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Grand Canyon Railway Williams AZ - Train Steam

Insider’s Guide to Grand Canyon Railway

All Aboard the Grand Canyon Railway!

More than a century after its creation, the Grand Canyon Railway is delivering passengers to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim on a ride that blends adventure, history and culture. In addition to the historic train, the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel features 298 refurbished rooms, a saline pool and spa, the Fred Harvey Restaurant, Spenser’s Pub, and two gift shops with unique train-themed merchandise. Vacation packages including hotel, train, meals and tours are available, and represent the best value for a one, two or three night visit to Williams and Grand Canyon.

Insider Video to the Grand Canyon Railway

Insider Tips for Riding the Train:

  • Book Early for the most flexible dates
  • Everyone has an assigned seat, so no need to get there extra early, but of course be on time so you don’t miss the train! (They won’t wait!)
  • Arizona is on Mountain Standard time and doesn’t have daylight savings. If you are traveling that morning to Williams, be sure to note the potential time difference so you don’t miss the train!
  • Depending on where you are coming from, it might be easier to arrive the night before your scheduled date, especially as traffic can be unpredictable! The train departs daily at 9:30 am (January – October) and 8:30 am (November – December).
  • Need a place to stay? They have a hotel with restaurants on the property. See our tips below.
  • You only have 3 hours at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, so be sure to plan ahead on what to see and do.
  • If you are bringing small children, we recommend taking the stroller with you.
  • Traveling with your pet? Please know that only service animals are permitted on the train and in the Grand Canyon National Park. However, there is a Pet Resort adjacent to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel for your convenience.

The Polar Express Train Ride

Insider Tip: Book Early for Best Dates

Every winter the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express comes to life on a journey from the nighttime wilderness of Williams, Arizona, to the enchanted beauty of “the North Pole”—where Santa Claus and his reindeer are waiting with a keepsake present for every good boy and girl. You’ll be smiling from ear to ear, as you watch children’s faces light up when the train arrives, and enjoy hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies while listening to this timeless story.

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel

Insider Video to Grand Canyon Railway Hotel

Experience the luxury of a bygone era at the newly refurbished Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. The 298-room hotel is right next door to the train depot and just a block away from downtown Williams and historic Route 66. With a variety of amenities such as complimentary wi-fi, an indoor pool and hot tub, delicious dining options at Fred Harvey Restaurant and Spenser’s Pub, and ideal location in The Gateway to the Grand Canyon®, the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is the perfect place to stay before embarking on your grandest of journeys!

Insider Tips for Staying at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel:

  • Book early for the most flexible dates
  • If you plan on riding the train, be sure to check out their Vacation Packages
  • The kids will love the indoor pool
  • Adults will love the hot tub
  • No need to search for food, there are great restaurants on the property
  • Easy walk to the Train Depot from the Hotel
  • Complimentary WiFi is always a nice touch

The History

The path this one-of-a-kind railway took to today’s popular service is an interesting one. It was established in the late 1800s as a means of hauling mined ore from Buckey O’Neill’s Anita Mines. But its owner quickly realized that hauling tourists could be lucrative, too, and probably more so. Unfortunately, Buckey was killed in the Spanish American War serving with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and never saw the railway’s completion to the Grand Canyon. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway completed the line to the South Rim in 1901. In 1905 the Santa Fe Railway opened El Tovar on the South Rim, which would become one of the great national park lodges. With a deluxe hotel perched on the edge of the spectacular gorge, and a comfortable way to get there, Grand Canyon tourism took off in earnest. Automobile travel had long usurped rail travel by 1968, when the GCR passenger train made its final run. But the service was resurrected in 1989 as an excursion train ferrying visitors along 65 miles of track from Williams, Ariz., to the South Rim. The renewed service pulled out of the Williams depot on Sept. 17, 1989, exactly 88 years after its maiden run.

Xanterra Travel Collection purchased the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel in 2007 and continues to expand the property and refine the experience. All of the recent property upgrades and renovations have been accomplished with Xanterra’s softer footprint in mind. Two solar projects have been completed to supply hot water and electricity to the property, low flow showers and toilets have been installed, and reclaimed water is used for irrigation to name a few. All of the efforts to improve the products and services would be ineffective without a trained and committed service team. It is the staff of Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, from the Front Desk staff and the Passenger Service Attendants to the cooks and the mechanics, that really makes the journey special.

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