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Posts Tagged ‘Things to do in Arizona with kids’

When we were first planning our Year Long Adventure, one of the places we knew for sure that we would visit was the Grand Canyon.  Mom & Dad had both seen the Grand Canyon when they were younger, and our kids were extremely excited to see one of the true wonders of the world.

We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park a little after 6:00 PM, a little later than expected because of  our unplanned stops at Petrified Forest National Monument and Meteor Crater.  As we pulled into the main Visitor Center parking lot, we were amazed to be greeted by large elk meandering through the parking lot.

These elk were not bothered at all by the tourists a few feet away, snapping photos like the paparazzi chasing Lindsay Lohan.  Andrew was thrilled to see this young elk enjoying some of the tasty plants put in the flower beds.

Next we drove over to Grand Canyon Village to check in at the Yavapai Lodge East where we had reserved a room.  Just one week before, this was the only place in the park that had any rooms available. Even still,  in true YLA fashion, they were able to grant our on-the-spot request for a second night.

We were very pleasantly surprised to find that the Yavapai Lodge East was more like a nice hotel than the more “rustic” lodges we remembered from childhood.  Three days later, after realizing that we had left clothes in the dresser, we were even more impressed because Yavapai’s Lost and Found FedExed them back to us.

Our first day at the Park was filled with Junior Ranger Books, hikes along the rim, Ranger talks, and incredible views.  The main Visitor Center has a great 20 minute video, the perfect way to begin your adventure in the Canyon.

The entire family was truly amazed at the canyon views.  The size and scope of this place is really hard to grasp, and it takes your breath away each and every time you look.  Seeing the kids’ expressions when they glimpsed the Canyon the first time made it worth the trip.  Mom didn’t like people getting too close to the edge (even perfect strangers), so she really appreciated the railings at the observation points.

On the second morning, the girls and Dad woke up early and rode the shuttle over to the Bright Angel Trailhead.  The Bright Angel Trail is the 7.2 mile trail that winds down from the top of the canyon to the bottom.  This trail is 8-10 feet wide in most places, has no railing, and is the trail that the mules use to take families like the Bradys to the bottom of the canyon.  We had no plans of going to the bottom, but were able to hike down about a mile before we turned around and hiked back.  This trail offered more amazing views, but can be a bit scary if you have a problem with heights (Dad).

Mules on the Bright Angel Trail

Obviously Mom wasn't here. Don't get so close to the edge!

We really enjoyed our trip to Grand Canyon National Park.  While in the park, the shuttle system will get you around quickly to everywhere you want to visit.  With limited parking, this is a nice convenience, and you don’t experience the gridlock common at other major parks like Yellowstone.  Both evenings we ate dinner in the cafeterias in Grand Canyon Village, and utilized the General Store for on-the-go breakfasts and lunches.

Even the beer in the cafeteria is "Grand"

The crowds were not too large on this Thursday – Saturday in early May, and the weather was pleasant.   After the kids were sworn in as Junior Rangers, we stopped to see the IMAX movie in Tusayan, the town just outside the south rim entrance.  During the movie, you get to experience what it is like to raft down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon, as well as learn more about the lives of the natives and the early explorers.  If you have the time, it makes a nice addition to the trip.

The Grand Canyon is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.  Pictures don’t even begin to capture the magnificence and grandeur of this National Treasure.

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After visiting Petrified Forest National Park, our next stop was a trip to Meteor Crater outside Winslow, Arizona.  Meteor Crater bills itself as the most well-known and best preserved meteorite crater in the world.  One word that describes this site is HUGE!

View from the top the the Crater

It is difficult to capture the scale of this 50,000 year old crater from photographs.  Although the meteor itself was only 150 feet in diameter, the crater it created is nearly a mile across and 550 feet deep.  They say that there could be 20 football fields on the floor of the crater with the crowds of 20 NFL stadiums seated around the sides.  (After hearing this, Jerry Jones started renovation plans of Cowboys Stadium.)  The Apollo astronauts trained here before one of the moon missions to study the features of craters.  On the floor of the crater is a fenced off area protecting the site where the meteor made contact. There is also an American flag and a wood cutout of a 6 foot tall astronaut to help emphasize the true magnitude of the crater.

Notice the tiny fenced off area in the center of the crater (right above the bush on left side of picture) denoting the impact zone.

Close up of the impact zone. American flag and 6 foot tall astronaut are on the right.

The visitor center is perched directly on the edge of the crater and has trails that lead to different observation viewpoints along the rim.  In addition to a movie explaining how the crater was formed, there is an excellent museum in the visitor center filled with interactive, multimedia exhibits.  Our kids enjoyed both the movie and museum, but their favorite part was definitely the view from the rim.  Both guided and self-guided tours along the rim are available.

View from the highest observation deck. It is extremely windy and made Mom really nervous.

It took about an hour to see everything.  Just a few miles south of I-40, our visit to Meteor Crater was a nice way to break up a long drive and experience something from out of this world.

Photo backdrop in the Visitor Center lets you pose on the crater floor.

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