It’s Vegas Baby! Zion, Bryce and Antelope Canyons are amazing too!

18 07 2012

I recalled some while ago, there was a breast cancer awareness campaign whereby based on your birthday, you will be given a “destination” and how long you will be there. Over the campaign period, I have seen many friends posting that they will be going to places like Munich, New York, Moscow, etc for XX months or years. The “curious me” took part as well and guess what, my “vacation” is supposed to be Vegas! Somehow (God knows why) it sort of gave me an “inspiration” to launch “Project Vegas 2012”. I know this sounds silly but indeed, just some stupid campaign like this got me to start planning for a trip to Vegas. Oh well, there’s always lots of good reasons (no matter how silly they can be) to get oneself out for a vacation right? Hahahha =) So Vegas here I come!!!

What seems like a silly campaign turns out to be not that silly after all. I had a great blast in Vegas and now screaming “I love Vegas and want to go back!!!” Vegas is indeed amazing and i have fallen in love with the city, actually it’s love at first sight. It amused me that in the middle of nowhere (Vegas is in the middle of the wild desert if you don’t already know), there exists such an amusing city. Eiffel Tower, Statute of Liberty, Pyramids, Venice, Rome, Bellajio, etc can be found in this amazing land (or what used to be wilderness). Of course, for those who want to try their luck, there’s no where in the world like Vegas (I was not asked for my ID when I played but when I. ordered alcohol, I had to show my ID lol). Not just that, great food and shopping, great place to catch great shows, a “hip” place well known for its great party venues (of course the Vegas code of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas help), how can anyone not love Vegas? Now I understand why I friends have claimed that they can visit Vegas yearly without getting bored!

Braving the desert heat in the middle of summer (all because I wanted to be there for the Independence Day fireworks and sale :p), I spent eight nights in Vegas. Yes EIGHT nights! But I still felt it was not enough. Vegas has just way too much to offer. No don’t be mistaken, I am not a gambling addict that stick myself to the casinos day and night. No no no…In fact, I don’t play at all (apart from the free $10 credit which Wynn gave away). But Vegas is not all about its casinos. During the day, I was so preoccupied with hotels hopping (going from one theme hotel to another and posing for photo shots) and of course, indulging in the great food (lots of nice dinner buffets and fine fining) and shopping the city has to offer. When night falls, there are so many great shows to watch (and so little time). I managed to catch Celine Dion which received many standing ovations during the hour and a half concert, Viva Elvis Cirque du Soleil and of course, the free shows at various hotels along the Strip. I was also lucky enough to be in Vegas during the Independence Day week and was treated to a nice fireworks show at Caesar Palace (ok as a matter of fact, I planned my trip to coincide with Independence Day). With so many happening stuff, it is little wonder why eight nights still left me feeling that I haven’t had enough of Vegas and can’t wait for my next visit.

Apart from just wandering in the city, the “explorer” in me decided to venture out to sights in nearby Arizona and Utah for a little sightseeing. So I made a day trip to the famous Grand Canyon South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park to see one of the wonders of the world. As it is quite a distance from Vegas (around 4 to 6 hours drive depending on traffic), I decided not to take the wheels but rather “donald trump” (aka fly) into Grand Canyon. Yes, I LOVE to fly and I won’t be shy to acknowledge this. Flying saves a hell lot of time and I just LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT lol. In fact, I highly recommend flying into Grand Canyon if you can stretch your budget a little (ok it’s more than a little). It saves a lot of time, is less tiring thus ensuring that you will be in the best shape to enjoy the canyon, and the aerial view of Hoover Dam and the Canyon from high up provides an even more majestic and magnificient view of the canyon. Being a lover of flying, I also took the helicopter ride at the South Rim to get me up close to the canyon and also fly to the North Rim and the whole helicopter ride is indeed amazing! Note that tours (both bus and flight tours) offer the option of either the West Rim or the South Rim. For West Rim, there are helicopter tours directly from Vegas or you can choose to drive or take the bus to the West Rim (around 3 hours drive) and take the helicopter from there. For the South Rim, there is no helicopter directly from Vegas. You will need to take a plane to Grand Canyon Airport in the South Rim (or take the bus which typically takes 4-6 hours) and take the helicopter ride from there. The West Rim has a skywalk which allows visitors to walk on the glass panels to see the canyon below your feet. But even though the West Rim is part of the Grand Canyon, it is NOT part of the Grand Canyon National Park (which includes only the South and North Rim). Most photos that you see on Grand Canyon are taken from the South Rim. So personally, I will recommend the South Rim for first time visitors as it provides a more classic view of the canyon and is much more majestic. But if you choose the nearer West Rim, you will still find it nice as well ๐Ÿ™‚ For flight/helicopter tour operator, I really like Maverick and find their service really good and professional. But the downside is that they are more expensive so if you want a cheaper option, you can try out Pavilion or Grand Canyon flight/helicopter.

Apart from Grand Canyon, I also made a separate trip to Zion National Park in Utah which is a 3 hours drive from Vegas. Coloured with reddish and tan-colored sandstone with soaring cliffs and great basins, Zion National Park is rather scenic as well.

Bryce Canyon (also in Utah) is also another nice national park to visit and is another 3 hours drive from Zion. Bryce is not really a true canyon but an amphitheater of magnificent red rock formations created by erosion in the high Colorado Plateau (called hoodoos). In fact, I love Bryce more than Grand Canyon as I find the colouts at Bryce much more vibrant (apart from the flying and helicopter ride in Grand Canyon which is the highlight to me).

But all said, the highlight of my whole US trip this around which really makes me go wow wow wow is really Antelope Canyon near Page in Arizona. The canyon is so beautiful that it made me wonder for a second whether it is real, so much so that I feel it warrants a separate post so visit https://thecarefreetraveller.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/antelope_canyon/

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Tips:

1) Visit Walgreen where you can get water, food and souvenirs. There are a couple of them along the strip such as at planet Hollywood & Venetian. Don’t get souvenirs at souvenir shops without checking out Walgreen first as the price difference can be huge.

2) Get show tickets from Half-tix which has a few booths located along the strip (eg outside Treasure Island, in Fashion Show Mall). Don’t be bothered with the dining vouchers as they are not really good deals so why lock yourself on what you can eat?

3) Do catch the free shows especially the Bellagio fountain show (after 7pm is once every quarter) and Treasure Island show (one at 8.30pm and another at 10pm). What you can do is to start with the Treasure Island show at 8.30pm and then walk over to Mirage volcano show at 9pm followed by the Atlantis show at Caesar Palace at 9.30pm before moving to Bellagio for the fountain show. With this, you will be able to cover the free shows in 1 night.

4) If you are thinking of watching Celine Dion (which I will highly recommend), make sure you book the tickets early as they sell pretty quickly. For other shows, there’s no need to book upfront as you can get cheaper tickets from Half-tix.

5) It is possible to walk from one end of the Strip to another. However, given the heat (don’t forget that Vegas is in the desert), it may be advisable to take the bus (the Deduce and Express bus). A 2 hours ticket cost $5 and the 24 hours ticket cost $7. You need to buy the ticket from the ticket machine at the bus stop before you board the bus.

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Shopping:

1) There are many shopping malls linked to the Casinos eg in Venetian, Forum Shopping Mall (beside Caesar Palace), Miracle Mile Mall (beside Planet Hollywood), Crystals shopping mall (beside Cosmopolitan). The Fashion Show Mall opposite Venetian is a great place to shop and has a Macy’s there. Do go to the visitors’ centre in Macy’s to get the discount card which gives you an additional 10% discount.

2) For outlet shopping, there are 2 outlet malls in Vegas – one in the South and the other in the North. The South outlet is nearer to the Strip and is indoor hence may be great if you have limited time and prefers to be in the shade. The North outlet has much more stores so if you are fine to brave the heat and travel just a little further, this will be a better place to shop. Both outlets are reachable via the Express bus from the Strip. Make sure you go to the Premium Outlet Mall online website to register and print out the coupons to get the VIP booklet and extra coupons for additional discount.

3) Get the free cards from the various casinos for dining privileges.

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Nice food to try:

1) The Wicked Spoon Buffet at Cosmopolitan has quite a good international spread and good quality food and is my favourite buffet so far. Do go early as there will be a long queue at later timing.

2) The Buffet at Bellajio has a great spread and really popular as well (but quality wise I think Wicked Spoon is slightly better). Do go early to avoid the long queue.

3) The Cut at Palatio (beside Venetian) serves nice steak and is much cheaper than those in other places/countries.

4) For cakes or pastries (or a nice breakfast), head to Jean Philippe at Aria.

5) Pizza Place in Wynn has nice breakfast and pizzas.

6) Lobster Me in the Miracle Mile Mall has really yummy (and pretty cheap) lobster roll.

7) Serenpidity at Caesar Palace serves nice burgers and it’s Frozen Hot Chocolate is superb!

8) There are lots of good and affordable food in Vegas so just try them out ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Hotels:

I stayed at Bellajio which is in the middle of the Strip and highly recommend this hotel. Do book the fountain view room if you can avoid it. I can say that the musical fountain show is one of the nicest that I have seen around the world and it is really awesome to see it from your windows. For those with big families, Venetian may be a good choice with its suites but really, I may be bias and will go for Bellajio any time ๐Ÿ™‚

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