This Grand Canyon Railway review will show you everything that I did inside the train, hotel, and restaurants. The 3-hour train ride to the Grand Canyon includes snacks, beverages, musicians, tour guides, and more. Additionally, the tour guides tell stories about the history of the region and train.
The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel is a 64-mile heritage railroad that operates every day. The train travels from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and vice versa. Lastly, the famous train offers packages that will suit your travel.
Being a big fan of trains and railways ever since I was a kid, riding the Grand Canyon Railway has been a superb experience for me. Not only do I get the chance to see the world-renowned Grand Canyon, but I was also able to ride the heritage railroad built in 1901.
If you’re thinking about booking a ticket for the Grand Canyon Railway, you should first know everything about it. There are many misconceptions about the views while you’re on the train. That’s why you must know what to expect.
We’ll clarify everything for you and let you experience our adventure.
I booked my ticket on the official website of the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel. Booking a ticket on the site is fairly easy. You can choose to reserve a train ticket, hotel only, or choose between their vacation packages.
Additionally, you have to choose your arrival date, how many nights you’re staying, and how many adults and children are staying.
After checking the availability, you’ll see multiple options to choose from. Your choices will differ depending on the reservation type and the number of days you chose.
In my case, I wanted to experience the train ride, hotel, and restaurants, and explore the Grand Canyon Village. I chose a 1-night railway getaway package that includes the train, meals, and overnight stay.
The meals include dinner and breakfast at the Fred Harvey Restaurant.
Additionally, I chose to upscale my train experience by upgrading from the Coach Class to First Class tickets. I’ll explain more about the classes that you can choose from and their differences.
Lastly, I booked the standard room in the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel. I’ll also explain more about the different rooms available in the hotel.
Train Ticket Options
Riding in first class on the Grand Canyon Railway train was a really nice experience. The reclining and oversized seats are comfortable. What’s surprising is that the leg room is spacious enough that I can easily move around without worrying about hitting the seat in front of me.
Additionally, compared to cheaper classes, the First Class has large windows and is an air-conditioned car which makes the experience more comfortable.
In the morning route going to the Grand Canyon, juice, coffee, fruits, and pastries are served. Also, snacks and soft drinks are served on the return trip. Because some people like an alcoholic beverage or two, they also offer mixed drinks, wines, and beers.
The first class ticket price starts at $159 for adults and $121 for children ages 2 to 15.
Other Train Ticket Options
There are five other classes that you can choose from if you want to ride the Grand Canyon Railway train. The price starts from $33.50 (one-way) or $67.00 (round trip) to a whopping $113.00 (one-way) or $226.00 (round trip) for adults.
The Pulman Class features the original and fully refurbished 1923 Harriman-style coach built by the Pullman Company. In addition, these cars have seats that can flip so that you can face your family or friends while you’re on the train.
This car isn’t air-conditioned, but you can open the windows for a more “classic” experience.
The Pulman class ticket starts at $32 for children ages 2 to 15. For adults, the round-trip ticket costs $67.
This class features streamliner-era coaches with bench-style seating. You’ll be surprised by the strolling musicians inside the car and there are service attendants to answer any questions.
There are snacks and soft drinks available for purchase in the Cafe Car. Additionally, this class has air-conditioned cars and large windows.
The coach class ticket costs $121 for children ages 2 to 15. For adults, the ticket costs $159.
The observation dome provides you with a higher view of the tour. Complimentary snacks and beverages are served in the morning and afternoon. The observation dome ticket costs $153 for children ages 2 to 15. For adults, the ticket costs $189.
The luxury dome provides a whole new level of rail traveling. You’ll find plush furniture, a full bar, and an entertainment center downstairs. Upstairs, you’ll find an observation dome with extra-large windows for you to take in the entire scene.
Complimentary pastries, juice, coffee, and fruits are served in the morning. Additionally, snacks and sparkling white wine toasts are served in the afternoon which is included in the train ticket. The luxury dome ticket costs $226 for adults. Take note that children under the age of 16 are not allowed in this car.
The luxury parlor is the most exclusive class on the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel train. You’ll find a private bar inside the coach and an open-air platform on the rear side of the car. Additionally, complimentary snacks, drinks, and a white wine toast are served in the morning and afternoon.
The luxury parlor ticket costs the same price as the luxury dome. Also, children under the age of 16 are not allowed in this car.
How Long Does It Take to Ride the Grand Canyon Railway?
The Grand Canyon Railway travels up to 40 mph. Although this might sound slow, this is already moving fast for a typical passenger train. The Grand Canyon Railway train runs for 2 hours and 15 minutes and travels 65 miles each way.
On the other hand, when it made its first trip in 1901, it took the train a complete 3 hours to travel from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon National Park. It’s important to remember that the Grand Canyon Railway uses 3 EMD F-40PH diesel locomotives that were recently acquired in February 2003 compared to the steam locomotives it used before.
Is It Better to Drive to the Grand Canyon or Take the Train?
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the Grand Canyon Railway. The company’s marketing strategy tells you that you’ll see wonderful scenery when you ride the train, especially if you choose the dome cars.
However, the truth is that you will not see the Grand Canyon itself when you’re on the train. You won’t see anything special aside from the flat desert and occasional wildlife.
If you’re wondering if it’s better to drive yourself to the Grand Canyon or take the train, the answer depends on the amount of time you have.
I’ve personally gone to the Grand Canyon several times already. Most of the time, I drive myself to the area because there are many things that you can do in a short amount of time.
To be honest, you’ll see the same scenery when you drive or take the train.
It’s important to remember that the train will leave on its scheduled departure. Do not take the risk of doing activities that may delay your arrival back at the station. It can be a very expensive taxi ride on the way back!
Take the Train
Take the Grand Canyon Railway if you’re not in a hurry and want to experience the train itself. Depending on the train ticket you choose, spending 2 hours and 15 minutes on the train with fellow railway enthusiasts is a great experience.
Drive Yourself to the Grand Canyon
Driving yourself to the Grand Canyon will save you loads of time. Since it only takes an hour to drive to the park, you’ll be able to enjoy more of the activities and scenery. Additionally, you can decide for yourself the time you want to get back.
Grand Canyon Hotel Guest Rooms
My travel with the Grand Canyon Railway includes a stay at their hotel and meals at the Fred Harvey Restaurant. I chose to stay in the Standard Room of the hotel because it’s big enough for one person.
Its features and amenities include two triple-sheeted Queen-sized beds, a flat-screen satellite TV, WiFi, a coffee maker, a mini-fridge, a telephone, and an alarm clock.
The usual cost to spend an overnight in this room is $251.99 per night.
Other guest room options that you can choose from are the following.
The deluxe room has the same amenities, features, and inclusions as the standard room. However, these rooms were newly refurbished in 2016 making them a lot newer compared to the standard room which was refurbished in 2015. It can also accommodate 5 people and has a space of 300 square feet.
A night in the deluxe room costs $269.99.
Their suite guest room can accommodate up to 6 people with 550+ square feet of space. It has a kitchenette and a separate living area where you’ll find another television, a study table and chair, and a balcony. You’ll also find the same amenities and features as the ones in the standard room.
The suite costs $305.99 per night.
Rail Baron Suite
If you want to experience a king-like stay at the Grand Canyon Hotel, then the Rail Baron Suite is the best choice for you. It can only occupy 2 adults in the 1000+ square feet space. You’ll find a full kitchen and a large living area inside the room.
A night at the rail baron suite costs $404.99.
Aside from these guest rooms, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel offers accessible rooms for any mobility-challenged guests. They have ADA-compliant rooms accompanied by specialized transportation that will allow you to travel by train, hotel, and park.
You can check out more information about their guest rooms here.
Tours and Activities
As mentioned earlier, you’ll only have 3 hours to explore the Grand Canyon if you travel by train. These 3 hours are not enough to see wonderful things in the canyon itself or the village.
In my case, I chose to take the Grand Tour of the Grand Canyon Railway since it travels around the South Rim area of the canyon.
Riding the train gives you a choice of whether to add a tour or activity. There are three tours that you can choose from.
Motorcoach Rim Tour: The Freedom Tour
The Freedom Tour takes you on a 1.5-hour guided tour on the South Rim side of the canyon. There’s a layover wherein you can take your lunch in several restaurants in the area or you can visit shops or historical hotels.
The cost to add the freedom tour to your package is $30 for children and $43 for adults.
Motorcoach Rim Tour: The Grand Tour
Compared to the Freedom Tour, the Grand Tour takes you on a 2.5-hour guided tour with a sack lunch at the famous Maswik Lodge. The tour also takes you on the South Rim and stops over at the Grand Canyon Village where you can visit historical hotels and shops.
The cost to add the grand tour to your package is $45 for children and $59 for adults.
Motorcoach Rim Tour: Arizona Sunset Tour
The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel offers their new partnership with the Grand Canyon National Park lodges which is the Arizona Sunset Tour. This tour is specially created for guests who are planning to spend their night inside the national park.
This tour includes a round-trip guided motorcoach ride and an overnight stay in the national park. The 2-hour tour stops at four different locations that are considered the best spots at the canyon.
Additionally, you’ll get the chance to take a special sunset photograph of the canyon itself. Lastly, the package includes lunch at the Arizona Steakhouse.
The cost to add the Arizona sunset tour is $78 for children and $94 for adults.
Dining at the Fred Harvey Restaurant
My package at the Grand Canyon Railway includes dinner and breakfast at the Fred Harvey Restaurant. What’s good about eating in this restaurant is that it’s adjacent to the hotel which makes it very accessible.
Additionally, both meals are served buffet-style making the experience worthwhile.
All the staff was friendly and I was immediately greeted by the server who found me a seat. Although the food wasn’t 5-star, it was decent enough that you’d be going to the food area repeatedly.
The breakfast food options include pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, biscuits, cereals, yogurt, fresh fruits, and more.
They serve daily and start at 6:30 a.m. and end at 10:00 a.m. Additionally, dinner options include pasta, steaks, salads, chickens, and more. They also serve daily evening meals which starts at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m.
Grand Canyon Railway Review – Conclusion
Taking the Grand Canyon Railway is a great way to experience the Grand Canyon differently. if you’re looking to take a break from the rush and want to have a relaxing and worry-free trip, taking the train is the best choice for you.
The Grand Canyon Railway departs daily from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It departs at 9:30 a.m. and returns at 3:30 p.m. Additionally, they offer packages for overnight stays in the hotel and meals at their restaurant.
Take note that the schedule of the train and meal times changes every winter when they follow the Polar Express.
However, the schedule starts in early November and ends on the last days of December. Furthermore, the pricing of train tickets, hotel accommodations, meals, and other amenities also changes during this time of the year.