Happy 90th birthday to the Grand Canyon! Yes we’re a day late (the park’s official birthday is February 26), hopefully the Grand Canyon isn’t offended that we forgot to call yesterday and sing it birthday greetings. No cupcakes or birthday cake either. Sheesh, what kind of birthday party is this?
Let’s call it less of a party and more of an homage. After 90 years as an official National Park, the Grand Canyon continues to dazzle even the most jaded travelers. The Grand Canyon is one of the national park system’s most popular destinations (more than 10 million people visited in 2008). Its dimensions are mind-blowing. The Grand Canyon is a mile deep and averages 10 miles wide. Snaking along its floor are 277 miles of the Colorado River, which has carved the canyon over the past six million years.
That’s a long, long, long time. When the Grand Canyon was born those 6 million years ago, the planet was covered by glaciers and preparing itself for the Mediterranean Sea to dry up (don’t worry – it gets wet again later). Grand Canyon, what a long strange trip it’s been for you.
Top 5 things to do at / with / by / near / in / on the Grand Canyon
Our gift to the Grand Canyon is to highlight the very cool things to do there. We’re not necessarily hoping to drive more visitors to the Grand Canyon (10 million a year is plenty!). Instead, we want to highlight ways to get off the beaten path and do it on a budget and / or on a short timeline. If you’ve only got a few days to visit the Grand Canyon, you can still have an extremely worthwhile experience. Here’s how:
- You’d be surprised how many people plan a vacation to Las Vegas and don’t realize the Grand Canyon is within easy reach. Yes, you would be surprised. Viator offers a variety of Grand Canyon helicopter tours from Las Vegas – the most popular is the All American Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour (check out some of the 625+ tour reviews and 190+ tour photos of this hugely popular helicopter tour). For less than $286 per person you get to fly (45 min each way) to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, land at the bottom, have lunch, and fly back (including a fly-over of the Hoover Dam). Cool. At the other extreme is the 4-in-1 helicopter boat and fllight to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim.
- Visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk. We’ve been talking about the Skywalk since the day it opened in March 2007 (read Rod’s first-hand account of the Skywalk’s opening ceremonies). If you’re short of time the Grand Canyon Skywalk Express Helicopter tour is a great option; though we also find that people really enjoy a self-drive Hummer or SUV and tour on their own. It’s a great experience either way.
- Spend a few days and really explore the Grand Canyon and surrounding parks and national monuments. If you have the time, there’s really no better way to experience the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in all their majestty. The 4-day tour offered by Viator gets great reviews; also check out the #9 “top 10 travel photos of 2008” which was taken on this 4-day tour. Pretty amazing scenerey, all around.
- It’s hot out there. So get wet. You can kayak on Lake Mead, take a cruise on the Colorado River and visit the foot of Hoover Dam, or you can even go river rafting between the Black Canyon’s cliffs. Even in the heat of summer there are lots of fun ways to explore the Grand Canyon from the water.
- Traveling to Phoenix or Sedona & Flagstaff? Then you, too, can visit the Grand Canyon! Don’t forget there are lots of ways to get out of the city and experience some of nature directly.
We’ll finish up this homage to the Grand Canyon with some of our favorite photos (submitted by actual Viator travelers). Enjoy, and happy 90th!
-Viator’s Las Vegas & Grand Canyon Team
Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s things to do in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Also check out the map of Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon over on the Viator site. If you need a place to stay, check out Las Vegas Hotels on Planetware.com.