Visiting the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam were two of the “Must Do” things for our Christmas trip to Las Vegas.
While Mark’s been to conferences in Las Vegas, he never ventured out of town. And, for Chuck, who wasn’t all that excited about visiting Las Vegas, it was a nice getaway.
A Global Experience
Through his employer, Chuck receives “Bravo Awards.” They are bonus points for doing a great job or going above and beyond. They are redeemable for merchandise, gift certificates, and travel rewards.
We used some for a walking tour in Charleston, South Carolina, on our Southern Road Trip. So we were very excited to see a Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tour come up on the options through the Global Experience Card.
The 11-hour tour included pick up and drop off at our hotel, lunch, bottles of water, and admission to both the Hoover Dam and the West Rim. It would generally have been $240 for the two of us, but we paid only $41 out of pocket with the reward!
A Sweet Tour
Sweetours operated the tour, and they did a great job of sending us information on the departure time and location. For the Vdara hotel, the pickup location was the tour garage of the Aria Hotel, located right next door.
We were shuttled to the Excalibur Hotel, where passengers were sorted out based on the various tours. As we had an early start, they had breakfast boxes waiting for everyone on their assigned busses.
The drivers were friendly and organized and got things moving right away.
The Hoover Dam is located about forty miles from the Las Vegas strip. Everyone enjoyed their continental breakfast and napped as the driver talked about the local scenery during the ride. He shared information about casinos frequented by locals and historic casinos where gold miners lost their fortunes.
While this trip didn’t allow for any touring of the Hoover Dam facility, it was amazing to get up close to this modern marvel.
The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam located in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. The dam is on the border of Nevada and Arizona and was constructed between 1931 and 1936 – in the middle of the Great Depression.
Did You Know?
Hoover Dam was such a big project that a group of smaller construction companies came together to form “Six Companies” and secure the winning bid.
An entire city Boulder City, Nevada, was built to accommodate the nearly 5,000 employees. The city had all of the amenities the workers might want, but both alcohol and gambling were illegal.
Hoover Dam formed the largest reservoir, Lake Mead, covering nearly 248 square miles.
Lake Mead flooded the town of St. Thomas, Nevada, and created a ghost town of the city once settled by Mormon pioneers. They claim the last resident left the town in a rowboat in 1938.
Lunch, Joshua Trees, and Windmills
Once we left the Hoover Dam, we crossed into Arizona on our way to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The highway was lined with huge fields of wind turbines, mountains off in the distance, and tons of Joshua trees.
Did you know that you can tell how old a Joshua tree is by the number of offshoots? Supposedly, each offshoot indicates a ten-year growth of this rare tree. The trees only grow in some areas of the Southwest United States and have been around for centuries. These trees are protected in Arizona.
Along the way, we stopped in a tiny “one-horse town.” It was a little convenience store, gas station, VFW, and Dollar General.
The tour company had made arrangements to pick up lunch at the store. We were all able to use the restrooms, shop for snacks and take a few photos. Lunch was average at best, with a wrap, chips, and a drink.
We finally arrived at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon on land owned by The Hualapai Nation. The bus dropped us off with our tickets, and we took a shuttle to Eagle Point.
Eagle Point is 4,000 feet above the Colorado River with amazing views, and when we arrived, it was freezing cold, windy, and rainy! We stayed long enough to grab a few amazing photos and take in the scenery.
We contemplated going to The Skywalk at Eagle Point. As we already had a General Admission ticket, entry into the Skywalk would be about $26.00. The Skywalk is a glass cantilever walkway that juts out 70 feet over the canyon’s edge.
They claim the Skywalk is strong enough to hold seventy fully loaded 747 passenger jets!
Chuck’s not great with heights. However, he’s gotten a lot better and done hot air balloon and helicopter rides. But we weren’t sure how he would be. We also learned that there are no cameras or cell phones allowed on the walkway – only their photos. $$$
Between the weather and the cost, we decided to push on and take a quick look at the display of dwellings and head on to the other side of the canyon.
A few miles away, there is another lookout area called Guano Point. Guano is the technical name for bat droppings. They were found in a cave along the river in the 1930s. Rich in nitrogen and valuable as fertilizer, this area thrived as local companies mined for guano.
In just that short distance, the weather was clear and warmer. We were able to see up and down the river, climb a few peaks and get some incredible photos.
Not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve!