The brain of Abroadwithabrain had never seen the Grand Canyon. Therefore, the broad decided to take the brain on an adventure he would not soon forget. I have actually been to the Grand Canyon before, but I was rather a young broad at that point and time, just a small child of 7 or 8. Also, I guess technically we flew over it when the brain flew a small airplane that pretty much ran out of gas (I guess I will have to go over that whole story in detail in another post). But, really, we both wanted to experience it: together, as adults. So, here’s the cool thing about this article: we did the Grand Canyon in a very grand way, in only one day! Now, I am not saying you cannot spend a week or even more time there, because you definitely can! However, if you work during the week and have limited vacation time, or, if you just want to “see” it in a weekend, this article is meant for you! Basically, we did everything we cared to do in one day for a very fulfilling trip to the Grand Canyon. I am going to give you our itinerary- feel free to use it for yourself!
Day 1: Fly into Flagstaff after work.
This day was all about getting to the area. The nearest major airport (and I use major very lightly here as it is kind of like flying into your grandma’s house) to the Grand Canyon is Flagstaff. Now, you do need to figure out what you want to see most. The most famous sight is Mather Point (more on that later) which is in the south rim. However, there is a small part of it closer to Vegas (cue day tours and the glass skywalk) as well as more to explore in the north. Our recommendation: do the south rim. It will really give you a good experience without all the hassle. From Flagstaff, you can either rent a car, or you can uber to the hotel and arrange a tour. My recommendation: rent a car. You can rent one for around $20 per day and have the freedom to go where you want to go and stop where you want to stop. Also, you do have an option to fly into Flagstaff and out of Phoenix with a one-way car rental, if that is your thing.
Where to stay:
If you do some searching for hotels in the area, you will find that the hotels are a bit on the lower side of the star ratings. However, you are here for the Grand Canyon, right? We opted for the Comfort Inn in Williams. I really liked Williams because it was a very quaint, Western town with a lot of cool little shops, restaurants, and even a few cowboys who “rob the area” daily. It’s right off of historic Route 66, so you can wander into some very cool places. Depending when you go, the Comfort Inn, or the like, can run you upwards of $200 per night. We ended up spending $70 per night. It was definitely a Comfort Inn by all standards, but it was not horrible and was very clean, which is very important. If you are more keen on the luxury style, you can stay in the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, where you can also take a train to the south rim. We did not take the train, so I cannot really tell you much about it. However, we did walk by the hotel and the train station does make for some cool photo ops. Finally, if you wish, you can stay in the national park. The caveat: you need to make reservations in advance. From there, you can choose whether you want to camp or glamp and where exactly you want to stay.
Where to eat in Williams:
The Historic Barrel Bottle House in Williams is an absolute gem. While it is a bit on the pricey side, it has excellent food. Try the burger, it is huge, and cooked to perfection. Inside, the decor is very quaint and western themed. The best part is that they have a shooting range game inside! For just $1 you can use the toy gun to shoot targets and make the barn outhouse come to life. Oh, and the beer is always flowing and very good as well.
Day 2: Capture the Canyon
Head out for some breakfast in Williams (there are many cute places. I cannot recommend the place we tried, however) and then start the drive to the Grand Canyon! I am not going to lie, the drive there is a bit boring. However, it is worth it once you get there! You can expect about an hour drive from Williams. There really is not much to stop and see along the way. We opted to do a loop. We took the 64 North to the south rim, then followed it along the south rim over to the 89 south to 40 East through Flagstaff and back to Williams. The cool thing about this route is that you get all the glory of the south rim of the Canyon and also get to go back a different way so you are not backtracking.
What to do and see in the Canyon:
Please keep in mind that you will have to pay a fee to enter Grand Canyon National Park. When we went, the fee was $30 per vehicle. You can pay ahead of time on their website. The most famous point and the first point you will see entering from the South entrance off of 64 is Mather Point. This is definitely worth a stop, but it was not our favorite view of the Canyon by a long shot! There are a lot of other tourists in this area and the parking lots can be very over crowded depending when you are visiting. If the parking lot is very crowded when you go, we really recommend parking in one of the lots following the main visitor center. The great thing about visiting this park is that the provide a free shuttle service, so no matter where you want to go, you can do so easily with the shuttle. Also, be sure to leave in the morning. We recommend getting to the park before 11, if possible. The more busy the season is, the earlier you want to get there. Leave right before the sun starts setting to get some cool views. Stop on the way back to see some excellent star gazing.
Park at the visitor center (lots 1-3) and walk over to Mather Point. From there, walk west on the Rim Trail to Yavapai. This is a really cool stop with awesome depth and perception. In our opinion, this point was better than Mather Point. You can visit an geology museum there that also provides some cool views. From there, hop a shuttle to or walk down to Yavapai Lodge. They have a nice restaurant there as well as a cool entrance area that is very rustic with a small gift shop. Next, hop the shuttle to the El Tovar Hotel, where there is a food court for some cheap eats. Finally, you can hop the shuttle back to where you parked originally. The shuttles run every 10-15 minutes during normal operating hours and are quite easy to utilize.
Once we left the main area, that is when our true favorite views happened. We headed east along the south rim by car. Along the way, there are many places to pull out and stop for photos. Keep in mind that most of the rim does not have any fencing to protect you, so do take care when taking photos. If I had a dollar for every scary Instagram photo I saw being taken, some by girls wearing heels, I would have had enough money for a fancy dinner. If you are acrophobic like me, getting close to the edge can be quite daunting. However, it is very cool to stand near the edge and see how truly expansive the Grand Canyon really is!
Driving east, be sure to stop at Moran Point. While the name could make you think this would be a dumb stop, it is not dumb at all and gives some amazing photos. From Moran point, you can actually take a small, narrow trail down a bit. Just remember, you must come back up! Lipan point is another awesome place to stop with sweeping views. Finally, be sure to stop at the Desert View Watchtower. There are some amazing artifacts in there and the climb to the top is really fun and worth the views through the windows on the way. From here, you can head on back down towards Flagstaff.
Where to eat dinner in Flagstaff:
We stopped in downtown Flagstaff at Dark Sky Brewing. This place is worth all the hype! Not only is the beer good, but they have fresh, fire oven-cooked pizza that is absolutely incredible! Get the Bee’s Knees Pizza. It is made with a cheese base, homemade sausage, and you guessed it, drizzled with local honey. The sweet and savory mix is absolutely worth a try! They have various rotating taps to offer with seasonal favorites to boot!
After all this adventuring, you can get in and relax while remembering the epic views you had of the Canyon!
Day 3: Head home via Sedona!
If you are lucky enough to get a later flight, we highly recommend going to Sedona. Better yet, if you fly into Flagstaff and out of Phoenix, this is a cool drive to take. Sedona is known for its red rock formations and will not disappoint! Take the 89 A down to the 179 to see the best views. Be sure to stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is a church that is built into the rock that provides stunning views of the red rock mountains. Really, you could spend a lot of time in Sedona too, but if you only have a few days, spending a couple of hours driving around is also great!
Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? What are your favorite things to see and do in the area?
Elana Nichols Copyright 2019 Abroadwithabrain