Amanda hopes to help people find unique places to visit in the United States as well as provide travel tips.
We had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, and we finally made the trip in October 2019. We stayed at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. They streamlined our trip with a package deal that included our hotel stay, meals, a train ride to and from the Canyon, and a bus tour at the rim. They made our stay extra memorable with live entertainment, a Wild West show, and even a train robbery! Having everything taken care of through the package deal allowed us to relax and just take it all in.
Getting to Williams, Arizona
The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is located in Williams, Arizona, about a two-hour drive from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Along the way, we stopped off in Flagstaff for lunch and to purchase snacks.
Williams is a small town of about 3,000 people. Historic Route 66 runs through the center of town. Bearizona Wildlife Park is nearby, as well as a couple of lakes and some nature trails. Regrettably, I did not get the chance to explore much outside of the hotel complex while I was there.
The hotel itself is very nice. Upon entering, one is greeted by a bright, welcoming lobby with a fireplace. Beautiful paintings of the Grand Canyon hang on every wall. The front desk staff are cheerful and helpful. Several of the rooms have been recently updated. We requested updated rooms when we made our reservation.
Our rooms had two queen beds, a TV, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and a hairdryer. The rooms were clean and comfortable, and wi-fi was available. The hotel also had a game room, office, swimming pool, hot tub, exercise room, and a pub. We found that we needed to go outside briefly to get into the swimming pool and hot tub area, which was a bit chilly in October.
Fred Harvey Restaurant, Gift Shops, Train Depot
The hotel’s Fred Harvey Restaurant is in a separate building across the parking lot. Our package deal included meals here. We enjoyed a wonderful full buffet. In the evenings, there was live entertainment in the dining room. I was impressed to find that they offered some gluten-free options.
Breakfast included sausage biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, pancakes, bagels, french toast, donut holes, cinnamon rolls and an omelet bar. The evening buffet was different each night, including mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, a pasta bar, soup, salad, fish, roast beef, chicken, turkey, ham, roasted vegetables, dinner rolls, pies, cakes, and ice cream.
To get to the dining room, we walked through one of the two gift shops on site. The second gift shop was located in the train depot, where we picked up our train tickets.
Itinerary and Package Options
This is the itinerary for the package we chose.
- 3pm: hotel check in
- 4–9pm: Supper at the Fred Harvey Restaurant
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- 6:30–9am: Breakfast at the Fred Harvey Restaurant
- 9am: Wild West Show
- 9:30am: Board Train
- 12pm: Arrive at the Grand Canyon
- 12–3:15pm: Buffet lunch at the Maswik Lodge & Bus Tour of the Grand Canyon
- 3:30pm: Train departs
- 5pm: Arrive back at the hotel
- 5–9pm: Supper at the Fred Harvey Restaurant
- 6:30–9am: Breakfast at the Fred Harvey Restaurant
- 11am: Check out
I liked this package because it made everything so simple for us. But I wish we had more time at the rim of the Grand Canyon. They have a package that allows you to spend one night in the Maswik Lodge at the rim and ride back on the train the next day. This would have given us more time at the rim. However, we had a large group of 11 people, so moving all of our luggage on the train for one night would have been cumbersome. If I went again or had a smaller group, I would stay a night on the rim.
We chose a package that included a bus tour. The tour took us to two or three different lookout points, but we only had about 25 minutes at each stop. We did not have time to spend in the gift shop either. In the end, I’m glad we did the bus tour because we got to see the best of the Grand Canyon and the driver made sure we were back in time to catch our train.
Wild West Show and Train Robbery
The morning of our train ride, we were treated to a Wild West show where we met a group of bandits and the marshall who was trying to put them away. They interacted with the audience and made us all laugh . . . and jump when they fired their guns!
Later, on the way home from the Grand Canyon, we saw these bandits ride up alongside the train on horseback, firing their guns! The train stopped, they boarded and started robbing the passengers! Then the marshall came through hot on their tails!
The Grand Canyon Train
The train itself was pretty neat. We had the option to choose from several different classes of train car. We chose Pullman class, a historic circa-1923 refurbished train car. The seatbacks in this car flip so that we could face our fellow passengers, and the windows open. Since we were there in October, it was a bit chilly to have the windows open on the way up, but we enjoyed the fresh air on the way home.
Our car had a small bathroom, plenty of drinking water and a funny lady in uniform who took care of us on the trip. She shared with us the history of the railway and surrounding land, answered lots of questions, helped us plan our time at the rim, told jokes and sang to us. We were also visited by a fiddler and Banjo Billy.
On the train, we were welcome to walk from car to car and encouraged to visit the dining car where we could purchase snacks and play table games.
At the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is stunning in its size. Pictures do not do it justice. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself. A word of caution, though: While there are a few railings here and there, much of the time you are just walking right along the edge of the canyon with no protection from falling off. There are many rocks to trip over as well. If you trip, or if someone behind you trips while you are taking a picture, over the edge you will go.
Keep this in mind if you have children with you. I kept losing track of my 11-year-old. I would take a photo, turn around and she would be gone! She was walking around taking her own pictures and not always watching where her feet were going. This made me very nervous. So, please be safe up there!
Also, I found myself wishing I had some sort of strap to attach my cell phone to my wrist so that I wouldn’t drop it over the edge. My daughters were taking pictures with their tablets, and a strap would have been helpful for them as well.
A Memorable Experience
One of the things I will remember most about this trip was how cheerful everyone was. The staff at the hotel, the staff on the train, the entertainers, and the other tourists were nice, caring, happy and sociable. I really enjoyed the whole experience.
These folks went above and beyond to make our vacation special. They love the Grand Canyon and it shows! If you decide to go, I hope you have a wonderful, unforgettable experience, as I have had. For more information about the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, check their website.
Bonus Sites to See on Your Trip to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a must-see. But if you want to experience going down to a canyon floor, I recommend visiting Oak Creek Canyon. To get there, head back to Flagstaff and take Arizona State Route 89A south towards Sedona. This road will take you through the canyon. There are two points along this route that you should definitely see, Slide Rock and Grasshopper Point.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Amanda Buck