I didn’t go to Vegas anticipating I’d be writing a post about it. In fact, it was meant to be my Blogging Holiday — an actual break just after Christmas, where I could not fret about documenting everything I did on our 3-day-break. When it comes to blogging, if there is one thing I’m not particularly great at (or a zillion), it’s balancing time with friends and blogging life. I stubbornly insist I will keep the quality time with my friends and not let blogging interfere. Easier said than done.
However, our trip to the Grand Canyon — a life-long dream, fulfilled — was too beautiful not to document. And, really, who am I without travel blogging? It’s my jam, my bread-and-butter, my PB&J (can you tell I’m hungry?). If I’m honest, I can’t have a trip without letting you guys know something about it. I love traveling and blogging too much. So, in the end, yes, I may have snapped a few pics of Vegas herd and there.
Therefore, this won’t be like my typical Travel Guides or anything. More of a photo diary combined with some tips and useful information about staying in Vegas and visiting the Grand Canyon. Essentially, the tips I wished we had read before we make the trip.
Spoiler alert: if you like cool photography and always being prepared, then you’re in for a festive treat.
Viva Las Vegas
This was my second time in Vegas. Although the first being a 15-year-old Eire’s galavant around Excalibur to watch the Merlin performances — not sure if that counts. In some ways, Las Vegas was probably more overwhelming to me now as an adult than it ever was as a kid. Bright, blinding lights, the thick smell of cigarettes and perfumes, the noise, constant. My serene nature-loving-self was a bit of a shock.
And yet, there is a certain charm about it all, and I can easily see how people fall in love with Las Vegas.
Where to Stay
We stayed at The Palazzo, which is connected to The Venetian. After a lot of research, our friends we were traveling with decided to stay at The Aria. Stag and I inevitably ended up spending nearly as much time there as we did the Palazzo.
After wandering through nearly all of the hotels and casinos, I have to say, those three were my absolute favourites. In terms of ambiance, what’s on offer, restaurants and just general feel, you can’t beat them.
Where to Eat
An absolute must is brunch or breakfast at Bouchon, The Venetian’s French-style bistro. A beautiful, European feel with some of the best pastries I’ve ever tasted. This is one of Stag’s favorite restaurants in Las Vegas, so we went for his birthday breakfast.
Yardbird was my culinary highlight of the trip, with downright amazing bloody marys and a menu that will make you drool. While we were eating at Yardbird, Black Tap had its Las Vegas grand opening. We may or may not have finished our lunch and made a beeline straight to Black Tap’s diner’style counters for an Oreo ‘CrazyShake.’ I have one word for you: NECESSARY.
A Note on Vegas Buffets
Vegas buffets are something of a legend, and you can’t beat the one at The Cosmopolitan. Admittedly, it was my first one, but Stag being a Vegas frequenter, he said this was one of his favorites.
Tip: feast on your buffet in the awkward food time between 3-5. No waiting (queues for Vegas buffets can be epic, or so I’m told), the time and space to plan out your buffet strategy appropriately, and you won’t be too full for the evening shenanigans. Perfecto.
Travel Tip: Bring Moisturizer
Honest to God, I have never experienced such instant dryness like I did in Las Vegas. Between the air conditioning and the dry, desert air, your skin, lips and hair will be desperate for a drink. Particularly for your lips: mine and Stag’s were almost immediately so dry and chapped that it was distracting. Make sure to take good-quality lip balm with you.
Travel Tip: Hunt for the $10 Tables
Because Vegas, cheap gambling tables are something of a myth these days. If you, like me, have no want for gambling except to experience it once, then head to a cheaper hotel for low-priced tables. Treasure Island was a good bet for us.
In the evening, keep your eyes peeled for the $10 tables, as they do exist, but they fill up fast. Get there early and stay; apparently, they honor your initial bet even if the price of the table rises.
Travel Tip: Add 15 Minutes To Your Journey Time
Honestly, we spent more time stressed about how long Ubers and Lyfts were taking than actually gambling. The traffic along the Vegas strip is insane. Whatever ETA a taxi or ride-share app tells you, add 15 minutes to it.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon. Somehow both a place I’d always dreamt of visiting and somewhere I rarely thought of. We decided to devote an entire day of our 3-day trip to Vegas just to see this beauty, located not even in the same state (it’s in Arizona, in case you’re wondering).
We embarked on the epic four-hour journey, coffees in tow, at the bleary-eyed hour of 6:30am. The plan was to make our way there — a couple of pit-stops along the way — stay for a couple of hours, and then make the journey home, back in Vegas for dinner time. For reference, we were heading to the South Rim, which is known for having some of the best views of the canyon.
What actually happened was the bane of many car-drivers’ existence: traffic. Traffic galore, in fact. Our 4-hour-and-change drive ended up taking 8 hours, and most of that was just to enter the park. We still had the drive home to look forward to…
However, despite all the grumblings and grumpiness of our group getting to the park so late, the beauty — and downright majesty — of the Grand Canyon instantly melted our worries. When there’s such beautiful nature to behold, how can you feel anything but awe?
But first things first…
Travel Tip: Stop at the Hoover Dam
Thank goodness our friends did some serious research, otherwise, we would have never known that the Hoover Dam is the perfect stopping point on your journey to the Grand Canyon.
Truth be told, after years of schooling, I really didn’t know what made the Hoover Dam so spectacular. Sorry, teachers. However, after visiting, I now know that, at least, it makes for one impressive site. It’s definitely worth a stop along the way, if you can fit it into your itinerary.
Another tip: do not pay for parking. Considering it’s mostly just a quick pit-stop for a photo, there is ample free parking outside of the visitor’s designated parking. Save yourself $10 for a drink in Vegas.
Travel Tip: There Will Be Traffic
To put into context: we were visiting the Grand Canyon at the beginning of January on a Thursday early afternoon. A.K.A, at a time when we expected absolutely no traffic, and instead we hit tons. The reason this traffic builds is that there are only a few gates to enter the Grand Canyon park, manned by actual humans listening to your stories and accepting your cash for entrance. It’s a slow, tedious process, and the traffic builds up quickly. Whatever time your GPS tells you, I’d double it. Or at least be prepared for hours of queuing in a single-lane road.
Travel Tip: Wait for Sunset
The one perk of being 4 hours later than we scheduled for visiting The Grand Canyon: we got to see the sun set over the canyon.
You’ll notice that some of these photos are strikingly yellow and orange in color, and others (like the one above) a deep, heady blue-purple. Rather than the result of my sweet editing skills, the photos are simply a true likeness of what we saw at 3 pm versus 5 pm.
After a bit of research, we discovered the best viewing spots for the canyon at sunset are Hopi Point and Yavapai Point, both of which are labeled on the map provided to you at entry. We ended up watching the sunset from the latter and even continued a bit further along the trail.
Travel Tip: Bring Warm Clothes (And Don’t Worry About Comfortable Shoes)
I don’t know why, but I expected seeing the Grand Canyon would involve, well, a hike. I was anticipating climbing some rocky terrain, winding up at the edge of a huge gorge, maybe having an existential moment of clarity, finding my inner strength faced up agains a huge purple sunset.
Perhaps I’ve seen Wild one too many times. Because what actually happened was there was a wide, flat, easy-to-walk path with about a zillion other people walking along it, too. While there were a few rocky outposts you could sneak out to and snap a more candid photo, the reality is, it’s just like seeing The Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, but minus the conveyor belt.
While I think there may be hikes you can do — proper, mountain-going hikes — if you’re just visiting for the afternoon or day, the reality is, you won’t need any special gear. I’m pretty sure I even saw tourists in heels and mini skirts and they seemed perfectly fine.
However, if you do decide to take my advice and stay until sunset, please be warned that it will get ruddy bloody cold. Desert weather means scorch during the day and freeze at night. Be prepared with lots of layers and a lot of stamina.
Without tooting my own horn too much, I honestly believe my outfit was the perfect Grand Canyon visiting ensemble. Thick leggings (because you’re in the car for a zillion hours), a long tee, a polished sweatshirt, and a leather jacket to top it all off. Oh yes, and a scarf and mittens tossed into your tote bag, because see above about being effing freezing.
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Have you been to either Las Vegas or The Grand Canyon? Are my tips useful? Where did you stay in Vegas? Let me know if I missed anything off this list!