I recommend this adventure if you are squeezing the Grand Canyon into one of your stops along your vacation route. I also highly recommend this excursion if you are traveling with kids. The trip is about 2 hours each way with a 3.5-hour stop at the Canyon. You should note that although there is a food car on the train that sells snacks throughout the voyage, I highly recommend you stop at the Safeway in Williams and load up on snacks and drinks that you can pack in your backpack for your group. If you are a tipper, I suggest setting aside about ten dollars in $1s. There's lots of storage space above your heads in the train cars for the backpacks and jackets.
The train depot is walking distance from a few hotels off of exit 163 in Williams, Arizona. I recommend arriving an hour before you depart Williams to ensure good parking and choice seating for the Wild West Show. Parking at the depot can get busy, but there's lots of it on both sides of the depot. If you book your tickets in advance (I booked over the phone), then your tickets are waiting for you at the depot. The depot is busy, too, but the line moves fast.
The Wild West Show (before you depart) is held just outside of the depot with lots of stadium seating. The show is VERY family-friendly (they insult one cowboy's mom's cooking and accuse each other of cheating at a game of cards) and there is minimal gunfire. The horses have the easiest job of standing by the rails and then posing for pictures after the show. We were told by our car attendant, Amber Rose, that the gentlemen performing the show are retired police officers and servicemen, and, yes, they were adorable.
Boarding the train was fast and easy. The train in Coach class has 2-person bench seating and a bathroom in every car. The windows are large and the ride is smooth. Your train car will have an attendant who will be your "guide" for the duration of the ride. Amber Rose was our attendant and did an outstanding job. She was informative, lively, funny, great with the children, and seemed to really like her job. We wanted to take her with us when we arrived at the Canyon!
The on-board entertainers were talented and gracious. The gentleman playing the guitar with the long hair and deep voice (I do not know his name, but he played Johnny Cash songs and gave some history about the songs before playing them) was wonderful. And yes, if you like what you hear, want a picture taken with them, and/or recommend a song for them to sing/play, for goodness sakes, tip 'em a buck.
The "train robbery" on the return trip was really exciting for the kids (okay, I liked it, too). The train is stopped by the Wild West Show cowboys who appear on their horses alongside the train wielding their guns. Once on the train and in our car, the "robbers" were very friendly and never frightening. The children were also very excited to have their dollar robbed from them and get their photos taken with the "robber."
This is a real gem of a ride, and you should definitely make it a part of your vacation plans.
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