Going to the Grand Canyon was on my Dad’s bucket list. It’s not something he and mom could do alone and I wanted to bring my family so I planned the trip. Originally, I was just going to go to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas but after researching, I realized we could expand our road trip and visit more National Parks. I followed the itinerary from Janine at BayAreaParent.com and even though her children are a little bit older, it seemed doable for my 5 and 8 year old and older parents (in their 60’s). We did the “small loop” of the Grand Circle but it was perfect for a 10 day vacation.
Below were the details of our itinerary for our late summer trip (Aug 24 – Sept 2). Based on this Google maps route, it is a total of 14 hours and 14 minutes of driving.
Days 1 – 3 (2 nights) : New York -> Las Vegas, Nevada -> Zion National Park, Utah
- We took a 7am EST flight from NY and got into Las Vegas at 9am MST. After we landed, we got our rental car and loaded our luggage. We ate dim sum as our last Chinese meal for a while and stopped at Sam’s Club for water, soda and a tray of organic peaches. It was great to take the early flight because we were able to get into Vegas and drive to Zion by 5pm and not feel rushed.
- We drove 2 hours and 45 minutes to Zion National Park and checked into the Zion Lodge. I really liked this lodge. It’s the only lodging in the park and if you stay here you are able to drive into the park during the warm months of the year. There were hiking trails that started right in front of the lodge. We saw turkeys on the front lawn in the morning and deer in the evenings. It was a great central location to take breaks for lunch and during the day. If you don’t stay here, there is lodging right outside of the park and a tram that will take you into the park.
- Our favorite restaurants were outside the park. We ate Meme’s Cafe for dinner. Amazing pulled pork. It’s gluten-free and my 5-year-old with the gluten allergy had 2 portions. We ate lunch at Oscar’s Cafe. Great Tex-Mex, HUGE portions, and gluten-free options.
Days 3 – 5 (2 nights): Zion National Park, Utah -> Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- We drove 1 hour and 50 minutes to get to Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
- We checked into the closest lodging outside of the park, Ruby’s Inn, . I considered staying at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon because it is inside the park but because temperatures are rarely in the 80’s it does not have air conditioning. The off chance there was a heat wave during our stay my mom would never forgive me for booking a hotel without air conditioning. This lodge also prides itself on it’s rustic feel and experience so it does not have TV or wifi in the rooms. Both not necessary, but I was reading my work emails in the evening so I was trying to stay at hotels that had it. We were satisfied with Ruby’s Inn. It’s run by Best Western, rooms are a bit dated but clean. It’s a campus with a couple different restaurant options, very large general store with souvenirs and groceries, laundry mat, guided ATV and horseback riding tours across the street.
- We really enjoyed the guided ATV and wagon ride. Both were a short walk right across the street. The tours go through the ponderosa pine forest to a different part of the Bryce Canyon rim that the tram in the park doesn’t stop at.
- Our favorite restaurants: We ate 2 buffet lunches at Ruby’s Inn Cowboy’s Buffet & Steak Room. Selection and food were good. The baked chicken was our favorite and it was nice to make a soft ice cream sundae for dessert. We had pizza at Valhalla Pizzeria & Coffee Shop, next to the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. Since I live in NY, no pizza can compare, but they serve gluten free pizza so my youngest daughter with the gluten allergy was very happy.
- To ensure we only took carry-on luggage onto the plane, I packed enough clothing for 4 days and made sure we were staying at places that had laundry machines. I did the first laundry load the first night at Ruby’s Inn. The laundry mat was right outside the main lodge. I had to leave the building and it was a drizzly evening but I was happy to have a close place to do laundry. I brought my own laundry liquid but the general store sold it also.
- It was 15-20 degrees cooler then Zion so we traded t-shirts and shorts for long sleeves and pants.
Days 5 – 6 (1 night): Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah -> Page, Arizona
- We drove 2 hours and 30 minutes to Page, Arizona for just 1 night because it was a half way point to the Grand Canyon. A 5 our drive would have been tough with my 2 young children.
- We stayed at the Courtyard Page at Lake Powell. It was a comfortable and clean hotel. There were laundry machines (detergent available at the gift shop) in the hotel so I did a load of laundry. There was also a free buffet breakfast that was included with the room.
- We ate dinner at Big John’s Texas BBQ. The BBQ smokers and tables are in a parking lot and there was a band playing that night. They sang John Denver which my parents love. We were the Chinese family eating great BBQ singing John Denver in the middle of a parking lot. It was awesome.
- There are sites to see in Page like Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and the Glen Canyon Dam, but we had already spent 4 days hiking and were anxious to get to the Grand Canyon so we left right after breakfast.
Days 6 – 8 (2 nights): Page, Arizona -> Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- We drove another 2 hours and 30 minutes to the Grand Canyon, Arizona.
- We stayed at the El Tovar Hotel. This is the nicest lodging on the rim of the Grand Canyon and we very much enjoyed our experience there. The hotel is rustic, elegant and modern at the same time. We stayed in the Manager’s and Zane Grey suites (suites have to be booked by phone), they were both spacious, with 2 queen beds, modern bathroom, and separate living room with tables and couches. The Zane Grey suite had a balcony with a view of the Grand Canyon. It was right on the rim and in a central location so we could walk to everything from seeing the sunrise and sunset to restaurants to hiking trails and tours. There were no elevators in the hotel so we carried our luggage to the 2nd and 3rd floors, but I did see staff helping to bring up luggage also.
- Favorite Restaurants: We had breakfast at the El Tovar Dining Room (dinner requires reservation). From this dining room, you have a view of the Grand Canyon. We had lunch at the Bright Angel Cafe and ate this great burger platter where you could choose your bun (gluten free option), toppings, sauces, and fries. We had dinner at the Arizona Room. The ribeye is their specialty so we all ate it.
- We took the Hermit’s Rest Tour which drove us to different viewpoints along the rim. It was great because there was a tour guide who spoke about the history of the Grand Canyon and answered our questions. After hiking Zion and Bryce, my young children were tired so this bus tour was perfect for them.
- I didn’t do laundry here but if you need, to there is a laundromat near the Mather Campground.
Days 8 – 10 (2 nights): Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona -> Hoover Dam -> Las Vegas, Nevada
- After seeing the sunrise on the Grand Canyon at 5:30am, followed by hike about a mile down the canyon, then breakfast at the El Tovar Dining Room, we got into the car and started our drive to Las Vegas with a stop at the Hoover Dam. It’s a 4 hour and 45 minutes drive to Las Vegas and you hit the Hoover Dam on the way, about 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas.
- We made the stop at the Hoover Dam because my Dad is an engineer and really wanted to see the turbines there. My little one is too young to take the dam tour so we dropped my Dad off and then hung out at the Hoover Dam Lodge a couple miles away. They have an arcade, restaurant, casino, and they generously let me use the coin laundry machines.
- We checked into the Bellagio in Las Vegas. This was the first time my parents visited Las Vegas so this hotel was perfect for our stay. It was in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, rooms were nice and clean, great restaurants, nice pool, and fresh flowers everywhere (which my mom loved).
- Favorite restaurants: Great Chinese dim sum and noodle dishes at Noodles in the Bellagio. Our favorite buffet was The Buffet at Wynn.
This vacation was amazing! Amazing. You will see so many beautiful things. Even though we wouldn’t plan much for the days and spent a lot of time hiking and touring and looking around at natural wonders, I would not categorize this as a relaxing vacation. We never felt quite settled because we stayed 2 nights at each location and then packed up and drove a couple hours to the next location. Three nights would have been a little too long for my young children since they couldn’t really do much hiking. This was the best itinerary for my family to tour the “small loop” of the Grand Circle and I would not have changed a thing.
If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon, would love to hear your itinerary.
Cheers to fantastic family vacations,
The Dumpling Mama xo