Compiled by Michelle Talsma Everson
Fall in Arizona – the perfect time of year. It’s the reason so many of us in the Valley of the Sun power through months of triple digit temperatures. With the temps just right – and fall and holiday breaks just around the corner – it’s time to start planning some sightseeing adventures right in your own backyard.
Whether you’re going up north for a long weekend or day trip or are looking for something fun to do in-town, we’ve compiled some great family-friendly destinations to consider. We hope you enjoy exploring everything our great state has to offer!
Bearizona: Voted by USA Today as one of the country’s top 10 drive through wildlife parks, Bearizona provides a great drive through park experience in addition to animals you can see when you get out to stretch your legs. Catch the Birds of Prey Show now through December. Williams; bearizona.com.
Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary: With the motto “conservation through education,” Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary provides an up-close experience with animals big and small. Visit for “Breakfast with the Wolves” on October 10. Prescott; heritageparkzoo.org.
Lowell Observatory: The place where Pluto was discovered, Lowell Observatory offers a variety of educational activities for space enthusiasts of all ages. There are nighttime and daytime viewings and tours available, including using the impressive Clark telescope. Flagstaff; lowell.edu.
Out of Africa: Out of Africa Wildlife Park is a replica of a real African Bush Safari with “wild-by-nature” animals from all over the globe and presentations/attractions scheduled throughout each day. Camp Verde; outofafricapark.com.
Museum of Northern Arizona: Known as the “gateway to the Colorado Plateau,” the Museum of Northern Arizona features a 200-acre campus that includes “an exhibit building, research labs, and state of the art collections facilities for more than five million Native American artifacts, natural science specimens, and fine art pieces.” Flagstaff; musnaz.org.
Grand Canyon National Park: The signature tourist destination for our great state, the Grand Canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, according to the U.S. National Park Service. Plan your visit at nps.gov/grca/index.htm.
Flagstaff Extreme: Home to a tree top adventure course that caters to thrill seekers of all ages, Flagstaff Extreme is great for small or large get-togethers. Flagstaff; flagstaffextreme.com.
Arizona Snowbowl: One of the oldest continually operating ski areas in the country, Snowbowl offers skiing opportunities for beginners through experts. Its scenic chairlift is available through mid-October. Flagstaff; arizonasnowbowl.com.
Slide Rock State Park: There are multiple places to swim and wade as well as the famous Slide. The Slide is an 80-foot slippery shoot that is worn into sandstone. The park also features spectacular red rocks, walking trails, scenic views, an orchard, and historic buildings. Oak Creek Canyon; AZStateParks.com.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park: The Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The moss-covered grottos on the waterfall trail gurgle as the spring water splashes down onto the rocks below. Starting in late 2015, Tonto Natural Bridge will be accepting reservations for their historic 11-bedroom Goodfellow Lodge. Prescott; AZStateParks.com.
Grand Canyon Railway: Experience the Grand Canyon through a historic train ride. Millions have ridden Grand Canyon Railway since its creation in 1901. There are several historic tourist attractions nearby. The train departs from Williams and travels to the Grand Canyon; thetrain.com.
Verde Railroad: A heritage railroad running between Clarkdale and Perkinsville, 90,000 people per year travel the Verde Railroad through the Verde Canyon. “They come to experience the sights and to revel in the casual elegance of train travel as they discover the heritage of the landscape. Clarkdale; verdecanyonrr.com.
Sharlot Hall Museum: Described as an “Arizona history adventure,” Sharlot Hall Museum is an education and cultural center that features live history adventures, attractions, and more. Prescott; sharlot.org.
Arizona Museum of Natural History: The premier natural history museum in the state, this family friendly museum helps visitors to explore 4.5 billion years of history. Talk about a trip down memory lane! Mesa; azmnh.org.
Arizona Science Center: This must-see center is the perfect place for families to experience the Planetarium, hands-on learning exhibits and IMAX theatre right in the heart of downtown Phoenix. azscience.org.
Butterfly Wonderland: Experience America’s largest butterfly atrium where you can see more than 3,000 butterflies up close. There are also exhibits about insects, bees and sea life. Scottsdale; butterflywonderland.com.
Challenger Space Center: This local science center is literally out of this world with flight simulations, stargazing opportunities, space-centric exhibits, a wind tunnel, and more. Peoria; azchallenger.org.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix: One of the top 10 children’s museums in the country, CMoP offers more than 300 play experiences spread throughout three floors. Perfect for kids through age 10. Phoenix; childrensmuseumofphoenix.org.
The i.d.e.a. Museum: This family-friendly museum is the place to explore through design in art, science and technology. Younger kids can stop by ArtVille while all family members can enjoy the interactive exhibits at the HUB. Mesa; ideamuseum.org.
Phoenix Zoo: Our hometown zoo is one of the largest privately owned, non-profit zoos in the country. It’s home to more than 1,400 animals, including several endangered species. Phoenix; phoenixzoo.org.
Sea Life Aquarium Arizona: Located right in Arizona Mills Mall, Sea Life Aquarium is a must-see aquatic attraction that houses a variety of sea creatures – some of which you can touch! Tempe; visitsealife.com/Arizona.
Pima Air & Space Museum: One of the largest aviation and space museums in the world, this Tucson favorite features more than 300 historical aircrafts and tram tours of an “aircraft bone yard.” Tucson; pimaair.org.
Biosphere 2 – University of Arizona: Hailed as an international must-see attraction, the Biosphere 2 is dubbed “Earth’s largest living science center.” “A unique trail system allows visitors to explore a tropical rainforest, savanna, coastal fog desert, and million-gallon ocean – all within Biosphere 2!” Tucson; b2science.org.
Patagonia Lake State Park: Here, the campground overlooks the 265-acre man-made lake where you can catch crappie, bass, bluegill, and catfish. You can also rent a boat or canoe and there are pontoon boat tour on the weekends. Nogales; AZStateParks.com.
Kartchner Caverns State Park: A colorful “live” cave with stunning wet limestone features adorning its walls. On the guided cave tours visitors view dynamic structures such as stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground. Benson; AZStateParks.com.
Phoenix hiking trails and preserves: According to the City of Phoenix, the state’s capital is home to more than 33,000 acres of Sonoran Desert preserves, 7,300 acres of desert parks and 40 trails totaling approximately 200 miles. Some of the most popular are Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. Phoenix and the Valley metro area; phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations.
Desert Botanical Garden: It’s the perfect time of year to explore this 140-acre botanical garden located right in the heart of the Valley. There are a variety of events coming up this fall! Phoenix; dbg.org.
Pioneer Living History Museum: Taking the theme of “living history” to heart, this museum incorporates 90 acres of an 1800’s town with authentic buildings and historically accurate reproductions. It’s dubbed Arizona’s most authentic Old West town. Phoenix; pioneeraz.org.
Rawhide: Now open for the 2015-2016 season, Rawhide Western Town and Event Center features Western-themed attractions for the whole family. Go panning for gold, ride the Rawhide Express, catch a show at Six Gun Theater, fill up at the Steakhouse, and more. Chandler; rawhide.com.
The Rosson House Museum: Perfect for locals who are curious about Phoenix’s history, a guided tour of the Rosson House provides a look into the lives of early Phoenix families. Located in Heritage Square, which is also home to several restaurants and ongoing events. heritagesquarephx.org.
San Xavier Mission: A picturesque mission and museum in Tucson, the San Xavier Mission is a great stop for those interested in the religious and cultural history of the area. Tucson; sanxaviermission.org.
Tombstone: Known as the “Town too tough to die,” Tombstone was one of the last boomtowns of the Old West and features well-known historical attractions. tombstoneweb.com.