We packed up our family of 7 in the minivan and left the green hills of Anaheim, California behind as we headed out on the Mother Road for our Route 66 high desert adventure. We were off to Williams, Arizona, where we would be staying at the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams before taking The Grand Canyon Railway to see the Grand Canyon for the very first time!
However, the journey to Williams takes about 8 hours from our home town, so we decided to break up the drive with a lunch stop in Oatman, Arizona to see the wild burros. I will go into more detail about this little mining town in a separate post, but it definitely made for a quirky little afternoon.
After lunch, light shopping and petting of some wild burros, we got back on the road en route to Williams, Arizona, taking the scenic old Route 66 through the winding desert roads. It was absolutely gorgeous in early spring with wildflowers everywhere!
As the desert landscape slowly transitioned to Ponderosa Pine forest, the excitement was building. We were getting closer and were so ready to get out of the car and drop our bags at the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams.
See what it was like on our Route 66 family travel VLOG:
Disclosure: We would like to thank and acknowledge Best Western Hotels & Resorts for sponsoring our Route 66 family road trip and providing accommodations along the trip, including at the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams, for review. As always, all content and opinions are genuinely our own.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER.
Staying at the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams
If you have ever traveled long distances with kids, you know what a relief it is to finally reach your destination. We were tired, hungry and ready to check in. As the automatic doors opened to the hotel the sweet tunes of what sounded like live music wafted through the lobby. If you know us or have seen much on our content, we are a little OBSESSED with live music. (See our favorite kid-friendly places with live music across the US HERE).
With my legs stiff and hair a mess from the long drive, I rushed towards the sounds of guitar strings with a new found energy. YES! It was dinner time and they had live music right upon entering the lobby of the hotel. Beyond that I could see the flickering of what appeared to be a fire pit on the patio. I knew instantly that this was going to be a great stay!
Love the Location
The Best Western Williams, AZ is located right off Interstate 40 along the historic Route 66, just about 5 minutes from downtown Williams. It is a great choice for those planning to ride the train from Williams Depot into the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon (which we did and you can read more about below). You can check rates read more reviews on Best Western’s website HERE.
We’ve also stayed at the Grand Canyon Railway hotel for the Polar Express Train, but besides the convenience factor of being at Williams Depot, there are several reasons we’d actually prefer the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams (keep reading to find out why!). It is also a great family hotel near Bearizona, which is located just 10 minutes away (5 miles). Check rates HERE.
Western View Steakhouse
The Western View Steakhouse is the restaurant onsite at the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams. It is located right behind the main lobby on the other side of the grand dual fire place, with sweeping views of the Ponderosa Pine Forest.
The Western View Steakhouse is open daily for the complimentary breakfast from 6:30AM to 9:30AM as well as nightly for dinner service from 4:00PM to 10:00PM. This is where we enjoyed four meals of our trip, including two breakfasts and, yes, two dinners.
We did make it down for our yummy breakfast each morning, but barely. The hubby would take the kids down first, so I could finish getting myself and the baby ready in the room. Mornings are rough for a family like ours and that is what is so nice about having a complimentary breakfast inside your hotel.
You can sprinkle down at your leisure without getting the kids all hangry (hungry and angry) waiting for mom to get ready. You can also bring goodies up to your room (if you aren’t completely ready to commit to the day ahead).
As you may have guessed from our first impressions, we definitely had dinner at the Western View Steakhouse the night we checked in. We excitedly settled into a table right in front of Omar Mondragon De Leon, the live musician for the evening who has been entertaining visitors to Williams for over two decades.
Let me tell you, we had a blast! The wine was flowing, the filet mignon melted in my mouth, the staff was beyond accommodating and sweet (shout out to Esteban our server and Sergio the bartender, you guys were GREAT!) and the music was on point. My son, Kevin, even claimed Omar was his favorite live musician we’ve ever seen, and that says a lot considering how much we enjoy live music with our kids.
If fact, we loved it so much that we changed our dinner plans the next night and opted to come back in enjoy Western View Steakhouse again. I don’t regret that decision at all.
Adjacent to the Western View Steakhouse, adorned with life-size Kachina statues, is the Kachina Lounge. The live music plays right between both the lounge and steakhouse, so guests who just want a drink can also enjoy the entertainment or the beautiful forest views. The Kachina Lounge also offers daily appetizer and drink specials, so it is definitely a fun place to hangout.
Other Amenities We Love
The Business center/Computer Room is located next to the Kachina lounge, which worked out great for us. We ended up making friends with another traveling family and the kids had fun watching YouTube videos together while we chatted with the parents.
The swimming pool was closed due to the cold temperatures during our stay, but had awesome views of the forest. We’d definitely like to come back and stay during the warmer months to enjoy that pool. The hot tub was open from 8:00AM to 10:00PM, but we opted for the fire pit, located on the pool deck behind the Western View Steakhouse and Kachina Lounge.
The fire pit, open from 4:00PM to 9:00PM, was a definite highlight for us during our stay. After dinner both nights we took our drink and sat around the roaring fire in the cold night to chat some more and meet fellow travelers. You can hear the music from the patio with crystal clear speakers, too, so you don’t miss out of the fun inside!
What I love about staying at Best Western Plus is that there is almost always a guest laundry facility, which is so nice when you are traveling with kids. Since we were on a road trip with a big family, I had to pack as light as possible. Well, kids are messy. We had a liquid fiasco, taking out two clean outfits and a couple jackets on day one, so having a guest laundry facility onsite really helped a mama out.
If you’re the type that likes to get that daily workout in, then you’ll appreciate the onsite fitness center, open 24 hours daily. My kids actually enjoy gyms, so I will take them down with me sometimes to squeeze in a morning sweat.
Also, I would like to note that Best Western Plus Inn of Williams is pet-friendly, so you are welcomed to bring along your doggies, kitties and kiddos. Ha!
See availability, more photos and reviews of BW Plus Inn of Williams HERE.
Taking Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim
The historic Williams Depot, built in 1901, is located less than a mile down the road from the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams, which made it super convenient to make the 9:30 train for our perpetually late family.
We love trains, so we were really excited to take The Grand Canyon Railway for a two hour journey to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.
I definitely recommend this mode of transportation when traveling with kids, because it takes stress away from the parents trying to navigate to the Grand Canyon, plus there are refreshments, entertainment and lovely views along the way.
The cost of the journey depends on the class of service purchased, but all class prices include your entry into the Grand Canyon National Park. There are six classes to choose from: Luxury Parlor, Luxury Dome, Observation Dome, First Class, Coach and Pullman. However, The Luxury Parlor and Luxury Dome do not allow children and the Observation Dome doesn’t allow kids under the age of 2.
We were on a budget and opted for the Pullman Car, which I have to say was fine. More than fine, actually, we loved it there. I love history and the car we were in happened to be their oldest car, almost 100 years old from the 1920’s. Our guide along the way was Breanna and she was so funny, great with the kids and gave us tons of useful information, which made our visit to the Grand Canyon with kids extra special and enjoyable. Plus, we had fresh air, entertainment, snacks and beer. It was all good and I would definitely do the Grand Canyon Railway train again.
Hot Tip: During Christmastime, this same train transforms into the Polar Express where you can ride the train with your kids in Christmas jammies while drinking hot chocolate and singing carols. It is boatloads of fun!
Things to do in Grand Canyon South Rim with kids
First let me just say that the South Rim is absolutely gorgeous. We also lucked out on the weather – I mean, this might be my favorite photo we’ve taken of all time!
If you are coming by train, the train will let you off at the base of the historic EL Tovar Hotel. There are stairs and ramp leading up to the hotel. There is also a complimentary handicap shuttle for those requiring assistance. Here are some options upon arriving at the train depot:
- Take a Grand Canyon tours
- Walk the trails along the South Rim
- Explore the many shop at the Village Historic District
- Have a long leisurely lunch
Grand Canyon Restaurants
The Train arrives at the Grand Canyon Depot around 11:45AM, just in time for lunch. Now, some people don’t want to spend time at the Grand Canyon eating at a restaurant and for those people, there are a number of options.
Quick-Service Grand Canyon Restaurants
- Bright Angel Bicycle Rental and Café
- Canyon Village Market General Store
- Delicatessen at the Marketplace
- Yavapai Lodge Coffee Shop
- Maswik Food Court and Pizza Pub
Full-Service Grand Canyon Restaurants
Arizona Room at The Bright Angel Lodge – We are not those people. We thrive on a full, sit-down dining experience. Gratefully, our guide on the train, Breanna, told us about the Arizona Room at the Bright Angel Lodge. She told us that it was only restaurant that had a view of the Grand Canyon from every table and wasn’t overly expensive. She also warned that the dining room gets busy and there is often a wait. So thanks to her advice, we made a beeline for the Arizona Room as soon as the train arrived.
We took our time with lunch. We had a lovely table, fabulous food (I recommend the Green Chili Tamales) and cold beers while gazing at the majesty of the Grand Canyon with small children from a safe environment.
Harvey House Cafe – Also located at The Bright Angel Lodge, this is more of a casual dining option to grab burgers and sandwiches. The décor is to reflect the nostalgia of the Fred Harvey era. Although this establishment offers good prices and food options, it does not have views of the Grand Canyon.
EL Tovar Dining Room – We originally planned on dining here, because of the cool history of the hotel. It was built in 1905 and the dining room has a really cozy atmosphere. It is extremely popular and often requires a reservation (which we did not make). Although, the dining room does have views of the Grand Canyon they aren’t available from every table like at the Arizona Room.
We used our last couple hours to walk carefully along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Now, much of the rim in this area has guard rails, yet people still manage to fall to their deaths every year with two of them happening within a couple days of our visit. So please be careful while visiting the Grand Canyon with kids. As our guide told us, “you may be on vacation, but gravity still works here.”
We told the kids they had to hold onto an adult’s hand the whole time and were not allowed to walk ahead without us. We felt very safe and did not get too close to the edge for any of our photo opps.
All in all we had a great day with plenty of time to explore the magnificent Grand Canyon. When the time came to board the Grand Canyon Train, were ready to head back to our lovely hotel, Best Western Plus Inn of Williams, to have dinner and relax by the fire pit with live music.
Quick Tips for Visiting The Grand Canyon South Rim with Kids
- Drink plenty of water due to high elevation.
- Bring your own reusable water bottles, because bottles are not sold within the park for environmental reasons.
- There are free shuttles to take you to various spots on the South Rim, including a handicap shuttle for those needing assistance getting from the depot to the rim.
- Enjoy lunch at the nice restaurants. Arizona Room in particular has great views of the Grand Canyon.
- Stay away from the edge of the Grand Canyon, don’t step over guard rails (duh) and please hold on to your kids.
- If taking The Train, don’t venture too far from depot as the train departs at 3:30PM with or without you.
The Grand Canyon Train Back to Williams, AZ
On the way back, the Grand Canyon train offers refreshments and provides entertainment to keep everyone awake after a brilliant day at the Grand Canyon.
What was really exciting for the kids was looking out the window to see outlaws on horseback riding along the Grand Canyon train. Sure enough the train slowed to a stop as our guide prepared us for an old west robbery.
The bandits boarded the train, the kids playfully screamed, waving dollars in the air before the sheriff came and set things right. It definitely gave us the boost of energy we needed after a stimulating day at the Grand Canyon.
That’s a Wrap
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for an easier family trip to the Grand Canyon. Honestly, staying the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams was one of our highlights of the trip. If you are planning a family trip the Grand Canyon, the Best Western Plus Inn of Williams is a great option (last chance to click and check rates real quick HERE). It made visiting the Grand Canyon with kids so easy with its location convenient to the Grand Canyon Railway and complimentary breakfast. Add in the fire pit, live music and great onsite restaurant, we can’t wait to go back and stay again.
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