As soon as we returned from Utah last summer, I started planning out a trip to go back. I knew we wanted to go explore some of the National parks we missed on our last trip, but when the weather was cooler for hiking and being outside! For spring break we decided we would make a trip out west to visit several of our country’s national parks. My parents bought a new RV last fall and I started encouraging them to make a trip out to Texas. I joked that we would hop in and travel with them.
The planning got underway and I laid out our trek west in detail, getting more and more excited. I looked at renting an RV and traveling out west to visit the parks. I started to plan and lay out the schedule, and decided that for a short 10 to 12-day trip, we would be able to do more and see more without the extra drive time added on to either end! So, we purchased flights and my parents made the trip out to Texas to fly with us from here!
We decided to fly roundtrip to Vegas because it was central to all the places we wanted to see. And flying there was cost-effective for both the flight and a SUV large enough to hold 8 people! Plus, I wanted the kids to see the Hoover Dam. What better way then by driving over it on our way to our first stop at the Grand Canyon!
What we did not anticipate was that our morning flight would arrive without my luggage. So we decided to grab lunch and wait for it. Otherwise we could not be sure that we would have our winter gear and hiking stuff the next morning. This was obviously not part of our plan. However, we decided that it only added to our adventure and it also meant that we got to see the Hoover Dam at sundown before crossing into Arizona!
We made a quick stop at the Hoover Dam and then made the trek to our hotel in Williams, AZ. It had been almost two decades since I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. I knew I wanted the first visit to be unique for the kids. In researching places to stay nearby and ways to see the park, I knew I wanted them to get their first view on a train ride from Williams. They have all ridden trains before, but nothing like this one. This ride begins with a Wild West shootout in town before boarding the train to the canyon. And as a bonus it would alleviate us having to drive in and park to see the canyon.
For convenience we decided to stay the night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel (they also have an RV park for those who do make the trek by RV 😉). The hotel was nothing fancy, but the lobby has a beautiful fireplace and the kids loved that we could see the train right outside!
Saturday dawned bright and COLD! We woke up to snow on the ground and a very chilly morning. But it did not keep us from enjoying the Wild West show and the train ride!
We boarded the train a little after 9 for a 2-hour trip to the canyon. The train is still socially distancing their passengers. That meant we had a few empty rows in front of and behind our party of 8. My parents upgraded us to first-class for the train and we were treated to hot chocolate, cider, drinks and breakfast on the trip!
Our car had our very own passenger service attendant. He was fantastic and made sure we were well taken care of. He gave us recommendations of what we should be sure to see while we were in the village. There was even some musical serenading during the ride. We watched as it snowed outside throughout most of the trip. And the kids took some fun videos of the scenery as we journeyed while reading more about the Grand Canyon’s history.
We disembarked in Grand Canyon village and I hurried everyone to see the view. Despite the heavy fog and snow, it was still a beautiful sight.
We hit up all the gift stores and museums to stay warm. And made the trek back and forth on the rim and determined that we would change our plans to come back the following morning if the weather improved before we drove on to Utah!
Our train ride back to Williams was just as eventful and fun as the ride out. We ate snacks and prepared to be attacked by the Cataract Creek gang of wild west outlaws. They escaped while we were at the canyon 😉. The kids enjoyed playing along and even pulled out money to “hide” as the robbers came through our first-class cabin. The Marshal finally caught up with them and took them into custody as we pulled back into the station.
We had dinner at the Fred Harvey restaurant after our return. Then we let the kids shop for souvenirs with their travel budget before heading to bed for the night.
The next morning dawned chilly, but clear. I-40 closed in both directions due to the icy roads. That meant the only direction we could go from the hotel was to the canyon. Serendipity!
We set out early and found the roads fairly clear all the way up. We stopped at several overlooks to take pictures before returning to the Grand Canyon Village.
It was not crowded at all for a spring break weekend. We even beat the train into town. We ate a leisurely lunch while the kids played in the snow. This time we could walk the rim and see everything clearly.
After lunch we took an abundance of pictures. Then we did some walking before getting back on the road towards Utah and the second stop on our great National Parks Tour!
- The Grand Canyon covered with snow was gorgeous, but prepare yourself for the lower temps if you go in winter!
- If you can afford to splurge on a train ride, it is absolutely worth it. First class isn’t necessary as all the train cars have the same great service. You just might have to pack your own breakfast and snacks!
- Do not rush your visit! One day was definitely not enough, even though you can see a lot in one day!
- If you can afford to stay at the El Tovar hotel, it has a wonderful restaurant. It also has some gorgeous views of the canyon! It is now on my future bucket list 😉 There are definitely affordable options in and around Flagstaff and Williams to stay OR camp.
- And the town of Williams has lots of great things to do. I highly recommend a visit there if you make your way out to the Grand Canyon. We did not take advantage of all the options, but there is always next time 😉