Seeing the Grand Canyon in person has been a dream of mine for a long time. I am happy to report that we finally made that dream come true over this past Thanksgiving holiday! And it was an ideal time to visit the park, the weather was perfect and the crowds were smaller than I have heard they can be in the summer months.
We booked this trip very last minute, so we didn’t get to stay inside the park, but we had the most amazing trip with our boys. If you follow along on our adventures, you know that I like to take advantage of our school breaks. And Jake had asked to go to the Grand Canyon for his birthday… in the summer. Being how it’s super-hot at the Grand Canyon during that time, I decided to push this one off until the weather got cooler. I was wracking my brain for somewhere to go over Thanksgiving break and decided that this might be the perfect time to see the Grand Canyon. We also had Spirit Airline credits that needed to be booked before the end of the year, so the trip planning began!
Being home for Thanksgiving was really important to us, so we decided that we would travel from Sunday – Thursday morning and fly home in time for lunch and dinner with our families. Thankfully we had zero issues with our flights and our traveling days went so smoothly… well everything except for the turbulence on the way home! Eek, that’s a story for another time haha!
- Sunday – Flight to Las Vegas, Nevada
- Drive to Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ
- Drive to hotel in Tusayan, AZ
- Monday – Grand Canyon National Park
- Tuesday – Grand Canyon National Park
- Wednesday – Drive back to Las Vegas, NV
- Stop by Hoover Dam
- Thursday – Flight home to Dallas, TX
A big goal of mine is to get my boys to all 50 states, so since we had already been to Arizona, I thought it would be cool to start this adventure in Las Vegas and mark Nevada off the list. Plus, flights into Vegas were way cheaper than flying to Phoenix or Flagstaff. We had early morning flights and made it to Vegas by 8:00 am. We were on the road in our rental car by 9:00 am! We decided to drive down the strip and show the boys where we would be staying on our last night of the trip and then we headed to Arizona.
Even though this stop put us about 2 hours out of the way, I knew we needed to go by Horseshoe Bend since we were so close. And that’s exactly what we did! We made it right before sunset and it did not disappoint. This site is about 4 hours from Vegas, and then we had to drive another 2 hours to our hotel in Tusayan. The boys loved exploring Horseshoe Bend and being out of the car. They always enjoy climbing rocks and there were plenty for them to crawl and climb on. But they got so cranky on the drive from Page to our hotel. I mean, we were up at 3:00 am for our flights, so I understood. Because of this, we actually decided to sleep in the next day before getting up for the Grand Canyon.
We really enjoyed our stay in Tusayan. We actually drove through after dark and the town was completely decked out in holiday lights and Christmas décor! We stayed at The Red Feather Lodge and really enjoyed it. Like I said earlier, we booked this trip in October, so I didn’t get to book lodging inside the park. However, the location of The Red Feather Lodge was wonderful and it only took about 5 minutes to drive to the South Rim entrance.
Grand Canyon Day 1
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when visiting The Grand Canyon. I didn’t think we’d see forests and animals, but man did we! Tall trees and lots of elk made the drive to the lookout points really exciting. We decided to start our first day at Mather’s Point. There was lots of space to park the car and a really nice visitor center area with food and coffee options, bike rentals, and Ranger talks. This visitors center was closed when we were there, but we probably wouldn’t have visited anyway. We were way too excited to see the Grand Canyon! The trails are paved and marked very well. The first sight of the canyon is truly awe-inspiring. I always knew it was grand, but it’s almost hard to take it all in, it’s that grand! The lookout points are very crowded, so we decided to venture along the rim trail and explore more on our own away from all the other visitors.
I really wanted to get down into the canyon, so we decided from Mather’s Point we would take the rim walk to the Kaibab Trail and hike down into the canyon to Ooh-Aah Point. If I am being honest, I would have really liked to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon and camp and then hike back up. But that just wasn’t an option with our boys. I also looked into mule rides to the bottom, but you have to be 9 and older and Jake is only 7. So, we did the hike and trail that we thought the boys would be able to handle the best. We ended up hiking 8 total miles. The switchbacks on the start of the trail were really cool, until the hike back up! Just remember that however far you hike down, you must hike back up. And while we didn’t go that many miles down, it was very hard for me to get back up and I am in pretty decent shape. I am thankful that the weather was cooler, I cannot imagine doing that hike in the summer temps. The views were stunning and the photos will never do it justice!
There are several dining options in Tusayan, but we opted for dinner at the Mexican restaurant at our hotel. It’s called Plaza Bonita Restaurant and it was so, so delicious! Plus, we got a discount for staying at the Red Feather Lodge! We also enjoyed lunch at Foodie Club while we were there! There were several options for all of us and it was a great stop before we hiked the canyon on day two.
Grand Canyon Day 2
Our original plan for the 2nd day in Arizona was to drive about 45 minutes and visit Bearizona. But, the weather had other plans for us and there was a 90% chance of rain there for the majority of the day. So, we decided to head back to the Grand Canyon to visit the Yavapai Geology Museum and do more exploring. This day was colder and cloudier than the day before, so it was nice to have a place to warm up indoors. The views were a little different here, especially with the clouds! We walked around for a bit and then decided to just drive around the park. It was exciting to see so many elk roaming around. We pulled over into a parking lot and explored the forest area. The boys played “pine cone dodge ball” and some hide and seek. Then, we decided to go back into town and have dinner. We LOVED the restaurant, We Cook Pizza and Pasta. The boys were able to get pizza and I really enjoyed the pasta.
On Wednesday morning we checked out of the hotel and started the four hour drive to Las Vegas. We made a quick stop to see the Hoover Dam on the drive. The drive was really easy and felt like it went by pretty quick. The dam is really a lot cooler than I thought it would be. We didn’t do the tour inside because this is a bucket list trip for my Dad and I wanted to wait to take it with him! But it was fun to drive over the dam and we also walked along the bridge that overlooks that area. And I got a picture with my boys in their 32 state right there on the walk up to the bridge!
Finally, we made it to Vegas. We stayed at the Bellagio and we were all impressed with the hotel! The Christmas décor was spot on. The only downside was how crowded it was. We got our best Christmas photo at 5:30 in the morning on the way to the airport. The boys just wanted to walk around the strip and check out the different hotels and sights outside. I tried to book tickets to a magic show while we were there, but there wasn’t anything available. We did about 6 miles of walking through different hotels and then decided to head back to our room and order room service for dinner. The boys thought we were so fancy! We only spent one night here and I think the boys actually liked it better than the Grand Canyon. I can’t wait to take them back in the summer so we can enjoy the hotel pools.
Overall, we really had a good time adding a new state to our list and visiting another National Park this year. I know there is so much that we didn’t see or do while we were there. Maybe one day we can visit again when the boys are a little older. I would love to hear any tips or recommendations that you have if you’ve been there. If you’re reading this to help plan your next trip, feel free to reach out with any questions! Don’t forget to follow our fun on my IG at road_trip_queen.
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