Located in Arizona on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Village is a small town dedicated to serving the many tourists who visit the Grand Canyon National Park. Located about two miles from the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center, it offers a number of visitor amenities alongside striking historic buildings and beautiful views, and is a popular destination among first-time and returning visitors alike. It’s probably the best way to orient yourself to the area if you’ve never been before.
History and Background Information
Grand Canyon Village traces its roots to the early Santa Fe railroad system that stretched from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at the beginning of the twentieth century. Despite the updating of the railroad and the modernization of the terminal points, this town retains much of its historical character. In fact, the town’s central business area is a National Historic Landmark District. Today, Grand Canyon Village it is a very small town of about 13 square miles, with only a couple thousand people counted as permanent residents. There are several lovely historic buildings that have been converted to modern uses, including two historic hotels that are extremely popular destinations for visitors.
Grand Canyon Village is an essential destination for any traveler to the National Park. Here is where you’ll find many vital services, like an ATM, gas station, post office, grocery store, souvenir shops, bike rentals, and more. There are also a number of historic buildings and additional sites for the interested traveler to visit and photograph. Many visitors choose to use Grand Canyon Village as their base of operations when visiting the National Park because of its convenient, central location, offering several nice hotels and restaurants.
It’s also part of a vibrant Grand Canyon Historic District on the South Rim, encompassing a number of structures designed by the prominent architect Mary E. J. Colter. Among these are the Lookout Studio and the Bright Angel Lodge. Lookout Studio was designed in 1914 to be a gift shop and today still offers high quality wares like photography, sculpture, pottery, and book. Bright Angel Lodge was built as a less expensive alternative to nearby El Tovar and is a popular destination for travelers looking for a truly historic experience. El Tovar, built in 1905 (and not designed by Colter), was destined to be the grandest (and most expensive!) hotel in the region at the time of its construction. Today, it’s still pretty pricy to stay there. The last structure in the area is Kolb Studio, built in the early part of the twentieth century as a photography studio for the Kolb Brothers. Now, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and has a bookstore for public visiting.
Grand Canyon Village is also a prime spot for souvenir purchases, featuring a number of crafts and works of art from local Native American artisans, as well as your typical tourist fare. Hopi House, also designed by Colter, is an ideal destination for Native American crafts. Other sites include Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio, which primarily offer books and high-end wares.
It’s a very family-friendly destination, and children especially often enjoy the wide variety of sights and sounds that can provide a nice change from the sometimes overwhelming scale of the Grand Canyon itself. There’s even an ice cream shop in town for treats!
Tips for Visiting
- If you’re looking to see more Mary Colter designs, venture a little bit away from the historic district to scope out Hermits Rest and Desert View Watchtower.
- El Tovar is traditionally the more expensive hotel, but Bright Angel Lodge is just as beautiful and equally as historic (if perhaps a little bit more rustic with less high-end grandeur).
- Bright Angel Lodge is also a stop on most Bus Tours and Airplane/Bus Combo tours to the Grand Canyon including tours from Maverick Airlines, Papillon and Grand Canyon Coaches
- Want to explore the entire village? Hop aboard the free shuttle that circles the whole thing every 15 minutes, and provides transit to and from the nearby South Rim Visitors Center.
- Keep in mind that parking in the village is limited and often hard to find during the spring and summer months, so you may need to park at the Visitor’s Center and take a shuttle into the Village.