Las Vegas and Grand Canyon National Park, USA

Ah Vegas. The glitz, the glamour, the tackiness, the freedom. We soaked it in. We weren’t expecting to enjoy Las Vegas that much given that we are not that keen on gambling, we thought it would be shallow and tasteless. It turned out to be so much more. It is basically a place you go to have fun and to let loose, you can do whatever you want, and it was awesome. In Vegas you are allowed to drink on the street, this may seem innocuous but in really is a game changer. The whole strip was basically a massive bar.

We were staying at a hotel called the Flamingo, which was ideally located right on the main strip. All the hotels are massive casinos and shopping malls, it was crazy. We arrived pretty late in the afternoon so had some drinks at a bar at our hotel and then headed out to explore the strip. We picked up some beers at a stall and just went for a walk. The streets were filled with buskers and characters that you could have your photo taken with, everyone was just doing whatever they felt like.

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We stopped for some buffalo wings on the side of the road, which turned out to be a great spot to people watch! The beers were only $2. We then took a stroll past the Bellagio fountains and watched one of the fountain shows.

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The Bellagio

After having a few more drinks we grabbed some pizza and headed back to our hotel for an early night in anticipation of our 4am wake up to go to the Grand Canyon the next day.

Our alarms buzzed and we groaned. Was it going to be worth getting up this early?? A shuttle bus took us out to a small airport on the outskirts of Las Vegas and we started perking up while we were checking in. After a few dramas with our backpacks (“no backpacks allowed”), we were heading out onto the tarmac towards a sightseeing plane. The plane was tiny, which meant that we each got a window seat.

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After a smooth take off our captain took us over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The amount of concrete used to build the Hoover Dam is the equivalent of a standard paved highway from San Francisco to New York. Yes, it was enormous!

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Hoover Dam

As we came in to land at the Grand Canyon we had fantastic views but we struggled to get any photographs from the air that would do it justice. After landing we went to the first lookout called Eagle Point on the West Rim. It is called Eagle Point because of a huge rock that resembles an Eagle with its wings spread out.

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Eagle Point

It is safe to say that the Grand Canyon exceeded all our expectations. It truly was an incredible place. We particularly enjoyed our time at Guano point, also on the West Rim. The size of the canyon blew us away, and standing on the edge was dizzying. The scenery was stark and red, and vaguely creepy. A lot of crows were flying into the canyon and perching on the edge.

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View from Guano Point

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We had a few hours to relax and take in the views. We were happy we went so early because it meant that there were very few people at the canyon while we were there. It gave us a chance to appreciate the enormity of the Grand Canyon in plenty of peace and quiet. We loved our time here and would recommend anyone to visit.

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Another small scenic plane took us back to Las Vegas for a much needed nap. After our snooze we attempted to go to Downtown Las Vegas, which was the original Las Vegas strip back in the day. We by mistake headed in the wrong direction, not to worry though, after realising our error we found that we had stumbled upon one of the most famous Hard Rock Cafes in the USA. So of course we popped in for a snack and some drinks. It was fun to have a look at all the rock ‘n roll memorabilia that they had accumulated.

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We then caught an uber to the actual Downtown Las Vegas. As soon as we arrived we saw a restaurant that would serve people who weighed over 350lbs for free, called Heart Attack Grill! Classic ‘merica. Andrew weighed himself just in case, but unfortunately fell well below. We walked around a bit drinking beers and found more of a low-key place that reminded us of Kingsland in Auckland to sit down for a drink. It seemed to us that the Downtown area re-established as an place for the locals to go to have a good time without the craziness that comes with the main strip. It was a really neat place and we wondered why more people didn’t patronise it? Maybe when you choose to live in Las Vegas you are the kind of person who enjoys that main strip lifestyle.  After checking out the rooftop light show in the Downtown area, we headed back to the main strip.

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We had some drinks and got pretty tipsy, so we ended up going to a show called Fantasy at the Luxor Hotel. It was trashy and entertaining and partly burlesque, basically everything you expect and want from a Las Vegas show! It was the best way to end our time in Vegas and we stumbled home to get some sleep before heading to New Orleans the next day.

Here is a breakdown of our costs for 2 days:

Budget = US$552 (NZ$800)

Accommodation – US$199

Activities – US$153

Food/Drink – US$221

Miscellaneous (Uber etc) – US$65

Total spent – US$638 (NZ$925)

So we ended up being US$86 (NZ$125) over budget. Alcohol and going out all the time got pretty pricy but when in Vegas you’ve got to do these things. So we were pretty happy that we didn’t blow the budget too much.

An extra expense that we did not include in the Las Vegas budget was our trip to the Grand Canyon. We budgeted separately for this and it was a whopping US$483 (NZ$700) for the two of us. This is something we really wanted to do and we did not have enough time to drive there.

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