What are the five best things to see and do in the Grand Canyon?

Becky Bosshart

Once you see the Grand Canyon in person, you’ll realize why it was named one of the 1,000 places to see before you die. Because of its international popularity (the national park attracts about five million tourists annually), you’ll find an organized tourist economy built around providing good and safe outdoor experiences. Here are five things Forbes Travel Guide recommends seeing and doing at the Grand Canyon:
 
1. Plan your trip around the star attraction, the canyon itself. Descend to the bottom of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. We suggest starting before 7 a.m. if you want to get through all the switchbacks by 7 p.m. However, many people extend this trip over several days, choosing to camp or lodge along the way.
 
2. Shop Grand Canyon Village Market. This shop has basic camping supplies and groceries, but you’ll also want to come here for the view — it’s near two famous overlooks along the South Rim, Hermits Rest and Desert View.
 
3. Book a river trip. See for yourself how the Colorado River affects the regional environment. Canyon Explorations features multi-day paddle and oar raft trips down the river. Do-it-yourselfers can pick up a noncommercial permit to launch from Diamond Creek, but due to high demand these can be hard to come by.
 
4. Visit Mather Point. Avoid the overcrowded Grand Canyon Skywalk and instead see the sunrise at Mather Point also on the South Rim — it’s all natural beauty, no hype.
 
5. Take an overnight mule ride. Saddle up for an overnight mule ride (you can stay at Phantom Ranch, where meals are included) or take a half-day inner canyon trip to Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    What is the best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon?

    The best time of year to visit the Grand Canyon depends on the type of experience you are looking for. Forbes Travel Guide editors find that the most popular time of year to visit is the summer, when children are on vacation from school and families can travel freely. You’ll find the largest crowds at Grand Canyon Village, and you’ll have more difficulty booking lodging and dinner reservations within the park. Call far in advance to nab a spot at El Tovar or a canyon-view cabin at Grand Canyon Lodge. Summer is also the most strenuous time for hiking.
     
    A late fall or winter trip may be best for those who enjoy the wide open space and tranquility of nature. Around Christmas and New Year’s, you’ll find lots of availability and minimal crowds. Keep in mind clouds can roll in during the winter and obscure those breathtaking canyon views.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    What is the best thing to bring home from the Grand Canyon?

    The best things to bring home from the Grand Canyon are amazing photos of your trip — it’s simply impossible to capture the experience with anything else. If possible, time your visit to the canyon when there’s a full moon to get breathtaking photos of the canyon aglow at night. Get the requisite sunrise pictures at Mather Point on the South Rim or the ramparts of the Palisades of the Desert. And you’ll want to capture that magnificent sunset along the Trail of Time. If you come in the winter, you’ll be able to see the canyon dusted with snow — an ethereal, tranquil sight not many experience.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    What are the five best Grand Canyon food experiences?

    The Grand Canyon has a slew of Southwestern food to be enjoyed — eat and then burn off the calories with an afternoon hike or raft ride. Here are five food experiences that Forbes Travel Guide recommends having in and around the Grand Canyon:
     
    1. Historic dining. For a taste of history, eat at the El Tovar Dining Room, which is located inside a historic hotel on the South Rim. Try the hand-cut natural black Angus filet mignon au poivre paired with a glass of sustainable pinot noir.
     
    2. Ice cream. Bright Angel Restaurant — a family-friendly restaurant with a traditional American menu — serves hand-packed premium ice cream on hot summer days.
     
    3. Alfresco dinner. Go to Grand Cookout at the North Rim to have a camp-style meal, complete with Western music and folk tales. The ambience is what makes this dining experience, but you’ll also love the down-home grub like baked beans and barbecue beer brisket.
     
    4. Drinks at El Tovar Lounge. You’ll love sipping a glass of sparkling wine at the El Tovar Lounge, which is paneled in dark oak and has a veranda overlooking the canyon. Try the local red varietal, Arizona Stronghold Mangus Tuscan Blend.
     
    5. Camp cuisine. By the time you get to the Phantom Ranch Canteen at the bottom of the canyon, you’ll be ready for the specialty beef stew, vegetarian chili or steak. Book that reservation well in advance — this is the only lodge and meal at the bottom of the canyon, and thus, it’s a popular one.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    Where is the best nightlife in the Grand Canyon?

    The Grand Canyon is a family destination that rises with the sun, so as you likely imagine, there is little nightlife in the area around this national treasure. The Grand Canyon National Park slows down after the sunset, and then shutters almost completely when the dining rooms at Bright Angel Restaurant and El Tovar close at 10 p.m. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you seek out the scene at the Bright Angel Bar where folk and country singers regularly perform. The hours here vary by seasons, but this spot is often open late. If you’re looking for a more relaxing evening, the El Tovar Lounge is open until 11 p.m. nightly.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    What is the best way to see the Grand Canyon in one day?

    The best way to see the Grand Canyon in one day is to book a motorcoach or railway tour, according to Forbes Travel Guide editors. There are plenty of tours offered in the area, so you’ll want to pick one that fits your schedule and interests. The two-hour Hermits Rest tour travels along an old wagon road built for the Santa Fe Railroad. The Desert View tour is about four hours long and travels east along the rim, stopping at Lipan Point — the most spectacular viewpoint on the East Rim drive — and Desert View, where you’ll get a view from the recreated Watchtower (towers erected by ancient natives). The Sunrise tour takes visitors to the ramparts of the Palisades of the Desert, and offers a panorama view of Yaki and Mojave Points.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    Where is the best shopping in the Grand Canyon?

    The best place for shopping in and around the Grand Canyon is the Grand Canyon Village Marketplace, where Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you take a break from the heat and outdoor activities. Located near the start of the Bright Angel Trail, the market offers various shopping, dining and lodging options — it is a grocer, department store and camping equipment rental site all in one. For memorabilia, head to Verkamp’s Visitor center, a historic home (one of the canyon’s oldest) that was remodeled to serve as a gift shop, bookstore and museum. You can also find authentic Native American handicrafts at the historic Hopi House and fine gifts at the El Tovar Hotel gift shop.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    What are the five best things to do with kids in the Grand Canyon?

    Grand Canyon National Park is a seminal trip for many families. Here are the Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to do with kids — all offer plenty of opportunities for photos:
     
    1. Take a smooth water raft trip. Flat-water trips are a less intense river experience and are entertaining for younger children. Pick a half-day or full-day tour and ride the easy rapids of the Colorado River.
     
    2. Go river camping. You can ride the river for up to 18 days in large motorized rafts, oared rafts, paddle rafts or dories. Several river concessioners operate these tours through the canyon; we like Canyon Explorations for its upscale options.
     
    3. Travel by mule. For families with animal-loving children, take an overnight mule ride and stay at Phantom Ranch, where meals are included. If you don’t think the kids (or adults) can handle a full day on the back of a mule, opt for a half-day trip through the inner canyon on the North Kaibab Trail.
     
    4. Take an interpretive ranger tour. The Grand Canyon’s South Rim and North Rim operate different programs at different times of the year. You can get a ranger’s point of view during walks, talks, hikes and even telescope viewing. Programs generally run from March to mid-October.
     
    5. Hike the South Kaibab Trail. This 3-mile, kid-friendly hike cuts off at Cedar Ridge Trail and offers panoramic views on a ridgeline descent. There’s little shade and no water — don’t attempt long hikes here at the height of summer. Go to the Bright Angel Trail for guaranteed water stops and shade.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Becky Bosshart answered the question: Becky Bosshart

    What are the five best things to see and do in the Grand Canyon?

    Once you see the Grand Canyon in person, you’ll realize why it was named one of the 1,000 places to see before you die. Because of its international popularity (the national park attracts about five million tourists annually), you’ll find an organized tourist economy built around providing good and safe outdoor experiences. Here are five things Forbes Travel Guide recommends seeing and doing at the Grand Canyon:
     
    1. Plan your trip around the star attraction, the canyon itself. Descend to the bottom of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. We suggest starting before 7 a.m. if you want to get through all the switchbacks by 7 p.m. However, many people extend this trip over several days, choosing to camp or lodge along the way.
     
    2. Shop Grand Canyon Village Market. This shop has basic camping supplies and groceries, but you’ll also want to come here for the view — it’s near two famous overlooks along the South Rim, Hermits Rest and Desert View.
     
    3. Book a river trip. See for yourself how the Colorado River affects the regional environment. Canyon Explorations features multi-day paddle and oar raft trips down the river. Do-it-yourselfers can pick up a noncommercial permit to launch from Diamond Creek, but due to high demand these can be hard to come by.
     
    4. Visit Mather Point. Avoid the overcrowded Grand Canyon Skywalk and instead see the sunrise at Mather Point also on the South Rim — it’s all natural beauty, no hype.
     
    5. Take an overnight mule ride. Saddle up for an overnight mule ride (you can stay at Phantom Ranch, where meals are included) or take a half-day inner canyon trip to Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail.
  • On July 27, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in the Grand Canyon?

    If you don’t want to camp and cook trail grub over a propane flame, there are several great options for dining in and around Grand Canyon National Park. Here are five Forbes Travel Guide favorites:
     
    1. El Tovar Dining Room. Located on the South Rim, El Tovar Dining Room offers gourmet fare in the historic El Tovar hotel. Along with a list of sustainable wines, the restaurant offers dishes like deviled crab cakes with Sonoran remoulade, the regional favorite El Tovar black bean and tortilla soup and wild Alaskan sustainable salmon tostada.
     
    2. Red Raven Restaurant. You’ll find this restaurant in Williams, about an hour south of the Grand Canyon. Chef David Haines caters to foodies with dishes like brochette of lamb with homemade chimichurri sauce.
     
    3. Arizona Room. Dinner is served inside the Bright Angel Lodge at the Arizona Room, which offers entrees like tender natural baby back ribs and blackened wild salmon with avocado tomatillo salsa. All entrees come with a salad or regional favorites roasted red pepper soup or southwestern corn chowder.
     
    4. The Coronado Room. Surprisingly enough, some of the most elegant fare around the Grand Canyon is found inside this restaurant at the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn. It serves hearty dishes like venison and elk, along with grilled seafood and has a lengthy wine list.
     
    5. Grand Cookout. Have a camp-style meal in luxury at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This alfresco, star gazing experience features Western music, folk tales and down-home grub like barbecue beef brisket, baked beans and biscuits.
  • On July 27, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in the Grand Canyon?

    Nearly five million tourists visit the Grand Canyon each year, so book early and stay at one of these Forbes Travel Guide-recommended hotels:
     
    1. El Tovar. Perhaps the most upscale hotel nearest the Grand Canyon, the historic El Tovar has hosted luminaries including Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.While it was renovated in 2005, it still retains its Old World charm with rustic décor and a hunting lodge-like feel — expect luxury touches like nightly turndown and room service.
     
    2. Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins. If you’re looking to stay on the South Rim and take advantage of some amazing views, book one of the 12 rim-side cabins here, four of which have fireplaces. (You may want to eschew rooms at the lodge, the hotel’s lower-end accommodations.)
     
    3. Inn at 410. If you’re willing to put some distance between you and the canyon (like a 90-minute drive), this bed and breakfast in Flagstaff is a charming and romantic choice. The eclectic rooms are decorated in different themes, such as The Tea Room and Sunflower fields.
     
    4. Amangiri. This spectacular resort is about two hours north of the Grand Canyon just over the Utah border in Canyon Point. The raw landscape complements the minimal but ultra-luxe décor of the resort, which features a central swimming pool, a world-class spa and yoga pavilion.
     
    5. Grand Canyon Lodge. On the North Rim of the canyon, this historic hotel is actually made up of 140 cabins and a central lodge — opt for the Western or Rim Cabins for views and luxe amenities. The main lodge’s Sun Room features huge panoramic views of the canyon, and the Moon Room is a hot spot for marriage proposals.