Friday, June 19, 2015

Hoover Dam, Route 66 and the Grand Canyon!

On the Saturday of our trip we planned a day-long excursion to see the Grand Canyon, as none of us had been before. We did a lot of research into helicopter rides vs bus and determined that a bus tour was more in line with our budgets and my air sickness limits. Then we did some research on what part of the Grand Canyon to see and decided on the south rim, since it seemed to offer more scenic views (west rim has that glass skywalk, but you can't take your own photos and have to pay for theirs so psht on that!). We compared the various bus companies and decided to splurge a bit and go for Grand Adventures' Sunset Tour. Generally a trip by bus to the South Rim would cost $80-100 USD and this tour was $170 USD, but we chose it for the following reasons:

  • It left at 9am vs 6am for the other tours
  • It stopped at the Hoover Dam and a town on Route 66 for photos (it is a 4+ hour drive so stops are nice!)
  • The "bus" was a large van and our tour only had 9 people on it (very roomy in the van, too)
  • Private guide who takes you along the canyon rim to all the best photo spots and teaches you all sorts of facts along the way
  • Included breakfast and lunch
  • Was rated 5 stars on Trip Advisor after over 2,500 reviews. It is the #1 tour company!
And let me tell you, it was totally worth it!

Our tour guide Louis picked us up a little after 9am and then we drove to two more hotels and got a couple from England and a family of 3 from Australia and were off! At 10am we stopped in at Burger King for our included breakfast, where you could order anything you wanted, and Louis made sure we all had enough and even bought extra drinks and sides for us. 

After that we drove to the Hoover Dam and stopped for 30 minutes to take some photos (we didn't have time for an actual tour). 

After the Dam, we drove about another hour and a half to get gas (and snacks, very important). After our gas stop we drove on again to Seligman, AZ, which is on Route 66 AND was the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the Disney Cars movie! It was definitely a 1 horse town, but it was really fun to walk around and take photos and buy some souvenirs. We even signed the turquoise VW bus :)

After Seligman we jumped back into our van and drove on out to the Grand Canyon. We ran into a wicked thunderstorm on the way and I was super worried about getting rained out for our sunset tour, but thankfully by the time we reached the Canyon the rain had all gone! Louis had packed rain coats for everyone just in case, though. We first stopped off at the visitor's centre and wandered around there for about 40 minutes to get our first look at the canyon and buy souvenirs. 

The Canyon was so awe-inspiring! I had no idea it was so HUGE- you could barely see to the other side! We snapped some pictures before heading back in the van to travel further up the canyon to where there were less people.

Once we arrived at our next destination we stopped to eat some sandwiches, crackers & cheese, and grapes for our lunch/dinner (it was about 4:30pm). Louis even prepared a wheat-free meal for Veronica because I mentioned on our booking she was gluten-free. I should also mention that Louis seemed to have an unlimited supply of cold water bottles for everyone, though the canyon was much cooler than Vegas and I didn't feel I needed as much as I did on the strip!

And yes, a lot of the visitors parts of the Canyon has no guard rails and is a steep drop! However, they only have a couple of people die each year, which is sad, but surprising considering there are about 4-5 million visitors annually. Thankfully none of us fell in, though a few members of the group were not so keen on going near the edge to begin with. 

Louis the Tour Guide
Louis was also really into photography and took lots of photos for us on our camera, and his own. He said he had a few guests drop their cameras into the canyon, so he began taking his own shots to share on his facebook page. He gave me a lot of pointers on my camera and even lent me his tripod for the sunset shots!

We went to a few great look out spots, and had a fun time taking nice photos on the edge, and silly photos too, naturally. 

Once the sun began to set he took us to his favourite spot to watch it go down. There was a nearby "famous" sunset spot that was full of people, but Louis knew a lesser-used spot with just as good of a view that we set up on. 

If you are going to go to the Grand Canyon, I really recommend going at sunset. There were not a lot of people (and it was a Saturday), and it was simply gorgeous to take in, even if it did get a little cloudy :)

After the sun went down we climbed back into the van and ate some cookies (yum). We basically drove straight back to Las Vegas with only a short gas station break on the way, but we all passed out in the van. We got home around 12:30am and climbed into bed! I think each of us would agree that the tour was very fun and totally worthwhile. I definitely will go back some day. 

If you are planning a trip from Las Vegas to the the Grand Canyon, I totally recommend Grand-Adventures and Louis (you can request him when you book). Though I have read great reviews about all the guides so I don't think you can go wrong! Also, be sure to book in advance as they told me they nearly always sell out (we booked 2 weeks in advance).

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