The Grand Canyon itself is a breathtaking attraction that brings more than 4.5 million visitors here annually. The 50-mile Desert View Drive allows you to see different parts of the canyon from dramatic vantage points. At the east end of the drive, make sure to visit the Watchtower, a 70-foot-tall Pueblo Indian-inspired stone tower that was completed in 1932. Nearby, the real ancient ruins of Tusayan and the museum here show what life was like for the Native Americans who called the Grand Canyon home 900 years ago. The Grand Canyon Railway that travels between Williams and the Village is a hit with the kids.
Check for ranger-led programs such as astronomy, wildlife and Native American history lectures.
It takes twice as long to hike up a Grand Canyon trail as it does to hike down. Plan accordingly and be prepared.
Hiking in the heat of the day.
Grand Canyon National Park has 7 hotels on its South Rim, all operated by Xantera, and the Grand Canyon Lodge on the less-visited North Rim, operated by Forever Resorts. Most of these lodges are historic; El Tovar, the park's grande dame, was completed in 1905. All hotels are within walking distance to the incredible views of the canyon. If you'd like to hike or ride a mule to the bottom of the canyon and stay the night, Phantom Ranch has bunk-style accommodations and a mess hall, set within an oasis near the Colorado River.
El Tovar and Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim) have rooms overlooking the canyon.
Book your room as soon as possible, as the ever-popular Grand Canyon hotels book far in advance.
Most of the hotels within the park all have restaurants ranging from cafeteria-style to fine dining. The El Tovar Dining Room and Bright Angel's Arizona Room are white-tablecloth, with menus offering filet mignon, pan-roasted trout, buffalo, pasta dishes, fajitas, gourmet salads and other hearty meals. The Bright Angel Restaurant is perfect for families with its more casual atmosphere, and an ice cream cone from the Bright Angel Fountain is a Grand Canyon tradition. Maswik and Yavapai lodges both have buffet-style cafes. If you'd like to make your own meals, the Delicatessen at Marketplace sells groceries and staples.
El Tovar requires reservations for dinner; the Arizona Room does not accept reservations.
Time your dinner for sunset and request a window view, if possible.
Be Sure to Sample:
The Kolb Brothers Three Cheese Lasagna at the Arizona Room is great if you're looking for something other than a good steak.
Take It or Leave It:
In order to reduce the amount of trash at the Grand Canyon, bottled water is no longer sold at the Grand Canyon. There are many water fountains, so you can refill your reusable containers.
The best nightlife at the Grand Canyon is looking up at the mind-blowing number of stars you can see here. But there are places to get a drink after. There's live music at the Bright Angel Lounge lodge most nights, and the bar at El Tovar lets you sip while enjoying a sunset on its patio.
Remember you're at 6,000 feet above sea level, and alcohol can seem stronger to those not used to the elevation.
You (fortunately) won't find any shopping malls at the Grand Canyon, but the lodges all have gift shops with books, t-shirts, posters and other park-related items. Standout shops are the historic Hopi House across from El Tovar. Here, you can find high-quality Native American-made jewelry and art. The Watchtower at Desert View also houses a high-end gift shop on its first floor.
Your photographs are probably your best souvenirs. Late afternoon to sunset is a good time to photograph the canyon.
Best Local Souvenir:
A Navajo sandpainting or silver jewelry, or Hopi Katsina statue are quality purchases.