Why not take a bit of time to enjoy the lazy town of Williams when planning a trip to the canyon?
Williams is one of those quaint little towns that you imagine to feature in a Western movie and, if it wasn’t situated on the famous Route 66, it would probably be even quieter than it is. There are a few streets with restaurants, shops and bars, but other than that, it is simple and very laid back.
We stopped off in Williams for two nights on our way to Las Vegas and our main reason for going there was for the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon Railway
Williams boasts an original steam train that does special return trips to the widest part of the Grand Canyon (www.thetrain.com). There are several different journey types available: coach class (around $70 per person return, excluding taxes), first class, observation desk and luxury (around $190 per person return, excluding taxes). It is worth noting that the observation and luxury decks do not allow children aged fifteen and younger.
Because we turned up on the day, we had to go first class there and coach class on the way back as coach class was full going up. If you do want to do this trip on a budget then you definitely need to book in advance! Fortunately first class was great and worth the extra money. We received a glass of bucks fizz once we had settled into our extremely comfortable recliner seats and there were soft drinks and nibbles available throughout the journey. The windows were large and clear and we had beautiful views over the desert. The journey to the canyon was around 90 minutes and very relaxing. You get around four hours at the canyon once you arrive, so there is plenty of time to walk around and venture inside a little if you can manage the steep inclines!
Put 'em up!
Not only was the journey itself great, but the Western theme was also fantastic. Before you board the train, a ‘gun show’ takes place by the station where all the family can get involved in cheering and booing the cowboys. It takes place on a proper outdoor set with tiered seating all around, and you can get your photos taken with the cowboys afterwards if you wish. There is also a country singer with a guitar who wanders up and down the train along the way singing old classics like “I’ll Never Forget Ol’ What’s-her-name”.
Whilst in Williams, we stayed in the Grand Canyon Hotel, which is apparently the oldest hotel in Williams (145, West Route 66). This is a very quaint hotel styled in the traditional Western way with lots of lamps, wooden flooring and mismatched textiles. There are a good variety of rooms available with the option of family rooms and it is in the perfect spot in Williams, close by to the main cross road and only a few minutes walk from the Grand Canyon railway. There are a few disadvantages to staying here. Firstly, you are right by a working train station so there are often train whistles going off and secondly, a lot of the windows are covered over, resulting in no natural light in some of the rooms. The covers are pale and don’t make the rooms very dark, but if you are planning on being in the room quite a bit or get a bit claustrophobic, then it is worth requesting a room with windows.
One awesome place to eat is Rod’s Steakhouse (301 East Route 66, Williams, 86046; 928 635-2671; www.rods-steakhouse.com/index.htm). It is easy to spot as it has a huge neon sign of a cow out the front. It gets quite busy, so it is best to book in advance if you can. We had the New York Strip steak, which was amazing and a massive load of chips. We had soup as a side, which seems to be traditional in a lot of America restaurants, and it was also very tasty. The drinks are quite pricey, but it makes up for the steaks being quite reasonably priced – not to mention pretty big!
The Pine Country Restaurant (7 North grand Canyon Blv, Williams, 86046; 928 635-9718; http://pinecountryrestaurant.com ) across from the Grand Canyon Hotel is an absolute must for breakfast and/or lunch. The most amazing home made pies are displayed in a chiller as you walk in, and you’ll find it very tricky to resist a slice– even at eight in the morning! It is a very friendly and laid back place with pine booths and chequered table cloths. The service is superb, with waitresses constantly wandering around topping up coffee mugs. I recommend the pancakes with bacon, delicious!
If you have plans to do the canyon and have time to take in a bit of southern culture in the process, then Williams is the place to go.