This wasn't just any trip to the Grand Canyon, though. We took a train to the canyon and back! After doing some research online, I discovered The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, Arizona and was sold right away. An all-inclusive hotel, glass-top train ride and overnight stay at the Grand Canyon? Yes, please!
Cliff and I both love train travel and this was actually our second vacation on an antique train. The only way to describe our experience is to call it Americana at its finest. We loved everything about the vacation. In fact, after it ended, we wanted nothing more than to turn right back around and do it all over again! (If only life worked that way!)
Our itinerary included more than just a train and the canyon, though. We flew into Phoenix and stayed a night there before driving up to Sedona. We spent the day in Sedona, ate some kickass burgers at a little whole-in-the-wall joint and then took a Pink Jeep tour to see ancient cave dwellings. From there, we drove up to Williams to begin our train adventure.
The train car we rode in had a glass top and was originally built in the 1940s. The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel acquired it (probably from a scrap yard, if you can believe it!) and restored it to it's original furnishings. During the ride, musicians came through and played traditional American folk music, which I especially loved. Our favorite was Jesse, a banjo player who serenaded us with songs about cowboys, trains and the American West.
Once we arrived at the Canyon, we were given free reign to explore as we pleased. We did a little hiking, walked along the rim and ate at a pizza parlor before checking into our cabin, which was located a quarter of a mile from the canyon's rim. That evening after the sun set, we walked to the edge of the canyon just to take it all in. Even though we couldn't see much (because it was around 11 at night), it felt like we were standing on the edge of the world.
As awesome as our first day was, our second day at the canyon was even better! That morning it snowed. As stunning as the Grand Canyon is on it's own, it becomes absolutely breathtaking when you add snow to the mix. Even though it was cold (like, really cold) Cliff and I enjoyed a mile-long stroll along the canyon's rim. As corny as it sounds, it felt like we were in the middle of a storybook. It was just the two of us holding hands, surrounded by giant snowflakes, walking along one of the natural wonders of the world. Yeah, it was pretty magical :)
A few additional highlights included:
- A kid-free train car! We paid extra to ride in a train car for adults only -- and it was awesome. Soon after the train pulled out of the station, our train attendant whipped out the alcohol. Let me tell you, nothing is better than sipping a Peppermint Patty while looking out a train window on a cold winter day.
- A crowd-free experience. Because we traveled to the canyon on Thanksgiving Day, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. You'll notice very few people in the photos below. That's not because I edited them out--it's because other tourists just weren't there!
- A Thanksgiving Feast. Even though we were away from friends and family on Thanksgiving, we were able to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The cafes and restaurants at the canyon served up roast turkey and all the fixins! It was an unexpected but pleasant surprise!