I do know the answer to your post Jim (nice one that) but I'll leave someone else to respond to it.
I feel henneths comments are misleading. Snowdon Mountain Railway is a a narrow gauge rack and pinion railway which was built over a hundred years ago. Rack and pinion railways are common in Switzerland but this is unique in UK. Local railway it is not. Each train is a single coach seating about 60 passengers which is hauled up the mountain by a steam loco.
There has been a certain amount of discussion about the train here:
It is a very popular tourist attraction and the trains do get very busy. If you have not booked a ticket in advance you may have a long wait to get a seat. There is little space in the coaches and when full you are rather packed in like sardines. It can be quite a bumpy ride - it is a heritage railway.
If you have problems getting a seat on the mountain railway there is always Llanberis Lake Railway near by which is another narrow gauge steam railway.
This was an old slate railway which carried slate from the quarries to the ports.
Weather can change quickly on Snowdon. It can start off as a beautiful day and then the clouds can roll up and obscure the views. There is no point in paying a lot of money to go up Snowdon if visibility is not good. Also if conditions are bad on Snowdon an 'alternative hike' may not be a sensible suggetion. If you do intend to do any walking please make sure you have sensible clothes (not jeans which will chill you quickly if it rains), carry waterproofs and have good footwear. You will also need a map or guide book with clear directions. Treat the mountains with respect. They do kill people every year.
Llanberis itself is a popular tourist town. It was an important slate mining area and the National Museum of Slate mining is here and makes a fascinating visit.
There is also Dolbadarn CAstle (free)
As Jim suggests, Betwys y Coed is a good base in the heart of Snowdonia, reached from Llandudno junction on the Conwy valley line. However getting from Betwys y Coed to Llanberis for Snowdon by public transport is not easy .
If you decide to use this as a base, you could get a train from Betws y Coed to Blaenau FFestiniog.
Timetable can be downloaded from this site.
This a good run through the heart of Snowdonia. At the top you go through a tunnel and suddenly emerge into the slate heaps around Blaenau Ffestiniog. This is dramatic. Blaenau FFestiniog was the slate capital of Wales and all the best slate came from here. You can visit Llechwedd Slate caverns.
Alternatively cross the platform at Blaenau Ffestiniog and catch a train on the Ffestiniog Railway. This is another narrow gauge steam railway which used to carry slate from Blaenau to the wharves at Porthmadog.
I must admit to being biased here - this is my favourite railway and I much prefer it to Snwdon Mountain railway. It is a lovely run. Either do the return trip to Porthmadog or else get off at Tan y Bwlch (cafe and drop down the trail to the lake) and catch the train back to Blaenau and then back to Betwys y Coed.
Rather than Llanberis or Betwys y Coed,
Another option for a base is CAernarfon. Get the train to Bangor and then bus to Caernarfon, a medieval walled town with ruined castle.
From here you can catch the newly opened Welsh Highland Railway.
This is another narrow gauge steam railway which has been rebuilt on the track bed of a line that closed nearly 80 years ago. It runs along the flanks of Snowdon to Beddgelert and was due to reopen to Pont Croesor at the end of May ( a few miles short of the final destination of Porthmadog). I've not been on this railway yet but daughter has and says the scenery is even better than on the Ffestiniog railway (which is high praise from her as she used to be a fireman on the Ffestiniog). This would make a memorable day out.
Choice of overnight may depend on where you can get accommodation at his late stage.
Looking at the different tour options, the Wales Coast and Mountains offered by International Friends will probably meet your requirements best (even though like Jim I am not too sure about the description of Conwy as fishing village).
Snowdonia in good weather is magic. Basically whereever you go it will be good. As Jim says there is a lot more to Snowdonia than the mountain.
Edited: 08 June 2010, 23:23