All aboard for an unforgettable adventure to the South Rim!
The Grand Canyon is one of America’s natural wonders. Tourists from all around the world come to the Canyon to hike its rugged trails and photograph its many outstanding geological features, formed over millions of years.
Yet, situated in rural Arizona about two hours outside the city of Williams, the Canyon is not exactly easy to access by car. The most fun and exciting way we discovered to experience this natural wonder is by hopping onto the Grand Canyon Railway.
Making its first journey in 1901, this modern day attraction was initially intended to support mining activity. However, investors found that tourism would be a better venture. At the time, visitors wanting to see the Canyon would have to take an eight-hour coach ride. Since 1901, many notable celebrities and presidents have made the scenic train journey. The railway has also seen its share of hard times with the popularity of the automobile causing the railway to cease service in 1968.
Happily, over eight decades after the Grand Canyon Railway made its inaugural trip, Max and Thelma Biegert reopened this locomotive wonder for business in 1989. The reintroduction of the railway has been responsible for keeping approximately 50,000 cars out of Grand Canyon National Park, making a major impact on preserving the natural beauty while minimizing automobile congestion at this popular destination.
The Grand Canyon Railway experience starts near the Williams, Arizona station, with a dramatic re-enactment of an altercation between the town marshal and the Cataract Creek Gang, who are up to no good. Once the marshal has restored order, guests board a vintage railway car to begin their voyage. Each car has been maintained to preserve its original look and feel. Guests can choose from riding in a coach, first class or even a luxury parlor car. If a more scenic view is your priority, reserve your seat in a first class observation car or a luxury domed car.
During the ride, live musicians aboard each car serenade guests as they sit back and enjoy the scenic trip. Don’t be surprised if those no good outlaws, the Cataract Creek Gang, reappear causing trouble. Surprisingly, their hideout is very close to the railway’s tracks. Luckily the marshal and his deputies are on the case!
Throughout the year the Grand Canyon Railway has special seasonal events.
During the Christmas festive period (November 8-January 4, 2020) the railway magically changes into the Polar Express, making special runs to the “North Pole,” complete with chocolate chip cookies, steamy hot chocolate and a keepsake present delivered by Santa himself. Make reservations early due to popular demand. March to October, the railway has Steam Saturday, when two fully restored steam-powered locomotives pull the train on the first Saturday of each month.
The Grand Canyon Railway is more than just a convenient way to get to the Grand Canyon. With unique experiences offered all year, you will certainly want to share your excursion with everyone you know and return with more family and friends. Then again, how could you not want to just park the car and forget the GPS for the day? Allow this time machine to transport you across the frontier, just as when the early American pioneers first discovered one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders in all its glory. All aboard!
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Cover picture courtesy Xanterra Travel Collection
Dana and Brian Maass are married and live in Round Rock, Texas. When not traveling, writing, and taking photos, they can be found hiking on trails, visiting new spots in the Hill Country, serving the community, or catching a live performance. Follow them on Instagram at @Dana_Maass_Adventures and @Brian_Maass_Photographer.