With the exception of the Grand Canyon and a few other mountainous areas of the state, Arizona is just too darn hot in the summer for an enjoyable family vacation. Arizonans all head for the hills or San Diego when the temperatures hit triple digits, so you'd have to be crazy to want to spend summer vacation in the middle of the desert. However, spring break is a completely different matter. The weather is usually just warm enough in Tucson and Phoenix, and not too cold or snowy at the Grand Canyon. So, if you're looking for a fun family vacation for the kids' annual spring break, consider the following itinerary. A bit of time by the pool, a little culture, the grandest of canyons -- this one should keep everyone happy.
Days 1, 2 & 3: Tucson
In Tucson you can learn about the desert and the kids can pet snakes and tarantulas at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Spend the entire morning at this amazing place, which is actually more of a zoo than a museum. After lunch, explore the cactus forests of Saguaro National Park. On Day 2, head back to this same area to visit Old Tucson Studios, a one-time movie set that is now a sort of Wild West amusement park with plenty to keep kids and adults entertained (although there aren't any Disneyland-style thrill rides). Your kids might also enjoy visiting the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. On one of your nights in town, have dinner at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse, a family-oriented cowboy steakhouse. Alternatively, spend a couple of days at one of Tucson's guest ranches. On your third day in Tucson, do a day trip to Tombstone. Yes, there is a Tombstone, and it's where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday once shot it out with the bad guys at the O.K. Corral. On the way to or from Tombstone, you should be sure to head underground at Kartchner Caverns State Park. The caverns here are comparable to the much better known Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
Day 4: Sedona
From Tucson, drive north to Sedona. It's a long drive (about 4 hr.), so get an early start. In the town of Picacho, not far north of Tucson, you can let the kids feed the ostriches at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. North of Phoenix in the town of Rock Springs, stop for lunch (and great pie) at the Rock Springs Café. Older kids might be fascinated by the futuristic Arcosanti development. If you get to Sedona early enough, take the kids on the Pink Jeep Tours' gnarly Broken Arrow tour. This is four-wheeling at its most rugged. If you arrive too late, schedule the tour for the next morning. At sunset, head to Crescent Moon Picnic Area, where the kids can splash in Oak Creek while you marvel at the sunset light show on Cathedral Rock.
Days 5 & 6: Grand Canyon
Leave Sedona and head up scenic Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. If it's a hot day, be sure to stop at Slide Rock State Park. From Flagstaff, continue north on U.S. 89 to the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. Check out the views from the many overlooks as you make your way west to Grand Canyon Village and its many hotels. You can dawdle along the way, but be sure you make it to the Grand Canyon in time for sunset. Spend the next day hiking into the canyon, riding a mule along the rim, or exploring along Hermit Road. The historic little Hermit's Rest is a good place to get cocoa and hang out by a fire.
Days 7 & 8: Phoenix
From the Grand Canyon, head back south to Phoenix. If you head south from the canyon on Ariz. 64, there are some fun places to stop, like the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Valle, or the Grand Canyon Deer Farm near Williams. Once back in Phoenix, spend a couple of days chilling out at one of the city's big resorts. Many resorts in the area have water parks with slides and other features aimed specifically at keeping kids happy. If you can pry the kids away from the pool area, take them to the Heard Museum to expose them to a little Native American culture. If you haven't yet had enough of Wild West towns, head east of the city to Goldfield Ghost Town, which is a bit too lively to really be a ghost town but is loads of fun, or south to Rawhide, a mock-up of an old cow town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.