Juniper, and Pinon Pine woodlands.
Horseback Riding – One- and two-hour trail rides led by Apache Stables, located outside the Park’s main gate in Tusayan. These rides traverse the Ponderosa Pine forest outside the South Rim. Twilight trips and wagon rides are also available.
Photography Workshops – Limited time only. Call Park to get times and dates. Professional photographers lead photo walks in the Park and discuss the proper way to use your digital camera to take stunning landscape and wildlife pictures.
Helicotper Rides – A big favorite with kids, helicopter tours depart daily from the heliport at Tusayan and fly into the Canyon’s Dragoon Corridor, the deepest, widest part of the Canyon. The tour continues to the North Rim before flying back over Grand Canyon Village to the airport. If you can swing it, upgrade to the EcoStar helicopters, which are bigger, quieter, and feature stadium-style seats.
IMAX Theatre – See in 34 minutes what would take a lifetime! The IMAX screen is huge. Seats are stadium style. The cumulative effect is comparable to actually being there. The Theater, managed by National Geographic, features excellent exhibits, an expert staff, and a food court. Raft trips can be booked here as well. Ticket cost: Adults (11 ): $ 12.50. Youth (ages 6 – 10): $ 9.50.
Grand Canyon Village – The hub of the South Rim, the Village includes Bright Angel Lodge, gift shops, restaurants, museums, a snack bar, information centers and more. Perfect for starting the day or ending it. Check out the snack bar behind the Lodge for inexpensive eats for kids. The restaurant in the Lodge is outstanding and serves big portions. The Lodge’s gift shop is the best on the Rim for affordable souvenirs, bottled water, t-shirts, hats, and more.
If you’re looking to do something different this family vacation, consider the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The National Park loaded with activities that target kids ranging in age from six-years-old to teenagers. From the Junior Ranger Program, horseback riding, and geology museums to adventure day hikes, an easy-to-use shuttle bus system and helicopter tours, there’s something for everyone and every budget.
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