by Sarah Weintraub
Two years ago, my family and I attended a Pesach program in Scottsdale, Arizona. One of the excursions offered was a day trip to the Grand Canyon by air. We were to spend, at most, an afternoon. I had no idea what to expect. As the plane approached the canyon, I was completely and totally overwhelmed the moment I saw this huge, breathtaking gap in the face of the earth. The scale was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The colors were neither red nor white nor pink nor purple, but a beautifully orchestrated symphony of HaShem. The sheer physical magnificence of the canyon takes your breath away. The depths and distances challenge your senses. I vowed to return.
This summer, we planned a car trip to do just that. I began researching lodging, dining, and things to do with the family. I quickly realized that keeping kosher in the Grand Canyon could be a challenge. The South Rim, where we stayed, has very limited accommodations, reservations are essential. The Grand Canyon National Park is in a remote part of the country, nowhere near anything. For instance, it’s recommended that you bring an extra set of car keys because there’s no local locksmith and it could be a long wait. We realized we had a long drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, with a few scenic stops along the way (and a few unexpected detours too). We planned to spend two nights and one day in the canyon. Once you pass Hoover Dam, you’re basically on your own. At the Kosher Experience in Las Vegas (Smith’s Market, speak to Gil behind the counter), we stocked up. You must call 24 hours in advance and place your order, they will take care of just about everything.
En route to the Grand Canyon, you can find the usual Mom ‘n’ Pop shops that have snacks and soft drinks, but otherwise you’d better be prepared if you want to really eat. In addition to our cooler, we had an electric sandwich maker and a toaster oven, which came in handy when my kids wanted bagels & cream cheese in the morning. We were fortunate to stay at the El Tovar Hotel, the best historic hotel on the Southern Rim. We loved the authentic hunting lodge décor. We had a beautiful one-bedroom suite with a magnificent deck that overlooked the canyon. It was equipped with a microwave and refrigerator, and we had plenty of room to spread out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s hard to imagine a more inspirational view than from the deck of the El Tovar. The first morning of our stay, we were greeted by a family of wild Elk grazing in the grass. The sense of privilege you get from watching truly wild animals in such close quarters is unbelievable. The complete silence in the canyon is deafening.
If you’ve heard about the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West and how amazing it is, don’t believe it. It’s a good hour out-of-the-way, via dirt roads, and completely overrated. The view pales in comparison to those of the Southern rim, our final destination. The Southern Rim is open 365 days a year and is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I recommend visiting the IMAX Grand Canyon movie at the visitor’s center. It’s a fantastic way to start your journey. My family decided to experience the canyon and its beauty by hiking in. We took a family hike with an experienced guide, which included the Kolb house where we were able to store our kosher lunches (and not schlep them into the canyon). As you walk into the canyon, you are walking through time and descending, layer by layer, into the past.
With a little bit of forethought and planning, this was a fantastic experience for me and my family. I’m already planning my third trip!
Sarah Weintraub is a producer based in Los Angeles, who specializes in video production and creative programming for special events. Sarah has worked with such clients as Bob Mackie, Diana Ross, and the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. Check out her website: www.sarahweintraubproductions.com.