It’s been just over 2 weeks since returning from our babymoon and I am still on Cloud 9. Friends, if you are expecting a baby soon and can work a trip into your chaotic schedule, I highly recommend doing so. It was so nice to get away from the stress of everyday life, my never ending to-do list and everything there is to before baby gets here–not to mention just everyday life and work. When Tim and I were on our honeymoon, I worked everyday in Fiji and it is one of my biggest regrets. I hardly worked this trip and only maybe checked my email once or twice. It was what I needed to be able to completely unplug, relax and enjoy myself.
ICYMI, Tim and I crossed another state off our bucket list and we went to Arizona for the week. We drove to make a road trip out of it since we are just one state over, and it went better (and faster) than I expected. I was a little nervous being in the car for that long while pregnant, but we made it work and it truly wasn’t that bad. We knew whenever we got to Arizona that we would want to see the Grand Canyon because, duh. Shouldn’t that be on the top of everyone’s list when you go there! Not only that, but it is probably one of the first things you think of when you think of the state. I knew the Grand Canyon was going to require a lot of energy out of me and also a lot of activity, so I wanted to get it out of the way first so I could relax the remainder of the trip.
If you are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, then I’m guessing you’ve done research. I’m also guessing that you were probably overwhelmed by your research, too! I know personally, I’ve looked into it multiple times and I never knew which route to take or what would be best for me. Where to stay, where to eat, should I plan activities? I don’t know! Well, last year my in-laws took a trip up there with their couple friends and they told us about the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel. It was an experience of being able to stay at a hotel that had a train station that commuted to and from the Grand Canyon. They had package deals that would get you better pricing and everything was in one place. After they returned and raved about the experience and easiness of it, I was set on doing the same exact thing whenever it was our turn to go. We had originally planned to go to Hawaii for our babymoon, but due to the pandemic, we decided to make other plans. Arizona was our next choice, and I was excited because I knew that meant…we got to see the Grand Canyon!
In today’s post I’m going to be reviewing the first part of our babymoon which was the Grand Canyon–the hotel, the train, the city and everything you need to know in case you decide this is how you want to experience it as well.
*Going to start off by saying we purchased the hotel, train and meal package which included 2 nights at the hotel, train tickets round trip (we upgraded to the luxury parlor), and all of our meals excluding lunch.
DAY ONE: Road Tripping & Checking In
When we arrived in Williams, my first impression was “there is no way we are in Arizona right now”. It truly felt like an entire other state. I’m familiar with the Phoenix area of Arizona, and if you are too and haven’t been to Williams, you would also feel lost. It’s a totally different vibe, with a small town country feel. Which for me, was the last thing I was expecting! Regardless though, I thought it was cute and it definitely had it’s own unique charm to it. The weather was also much cooler, which I also wasn’t expecting. I packed for Arizona weather…you know, shorts, flip flops and tanks. Nope–it was around 40 degrees every morning which this pregnant lady was definitely unprepared for! So, note to you travelers: check the weather before you go because not every part of Arizona is hot. In fact, check the weather before you leave for anywhere! Pregnancy brain, people.
Again, old town feel! If you are looking for a hotel that is 5 stars and similar to the Ritz-Carlton–you aren’t going to find it here, I’ll tell you that much. I definitely knew that going into it and looking at photos beforehand, but I think some were under the impression (due to the name) that this was a super high class, fancy hotel. I just wanted to make that clear because some people messaged me during the trip asking about the rating of the hotel and such. I personally loved how charming it was and how it had a small town feel! It was an inviting place without a doubt, with warm & friendly staff. It stuck to it’s theme (Grand Canyon) and incorporated it at every chance possible. It is a hotel, but definitely the main point of it is to accommodate people taking the train. I forgot to take photos of our hotel room, but the images they have online are totally accurate. It’s your standard hotel room with everything you would expect! I was impressed with the bathroom size, I will say, but I will also say the beds were very uncomfortable. Just my honest opinion, and Tim agrees.
Did I mention how STUNNING this place is? I was amazed with how beautiful it was outside. Given that I was born and raised in Southern California, I’m not used to seeing leaves change colors on trees. At least not as beautiful as they were here. Now that I think about it, my favorite part of the hotel was the outside of it–being able to walk around, seeing the pretty trees, the mountains in the distance, the trains, the station, the cool weather. I felt like I was walking around a movie filming place!
DAY TWO: THE TRAIN & THE GRAND CANYON
What We Packed: sweatshirt, refillable water bottle, wallet (cash), hat, phone, portable charger, lip balm (super dry), snacks. That’s all we brought and also all we needed/used.
We got up bright & early at 6:30. At first, I thought maybe we could push it a little and that it was too early, but we were already up so we just went with it. In the end, I’m SO glad we did decide to get up at the time because it kept us from getting rushed later on. We had plenty of time to eat, then grab coffee/hot cocoa, walk around and get good seats for the show. If you hate feeling rushed, want time to eat and enjoy your morning, then I suggest waking up at the same time we did!
We mainly decided to get up that early though because of food. In the beginning, I mentioned that we got a package deal which included our meals at the hotel. The restaurant (for every meal we ate there) was buffet style. I had no idea how long the lines would be, and due to COVID-19 guidelines, you weren’t allowed to serve yourself, which made things slower than normal. I was shocked when we walked in at 7:30 to find we were one of the first ones. As we were leaving though (8:15), the line was out the door to get your food, and to even be seated. Keep in mind the show starts at 9 and the train leaves at 9:30. Yikes! COVID didn’t help things though, because tables were every other, distancing and more guidelines were put into place.
After breakfast we walked over (next door) to the train depot. Since we got the meal package, we were able to pick up our train tickets along with our meal tickets the night before. This avoided us having to get in line to pick them up Saturday AM. Instead, we went to the coffee shop and Tim grabbed his morning coffee and I got my hot cocoa. We took a lap around the surrounding area, got some photos in, had a chance to use the restroom and then were able to get seats for the show at 8:45. Meanwhile, the huge crowd from breakfast was rushing out and the train depot had a super long line for tickets. The show isn’t mandatory, just optional, so it was obvious that people had to skip out due to limited time. This is when I felt relieved for getting up early!
The show was mid-western theme with cowboys. Super cheesy, but still fun! They played a role in the whole day as they traveled on the train with us to the canyon, back home and ending the day. It was a fun touch to the experience, and you could tell the kids who were on board loved it.
After the show, we had 15 minutes to board the train before it left. I’m not kidding around–15 minutes or they were leaving without you. We got confused as to what end of the train we were on (Tim thought we were at the front and I thought we were in the back), and it resulted in us sprinting and having to hop on in the wrong cart because they were seriously going to leave. So trust me when I say, don’t take any chances! At this part, again, I was even more relieved that we got up early because can you imagine us rushing the whole morning and then having to sprint on the train? I hate feeling rushed, so that totally would have put me in a bad mood.
I decided to upgrade our seats on the train and I am so happy I did. I upgraded for a few reasons, 1. I’m pregnant and wanted to be extra comfortable 2. I get motion sickness 3. Food (lol) and 4. …why not?! I’ve been on a few train rides in my life and I felt like this one was more special than just a ride to LA, at least for me. I mean, it’s the Grand Canyon! I wanted to be able to see everything, have a great view, be able to order drinks and food and also be in a comfortable seat. Which is exactly what our ticket got us! We were in the very last cart, so we also had access to a large restroom and the outside of the train. They had a balcony that we could step out on at any point to get some fresh air or take photos of the view. We were also very spaced out (due to COVID, but also because we got individual couch chairs with tables), so it was nice to be able to spread our stuff out and not feel crammed. The train ride was about 3 hours, so I wanted the luxury of being able to stretch my legs and get some air when needed, especially if I felt sick. I was able to face the direction the train was going though, which made for it to be an easy train ride.
The most beautiful site friends…let me tell ya. I literally lost my breath as soon as we walked up to the edge. If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon before, then you know pictures will never do it justice. You just have to go and see it yourself. It felt like I was looking at a painting–it just didn’t even feel real. It was also much, much bigger than I imagined it. The train was perfect because it pulled right up to the station, and all we had to do was walk up a flight of stairs and straight to the canyon. Convenient, easy and my type of traveling if you ask me! Taking the train, we also didn’t need to buy park passes or tickets since it was a national park. Again, the train ride was about 3 hours, and then we got 3 1/2 (ish) hours to spend at the Grand Canyon before the train was headed back to the hotel.
Since you only have 3 hours to spend at the Grand Canyon when you take the train, you can’t do any of the activities–the hiking trails, white water rafting, etc. They take much longer and are in different areas of the park. Your only option in that case would be to take the train and not get back on, which you cannot take another train back later. They made it very clear you’d have to find your own transportation back as the tickets can only be purchased for round trip on the same day. So, if you are wanting to spend more than 3 hours at the Grand Canyon and are wanting to do activities, hiking, and going to different points, doing the hotel + train probably isn’t the best option for you.
In our case, it was just what we needed. As you all know, I’m pregnant–so all there was to do for us was take photos, see the gift shop, eat, and walk around. Which doing all of that took up our time and we were set. We both left feeling like we saw everything we could, getting the amount of pictures we wanted, and just getting to stare at its beauty. Tim is an adventurer and loves trying new things though, so I know he would love to go back with his friends and do the hiking trails or white water rafting. But for a pregnant couple on their babymoon, this was the best option!
The train was again, very prompt and waited for no one. While I’m unsure if anyone missed the train in the morning, we did leave one couple behind at the Grand Canyon as we were heading home. They asked if they could go up and take one more photo before the train left, and one of the cowboys (apart of the show) said, “Sure…just know if you don’t come back by ___ the train is leaving without you”. Well friends…they went and never came back. We left and the whole way home I was wondering what happened to them. And now, I’m wondering again what the rest of their day looked like. Probably really stressful and chaotic if you ask me!
The train returned right around 6 PM and we went to the buffet again to get dinner before winding down for the night. Even though I was exhausted, Tim wanted to get an appetizer at the restaurant in the hotel and also check out the brewery that was walking distance from where we were staying. We did both, and I was glad I pushed through my sleepiness to experience more. You better believe though that when we settled in our room for the night, I was out cold.
DAY 3: CHECKING OUT
Williams was only our first stop, so we were up early again because we had driving to do and didn’t want to waste the day. Had this weekend been our only stop, we definitely would have slept in and taken our time leaving. We were on the road by 7:30 AM to start the second part of our trip!
Overall, I thought this was a perfect way to be able to see the Grand Canyon–for us. It was just what we needed. Everything planned out and an itinerary. I run great off a schedule and I prefer to plan things out in advance for things like vacation, and so does Tim. I don’t think of the Grand Canyon as a resort style vacation, so my expectations were met and I enjoyed my experience of it. 100%, both of us would do it this way again! If we were to go again with family members or friends, I would still also pay extra for the luxury parlor seats we got on the train. I would maybe consider getting the higher priced bedroom (it looks the same…just more money and has more extras) just to see if the bed was more comfortable, ha. One thing I would definitely reconsider though, was the food portion of this part of the trip. I mentioned that we ate dinner and breakfast at the buffet, and let me tell you friends…it wasn’t good. I ate my meals (kind of) but both mornings and nights, the food options were the same. It was all half cold. And the food options were limited and not appetizing. Keep in mind though, I am a picky eater and Tim is not. He agreed that the food wasn’t great, but he was able to find different things to try and actually mentioned some things were “good” or “better than this”. On the way out driving through the town, we both said we wish we could’ve tried the local restaurants. No way to know now if it would’ve been better than the buffet, but it probably would have been. The only plus side to getting the food package, was never having to leave the hotel. For example, morning of the train. We would’ve had to get up even earlier than we did to leave the hotel and go get something. Definitely pros and cons to consider!
At the end of the day though, I loved this little weekend in this small town getting to see and experience one of God’s greatest creations. Now that I’ve been, I truly believe that everyone needs to experience this at least once in their life. If you have any questions about the Grand Canyon, the hotel or anything else of this weekend don’t hesitate to ask! Next parts of the babymoon coming soon.