Mel's Las Vegas Travelogue
Our April 2010 Trip Report

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Las Vegas

Our Las Vegas Trip Travelogue: Suggestions/Tips to Do In and Around Las Vegas

Barbara and I visited Las Vegas during the week of April 3-10, 2010. It was our 2nd trip to Las Vegas. We visited about 7 years ago and stayed for 3 nights on the “Strip” at the MGM Grand. This time, we had one full week. We chose to stay “off strip” at Grandview at Las Vegas. It was a perfect location – convenient to the strip (about 6 miles away) and also convenient to the many other trips we took. There really is more to Vegas than the Casinos. Sure, we did visit a lot of casinos, but most were for very short periods of time. We flew to Las Vegas on our airline of choice- US Airways. We booked our car rental (Hertz) through Priceline.

Our first full day in Las Vegas was Easter and we went to church at Spring Valley Baptist Church. There really are churches in Las Vegas! We went to the Easter sunrise service and were warmly greeted and enjoyed breakfast with the really nice church members.
Spring Valley Baptist Church website

Although we definitely aren’t bit-time gamblers, we visited a number of Las Vegas casinos. But, we both played the slots (and lost) and Barbara played some blackjack and actually came out ahead a bit. The casinos we visited (most were really quick visits): South Pointe (across the street from our resort), Hacienda (on our way back from the Hoover Dam), Bellagio, Bally’s, Harrahs, Rio, Venetian, Wynn, Bills Gambling Hall, Palazzo, Mirage, Stratosphere, Caesar’s Palace, Golden Nugget, Binions, California, Plaza, Las Vegas Club, Golden Gate, Gold Coast, Terribles, and Silverton. Whew! That’s a lot of walking!
Las Vegas Casinos | CheapO Vegas | Las Vegas Strip Hotels

CLICK on the pictures below for larger image sizes.

Las Vegas Old Downtown
Four Queens
Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip

On Sunday night, we went to JERSEY BOYS. This is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. There were plenty of great 1960s and 1970s hits in this show. We both really enjoyed this show at the Palazzo.
Jersey Boys website

Hoover Dam On Monday, we went to the Hoover Dam. This incredible engineering feat, completed in 1935, is only 35 miles from Las Vegas (South on U.S. 93). When completed in 1936, it was both the world's largest hydroelectric power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure. It is a “must do” trip. TIP: leave early – plan to arrive at or prior to 9:00 a.m. The visitor center opens at 9:00 a.m. We did the “dam” tour and I highly recommend this tour. After the dam tour, we visited the Visitor Center, observation deck and walked across the dam.

From the dam, you also get great views of the Colorado River, Lake Mead and...
a new Colorado River bridge being built just downstream from Hoover Dam. This is an incredible sight and another marvelous engineering feat. The new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is expected to open to traffic in November 2010. This new bridge was planned and is being built to relieve the heavy traffic congestion at the Hoover Dam and improve security in the area. The official bridge name is the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. O'Callaghan was a former Nevada governor and Tillman graduated from Arizona State University, played in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals and volunteered to serve in Afghanistan and was killed in service to his country.
Hoover Dam | Hoover Dam - Wikipedia | Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge | Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge - Wikipedia | Bridge Webcam

Hoover Dam
View of Hoover Dam from Parking Garage
Hoover Dam
From Observation Deck
Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge
New Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

Lake Mead at Hoover Dam After leaving Hoover Dam, we stopped by the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Visitor’s Center and drove the Lakeshore Scenic Drive. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States and was formed by water impounded by the Hoover Dam.
Lead Mead website | Lake Mead - Wikipedia

On Wednesday, we hit the road early (5:30 a.m.) for our drive to the Grand Canyon. Many tour companies in Las Vegas offer bus and helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon, but, we decided to drive. It is approximately a 4 ½ hour drive, so leave early! I had visited the Grand Canyon in 1994 with 2 buddies for the mule trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and an overnight stay at Phantom Ranch. That was quite a trip.

In reading about trips to the Grand Canyon, I had come across information about Seligman, Arizona and the history, decline and revival of Route 66. Specifically, I read about the role that Angel Delgadillo in Seligman played in organizing the very first Route 66 organization and having former stretches of Route 66 recognized as Historical Roadways. Route 66 was the first roadway from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, with the opening of the new federal interstate highway system in the 1950s and 1960s, many thriving towns declined or practically disappeared. So, we headed to Seligman which is just 1 mile off Interstate 40. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet Angel Degadillo and his daughter Clarissa at Angel & Vilma's Gift Shop on Route 66. Be sure to stop here for a great view of Americana and spend some money.
Angel & Vilma's Route 66 Gift Shop | Arizona Route 66 Association | Route 66 - Wikipedia

Hoover Dam
Route 66 Gift Shop - Seligman, AZ
Hoover Dam
Barbara, Angel Delgadillo, Mel
Hoover Dam
Birthplace of Historic Route 66

Grand Canyon We arrived at Grand Canyon around 10:45 a.m. Again, try to arrive early if driving on your own for less traffic at the entry plaza and for more time to enjoy the beauty at America’s first National Park. The Grand Canyon is big: 277 miles long, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles and attains a depth of over a mile (6000 feet). Lunch was really good for two hungry people at the Arizona Room. We utilized the Park bus system and walked along several portions of the Rim Trail and a short portion of the Bright Angel Trail. We also visited the Kolb Studio, El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House, Lookout Studio and the mule arena. Barbara gave me her verbal agreement to take the mule trip on a future Western trip. We left late in the afternoon for the long drive back to Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon | Grand Canyon Photos by National Park Service | Grand Canyon - Wikipedia | Grand Canyon Scout | Grand Canyon Explorer | Grand Canyon Mule Trips | Mule Trips Info

Grand Canyon - South Rim
Grand Canyon - "On the Edge"
Grand Canyon Mule Wrangler
Barbara with Mule Wrangler
Grand Canyon
Mel & Barbara at South Rim

On Thursday evening, our resort provided a complementary trip to the Fremont Experience in old Las Vegas downtown. We arrived at the Golden Nugget and made our way through this huge casino and into the Fremont Experience. It’s quite a site! For 4 city blocks, a huge canopy cover the entire outside street and overhead is the world’s largest video screen. On the hour in the evening, various music videos are played. We experienced Don McLean's AMERICAN PIE at 8:00 p.m. Barbara had her best blackjack results (luck) at Binion’s here. We visited several casinos, including the oldest continuously operating casino in Las Vegas, Golden Gate.
Fremont Experience

Fremont Street Experience
Fremont Street Experience
Downtown Las Vegas
Old Downtown Las Vegas
Fremont Street Experience
Freemont Street Experience

On Friday morning we drove over to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (only 15 miles from downtown Las Vegas). We both believe this is another “must do” while in Vegas. At the entry plaza or Visitor’s Center, be sure to get a park map for the trail system. My Las Vegas guide book, had recommended the Calico Tanks trail. It’s a roundtrip of about 2 miles and 2 hours roundtrip. Basically walk/scramble up through a canyon and at a small reservoir, go right a little further for great red rock formation and Las Vegas views. Be careful as some places are slippery on the rocks and some steep climbing may be necessary. You may think you’re off the trail, but just continue on through the canyon till you see the view of Las Vegas. There are many other trails of varying lengths and a number of scenic overlooks to pull over in your car. For a great scenic overlook along the road, be sure to stop at High Point Overlook.
Red Rock Canyon | More Red Rock Canyon Information

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon Entrance
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon Scenic Overlook
Red Rock Canyon Hiking
Hiking Calico Tanks Trail

Upon returning to Las Vegas, we finally made it to an In-N-Out Burger. Barbara had eaten at an In-N-Out in California several years ago. The food was great, the place was super clean and the service and friendliness was outstanding. They even serve fresh cut french fries. Other national chains like McDonalds and Burger King should take note (especially service, friendliness and cleanliness)! Please, In-N-Out, come to South Carolina soon.
In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas
In-N-Out Burger - Great food and service!
In-N-Out Burger

Our last really cool experience in Las Vegas was at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. It’s located at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South. There is a small parking area in the middle of the road. There were a number of people there taking pictures and we asked (as many other people do) someone on the scene to take our picture and they happily obliged. Elvis was even in the parking lot with his ’56 pink Cadillac! We stopped to speak with Elvis and took pictures with Elvis (in the form of Eddie Powers for only a small tip of $10 - hey, the economy is tough for everyone!). We were so lucky to get to see Elvis while in Las Vegas!
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign | Best Elvis in Vegas

Elvis in Las Vegas
Personal Welcome from Elvis!
Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
Las Vegas Elvis
Travelogue Author Meets Elvis

On Friday night, we enjoyed our first Las Vegas buffet at Silverton’s. It was excellent. After leaving, we went back over again to South Point Casino. We had spent most of our casino time here and enjoyed several really good Mexican meals at Baja Miguel's in South Point.
South Point Casino

Books I recommend for a Las Vegas trip:
The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2010 (Unofficial Guides)

American Casino Guide - 2010 Edition - Guide with a number of Las Vegas coupons. Use them and it pays for the book!

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Websites
Visit Las Vegas | | | Las Vegas - | Las Vegas - Wikipedia

Click here for more photos from our Picasa Photo Album.

I hope you enjoyed highlights from our Vegas trip.

Mel Coker

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