One disadvantage to playing with the same group for years and years is you learn your players styles and they learn yours. Sounds ideal but it really isnt. The group i have played with over the years has subtly changed as people come and people go. Over all the dynamic of this group is fundimentaly the same. They need their hands held. Drop my group of friends in a sandbox and they will blunder about hopelessly.
I prefere to run a sandboxy style game. This tends to make the occasions of play a bit rocky. If I try to drop a clue about future events or past history they will bird dog after it. They could never disern a clue from a plot hook. This forces me to need to run a railroady type game.
The few con games we have played at my group has really shined. They take to railroads like a duck to water.
For me providing them a railroad with a few choices. Perhaps a train station (allowing access to a few railroads) works ok.
I have heard of DMs who drag and drop adventures which ever way the party go. Thats a bit too much for me. But it helps give the illusion of freedom.