Grand Canyon Vacations for the Whole Family

A number of natural sights are so awesome that they categorize as ‘must see’s’ for any age group; Yosemite’s Old Faithful, Alaska’s Mount McKinley, New York’s Niagara Falls. This year, why not pack the suitcases, fill the cooler and buckle in the children (or buy the plane tickets) for a Grand Canyon vacation with your family?

A Grand Canyon vacation is the only way to truly experience the power of the canyon; no matter how many times it is seen on TV, viewed on the Internet or described on a postcard, nothing comes close to replicating the majesty of a 6,000 foot deep gorge that displays over two billion years of geological history. And what better way to view it than with your family?

While the Grand Canyon is a family friendly destination with plenty to see and do, most families choose to stay on the canyon’s South Rim as it offers the most amenities and some of the best package deals. The North Rim, on the other hand, is more remote, closing from mid October to mid May.

Activities for family and kids

Sign up children ages 4 to 14 to participate in up to four of the National Park Service’s ‘junior ranger programs.’ Kids are assigned to different group levels according to age and can spend a day exploring and learning about the canyon. Information on how to participate is available when you arrive at the park or visit www.nps.govwww.nps.gov.

Older children (over the age of 12) might prefer to ride a mule to the bottom of the canyon. Overnight and day trips are available; riders must be at least 4 feet 7 inches tall (1.38 m) and be unafraid of heights and large animals.

Families can raft the Colorado River; rafts fit four to seven people and trips last any number of days. Children must be over age 12 to ride on oar powered rafts; motorized rafts carry those eight and older. Contact OARS at 1 800 346 6277 or Aramark Wilderness River Adventures at 1 800 992 8022 to reserve six months in advance. Visit www.grandcanyoninformation.comwww.grandcanyoninformation.com for more information.

The best path to hike along the South Rim of the canyon is the Rim Trail, which leads from Grand Canyon Village to Hermits Rest. Enjoy a quiet hike and take advantage of the shuttle buses whenever young children get tired. On the North Rim, walk the paved half mile trail to Bright Angel Point where you can hear the rushing water of Roaring Springs.

Where to stay

A great option for large families on vacation in the Grand Canyon is to rent a cabin; there’s plenty of room and no fear of noisy kids waking the neighbours. Join up with another family; why not rent next door cabins with friends? Explore cabin options on the South Rim of the canyon by visiting

www.grandcanyonlodges.comwww.grandcanyonlodges.com.

If you prefer more formal lodging, take advantage of places that offer children’s facilities such as cribs and baby sitting services; sometimes you can even find ‘kids stay free’ deals with large chain hotels and motels. Be careful to inquire about roll away beds when making your reservations; some hotels and motels don’t permit them or may assign you a room that is too small to fit one.

Although the best prices to be found are in the towns around the canyon (Williams, Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff), the Maswik Lodge and Yavapai Lodge offer moderately priced family lodging on the canyon’s South Rim. A more expensive option is the El Tovar Hotel located in Grand Canyon Village, where kids under 16 stay free and have access to crayons and kids menus at dinner. Reserve well in advance; more information is available at www.grandcanyonlodges.com.

Where to eat

Eating out in Arizona is typically very reasonable if you manage to avoid the tourist traps. While Mexican food is the most popular cuisine to be found, most towns harbour a number of fast food restaurants as well as national chain family style eateries. Choose restaurants that offer children’s facilities such as kids’ menus, small portions and highchairs.