1. Attend a ranger geology talk – As soon as you arrive check the park guide to see when these are scheduled. They are very informative, and if you can attend at the start of your visit, you will have a better understanding of what you will see during your trip. And believe it or not, the kids just may be more interested in reading those interpretive signs along the way if they have some background knowledge already.
2. Watch the movie at the Visitor Center – I have to confess, I always head into the movie theaters with trepidation that I am going to see a boring and/or outdated movie. But this one was very well done, and the kids even found it interesting & entertaining. I also recommend watching this early in your visit, so you have more appreciation for some of the sites in the park.
3. Hike the South Kaibab trail – While Bright Angel is more easily accessible from the village, this is the trail that affords the best views with the least amount of hiking, and clears of ice & snow earlier. My youngest was able to manage a 3 hour hike which took us about 1200 ft into the canyon (the
4. Check out Kolb Studio – I would not have gone out of my way to visit this studio precariously perched on the rim at the Bright Angel trailhead if I had not learned about the fascinating Kolb brothers in the visitor center film. And we were lucky that a special exhibition was on display, with lots of photographs and interesting stories about their adventures in the canyon. Tours are offered through the living quarters, but you have to sign up early because they only accommodate 12 people.
6. Visit Grandview Point – Though the canyon is stunning and spectacular no matter where you stand, this particular viewpoint offers panoramic views both east and west, and is a favorite of photographers. And then…
7. Visit Tusayan Ruins – This is a quick but interesting stop where you can see an excavated 800 yr old Pueblo Indian site. In the gift shop kids can get instructions & materials to build an animal figure, much like Indian children used to do with softened twigs.
8. Watch the sunset at Pima Point – About 7 miles down Hermit’s Road is this viewing area where photographers gather to capture the changing light as the sun sets. The road is open to private cars only in winter. Beginning in March you have to take a shuttle, so plan ahead, and make sure your camera battery is charged.
9. Sip hot chocolate at Hermits Rest – Having heard from a ranger that they have “the best cocoa in all of Arizona” this quickly went on my “must do” list. But alas we did not get to the snack bar before it closed for the day, so I’ll have to take his word for it. Someone please let me know how it is!
10. Dine at El Tovar – If you can’t spend the night at this beautiful hotel, at least dine here. The food is wonderful, and if you are lucky to score a table by the window, you’ll have a view of the canyon.
There is much more to do at the Grand Canyon: mule rides, helicopter flightseeing, canyon rafting. But you’ll need another day or two for that!