Las Vegas & the Grand Canyon

Getting there: Air Canada

Where we stayed: We split up our nights in Vegas with a trip to the Grand Canyon, so the first night in Vegas was at the Hilton Grand Vacations Suites on the Strip which had just opened. We got a great deal on basically a one-bedroom apartment (full kitchen, laundry, jacuzzi tub in the bedroom on top of a full bathroom), gym and pool/hot tub area were great, giant parking lot was a bit of a trek from the hotel. Near the Grand Canyon we got a Holiday Inn Express on hotwire for 2 nights. There are no deluxe hotels just outside the South Rim park, so this and its free breakfast buffet had to cut the snuff. In Vegas for round 2, we stayed at the newly-reno’d Tropicana which is a stupidly large hotel, but the room was nice and very cheap, and the gym and pool areas were good.

Fun: This was sort of a trip of polar opposites: Vegas in all its glam and the Grand Canyon in all its natural splendor. This was dpr’s first trip to Vegas – she was a skeptic (being a non-drinker and not a big gambler), but pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer – lots of food choices, shopping, and of course, open 24 hours. The Grand Canyon was a full day affair with a really well laid out park and surprisingly cheap, but good food.

Tip:  1. This is more of a warning than a tip: the drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon is a long one – 5 or so hours, which is initially a lot of interesting desert terrain and then pretty boring grassland once you’re in Arizona. Watch your gas dial accordingly, too – here aren’t a whole lot of stops along the way. 2. We were at the Grand Canyon to explore the Rim, and only do a bit of a hike down in to the Canyon itself – in any event, the South Rim is 6,000 feet up so it’s very cool to begin with and when the sun sets, even cooler – bring lots of layers and lots of water. 3. Make the most of your day at the Grand Canyon –  get up early to beat the crowds – our Holiday Inn breakfast buffet was packed for its 6.30 am opening. There’s a good tourist info booth when you enter the park – and you can park here and take the free shuttle bus from point to point if your feet are getting tired. 4. Bring good walking shoes! We spent nearly 12 hours at the Grand Canyon from just after sunrise til just after sunset. 5. We brought lots of water and snacks to the park, but there are a couple of restaurants – the food isn’t 5 star, but it hit the spot after walking all morning and the prices were actually not totally inflated.

Email diary:

May 26, 2011: Viva Las Vegas!

Hey Everyone!

Some of you know that we went on a mini-vacation over the long weekend (plus a couple of extra days), so I thought I’d send you my usual trip diary. We got to Vegas on Saturday afternoon after traveling in style – yay for the upgrade on a long flight! We grabbed our rental car (i.e. gigantic Dodge Nitro when they didn’t have our economy compact that we paid for!) and did a bit of shopping on our way in to our hotel, past the famous Vegas sign that was so small it was disappointing…Our first hotel was near the north end of the Strip, so we dropped off our things and went out to explore and have a tasty burger for dinner. We watched the outside show at Treasure Island and fountains at the Bellagio, and enjoyed the amazing weather (I think it was close to 30).

Sunday morning we started things off with a hot tub and pool, then off we went to Arizona to stay at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a long drive (nearly 5 hours) with a freaking traffic jam near the Hoover Dam and another about halfway there where we passed a 5th wheel that was flipped on the highway. Good thing we had some good tunes on the playlist….(I suppose this is relevant when I think that 50 Cent has good songs…). The scenery was not like any other roadtrip I’ve taken – it went from desert to crazy red mountains and rocks, to almost foothills, and then when we arrived at our hotel just outside the national park, I felt like I was somewhere near the mountains at home in Alberta (made me Alberta homesick!)- there were ponderosa pines all over and the little weenie town we stayed in was like Hinton.

Monday we got up super early and chowed down on our free Holiday Inn Express breakfast – us and the rest of the hotel – at 6.30 when the buffet opened the breakfast room was insanely packed. Off we went to the park just after 7.30, and we stayed there until sunset around 7.30 pm. What an amazing day! We went to a number of lookouts on the canyon’s south rim and everytime d2 took a picture I got nervous that he was going to drop the camera 6000 ft in to the canyon….oh ya, and besides that, the views were surreal. We walked all over between each lookout and eventually hopped on a shuttle bus to a few of the farther points. It was so crazy to be standing there looking at something that was formed hundreds of millions of years ago. We had tasty lunch at one of the hotels at the rim, and then we went for a walk on Bright Angel Trail in to the canyon. I was getting freaked out watching the people coming up the canyon, wondering if I’d be able to make it back up! We walked down for about an hour and when you stopped to actually then see how far you had to come back up, it was more than intimidating. It was amazing how much of a temperature difference there was, too, between the rim and further down in the canyon itself. Luckily I’d slathered on lots of SPF30 and wore my hat and shades all day, otherwise I would’ve been red like the canyon walls for sure. The colours of the walls were so cool – all kinds of reds and oranges, and we came across a few little geckos, squirrels, chipmunks, and squirrels. Luckily no snakes! The walk back up turned out to not be as bad as i thought it would – it took us about the same amount of time to come back up. By then my legs were shaking like Elvis’s – my calves aren’t used to all that up and down! We tried to find pictures that do the scenery justice. It was a bit cloudy when the sun set, so we only saw a bit of it, which was ok because by then it was super cold (close to 0), so we were ready to go in to town for some Mexican food topped off with churros. Mmmmmm.

Tuesday we headed back to Vegas via the Hoover Dam which was pretty cool. We spent time on the Dam plus on the new highway bridge that looks down on it. My palms and feet were busy sweating the whole time were were at the Grand Canyon and the Hoover D. Then back to check in to the Tropicana for the night on the south end of the Strip. We hung out at the pool (not too long so I didn’t turn in to a lobster) with all the kiddies (HA!) and the club beats….ah, I was so at home there. Out for a yummy steak dinner to a resto called STK that we’ve been to in NYC also, and then back to the hotel via New York New York and some of the other hotels. We tried our luck (i.e. none) at the slots. Yesterday we spent our last relaxing morning at the pool before we had to head to the airport around noon. Oh man, the temperature was so right there!

So Vegas was fun – a crazy different city, for sure. And the Grand Canyon thrown in to that was a good opposite – at totally the other end of the spectrum. Glad to be home….so sad to have been at work so early today …. since I’m still 3 hours behind, it was like getting up at 2.30 am today. Hope you all had an amazing long weekend!!

dpr and d2



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