It’s taken me a while to get to this post, since I’ve already done several on the topic, but here’s a recap.
Note: No pro tips for Santa Fe.
Go. Please plan to stay at least two days. You can, as many do, drive in, take a few photos, and be on your way, but that is just losing a piece of your soul.
Stay in the park if you can. That way, when the tourists go home at 5:00 you will have the Canyon to yourself. However, if they don’t have any rooms, staying in Tusayan — the hamlet just before the park — is fine.
If this is your first time, then stop in Tusayan first to see the iMax movie about the Canyon. Also, the Pink Bus tours are worth it, especially the sunset tour.
Hop that Blue Route shuttle and ride it all the way around. Learn where All The Things are.
Drive out to Desert View and the Watchtower, then drive back to the Visitors Center or Village, stopping at every overlook.
Don’t miss the sunset.
Any of the restaurants are fine. El Tovar Dining Room is expensive. The restaurant at the Best Western in Tusayan is surprisingly good (at least it was during our prior visits; we didn’t make it there this time). Cocktails, however, are basic. (Note: The entire world is suffering from supply chain issues, so give the poor bartender a break.)
Yes, you should buy that t-shirt/coffee mug/tschotschke.
Top pro tip from this visit: Stop at a Wal-Mart in Phoenix or Flagstaff and buy those cheap camp chairs. Pop ’em open rimside, then sit and watch the canyon. You can thank me later.