Featuring the Grand Canyon Railway and Bearizona
Story by Cory Lee Woodard
Photo by Peggy Coleman Photography & Xanterra Travel Collection
This past summer, I visited Arizona for the first time, and I had one week to see as much as possible.
My trip started with a few days in Tempe and ended in the small, but charming town of Williams. While I was able to explore many places, two of my favorite wheelchair-friendly attractions were Williams’ Bearizona Wildlife Park and the Grand Canyon Railway.
As someone who loves interacting with animals, Bearizona impressed me. It’s known primarily for its drive-thru wildlife park, where you can stay in your own vehicle for more than three miles on paved terrain, admiring wolves, bison and bears (oh my!). I was lucky enough to see about eight bears during my 45-minute drive, and they were closer than expected.
After the immersive excursion, I rolled out of the car and visited Fort Bearizona, an area more like a traditional zoo, complete with shows, a restaurant and plenty of animals. It was paved and mostly flat–easy to navigate in a wheelchair. Bearizona is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is $25 per adult or $15 per child. Plan at least three hours to see everything; not a minute will be wasted!
The next morning, it was time to tick a huge item off my bucket list –See the Grand Canyon!
Instead of driving there, I rode the Grand Canyon Railway to the South Rim and absolutely loved it. The 2-hour and 45-minute journey started in Williams, where I boarded the train in my power wheelchair with a lift. It was a smooth process, and I had a great space to park my wheelchair during the ride. I was thrilled to discover a wheelchair-friendly restroom in my train car. If you need access on the train, just be sure to request it when making your reservation.
The ride offered incredible views. Pine trees lined the path, while hills and valleys varied the landscape. But one of the best parts was listening to a cowboy play the ukulele and sing live, right there on the train with us.
Once at the Grand Canyon, we were given about three hours to explore on our own before returning. I was awestruck by the vast canyon. It was unreal, like a painting. My expectations were high, but it still surpassed them.
Once I was able to tear my eyes from the view, I rolled along the South Rim paved trail, got a sandwich in a café and visited a few souvenir stores. A few hours was plenty of time for me to appreciate the natural beauty and vow to return to this surreal escape.
The train entertainment on the ride back was an enacted train robbery, all part of the fun!
It was a nine-hour day filled with remarkable memories. Whether you’re looking to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time like me or the 10th time, the railway is a unique experience.
For more travel tips, you can visit Cory Lee’s website, curbfreewithcorylee.com.
Cory Lee Woodard
Cory Lee Woodard is an award-winning accessible travel blogger, authoring Curb Free with Cory Lee since 2013.
Read more by Cory Lee Woodard.