An Unforgettable (And Affordable!) Kid-Friendly Vacay


Acrobatic hummingbirds are frequent sights in Sierra Vista. Pictured: Rufous hummingbird © Tony Batiste

Arizona summer is code for blazing hot… unless you’re in Sierra Vista. This mid-sized community is folded into the state’s southeast corner and high enough in altitude to bring summer’s heat down to a pleasant 80-ish degrees. Even higher than Sierra Vista’s 4,300 feet, the surrounding mountains drop in a 360-degree view and beckon with trails leading into cool canyons rich with wildlife, butterflies, and birds.

Family-friendly Sierra Vista is always a great place for littles and grown-ups to visit, and summer is particularly incredible. Brief but intense monsoon rains drop the temperature into the balmy range while the interplay of light and moisture against the setting sun make for spectacular sunsets. Even if your visit misses a storm, be sure to look west for Mother Nature’s evening light show.

When the stars come out, you can get an eyeful just by looking up or peering through telescopes. The Huachuca Astronomy Club holds monthly Family Nights at the Patterson Observatory, where visitors can look through the 23-inch observatory telescope or any of the club members’ ‘scopes. These amateur astronomers train their lenses on the galaxy’s best sights, and looks are free. (Events are subject to weather, check the club’s website for dates and make reservations at

The city-sponsored summer Thursday Concerts in the Park series runs through August 31, featuring toe-tapping, danceable music in Sierra Vista’s Veterans Memorial Park. These free concerts launch under the setting sun, playing from 6:30-7:30 every week. Bring a take-out feast for a concert-side picnic.

Ramsey Canyon Preserve is a must-do for history buffs and nature nuts. Owned by the Nature Conservancy, Ramsey Canyon is a haven for wildlife and chock-full of Old West history. A stroll along a burbling stream is a walk through time as the canyon comes to life with tales of toll roads, salted mines, lumber camps, and rowdy dancehalls. Birders, keep your peepers peeled for elegant trogon, Gould’s turkey, tanagers, and many of the roughly 300 bird species that pass through the area. Pick up a treasure hunt bingo card for the kids, and be sure to visit the “please touch” display of nature bits ($8 per adult, free for youth 17 and under).

Sierra Vista is known as the Hummingbird Capital of the United States, and these tiny acrobats can be spotted throughout the community. One of the best places to see these little guys up close is at a hummingbird banding session held at the San Pedro House near the San Pedro River, where volunteers from the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory carefully capture, examine, band, and release them. The sessions (and strolls along the river) are free; for a small donation, you can release a hummingbird from the palm of your hand.

Looking for a way to cool off? Check out The Cove, Sierra Vista’s indoor waterpark. This municipal pool features a wave-action beach entry, shallow and deep water, water slides, and floaty things for the kiddos. The entry fee for a family of four is about $20, depending on age.

Call 800-288-3861 or head to to find more things to do, get dates and details, and find cozy places to stay and good things to eat.

More Fun in Sierra Vista

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Situated in the center of southern Arizona’s renowned wine growing regions and flanked by historic sites that tell the area’s rugged origin story, Sierra Vista is the perfect launch pad for day-trip discoveries. Explore the character-rich communities and astonishing landscapes that surround Sierra Vista — the heart of southeast Arizona.


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