Totally Tusayan, Gateway to Grand Canyon

Photo: Grant Ordelheide

Four best-kept secrets to experiencing the Grand Canyon and finding a parking space, a pool and nightlife.

Watch Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets

IMAX film at the National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan. Photo by Joel Kramer courtesy of National Geographic
IMAX MoviePhoto by Joel Kramer courtesy of National Geographic

Soar past towering cliffs and raft through huge rapids when you watch the IMAX movie Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in Tusayan, Ariz., just minutes from the park’s South Rim entrance.

The 34-minute film projected on a six-story-high screen is a fantastic start to your Grand Canyon adventure as it carries you on a journey spanning 4,000 years of Grand Canyon history. It begins with the native people who lived there and includes a recreation of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 boating expedition through the Grand Canyon. 

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Leave Your Car Here

The Grand Canyon Shuttle in front of the National Geographic Visitor Center in Tusayan, Ariz.
Grand Canyon Shuttle in front of the National Geographic Visitors Center in TusayanNPS/Michael Quinn

In addition to the IMAX theater, you’ll find three other things in Tusayan, which are extremely difficult to find inside the Grand Canyon’s park boundaries: parking, pools and live music.

First, parking. Leave your car in Tusayan (pronounced “Toos-ayin”), located 1 mile from the park entrance, and ride the free National Park Service shuttle into the park. Doing so could save you literally hours trying to find a parking spot. It’ll also help you avoid long lines of cars trying to get into the park. The shuttle, which runs seasonally 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, uses a special separate lane to get you to the sights you want to see faster.

The bonus? There are ambassadors at the bus stops, so they can help travelers with questions while they wait for the shuttle bus. These ambassadors can tell you about National Park Service programs, sunset/sunrise spots, which hotels have availability, where to eat and local tour opportunities.  

Not convinced traffic will be bad? Don’t take our word for it. Head to the Grand Canyon Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau across from the IMAX where a live web cam is fixed on the entrance stations. You’ll see the screen when you walk in.

“Ridership was up 29 percent in May, June and July in 2017,” says Laura Chastain, general manager of the Grand Canyon Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau. “I think us having a feed in our office showing people how crazy traffic can be has made a difference.”

Overview of Tusayan, Ariz.
Overview of Tusayan. Note the hotels in town, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and IMAX upper right and the proximity to the Grand Canyon South Rim in the background.Grant Ordelheide

Cool Off in the Pool

If you’re looking to cool off at the end of your day in the Grand Canyon, consider staying in Tusayan for the night. Each of the six hotels in town have pools, either indoor or outdoor. None in the park has them. Plus, you’ll discover more nightlife in this small town on the edge of the park from live music and TVs broadcasting sporting events to an arcade and bowling alley in the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn.

Insider’s Tips

Buy your IMAX tickets online at to save up to 20 percent, and buy your park pass in Tusayan to avoid waiting in long lines at the entrance. 

Whether you take the park shuttle or drive into the park, you’ll need a park pass to get through the park’s entrance. Tusayan has four places where you can purchase your pass: Grand Canyon Visitor Center, RP’s Stage Stop, Red Feather Lodge or Canyon Plaza Resort. 

For more information:
Grand Canyon Chamber & Visitor’s Bureau Visitor Center

Related: Camping & RV Parks in Tusayan