There are so many things to do in Lake Havasu with kids, making it a popular destination for families. While boating is a highlight for sure (and a must do), there is also hiking, excellent restaurants, beach play, and more. We spent a 3 day weekend here in February, and are already wanting to return in the summer!
Start off by watching our YouTube video summary!
The drive from Phoenix to Lake Havasu is about 3.5 hours. And there’s not much to see along the way. Just desert scenery! So be prepared with plenty of car activities, like the ones listed here. The main route takes you out of Phoenix via I10, then you head north on Hwy 72 to Parker, then Hwy 95 to Lake Havasu. The last 30 minutes of the drive is beautiful with mountains and glimpses of the Colorado River before heading down to Lake Havasu!
Alternatively, there is Parker Dam Road across the river in California which runs parallel to Hwy 95. It goes from Parker to Parker Dam, and you can drive across the dam. We took this route coming home from Lake Havasu City and enjoyed the views, including the many river side resorts and wild burros!
There is also a 4 hour route from Phoenix to Lake Havasu, which goes north through Wickenburg and Kingman via Hwy 93 and I40, before turning south on Hay 95 to Lake Havasu. Slightly longer, but you can get in some fun stops along Route 66. See more in this blog post!
Where We Stayed
Our default for lodging in new cities is usually AirBnB. And while we found some good options, the cleaning fees were astronomical. This may be better for a longer stay; for our 3 day weekend, it didn’t work for us.
So we opted for a hotel, settling on Wyndham Travelodge north of town. Our suite was basic, but clean and comfortable. They offered to-go breakfast bags each morning, but usually have a self-serve breakfast bar for guests. There are numerous other lodging options in town as well, including camping and these cabins at a state park.
Where We Ate
The food scene in Lake Havasu City surprised us. There are so many good restaurants! You can definitely find favorite fast food places, or even the familiar Black Bear Diner. But we definitely recommend trying a handful of local food stops, including coffee and ice cream.
The best pizza we found was at PZA Pizzeria, a wood fired pizza joint that also offers salads, sides, and meatball subs. This place is fast, without sacrificing taste – definitely get the BBQ Yard Bird Pizza. They have beer on tap too! Another amazing restaurant is The Blue Chair, located right next to the London Bridge! This popular spot offers tasty appetizers, entrees, drinks and more with a Hawaiian/beach vibe. For sure order the Stinky Toes (bacon wrapped and stuffed jalapeños), and any of the burgers. If the weather is good, ask for patio seating for views of the bridge.
Kids need a sweet treat? Scoops Homemade Ice Cream was so good, we went twice! They have milkshakes, smoothies, and sundaes too. Browse their fun collection of toys and gifts too. We picked up some old fashioned sodas to enjoy later at the beach!
Other places we enjoyed: Wild Coffee, Side Street Coffee Company, Red Onion, Fat Sub, Rebel BBQ, Donut Post, and Chao Praya Thai Food. (The latter gets a thumbs up for amazing Pad Thai.) Again, we were happily surprised at the variety and tasty local restaurants in Lake Havasu City! Eating out was definitely a highlight.
What We Did
London Bridge – Of course no visit to Lake Havasu is complete without a visit to London Bridge! It was built in the 1830’s to span the famous River Thames in London. In 1967, Robert P. McCulloch was planning a new community along the shores of Lake Havasu, and purchased the bridge. The exterior blocks of the bridge were taken down, numbered, and shipped to Lake Havasu City! It was placed over dry land and then and then a canal was made to make a waterway to the Colorado River and Lake Havasu. This was completed in October 1971. So cool!
Today, there is a charming area called the English Village with shops and restaurants and boat rentals at either side of the bridge. You can’t miss the Buckingham Fountain recreation either! Or the red British phone booths for photo ops. We loved walking along the canal, and of course over the bridge. Parking is free. There is also a fabulous visitor’s center for any questions.
We recommend two spots in particular to get the best photos of your family with London Bridge. The first is near the Blue Chair restaurant. You’ll see a red phone booth, but we actually liked the angle a bit further back. The second photo spot is across the bridge. Head down to the waterway and you’ll see a gazebo. Take a photo here, or continue down the pathway to the condominiums. There’s a small beach and a great view of the bridge.
Parks and Playgrounds – If you’re looking for a park, Rotary Park next to the lake is the one to visit. It has multiple playgrounds, a skate park, plus beach access, restrooms and free parking. We went here numerous times for playtime and sunset watching. This park also accesses the paved Shoreline Trail, which will take you north to the London Bridge, and a bit beyond. Cypress Park is off the main road is a fun option for its updated playground and zipline!
Look up SARA Park as well, with 1,100 acres of just about everything including a playground and our favorite hike, Sara’s Crack. (Keep reading for more details on the hike.) Another option for warmer months is Mesquite Park, with its updated playground and splash pad. It’s near the amazing shops and restaurants off McCulloch Blvd. There are other parks in Lake Havasu City, see a list here.
Kayaking and Nature – One of our favorite stops for kayaking was Castle Rock. Even if you’re not kayaking, this is a super fun spot for kids! There’s a large rock formation to climb, a small beach to explore, and beautiful views in this cove area off the river. The kids built sand and mud castles and loved building with the reeds along the bank. If you do kayak, be sure to find the narrow pathway through the reeds and explore beyond the cove on the river!
There is no address for this spot, that we could find; GPS coordinates are (34.5656536, -114.3925720). Head north on Hwy 95 out of Lake Havasu City, and turn left on London Bridge Road, just past McDonalds. In 0.7 miles you’ll take a right on Fathom Drive. From here you should see signs for Castle Rock parking area. Parking is free, but there are no restrooms.
Another great spot for kayaking and nature time is at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge Area. Located south of the city about 30 minutes, this protected area offers wildlife viewing and a brief paved hike along a peninsula. We took the side road from the ranger station to park at the water and explore with our kayak on the water. The kids also liked hunting for shells and rocks along the shore. Parking is free, there are port-a-potties by the ranger station and trailhead. More information can be found here.
Things to do in Lake Havasu With Kids
Sara’s Crack Hike – Another top favorite activity in the Lake Havasu area was hiking Sara’s Crack. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s called that because a portion of the 3.4 miles out and back trail goes through an amazing slot canyon! We loved this hike, even when we just went to the canyon, and felt like we were in a small version of Antelope Canyon.
The trailhead is a parking lot off McCulloch Blvd. within SARA Park on the southwest part of the city. GPS coordinates are (34.4437758, -114.2649408), with additional parking across the street. There are restrooms here as well as a ramada. From the trailhead, follow the Yellow Trail markings. The trail leads down to a wash, and the wash will lead you to the slot canyon, in about 1.2 miles.
From here, be prepared for the fun! There’s a rope to help you descend a small rock face. There’s a bridge over a small portion of water. There’s two small ladders to help you climb over a boulder. The kids loved it! It should be noted that while we hiked to the canyon with our toddler in the carrier, we had to take her out and pass her back and forth to make it through the canyon. It got narrow in places! So we don’t recommend this hike with littles unless you have another adult or older child to help. (This mama would not have attempted this hike solo with three kids.)
Lighthouse Hunt – Did you know that Lake Havasu City is home to 27 lighthouse replicas? These can be found at various points along the water, some you can visit by car and some just by boat. The ones on the west side of the lake are replicas of famous West Coast lighthouses and the ones on the east side are East Coast replicas. We had a lot of fun hunting down the majority of them over the weekend! A map of all locations can be found here.
Of note, a nice handful can be found on the island, and makes for a fun afternoon drive (we did this one afternoon and the toddler napped). You have to go off-road to visit some, but our mini-van made it just fine. Definitely try to find half a dozen during your visit! It’s a unique and cool addition to the city.
Murals – Lake Havasu City has some great murals! We hunted down a couple for photos. Our favorites included these locations:
- on the side of La Fiesta Pool Supply (2079 McCulloch Blvd N # 1)
- on the side of Ojala Vegan Restaurant (2144 McCulloch Blvd N)
- at the intersection of Hwy 95 and Mesquite Avenue
Boating on Lake Havasu – If you do little else during your visit, for sure rent a pontoon or speedboat boat and explore on the lake itself. This was a highlight of the weekend! (And we may already be planning to come back in the summer and rent a pontoon boat for the whole day.) It adds a whole new perspective to the water and land, the kids loved driving the boat, and we saw more lighthouses.
For our first time, being unsure how the toddler would take to it, we rented the pontoon for 2hrs. She ended up loving it, as we all did! But the 2hrs was a good introduction. We were able to explore about 30 minutes down the river, then return north to go around the island, and then dock. Bring sunscreen for sure, hats (but watch that they don’t fly away in the wind), jackets if it’s not summer, and plenty of drinks and snacks. For littles, a few simple toys might help when they lose interest. And of course swim stuff if it’s hot outside!
There are countless rental options. We happened upon a local company under the London Bridge. See the image below for pricing info and phone number.
Bonus ideas – There were a few activities and destinations we didn’t get to on this trip to Lake Havasu. The city aquatic center came highly recommended, so check it out if you’re visiting and need some indoor water time, especially in the warmer months. We also had down to book a cabin at Lake Havasu State Park and explore there. Next time!
Also, a huge shout out to Go Lake Havasu – their website is a fabulous resource for visiting families! And check out Lake Havasu Family on Instagram; this local family shares their every day adventures living in this unique city, and had some many excellent suggestions for us!