We stayed for two nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Tusayan, just a few miles from the park's south entrance (on the canyon's south rim). When we checked in, the front desk clerk immediately offered us a free upgrade from our economy room with two queen beds to one with a king bed and "kid suite" with bunk beds. The kids were thrilled by the adventure of bunk beds and Jim and I, well, we were thrilled to have a room to ourselves, too. I cannot say enough good things about the hotel staff--but more on that later.
I was the only one who had been to the Grand Canyon before, but it took my breath away again. And again.
Several months before the trip, I had looked at the park's website and determined that the best way for the kids to appreciate the canyon (and be learning while we were there) would be to walk along the Trail of Time.
When they're a bit older, perhaps a hike down into the canyon, or even a mule trip would be fun--but with Joe mostly in a stroller and Audrey being at best a reticent hiker, the Trail of Time was just our speed. We spent the morning of our only full day at the canyon on the trail, which took us about an hour and a half round-trip, not counting the time we spent at the Yavapai Geology Museum before we turned around and headed back.
The trail's a well-constructed geological timeline of the canyon (one long step = 1 million years) with samples of rock from each of the main layers from the Elves Chasm Gneiss on the canyon floor (1,840 million years old) all the way to the top layer, called the Kaibab Formation (a mere 270 million years old).
Jimmy and Audrey each had their own favorite rocks.
The kids also enjoyed getting occasional glimpses of local fauna.
Best of all, the entire length (1.6 miles) of the trail is paved, which made it easy on the feet of even our littlest hiker.
After lunch and some souvenir shopping, we drove east along the south rim via Desert View Drive, trying to find a good view of the Colorado River for Jimmy.
We stopped at several turnouts along the road, but Desert View and the watchtower proved to be the perfect vantage for Jimmy to get his elusive view of the Colorado meandering along the floor of the canyon.
We had no idea this idyllic drive in the lovely light of late afternoon would be the last time everyone would feel good enough to enjoy the scenery. Within a half hour, Audrey lost her lunch in the back seat of our minivan.
Thanks to some good Samaritans in the parking lot of the Grand Canyon General Store, we got bleach wipes and a chamois to clean up the first few waves of puke. One of the store employees suggested Audrey might have altitude sickness, which he said many visitors experienced because the altitude at the south rim was over 7,000 feet above sea level. He gave us a roll of paper towels, which we layered on Audrey's seat for the drive back to the hotel. I improvised a barf bucket from one of the kid's plastic trick-or-treat pumpkins.
By the time we got back to the hotel, Audrey had used the pumpkin several times, so Jim herded the boys upstairs to our room and I kept her with me so she could get some fresh air while I cleaned out the minivan. Fortunately, our parking spot was right in front of the open door to the hotel laundry services room, and one of the laundry ladies noticed our plight and came out to see if I needed help. With her limited English and my limited Spanish, I managed to explain what happened and ask for some cleaning supplies. She gave me everything she had access to, including a big handful of washcloths, some shampoo, disinfectant, a box of Kleenex and a roll of trash bags. She also let me come and go to the utility sink to rinse out the washcloths and then put them in a big rolling laundry bin.
Thanks to that lovely laundry lady, I got the seat and carpet well scrubbed. Then I carried Audrey back up to our room, gave her a bath and put her to bed. Later, the front desk staff connected me with the housekeeping manager, who loaned me a nice big bottle of Febreeze so I could attack the minivan and beat back the sick smell for our six-hour drive to Tucson the next day.
So, if you're ever at the Grand Canyon and need a place to stay that will take good care of you (when you're barfing or otherwise), Holiday Inn Express has got you covered.