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Are you looking for a way to make your family vacation to the Grand Canyon special? Do you want to avoid the hassles of driving to and parking inside the park? Would your kids love to take a ride on a historic train? Believe it or not, there is one way to do it all: the Grand Canyon Railway! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this unique experience.
What is the Grand Canyon Railway?
The Grand Canyon Railway is a historic train which has been taking passengers to and from the Grand Canyon since the early 1900’s. It runs from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and back daily.
The train has been lovingly restored to its former glory to give you a glimpse into the life of family vacations a hundred years ago when the train first started running.
Logistics and Pricing
The 64-mile trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon National Park takes two hours. The train leaves from the Williams Train Station each day at 9:30 am, arriving at the Grand Canyon Depot at the South Rim at 11:30.
You will then have a little over three hours to explore the Grand Canyon before boarding the train for the 3:30 pm departure. It arrives back in Williams at 5:45 pm.
During the spring and summer, there is a second train each day, which leaves at 10:30 am and arrives at 12:30 pm. It then departs the Grand Canyon at 4:30 pm and arrives in Williams at 6:45 pm.
During the winter months, the train leaves Williams at 8:30 am and begins its return route back to Williams at 2:30 pm.
There are six different classes of train cars to choose from for your trip. Each of them comes with its own pricing. Regardless of which class of car you choose, you can always visit the Cafe Car during your trip to buy snacks and drinks.
You can book your train tickets by visiting the Grand Canyon Railway website.
The Pullman cars have bench seats and windows that open. These cars are from the early 1920’s. This is the lowest class on the train. The tickets for this class is $67 one way per person for people 16 and over and $32 one way for children ages 3-15. Children 2 and under are free.
The Coach cars are from the 1950’s and feature large windows and air conditioning. Unlike the Pullman cars, these are handicap accessible. Pricing for this class is $82 one way per person for those age 16 and over and $51 one way for kids age 3-15. Young children age 2 and under are free.
The First Class cars have oversize seats, big windows, bar service, and complimentary snacks both to and from the Grand Canyon. These cars are also handicap accessible. The price for this class is $159 one way for those age 16 and over and $121 one way for children age 3-15. Kids two and under are free.
The next class of car is the Observation Dome. Take in the full view during your trip when you sit in the glass topped dome of this train car. You will also get bar service and complimentary snacks on the way to and from the Grand Canyon. This car will cost you $189 one way per person 16 and over and $153 one way for kids age 3-15. Unfortunately, children age 2 and under are not allowed in the Observation Dome.
Your next choice of car is the Luxury Dome. Here, you can enjoy a full dome at the top of the train car and a lounge down below. You can also take advantage of a private bar service and complimentary snacks. The price for this car is $226 each way for people age 16 and over. Unfortunately, children are not allowed in this car.
The last class of train car available is the Luxury Parlor. Here, you can enjoy plush accommodations, a private bar, and complimentary snacks on both trips. You can also take in the views from a rear platform that is not accessible to anyone else. This choice will also cost you $226 each way per person age 16 and over. Children under 16 are not permitted on this car.
Entertainment on the Grand Canyon Railway
While taking a historic train to the Grand Canyon is a special treat in and of itself, the Grand Canyon Railway takes it a step further by providing some fun entertainment for your trip.
Before the train leaves Williams each morning, you can walk to a small “Old West” corral that sits next to the train station for a short cowboy show. This 10 minute show is cute, but corny. The actors are not great, but your kids will enjoy it.
During your train ride, cowboy musicians walk from car to car singing and playing guitars. Also, some of the cars have stewards/hosts that tell stories and give you facts, tips, and trivia about the Grand Canyon, Williams, and the surrounding area.
On the return trip to Williams, the train is “robbed” by bandits. Your kids will get a kick out of this too.
Lastly, keep an eye out while on the train for the local wildlife. You may see everything from cows and horses to elk, antelope, rabbits and more.
We visited the Grand Canyon as part of a larger road trip through Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. During this portion of our trip, we stayed in Williams and took the Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon.
We chose the Pullman car for our trip. It was a bit tight in the seats, but I liked that you could flip the back of the seat so we could face each other. While I would have liked to have a little more room, I didn’t want to pay more for a higher class car.
We really enjoyed riding the train. My son thought it was fun and actually liked the train ride more than the Grand Canyon. It was much more fun than driving to the park ourselves. We were able to relax and even nap a little during the ride. But, we did find the entertainment a little too corny for our taste, and the views got a little boring after a while.
For us, the three hours at the Grand Canyon was the perfect amount of time. We didn’t want to do a lot of hiking, so it was a great plan for our day.
Taking everything into consideration, I would take the train again if we make a return visit to the Grand Canyon.
Staying in Williams
When planning our trip, I was a little worried about staying in Williams because it is a really small town. I wasn’t sure if there would be a lot of restaurants to choose from or things to do. But, let me tell you-I was totally wrong. This is such a cute town!
It is a thriving place that caters to tourists. It is the Gateway to the Grand Canyon and a stop on historic Route 66. There are many restaurants, hotels, and gift shops to serve you.
In addition to the Grand Canyon Railway, you will also find Bearizona in Williams. Bearizona is a drive through zoo which is definitely worth your time. It was a highlight of our trip.
Staying in Williams will be a fun addition to your trip, while giving you a break from all the crowds at the Grand Canyon. And it is much easier to find a hotel in Williams than within the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Grand Canyon Railway is an easy way to take your Grand Canyon vacation to the next level. Your kids will love the entertainment that goes with the trip while you enjoy sitting back and letting someone else provide the transportation. It really adds a unique twist to your trip. See our tips on visiting the Grand Canyon with kids for more ways to make your trip special.
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