Visiting the Grand Canyon with kids was not all I had hoped it would be. While Craig and I were super excited about visiting the Grand Canyon, we soon found that the kids got bored quickly. They didn’t really appreciate a whooping great big hole in the ground and while we could have walked around there all day long taking in the different and changing colours with the movement of the sun, it wasn’t their idea of fun.
We visited the Grand Canyon as part of our 7 week USA independent adventure. Our trip covered both the West and East Coast and a Caribbean Cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico. Our main reason for travel was to experience a white Christmas and we were lucky enough to get snow on Christmas Day in Boston.
We had tossed around the idea of staying in Las Vegas and taking a helicopter ride out to the Grand Canyon but I didn’t want to spend just a few hours there, I wanted to stay a little while and seeing the sunrise over the Grand Canyon has always been on my bucket list. There are a number of US National Parks that I would like to visit but due to time constraints the Grand Canyon was the only one that we were able to visit on this visit.
If you want to get a helicopter from Las Vegas, I recommend Klook for slightly discounted prices.
We had planned to stay at the Grand Canyon for 2 nights, however we had a late itinerary change and decided we would tick off Universal Studios Hollywood and sacrifice a day at the Grand Canyon. This was not ideal but we knew the kids would prefer that idea much more. We left straight from Los Angeles at about 6pm in the afternoon and headed straight for the Grand Canyon stopping over night on Route 66 at Barstow.
We got up the next morning and still had a 5 and a half hour drive in front of us. We were visiting in December and the days were short so I set ourselves the task of arriving to see the sunset. As it turned out this was a bit ambitious and we arrived 20mins after sunset which was really disappointing for me. I knew I still had the sunrise next morning though.
We checked into the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon and got settled in for the night. The hotel was in Tusayan about a 10 minute drive from the Grand Canyon South Rim. The hotel was massive and very comfortable and had a great Christmas feel about it. We had been on the road for 2 weeks when we arrived and it was our first early night so we got showered had a hot chocolate at the hotel bar and went to bed.
I highly recommend booking through Hotels Combined for competitive prices for the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon.
We were up bright and early about 5.30am and the temperature was about -2 degrees (28F)! We still had our west coast clothes out and we weren’t really dressed for that kind of weather. Well I was because I’m always over-dressed in warm clothes and had my beanie and gloves there ready to go. The kids on the other hand argued that they would be fine and it’s not that cold. I knew we would only be down there for an hour or so, so I let it go this time for a learning experience.
We headed straight out to the Grand Canyon, the ladies at reception had given me their top tips for sunrise viewing so armed with that insider knowledge and handy map, off we set. Like always we were cutting it fine, we arrived at the information centre and there were very view cars. I was thinking we were going to be lucky and be the only ones out there.
We were running, literally running out to the look out point, it was freezing, the kids were already whinging. We couldn’t find the spot and there were very few people around and everyone else we asked were tourists just like us. We eventually found some signage and headed that way. We rounded the corner to the look out to see that a there were a few more people than we expected and the sun was just starting to peek out over the rim of the Grand Canyon on the other side of the look out.
While we waited, a bus load of people arrived and I was happy we had arrived a bit earlier. The people around us were understanding of the kids and were happy to let them squeeze in to the front row for optimum viewing. I was wandering here and there scoping for a better location. The kids didn’t have their gloves so they were freezing and really starting to complain.
We stayed out at the viewing point for close to an hour and a half, we were all feeling the cold and the sun was up so we headed back to the car and drove back to the hotel for breakfast and a warm shower. The kids agreed on the way back that when I say its going to be cold, maybe they should listen. Lesson learnt!
After having breakfast and checking out, we headed back to the Grand Canyon South Rim. It wasn’t as cold now and the sun was up and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was still fresh but not nearly as cold as it has been in the morning.
We drove around the Grand Canyon South Rim, stopping at each look out point and taking photos. Its hard to describe the size of the Grand Canyon and for me the view from each look out was totally different. The kids on the other hand, enjoyed the first couple then declared that it looks the same! A lot of the look outs we were the only ones there to enjoy it but we did come across a few tourists here and there.
One thing that surprised us was there were very few barriers round the Grand Canyon look outs, obviously it would be impossible to place barriers everywhere and they would look unsightly but coming from Australia where we are a bit of a nanny state, it was refreshing to see the Grand Canyon as close as we wanted to get to it. Did it make me nervous with the kids? A little but isn’t that how we learn.
Some of the stops around the Grand Canyon South Rim the kids climbed some trees or climbed over boulders and generally entertained themselves. They would look at the view quickly and then carry on playing together while Craig and I took it in and tried to get the perfect photo. Towards the end they stayed in the hire car and played on their iPads but that was ok, we could see the car and we got to enjoy the view in peace.
We came across this old miners hut built in 1914 which has now been turned into an information centre/cafe/souvenir shop. We decided to drop in for a cuppa tea for me and the kids and coffee for Craig. When you walk through the door, there is this grand old fireplace, it was roaring and it of course had my name all over it.
There was a man in his 60’s or 70’s sitting on a seat next to the fire having a little rest. He was of course begging for a chat with me…..! He was getting one anyway! We instantly chatted about how cold it was outside and he said that we were there at the best time of year. I, of course said why is that? (thinking surely there are warmer times to visit!) He stated that while its a little fresh, if you keep moving you don’t feel it so much, its not snowing which it regularly does this time of year, the sky is clear and blue and the suns out and best of all there were very few people around!
He continued to fill me in on how busy the area gets during the summer and how the heat is stifling and the crowds ridiculous. You are unable to walk around at the look outs and there is limited parking at each look out. After listening to him I decided he was right, we were really lucky to have had great clear weather, blue skies and minimal crowd. Thanks lovely man for pointing that out to me! The kids managed to get a souvenir from the shop and then we moved on.
I loved experiencing the Grand Canyon with the kids, the sheer size of it totally blew me away, the changing colours in the different light, it reminded me of our visit to Uluru and how that to changed in the different light. I think if the kids were appropriately attired in the morning they would have enjoyed it much more.
We got some great photos of the kids looking into the Grand Canyon and I know one day they will appreciate what they have seen, I’m sure a big hole in the ground probably wouldn’t have interested me when I was young either. They did get out and view most of the look outs so I was content with that.
We had a very funny moment, we regularly travel to Asia so the kids are use to people approaching them for photos. At one look out the kids ran ahead and by the time we met up with them at the end, they had found some Chinese tourists to chat to. The Chinese tourists were taking photos of the kids and were even having photos with them. I actually don’t mind too much when people do this, they are just interested and think the kids are cute. I took a group photo of them and then they asked if we would like a family photo. That was a lovely gesture which we happily took up, only to find that one or two jumped in the photo with us!!
Then I had a panic moment, they handed me back my camera and as I was walking off I realised they had exactly the same camera as us! Hope they didn’t accidentally switch cameras! All was fine though, I checked when we got back to the car.
I am still very happy with the way we visited the Grand Canyon, of course I wished I had more time but I also said that about every placed we visited. I would have loved to have seen it from the air but that would have meant only having an hour or two there and I would have been disappointed. I’ll definitely go back there one day and then I will do the helicopter ride.
I had planned on getting a mule ride into the Grand Canyon but those tours stop on the 1 December which was a bit disappointing, I think the kids would have enjoyed that, or even a horse ride. Maybe another time.
Have you been to the Grand Canyon with kids? How did you keep them entertained? I would love to hear in the comments below.
Sal, Craig & our3kids.
What else did we get up to in the USA, Disneyland California, Knott’s Berry Farm, Warner Brothers Studios Tour, rode over the Golden Gate Bridge and visited Alcatraz just to name a few. If you are heading to the east coast, check out our what we got up to in New York in winter.