Different Kathie here but I'm seeking the same information and thought I'd bump this up! The Grand Canyon RR looks better then Verde but would like to hear opinions.
Verde Canyon Railroad is awesome. Have been on Grand Canyon Railroad also. HIGHLY recommend Verde over GC railroad. Verde Canyon trip is through red rock mountains with streams, grassy areas with eagles soaring overhead. Even had live musical artist on the train playing Native-American pipe music. Wonderful!!
We stayed in Sedona at Poco Diablo Resort, nice place, reasonably priced, nice grounds.
Recommend going before mid May, after that it really starts to get hot.
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I live in Arizona and they are two entirely different experiences. The Verde Canyon Railroad is for the railroad experience. It is breathtaking beauty of the Verde Valley. We went coach class as we took a 5 year old but there is also first class. We had seats on an indoor car and then each car has it's own open air car. It was fantastic standing outside. You travel through the beautiful Verde Valley, where we even saw baby Eagles - be sure to bring your binoculars for a closeup view. The train goes about two hours, stops and stays a bit at the end where we had ice cream and then turns around. We all enjoyed the trip both ways and kept seeing new things.
We stayed in Flagstaff and then went to Williams for the Grand Canyon RR. That train is for the destination. If you are going to see the Grand Canyon, this is a fun way to get there but not much of anything to see off the train. That is why they stage gun holdups etc. Jerome is a fun place to visit - a ghost town turned artist community. Quite a road to get there. We stayed in Prescott this year and found it took quite a long time to get to Jerome. If you are going to Prescott - highly recommend the Hotel Vendome. 21 room Bed and Breakfast type hotel - nice continental breakfast and very nice owners. You feel like a guest, not a customer.
My husband and I just took the Verde Canyon Railroad last Thursday. It was beautiful!! I would highly recommend it. Bring your camera - there are tons of photo opportunities. We stayed in a charming B&B in Sedona called Boots and Saddles -our stay there was perfect (I just posted a review). We didn't look into lodging in Clarksdale or Jerome so I can't help you there. We did spend an afternoon in Jerome and it was fun. Lots of little shops, some unique some not. We ate at the Haunted Hamburger - great burgers and adds to the overall Jerome experience.
We haven't taken the Grand Canyon Railroad - we were considering it but didn't have a whole day to spend. You can do the Verde Canyon train and still have time to do something else because it's only 4 hours long. Also, I heard that the train ride to GC is kinda boring. Just desert until you reach the canyon.