The Grand Canyon is a popular destination for family vacations for many reasons: it’s easy to access, there are tons of things to see and do while you’re there, and of course, the views simply can’t be beat.
To help you plan your Grand Canyon family vacation, we’ve compiled a list of the best activities to do with your kids while you visit, from relaxing on a pontoon boat cruise down the Colorado River to exploring the Rim and taking part in educational seminars. Here we go:
1. Become a Junior Ranger
All you have to do to become an official Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger is pick up an activity book from the Visitor Center, complete three pages, and attend a ranger demonstration. When you’ve completed all the requirements, a real park ranger will swear in your kids. They’ll also receive a certificate and an official Grand Canyon Junior Ranger badge. This program is ideal for kids aged 4-14.
Learn more about the Junior Ranger program.
2. Pick up a Discovery Pack
Available during the summer months, the Discovery Pack contains a number of hands-on activities designed to teach kids aged 9-14 about the Grand Canyon’s ecology and wildlife. You’ll start by attending a 1.5 hour ranger talk, then you’ll spend the rest of the day using real naturalist tools and recording your findings in the Discovery Pack Field Journal. When you’re done, discuss your observations with a park ranger to earn the Junior Ranger Discovery Pack certificate and patch.
The Discovery Pack is perfect for families who have a little more time to spend at the Grand Canyon. Bonus: Completion of the Pack fulfils one of your Junior Ranger requirements!
3. Take a Boat Tour
Descend to the Canyon floor in a helicopter and watch the red walls of the Grand Canyon rise up a mile above you before you embark on a leisurely cruise down the Colorado River. You’ll even have a chance to explore the Canyon floor!
Boat tours are perfect for families looking for a bit more adventure or who want to see the Colorado River and the inner Canyon up close, but don’t have time to take a multi-day tour. If you have older kids or a boat tour isn’t quite exciting enough for you, jump on a rafting tour instead.
Learn more about our Grand Canyon boat tours:
Soar above the Canyon in a helicopter, float down the Colorado River in a pontoon boat, and enjoy extended viewing time at the West Rim, complete with a walk on the Skywalk!
Enjoy a helicopter ride over the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon’s West Rim. Explore Eldorado Canyon and choose from 2 adventures: off-roading in a Baja Jeep, or on an ATV!
Fly to the Canyon in a state of the art jet helicopter, descend 4,000 feet to the Canyon floor, and enjoy a relaxing 11 mile cruise down the Colorado River starting at the Hoover Dam!
4. Check out Lookout Studio
The iconic Lookout Studio, located in the Grand Canyon Village, was built in 1914. Designed by architect Mary Colter to mimic 12th century southwestern Native American construction styles, this unique building employs Colter’s signature style of using native rocks to imitate indigenous structures, and as a result appears to blend right into the Rim. Today, the Studio operates as a gift shop and observation station. Check it out with your kids and grab a souvenir, or simply enjoy the views.Grand Canyon Fact: Lookout Studio was strategically positioned on the Rim path to create a bottleneck that would slow down and stop visitors from even making it to the Kolb Studio. Ouch!
5. Head up the Rim to the Kolb Studio
After visiting Lookout Studio, head a little further up the Rim to the Kolb Studio. Built in 1905 at the head of the Bright Angel Trail, the Kolb Studio was originally the home and photographic studio of brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb. The Kolb brothers operated one of the earliest commercial businesses at the Grand Canyon, selling photos of tourists venturing into the Canyon by mule. Because of their enterprising attitude, the Kolb brothers are responsible for documenting many of the earliest expeditions into the Canyon.
The Kolb Studio now operates as an art gallery and bookstore. Pick up a book as a memory of your visit – all proceeds are used to support and maintain the building.
6. Hop on a Helicopter Tour
Get everyone’s heart pumping and snap a #CanyonSelfie as you fly high over the Canyon in a special state-of-the-art flightseeing helicopter. Choose from an air-only excursion, or combine your helicopter flight with a floor landing or boat cruise. Many guided helicopter tours are available from the Las Vegas Strip.
Check out our most popular helicopter tours:
Fly over the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon before descending 4,000 feet to the Canyon floor. Extended viewing time at the Canyon gives you ample opportunity to explore.
Fly above the magnificent Hoover Dam and enjoy previously unobservable views of Lake Mead en route to America’s most spectacular natural wonder, the Grand Canyon.
Fly over the winding path of the mighty Colorado River and Marvel at the rugged landscape of the Grand Canyon. End your adventure with a sunset pass over the Las Vegas Strip!
7. See the Skywalk
Extending 70 feet from the edge of Eagle Point on the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, the Skywalk offers views 4,000 feet straight down to the Canyon floor. Scared? Don’t worry – this U-shaped glass cantilever bridge can support the weight of 71 fully loaded 747 airplanes, or more than 800 200lb people (though its maximum occupancy is 120). If that doesn’t soothe your spirits, it can also withstand winds up to 100mph and magnitude 8.0 earthquakes.
Got questions about the Grand Canyon Skywalk? We’ve got answers.
Stroll on the Skywalk on one of these West Rim tours:
Explore the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, including an authentic Indian barbecue lunch on the Rim.
Fly to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim in a helicopter before taking an exciting stroll on the Skywalk, 70 feet from the edge of Eagle Point!
Soar above the Canyon in a helicopter, cruise the Colorado River, and enjoy extended viewing time at the West Rim, including a walk on the Skywalk!
8. Head to Hopi House
Another Mary Colter creation, Hopi House was built in 1904 as a market for Native American crafts created mainly by local Hopi Artisans. Hopi House still operates as a market for local handmade artefacts and souvenirs, so be sure to check it out to find that perfect memento for your family vacation.PRO TIP: Read the signage outside Hopi House to find the schedule for traditional native American dance performances. Performances run throughout the day.
9. Explore the Rim Trail
The Rim Trail is perfect for families who are looking for an easy hike with minimal elevation change; this well-defined, popular trail is mostly paved, and stretches all the way from the South Kaibab trailhead to Hermit’s rest (approximately 13 miles). You can pick up the trail at any viewpoint in the Grand Canyon Village or along Hermit Road, as well as from many shuttle bus stops along the Rim.
Remember to bring water with you – there are no refill stations along the trail, so fill up before you leave the Grand Canyon Village.
Should You Take a Tour or Drive Yourself?
One of the most common questions for families is whether to drive to the Grand Canyon themselves or to hop on a guided tour. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, so ultimately it will depend on what works best for your family. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Taking a tour allows you to sit back and relax while you enjoy the sights to and from the Grand Canyon. Guided tours also give you an opportunity to explore the Canyon from multiple perspectives – by air, by bus, or by boat. You’ll also stop at a number of places along the way, including the Hoover Dam and Kingman, AZ. Tours depart daily from Las Vegas and other cities surrounding the Grand Canyon.
Driving yourself may offer more flexibility in terms of schedule, but it can be tempting to jam in as much as you can, which can lead to tired and grumpy kids (and probably tired and grumpy adults as well).
Still can’t decide whether to drive yourself or take a tour? Read our post for a full comparison.
An Adventure to Remember
Check out these attractions and activities and make your Grand Canyon family vacation an adventure to remember! Get more tips for visiting the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas with your kids: