What to Know and How to Plan a Grand Canyon National Park Vacation This Summer

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, April 10, 2015 – Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park makes its way onto many “must-visit” lists. No surprise there. The country’s 15th national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, this world-famous 1.2 million-acre park has something for everyone.

History buffs can explore its architectural treasures, photographers can find endless image options, science enthusiasts will be awed by the geology, wildlife spotters can scan the skies for rare California condors and multi-generational groups can enjoy the park’s simple pleasures like strolling along the rim trail and enjoying an ice cream from the Bright Angel Soda Fountain.

“Grand Canyon National Park is an easy park to experience for people of all ages and abilities, and by following a few simple tips, a visit to this park will result in memories that can last a lifetime,” said Bruce Brossman, regional director of sales and marketing for Grand Canyon National Park Lodges.

Still, it can be overwhelming to decide where to stay, where to dine and what to do during a vacation in the park, said Brossman. “Some guests want to experience every aspect of the Canyon while others are satisfied with viewing it from a comfortable location on the rim.”

Grand Canyon National Park Lodges is owned and operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. The company’s operations at the Grand Canyon include lodging at El Tovar, Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Maswik Lodge and Phantom Ranch on the floor of the Canyon. Xanterra also operates the park’s famous mule tours; motorcoach tours; five restaurants on the rim as well as the Phantom Ranch canteen and the Hermits Rest snack bar; and gift shops at Hopi House, Hermits Rest, Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio as well as shops in El Tovar, Bright Angel and Maswik Lodge.

Brossman offered the following 12 suggestions for planning and experiencing a trip to the Grand Canyon:

  • Make reservations in advance. Xanterra-operated lodging can be booked online. Xanterra accepts reservations the first of the month for that month the following year.
  • Reserve directly with Xanterra. Xanterra’s reservations services are free. Some third-party online reservations sites charge non-refundable fees. The best way to avoid paying extra fees is to book directly with Xanterra.
  • Have flexible travel dates. Because some vacationers make their plans far in advance, they sometimes have to change or cancel existing reservations. Travelers with flexible travel dates will have the best chance of finding a room.
  • Be persistent. Rooms open up – and are often very quickly re-booked – every day. The quickest way to check availability is by going to the web site and following the link for reservations. Bookmark the web site and check it frequently to see if rooms have become available.
  • Be flexible when choosing a lodge. El Tovar, the park’s famous 110-year-old lodge, is often the first choice among travelers. With only 78 rooms, however, it is also among the first of the rim lodges to sell out. There are four other terrific lodges situated within an easy walk of the park’s historic Grand Canyon Village. Maswik Lodge, located within an easy walk of the rim, offers comfortable, spacious rooms. The other lodges within walking distance of the village are Kachina, Thunderbird and Bright Angel Lodges.
  • Just walk in. Travelers who prefer spontaneity and don’t mind a little risk can take a chance on finding a room in the park by walking into any Xanterra lodge and asking the registration staff to check for availability. Sometimes, travelers will be pleasantly surprised to find a room. And if there is no availability in the park, staff can check on availability at two other Xanterra-operated hotels — Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, Ariz. and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz.
  • Make dinner reservations at El Tovar Dining Room. Travelers staying elsewhere in the park can experience El Tovar by scheduling a meal in its elegant rim-side dining room, with expansive views of the Canyon and a much-lauded menu packed with local, sustainable offerings. This is the only restaurant in the park that accepts dinner reservations. Guests staying at the lodge can make dinner reservations six months in advance, and guests staying elsewhere can make reservations one month in advance. The local secret is breakfast at El Tovar, a great way to start a Grand Canyon day. The popular Arizona Room situated in the Bright Angel Lodge, available on a first-come, first-served basis in the evening, is known for its hand-cut steaks, ribs, chicken and fish inspired by the flavors of the Southwest.
  • Travel during the secret seasons. Although still considered peak season, there is sometimes availability in late August and early September. These are slightly slower peak season periods because families with schoolchildren are either winding down after the end of school or gearing up for the beginning of school.
  • Consider close-to-park options. If there is no availability in the park, check availability online or stop in at any Xanterra-operated lodge and ask staff to check on availability at two nearby Xanterra-operated hotels – Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, Ariz. and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz.
  • Walk through history. Xanterra lodges provide complimentary walking tour brochures that offer information and insights about many of the historic structures in Grand Canyon Village.
  • Shop for authentic gifts. Hopi House, a gift shop situated near El Tovar, has been offering authentic American Indian-made jewelry, sculpture, pottery and other gifts for more than a century.
  • Tour the park in comfort. One of the most popular ways to view and learn about the Canyon is on a motorcoach tour. Drivers are well-trained and entertaining, and tell passengers about the park’s history, geology and wildlife while traveling to some of its best viewpoints.

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Visitors can book their rooms online by visiting www.grandcanyonlodges.com or by calling toll-free 1-888-297-2757 or 1-303-297-2757 from outside the United States. More information about Grand Canyon National Park can be obtained at www.nps.gov/grca or 1-928-638-7888.