Taking part in annual Grand Canyon events can help make your trip to the national landmark even more memorable. Drawing over five million visitors per year, the Grand Canyon National Park hosts several annual events attended by visitors and residents alike. Artists and art collectors, music lovers and novice astronomers can all find annual Grand Canyon events to suit them.
Families with young children will enjoy the Grand Canyon Polar Express and the kids’ activities at each of the annual events listed below. After reviewing the following sections, you might decide to change the timing of your trip just to experience one or more of these fun events.
Polar Express Grand Canyon
One of the most popular events for kids, the Grand Canyon Railway brings Chris Van Allsburg’s classic book alive each winter. The Polar Express Grand Canyon is a special 1930s-era train that transports families on 90-minute round-trip rides to the “North Pole” to see Santa and his reindeer. During the ride, children hear the story while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. Each child also receives a keepsake present from Santa.
Trains depart the depot in Williams, AZ at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. daily in November, December and January. Advance reservations are strongly recommended, as seats sell out well before the holiday season begins. A Polar Express package is also available that includes an overnight stay at the Railway Hotel, breakfast and dinner. Call (888) 848-3511 for more information.
Grand Canyon Star Party
The Grand Canyon Star Party happens over eight days each June to celebrate the amazing night views at the National Park. Events are held at both rims to learn about the night sky and the constellations visible over the Canyon. Due to its remote location, the Grand Canyon has dark night skies and clean air. These are both necessary ingredients for incredibly clear stargazing.
The National Park partners with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix and other amateur astronomers from across the country to provide telescopes. Through them, you may view planets, star clusters and galaxies by night and planets or the sun by day. Constellation talks and night sky photography workshops are also offered during the event.
The Grand Canyon Star Party is free with your regular park admission. On the South Rim, there is a nightly slide show followed by constellation tours. On the North Rim, each evening also starts with a slide show. Telescopes are set up on the Grand Canyon Lodge’s porch and green laser tours are also provided. Call the Night Sky Park Ranger at (928) 638-7641 for more information.
Grand Canyon Celebration of Art
The Grand Canyon Celebration of Art has been held each September since 2009. The annual Grand Canyon event provides a venue for artists from around the world to come and create canyon-inspired works. The event has raised over $1 million toward a fund that will be used to build a dedicated art venue at the South Rim.
The Grand Canyon Celebration of Art kicks off an art exhibition and sale at the historic Kolb studio in September. While the itinerary changes somewhat each year, most of the following activities are included:
- “En plein air” painting opportunities and demonstrations
- A welcome gathering at Verkamp’s that allows guests to mingle with artists
- A two-hour painting event on the rim followed by an auction of these works
- Opportunities to watch artists painting at the North Rim, Phantom Ranch and Desert View Grand Canyon locations
Echoes from the Canyon
This annual Grand Canyon living history event brings characters from the area’s past to life to share their stories. Generally held over several days in June or July (with additional showings in August), the event centers around a show at the McKee Amphitheater.
Activities are also scheduled during the day and may include a living history walk or having coffee with costumed characters portraying historical figures. Zuni painting and embroidery demonstrations, mule packing and historical photography demonstrations may also be included.
During “Echoes from the Canyon” days, guests visiting the Grand Canyon may also enjoy an afternoon children’s theater performance and a late-night tour through the Pioneer Cemetery. Cemetery walk participants are encouraged to dress warmly and bring a flashlight.
Easter Sunrise Service at the South Rim
Since 1935, there has been a Grand Canyon Easter Sunday sunrise service. The free interdenominational Christian service is hosted by Grand Canyon Community Church and is held at Mather Point. It is wheelchair accessible and parking is available at Visitor Center parking lot #2. Guests are recommended to dress for cooler temperatures and bring lawn chairs, blankets and warm drinks. Contact the church for more information at (928) 638-2340.
Grand Canyon Earth Day
Every April 22, Grand Canyon National Park joins the rest of the world in celebrating Earth Day. Earth Day activities are family-friendly and completely free, as the park provides free admission. The celebration is held at the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza. The overall theme focuses on park conservation and sustainability, including water conservation and recycling. Activities change annually and may include:
- Kids’ arts and crafts.
- Healthy snacks.
- A conservancy scavenger hunt.
- Instruction on recycling, water conservation, composting and other green habits.
- Feeding carrots and apples to the park’s mules.
- Live leather work and other native craft demonstrations.
- Train and other vehicle demonstrations.
- Live music and photo opportunities.
Grand Canyon Music Festival
Shrine of the Ages is home to the Grand Canyon Music Festival each August or September. The building was designed as an interfaith chapel that reflects the architectural style of a kiva, a southwestern Native American place of worship. In addition to the music festival, the Shrine hosts many special events, including concerts, lectures and demonstrations.
Since 1983, the award-winning Grand Canyon chamber music festival has grown from three concerts to nine concerts spanning a three-week period. Duos, trios, quartets and groups perform on violin, guitar, cello and other instruments. Represented musical genres include jazz, classical, pop and rock music. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (928) 638-9215.