If you’re wondering about things to do at the Grand Canyon, consider taking one of the fantastic package tours that are out there. Your choices include bus tours, helicopter or airplane flights, and rafting trips down the river. All of them include everything you’ll need for a great time.
Grand Canyon tours by bus are the most affordable option. Rafting trips come next from a cost perspective, followed by airplane tours. Helicopter tours are the most expensive. You can find “value” tours and 5-star tours for each type. The 5-star version will be more expensive but will also give you a much better experience, with superior service and equipment.
Most Grand Canyon tours set out from Las Vegas (West Rim or South Rim) or a small town just outside the South Rim’s main entrance called Tusayan, Arizona (South Rim tours only). There aren’t any packages that include both rims.
Helicopters flying out of Vegas can’t make it to the South Rim and back, so those flights only visit the West Rim. If you’re staying in Las Vegas and you’re determined to see the South Rim, your choices are a 45-minute plane flight or a 5 ½ hour bus ride. It’s probably obvious which choice I recommend.
There are plenty of things to do on West Rim helicopter tours. The West Rim is only a 45-minute flight from Vegas, and it’s the only place you can land on the canyon floor. Other optional add-ons include passes to the spectacular Grand Canyon Skywalk and rafting trips down the Colorado River.
There aren’t any landing tours at the South Rim – they’re all air-only. Basic tours last 30 minutes and fly from the South Rim to the North Rim and back. A more extensive, 50-minute tour lets you see almost ¾ of the National Park. I strongly recommend this choice because you’ll get great bang for your buck!
Airplane tours follow the same routes as helicopters, and similar landing packages are available. There’s only one South Rim plane tour and although it’s at a higher altitude, it’s similar to the 50-minute helicopter flight. There are daily flights to the West Rim and they fly over the park or land at Grand Canyon West Airport. If you choose a landing flight, you can walk around the rim and check out the Grand Canyon Skywalk, or you could take a chopper to the bottom and follow it up with a rafting trip.
Bus tours out of Phoenix only visit the South Rim, but tours leaving from Vegas go to either rim. They’re all-day trips on modern buses that are equipped with excellent climate control, recliner-type seating and clean restrooms. All tours from Las Vegas (South Rim and West Rim) stop at Hoover Dam for a photo opportunity.
South Rim bus tours from Phoenix offer passenger pickup throughout the metropolitan area, including Scottsdale. They stop in Sedona, Arizona (known for its remarkable red sandstone buttes) along the way, but you’ll have 2 ½ hours at the National Park – plenty of time to add an optional helicopter flight.
Smooth-Water Rafting Tours
These terrific tours only run between late March and November. The package originating in Las Vegas includes a chopper flight that lands on the canyon floor at the West Rim, followed by an 11-mile float trip down the Colorado. The 15-mile-long South Rim version begins at Glenn Canyon Dam (in Page, Arizona) and ends at historic Lee’s Ferry.
Grand Canyon tour packages are all-inclusive, meaning they include free hotel pickup and drop-off, all Park fees and taxes, lunch, and the services of a guide. They’re terrific deals, and they’ll give you plenty of things to do.