THE SOUTH RIM
If you, like the majority of visitors, approach the canyon from the south on Highway 180 via the nearby towns of Flagstaff or Williams, you will most likely stop at Tusayan, a commercial area consisting mainly of gas stations, motels, fast food restaurants and the Grand Canyon Airport. The main attraction here, however, is the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater, which is highly recommended. The theater features one of the best films in the nature genre, drawing you right into the chasm and taking you on a vertiginous flight between the canyon's walls. A few miles further north, at the park gate, you will be requested to pay your $20 entrance fee per vehicle, or $10 per individual (pedestrian, bicycle, etc.). An Annual Grand Canyon Pass is available for $40.
Grand Canyon Village
Your first stop inside the park should be the Park Headquarters and Visitor Center, where an abundance of books, films and slides will help you to get better acquainted with the park, and rangers will be available to answer any Grand Canyon question you might have. You can stock up on supplies at Canyon Village Marketplace & Deli just south of the Visitor Center, then go on to see the historic El Tovar Hotel. For those who don't suffer from vertigo, the Grand Canyon Skywalk offers a breathtaking view of the chasm through its glass bottom. From the village, you have the choice of exploring the canyon using either the West Rim or the East Rim Drive.
East Rim Drive
This 26-mile drive skirts most of the canyon's south rim, offering several overlooks to get a better view. Among the best viewing areas en route are Yaki Point, thrusting out beyond the rim for a good look at canyon formations, and Grandview Point with its panoramic wide-angle views. A visit to the Tusayan Ruins and Museum provides fascinating information about the ancient Native American cultures in the area. The drive ends at the Watchtower at Desert View, a visitor complex containing services and a campground with views of the Painted Desert to the east and the Colorado River deep down inside the gorge.
West Rim Drive
This drive stays a little closer to the edge than its eastern counterpart and also offers a greater variety of canyon views. Note that it is closed to private vehicles in the summer, when a free shuttle service from Grand Canyon Village takes over transportation, meaning you can always hop on the bus if you get tired after choosing to hike the eight-mile Rim Trail.