You can book different classes of seats for the round trip. You can ride the cheap seats to the canyon, and then splurge for luxury on the way back. There is nothing to see during the journey except desert, so don’t bother with the observation deck seating. Mixed drinks are served in the luxury areas, but not in the cheap seats. The complimentary orange juice and pastries in the luxury seating are very low quality. Do not plan on eating this as a breakfast; you will be sorely disappointed. The snack car has very minimal selection.
There is no way to opt out of the entertainment on the train – it literally comes to you. Even in the cramped observation deck. Although the train’s top speed is 40 mph, don’t expect a quiet, peaceful journey.
Bring enough money for tipping at least three people.
Our instructions were to arrive 1 ½ hours prior to boarding time in the morning. We parked and picked up our tickets in the first 15 minutes. There was no reason to be early; we had to wait an hour for the “shoot out”. The shoot out just seems to be cover for when they back the diesel train up for boarding. Perhaps they don’t want you to know you’re not being pulled by the antique engine on display beside the station.
Don’t book the related bus tours that take you from the train unless you absolutely don’t want to do any walking. Everyone we spoke with that took the bus tours advised against it. Once you leave the train, it is an easy walk to the canyon overlook. There are trails going both directions on the rim. You can easily walk to the Geological Museum and back before the return train. There are two restaurants and a burger/sandwich place at the rim near the train depot.
You can see a lot more of the Grand Canyon in one day if you take your own car. If you are a train buff or hate driving, taking the train can be a fun experience. We were lucky enough to have Kathy with a “K” for our return journey. Kathy was extremely enthusiastic and helped pass the otherwise boring ride on the way back. The trivia games and jokes bridged the gap between young and old. You just have to be in the mood for that type of thing.
I agree with some of the other reviewers about the “train robbery” and having guns pointed at them. I don’t think passengers should be expected to hand over more tip money after having paid so much for the train tickets!
The train is a great thing in that it takes cars off the roads and frees up parking spots at the Grand Canyon overlooks. Carefully consider your options; do you only want a few hours of viewing the canyon or do you want the whole day with the option of hiking using your own vehicle?
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