Are you traveling again? A family vacation in Vegas (yes, you read that right – more on that in an upcoming post) was our last big trip before lockdown in March 2020. Aside from all the Vegas fun, I managed to work in a daytrip to Grand Canyon West and it was the best decision ever! Don’t have a rental car? No problem! You can opt for booking with a tour company like Pink Adventure Tours that will take the guesswork out, or rent a car and go at your own pace, which is what we chose to do. Either way, you do NOT want to miss seeing this giant hole in the ground. The West Rim is only 2 hours and 15 minutes from Las Vegas, which in kid-car-time is a movie and snacks plus a nap. The hardest part of your day will be getting out the door by 7am, but it’s worth it to arrive between 9 and 10am to beat the lines. You must park your car at the visitor center and ride the hop on/hop off bus to the 3 stops at Grand Canyon West. Grand Canyon West has something for everyone and is fun for the whole family. Here is our top 10 list:
Hualapai Ranch – First stop at Grand Canyon West
1. Ride the Mechanical Bull
Once you put on that cowboy hat, it’s a magical transformation. You will embody all that is Wild West and you will be ready for the bull’s top speed. It’s best to let the bull operator know that you don’t want to start out at the top speed.
I actually didn’t get on the bull because I am the photographer, but I could tell by watching three of my children and my husband that it’s all in the hips, it helps if you say yee-haw, and you look cooler if you have one hand in the air. Buy tickets ahead of time in the adorable little store next to the mechanical bull. If your children go in the store with you, you will end up with a large stuffed scorpion that will be in many of your photos, a cap gun you feel you must hide from police officers at the Hoover Dam checkpoint, and a silver ring, which your daughter will promptly – albeit accidentally – throw over a Grand Canyon cliff with a wave of her hand. DO NOT go after it.
2. Try Your Hand at Lassoing Something Other Than Yourself
You are going to ride the mechanical bull like a pro, but man vs. rope is another story. The hardest thing about the lasso is not lassoing yourself. Proper form has you swirling the loop counter-clockwise over your head. You will intend to let go and fling it far, but it will drop around your neck at least once first. If you stick with it, you will eventually get the lasso close to the non-moving target. This activity is free and fun and the lasso helper is very kind and will not laugh at you. But your kids will.
3. Put Your Felons, I Mean Kids, in the Clink
Hualapai Ranch is set up to make you feel like you have really stepped into the western experience. There are photo ops everywhere, but the jail is by far my favorite (only because there wasn’t one of those swinging door saloons). I did not ask my kids to get into character in jail. They’re naturals.
There are additional family-friendly things to do at this stop, like a magic show and a wagon ride and even horseback riding, but we did not have time for everything unfortunately. If you have a couple of days, you can book a stay here and immerse yourself in the western culture!
Eagle Point – Second Stop at Grand Canyon West
4. The Skywalk
This experience for us was non-negotiable. It’s the reason we came. I LOVE stuff like this: any observation deck, rotating restaurants, quirky or superlative destination attractions like the world’s longest bench or the smallest Post Office in the US (yes, I have seen both of those) – basically the travel equivalent of kitsch. So, after I learned there is a walkway with a glass floor jutting 70 ft. out and 4000 ft. over the Grand Canyon, of course I signed up my whole family to get on it. And it was AMAZING!
A word about the price – I read a couple of negative reviews about the price of the Skywalk and Grand Canyon West in general. This is not the National Park, which is another couple of hours’ drive from Vegas and too far for a day trip (for us, at least). Grand Canyon West is operated by the Hualapai Tribe and money spent there supports the Tribe and the upkeep of the attractions offered at Grand Canyon West. I was happy to part with every penny we paid for our family adventure. The views, the smiles, the family-friendly experiences, the memories were ALL worth it. Plus, we are a Disney family and understand the real meaning of parting with the contents of our wallet.
You can buy tickets for the Skywalk on the website ahead of time and save a few dollars. When you arrive, you will have to place all of your belongings in a locker. Even your cell phone. This means you will feel naked. This also means you can’t take photos, but you can wait on the line for one of the skywalk photographers! We did this – then we previewed the photos and we hated them. There is a plan for such a situation. They will let you go back out there (without having to wait on line again) and they will assign you a different photographer. This time, ask the the photographer to avoid other families photo bombing you, suggest they wait for everyone in your party to be looking at the camera, and be specific about the poses you really want. Or, just ask your first photographer to do all those things. Once you get it right, it is worth the $69 photo package with every digital image. Save your receipt for when you login to access your photos and you find some other family (not kidding). You will then have to email your receipt code and send pictures of what your real family looks like. I promise it’s all worth it.
5. Explore the Teepee Replicas
Grand Canyon West did a beautiful job with these replicas of teepees and sweat lodges. You can go inside and walk around in them! Read the signs posted about the structures and ask nearby staff members questions. This is a great opportunity to learn about Native American culture.
Warning: as you walk around and take in the beautiful scenery, take care to not walk into a cactus. If walking into things is something you do frequently, wear denim.
6. Watch a Native American Dance Performance
We actually didn’t see this, but I am including it here because we wish we had. The day we were there, no dance performances were taking place, although the website states they run every half hour from 11 until 3:30. There is a large amphitheater with seating and the dancers are in costume and accompanied by traditional drums and music. Call ahead and ask if performances will be running on the day of your visit!
7. Take photos with the Eagle of Eagle Point
You will want to have some pictures of this beautiful rock formation without the Skywalk railing in the picture (which you can see above in my PDA photo). Speaking of railings – there are none (other than on the Skywalk!) and you could literally walk off a cliff if you’re not paying attention. Hold your littles by the hand. Make them sit down! You will be shocked at how close people get to the edge for an Instagram photo. Unlike the $69 Skywalk photo package, getting that close is not worth it.
8. Take in the Stunning 360 Degree Views at Guano Point, Third Stop at Grand Canyon West
The views here are absolutely incredible. The scenery is so perfect, it’s almost surreal. Doesn’t it look like I sat him in front of a green screen? You have to do a little climbing for a good vantage point to see all the way around, so once again, hold onto the kids and make them sit. We did not go all the way out to the official “point.” There is no way to safely get there when your four young kids are all clutching their souvenirs and looking everywhere except where they are walking. The view is just as splendid from the first set of elevated rocks and you’ll spare yourself some anxiety.
9. Pull Over and Snag a Photo with the Joshua Trees
These trees, which are actually yucca plants, can be spotted in areas of the Mojave Desert. On your way to the West Rim from Vegas, you will pass through Arizona’s Joshua Tree Forest. Pull over to the side of the road (if you can do so safely) and drag your kids out of the car for another photo op. We saw quail and some suspicious holes in the ground that may have been snake hideouts, so watch your feet!
10. Stop and See the Hoover Dam
Your kids will be incredulous that you are asking them to get out of the car again, but this is quite a sight to see, so it’s bribery time. If you have a couple of extra hours, try to squeeze in a Hoover Dam tour! You can park on the Nevada side of the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge to access the walking path across for some incredible views of the dam. You will have to yell at the kids to hide the cap guns before pulling up to the security checkpoint. You don’t want to risk having them confiscated for looking uncomfortably real. After your kids perfect concealed carry, park and get ready to piggyback at least one of them uphill – it’s been a long day. On one side of the bridge, you will be in Nevada and the other side, Arizona! And in the middle, you will have a perfect Hoover Dam photo op.
We hope you have a great daytrip to the Grand Canyon! Watch our video below for a preview of what your day will look like and be sure to tell us all about your visit. Happy and safe travels!