The Brutally Honest Dad’s Guide to the Grand Canyon with Your Kid

I had been warned. I knew the deal. It’s the Grand Canyon, after all! That means lots of heights. Some peeps warned me that there were many places at the Grand Canyon which didn’t even have railings. What?! That’s crazy talk, I said. One could just fall off if not paying attention. And we were going to take a five-year-old to such a place?! Yet, despite all of the warnings from peeps we knew and loved, we still planned our trip to the Grand Canyon.

Spoiler: the peeps were right! Look, I’m not a huge fan of heights. In fact, the last true roller coaster I rode was in 1994 because I hyperventilated on it and was taken to the park’s underground emergency room to recover for a couple of hours. I didn’t even know that amusement parks had underground emergency rooms. But trust me, they do. And they aren’t amusing.

We finally cleared all the traffic and parked the car at the top of the hill, with my family eager to get a glimpse of the glorious Grand Canyon. Me? I was less than stoked. While my kid reached octave ranges I didn’t know was possible, my hands were starting to sweat. The nerves were setting in. What if all those peeps were right? Well, I already spoiled the fact that they were. What if I freak out? I’ll go ahead and spoil that one, too: Yep, I freaked.

You can’t really see the glory from where you park. The incline is enough to save that horrific moment for when you can no longer turn the car around. They know what they’re doing. So we got out and walked ever closer to the sprawl of canyons. Ever closer to my panic attack. And then…there it was. The largest nature thing I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful. As far as the eye could see, it was like nature upchucked rainbows and unicorns.

My daughter freaked. She took off towards what I could only see as inevitable doom. Just like my peeps had said, there were no railings. There was no way for me to control this situation. There was only nature’s throw up.

My wife attempted to calm me down, reminding me that she was all over it. And it’s not that I didn’t trust her. It’s just…cliffs! And doom! And vertigo-inducing heights! And she’s 5! She can’t even read! Not that there were any “could cause instant death” signs to be read, mind you.

The first place I wanted to go was a building that I saw. An enclosed—fully enclosed—building where you could read a little about the Grand Canyon while gazing out at its wonders. But most importantly…enclosed. We took a quick tour through the building, but it was clear I couldn’t win this battle. My daughter wanted to see the glory without glass in front of her. She wanted the full experience. Five-year-olds, am I right?

Eventually, we braved out close to the edges of insanity. I dubbed them that as I mustered up enough courage to approach them. I had no choice, of course, because my family was going with or without me. And I had to protect them from those cliffs! We even took some pictures, and as you can see, I’m darn close to that edge. I get weak-kneed just looking at that pic.

I yelled at my daughter to further herself from the edge numerous times as the day progressed. Am I proud of that? No. But this was survival mode. Instincts at full throttle.

Later, we decided to take a nice climb along the rim of the Grand Canyon. This was okay with me because the cliffs were a little further from us. But then the unthinkable happened. It started to snow. And we’re talking like, huge snowflakes at a wind-ridden whip. This, of course, turned the nice incline climb into a new level of terror. But, it also gave me an out. This was what I needed! Our five year old wasn’t dressed for snow. We had to get her out of there. Think of her health!

And thus began our descent, both towards the car and my own sanity. It took us quite a while, as the bus station lines were now longer than amusement parks at the holidays, but we made it back to wonderful solid ground, which wrapped around us on all sides like a warm blanky.

Despite my temporary insanity, my family managed to have an incredible time at the Grand Canyon. My daughter absolutely adored the trip. And I’ll be the first to admit that the views are nothing short of awe-inspiring. If you’ve never been, you should go. Just be prepared if you have a fear of heights.

The Grand Canyon. Yep, for this Dad, once is enough.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Me

I am a writer, producer, and unironical supporter of Taco Bell. But most importantly, I'm my kid's dad—and I take that job extremely seriously. Employers might argue that I take it far more seriously than my actual jobs. 


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