From what I remember as a kid, the Grand Canyon was cool but the journey to get there was not so pleasant. Now, as an adult, I'm able to explore it with more appreciation and understanding of what it has to offer. And I discovered you can really pack a lot within a weekend trip, so here's my guide on how to do it right (based on the List of course):
Friday - Fly into the Phoenix airport (PHX) like I did and rent a car to start your road journey up to Flagstaff. You can also fly into the regional Flagstaff airport, but you'll probably pay a lot more for your airfare. If you are scared of driving at night, just stay overnight in Phoenix and do an early start into Flagstaff the next day. I highly recommend booking a stay at The Inn at 410 in Flagstaff. I've never stayed at a Bed & Breakfast before, so I was excited to experience it for the first time! I stayed in the Sonoran Serenade room, which was probably the smallest room in the house (and cheapest). I thought the room was kitschy, but it somehow fit into the aesthetics and vibe of the B&B. And to my pleasant surprise it was gay-owned by husbands Frank and Gordon, who were awesome hosts! The breakfast (which is standard at B&B's) was amazingly delicious! You know it's good too when locals come to make breakfast reservations at the Inn. If you're lucky, you'll get the opportunity to eat their blueberry pancakes. Sooo good~
Saturday - Now once you're settled into your B&B, you should plan on an early day because it's still 1.5 hours from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon. I booked a Canyon Vista Mule Ride for this day, and there are only two time options (8 AM and Noon) during this season. Check their website here for times and schedules based on the season you want to go. It's about a 3 hour experience, from getting shuttled to the mule barn and going on the trail and coming back. There's a much longer option called the 'Overnight Ride to Phantom Ranch', but you'd have to stay overnight at the bottom of the Canyon and also do 5.5 hours of mule riding each way. Even after our 2+ hours of being on the mule, we felt our butts going numb. But I hear that the ride down is really exhilarating because you're very close to the edge of the canyon. Like a really really long roller coaster ride that goes 4 mph. With our noon ride, we were done around 3 pm. So we headed over to the El Tovar hotel to grab some food. I tried booking a stay here, but they were sold out. So for the future, try to book this hotel way in advance. It makes sense since there's a limited amount of rooms up there, and millions of people visit the Grand Canyon every year. When you're heading back to the B&B, try stopping by Shoshone Point for more higher views than the ones you see at the hotel location.
So you may be asking what there is to do at night once you're back in Flagstaff...well, not much. I had originally planned on going to the Museum Club, which is like a bar/concert venue. But found out that they closed their doors just a week before I was to be in Flagstaff. So instead I went to the other main attraction that is on the List, the Lowell Observatory, which is famous for discovering Pluto. It can get super cold up there at night, so be bundled up cause most of the activities are outdoors. One of the many things that I loved about this place were the interactive exhibits and speakers that were placed sporadically throughout the observatory grounds. Did you know that our galaxy is destined to collide with another galaxy in some billion years? You learn facts like that and more! I was actually really surprised to learn as many facts as I did on my visit. They have about 5 telescopes you can look through to see the differing galaxies and planets...but honestly, all I saw was a bunch of dots. Another option you can do if that doesn't interest you is going to Hotel Monte Vista. It's the hip place to be in Flagstaff, where you'll see a lot of the college students hang out at the hotel bar there. Side note: It's supposed to be haunted.
Sunday - Make sure you get that wonderful Sunday breakfast in before checking out of your room, because it's road trip day! Take Highway 89A (which is the scenic route down) and make your way to Sedona before heading back to Phoenix. Make sure to read about this in detail in my Sedona post. It will give you insight on what to do on your way back!
And there you have it! I hope this helps you plan your weekend getaway to the Grand Canyon. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section and I'll be happy to answer them!