“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.”– Theodore Roosevelt
To say that the Grand Canyon is a must-see if a bit of an understatement. It was breathtaking…astounding…mesmerizing…the list goes on. I don’t need to convince any of you this is somewhere that should be at the top of your bucket list. The biggest problem I see when people are looking to visit the Grand Canyon is that there aren’t many airports nearby and there are multiple points to see considering the size of the canyon -The South Rim, The North Rim, The West Rim & another highly visited place is Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend which is northeast of the South Rim. I’m here to breakdown the options and hopefully make planning your trip to one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World simple. I’ve also included some surrounding areas you can visit + the top recommendations for those areas!
Airports + Transportation
There are a lot of different options in regards to getting to the Grand Canyon. The first thing that you must decide is what part you want to see? Are you staying long enough to see multiple areas or do you want to see the main spots & explore other cities as well? Once you’ve determined what you’d like to do – then you can move forward with booking your trip!
No matter which airport you decide to use – you’re going to need a rental car. If you read my last blog post about the first part of our trip to Albuquerque then you know that we booked a Delta flight to Albuquerque so we could go on The Breaking Bad Tour & then rented a 2019 Jeep Wrangler through National to make the drive to the Canyon. There are a few other options rather than driving yourself, however, these options limit your freedom and typically put you in a group setting.
- 130 miles; 2 hour 10 minute drive to Horseshoe Bend/Antelope Canyon
- 81 miles; 1 hour 32 minutes drive to Grand Canyon South Rim (Main Entrance)
- Shuttles are an option to get to the South Rim when staying in Flagstaff, however, they are very expensive compared to a rental car – around $200 per person roundtrip
- There is a free shuttle bus service inside the park that will take you from viewpoint to viewpoint and to Grand Canyon Village
- Few companies offer shuttles to the North Rim from Flagstaff or the South Rim and those that do run around $150-$200 per person each way
- 231 miles; 3 hours 58 minutes drive to the South Rim
- 263 miles; 4 hours 44 minutes drive to Grand Canyon West
- 277 miles; 4 hours 17 minutes drive to Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend
Las Vegas, NV:
- 122 miles; 2 hours 38 minutes drive to Grand Canyon West
- 274 miles; 4 hours 53 minutes drive to the South Rim
- 275 miles; 4 hours 19 minutes drive to Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend
- There is no option of a shuttle to the West Rim from Las Vegas
- Guided tours including ground tours, or an airplane/ helicopter flight to Grand Canyon West are an option
Flagstaff, AZ: Our hotel selection was Little America Flagstaff. I choose this one specifically to try to get away from the traditional hotel and it did not disappoint. It is set among 500 acres of Ponderosa Pines and embodies so much of the natural beauty of Arizona in their decor + atmosphere. The room was extremely spacious & the bathroom was exquisite. We opted for a king bed room that included a sitting area and large bathroom with a separate vanity (Ladies, can I get an Amen?!). The bed, linens, and goose feather pillows were all top quality and extremely comfy. We had two balconies that overlooked the beautiful pines surrounding the hotel. We loved the overall location in regards to downtown Flagstaff – less than a 10 minute drive and less than 1.5 hour drive to the Grand Canyon National Park + we had quick access to the interstate. The hotel dining option – Silver Pine Restaurant + Bar was our favorite spot before going out and has a happy hour everyday from 3-6pm that we took advantage of. I highly recommend Little America for your stay.
Some other top rated hotel options we considered near downtown in Flagstaff include: DoubleTree by Hilton, Residence Inn by Marriott, and The Weatherford Hotel . The DoubleTree is less than 10 minutes away from downtown + the others are located downtown & wouldn’t require driving to most local restaurants and bars.
Grand Canyon National Park Lodges: There are around 8 options inside the park & right outside the park for you to stay. The problem I ran into with these was that they are sold out pretty far in advance + we wanted to see other cities rather than stay in the park the entire trip. If that’s what you’re interested in then I think it’d be a great fit for you. Click here to look into booking. BUT, if you plan to venture outside of the National park then I suggest you refer back to the info. for other options I’ve provided.
Phoenix, AZ: Some downtown hotels that I’ve found as options include Kimpton Hotel Palomar, Hilton Garden Inn, & the Hyatt Regency Phoenix. These hotels appear to be in good locations downtown with lots of nearby entertainment & restaurants.
Las Vegas, NV: If you want to stay on the main strip, your best options from Seth’s experience would be between The Venetian/The Palazzo, the Wynn, & a more budget friendly option – Treasure Island. If you want to stay in “Old Vegas” near Fremont street – try the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, Fremont Hotel & Casino, or The D Las Vegas. We’ve never stayed in this part of Vegas, but have been to Fremont street on multiple occasions. Both options have nearby entertainment & restaurants + offer a good time! After all, it’s Vegas baby!
Restaurants + Bars
Flagstaff, AZ: There are a few different restaurants and bars that we visited during our stay in Flagstaff. After the 5 hour drive in, we visited Lumberyard Brewing Company for drinks + dinner. The restaurant is in the last remaining building from Flagstaff’s lumber era. It’s right next to the train station and has the best atmosphere downtown. There’s a string lit patio with a fire pit outside and a large bar area and seating inside + a dining room that turns dance floor after 10 pm. They’re known for their Yard Jars – a 32 oz. mason jar filled with your choice between 12 different cocktail options. We actually ended up eating dinner here both nights that we were in Flagstaff if that says anything about how impressed we were on night one.
Some bars we visited were The McMillan Bar & Kitchen and Majerle’s Sports Grill. The McMillan is in a historical bank/hotel building. It’s the oldest standing building in downtown Flagstaff (anybody catching on to our attraction to old, historical revamped buildings?). They host live music & we really enjoyed our app/drinks. We tried the tater tots app & it was unlike any order of tater tots I’ve ever had! It was mashed potatoes fried with jalapeños, green onions, bacon, & white cheddar. They were DELICIOUS. I tried the “Teq & Pom” – your typical pomegranate marg with their own special twist & Seth tried the Rhubarb Rye Old Fashioned. Majerle’s is your typical sports bar and we stopped in before dinner for just a couple drinks.
Grand Canyon: There are various hotels and food stops right outside of Grand Canyon National main entrance. We were short on time & stopped in to The Chicken Kitchen to grab a quick bite to eat before our Grand Canyon tour began (it was in the same shopping center as our tour meeting point). Unfortunately, even after letting our server know that we were on a short time frame – we didn’t receive our food in time and had to leave to make the tour before it was ready. The menu had a lot of different chicken options + others for those that aren’t as crazy about chicken as I am. We were excited when we were told that we’d have plenty of time to order a meal + eat. I wish we could have tried the food so I could give you a better idea of the quality! Some other options in this area include: Starbucks, Wendy’s, McDonalds, a pizza/pasta restaurant, Big E Steakhouse & Saloon, and a couple other steakhouses.
Phoenix, AZ: Some top restaurant recommendations I’ve found for Phoenix are: Cibo Pizzeria, Little Miss BBQ, The Arrogant Butcher, & Mora Italian. These restaurants seem to have their own unique atmospheres + menus that will allow for an enhanced dining experience that your typical restaurants won’t give.
Las Vegas, NV: There are so many options for dining in Las Vegas, but a few that Seth would recommend to try are SushiSamba & Secret Pizza. Sushisamba features a carnival style atmosphere with Japanese, Brazilian, & Peruvian cuisine. You can cook your meat on a Ishiyaki hot stone, giving you and your friends an extremely unique dining experience! Secret Pizza is located inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. It’s an unmarked restaurant & the hotel doesn’t advertise it on the website. You can easily find out how to get to the restaurant online, but I’ll place a link here for you. In short, it’s on the third floor and you’ll just need to follow the record lined hallway. If you haven’t been out west where In-N-Out is located then you’ll definitely want to stop in for a burger here. We had it during out day trip in Vegas before we headed to California and I’ll admit as someone who doesn’t like to order burgers, I was a little annoyed when we walked in and I didn’t see any other options on the menu. I’m glad that was the case though because it was so good.
Flagstaff, AZ: Walnut Canyon National Monument is a top attraction in Flagstaff. We didn’t explore this one due to heading to the Grand Canyon and Sedona instead, but I’ve read a lot of great things about it. The National Monument is a curved canyon featuring trails and stairs past ruins. You can visit real pueblos and walk the paths that those before us did so long ago! Not far outside of Flagstaff you can also visit a Meteor Crater. Seth & I tried to make a stop to see it on our way back to Albuquerque, but it wasn’t open when we were in the area. The crater is national landmark and has three different lookout points along with a discovery center. It’s less than $20 per person to enter & I’m sure it’s well worth it! I really wish we could have seen it.
Grand Canyon: My favorite thing we did while at the Grand Canyon was the helicopter tour! It was how we chose to view the canyon for the first time and I was in absolute awe. The ability to fly over and see it from above was amazing. Not only is it a fun way to view it, it also allows you to grasp the size of the canyon. We flew over the widest and deepest parts of the canyon and from the South to the North Rim. Grand Canyon Helicopters made the booking process super easy. We decided to splurge on this experience and booked the Grand Kingdom with Sunset Hummer Tour option. The helicopter tour portion lasted for 45-50 minutes. We were able to experience aerial views of the North Rim, South Rim, and the Dragon Corridor. We also got a beautiful view of the Colorado river that flows through the canyon. You have the option to upgrade to the front row seats when booking for $50 extra per person. We decided to decline the upgrade since we had already booked the more expensive tour. Luckily, since the helicopter holds 6 + the pilot, we ended up with the front row seats and the group of four with us took the back seat. The helicopter itself was comfortable and was equip with air conditioning + large viewing windows. After a smooth and amazing flight, we had an hour break before we began the second portion of the tour – the hummer tour. The Hummer tour meet-up location was only a 5 minute drive from Grand Canyon Airport where the helicopter tour began and ended. This is the area I referred to earlier in the post where there are a few hotels + restaurants at this location – not far from Grand Canyon National Park main entrance. The hummer tour is hosted by Buck Wild Hummer Tours. The tour takes place on a open-air hummer and includes the following viewpoints during the tour: Duck on a Rock, Yavapai Point, and Moran Point. My favorite part was the last stop where we watched the sunset over the canyon. We spent the most time at this stop and the guide even offered blankets to take if we wanted to sit and enjoy the view rather than standing. Overall, I felt this tour was a great addition to the helicopter tour. They enclosed the hummer for us due to a drop in temperature and they gave a really good amount of time at each viewpoint for lots of photo opportunities. Our guide, Jerry, was part of the Navajo tribe and gave us a lot of history of the tribe and its correlation with the Canyon. I loved getting to hear a part of the history that wasn’t your typical Grand Canyon facts. There are lots of other options while at the canyon that include:
- View the canyon on horseback – click here for more info.
- Mule rides through the canyon – if interested, click here
- Whitewater rafting – learn more here (Take note the meeting point for this tour is 3 hours from the Grand Canyon National Park main entrance)
- Hiking the canyon – you can do this on your own or with a guide – click here for guided tour info. (This tour will pickup in Flagstaff or Sedona (for parties of 5+))
Phoenix, AZ: Phoenix seems to have a lot of outdoor attractions as well! Some popular options include:
- Desert Botanical Garden
- Camelback Mountain
- Phoenix Zoo
- Learn about other options here
Las Vegas, NV: There are so many things to do in Vegas that I’m not even going to touch on the attractions on the strip since this post isn’t about that! One option that I hear a lot about making a trip to the Canyon’s West Rim from Sin City is to stop at Hoover Dam along the way. The dam is a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas. Other options to view the Grand Canyon are listed below:
- SkyWalk – glass floored horseshoe shaped bridge that allows visitors to overlook the canyon. More information here on that! From my understanding, you can’t just buy a skywalk ticket & the road to get to it is unpaved. You are not allowed any personal belongings on the bridge – including cameras. They do offer their photos for $20 each I believe.
- Zip Lining – more info. here
- Helicopter Tour – click here to learn more (I’m recommending the same company we used since we had a great experience with them. They offer tours from Vegas as well!)
From what I can tell, most Grand Canyon West options must be bought as a tour + along with other attractions. If you do some research or have been and know otherwise, let me know!
Sedona, AZ: We loved hiking to Devil’s Bridge in the Coconino National Forest. The first leg of this trail can be taken using a 4×4 vehicle. Luckily, with our Jeep Wrangler rental that was not an issue for us (aside from a little worry – after all, it’s a rental!) The trail is typically 6 miles from the Dry Creek Vista parking lot. You can cover 4 of those if you have a high clearance vehicle. The hike itself is pretty moderate – with a steep incline near the top and beautiful views of the red rocks. Devil’s Bridge is a natural sandstone bridge that could be intimidating for some as far as walking on it goes. There was a long line of hikers waiting to grab pics so we decided against waiting to get one together on top. Downtown Sedona looked really fun and I wish we had stopped in for a quick stroll. There were a ton of restaurant options + mom & pop shops lining the main street! Some other recommendations for Sedona are the Pink Jeep Tours or renting an ATV to take down the hiking trails if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle!
I hope this post helps with some of your trip planning! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions regarding our trip itinerary, etc! I’d love to chat with you and help in any way I can!
Until next time…Ton Voyage!