Things to do in Grand Canyon, AZ

Get Your Bearings in Grand Canyon

By Steve Larese
Grand Canyon Expert

See & Do

Things to See

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.


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.

Hot Tips:

Check for ranger-led programs such as astronomy, wildlife and Native American history lectures.

Where to Stay

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.


Book your room as soon as possible, as the ever-popular Grand Canyon hotels book far in advance.

Hot Tips:

El Tovar and Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim) have rooms overlooking the canyon.

What to Eat

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.

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.

Hot Tips:

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.

Places to Party

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.

Where to Shop

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.

Hot Tips:

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.

Grand Canyon Neighborhoods

Things to do in Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon is known for...

Five of Grand Canyon's most unique features and characteristics.


Whether you're standing on the ledge of the highly-trafficked South Rim, or camping out on a desolate ridge of the canyon's North Rim, millions of travelers come to the Grand Canyon every year in pursuit of the perfect view. Guess what? It's not hard to find. No matter where you stop to take in the view, chances are you'll be entranced by the sheer immensity of the canyon. Time your visit just right and watch the last rays of daylight play against the canyon walls.

2. Hiking:

What would be a visit to the Grand Canyon without taking in one of the park's scenic trails? Hiking is one of the most popular, and rigorous, ways to tour the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, the park offers several trails, including accessible, paved trails along the canyon's South Rim. If you are so inclined, making your way by foot to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is an incredible experience. But be forewarned that it's nearly impossible to complete the journey in one day. Stick to designated trails and plan ahead for a safe and unforgettable hiking experience.

3. Historic Lodges:

Grand Canyon National Park is home to several historic lodges, all located along the park's South Rim. The most important thing when planning your Grand Canyon vacation is to make reservations early--a year in advance is recommended. The oldest and most elegant of the historic lodges is El Tovar Hotel, built by the Fred Harvey Company back in 1905. The distinctive lobby retains its original rustic elegance with a large fireplace, thick wood ceiling beams, and dark-stained pine furniture and decor. Bright Angel Lodge, located nearby, was built in 1935 on the site of Bright Angel Camp and features clean, modest rooms, along with several historic cabins equipped with fireplaces.

4. Rafting:

If getting to the bottom of the Grand Canyon isn't adventurous enough, visitors may want to consider a rafting trip down the Colorado River. Rafting is seasonal, with trips generally operating from April through September. Most river rafting trips depart from Lee's Ferry near Page, Arizona, just below the Glen Canyon Dam. Popular tourist rafts are motorized, with pontoons, and offer seating for about 14 people. For a more exciting voyage, smaller, oar-operated dories that ride closer to the water--and threaten to tip over at any moment--are also available.

5. Camping:

Camping out under the stars--or inside the warmth of your hotel-like trailer--is one of the most popular activities at Grand Canyon National Park. The National Park Services maintains well-equipped campgrounds on both sides of the canyon. Fees are assessed per night per vehicle, or for individual backpackers. Back country camping below the rim is by permit only. Popular campgrounds fill up fast, especially during the summer months, so advanced reservations are strongly recommended.