For your next family vacation, consider Moab. Picture a surreal landscape, a kaleidoscope of color and red rock faces that defy gravity. A city in eastern Utah famous for its rock formations, National Parks and dinosaur fossils, Moab is nature at its best. It’s the type of scenery that takes you away from the grind of daily life and grounds you back to nature. Having spent years lusting over saturated images of Moab on Instagram, I finally decided to plan a trip with the fam. With so many extreme outdoor adventures in Moab (white water rafting, mountain biking, 4 X 4 jeep tours, ATVs, hiking, SUP to name a few), I did pause to wonder if there was anything little kids could actually enjoy. Turns out, even a 2 and 4 year-old can rock out in Moab. My husband and I packed up the kids and set out on a six-hour road trip from Denver crisscrossing through the mountains, across state lines to Utah.
While there are many family-friendly activities in Moab for kids of all ages, here are (in my opinion) some of the best things to do in Moab with young kids.
Best things to do in Moab With a 2 and 4 year-old:
If your kids like dinosaurs (don’t all kids?), Moab has a tons of hiking trails with dinosaur fossils. Moab Giants is a great place to check out since they have life-sized replicas of dinosaurs that roamed the area some 150 million years ago. This place is part outdoor paleo-amusement park, part playground featuring giant life-size dino replicas, walking trails and 3D videos. To avoid the hottest times of the day, it’s best to get there in the morning when it opens at 10am. Grab a dinosaur wagon to cart the little ones around the path if they tired and need a snack. There is a café on-site where you can get ice cream, granola bars and lemonade (oh and lunch, but what kid wants that when ice cream is on the table). Full disclosure, I spent most of my time there taking selfies of fake dinosaurs chasing me (see below). Weirdly, I might have enjoyed this place even more than the kids.
When in Moab, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are the big draw and one of the best things to do with young kids. Due to time restrictions we focused on Arches, driving through the red rock formations, stopping at different spots to hike. Take a look at the free map they give you upon entry at the Visitor’s Center to see which hikes are suitable for your children. Even with short walks, bring water (it’s extremely dry), nourishing snacks and slather your kids in sunscreen. Sand Dune Arch was by far the most magical. It’s like a giant sandbox of fine red sand nestled between a narrow outcrop of rock walls. It is perfect for young kids to play, make sand angels, scramble up rocks and safely explore. It’s also shaded, so in the paralyzing heat of mid-day, it stays nice and cool. Sand Dune Arch is also a very short walk from where you park the car. It’s a must visit and one of the best things to do in Moab with young kids. Do a sand angel for me.
For that wow factor, head to Dead Horse Point, totally worth the 32-mile drive from Moab. While it does feel like you’re driving in the middle of nowhere, the road eventually opens up to panoramic views of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below. It’s like an underrated Grand Canyon. This is also where that famous final scene in “Thelma and Louise” was filmed…so it makes for quite the dramatic pit stop.
For a fascinating and fun look at fossils, Moab Rock shop is truly worth a visit. It’s sells precious fossils, minerals, dinosaur teeth and treasures that geology geeks will love. We quickly learned that our kids couldn’t stop touching everything in sight, so be cautious inside the store. There are pieces being sold that are worth thousands of dollars, so keep your kids on a short leash and don’t fall victim to the “you break it, you buy it policy.”
Where To Stay in Moab with Young Kids:
For an easy, affordable, central and family friendly spot, check out Expedition Lodge. Look for the 4 X 4 jeep that graces the highway-facing sign and you’ve arrived. I’ve found that when you book online, relying solely on Yelp recommendations from random strangers, you never know what you’re actually going to find upon check-in, but the Expedition Lodge proved the be an excellent budget-friendly choice when traveling with kids. This renovated motel has a retro 60’s theme, with red banquettes and vinyl records decorating the wall. Kids will love the free buffet breakfast (think unlimited waffles and sugary cereals), a pool with slide (a tad ghetto but kids didn’t mind), a ping pong table and some arcade games. It’s also just a short walk from the main drag, so you can be popping into boutiques or dining at a local restaurant in mere minutes.
For families looking for a high-end camping experience, Under Canvas Moab is the go-to company for Glamping. It’s located on 40 acres, 7 miles north of Moab, near the entrance of both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. For those who don’t know, Glamping is like camping, but with more amenities and creature comforts. We opted for the Safari Tent with Adjacent Teepee (perfect for the kids to play in), which came complete with a King sized bed, wood burning stove, and armoire. Fancy! There are hot showers, flushing toilets and sinks just steps away from the tent (they even offer Pack n Plays for those traveling with babies), making this outdoor experience far more manageable for families who want a middle ground between the camping and hotel experience. The Under Canvas staff was extremely engaging, offering crafts for the kids, games and tips on roasting smores by the fire. There are even sunset hikes led by a local guide (which our kids surprisingly loved).
For families looking for a swanky, high-end ranch experience look no further than The Sorrel River Ranch Resort. Set along the river banks of the Colorado river, this beautiful resort boasts elegant dining and spa for mama, and a slew of farm animals for the kiddos. Guests have access to free horse rides, tours of the stables and a chance to feed and pet goats, pigs and donkeys. I think its’ the location that makes Sorrel River Ranch so special. The vibe is so tranquil and the setting really stunning. Sit back in Adirondack chairs overlooking the rushing river and kick back with the kiddos.
Kid-Friendly Places to Eat in Moab:
Eklektic Café is a quirky daytime café that serves breakfast (try the banana pancakes) and lunch. It has an outdoor patio set in a lush garden with a koi pond (which the kids loved). There is also a funny bubbling tea cup upon entry that will delight the kiddos.
Moab Brewery is a good spot for locally brewed beer and pub fare for the whole family. While you snack on fries and fajitas, take in the restaurant’s eclectic décor, complete with mountain bikes and 4 X4 trucks driven by stuffed mannequins. There is a kids menu and a gelato stand with a variety of flavors – perfect for bribing your kids to eat their vegetables.