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The Grand Canyon for Families

The Grand Canyon for Kids
The Grand Canyon for Families
The whole family can have a grand adventure at the Grand Canyon. Ride a mule down to the canyon floor, raft on the Colorado river, take a park ranger–led tour, and most of all, enjoy being together amid this inspiring landscape.
By AFAR Editors, AFAR Staff
Photo courtesy of Michael Quinn/Grand Canyon NPS
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    The Grand Canyon for Kids
    The Grand Canyon for Kids
    There are a mulititude of activities for every age group. For children aged four and up, the Grand Canyon Junior Ranger program offers hands-on activities that teach participants about the park’s wildlife and ecology. Badges and other rewards are given to kids who complete the specified activities and attend ranger-guided programs, such as a fossil walk or a geology tour. For teens who want bragging rights, rafting the Colorado River makes for lifelong memories. Ranger-led camping trips lasting up to several nights are also an option for active, outdoor-loving kids and their families. Meanwhile, a South Rim jeep safari and walking tour is a great choice for the whole family, and includes a stop at the famous Kolb Studio in Grand Canyon Village.
    Photo courtesy of Michael Quinn/Grand Canyon NPS
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    The Grand Canyon Railway
    The Grand Canyon Railway
    Grand Canyon Railway offers a trip from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon on lovingly restored historic passenger cars; it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way and is accompanied by live musicians. But traveling via rail across the Wild West’s high desert plateaus does have its risks. On the return trip, look out the window for masked bandits, closing in on horseback, who have their sights set on you. Don't worry: The train robbery is just grand, staged fun. You can either take the train to the canyon as a day trip (you’ll have about three hours there) or spend several days in the national park before returning to Williams. In the winter, the train offers a Polar Express Christmas ride, complete with elves and gifts.
    Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Railway
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    Bearizona, a Drive-Through Wildlife Park
    Bearizona, a Drive-Through Wildlife Park
    Sometimes kids just won’t be impressed by the landscape the same way grown-ups are. But showing them animals is always a win. So if your children aren’t fired up by the mile-deep geology of the Grand Canyon, drive about an hour south of the South Rim to Bearizona. It’s a drive-through wildlife park—think Jurassic Park but with bison, bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and wolves instead of dinosaurs. There are also raptor flights with hawks, falcons, and owls, and even a walk-through section with baby animals. Bearizona is open year round, but hours vary according to season and weather. Children three and under are admitted for free.
    Photo by Derek Bruff
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    Fly through the Trees
    Fly through the Trees
    Flagstaff Extreme has challenging adventure courses and zip lines in a ponderosa pine forest. There are five different circuits available for adults, color-coded for difficulty and elevation, with a dozen or so rope swings, scrambling walls, hanging nets, wobbly bridges, and other suspended surprises. There's a course for kids aged 7 to 11, as well as 30 zip lines (must be 12 or older). Adventure courses are a great way to test and renew your agility while bonding with your children, and the surroundings are superb. A full briefing and safety equipment are provided; advance booking is recommended.
    Photo courtesy of Kerrick James/Flagstaff CVB
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    The Grand Canyon by Helicopter
    The Grand Canyon by Helicopter
    On the rim of the Grand Canyon, you’re standing a vertical mile above the churning Colorado River. But if you want to get even higher, consider an airplane or helicopter tour. Few aerial vistas can rival the canyon’s hypnotic ridges and chasms, and flying above and even down into them will leave your spirits soaring. Tours are available from the small airport just south of the South Rim Visitor Center, from the Hualapai Reservation, and from the Phoenix–Scottsdale area.
    Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon NPS
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    Cycling above the Grand Canyon
    Cycling above the Grand Canyon
    If getting on and off the free shuttle buses on the South Rim doesn’t appeal to you, rent a bike across from the South Rim Visitor Center. Bike trailers—for hauling around toddlers or camera gear—are also available. The Hermit Road Greenway Trail allows you to ride off the main east-west road and even along the canyon rim itself, and the Tusayan Greenway is a 6.5-mile paved trail from the nearby town of Tusayan, Arizona, to the visitor center. Keep an eye out for elk as you enjoy the pine-scented air.
    Photo courtesy of Michael Quinn/Grand Canyon NPS