The city that promises endless excitement, entertainment, fortune and fame, Las Vegas will steal your heart away! Join Mamata Krishnamurthy as she reminisces about her trip to the mighty Grand Canyon and Sin City – Las Vegas, best things to do in Las Vegas and much more!
How many occasions do you have to remember every year as a couple? Wedding anniversary, first date anniversary, birthdays, first kiss anniversary, “first time we held hands” anniversary, “first time you said I love you” anniversary to name just a few. If you are the kind of couple that my husband and I are, then you would have celebrated numerous such events! While we were dating we found something new to celebrate each year. And we decided to gift each other travel experiences for these special occasions instead of gift pieces. And boy! Was that the best idea ever?!
So for my birthday we planned a small, 3-day getaway to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We were curious to find out what the big deal about Las Vegas was that attracted people to visit again and again. And Grand Canyon was on our wish list for the longest time. The wait was finally over!
While growing up I read about mountains and valleys, deserts and drylands, canyons and gorges. But never had I witnessed any of these. Part of me was like an excited school girl while we boarded our plane to Nevada. It was a 6 hour flight from New York to Las Vegas with a layover at Texas. Our trip was mid-July and it was the peak of summer season. We stepped out the cool, air-conditioned airport into the blazing heat of Nevada. We had nothing but backpacks on our backs and broad smiles on our faces. This was a perfect start!
We rented a car from the airport’s car rentals. To get to the car rental place (which is some distance away) there are airport buses shuttling back and forth every few minutes. We hopped on one and 7 minutes later, hopped off at the car rentals. We rented a small car and in less than 20 minutes were zooming off (or at least as fast as the car could take us within reasonable speed limit!) into the Nevada sun. The highways were so different from what we were used to. There was no greenery around. Just vast dry lands, a few different types of cacti, a few tall palm trees, and mountains at a distance seemingly touching both the land and the sky. With our windows rolled down, sunglasses to protect our eyes from the piercing sunlight, camera in hand, we were ready for one of the best excursions of our lives! So, here is a list of some of the best things to do in Las Vegas which we personally experiences and enjoyed.
Things To Do In Las Vegas
Scenic Drive In Red Rock Canyon
Our first stop was the Red Rock Canyon. It is located about 17 miles west of Las Vegas strip and offers some of the most spectacular geologic formations. We were extremely eager to lay our eyes on these majestic rock formations, mostly red in color. A board welcomed us to the Red Rock Conservation Area. We got off the car, snapped a few pictures, and got back in to experience the 13-mile scenic drive.
The Red Rock Canyon we found out offered more than just the 13-mile drive – numerous hiking trails, rock climbing spots, picnic areas, biking strips, and even horseback riding. Along the winding roads we saw gorgeous rock formations, mountains, and desert lands. The day was bright and cloudless. The light reflected off the rocks so beautifully that each rock looked a different color. We were mesmerized by what we saw. Being so used to skyscrapers, this was such a contrast and truly spectacular. Trust us, this is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas.
We spent a good two hours in the desert landscape. The bright, sunny afternoon suddenly gave way to grey clouds and some much-needed respite! On our way back we caught sight of numerous caravans parked in the desert. We wondered what it would be to live off land like a nomad. With our 13-mile drive coming to end, we were ready to tackle Sin City – Las Vegas!
Our hotel was located at one end of the famous Las Vegas strip. It was early evening when we checked in. The weather was cool enough to warrant a nice walk on the strip. We wanted to bring in my birthday at midnight in front of the very popular musical fountain by Bellagio. The fountain is beautiful to watch – the water dancing to the music. Don’t be surprised if you sway with the dancing waters too! We walked up the strip enjoying the colors, bright lights, blaring music, palm trees, and a variety of people. There are numerous restaurants you can eat at. Las Vegas caters to the taste buds of the world. It is also “the place to be” if you love your alcohol. We spent a day and a half visiting casinos at some of the biggest hotels in the world. You can still enjoy the architecture and the splendidness of these marvelous hotels without gambling at their casinos. That’s exactly what we did.
The Venetian gave us a very “Venice” feel with boats sliding through calm waters inside the hotel, the Bellagio was what you could call a “royal” hotel with beautiful ceilings and interior, the Caesar’s Palace boasted of making its guests feel like they were outdoor when indoor, MGM Grand stood up to its name – it was indeed grand with rich interior décor, complete with a small tropical themed restaurant, New York New York managed to take us back to New York and its familiar sights, the Luxor transported us to Egypt with its sphinx and pyramid theme, and so on. Each hotel had a common theme while still exhibiting its uniqueness – casinos. Known as one of the best things to do in Las Vegas, we were not surprised to see the crowd in casinos. Young and old alike hoping to turn their luck at the slot machines, roulette table, and playing black jack. Las Vegas can make or break you!
The ‘Grand’ Experience
We were more excited about our impending trip to the Grand Canyon. Las Vegas did treat us well but my husband and I could only like it so much. We left early on the third day of our trip to the mighty Grand Canyon. It lies in the state of Arizona, Nevada’s next door neighbor and a 4-hour drive from Las Vegas. There are two sides or “rims” to the Grand Canyon that are popular – the South rim and the West rim. Each rim has its own beauty. We decided to visit the South rim.
The drive was anything but boring! Our first pit stop was Hoover Dam on the border of Nevada and Arizona. It was a sight to behold. A massive structure built on the Colorado River that helps supply electricity to Nevada, Arizona, and California. It also is an enclosure to Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. The sky was bright, the water looked green, and a cool wind soothed our bodies from the heat that was relentless so early in the day. Snapping a few pictures – selfies, couple shots, shots of each other, and the dam itself, we headed to the South rim.
The drive was long with the Mojave Desert on either side of the highway. The landscape looked so dry that we wondered why anybody would inhabit such a place. But we did see a few caravans parked along the highway, just like we did by Red Rock Canyon. We found out that Mojave Desert also is known to be the hottest place in the United States and is called the Death Valley. Temperatures can reach up to 50 degree C during peak summers. There have been a few deaths especially hikers that take up the adventure without adequate preparation. Sends chills down our spines thinking of it, right?!
We reached the visitor information area in the Grand Canyon reserve. Even though we were not at a great height yet the first glimpse of the mountains was spectacular. My husband and I shared a few words between us while watching the view – wow, wow, and maybe a couple more wows! From the visitor center we started walking around the South rim to popular vantage points. The hike was not too tedious but in the hot afternoon we were panting and sweating in no time. We had slathered on generously copious amounts of sunblock, shielded our eyes with good old Ray Bans, a nice wide-brimmed hat for the head, loose clothing, water bottles, and a few protein bars to protect us against Mother Nature. But no heat could stop us from gazing open-mouthed at the mountains in the distance and the canyon right beneath our feet. We could also see the Colorado River snaking her way into Nevada. We gathered from information booths that there was only one known hiking trail in the entire South rim that the rangers had access to and was known on a map. All else was at your own risk. We also found out that winters could be as brutal as the summers.
As we made our way around the South rim, continually choosing to walk rather than take shuttle buses that pick up and drop off people from one point to another, we met many tourists like us – a couple from the UK, another from Canada, and a third from China. Everybody was mesmerized with what they could see. Sometimes nature has a way of uniting different people. We finally sat down on a large rock under the shade of a big tree for lunch. While happily chewing on sandwiches and fruit, we started talking about the West rim and why the South rim was more popular. The South rim gives more access to the canyon than the West. It’s easier to walk and hike and gifts us with spectacular sunsets. The West rim on the other hand has a Skywalk – a glass walk way that would make you feel like you were standing in the middle of nowhere – one of the best things to do in Las Vegas.
After lunch we hiked up further along the rim, jumping on to ledges to get good pictures and feasting our eyes. We also monkeyed around a bit – trying the popular “Kamehameha” jump and acting as though we were falling off the cliff! It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately we could not wait for sunset at the Canyon. Sunsets during summers can be late in the day – after 9:00 PM! We decided to head back in good time and rest our tired bodies. The drive back felt rather different – maybe dusk played magic with light and colors. Beautiful pink and purple hues, orange and yellow horizons, some blue and finally indigo. We reached our hotel in Las Vegas by dinner time. Though our bodies sang a different tune, begging us to sleep, our minds wouldn’t stop whirring! After a quick meal we headed out again to the Strip for a final evening and perfect adieu.
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About The Author
When I am not managing software, I am likely to be found buried in a book. I aspire to travel far and wide, finding freedom in the unknown. Among the things I love are writing, chocolate, and of course my better half!