Grand Canyon railway hotel and train- don't do it

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by we"reofftoneverland, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. we"reofftoneverland

    we"reofftoneverland DIS Veteran

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    We recently spent a night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and took the train to the Grand Canyon the next day. I wanted to post some feedback on this, because I did not find a lot of accurate reviews on it before we booked. Trip advisor reviews are mostly favorable which is an unusual but major miss for me. I find most of their reviews to be accurate overall. I also wanted to post feedback because this hotel looks very nice on the website but is very different in person. This hotel is really subpar, so I wanted to caution people thinking of spending their hard earned money there!

    We did a two week cross country road trip to Disneyland at the end of May/beginning of June and stayed in many different hotels along the way. This hotel was easily the worst hotel we visited, and it was one of the more expensive. We stayed at Paradise Pier in DL, which was the most expensive, and the GC Railway Hotel was second in terms of price. We also stayed at a variety of Hyatt, Marriot, Hampton Inn, Wyndom, and one La Quinta (second worst hotel of the lot but no choice in the location).
    Problems with the hotel:
    1. Worst beds we have ever slept in. And we travel a lot. I don't usually even notice beds as I am not picky like that.
    2. Hotel has not been properly cleaned-- maybe ever. Visible dust EVERYWHERE. Awful musty smell in lobby and room. Sprayed an entire can of air freshener in the room and it still smelled. Never experienced that before. Glass entry doors visibly dirty, extremely so. Someone please tell them about Windex because I do not think they know about it. Carpets filthy, stained and not vacuumed. I commented to DH that the lobby area reminded me of a fraternity house after the weekend. He said, that's exactly it. The place seemed totally spent.
    3. The hotel looks like a series of inexpensive apartments. Online it looks more like a lodge, much more impressive. In person, there is a nicer entry tacked onto a series of very cheap buildings. Very strange set up.
    4. There are many signs saying park at your own risk. I wish I had taken a photo of one of these signs, because the way the sign was worded and the number of signs they had displayed actually made me worry about our car. We know this is true at any hotel, but did not see this kind or extent of unnerving signage at any other hotel.
    5. The people working here seem pretty miserable, which makes sense. Someone behind the front desk instructed a maintenance employee to clean up something while we were checking in and he gave her pushback about doing it. Later that night, after I had been to get something out of the car, the same employee was sitting around talking to another employee in the lobby, like they were hanging out. It was just weird. We prepaid our entire reservation, but I noticed on the paper I was asked to sign that we had also already put down a deposit of around $270. I asked what that meant and the employee said, I have no idea but don't worry about it. The people at the front desk were not warm at all.

    The railway preshow:
    This show was also subpar. Many reviews on line said it was cute, etc. Not at all, it was actually tacky and mind blowingly remedial. The guys doing it could barely remember their lines- and they were lame lines at that. This is nothing like Disney, just so poorly done. At one point in the "show," an "actor" points to the audience and calls them "rich tourists" they will "rob" later on the train, aka demand tip money. You could tell he really did look upon the audience scathingly. The entire thing was so strange. They did later walk through the train cars "demanding" tip money. DH was about to loose it. I wish we had just headed home early instead of bothering with the GC. It was our last stop.

    The train ride:
    The train itself was pretty cool. Your typical Thomas Day Out type of train ride. Except there was a "service attendent" tied to your car, and the guy on our car reminded us repeatedly that we needed to tip him. He was very annoying and talked over an intercom for almost the entire ride. Ugh.

    We have train loving kids, so we thought it would be fun to take a break from the car when we went to the GC. I might consider taking the train and staying in another hotel. But the shake down and supposed service attendant make even the train experience exhausting.

    As an aside, the Grand Canyon itself was a bit disappointing. Not sure if others feel the same way. Of course it was beautiful, but I felt a bit like Chevy Chase in Vacation and wanted to just get back in the car. lol. Only we were stuck there for 3 hours and had to take the train back to our car (another downside of the train). We visited other national parks and saw other vistas on the trip and were in awe at other parks, but not this one. On the way back in his constant chatter over the intercom our "service attendant " told us that most people only see the GC once in their lifetime. I though, yeah, especially if they see it with the GC Railway. No repeat customers for sure.
     
  2. cruisehopeful

    cruisehopeful Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.

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    Thank you for the detailed report. I was recently looking at this and thought it looked too gimicky for me. Sounds like it would be.
     
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  4. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Going into the Grand Canyon is a considerably different experience than seeing it just from the edge. It becomes something extremely different simply by walking down just a little bit.
     
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  5. beansmom

    beansmom Grumpy Grandma Extraordinaire

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    we did this in 2017 and I agree the hotel is 2star at most, found our room to be clean and, yes, the pre-show was cheesy but we totally enjoyed the train up and back. Of course, our attendants didn't put the squeeze on us but we did tip.
     
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  6. oakleycat

    oakleycat DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for this review. We've been considering doing this with our kids but will pick a different way of seeing the GC now.
     
  7. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    Sure the pre show gunfight is cheesy. It is supposed to be!!

    I disagree with your analysis that "an "actor" points to the audience and calls them "rich tourists" they will "rob" later on the train, aka demand tip money"
    This is not true at all. What they are referring to is that during the train ride there are cowboys who stop the train, board it and walk thru each car asking for jewelry, money etc. but they don't actually take anything nor ask for tips. The sheriff later walks thru asking the kids which way the bad guys went and chases after them. It's all for fun.

    If you only saw the canyon from the Village then you didn't see much. There are shuttles that will take you to many stops to the east or west with some interesting views and other things to see. We're locals so we've seen the canyon dozens of times. We still love to go just for a few hours, have lunch at El Tovar etc.

    It's been a few years since I've stayed at the hotel in Williams but it was very nice. The restaurant was subpar for breakfast however. Much better a block away in town at the Pine Country Inn. We have an RV and stay next door at the RV park which has the same owners.
     
  8. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    It's a fun train ride but rather long and slow. We greatly prefer to stay in Williams and drive to the canyon for the afternoon. Williams itself is a very fun route 66 town complete with original neon signs along its main street. Lots to do there such as Bearizona drive thru animal park and zoo, deer petting zoo, zip line etc.
     
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  9. DizneyMommy

    DizneyMommy Every Day is Disneyland Day!

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    Wow, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your stay! We have stayed there several times and have always found it clean and safe. It was remodeled a few years ago and the rooms felt very much refreshed the last time we stayed (maybe 2 years ago) We drive into the GC because we’ve always had small kids with us, but we have enjoyed the Polar Express event, dined in the buffet, and made it a pit stop on many road trips.
    They have a great indoor salt water pool which is open all year, to my kids’ delight. And Bearizona is right around the corner, which is so fun.
     
  10. we"reofftoneverland

    we"reofftoneverland DIS Veteran

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    Unfortunately, our experience was as it was. We wanted to enjoy it and had been looking forward to it, but it did not live up to the marketing at all. They do a good job with marketing, make it look like an upmarket vintage experience, disneyesque, but it is anything but. In the preshow, the actors did refer to the audience as "rich tourists" to "rob," and it was done in a way that smacked of malace. We like cheesy but the preshow was not quite cheesy, and not really in fun, but awkward and borderline. Other people around us agreed. Later, when the actors were getting ready to "rob" the train, our "service attendant" told us over the loudspeaker that they would be coming through the train to "rob" us and it is nice to have a dollar for them to "rob," and the service attendant also used the word "tip." He repeated it about 3 times, as the train was stopping for the "robbers." We had read about it online ahead of time and thought it sounded fun, but we did not realize ahead of time that it was for tipping. We are tippers and not shy about tipping, but this was a weird and forced situation. It made us feel uncomfortable. I just want to alert other people to what they will experience if they take the train. The 3 robbers come through individually and do pressure people, especially the first 2. The entire thing is just awkward. The 3rd guy was a bit younger and did not seem entirely comfortable with the charade. Most people on the train ended up handing over a dollar. We love trains, and the train is in very good condition. It is from the 1920s. If you are a train junkie, you might like taking the train even though the people running it are a strange bunch. But I wish we had known more about the experience beforehand. We still might have taken the train, but we would have been better prepared and not as disappointed.
    But there is no way I can recommend the hotel. The hotel was AWFUL, especially for the price. It was the worst hotel we stayed in over our 2 week road trip, and it was the second most expensive hotel we stayed in after Disney's Paradise Pier. I cannot speak to other folks' experiences of the hotel, but it was one of the most disappointing hotels in which we have ever stayed. It was not clean. Period. Sure our room was tidy, but it was dirty. And smelled. The lighting was dark and there was a diginess to it all. The beds were beyond repair. I don't even know if we were on a matress, or if they had stuffed lumps of things in a sheet. lol. And again, their everpresent marketing (once you google them, you will get ads forever-- I am still getting them) makes the hotel look like an upmarket lodge. The reality is far different. For half the price you can stay in other hotels in the area and still take the train the next day. I should have realized ahead of time that all the marketing was a bad sign.

    As for the GC itself, we walked about 4 miles along the rim. I think the problem is that it is so large that it doesn't seem real. I think @bcla is right that if we had taken a trail into the canyon, we would have appreciated it more. But coming off of the the "big tree" parks in California and the parks in Utah and Colorado, the GC was actually our least favorite. I am not saying we didn't think it was spectacular- it was, but Bryce Canyon, wow, takes your breath away. Hard to pull yourself away from it. After we had taken a few photos of the GC, we could have jumped back in the car and been satisfied, but every other park, we didn't want to leave. We kept saying we wish we had more time and how we would be back. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the GC.

    One other anecdote, that isn't on topic but will forever remind me of the GC, is how there were so many people taking dangerous photos at the GC. We didn't see that anywhere else. There were people every which way walking out into areas where there were inches in between life and death trying to get the perfect selfie. Interesting.
     
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  11. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    We'll just have to agree to disagree then! I've seen the show too many times to count and ridden the train a few times as well. You were probably expecting something different than it was. I nor anyone else I've talked to was expecting a Disney show. I wouldn't want it that way. The gun fight was similar to those done all across Arizona, in Prescott, Tombstone etc. Thats what I was expecting and that is what we saw. Disney does its fair share of trying to part guests with as much money as possible as well....but you go there expecting that. Often during the pre-show they start by asking how many are return visitors. A large number always raise their hands. They're there for a repeat based on their own expectations. So what you find malace, others find entertainment value. It's all about ones own likes and dislikes.

    I will agree the hotel isn't the best but for different reasons. I've had no trouble with the beds or cleanliness. I've seen those types of comments left at times for the very best resorts including at WDW. It happens to some at every resort unfortunately. For us I found the hotel fine but the restaurant was lousy and the staff was not very helpful nor friendly. We now stay at their RV park. The parks resort, store, staff and kennel are top notch.
     
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  12. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    I've seen that too and cannot understand why so many takes such chances. GC is the 2nd most visited park in the country. Just a ton of people at least during the summer months. They'll climb over railings to get that perfect photo. GC takes 1st place in the number of rescues as well as deaths. There is even a book about deaths at the canyon available in the gift shops there.

    About 35 miles east of GC village along the east rim road is the Little Colorado River Gorge. There are sheer cliffs most of which has no railings and loose gravel. Yet I'm not aware of anyone accidentally falling here. Maybe just a worn out sign is better than a rail.

    [​IMG]
     
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  13. VandVsmama

    VandVsmama DIS Veteran

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    THANK YOU so much for posting this review! I've thought a lot about doing a Grand Canyon Railway trip, but now I'm definitely going to pass. We will stay elsewhere!
     
  14. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    We've really enjoyed the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams. Very nice. About 1 mile west of town on Route 66.
    In town we like La Quinta or Holiday Inn Express which are new hotels.
     
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  15. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    If you can get lodging inside the park, it's ideal. Some lodging may be spartan, but there's a certain charm. The last time I visited, we stayed in lodging that's since been demolished. It was very basic feeling, but unlike a lot of national park lodging the room had a TV and a phone.
     
  16. oakleycat

    oakleycat DIS Veteran

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    Thanks, I think this is the way we're going to go to take the kids. My husband recently hiked in and camped on the canyon floor and said it was spectacular. I haven't been since I was a kid so I want my boys to experience it.
     
  17. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Were you thinking of hiking down or the mule rides (which are extremely hard to come by). Hiking down can also mean Phantom Ranch.
     
  18. GoHerbie

    GoHerbie Mouseketeer

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    We stayed in the Maswik Lodge in the south village, and we had fun waving to the Grand Canyon train! I definitely recommend staying IN the park for a night or two, because you'll see so much more than the few hours that a train ride offers (you'll spend as much time on the train as you do seeing the canyon).
     
  19. WVU Disney Fan

    WVU Disney Fan Mouseketeer

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    I couldn’t disagree more with the op. Just recently got back from a trip out west. We did the 2 night package(1 at railway hotel and 1 at Maswik lodge inside the canyon park). We loved the Grand Canyon railway hotel. Thought it was beautiful and rooms were clean and nice.

    We stayed at 5 different hotels during trip including Park Vue Inn across from Disneyland and railway hotel was by far the best. Had both dinner and breakfast at hotel and both were great. Had live music at dinner and the sheriff and gunman walking around at breakfast. Preshow was good for what it was cute but nothing to write home about. Both my kids loved it though and got their pictures with gunman and horses afterwards.

    Train ride there and back was nice and relaxing. We all enjoyed treats in the cafe car and train robbery in the way back was cool for the kids. Also had a bus tour included in the package at the Canyon took us to several good overlooks spots. All the employees at hotel and train were very nice and helpful to us.

    I would definitely recommend the train and hotel personally.
     
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  20. Sun_soakin

    Sun_soakin Mouseketeer

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    We did this two years ago and had a blast! I upgraded to their best room and it was fine, freshly remodeled and modern. Train ride, etc was fun and an easy way to visit (I’d taken our 4 kids by myself cuz DH couldn’t get away from work). We did the two night package. We also did Bearizona while we were in Williams and it was so fun.

    We actually plan to repeat this exact same trip again w/ DH sometime since it was so fun

    ETA- I’ll agree w/ OP on the lobby but our room was fresh and fine, and I’m very picky with hotels (we usually only stay at higher-end places).
     
  21. Huff

    Huff DIS Veteran

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    I don't think most others feel the same way. I find the GC breathtaking. There are several walkways along the rim and shuttles to take you to other vistas. Each with their own uniqueness. I do like the east loop better than the west. We have been there so many times sometimes we just spend time at the village and not go anywhere else. Have lunch at El Tovar, view the art in the gallery, find interesting things in Van Kamps etc.
     
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