Everyone’s got a list of the things that you must do when you visit the Grand Canyon. Bloggers have them. Glossy travel guides are full of them. Even your next door neighbor who went last summer and took 24 pictures of his family standing in the same spot has some suggestions. But, which things just aren’t worth it at the Grand Canyon?
1. Grand Canyon National Geographic Center
If you are coming towards the South Rim from Flagstaff, this is the first and flashiest sign that you are close to the canyon. It is tempting to see the Nat Geo brand and the shiny building and whip in to start your sightseeing, but resist the temptation. The IMAX movie, which was the draw for our family, is not only expensive ($13.59 for adults, $10.33 for kids), but it is just extremely poor quality. The cinematography is stunning and sweeping, everything you would expect from National Geographic, but the script and story are everything you would expect from a middle school film class project. We all walked away from the movie asking ourselves what had happened and who sucked all the joy out the Grand Canyon.
The Center is also highly commercial-hello Pizza Hut-and could easily be considered the DisneyWorld of the Grand Canyon. Just keep driving.
2. Flintstone’s Bedrock City
I am a full scale sucker for a road-side attraction. Honestly, the weirder, the better. I love the kitsch. I live for the kitsch, but there is a point where shabby chic becomes just plain shabby and the Flinstones passed that point a decade ago. The “park” consists of a barren desert landscape with garish cement Flintstones buildings just like you loved in the cartoon. The buildings and surrounding pre-historic props are actually mildly entertaining, although worn, but there are too many letdowns for this to be worth it. The first letdown was the admission price of $5 per person. Roadside attractions are generally free, but we hoped the admission price would be salvageable in the play area for the kids. A Dino slide, swing sets, and a Fred-Mobile tram are on the property to entertain the kids; at least that’s the idea.
During our visit, the first thing to break was the swingset, dumping my nine year old unceremoniously to the ground. Then, the seesaw broke in half leaving my five year old with a gash and a splinter. When the slide mechanism came loose and pinched one of the kids on the leg, I am not kidding when I tell you that my kids started running for the car. If kids are running from your playground, it is time to rethink your business plan.
3. The West Rim
All of the Grand Canyon is spectacular. There isn’t a bad view in the place, so choosing a viewing spot should be based on your location and your desired experience. The flashiness of the West Rim lies in its closer proximity to Las Vegas and its shiny new attraction-The SkyWalk. However, this is not the Grand Canyon you hope to see. The West Rim is privately owned, not operated by the National Park Service, and admission to this private area costs major money. All admission is on a guided tour basis and prices start at $42.99. If you aren’t running to the North or South Rim already, that basic admission doesn’t even grant you access to the shiny new Sky Walk. That price just allows you entrance to the park, where you will be required to park your car and board a tour bus. The least expensive option that includes access to the Sky Walk is $79.00.
If the price doesn’t immediately turn you off, also know that this area is known for large groups of tourists who don’t mind being herded around in groups while holding selfie sticks and Ipads for cameras. If that still sounds appealing to you, buy your ticket to the West Rim. You will be very happy together.
If you would like to know what TO do at the Grand Canyon, I can't help you, unless you want to go in the rain. I've got that covered.