Saturday, April 29, 2017

Great American road trip: Las Vegas to national parks and back again

For spring break vacation, my family and I flew to Las Vegas and took a road trip to the nearby national parks. We had a great time.
In Las Vegas, we saw the Britney Spears show “Piece of Me” at the Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood. It was a blast. (I previously saw her Vegas show in January 2016 while on a business trip. Since then, she rejiggered the production, adding her latest hit songs – “Make Me …” and “Slumber Party” – to the lineup.)
We also took in the touristy Vegas sites, including a drive on the Strip to check out the outrageous architecture and the ginormous hotels. Of course, we stopped for photos at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign.
We took a stroll on the Strip to catch the fountains and the botanic gardens at the Bellagio, the volcano at the Mirage and do some people watching.
On Saturday afternoon, I took my son to the National Atomic Testing Museum, while my wife took my daughter on the Linq Ferris wheel.
We arrived in Las Vegas on a Friday evening and departed on Sunday morning for our epic road trip. For the rest of the week, we didn’t stay in the same hotel for more than one night.

On our way to Grand Canyon National Park, we stopped to tour the Hoover Dam and later to visit Alpacas of the Southwest in Kingman, Ariz. My kids got a bigger kick out of seeing the cute alpacas than learning about the history and engineering of the Hoover Dam.
We stayed Sunday night at a hotel in in Tusayan, Ariz., a town just outside the entrance to Grand Canyon. (As we learned from voice actor Peter Coyote in the orientation film at the park’s visitor’s center, it is called Grand Canyon not “the” Grand Canyon.)
We spent the day walking around the South Rim, taking photos of the gorgeous views and learning about the geology and history of the park. We didn’t hike into the canyon. It wasn’t that kind of vacation. We stayed a little longer than Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983).
Next, we drove to Page, Ariz., for an Antelope Valley slot canyon tour on Navajo land on Tuesday. That same day we hiked to nearby the overlook of Horseshoe Bend, a canyon carved by the Colorado River.
Then it was back to the car and the drive to southern Utah. We spent the night in Kanab, Utah, and on Wednesday visited Bryce Canyon National Park. At Bryce we hiked into the canyon and got up close to the park’s famous rock formations called hoodoos.
We drove to Springdale, Utah, that night, which is just outside the east entrance to Zion National Park.
On Thursday, we spent the day hiking in Zion and enjoying in the otherworldly beauty of the landscape. The park was crowded for Easter weekend and so were the buses to travel around the park. We took three nice hikes at various trails in the park including the remote northwest corner of the park.
We drove back to Las Vegas on Friday and flew home on Saturday morning.
On our final night in Las Vegas, we had dinner at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace. The meal was incredible. My son is a big fan of the volatile British chef so it was worth it splurge on a good meal.

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