Las Vegas – Away From The Bright Lights

Hi,

A lot of people stay in Vegas for the gambling and also the themed casinos with their over the top attractions. If that’s your thing, then fair enough. Las Vegas is a city mostly built with the millions of dollars generated by the mega casinos, after all. It is way over the top in its glitz, glamour and brashness. You will either love it or hate it, appropriately, all (in) or nothing. We are in the former camp of loving Vegas for it’s in your face style. It can be a cost effective base for the surrounding area, as long as you can avoid the gambling temptation.

(click on any photo to enlarge it, if you choose not to do this when the image is of us, we will Not be offended, much)

MGM Grand

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Paris Casino

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Luxor Hotel Casino

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Freemont Street Experience;

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The schedule a month in advance of what is being played at Freemont Street;

http://www.vegasexperience.com/#/viva/

However, we on the other hand, would wonder if people would like to get out of the windowless casinos and see the beautiful desert scenery? We hired a car when booking the flights in the UK, it seemed cheaper that way. Just pick up at the airport and drive the short distance (two miles to the strip) from McCarran Int. Airport to the hotel, just about managed to find the ‘Stratosphere Hotel’ (It only soars 1,149 feet in to the sky);

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http://www.stratospherehotel.com/Hotel

Las Vegas roads are built on the classic USA grid system, so it’s easy  finding your way around, as long as you don’t fall foul of the one way streets and also the infuriating no left/right turns.

Places to visit;

Red Rock Canyon – Scenic Drive (7$ – 13miles long)

Can be done as a half day trip from Vegas, the pushed for time option for gamblers and lovers of the neon lights. With this and Valley of Fire avoid hiking in the height of summer, the temperatures can be very dangerous.

Directions from Las Vegas;

Red Rock Canyon is located about 25 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. From Las Vegas the Conservation Area can be approached from Charleston Boulevard [north of Sahara Avenue], which will turn into State Route 159; or from State Route 160 [south of Tropicana] to the Junction with Route 159. Just follow Route 159 until you see the entrance. From the southwest, Red Rock Canyon National Park is reached by taking Route 160 East to Route 159; From the Las Vegas Strip, get on to the I-15 freeway which is the freeway parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard. Take exit 36 to get on to the 215 beltway west. Drive on the 215 west for 13 miles, exit on Charleston Boulevard heading west at exit 26. Drive 5.5 miles to the entrance of RRC and turn right to enter the Scenic Drive.

Lots of cark park viewpoints on the scenic drive, and a few trails too.

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http://www.tripadvisor.com/Guide-g33364-i5398-Colorado_Springs_El_Paso_County_Colorado.html

http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Red-Rock-Trail-Map.pdf

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Ice box Canyon, certainly frozen in January. Take a jacket, the canyon walls in the shade are a lot colder than on the ‘scenic drive’.

A - Red Rock10 A - Red Rock11

Valley of Fire (55 miles NE of Vegas)

This Park is considered to have superior scenery to Red Rock Canyon, so if you have a choice this is the ‘one’. We did both and viewed the casinos and their attractions in the evening, rather than wasting daylight. The most striking thing for us was walking on trails of pink sand.

http://www.everytrail.com/best/hiking-valley-of-fire-state-park

http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/

http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/North_America/United_States_of_America/Nevada/Valley_of_Fire_State_Park-836939/Warnings_or_Dangers-Valley_of_Fire_State_Park-TG-C-1.html

Elephant Rock

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Is a shadow of oneself in a photo now known as an inverted ‘selfie’?

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Petroglyphs;

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http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/

Lake Mead & Hoover Dam

Directions and map

http://www.lakemeadcruises.com/map.html

http://www.lakemeadcruises.com/

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Take a sweater or light jacket,  Lake Mead gets surprisingly chilly breezes.

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A novelty for the Brits, driving across Hoover Dam and gaining or losing an hour in the process. (Pacific Standard Time & Mountain Standard Time) Us Brits are easily pleased are we not?

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A few miles more;

Death Valley (120 – 172 miles from Vegas, depending on route)

Can be done a very long day trip;

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143021-i2027-k1397376-Before_you_ask_Day_trips_from_Las_Vegas-Death_Valley_National_Park_California.html

Some of the features of the above guide;

Devil’s Golf Course

800px-Devil's_golfcourse

Badwater – 282 feet below sea level

800px-Death_Valley,19820817,Badwater,lowest_point_in_the_USA

Golden Canyon

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Artist’s Palette

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Dante’s View

Dante's_view_salt_flats_desert_Death_Valley

http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/Routes%20from%20Las%20Vegas.pdf

Death Valley really should be a few days rather than a day trip. Elevations over 10,000 feet on some of the more popular viewpoints.

Grand Canyon National Park

Website;

http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

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The main reason for staying in Las Vegas, and one of our ‘bucket list’ must do’s.

There are three main ways to get to the various Grand Canyon rims;

Coach (Bus in American) – By far the cheapest option and longest time to get to the Canyon.

Aeroplane – The middle cost option. A forty minute flight followed by a coach tour along the South Rim. This is the option we took.

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In flight, shame our camera was not up to the task of a decent photo through the plane window.

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Some of our fellow day trippers

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Helicopter – Mostly go to the West rim, which is lower in altitude than the North or South rims.

All the options explained here on Tripadvisor;

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g45963-c12805/Las-Vegas:Nevada:Guided.Tours.To.The.Grand.Canyon.html

There is a fourth option of hiring a car and drive yourself. Be advised the canyon is approx. 280 miles from Vegas, and an overnight stay is recommended. (Especially if going to the North rim).

Or if you are really pushed for time, a one day trip in a hire car is possible as explained here;

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g45963-i10-k3169007-TR_LV_to_Grand_Canyon_South_Rim_in_one_day_by_car-Las_Vegas_Nevada.html

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Tips for travel:

When offered on an airlines website to take up their insurance for your flight(s) don’t. As can be seen on the ‘moneysavingexpert’ website below, the insurance offered is very poor value. We would get an annual policy if you travel more than 2 or 3 times a year (including the UK). And use the currency calculator to get the best deal for your hard earned cash.

When travelling on airlines that have punishing charges for hold luggage, take a jacket with a lot of pockets if possible. Stuff the pockets with as much as you can comfortably carry, and don’t forget your 10kg hand luggage too. If you are worried about being stopped by airport staff, look at this jacket packed to the gills with up to10kg of stuff, (14th post from the top):

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=3339962

Fight fees on budget airlines – given an extra tip here, aren’t we generous? lol.

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/beat-budget-airline-charges

And another thing……..

Why do you seemingly have to tip everywhere in Vegas? (as is the case everywhere in the States).  Is it not possible to raise the price of goods/services a little bit and pay the staff a decent living wage? This is not directed at the workers, who provide a customer service that puts a lot of British workers in the same jobs to shame. Being the cheapskates that we are, this puts us at a disadvantage because this system favours the people with lots of money. For example: bar staff will serve the biggest tippers first, unsurprisingly. I don’t see why I should subsidise a low wage paid by companies that are usually making a fat profit. If after being paid a decent wage then someone wants to tip on top for superb service, then fine. Call me a tightwad or anything like that, I can handle it. The real villains are the companies who get enough money from tax breaks/avoidance, (Hello, Starbucks!) and they get away with paying low wages with the help of high tipping people who perpetuate this sorry system.

Thanks for reading,

Mr & Mrs G

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