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How to Plan a Grand Canyon Vacation – Part I

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PART I: Getting here and where to stay.

Posted by: Xanterra on July 2, 2021

There are certain experiences in life that defy description. Words don’t adequately provide or prepare. For some it might be sky diving, summiting a towering peak or diving deep into the ocean. For many, standing at the edge of the crimson-colored Grand Canyon falls in this category.

There simply are no words.

Sure, it’s grand. Majestic. Jaw-dropping. And for each person that approaches the edge of the six-mile-deep crevasse, the experience will be personal. And for some, spiritual.

So, given this possibility, why shortchange yourself? Bestow your Grand Canyon vacation experience with the glorious gift of time. You’ll be glad you did.

Kid looking at train

Getting There: Arrive by Train

Take the stress out of driving your car to the South Rim (and help preserve the pristine beauty of the Park). Instead, travel through time and splendid scenery, before rumbling into the Grand Canyon Railway station aboard vintage cars, powered by a real, restored locomotive.

In just over two hours, you’ll arrive, relaxed, invigorated and just steps from the edge of the grandest canyon of them all!

Whether you stay for the day or check in to El Tovar Hotel or the Bright Angel Lodge for a longer stay, it’s an historic journey that you and your family will never forget.

Plan a Journey by Train

building over looking grand canyon

Lodging: Location, Location, Location.

Staying on the South Rim puts you on the doorstep of wonder. Wake up, head out, and you are there. Let the adventure begin.

Grand Canyon National Park Lodges provide historic, overnight accommodations right where you want to be.

Options include:

The El Tovar Hotel

Teeming with old school elegance, this National Park jewel opened in 1905 and was soon considered one of the swankiest hotels west of the Mississippi. Today, the historic hotel features 78 guest rooms, a gift shop, newsstand, and an oozing-with-atmosphere dining room and lounge. Stay and you’ll be steps away from spectacular views of the Canyon.

BOOK

Bright Angel Lodge

Choose the Bright Angel Lodge, a Registered National Historic Landmark for its natural rustic character and rich cultural history. With 90 overnight sleeping options, ranging from cozy historic units with shared bathrooms to standard lodge rooms and historic cabins, to the one-of-a-kind “Buckey O’Neill Cabin,” you’ll be eager to discover the colorful stories that surround this iconic lodge.

During your stay, spend time in the lobby of this South Rim focal point to examine the craggy fireplace and the American Indian iconography adorning the doors and panels. The lodge is home to the Fred Harvey History Room, a free exhibit detailing the history of the Fred Harvey Company and its famous Harvey Girls. A second fireplace, in the History Room, features renowned architect Mary E.J. Colter’s ten-foot-high geologic representation of the Grand Canyon rock layers. The lodge also features a gift shop, two restaurants, an old-style saloon, coffee house, and a seasonal ice cream fountain.

BOOK

More-contemporary accommodations are available at Kachina and Thunderbird Lodges, which are located directly on the rim, and at Maswik Lodge, nestled in a pine forest just steps from the canyon.

6 Lodging Options

Big black train

6 Reasons to Take the Historic Grand Canyon Railway

You can sit back and relax. No matter which of the six classes of service you choose, you’ll treasure this trip of a lifetime. Whether you board like a rail baron into your exclusive, plush parlor car or ponder the benefits of train travel circa 1923 in classic bench seating style in Pullman class, you’ll relish the opportunity to embark on this historic journey.

The Route 66 bonus. Your Grand Canyon Railway journey begins and ends in Williams, located on the last stretch of Route 66 to be by-passed by Interstate 40. If your family has seen the movie “Cars”, they will be extra-enthused by the historic highway memorabilia featured in the town’s kitschy shops and restaurants.

For old-fashioned, western fun. Before leaving Williams, expect old-timey shoot outs staged in the middle of Main Street each morning and on weekend evenings. (Never fear. The good guys always win!) On board, the Old West will come to life as musicians share songs of the era and cowboy characters amuse with their antics as the train winds toward the Canyon.

An extra dose of natural beauty. As the vintage train heads toward one of the seven natural wonders of the world, you’ll observe the light shift as the terrain changes from high desert to prairie to Ponderosa pine.

Learn as you go. With so much history to reveal, your onboard Passenger Service Attendant will be eager to share facts about the lovingly restored train, the geology of the area and the canyon itself.

Go private. Craft the ultimate memory by reserving your very own personal train to the Grand Canyon. Rail Baron Charters combine the luxury of private train cars with the adventure of riding the rails as the barons did in times past. It’s the perfect platform for celebrating a special event or milestone moment.

Show Me How

Go to Part II
Go to Part III


Written by: Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

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