Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel

Over Memorial Day weekend, I flew to Arizona to visit Drew. Drew's mom, Gwen flew down from Canada to visit as well since it was also Drew's birthday weekend. Since we're in Arizona, they wanted to see the Grand Canyon, since it is a wonder of the world, it's a must-see! When I was in middle school, my parents took me and my siblings to see the Grand Canyon, but I didn't appreciate it then, like I did this time around.

Originally we were going to do the Grand Canyon on our own. Gwen mentioned that a coworker told her about a train that leaves from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon. After doing some research about it, we all decided that it would be a fun time! After all, Williams is the gateway to the Grand Canyon.

The GCR gives you an insight to a historic and fun journey to the canyon with the help of authentic western characters who bring the Old West to life. Today, the train, is responsible for keeping approximately 50,000 cars outside of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Railway made its first journey to the Grand Canyon on September 17, 1901. Over the years many notable people have ridden the train, such as, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante, Doris Day, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.

Since we didn't finalize our plans til a week before, I didn't think they would've had anything available. But luck was on my side, it never hurts to try after all! So after doing more research on their website, I was ready to book. I ended up calling their reservation line, instead of booking online because I had extra questions, (I would suggest doing it this way, the reservation line was extremely helpful and courteous. They were even able to find a room for us even though the website said they were all sold out) . I ended up booking a day on the train, and a night in the hotel, (you could also do the night in the hotel, then day on the train) they also do packages where you can stay at the Grand Canyon! Luckily they give a Military discount, but if you're not affiliated with the military, they also give AARP & AAA discounts. Usually throughout the year they have specials going on.

We woke up early-ish Friday morning, and headed to the train station, We picked up our tickets at Will-call and at 9am, there was a cowboy show (it is both kid and adult friendly) It is a great show, they involve the audience, and afterwords (show is only 15mins) they'll pose for pictures with you before you board the train.

The train leaves Williams at 9:30am, with you on it or not. Since we weren't travelling with any children, I requested the adults only train car. There are 6 different classes/rates to chose from, the cheapest is the Pullman cart, I read reviews about it, and if you're looking for a no frills trip to the canyon, ride the Pullman cart. 

I chose Coach class, for a couple reasons, the Pullman cart doesn't have A/C. It's a windows open train cart, and we probably would've been flushed before even making it to the Grand Canyon. On the train, the cart was completely full, (since it's the cheapest option, it fills up quick) the seats didn't look very comfortable either.  The big reason I chose Coach class was because the seats are close together in the Pullman Cart (Drew's 6'ft tall, he needs extra leg room). Its about $10 more, but worth it in my opinion. I know a lot of people ride first-class, but the price difference from Coach to First-class is steep, and the only difference I could tell, is that you get free snacks.

We lucked out with our car, our car attendant, AmberRose was AMAZING, she was witty, and she made me laugh more than I thought I would, and she just provides great entertainment the whole ride up and down. She made the 2 hr trip fly by! If you are travelling without kids, or without children under 16, I would highly suggest asking for the AmberRose car. Sorry folks, she only does the Adult train!

On the train there was also entertainment on our way up and down from the Canyon, the Marshall came to hang out with us (he plays Santa during the Winter months on the Polar Express)we had a fiddler and a guitarist as well. There is a snack car, as well, prices are a bit more than you would wish to pay, so if you can, remember to pack snacks!

Although I think we enjoyed the train ride back just a bit more. About 30 mins outside of Williams, we were "robbed" by cowboys. You can chose to participate in the fun, since they work for tips.

It is a 2hr 15 min train ride up to the Grand Canyon The views are wonderful and you get to sit back and relax. Once at the Grand Canyon you have 3 hours to explore, before the train leaves. I'll save the Grand Canyon for another post.

We chose to spend the night after our trip to the Canyon at the hotel. This hotel did not disappoint!  It is literally right behind the train station. We fell in love with the lobby area, it was just so cozy! We stayed in their "Value room", it's a standard room that it'll sleep up to 4 people. I think the best part of this hotel was their hot tub, after our day at the Grand Canyon we soaked in the hot tub! 

We did a package deal, where dinner and breakfast were included. Their dinning area is just the cutest. You do have to go outside of the hotel, but it's literally right next door. It's a buffet style of eating, but the area makes you feel like you're in the train, you can actually watch the train take off in the morning and arrive in the afternoon. There is even a little train that goes around the room.

Over all, our day with the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel was amazing, from our trip up to the Grand Canyon, to our stay at the hotel. It really is an amazing experience that I would suggest to anyone. They even do Polar Express tours during Christmas season, when we have kids I'll definitely be bringing them back for it! I cannot stress enough how wonderful our time with GCR was. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend there!