24 Hours in the Grand Canyon with Kids

The Grand Canyon is one of the best family vacation destinations in the United States – and one of the most scenic and dramatic natural wonders in the world. If the opportunity presents itself to visit it, even for just a day, then you should definitely take it. There are plenty of family-friendly things to see and do in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon; check out the sample itinerary below to see how easy it is to enjoy a topnotch Grand Canyon adventure in a single day.

Morning in the Grand Canyon

Mornings in the Grand Canyon are out-of-this-world. Start yours off right by grabbing a quick bite to eat at the Bright Angel Coffee House, which is located at Bright Angel Lodge. The usual assortment of coffee shop goods can be had here, allowing mom and dad to sip coffee while the kids munch on bagels, muffins and other delights.

Make sure to finish breakfast before 8am, because there’s someplace you’ll want to be: the corral that is just to the west of Bright Angel Lodge. There, rangers get the mules ready for the day’s excursions right around 8am. A single day in the canyon really isn’t enough time to enjoy a mule ride yourselves, but watching the animals get ready for their outings is a whole lot of fun. Warn the kids to be wary, though – mules have been known to bite from time to time.

While it’s still relatively cool, get a nice overview of the South Rim by hitting the Rim Trail. It extends from Grand Canyon Village all the way over to Mather Point, and there are plenty of great lookouts and views along the way. Since it covers level terrain, it’s easy enough for even the smallest kids to handle.

An Afternoon on the South Rim

Once your leisurely hike is through, chances are that people will be ready to eat. Satisfy everyone’s various tastes by lunching at the Maswik Cafeteria on the west end of the village. A broad assortment of delicious food is available here, and it’s a casual enough place to feel comfortable with kids who are dressed in less-than-topnotch clothes.

Next up, you could take advantage of the neat self-guided audio tours that are available for various points along the South Rim. At numerous places from Yaki Point to Hermit Road, you’ll find signs that direct you to call a toll-free telephone number. Upon connecting, you’ll be prompted to enter a code – you can find it on the sign. From there, a series of interesting facts will be played, allowing you to learn more about the Canyon.

Another great way to educate yourself and the kids about the Grand Canyon – including facts about the fascinating geologic forces that formed it – is by stopping in at the Yavapai Observation Station. Several exhibits, photographs and models are on display here, helping you get a better feel for how the Grand Canyon came to be. Stunning views can also be enjoyed here.

A nice way to take a late afternoon break is by doing a little bird watching. Find a pleasant spot along the rim and hunker down for a while; make a game out of spotting and identifying as many different birds as possible. Watching these graceful creatures riding thermals and soaring above the canyon is an unforgettable experience.

Enjoying an Evening in the Grand Canyon

After all of the excitement of the day, you’ll be glad that you made dinner reservations at the El Tovar Dining Room. Although it’s not exactly low-priced, the food – and the view – make it well worth the extra expense. Take your time here so that everyone can refuel for some additional fun; night may be approaching, but the adventures are far from over!

Many different animals call the Grand Canyon home. You can experience some of its wildlife for yourself by looking for deer near sunset over by Grand Canyon Village. While observing the deer is perfectly fine, remember not to feed them or approach them. The whole family will delight in spotting these graceful, beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

Without a doubt, there’s no better way to wrap up a day at the South Rim than with a ranger-led full moon walk or star talk. The schedule does vary, but these tours typically embark from Yavapai Point just after dusk. Knowledgeable rangers engage the crowd by pointing out various stars and constellations; by walking around the rim after nightfall, you can see a whole other side of the Grand Canyon. Best of all, these talks and walks are designed to be peaceful and quiet – the perfect way to help everyone settle down after an exhilarating, unforgettable day at the Grand Canyon.

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