Tusayan, Arizona ~ Gateway To The Grand Canyon!
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular spring break destinations. As summer approaches, the attendance numbers rise dramatically and the sheer volume of visitors can easily overwhelm the capacity of the accommodations within the National Park on any given holiday weekend. Those who do not make campsite, hotel room or lodge cabin reservations in Grand Canyon Village well ahead of time will usually end up being stranded. Fortunately, the resort town of Tusayan is right next door to save the day!
Tusayan is located just outside the main Grand Canyon National Park entrance gate. Basically, the town of Tusayan serves only one purpose, which is catering to the needs of Grand Canyon tourists. This is especially true on busy holiday weekends when the National Park is filled beyond capacity. Tusayan may be able to save the day when there is not even a campsite left to be booked in the National Park.
On the flip-side, there is a price to pay for convenient alternative accommodations. Because of the remote location and the lack of competition, the price of accommodations in Tusayan can be two to three times higher than average. In fact, the prices across the board for restaurants, goods and services tend to be more than double what can be found in towns that are about 100 miles away. For this reason, experienced tourists view Tusayan as being a proverbial “last resort.”
There actually are bargains to be found in Tusayan and these bargains certainly appeal to the adventurous crowd. Tusayan is a great place to take advantage of travel brochure coupons and sponsored discount rates. Most of the discounts that can be found apply to helicopter and airplane sightseeing tours of the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon Airport is conveniently located in Tusayan and this little airfield stays quite busy. “Puddle hopper” flights from Las Vegas make up the bulk of the airline travel and the ticket prices can be a bargain if discounts are applied. Flying to the Grand Canyon is also the best way to avoid the road traffic congestion on a busy day. The Grand Canyon helicopter tour business is always booming and once again a coupon can save quite a bit of hard earned cash. In Las Vegas, casino sponsored promotions practically give the helicopter tours away and there is no better way to see the remote parts of the Grand Canyon.
There are a few good restaurants in Tusayan and there are several that are worth avoiding. Fast food is not a good option, because the prices are grossly inflated. The best bets for a dining venture are the old fashioned western style steak houses and Mexican food. This is the food that best represents the cuisine of the Southwest, so going traditional is the best choice. Because the Grand Canyon attracts visitors from around the globe, restaurant business owners in Tusayan also cater to the needs of niche markets. There are a few Asian style restaurants in town and nearly every restaurant offers vegetarian or gluten free options.
Few people realize that there are camping options outside of the National Park in Tusayan. There are a couple of RV parks that offer full hookups, so the jamboree crowd is in luck! The Kaibab National Forest borders upon this edge of the Grand Canyon National Park and there are campsite options here too. The same wildlife can be found in the pine forests surrounding Tusayan as in the Grand Canyon, so the same warnings about approaching wild animals apply when camping. Just because civilization is next door, it does not mean that the wild animals are tame, so for safety’s sake it is best to keep some distance.
The good thing about Tusayan is that the Grand Canyon mass transit system covers this ground. The Grand Canyon commuter buses run trough Tusayan several times each hour. There are park & ride lots in Tusayan, which are a great convenience. On a busy day it can take over 45 minutes just to find a parking space in the National Park, so leaving the car at a park & ride lot and hopping on the commuter bus can make the Grand Canyon experience much better.
Grand Canyon Park Passes can be purchased in Tusayan at the National Geographic Visitors Center, so there is no reason to sit in the long line of cars waiting at the entrance gate. By purchasing a park pass and taking advantage of the park & ride shuttle bus system, plenty of valuable time can be saved. The National Geographic Visitors Center also serves as a museum and it has an IMAX Theater. The venue at the IMAX Theater focuses solely on the Grand Canyon experience, so this is a good place for visitors to learn about all that the Grand Canyon has to offer.
There are a few trading posts and general stores in Tusayan, but as mentioned earlier, the prices are grossly inflated. However, there are some bargains to be found. There is plenty of Grand Canyon and Route 66 memorabilia to choose from, so finding a unique memento of the journey to bring back home is an option. Local crafts and authentic tribal art can be found in Tusayan too. One can even find oddball tourist trap items like Rattle Snake Egg Candy and Bacon Cheese Flavored Dried Crickets. Oddly enough while on the job at the Grand Canyon, a Navajo coworker and I both tried the Bacon Cheese Crickets and we agreed that these healthy crunchy bug snacks were pretty darn tasty!
Tusayan definitely serves a purpose in the scheme of things and it is a nice place to chill out after hectic day in the Grand Canyon National Park. Tusayan can save the day if reservations were neglected to be made in advance and if necessities were forgotten. The prohibitively high prices ensure that nobody stays in Tusayan for too long, so do not be surprised if a feeling of transience arises while there. When in the hospitality business, one simply has to keep the tourists moving on to the next destination and this is what Tusayan does best. As a visitor, it is best to keep in mind that Tusayan is much more than just the ultimate tourist trap! Tusayan truly is the gateway to Grand Canyon adventures!