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Travel Alert: Business as Usual at Grand Canyon National Park

The state of Arizona jumped in to fund the opening of the Park. Now visitors can visit the natural wonder without restrictions. It's a short-term solution until the U.S. government works out a budget deal, which is expected later this week.

Las Vegas, NV, October 17, 2013 --( Despite the U.S. federal shutdown, Grand Canyon National Park remains open, thanks to funding from the state of Arizona and the town of Tusayan, gateway to the South Rim. The Park will remain open until Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. After that, state officials expect government gridlock to be resolved and the usual operational funds released to Park authorities.

"It's not the best situation but it's a much better than last week's," said Keith Kravitz, CEO of Grand Canyon 123, the leader in canyon tour information, reviews and deals. "There's optimism that Congress can overcome its differences. If not, then the burden is on the state."

Until then, Kravitz is recommending South Rim travelers book an air tour. "The airport is outside the Park," he noted. "Therefore, helicopter and airplane tours will continue to fly on a regular schedule regardless of the outcome later this week."

There are two kinds of helicopter tours – a 50-minute flight and a 30-minute one. The shorter one goes from the South Rim to the North Rim and back. The longer one does that too plus everything up to the Park's eastern boundary.

"The best value is the 50-minute flight," noted Kravitz. "From start to finish, a traveler will have seen up to 75 percent of the National Park. Indeed, it's the most expensive option, but it’s the best flight when it comes to seeing as much of the canyon as possible."

The airplane tour is 50-minutes in duration and follows the same route as the helicopter. The biggest difference is price, with the airplane being nearly 35 percent cheaper. "The plane tour is a terrific value," Kravitz said. "If visitors find helicopter tours sold out, take the plane because there's usually availability. Relatedly, it’s always best to purchase air tours one week in advance as it ensures getting the best time of day and price.”

The West Rim is not affected by the federal shutdown because it's outside the National Park. "Every West Rim tour is available," said Kravitz. "This includes helicopters, airplanes, buses, rafts and four-wheel drives. However, there's incredible demand so make sure to book in advance to get the right trip."

The West Rim, which is 120 miles from Las Vegas, is situated on land owned by the Hualapai Indian Tribe. It's most famous as the location of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the glass bridge that lets travelers walk up to 75 over the edge. This is also the rim where helicopters are allowed to go to the bottom.

"West Rim helicopters are special because of the fact that they can fly to the base," said Kravitz. "It's the only place in the entire Grand Canyon where this is possible. As for which landing tour is the most popular, it’s the one that includes a Champagne picnic alongside the Colorado River. Now that’s an adventure!"

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Keith Kravitz

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