New Year’s Eve at the Grand Canyon

Here’s an idea for your next New Year’s Eve. The Grand Canyon. I sorta accidentally stumbled into it this year but it was quite fabulous.

I hadn’t realized that this was a thing, but folks come here every year to celebrate the coming of the new year.

I was very fortunate to be able to score a last minute room at the famous El Tovar lodge right on the rim (I had been checking for a couple months and it had been all booked). It was still all decked out for Christmas so that was cool also.

I was also able to sweet talk the hostess into a last minute dinner reservation at the El Tovar Dining Room which is one of the finest places to eat anywhere in my opinion.

The Grand Canyon views were exceptional with clear skies and snow everywhere. The Rim Trail was very icy but that made it all the more fun.

To top it all off, the concessionaire companies threw New Year’s Eve parties. Xanterea had live music at the Bright Angel Lodge, but Delaware North and their DJ proved they could party harder at Yavapai Lodge.

All in all, an unexpectedly wonderful day and evening. Happy New Year! rk

Is Mount Rushmore Worth Visiting?

I have gotten a variation of the question, “Is Mount Rushmore worth visiting?”, from almost everyone who has heard of my recent visit.   It appears that many people have heard anecdotally that Mount Rushmore isn’t that impressive or that the Presidential sculptures are actually very small.  To be honest, I had heard many of these statements before I went as well.   I had even heard that the nearby Crazy Horse Monument carving was more impressive than Mount Rushmore.    I think because of hearing these statements, I went into the Mount Rushmore visit with low expectations.

In actuality, I found the Mount Rushmore National Memorial to be not only impressive but well worth the time spent getting there.   I pictured pulling up to an overlook, getting out of the car and taking a few pictures and then be on the way.   There is actually a lot more to see and do while at Mount Rushmore.

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The first thing you need to know is that there is a $10 per car parking fee.   It doesn’t matter if you have the National Park pass, you still have to pay it.   That was disappointing.   After parking and walking through the gates, there is a large thoroughfare lined with state flags that leads to the overlook area.   There is a gift shop and visitor center along this thoroughfare as well.   Under the overlook area is a very interesting museum.

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Because it took so long for us to get to Mount Rushmore (drove all the way from Yellowstone), it was dinnertime when we arrived.   I was concerned about missing the Mt Rushmore memorial while it was still daylight, but also having the rest of the family becoming hangry.   I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a food court area onsite with multiple delicious options to eat.   I had a New England pot roast served with mashed potatoes, veggies, and bread for only $11.50.   I would have paid more for less at an Applebees type establishment.   I must give a shout out to Xanterra, the third party that runs the restaurants on National Park properties, as they really do a good job.  I have had many spectacular meals at the onsite National Park restaurants they operate.  The ice cream shop in the food court area also had vanilla ice cream made purportedly from Thomas Jefferson’s recipe.   We all devoured the ice cream so quickly that I didn’t manage to get a picture.    For the record, President Jefferson makes a mean vanilla ice cream.

Now that it was dark, we discovered that they have a nighttime ceremony before the park closes each night.   I am not sure how I wasn’t aware of this.  Just past the overlook area is an amphitheater facing the Memorial.  They show an entertaining short film all about Mount Rushmore then turn on spotlights onto the Memorial.   It was pretty cool and I was happy the timing worked out they way it did so we could have the full experience.

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To answer the question, Is Mount Rushmore worth visiting?  Yes I think so.  I wouldn’t travel across the country just to see it, but if you are anywhere in the area then by all means make time to come.   The sculptures of each President’s profile are about 60 feet in height each so they are pretty big.   There is also a good bit of hiking in the area that I was unable to do during this visit so I hope to be able to do on a future visit.    I hope this information is helpful and thanks for reading.   rk

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