Looking for a great place to spend you family vacation? Try the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This National Park is packed with a number 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 – Rangers are trained naturalists who love to share their know-how about the Canyon. Topics vary from the California Condor restoration program and geology to fossils and astronomy. The Junior Ranger program is specifically made for kids, and includes adventure hikes, field classes (teaches using binoculars, field guides, and other tools or a naturalist), and games based on local ecology. Kids can get sworn in as Junior Grand Canyon National Park Rangers once they complete the program.
Museums – The Canyon View Information Center, near Mather Point, provides numerous outdoor exhibits about the Park. Inside, Rangers man the information desk and are happy to help you decide what you want to do when you arrive. The Center also houses a number of interpretive exhibits. Similar in purpose is Verkamp’s Visitor Center, located east of the El Tovar Hotel. Built in 1906, this building began as a gift shop, but was converted into a visitor center and features some excellent pioneer history exhibits. Learn how the Canyon was formed and how old it is at the Yavapai Observation Center’s Museum of Geology. The Center’s Canyon-facing wall is all glass and provides intense views of the Gorge. Kolb Studio, built on the edge of the Canyon’s rim in 1905, hosts free art exhibits and houses a huge early 20th-century movie camera used by the Kolb brothers.
Take a Ride on the Free Shuttle – The Park has an excellent transportation system that’s free to all visitors. It stops at the most famous South Rim landmarks (Mather Point, Hermit’s Rest, Yaki Point) and trailheads (Bright Angel and South Kaibab). It’s comprised of three loops: The Village Route (blue); Hermit’s Rest (red); and Kaibab Trail (green).
Day Hikes – There are lots of 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. Generally, 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 in line with the season and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and foods like salty trail mix.
Mule Treks – These must be scheduled 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.
Digital Photography Workshops – Limited time only. Call Park to get dates and times. Professional photographers lead photo walks in the Park and discuss how to best 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 Theater – Operated along with National Geographic, the Theater features a monster-sized screen that puts you and the kids in the middle of the action. See in 34 minutes what would take a lifetime to experience. Budget time for the exhibits inside and outside the lobby. Tickets cost $12.50 for adults and $9.50 for kids.
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 holiday, 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.
By K Kravitz
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