It is incredible to think that though we live in the beautiful state of Arizona- the Grand Canyon State, there’s so many Az natives who have never been to our National Park. This week we changed that… and we did it by train!
Roughly 2.5 hours north from Phoenix, Az on the historic Route 66 sits Williams, a charming town, coined the ‘gateway to the Grand Canyon’. From there you can travel back in time to the Old West; jump aboard the 1923 diesel locomotive up the same railway that President Theodore Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt, and President Eisenhower took. You can even throw in a royal or two.
Grand Canyon Railway
The experience began 15 minutes before the conductor called “All Aboard!”, with a quirky cowboy show and shootout. At 9:00am sharp the train pulled up and with our tickets in hand we found our car; a 1923 Locomotive with all its vintage charm. The seats are the original pine green and the back manually shifts to turn the seats to face another.
On the trip north Alexander, our PSA (Attendant) shared with us tons of history and facts about the train, the land, and the Grand Canyon. Each seat had a map with a guide, we all followed along with Alexander noting view points, visitor centers, and restaurants to visit during our three hour stay. If you happen to get thirsty on the ride up, they have water available to refill bottles or you can visit the train cafe. Any trash will be sorted and placed in recycling bins. The glass, we were told, is shipped to be made into benches for the park!
The train pulled into the station around 11:45am, many visitors from out state were surprised by the weather. Make sure that if you are planning a trip, that you do not assume that it will be warm because it is in Arizona. Northern Arizona is home to the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the country and the average temperature is 66F High and 33F Low. On this particular trip, the high for the day hit 42F. Wear layers!
The National Park
This place is absolutely magical! I have heard, ‘it is just a big hole in the ground” or “I don’t know what the big deal is,” but once you make it up the stairs past El Tovar Hotel and the painted backdrop of the canyon, in all of its glory, is staring at you… My eyes never adjusted. The layers of colors and dimensions, the contrast of the desert and the snow, it was breathtakingly beautiful.
We walked up and down the south rim, had lunch at the Bright Angel Restaurant- the Reuben was great – and stopped in the Hopi House gift shop -built in 1905!
The paths are paved and handicap accessible, perfect for everyone to enjoy the views. Though we didn’t get a chance to make the 22 mile hike to the Desert View Watchtower within our allotted three hours, we enjoyed the ‘Trail of Time’. Between Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Yavapai Point there’s a geology exhibit, with rocks from different layers of the canyon, some close to 2000 years old. For rock collectors young and old, this will blow your mind. Want to learn more about the Grand Canyon National Park? Read more here.
Back in Williams, a buffet dinner was awaiting. The Grand Depot Cafe had an all you can eat family buffet, with prime rib, salads, a pasta bar, and desserts.
The hotel was delightful and undeniably convenient. The rooms were cozy, restrooms spacious, and tons of details. I was impressed to learn that they received a recognition from TripAdvisor as Green Leaders in 2014. They have their own line of shampoo, lotion, hand wash, and conditioner; to reduce waste their full size containers have been placed strategically for easy access. They also need to win an award for their customer service, everyone I ran into was extremely knowledgeable and always willing to help with a smile on their face.
The Package: Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel
Our package included round trip tickets from Williams to and from the Grand Canyon, park entrance fee, 1-night hotel accommodations, dinner (4p-9p) with plenty of time to get back to your room after the whirlwind trip & breakfast (6a-10a) enough to wake up late, eat and check out by 11a.
Cost: $484 (taxes & fees included) for 2 adults & 2 children
Final review: 5 stars – Great value
Ready to book your trip? Choose from a package experience or just the train ride here.They do have discounted tickets for AAA members as well as AARP- make sure that you ask for pricing!
I’ll catch you next week,
Guest Contributor- Esme