Every time we told someone that we were road tripping to the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks during spring break, all we would hear is how crowded the Grand Canyon is and how long the lines are. I admit that while we were excited to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time, we weren’t excited about the crowds.
In fact, much of my vacation research was focused around the best ways to enjoy the Grand Canyon and avoid the crowds, which was why our very first stop at the Grand Canyon was the National Geographic Visitor Center.
Located outside the South Rim entrance of the Grand Canyon in Tusayan, the National Geographic Visitor Center provides park news and park passes, maps and brochures, and information about Grand Canyon attractions, hotels, trails, and Grand Canyon tours.
We made this our first stop because you can buy your National Park passes here instead of at the park entrance. The entrance lines get gnarly, stacking 20+ vehicles deep across every lane, so this was a huge bonus for us. When you have pre-paid passes, there is a special lane that allows you to enter separately and skip the long lines!
While at the Visitor Center, we browsed the National Geographic Store, which has branded merchandise, field guides, maps, clothing, souvenirs, toys, DVDs, books, maps, Native American arts and crafts, jewelry, and more. We also checked out the museum quality exhibits about the history of the Grand Canyon and grabbed a snack in the Explorer Cafe.
WiFi At The Grand Canyon:
All of the hotels in Grand Canyon Village claim to have WiFi, but the WiFi weak and so many people are trying to connect to it, that it’s basically useless. Be prepared to rarely have a signal and to keep your phone in airplane mode the whole time.
We ended up heading to the National Geographic Visitor Center a few times just for their WiFi so we could check email, share photos via social media, and connect with family.
Grand Canyon IMAX Movie
The Visitor Center has a full-size, six-story, air-conditioned IMAX theater that seats 488 people! Every hour, the theater shows Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets, a short 34 minute movie experience that takes you into the Grand Canyon.
During this film, you will soar over the rim of the canyon, take a whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River, dive into the depths of the craggy canyons, and experience the history and beauty of the 277 mile Grand Canyon while sitting comfortably in the theater. You’ll also learn about the Anasazi who inhabited the Grand Canyon 4,000 years ago and join Major John Wesley Powell as he challenges the unexplored Canyon and raging Colorado River in 1869.
Grand Canyon Tours
The National Geographic Visitor Center is also the place to go if you want to take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon. From helicopter tours and rafting expeditions on the Colorado River, to the world-famous Pink Jeep Tours, there is something for everyone.
Know Before You Go
- The Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan is located at 450 AZ-64, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023, just one mile from the South Rim National Park Entrance.
- Open March 1 through October 31 from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, and November 1 through February 28 from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.
- The IMAX Movie Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets plays hourly 365/year and is available in eight languages. It is only 34 minutes and covers 4,000 years of Grand Canyon history.
- You can purchase your National Park passes here to skip the long lines at the Grand Canyon National Park south entrance.
- During impacted times, you can park here and ride a free National Park shuttle into the park. The buses come every 20 minutes, so you never have to wait very long.
- The National Geographic Store has branded merchandise, field guides, maps, clothing, souvenirs, toys, DVDs, books, maps, Native American arts and crafts, and more.
- At the Explorer’s Cafe, you’ll find a Pizza Hut Express, rice bowls, fresh deli sandwiches, soups and salads, and desserts, as well as beer and wine.
- Clean public restrooms are available.
- Pink Jeep Tours are based here and offer three tours: the Grand Entrance Tour; visiting a few South Rim scenic vistas; the Grand Deluxe Tour, exploring the entire South Rim; and the Grand Finale Tour, taking you to watch the sunset.
- WiFi throughout Grand Canyon National Park is a joke, but there is good WiFi here! Stop in, grab a snack in the cafe, and catch up on email or Instagram your heart out.