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Old 07-01-2009, 08:48 PM   #31
sayhello
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Originally Posted by WeLoveABD View Post
That said, we stayed at the El Tovar rather than the Thunderbird--and loved El T. I wondered about why Disney chose the Thunderbird, and one maid told me (as she was tossing us out of the Thunderbird) that the Thunderbird lodge has the most "canyon view" rooms of any in the park--and in fact, the El Tovar only has two rooms that overlook the canyon. With a national parki, it is always a limited choice so I imagine Disney opted for view and location over the amenities in the room. (Our experience for out of US ABD trip is that there is usually a hotel in the middle that isn't in the same league as the rest--you start and end strong, suffer slightly in the middle). But as you say--the location location location was great! Welcome back!
Actually, we were told by our guides that the El Tovar refused to work with Disney. There's only one tour group (I don't know which one that is) that the El Tovar allows to reserve blocks of rooms, and they did not wish to work with Disney. So the Thunderbird was the best they could negotiate. People complained about the Grand Hotel, as well, so I guess ABD decided that as long as people were going to complain anyway, they might as well get the hotel with the better location.

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Old 07-02-2009, 04:55 PM   #32
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Dinner reservations

Kristilew mentioned that some people on her trip made dinner reservations at El Tovar. Has anyone else eaten there? Any thoughts on whether it is a good choice for dinner or, as Kristilew mentioned, it would do to go for lunch? I'd love to add a special meal to our trip, since many of the meals seem less than special. What is the restaurant at Bright Angel (is that the right name?) like?
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Old 07-02-2009, 05:48 PM   #33
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The restaurant at Bright Angel is nothing fancy, but was cute. They have menus on the wall from when it first opened, which were entertaining to read. (10 cent meals!)

We were so full from our lunch, we just got very basic food - I ordered spaghetti and meatballs, DH lasagne, and DD got a hamburger. These were all fine, but nothing special. Service was good, but not fawining. It was just right for us as we'd spent several hours walking around, attending ranger lectures, etc and were tired. I also got the soup, which was the same as the one at El Tovar that I'd had at lunch and liked. At least the same name. It was slightly different when it came, but still yummy. A cream of roasted red pepper. Our total with tip for the three of us was 59.69 and that included 4 beers and a shirley temple.

El Tovar was much more elegant and the food was fancier. We both got the soup, as I mentioned. I ordered a fabulous peppercorn encrusted Angus burger. Fanciest burger I've ever had. It managed to be moist and juicy but no pink, and big enough that I ate it like a steak instead of a burger. DH got the special of the day (really good, he said, I can't remember what it was) and DD got a beautiful quesadilla dish from the kids menu. We drank here as well and our total was $71.98. Our waiter (Jonathan) worked at Ruth's Chris before here, and had the same super-attentive manner you get there. He was also interesting, fun and a joy to talk with.

If we'd waited until dinner time, I don't know if we personally would have done so well there, as we were just plain tuckered out. On the other hand, if we'd planned for it we might have taken it easy during the day. (of course, there was the shower issue as well....)

It just depends on your group. With older kids, you'd probably do well with dinner. Especially if you're planning to do an intown activity like the helicopter ride or the imax, you might want a quick, easy lunch. Of course, I think dinner will be a lot more expensive. You would definitely feel like you were having a special meal, I think. And you could easily dress up a little. You'd be out of place dressed up in Bright Angel.

HTH!
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Old 07-02-2009, 05:56 PM   #34
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El Tovar takes dinner reservations (and it is recommended--otherwise it might be a long wait). We really enjoyed the atmosphere there--and while pricey, the food was great. However...breakfast was a bit too pricey, and our next morning we ate at Bright Angel lodge--good b'fast, good price. Probably the least expensive way to go would be to get lunch in the El T dining room, breakfast at Bright Angel and dinner...well, why not a late picnic dinner and take in the sunset out toward Hermit's (accessible only by a long hike or by the free shuttle bus)?
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Old 07-02-2009, 05:57 PM   #35
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Oh, wanted to add, our meal at Cowboy Club in Sedona was also fantastic. Again, a super waiter, William, we enjoyed talking with and who seemed to read our mind. He happily brought us tasters of the various drafts at no charge, and was full of interesting information about the area.

DH tried all the regional specialties (maybe that's why they didn't offer them on the group meal nights?) He got the Cactus Fries (so-so, but worth trying) and the Buffalo flank steak. He ended up with serious steak envy when I got the sirloin. Both were perfectly cooked and tender. The buffalo is a little gamy, though. DD got, yet again, a burger. But it was cooked without being charred, and she ate it all, so we were both happy. DH's meal was a "deal" with the app, buff steak and a dessert. The dessert was an chocolate thing to die for. Yum!

Our total with drinks and tip was $87.15.

Cowboy Club has two sections, a fancier one with a slightly different menu and then the one we ate in which resembles an old saloon. We came in directly from a 6 - mile hike, so thought it best to stay out of the fancy section


We also had good food at the Oak Creek Brewery in Tlaquepaque. Excellent fish and chips and bbq sandwich, and lots of people at our table split their brick oven pizzas, which were great. (They are huge, though, be warned!)

So you'll have plenty of good food on the meals you do on your own.
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Old 07-02-2009, 05:59 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WeLoveABD View Post
El Tovar takes dinner reservations (and it is recommended--otherwise it might be a long wait). We really enjoyed the atmosphere there--and while pricey, the food was great. However...breakfast was a bit too pricey, and our next morning we ate at Bright Angel lodge--good b'fast, good price. Probably the least expensive way to go would be to get lunch in the El T dining room, breakfast at Bright Angel and dinner...well, why not a late picnic dinner and take in the sunset out toward Hermit's (accessible only by a long hike or by the free shuttle bus)?
This is a great idea. Just pay attention to when the shuttle makes its last run - it was at 7 when we were there. It would be a long walk back!

The driver of the shuttle was another person we enjoyed and who had lots of good advice.
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:20 PM   #37
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Thanks so much for the info. A few questions -- do you have to buy your own breakfast? Not a big deal, but a little surprising, since so many hotel stays come with breakfast. I obviously need to take a closer look at the itinerary.

Also - Kristilew mentioned an imax - is there an imax movie option? I don't think we'll be springing for the helicopter ride, and if it is really hot out, spending some time in the A/C might be in order. How do you get to town?

Finally, do you know if you need reservations at El Tovar for lunch?

Sounds like there are some good restaurant meals to choose from - especially if you like steak and burgers, which everyone in my family does.
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Old 07-02-2009, 08:05 PM   #38
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Leaving in the morning to head to Phoenix a day early...our departure is Sat....wondering if ABD will do anything special for 4th of July? Anyhow, we're all super-excited and looking forward to the week ahead. I'll be sure to take note of anything that Kristilew hasn't mentioned (although she did a great job covering everything!) Bye for now!
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Old 07-02-2009, 08:59 PM   #39
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Have a great time!
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:17 PM   #40
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Breakfast was included in all of the stays on our ABD trips--I can't say what they did on the Southwest trip (we were there on our own). No reservations taken for lunch at El Tovar (or for breakfast--just dinner). There is a free shuttle (I think it is the green line--you take one shuttle that departs near the rim hotels to a central station and catch the green shuttle there) that will take you out of the park to a nearby town (south of the Grand Canyon), where there are hotels and the IMAX theater (playing a Grand Canyon film produced by National Geographic).
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:07 PM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kjd469 View Post
Leaving in the morning to head to Phoenix a day early...our departure is Sat....wondering if ABD will do anything special for 4th of July? Anyhow, we're all super-excited and looking forward to the week ahead. I'll be sure to take note of anything that Kristilew hasn't mentioned (although she did a great job covering everything!) Bye for now!
Have a fabulous time, kjd469!!!! Can't wait to read when you report back in!

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Old 07-03-2009, 07:18 AM   #42
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KJD - have FUN!!!!!!!!!

glassslipper - breakfast is included every day. Also, the ABD bus does a run into town in the afternoon. They time it well to take in everyone who wants to see the imax and all the helicopter folks. They drop off the imax people, drop the helicopter people, swing back and pick up the imax people, take them back to the canyon, then go back and get the helicopter people. They will explain all this ahead of time and let you know your options.

They also ran into town for pizza on the second night we were there. I don't know if they do this every trip or if this was special b/c it was Maura's bday. They met out back of El Tovar to watch the sunset at 7, then took whoever wanted to go in to the pizza place, which everyone who went said was great.
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:20 AM   #43
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Oh, and we walked right into El Tovar at 11:35 for lunch (and were ready for it, having breakfasted at 6:30.)

When the train arrived at 11:45, many people headed straight for the restaurants, so it was more crowded then, but I still didn't see a long wait.

There did appear to be a line at lunch time at Bright Angel, and there was a very long line at the ice cream place all afternoon.
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Old 07-05-2009, 05:53 PM   #44
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Kristilew and everyone - thanks so much for all this info. I am feeling rather better about our trip, back to my original excitement. I think it always helps to have more information, rather than less, to get your expectations in line. This board is always an excellent source of info.

Can't wait to hear more from everyone else who'll be going too.
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Old 09-09-2010, 04:31 PM   #45
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kristilew-Thank you so very much for your detailed and what appears to be open minded review! We have been considering this trip for some time and you answered many of the questions I had.

I really, really, REALLY want to go to the one in Peru but maybe we will wait on that. It's kind of like the year we went and stayed at the Beach Club (at a reduced rate) and let's just say we find ourselves comparing all others to it and everything comes up short!
It's better to feel up graded over down graded any day of the week.

Thanks again for the review!
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