Rain Check: 7 Activities for a Grand Canyon Rainy Day
If you happen to be here when the rains sweep in, you can enjoy the unique opportunity of seeing it from a different perspective. So pull up a chair in a sheltered spot and enjoy the show.
Considering that the sun shines at Grand Canyon nearly every day, when rain does come along that doesn’t mean your trip is a washout. As a matter of fact, it can enhance the experience as dark clouds and gray sheets of rain can add a heightened sense of drama to an already dramatic panorama.
As someone who lived at Grand Canyon for nearly 10 years, Bruce Brossman, marketing director for the Grand Canyon Park Lodges and Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, has seen the seasons come and go. Here he shares seven smart tips for how to make the most of a rainy day.
1. Dine Around
When the weather outside is gray and gloomy, settle in with comfort foods and award-winning dishes at any of Grand Canyon’s dining rooms, restaurants, and food courts.
From the casual elegance of the renowned El Tovar Dining Room, to meals created with locally sourced ingredients at the Bright Angel Lodge’s Arizona Room to the variety of salads, sandwiches, and hearty, healthy dishes served at the Maswik Lodge Food Court and Pizza Pub, rain delays are a perfect opportunity to linger over a leisurely meal coupled with a cool beverage.
2. Go Under Cover
Grand Canyon is one of the most mesmerizing sights on earth, drawing millions of people from around the world just for the chance to stand at the rim and look into its depths. If you happen to be here when the rains sweep in, you can enjoy the unique opportunity of seeing it from a different perspective. So pull up a chair in a sheltered spot and enjoy the show.
“When I lived at Grand Canyon, I’d love it when it’d start to rain,” says Brossman. “I’d head over to the historic El Tovar and find a rocking chair beneath the covered porch and I’d sit there and gaze through the rain and look out across the canyon and get lost in the moment. It’s one of the most pleasant experiences I can recall.”
3. Shop Away
More than a century old, the Mary Colter-designed Hopi House (adjacent to the El Tovar) is one of the best places to seek shelter during a shower. Inside are hundreds of items hand-made by Native American artists and craftsmen. Walls are covered with an array of colorful paintings, racks feature one-of-a-kind apparel, and jewelry, sculptures, mementos, and beautiful works of art are displayed on shelves and in cases. As you wait out the rain, enjoy this time to browse and shop from among the delightful display of arts and crafts.
4. Watch It
If the weather outside is frightful, head over to the expansive Visitor Center complex where an assortment of indoor displays and exhibits provide a glimpse into Grand Canyon’s extraordinary history of human habitation, exploration, and archaeological research. For many visitors, the crown jewel is the Discovery Channel-produced film, A Journey of Wonder, which captures the essence of the canyon. Complementing the well-written script are dazzling scenes that reveal new and novel perspectives of Grand Canyon.
5. Learn Something
Grand Canyon boasts a number of unique museums just perfect for whiling away a rainy afternoon.
In what can be considered a “cultural driving tour,” head east along Desert View Drive. At the Yavapai Geology Museum, take in one of the most impressive views of the canyon through a huge picture window. Peruse the exhibits that explain the extraordinary creation of the canyon — flowing water that eroded the high desert floor coupled with eons of frosts and freezes that prompted the canyon walls to fall in. Farther down Desert View Drive, the Tusayan Ruins (the centuries-old foundation of homes and kivas used for indigenous religious rituals and political meetings) has a small museum with artifacts including tools, jewelry, and art. Unearthed by archaeologists, these rare items are paired with signs that explain their use and origins. Through them you’ll learn about the Ancestral Puebloans who settled the area nearly a thousand years ago.
If you happen to be near the Bright Angel Lodge when the skies open up, visit the Fred Harvey History Museum where you can learn a little more about Grand Canyon’s extensive geological past as well as its more recent modern history, and it’s free.
6. Get Smart
During an evening shower (heck, even when it’s not raining), make it a point to take in an educational talk at the Shrine of the Ages. Rangers who are equal parts informative and entertaining are well versed in the history of Grand Canyon. Attending one of their free presentations is a wonderful way to add depth to your appreciation of the park.
“You’ll find the presentation schedule posted at the Visitor Center and hotel front desks,” offers Brossman. “The topics can range from the night sky to wildlife to rock art; from geology and human history to water resources and hiking the canyon. It could be anything the ranger has studied. Sometimes they’ll host special events, and that could be a concert featuring a visiting artist or musician. Anything and everything is worth seeing.”
7. Bottom’s Up
Some visitors see the rain as a chance to get acquainted with fellow travelers. In that case, it’s simply a matter of finding a spot at the Harvey House Tavern near the top of Bright Angel Trail Head. Folk musicians and Western singers entertain seasonally, offering a taste of Western culture. Or head to the Pizza Pub at the Maswik Lodge or the intimate El Tovar Lounge where you can enjoy a cold beer, a crisp cocktail, or a bracing straight shot of top-shelf liquors.
“Granted this is an option for adults only,” says Brossman, “But when you look over the drink list and see an impressive assortment of locally produced beers, wines, and spirits, it is sure to lift yours. Weather or not!”
How to Explore
Grand Canyon National Park Lodges provides the premier in-park lodging, managing six distinctly different lodges. From the El Tovar hotel, long considered the crown jewel of national park hotels, to Phantom Ranch, the only lodging on the floor of the canyon, you’ll find accommodations to help you get the most out of your visit to the Grand Canyon. You can also book rafting, railway, and motorcoach tours. For more information and reservations, visit grandcanyonlodges.com or call 888-297-2757.
Or consider the 10-day “Bryce, Zion & the Grand Canyon” tour from Holiday Vacations, one of America’s most reputable tour companies with more than 44 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit HolidayVacations.com for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.