by Carrie Calzaretta
If your family is visiting the Grand Canyon, you’ll find plenty of lodging options, from campgrounds to modest lodges and hotels. Located directly on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, El Tovar is a great option for those wanting to get right up close and don’t mind staying in a somewhat remote setting. With the look and feel of an old-fashioned hunting lodge, families will love the rustic charm as much as the stunning views. The hotel’s biggest asset is its location: Several of El Tovar’s rooms have direct canyon views.
Our Editor Loves
- Location on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
- Rustic charm and southwestern style
- Canyon adventures right at your doorstep
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The hotel has 78 rooms and suites, all with standard but not fancy amenities. Standard rooms have one double, one queen, or two queen beds. Deluxe rooms have either two queens or one king bed. Suites have a bedroom with either two queens or one king bed, and a sitting room. Because it is an historic building, rooms are on the small side, and there is no elevator so you will need to carry your bags up to your room. Leave the strollers in the car. Still, El Tovar offers all the basics, which you'll find some lodging options within the Grand Canyon National Park do not. You'll have cable television, a phone, refrigerator, full bath and air conditioning. Suites have a sitting room, some of them have a porch or balcony. Rollaways are available.
The hotel was recently renovated (2005) but remains rustic (don't come expecting 5-star amenities), with a southwestern style. El Tovar is a favorite for many canyon visitors and rooms, particularly the suites, fill up very quickly, so book well in advance, if possible up to a year ahead.
We stayed here because friends said rooms were so hard to come by, which was true, and great views, which was also true if you were outside. Our room (a queen in a space of less than 500 sq ft in the basement, at $260 a night!!!) was a nightmare.
Go to any other lodges in the Park, or stay in Tusayan. Same gouging prices, but clean and up to date.
Travelling with an elderly relative with limited mobility, we wanted to make sure we had the best possible access to the Rim, with most ease — and I don’t think we could have chosen a better spot!
The Lodge is literally on the edge of the rim. It has a rustic log cabin feel and you can tell it has been around for many years — not because it is worn or shabby but because if the quaint staircases and olde world feel. It does not have a lift, but we were accommodated on the ground floor down a corridor from the back door which has ramp access.
El Tovar is in a great location.... there is a paved walkway and stairs down to the road where you can catch the fantastic free shuttle that goes throughout the Park, or you can just walk straight ahead to the rim to watch amazing sunsets and sunrises.
We had dinner at the restaurant several times — it is expensive but incredibly convenient and great food. The cocktail lounge bar is also a great option for food ... with cheaper plates like sliders and other pub food. From El Tovar we travelled around the South Rim ... to the laundromat near Mather’s campground, to Hermit’s Rest, to the Visitor Centre, Market Plaza, and many of the stops along the way. We didn’t have a car, so travelled everywhere on foot or using the shuttle and managed very well. Highly recommend this as a great place to stay.
El Tovar is located inside Grand Canyon National Park, so there is plenty to do and even more to see. It's not one of the seven wonders for nothing; the landscape here is breathtaking. And while the hotel does not offer anything in the way of children's programs or babysitting, chances are, you came to share this magnificent park with the kids. El Tovar will provide information on all kinds of activities, including hiking, biking, mule rides, tours and sightseeing trips, all of which are right nearby. If you are looking for a program specifically geared toward children, try the Junior Ranger program. It is open to kids ages 4-14 and run by the by National Park Service Rangers. The program teaches kids all about the area, how the canyon was formed, and how to help protect it. In addition, the Grand Canyon Field Institute offers day classes for kids 8 years old and older (accompanied by a parent) right within Grand Canyon National Park.
In addition to canyon activities, there are several museums and cultural attractions in and around the area. The Desert View Watchtower is a fun place to take the kids. Modeled after the ancient Pueblo watchtowers, the 70-ft. tower offers amazing views of the South Rim. The walls are painted with murals by Hopi artist Frank Kabotie. The Watchtower is located at the eastern end of the Grand Canyon South Rim, approximately 26 miles from Grand Canyon Village. The Hopi House was the first curio shop in the Grand Canyon, and is a great place to shop for souvenirs. They sell native arts and crafts, jewelry, and authentic Pueblo pottery.
El Tovar has one dining room, which seats about 200 people and serves three meals a day, including a large breakfast and free morning coffee. A favorite with visitors, its large windows and historic feel (the hotel was built in 1905) make for a cozy atmosphere. The dining room sits perpendicular to the rim, so some tables offer a canyon view. The Canyon room also offers great views of the rim. There is also outdoor seating available on a veranda, which serves drinks and appetizers. The dining room has a separate kids' menu, and staff will provide an activity book and crayons upon request.
Live piano music during afternoons and evenings in the mezzanine lounge
Advance dinner reservations are recommended for dinner and can be made by calling 928-638-2631, ext. 6432. Dinner reservations can be made six months in advance if you have room reservations and 30 days in advance without room reservations.
If you prefer to venture out for dinner, try the Arizona Room at the nearby Bright Angel Lodge.