Tusayan is the town JUST outside of the GC (literally a 5minute drive from the canyon). Stay HERE. People say that you stay in Flagstaff or Williams, but both of these towns are over an hour away, so if you plan on spending more than one afternoon at the GC then I would recommend just staying in tusayan.
Tusayan, Where to SLEEP: if you're on a budget, you can get a great room for a reasonable price at the RED FEATHER motel. Across the street is THE GRAND. If you're not on a budget id recommend the Grand. It's a beautiful lodge, with a wood burning fire place and a cozy feel. No matter where you stay- MAKE A RESERVATION. They fill up fast. If you're cruising and can't plan anything too far ahead, make sure that you make a reservation the morning you arrive.
Tusayan, Where to EAT: the Grand. And only the Grand. Breakfast, lunch or dinner- all at the Grand. The food was spectacular, their beer menu was amazing, the atmosphere was totally on point and the live entertainment was perfection. Order their Chicken Tortilla Soup...it is OUT of this World, and hands down the best that I have EVER had. Seriously, I'll be dreaming about this soup for the next few years. Marn and I both had steaks for dinner, because afterall we are in steak and potato country!! Deeeelicious. The guy playing banjo on stage was simply the icing on the (already delicious) cake.
1. Go to the National Geographics IMAX theatre and see the movie. It's awesome, and a great introduction and history to the beauty you're about to encounter.
2. We arrived at the canyon around lunch time-- which gave us about 6 hours to explore and enjoy the sunset. If you're not doing a full day trek or adventure tour, this is a perfect amount of time to sight-see your way around the Rim. You park your car at the visitor center, so you might as well check out Mather point. From there take the blue shuttle bus to the RED route connection. The Red route runs along Hermits Rest, which in my opinion offers up the best views. The Abyss, Mohave Point, Hopi Point and Maricopa point. The walk from Hopi point to Powell point, then on to Mohave was beautiful. I think that the trails actually offer up better views than the points themselves- which are crowded and tainted by guard rails and such.
GC SUNSET: the sunset, the beautiful sunset. There really isn't a bad place to view this, from anywhere in the park, but there are "better" spots to view it from. We watched the sun go down at Mohave point. In retrospect, this is what I would have done: hopped a shuttle back to our car in the parking lot an hour before sunset. With cold champagne in my backpack, I would drive on 64east, exiting the main part of the canyon. For the next 20minutes along 64east are a bunch of stop offs. I would recommend pulling into the Lipan Point turnoff. The view is spectacular and there is literally NO ONE else there-- they are all crowded into a point somewhere IN the park. After seeing the view at Lipan Point as we left today, I almost stayed an extra day JUST to see the sun set at this beautiful place. Also-- the crowds head for the shuttle as soon as the sunsets. Do NOT leave until 45min after the sun sets. The best pictures we got were 20minutes after the sun had disappeared behind the horizon.
When to Go: Mid-October was beautiful. It was 85 degrees in the afternoon-- the sun was hot on your face, but there was a chilly crisp fall breeze that kept you cool. If youre planning on a day hike, fall is the time to go. It's 105degrees in the summer, and I wouldn't wanna be hiking in that extreme heat given the high altitude. If you DO go in the fall, dress in LAYERS. Though it was 85 in the daytime, the temperature dove as soon as the sun had set, and it dropped to 22 degrees that night. For this reason, if you want to spend a few days hiking an camping in the canyon, I'd recommend the summer. Otherwise, you'd freeze!!
Enjoy. And though taking pictures are great, they do the canyon NO justice- so be sure to spend some time away from the camera too- just taking in the beauty in front of you.