Hearing all of the different languages and seeing the various tour buses made me realize that my adventure from Vegas to Tucson incorporated many of the stops that people travel from around the world to see. On our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, the pilot told me that about half of his guests are international and half are from all over North America. We flew with a young French family on this tour.
Touring in August presented a unique challenge in dealing with both the extreme summer heat and the Monsoon humidity.
Leaving from Vegas affords plentiful inexpensive flights and rental cars are abundant. If you skip the glitzy strip, it is only 20 minutes to Boulder, which is one of the best kept secrets in the area, and a little town that I plan to return to and spend more time enjoying. We stayed at the Boulder Dam Hotel. It is historic and it hosts a museum and art gallery included in your room cost as well as cooked to order breakfast. Quaint, clean and comfortable. The only suggestion I would make for this property is the addition of a mattress pad and one more fluffy pillow.
Just a few minutes away is the Hoover Dam with the new impressive bridge that has been amazing those who visit, live or transport in this area. As you enter the dam, park at the first covered lot and stroll the area. I’ve watched some amazing documentaries on the construction of the dam and did not feel the need to tour the exhibits inside.
An excellent vantage point for viewing the water downstream from the dam can be had from the overlooks on the dam. Drive over the dam and up to the overlooks to get a better view of the lake and spillway. Certainly try to watch at least one documentary on the construction of the dam before you visit.
When I flew into Las Vegas, the pilot announced the Hoover Dam port (left) and the Grand Canyon starboard (right) so if you want to see these sites, request a window seat. If an announcement is not made, be on the lookout as they are impressive from the air.
After checking into the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn, we made our way to the Canyon Visitors Center for a magnificent sunset. The next morning we viewed the Imax film and then experienced the dramatic and comfortable helicopter ride through the Canyon. The longer trip is certainly worth the extra cost. The price of this trip is a good value when you consider the expense of lodging and meals in this area. It allows you to maximize your time and reduces your time in the extreme heat. We booked late and could not obtain space at the hotels recommended by Caroline in the Grand Canyon, so I certainly suggest you book very early (a year in advance is a good idea) to obtain space at a desirable hotel. Caroline is an expert in the Rockies, so you may want to contact her for assistance to maximize your trip. The Best Western was clean and well located, however it was VERY noisy with paper thin walls on all sides, not a property I would return to.
When leaving the Canyon, if it is close to meal time, consider eating at Williams as it can be a long distance between services.
Two nights at The Boulders had us yearning for more time at the magnificent Waldorf Astoria property. We were so smitten that we did not set foot off the property and did not see the many local attractions nearby. I did, however spend the afternoon at their renowned spa and it was an amazing experience. Their signature massage was the most relaxing treatment I have had, so plan for a short nap after the massage in the serene relaxation lounge. The setting at The Boulders is unique, the grounds are manicured, the buildings impeccably cared for and the cuisine divine. It is however, the people who care for their treasured guests that you will remember. The one suggestion that I would make to The Boulders is to beef up their website to more accurately reflect the wealth of activities available nearby.
In Tucson, we had lunch with dear clients at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain. It is always a lovely setting and we were also able to drive through the Saguaro forest there as well as the one at the National Park. The Park rangers were interesting and informative and the displays were educational. A beautifully done 13-minute film about the desert has a dramatic surprise ending and since it was 113 degrees outside, learning about this area in air conditioning was welcome.
On your packing list include:
Loose lightweight clothing, consider sun blocking shirts. Sturdy comfortable walking shoes. Wide brimmed sun hat and sunglasses. Day pack for extra water (we bought a case of water at a grocery and found it convenient to have it close by). Extra memory card and camera batteries. Printed maps and cell service were spotty to nonexistent at the Grand Canyon, otherwise Smartphone GPS worked well.
Tip: The parking lots are very large. Take a photo of your lot number, lot one is the closest to the overlook, proceed to the right from the parking lots.
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