Grand Canyon Railway Adventure

by Julie Cohn

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Add a different kind of family adventure to your trip to the Grand Canyon with the Grand Canyon Railway!  Pick up the train in Williams, Arizona in the morning, ride the rails to the canyon, spend a few hours exploring the trails, museums, and breathtaking views, then ride back to Williams on the train again, chased by bandits.  What a wild day!

Grand Canyon Railway Adventure

We arrived in Williams the night before our train ride, grabbed a quick dinner, and rested for our big day at the Canyon.  After a restful night at the Grand Canyon Hotel (as part of our train package), we grabbed a quick coffee and muffin in Spenser’s Pub, then boarded the train at 9:30 a.m. to head up to the canyon.

During our 2.25 hour ride on the rails, cowboy singers meandered through the train cars, guitar in hand, to sing cowboy tunes such as “Rawhide”, “Home on the Range”, and “Happy Trails”.  Smaller children will have fun singing “Old McDonald” along with the cowboys, and the train had a snack car with beverages, cookies, and candy.  My son had fun walking through the cars to the snack car (kids 12 and over could go by themselves), and we had a great time visiting with the people in the seats around us.  We met people from several places in the United States and other countries on the Grand Canyon Railways train.

Grand Canyon Railway Adventure11

The scenery on the way up to the canyon was breathtaking….the landscape changed from high desert scrub pine to towering Ponderosa trees, with flat to plains to rolling hills. A quick look out my window revealed the train winding the rails in front and behind our car.

 At The Canyon


Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon Depot, we had almost four hours to explore the canyon.  We wandered through the Bright Angel Lodge, along the Canyon pathway to the trails.  Our walk along the trails allowed us to view the Grand Canyon in all its gorgeous glory!

After our hike, we had a lovely lunch at the El Tovar hotel, toured the Hopi House, and watched Indian Hoop Dancers perform.

We had just enough time to grab some postcards from the gift shop and walked to the depot for our train ride back to Williams at 3:30 p.m.

Bandits Attack The Train!

I decided to surprise Little Man on the trip back by upgrading our tickets to the First Class train.  The big difference between Coach and First class was nicer seating, as well as free snacks such as cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, and free soft drinks. They also had cocktail selections, but since I would be driving when we got back to Williams, I did not partake. Our train attendant, Mimi, pointed out landscape landmarks, such as the San Francisco Peaks, and other mountains.  The cowboy singers came back to serenade us, but were interrupted by a commotion outside…we were getting “robbed” by masked robbers!  Talk about a Grand Canyon Railway Adventure!  The “robbers” rode next to the train on horses with guns blazing until the train stopped to let them aboard.

Once aboard, they “robbed” the passengers of $1 bills tucked into hair, hats, and behind the ears.  One of the “robbers” even proposed marriage to the eight-year-old in front of us, asking “can you cook?”  We arrived back in Williams at 5:45 p.m, our minds filled with the breathtaking images of the Grand Canyon, our hearts filled with life-long memories to cherish, and big smiles on everyone’s face.

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Final Thoughts

When you plan your trip to the Grand Canyon, be sure to check out the Grand Canyon Railway as an option, where you will get a relaxing train ride, fun entertainment for the whole family, and a wonderful day at the canyon!

  • Road trip coach class train tickets (without the hotel stay) are $75 per adult and $45 per child.
  • Round trip first-class train tickets (without the hotel stay) are $140 per adult and $110 per child.
  • An adults-only observation car (15 and older) is $170 round trip.
  • The luxury parlor car is $190 round trip.

Our train package, including an overnight stay at the hotel, was $270 for both of us, coach, but rates can vary based on the season and type of package you purchase.  The Grand Canyon Railways offers seasonal packages, including a “Pumpkin Train” in October, and a Polar Express package in November and December.  (We did the Polar Express package when Little Man was younger, and he loved it!)

For more information about the Grand Canyon Railway, visit their website.

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