This is a tale of three canyons. Chances are you haven’t heard of at least one and maybe two.
Here’s what I plan to cover in this trip report, mostly in order:
- Planning The Trip
- Hyatt Pinon Pointe
- Where To Go For Dinner In Sedona
- Grand Canyon Railway
- A Brief Stop At The Grand Canyon, How To Spend 3 Hours
- Antelope Canyon
- Glen Canyon Dam
- Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort And Spa
- Bear Canyon Ranch
You’ve heard of the Grand Canyon, right? How about Grand Canyon Railway. It’s a unique way to get to the Grand Canyon. Ideally suited to folks who are just looking for a day trip, the train departs Williams, AZ a couple of times a day to the South Rim.
The ride is just over 2 hours in each direction. It’s a pleasant ride with nice views, although there are much better ones when you get to the Canyon. The train route dates back over 100 years and some of the train cars are almost as old. They’ve been renovated to include most of the comforts you’d expect from a new train. With a variety of riding options, they cover a number of price points. That’s a good thing, as the train ride can get quite pricey.
There are 6 pricing options for the train ride. In parentheses are the round-trip prices for adults and children. I also took pictures of the actual seats to compare with the website photos:
Pullman Car ($67/$32): These are true old-fashioned Pullman cars dating back to the 1930s. The seats looked comfortable enough. Be aware in the summer time that the Pullman cars don’t have air conditioning.
Coach Class ($82/51): Similar to Pullman cars but with air conditioning and maybe a bit more padding on the seats.
First Class ($155/$121): These are nicer seats than Coach Class. They face each other, which can work better for families. You’ll also get a very light continental breakfast.
Observation Dome ($184/153): A special car with a glass observation dome on top. The padded seats face forward in sets of two. These seats include a very light continental breakfast as well.
Luxury Dome ($219): Adults only dome with upgraded food and a complimentary glass of wine.
Luxury Parlor ($219): Ride on the back of the train and hang out on a private, open-air platform. Comfortable indoor seats with breakfast and a glass of wine included.
On a hot day, I would imagine the Pullman cars would be uncomfortable. Given the price difference between Coach Class and First Class, I’m not sure I would pay the extra for a slightly better seat and a snack. The views are the same. Riding on the back of the train and being able to stand outside sounds like a cool option. But, it’s also a pretty pricey one.
A Bit Of Strategy
All of the different classes of service are priced for one-way travel. For example, the Coach Class fare of $82 is actually $41 each way. Want to experience the observation dome or luxury parlor and still save a few bucks? Book that upgrade for just one leg. That’s what we did.
Our son loves trains. We knew this excursion needed to be part of our trip, but we also didn’t want to break the bank riding the train. We chose the Observation Dome on the ride up to the canyon and chose Coach Class on the way back. This was a mid-summer trip with temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If it wasn’t summer, I’m pretty sure we would have opted for Pullman class.
Lastly, Grand Canyon Railway offers a AAA and AARP discount.
Another Bit of Strategy
You generally have a little over 3 hours to explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon once the train arrives. However, at peak times they run two trains. If you depart on the early train and book the later return train you can get closer to 5 hours at the canyon.
We arrived at the station about an hour before the train was due to depart. There’s plenty of parking available onsite. The train station has a gift shop filled with plenty of train memorabilia for purchase as well as some snacks.
Prior to departure, guests can wander around the train yard and look at vintage trains. There’s also a brief show to kill some time while you wait to board. Charlie definitely wanted to spend his time exploring the trains.
Once onboard we proceeded upstairs to the observation dome. We settled into our seats and were offered a choice of juice, coffee and soft drinks. When the train left the station a short while later a small continental breakfast was setup at the foot of the stairs.
The journey took just over two hours. At the outset, there wasn’t much to see other than a holiday display hanging out at a repair station. That being said, the dome car really does offer a pretty cool perspective for a train ride.
We took some time to walk through the cars and see the various offerings. The kids also wanted to stop in the snack car and pick up a bite to eat.
As we got closer to the Grand Canyon a musician spent some time performing in the car. The server assigned to our car was happy to discuss strategies for the time we had to visit the canyon. The closer we got to the Grand Canyon the better the view got. After a leisurely 2 hour train ride we arrived and disembarked.
When it was time to return, we boarded the train and found our seats in the Coach Class cabin. It had been a very hot day and the kids were ready to relax. They took a brief nap while Michelle and I cooled off. About halfway back to Williams our train was “hijacked” by performers on horseback. The kids had a great time with that.
The Final Two Pennies
I wouldn’t have known about the Grand Canyon Railway if it wasn’t for a timely post by Mommy Points when we were planning our trip. Her dad did a great job describing the particulars of the train ride.
One last tidbit to finish up. Williams, Arizona is the town the movie Cars was modeled after. You’ll find lots of neon and plenty of things that look like Radiator Springs, the fictional town from the movie. You’ll also find Pine Country Restaurant where you can get a truly excellent piece of pie. There’s also a night-time performance in the streets. Even if you don’t plan on taking the train, Williams is a good place to stop.
Grand Canyon Railway
With our AAA discount a ride to the canyon in the observation dome and ride back in coach cost us almost $500. Considering that you can park a car for $30 at the Grand Canyon, the train is one heck of a premium. We had fun with it, though I suspect if we went again we would just do Coach or Pullman class next time to save money. I’d probably file this under a one-time experience. You can find all the information for booking on the Grand Canyon Railway website.
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