Southwest Trip 2021

Las Vegas Day 1: Start Fancy, End Fancy

Las Vegas Day 1: Start Fancy, End Fancy

We woke around 7 on our final morning in the Grand Canyon. We weren’t due to return our rental car or check into our hotel in Vegas until 4pm, so we had some time to burn. We gathered up our loot, packed up the car one last time, and investigated breakfast options. 

One of the few restaurants still open in the park was El Tovar, located in the hotel of the same name. Now, this was the *fine dining* establishment on property, whose dinner menu was a little too rich for our money. Their breakfast however? A reasonable splurge. We also hadn’t really had a real breakfast during the whole trip, so we figured we’d make up for it here. 

We were a little apprehensive—we thought there might be a wait, or no reservations available, or a dress code. After all, the wait staff wore pressed shirts and bow ties. Instead, the maitre d’ welcomed us, walked us into the restaurant, and sat us down at the best table in the house, with one of two window views of the Grand Canyon in the whole dining room. Score. 

The food was just bonus at that point, and it was delicious. Daniel got some beautiful looking french toast, and I got a chorizo avocado omelette. We also treated ourselves to some morning mimosas. This would be how we ended our national parks tour—in style. 

After rolling ourselves out of the dining room, we bopped around the Grand Canyon Village a bit. We hadn’t really come to this part of the park—mostly because we didn’t realize it was here. But it was cool. They had a bunch of pretty overlooks, a visitor’s center with a cool timeline of Grand Canyon history, and a couple of gift shops. 

The coolest thing up here though, was Hopi House. It was a replica of a Hopi Native American dwelling that was built in 1905 that has served as a gallery, art exhibit, and gift shop since its creation. It was also designed by a female architect, Mary Coulter, who, as one of very few women in her field, put meticulous detail in its design to show off her skills. 

This building was awesome. It was chock-full of beautiful arts and crafts, most handmade by local artisans. It smelled amazing, like incense and wood and sage. I could have spent hours in here. I wound up buying a pair of earrings and a bar of soap, and Daniel got a magnet with a raven on it and a book about wild plants. It was a cool place. 

Soon we took our last views of the Canyon and made our way back to the car. I mentioned in my entry yesterday that I keep thinking about what I want to do when I come back to the Grand Canyon, and it’s because I feel like I barely scratched the surface here. There are too many more things to see and do. If I come back, I want to go white water rafting. And biking. And I want to see the North Rim and the Buffalo that live there. You could easily spend 2 weeks here and still stare longingly at the Canyon upon your departure.

Which is what we did. 

Ten minutes after setting off, we approached the gate of the park. “Bye Grand Canyon, bye National Parks!” we said as we crossed into the real world, and just as the words left our lips, we turned to the right of our car and saw two elk, a female and a young buck with stubby, fuzzy antlers, taking a morning constitutional right along the road. What a lovely goodbye committee. 

Anyways. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but we’ve got video roulette to play. Onto Vegas!

The drive from the Canyon to Vegas was a lot more scenic than I expected it to be. The first two hours were through lush pine forests, over rolling hills, and lined with rocky peaks. It was like we were still in the park. I kind of expected the environment to be dusty and dry the whole ride, but was pleasantly surprised. 

When we were about an hour out—that’s when we hit the sad desert bit. It was still kind of cool in a “we don’t live anywhere that even remotely looks like this” kind of way, but it was still pretty desolate. But before we knew it, we could see the Vegas strip on the horizon, and a night of fun ahead of us.

We said goodbye to our Chevy Trailblazer, our trusty truckster. The gas mileage was rough, but she never broke down or made any noises. We also never got pulled over despite our lack of license plate.

We took a cab from the rental car place, from which our cabbie blasted some Snoop Dogg of the vulgar variety. I mean, we got a kick out of it, but I did wonder if he’d have played that for a couple of Grandmas on a golden girls trip. 

We pulled up to the Flamingo and were satisfied with our choice for a hotel. It’s old, it’s flashy, and it’s got that retro Vegas charm. It also has an actual flamingo exhibit outside. 

And most importantly, it has a great view of the strip. Well, Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio anyway.

We hung around the hotel for a little bit, and after a rest, got ready for our biggest splurge of the trip: a dinner at the Top of the World, the famous spinning restaurant at the top of the Strat Hotel. They had a dress code, so we needed to be looking our most dapper best. 

After another cab ride, and a precarious elevator ride, we found ourselves being seated just in time to watch the sun set over the mountains. We got lucky with where they seated us, just at the right time. 

The rest of the night was so much fun. We probably were at dinner for a little over 2 hours, having drinks, enjoying our lavish dinner and watching the view spin beneath us. Daniel got stuffed lobster tails and an old fashioned, while I had the filet mignon and one of their signature cocktails, the Midnight Dream. We also treated ourselves to dessert: a giant slice of chocolate hazelnut cake. It was all amazing.

Of course we finished dinner only around 9:30, and we couldn’t go to bed just yet. I mean, it’s Vegas. So we opted to pick a casino near our hotel and play some games. We decided on Caesar’s Palace, right across the street. We played a bit of video blackjack and video roulette, and scored a couple of beverages from the wait staff. 

At about 11, we headed back to the Flamingo to play a few more games there. Caesar’s is, of course, way nicer. But the Flamingo was closest to bed. 

And so, a little after midnight, we dragged ourselves upstairs back to bed. It was a fancy day. No, we didn’t “win” anything, but we had a good time! Money well spent.

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