Looking out over the Grand Canyon you might have to pinch yourself to remember you are really there. Like many people, you might have seen the canyon on TV and featured in movies. It couldn't possibly be that big, could it? Yes it is, and you are there with your kids. Now what are you going to do?
Breakfast at El Tovar
Start your day off in a piece of history by grabbing breakfast at the El Tovar Hotel, one of Fred Harvey's many buildings in the park. Grab a table by the windows to enjoy canyon views, but don't expect quick service; this meal is meant to be savored. Your kids will love the gingerbread waffles and pancake trio that features blue cornmeal pancakes with bright pink prickly pear syrup.
Shop in the Hopi House
After you fill up on breakfast, head across the way to Hopi House to load up on Grand Canyon souvenirs, stuffed animals, and puzzles for the kids and Native American art to decorate your home. This historic building was designed by Mary Colter for the Fred Harvey Company and completed in January 1905, just a few weeks before the El Tovar Hotel opened. The building was meant to blend into the neighboring environment, using materials that the Hopi people would use in their pueblos. Walking into this gift shop isn't just another commercial experience; you are stepping back in time.
Hike the Rim Trail
The kids will be antsy after all that shopping. Stow your bags in the car, and get ready to do some walking. The Grand Canyon is home to a few hikes that are easy, but many that are steep and strenuous. Most hikes can also be tricky for younger kids. The Rim Trail runs from the village area to Hermits Rest and offers easy inner canyon hikes for visitors of all skill levels. Those looking for a slightly more strenuous trail with the kids can try parts of Bright Angel Trail. Make sure you check in with park rangers to ask about trail conditions before you head out though. Winter snow can make the trails icy, which will last into spring.
Drive the South Rim
If hiking isn't an option, you can easily see the South Rim by car. Grab a map from any of the lodges, visitor centers, or gift shop. The people manning the tour desk at Yavapai Lodge can give you the must-stop viewpoints if you are in a hurry. Parking at each viewpoint is easy, and some even have restrooms. Keep an eye on younger children, as there are not always rails to stop them from falling off a cliff into the canyon.
Climb the Desert View Watchtower
Your last stop before you head out of the canyon should be the Desert View Watchtower. Admittance is free with park entry. Climb to the top (easy for even little ones to do with some help) for panoramic views of the canyon and surrounding countryside. Count the ravens flying below you in the canyon. The artwork on the walls may spark a few conversations, and the gift shop is a great bribe for any member of the family who has had enough. Ice cream, coffee, and chips are also available in the nearby snack shop. Keep an eye on the ground too. Tarantulas have been spotted. Don't worry; they will try not to bother you. They are more worried about getting stepped on before they reach a shady spot to spend the afternoon far away from those humans who are running all over the place.
Is the Grand Canyon on your family's travel bucket list?