A Grand Time Was Had By All
March 6, 2011 3:20 PM   Subscribe

In a few weeks we're going to go to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix. We want to take our time driving to the Grand Canyon, stopping off to sight see, eat some yummy food, etc. What are some must-sees/must-do's?

We have a wide range of ages and abilities to consider - three young children (4, 7, 10), myself and husband (late 30's), grandma and grandpa (late-60 and early-70), and perhaps an uncle (a strapping young man in his early-30s). Grandpa probably wouldn't be up for or enjoy lots of walking. However, if there's a bench or seating, he's a happy clam while the rest of us take a quick jaunt. He does like good food. The 4 year-old probably wouldn't tolerate much of a hike/walk, unless he cons us into carrying him.

So between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon what should we do? We can plan on spending the entire day to make it to the Grand Canyon.

Alright, now that we're at the Grand Canyon . . . now what? What should we do?

Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by Sassyfras to Travel & Transportation around Grand Canyon, AZ (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sedona has a number of scenic drives, and some good (if touristy) restaurants.

But the place to be is Flagstaff. The Museum of Northern Arizona is out of sight. And the Flagstaff Brewing company has a nice brewpub.

My general rule of thumb out west is that any town over about 20k will have some sort of brewpub, and almost every brewpub has a foodie makin' up meal plans. Hasn't failed me yet.
posted by notsnot at 4:00 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing Flagstaff and The Museum of Northern Arizona!
posted by jgirl at 4:18 PM on March 6, 2011

Keep an eye out for news about a government shut down. If that ends up happening, State Parks will close. And I mean close. No Grand Canyon. Right now, there is funding to go til the 18th or 19th, but watch the news carefully when those dates come up.
posted by cooker girl at 4:27 PM on March 6, 2011

Response by poster: Good to know cooker girl. I had no idea. We're actually aiming for the 18th to drive up and the 19th to hang out at the GC. ::fingers crossed::
posted by Sassyfras at 4:30 PM on March 6, 2011

posted by rhizome at 4:36 PM on March 6, 2011

The drive through Sedona on 89A is nice. (Although from an engineering perspective I think I-17 is pretty amazing :). There are short walking trails branching from both 89A and 179.

I liked Petrified Forest national park but that might be out of your way.

The Grand Canyon (south rim) might seem crowded with tourists, but really the most crowded parts are the more central viewpoints (anything between Yavapai and the Bright Angel trailhead). It's pleasantly uncrowded further away east or west.

There's a fantastic bus system that will take you west. Try to watch the sunset at Pima Point.

I would recommend walking the Bright Angel trail (which goes down into the canyon) to the first rest stop, because it's easy and quite beautiful, but I don't know how well that will work for your group.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:43 PM on March 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also you have 3 options to get to the Canyon village: US 89/AZ 64 from Flagstaff, US 180 from Flagstaff, and AZ 64 from Williams. I took US 89 and didn't see too much traffic. I've heard the other two options are more congested (although they are a shorter route from I-40).
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:53 PM on March 6, 2011

Best answer: We did that and dropped by Meteor Crater on the way... it's not exactly on the way, but worth a little detour.
posted by manyon at 5:29 PM on March 6, 2011

Best answer: I enjoyed a side trip to Montezuma Castle and Well (near Camp Verde). Tuzigoot was also interesting (near Clarkdale). Jerome is probably a little out of your way, but it's fun too. I have to admit I'm prejudiced a bit because my maternal grandmother and her kids (including my mum) were born there.
posted by deborah at 7:35 PM on March 6, 2011

If you like architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright, check on the Church of the Holy Cross in Sedona.
posted by allelopath at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2011

Arcosanti is pretty cool.
posted by The Potate at 7:58 PM on March 6, 2011

Go north on I-17 about an hour to Arcosanti - stop to get a Solari Bell and check out the 40 year old ecologically friendly community that is still a work in progress. Continue North to Hwy 179, the Sedona exit. Many of the sites, Courthouse Rock, Bell Rock, and Cathedral Rock, can be taken in from your car or with a short hike . While it's a little touristy, I personally love Tlaquepaque, where grandpa will find lots of benches - and there are several options for lunch. Take Hwy 89A north through Oak Creek Canyon and up the scary but beautiful road that will lead to Flagstaff. After checking out Flagstaff, go west on I-40 to Williams. I've never taken the train to the Grand Canyon, but my 13 year old thought it was a hoot (mock train robbery and shoot out).
posted by kbar1 at 8:16 PM on March 6, 2011

The drive through Oak Creek canyon kbar1 describes is the one I was thinking of - Sedona to Flagstaff along 89A.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:48 PM on March 6, 2011

Cottonwood and Jerome are some interesting little towns south of Sedona.

Jerome is built on a hillside, but there is a nice park with places to sit, and there may be tours on a cart pulled by donkeys available. Parking can be in short supply. Downhill from most of the town there is a museum in a flat area with plenty of parking. Even if not stopping there, it's quite an interesting drive through the town, although anyone who can't stand curving roads with a drop off to one side will not care for it at all -- if this person is the driver, Jerome might be best avoided.

Cottonwood has an old style town square, with plenty of restaurants around. There's also a hat shop, for anyone who has arrived in Arizona and suddenly found a pressing need for a hat. I would make sure the Grandparents had hats available in case they find the sun a bit strong.
posted by yohko at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2011


I've never been, but I know that people's impressions of the SkyWalk are decidedly mixed.
posted by CaseyB at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2011

We can plan on spending the entire day to make it to the Grand Canyon.
I just want to add that Arizona is much bigger than many folks expect. A straight drive from Phx to the Grand Canyon, with just short pit stops, may take more than 5 hours. Is it possible to do the drive in 2 parts? With that itinerary, you could do a leisurely drive to Flagstaff and head out early the next morning for the Canyon. If you spend the night in Flagstaff - try to take in Lowell Observatory - both kids and grown-ups will love it.
posted by kbar1 at 10:07 PM on March 6, 2011

Response by poster: I actually live in the Phoenix area and we recently took a trip up to Williams (Polar Express) and then headed to the Grand Canyon for a quick look-see. So, I am fairly aware that this trip will take some time. But we don't want to just drive straight through. A side adventure or two and a place to eat would be ideal. We do plan on stopping in Williams - making that our home base with the possibility of taking the train to the Grand Canyon.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:24 AM on March 7, 2011

I've never been, but I know that people's impressions of the SkyWalk are decidedly mixed.

Yikes! I just sent them an email to verify that it would cost $145 for one person to drive out there! Thanks for the tip (crosses them off).
posted by rhizome at 11:45 AM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: Ah, the Grand Canyon! The best goddamn hole in the ground anywhere!

By all means, take a walk in the park. You can do this along the rim; you can do this by going down into the hole (at least part ways, my recommendation). From the South Rim, the usual, most user-friendly trail is the Bright Angel. A few other comments:

* At this time of year -- and you seem to be aiming for late March, early April -- tourists won't be a big deal. I have been in April several times, and haven't seen high-density crowds of tourists like what you get at the height of the season in June through August. (May is nice also; a bit more crowded than April, but nothing to write home about and nothing like summer crowds.)

* At this time of the year, however, the trails going down the hole may still be partly under snow pack and ice. If all you are thinking of doing is walking down a short way to get a sense of the scale, this shouldn't be an issue (and it won't be an issue at all on the Rim Trail, to wit, along the rim). The rangers will be able to give you up-to-date information on trail conditions and how they might suit your group's abilities and inclinations.

* A trip to the National Parks website at www.nps.gov should help with activity planning.

Have fun!
posted by cool breeze at 3:31 PM on March 7, 2011

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