In January, I tend to plan and book all of our vacations for the year and even some for the following year. I rely heavily on other amazing Moms (& Dads) to blog about their own family adventures so I can base our plans on what I believe will be the best fit for our family. Not all of our vacations are “winners”. Although our kids are always grateful for them, there are some that stand out as amazing memories for us all.
In planning our trips for this year, I realized that I never to contribute to the blog world about the “winning” vacations we’ve had so I thought I would go back and share about the family vacation we took to the Grand Canyon in 2016. It was definitely one of those where all the kids had fun and we made fun memories!
For a little background, we have 5 kids ranging in age at this time from 17 to 6 months. We live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area so we decided to fly from DFW to Phoenix, Arizona. I read about some cool water park hotels that I thought would be fun for the kids to play at before we embarked to the Grand Canyon. While there are a lot of wonderful places to stay in Phoenix, due to our family size we generally need at least 2 hotel rooms or an entire place. Our budget didn’t allow us for to stay at the really cool one so we compromised and ended up at Pointe Hilton Sqauw Peak Resort. In retrospect, this worked out beautifully since we were able to stay in our own town home in the resort, essentially, with a 2-car garage. We loved it and we loved their prices!
We rented a mini-van, which our kids thought was SUPER cool because I drive a large SUV at home, so we could comfortable make the drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.
We stayed two nights at the resort and while we were there we did a lot of swimming in their large pool that also has a water slide for the kids. They do have a “lazy river” as well which the kids loved! While we were in town, they were having an abnormal heat wave where the temperatures were over 110 degrees. Being from Texas, we are used to dry, hot air but this weather was exceptionally and literally breathtaking. We did manage to play through the mini-golf course but a few kids pooped out before we ended the game due to the heat. Overall, we enjoyed our time at this resort and would absolutely recommend it to others. I think often about the beautiful setting with the palm trees backed by the mountains and plateaus under the clear blue sky. The resort and area were beautiful.
Here are our fabulous 5 standing outside our town house!
The water was great & the kids had fun!
If you’re travelling with littles, be sure and bring them a float! They didn’t have much available for sale.
View from the loungers into the pool area.
The water slide comes out right here so you can sit and relax while still keeping an eye on the kiddos!
We enjoyed the mini-golf experience as an included feature of the resort!
My only caution is that, depending on the time of year you go, all of their restaurants and amenities may not be open so you’ll want to call ahead if that’s important to you. There was one night where I hoped we could have a nice dinner by the pool area but the restaurant wasn’t open. We saved money and made dinner so it wasn’t a problem but the lazy, on-vacation Mom in me would have loved that!
The third morning, we left out for the Grand Canyon. We had booked ourselves at the Yavapai Lodge in the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. When I called 7 months in advance to book, I was surprised to find that it was my only option. I would recommend booking your stay inside the park well in advance.
The hotel itself was prefect since we merely rested and re-grouped there. We had two rooms, side by side for 3 nights. We started by visiting the “Welcome Center” at the South Rim as so many blogging parents had recommended. We were able to check in on any park ranger expeditions and also found out that they were having a star-gazing party while we were there where local astronomy buffs with telescopes would come set up all over the parking lot and we could view many of the planets with the naked eye as well as many constellations that we can’t see at home. We did participate in this, free event and absolutely loved it! Our kids still talk about it.
We also picked up maps and information on the park. At the visitor’s center there is a movie playing continuously with interesting information that is 1. air conditioned and 2. free! I would recommend hanging around for the next showing of it!
The kids were anxious to hike the Grand Canyon so we decided after the long trip, we would make the #1 priority of the following day. We went to the local lodge for dinner and that quickly became the kid’s “go to” place due to the selections for them.
The next morning we set out on a “hike” which was essentially just walking the trails. About 1 mile in, the kids tried to quit and we hadn’t even gotten to the views yet! We encouraged them to keep going, even stopping by the adorable and FREE library in the park! They have board games you can check out as well.
Once rested, we headed down the trail to take in all of the views. Although my husband and I have been there a few times before, it is always as breathtaking as the last time. The kids enjoyed the views, reading the historical and scientific markers, taking photos & guessing what kind of tracks we were coming across along the trails.
We took the free bus ride over to view the sunset from the “perfect” spot which was pretty awesome. By the time the sun had set, the kids were exhausted and grouchy. I would recommend bringing lots of snacks with you as the lines for the return buses is quite long!
The next day we hiked over to the Desert View Museum as it is, once again, free and offers air-conditioned, gorgeous views over the canyon. There were also a lot of interactive and fun learning lessons throughout the museum for the kids.
We also went into the gift shops because, as you can imagine, all of our children love souvenirs. Surprisingly, most everyone opted to get their souvenir in Las Vegas. The lone souvenir from the Grand Canyon was a book about animal droppings to identify what species the poop in the park is from. (We have 4 sons so you can imagine, they all liked this one.)
Things to know about the park with kids:
-Keep them away from the edges! Very few are protected.
-Bring lots of Chapstick with SPF! It’s hot and dry so you’ll be glad you did!
-Make sure everyone is wearing sunblock before you leave the hotel
-Pack refillable water containers. There are water fountains throughout the park for filling.
-Bring healthy snacks! You’re at a high-altitude and it’s hot during the day, cool at nights. You’ll want to be prepared for snacks as there’s not much in between the trails by foot.
-Prepare your kids for coming into contact with wildlife. There are beautiful creatures throughout the park so prepare them in case they’re afraid of the large animals. (We had the opposite problem with our ornery bunch.)
-Visit the Welcome Center! They’re a wonderful resource for all that’s happening in the park & answering questions.
-Although our jogging stroller is bulky, we are so glad that we brought it instead of a lightweight stroller! Definitely worth lugging around.
-There’s a lot to do within the park for free once you’re in!
-Bring warm clothes! It gets cold at night. at least to us Texans!
Here we are! Views for days!
Some of the wildlife in the park.
My amazing husband carried our enormous 6 month old throughout the park!
Hats are a must for me! I didn’t want them to have the sun on their faces all day, even with sunscreen on!
View of the sun setting on the bus tour.
The star gazing party was so much fun!
The local astronomer enthusiasts were very nice and helpful with the kids!
Even the big kids!
On our 6th day, we headed out of the Grand Canyon to the Hoover Dam. We didn’t think we would be back out this way with the kids for awhile and we found the dam to be fascinating years before so we thought we’d head west and fly out of Las Vegas back home.
Tickets to the dam cannot be purchased online so we left pretty early to get there in time to grab tickets and I’m glad we did! There is a little cafe on-site if you need to grab something to eat before your tour. Please note that it’s very basic and very crowded.
The kids enjoyed the tour and were “wowed” by the technology of it all being done so long ago. They liked it and were ready to get to Las Vegas!
I know you’re thinking kids in Las Vegas!? Yeah, I know. The goal was to show them the strip nice and early before questionable things or outfits become a regularity. We had to the M&M store as well as the Coca-Cola store for novelty reasons (kids!). Then we ate at El Diablo’s Cantina since my husband and I love to eat there any time we’re in town. After the kids there, we both said we wouldn’t do that again. There were many questions from our bible-belt children about the devils inside, questionable acts at the bar, etc. We ate, we left and we all learned great life lessons!
We wanted to stay off the strip for those very reasons so we had booked ourselves at South Pointe. It had great reviews from other families. It also has an on-site bowling alley and movie theater with spacious sleeping rooms. And, of course, a great swimming pool! Although, by the time we got here and after a few games of bowling the kids were exhausted. We ended our trip with a trip to the casino buffet. This was definitely the highlight of the trip with the kids! They loved being able to try so many different things and then not be in trouble if they didn’t eat them. It was a nice ending to a really fun vacation.
I hope this helped you with planning your vacation! Leave me a comment or like, if so! That will let me know I am not doing this in vain! 🙂