Two Vacation Destinations Just Two Hours Apart
By Andrea Morris
We’d oohed and aahed on the High Roller Ferris wheel. We’d squealed on The Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York. We’d admired the perfectly timed water show outside Bellagio. And we were ready to leave Las Vegas—at least, temporarily.
After two days of family fun—and lots of lazing in our hotel’s lazy river—my husband, daughters and I left the Strip for one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The drive from the bright lights of Sin City to the awe-inspiring sites of the Grand Canyon’s West Rim is only a little over two hours long. And when it comes to a family vacation in Las Vegas, who can resist doubling the fun?
SKYLINE TO SKYWALK
With the Stratosphere and Eiffel Towers in our rental car’s rear-view mirror, we hit the road toward the West Rim. The girls—Chloe, 10, and Olivia, 14—were on spring break, and I was confident in saying that we’d made the most of it so far. I’m not sure if the number of uploads your daughter has posted to her Instagram story is a measure of success, but I’d take the multiple photos and videos Olivia had been sharing daily as a positive. I’d purchased The Grand Tour tickets, which included a walk above the Grand Canyon on the u-shaped Skywalk, a ride in a helicopter to the Grand Canyon’s floor, and a journey by pontoon on the Colorado River. What a difference from what we’d done in Las Vegas—it felt like we were getting two vacations in one.
VIEWS ON A GLASS HORSESHOE
As it turned out, Grand Canyon West and Las Vegas have more in common than we’d thought. As I shuffled out onto the Skywalk, holding hands with Olivia (more for my comfort than hers), I heard Chloe talking to her dad. “I’m not nervous. It’s like the High Roller, but higher,” she said. Chloe could say that again.
The Skywalk is a 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped bridge that extends 70 feet out over the rim, 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon. Did I mention its floor is made of glass?
At the top of the Ferris wheel a few days ago, we could see some of Las Vegas’ most famous landmarks. Here, we gazed out on the nation’s—arguably, the world’s—most famous landmark. We had swapped the multicolored signage and flash of the Strip for the naturally beautiful colors of the canyon, in muted orange and red.
UP, DOWN & AWAY
I found myself repeating Chloe’s statement as we ascended in a helicopter, part two of our Grand Tour. “It’s just like the Skywalk, but higher.” From the air, the four of us were able to see an even more vast view of the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, admiring its “skyline” —this one made of rock, in comparison to Las Vegas’ iconic buildings.
As quickly as the ride had begun, we had landed at the base of the Grand Canyon. Beside us, a pontoon boat, led by Hualapai River Runners, bobbed on the Colorado River’s tumbling waters. This was nothing like the lazy river we’d spent so much time in the past few days.
We hopped in the pontoon and began listening to our captain, who narrated the history of the Hualapai people and the Grand Canyon as we drifted on the Colorado’s calm flow. According to him, the Hualapai tribe believes that the river is sacred, and that its people were created from the clay of the river. Without it, the tribe cannot survive.
I looked around at my family, all rapt with attention—the Colorado River we were on suddenly more powerful and significant than when we first boarded the raft.
PAUSE FOR THE PAST
Twenty-one miles upriver, the raft captain told the story of Separation Canyon and the Powell Expedition. We gazed around the alcove, imagining the events that took place here in 1869, when Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran, led a group of men on a discovery of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon.
Two days before the expedition would conclude, three men decided to leave, deciding they’d had enough. They were never heard from again. A bronze plaque is left in memory of these explorers, who were so crucial to furthering the understanding of the Grand Canyon.
We ascended back to the rim of the Grand Canyon, losing sight of the Colorado River below, continuing to carve away at the canyon’s depths.
VIVA LAS VEGAS
On the drive back to Las Vegas, stars began to twinkle above us as twilight turned to night. Soon, the stars were replaced by the glow of downtown Las Vegas. I checked my Instagram as we made our way to our hotel.
I’m still not sure if the number of uploads your daughter has posted to her Instagram story is a measure of success, but the silence from Olivia’s profile made me think that her day had been too fulfilling to share.
We’d oohed and aahed on the Skywalk. We’d squealed on the helicopter ride up and into the Grand Canyon. We’d admired the water of the Colorado River. And we were ready to return to Las Vegas for a show.
Over the next few hours, a magician bamboozled us with his tricks. I chuckled after the show, thinking it was just one more way Las Vegas and Grand Canyon West were similar, knowing that a different kind of magic was just a few hours’ drive away.
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