5 Adventures Before Going Back to School

Summer s winding down and the first school bell is just about to ring for many valley students. For those families who are looking to fit in one more adventure in before it is time to hit the books, you are in luck because Arizona offers several fun and affordable last-minute excursions.

Here are five family adventure ideas before the school schedule rules our calendar.

Flight History
Many children are intrigued by airplanes and a trip to the Pima Air and Space Museum is a great summer adventure getaway.

The museum north of Tucson and has more than 300 aircraft, which include helicopters, military planes and civilian airplanes. This incredible collection offers the chance to see historic planes, several of which are from World War II. Half of the aircraft are indoors, with the rest outside, so plan on sunscreen, hats and umbrellas.  There is a tram tour that lasts one hour and offers more comfort when viewing the outdoor planes.

You may have heard of the Boneyard, which is located on site and is also available via a bus tour of the 2,600 acres. The Boneyard is a storage facility for military and government aircraft. For those who love history, this part of the tour is not to be missed. The Bonyard and Tram tours are an additional charge.

Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Location: 6000 E. Valencia Road, Tucson.
Cost: $15.50 ($12.25 for Pima County residents), $12.75 for senior citizens and military members, $9 for ages 5-12, free for age 4 and younger.
For more information call 520-574-0462 or visit pimaair.org.

Go Climb a Tree
What child doesn’t love to climb a great tree? Located just a few hours north of the valley, your kids can burn off their endless supply of energy and challenge their siblings to a little fun off the ground.

Adventure waits at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. This great family friendly location features four challenging in-the-trees obstacle courses that include ladders, rope swings, tunnels, bridges and monkey bar. Don’t worry they have nets! Each course concludes with an incredible zipline.

This family adventure will test your problem-solving skills, stamina and agility. Four courses are available for adults and one for children ages 7-11.

Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Sept. 7.
Check the website for hours after that or for reservations.
Location: Fort Tuthill County Park, 3 miles south of Flagstaff off Interstate 17. Cost: $27-$62
For more information call 888-259-0125 or visit flagstaffextreme.com.

Sky Gazing
If your children are intrigued by the evening sky, a visit to the Lowell Observatory might be a great idea.

Flagstaff takes pride in the history of the observatory that was founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, Mr. Lowell had the original 24-inch telescope built in Boston and shipped to Flagstaff. That original scope is out of commission for research these days, but there are other cool scopes to check out the universe with.

In addition to the telescopes, make sure to visit the Rotunda Museum. On display is an exhibit detailing the observatory’s role in mapping the moon for the Apollo program. Incredible history for children to learn!

Open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.
Location: 1400 W. Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff
Cost: $15, $8 for ages 5-17, free for age 4 and younger.
For more information call 928-774-3358 or visit lowell.edu.

Musically Inclined
The Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale is an incredible resource and you don’t have to travel far if you live in the valley. If your child has natural music ability or just wants to check out every cool possible instrument ever made, the MIM is a great way to beat the heat and learn in the process.

The museum’s collection contains instruments from all over the world, arranged by geographic areas and is completely interactive. It’s ok to touch! Instruments are included from all corners of the world – Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, Europe, Latin American and of course the United States and Canada.

MIM also features a space with incredible acoustics. Check the schedule before you go and you may have the opportunity to take in a concert while you are there. Concert tickets are sold separately from the price of admission.

Open: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Location: 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix. $20
Cost:  $15 for ages 13-19, $10 for ages 4-12, free for age 3 and younger.
For more information call 480-478-6000 or visit mim.org.

Go Caving    
In the Southeastern part of Arizona you can find not one, but two famous caves that will provide any family great underground adventure!

Kartchner Caverns offers two guided tours.1) Rotunda/Throne tour, which includes the 58-foot-tall Kubla Khan formation and 2) Helmet & Headlight tour that allows visitors to experience the caves by the light of just a headlamp. The total distance for each tour is a half-mile.

The Rotunda tour costs $23, $13 for ages 7-13 and $5 for age 6 and younger. Headlamp tours are $30 and children younger than 10 are not permitted.

Due to the resident bat population roosting, the Big Room tour is discontinued from mid-April through mid-October. Big Room tours cost the same as Rotunda tours however children younger than 7 are not permitted on that tour.

Before you go, know that Arizona residents can save some money on summer. State residents get $3 off the price of a cave tour through October 14th. All Cochise County residents and active-duty military members receive a $5 discount during this time period.

Do you want to camp overnight? The park offers a campground with new, air-conditioned cabins for rent plus sites for tents and RVs. Click here for more information.

Location: Kartchner Caverns State Park is on State Route 90 about 9 miles south of Benson.
For more information call 520-586-4100.
Tour reservations: 520-586-2283 or visit azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA.

Colossal Cave, located in Vail, Arizona, is just east of Tucson. Unlike Kartchner Caverns, Colossal Cave is no longer a living cave, but it still offers its promise of underground adventure.

The cave offers narrow passageways, stalactites and colorful deposits. An interesting fact is that a small chamber near the entrance of the cave was home to Hohokam people for nearly 500 years.

Open: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Daily.
Location: 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail, Vail.
Cost: Basic cave tours $8-16; other tours $30-99; trail rides $30-60.
For more information call 520-647-7275 or visit www.colossalcave.com.


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