Chugga Chugga Choo Choooo…Our Grand Canyon Adventure

We recently took our two big boys on a trip to the Grand Canyon for July 4th weekend and to celebrate Graham’s 5th birthday, which was July 3rd. The boys have been really interested in trains lately (especially the 2.5-year-old), and I googled “train rides in the U.S.” and came across the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel. The hotel is located right next to the train depot, and the train takes you into the Grand Canyon. What could be better for two train-loving little boys?!

Our train! Most of the cars are refurbished 1920s and 1950s cars.

We flew into Flagstaff and rented a car. It was about a thirty-minute drive to Williams, Arizona, which is where the hotel is located. With less than 300 rooms, the hotel was nice and cozy, and it has a great history. It’s also only two blocks from historic Route 66.
After checking in, we picked up our train tickets and went exploring. Williams is a precious little town, and we enjoyed dinner and live music that evening on Route 66. The next morning my kids were up at 5:00 am. They were still adjusting to the time change, and they were so excited to ride the train! 

Getting our kicks on Route 66!

Before we began boarding the train at 9:15, there was a cowboy show. It was awesome. The actors looked the part, the boys got to pet the horses, and we learned that this cowboy gang was known for robbing a train or two! After the gun smoke settled, it was alllll aboarddd! The train departs Williams, and it takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. On our ride there, we were entertained by live musicians and an attendant supplied us with bottled waters and fun facts about the train and the canyon.

I cannot tell you how many times this child said, “Chugga chugga choo chooooo!”
There it is! Absolutely amazing…

We spent that night at the Yavapai Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park. We rented bikes, which I definitely recommend if you have little ones. I underestimated the amount of walking we would be doing around the canyon. It is HUGE, and we only saw one area! It was absolutely breathtaking seeing it for the first time. I think the boys would have appreciated it more if they were a bit older, but Graham appreciated that some of these rocks were as old as the dinosaurs. We returned to Williams on the train the next afternoon. The best part of the ride back…the gang of cowboys showed up! They forced the train to stop and came aboard…and we were robbed! It was priceless to see the look on the boys’ faces when they saw the cowboys on their horses outside of the train window.

Oh no! The cowboy gang is coming for us!
4th of July Parade with my FIVE year old! God Bless America!

We got back to Williams just in time for the 4th of July Parade on Route 66! It was the perfect way to end our day, celebrating our country’s birthday. The boys loved the tractors, tow trucks, and firetrucks. They didn’t mind catching a few pieces of candy either. If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped spending the night in the canyon with the boys and spent more time in Williams. I say that strictly based on their ages. By all means, if you have older kids or just adults, spend as much time in the canyon as possible! It is magnificent! Overall, it was a wonderful trip where I was able to give my big boys some extra love and attention, which I know they enjoyed since mama has been busy with the twins (they stayed with my parents…thanks Mom and Dad!!). I would highly recommend the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel to anyone. If you’re planning a trip this winter, they do have the Polar Express! Chugga chugga choo choooo!

Katie Matherne
Katie left Baton Rouge and moved back to her hometown of Thibodaux in 2022. She has four (yes, 4) beautiful boys: Graham (7), Emile (5) and identical twins, Henry and Felix (2.5). Katie graduated from Nicholls State University in 2007, then from L.S.U. Law School in 2011. She practiced law in both private and state sectors, and stayed at home with her boys for a few years as well. She just started working as an Assistant District Attorney in Lafourche Parish, and in any free time she manages to find, she enjoys exercising, getting manis and pedis and binge watching shows on Netflix.


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