4 days in Las Vegas and Grand Canyon
November 9, 2005 6:54 AM   Subscribe

We're spending 4 days in Las Vegas after thanksgiving, and would like to drive to the Grand Canyon. Need advice on how long to spend in each place.

I know it's a 5-6 hour drive from Vegas to the South Rim, and we're planning on staying at the Canyon. However, is it worth staying for 2 nights? We can't do a long hike down into the canyon, but we're definitely up for longish walk, horseback rides etc. We're vacillating between 2 nights in Vegas and 2 at the Grand Canyon, or 3 nights in Vegas and one at the Canyon.
additional info in case it's relevant - arriving on a monday evening, leaving on a friday night.
posted by darsh to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The less time in Vegas the better. Really. The Canyon is pretty worth it, even for walks along the rim.
posted by rafter at 7:16 AM on November 9, 2005

If you love hiking and the outdoors, you might enjoy more time at the Canyon, or one the other semi-nearby parks.

If you enjoy the vegas-type attractions (dinners, shows, pools, man-made spectacles, shopping, gambling, spas, etc) then you'll want to spend more time there.

Vegas is a one-of-a-kind town, and the Grand Canyon is a one-of-a-kind ditch. I can't predict which you'd prefer.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:59 AM on November 9, 2005

Have you been to Vegas before? If so, you know that everything fun happens between 9pm and 4am, so the night you arrive basically counts as a full "day" in town. Personally, I have never spent more than 3 days in Vegas and I was always very, very ready to leave at the end of that period. It's a ton of fun, but 4 hours of sleep a day... ugh.

The real problem is that the Canyon runs on more of an 8am-5pm schedule, just because that's when it's nice to hang around outdoors. So, in taking 6 hours to get from one place to the other, you're basically knocking out prime time in one place or the other (unless you can smoke a lot of cigarettes, leave at 2am, and arrive at like 8, and then stay up. Good luck). Still though... Vegas seems pretty used-up after about 2 nights there. I guess I'd allocate the extra time to relaxing and recovering at the canyon.
posted by rkent at 8:06 AM on November 9, 2005

Please do not listen to the first remark about the less time in vegas the better. That's his/her personal preference.

As far as how much time to spend at the Canyon - it's a sight seeing / hiking thing. Most people want to look at it, go "whoa... that's huge... and pretty..." take some pictures and go home. If you want to hike it - allow for a full day or two. If you want to see it, take pictures, and get back to the glitz and fun of Vegas -- might I suggest a helicopter tour? Lots of places in Vegas offer them.

It ain't cheap, but how often will you get the chance to do it?
posted by twiggy at 8:08 AM on November 9, 2005

Best answer: Vegas is really fun, but only in small doses. Two days (or, more specifically, two nights) is probably enough, but YMMV.

We did a trip almost exactly like this last year. We flew into Vegas late, rented a car, and immediately drove to Boulder City and got a room for the night. Early the next morning we drove to the Hoover Dam and hung out for a while, then on to the Grand Canyon. We spent a couple of days at the Canyon, then drove back to vegas for the rest of our trip.

I recommend you stay in the Canyon (at eh Bright Angel Lodge, for example) if at all possible, especially if you want to walk any of the trails. The town immediately outside the Canyon has little going for it aside from waaay overpriced food and lodging. (There's a large steakhouse on your right as you drive towards the Canyon that I can specifically recommend you avoid at all costs, but there's a small Denny's-like restaurant across the street--near the IMAX, I think--that is reasonably priced and pretty good, at least for breakfast.)

Once in Vegas, I suggest you pay the extra money for a hotel near the "center" of things, like the Paris or the Bellagio, because you'll spend all your time walking if you stay too far down the Strip. We stayed at the New York New York, which was fine, but we wish we'd stayed at the Paris. There are also some off-the-strip hotels that are much cheaper but don't have the bells and whistles of the casino hotels, which might be your thing. Eat at one of the more expensive buffets; they're definitely worth it. There are several AskMe threads about Vegas with other good suggestions.
posted by arco at 8:24 AM on November 9, 2005

Best answer: We did 2 nights in Vegas, then drove to the canyon. Got there late afternoon, had a quick look, a meal and retired to bed for a full day's exploring the next day. Did that, then stayed another night and drove back. Then 2 more nights in vegas (Hoover dam on the way back). Was enough. for vegas and the canyon.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2005

I'll second the less time in Vegas the better. It's a noisier, smokier version of Disneyland, with more booze and less style (and I'm not a fan of Disneyland, either). Northern Arizona , on the other hand, is a gorgeous place and worth taking some time to explore.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:42 AM on November 9, 2005

You'd do well to check the opening times for the park. We drove up to the North Rim in late October last year and the park had officially closed about 10 October. It snowed on us and they weren't clearing the roads (the North Rim is at 8000'; about 1000' higher than the South). But by late November, probably even the South Rim may be inaccessible and possibly closed. I doubt the hotels are open. We found the same thing off-season at Zion.

On the plus side, with the park closed, there was no fee to enter. On the minus side, we got to the North Rim and couldn't see a thing for the fog below the rim. Off-season, the visitors' centre was closed and there was only a portajohn in the car park by way of facilities to welcome you after a 50 mile drive.
posted by sagwalla at 9:00 AM on November 9, 2005

Grand Canyon rawks. I've only stayed in the canyon at El Tovar, and can't recommend it enough. I stayed for four nights. It is beautiful to congregate for the sunset and then just stroll at twilight. Late evenings were spent on the El Tovar porches chatting with family, or in the lodge by the fireplace, or in the El Tovar restaurant enjoying long dinners. Days were spent walking along the rim and taking pictures. Two nights in the Canyon would not be so bad.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:01 AM on November 9, 2005

You could split the difference. Two days each in Vegas and at the Canyon, and take an extra day to go down to Sedona - it's worth the trip.
posted by nyterrant at 10:28 AM on November 9, 2005

Even if you only have a few hours I highly recommend hiking in the canyon; November is a good time because the lethal summer desert heat is gone. There are resthouses with water at 1.5 miles and 3 miles on Bright Angel trail, or lookouts with views of the Colorado River on the South Kaibob Trail a few miles down (but no water). You could do a round trip to any of these places depending on how much time you have - just start walking down as far as you like, and allow two to three times as much time for the trip back (be warned that it will be strenuous). Bring crampons for your shoes in case the trail is icy.

And even if you can't hike I don't think you will get bored of the canyon. There are trails and lookouts all along the rim.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the input everyone. We've never been to Vegas, and to be honest, this would probably be the only time we ever spend time there. So I don't want to shortchange it.

How long a drive is Sedona from either Vegas or the canyon? And Hoover Dam?
posted by darsh at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2005

Hoover Dam is maybe a half-hour to 45 minutes outside of Vegas on your way to the Grand Canyon.

Sedona is 2 to 2 1/2 hours south of the South Rim.
posted by Opposite George at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2005

Best answer: Please do not listen to the first remark about the less time in vegas the better. That's his/her personal preference.

As is everything said in this thread. Darsh is looking for opinion — she can take or leave any particular comments.

We've never been to Vegas, and to be honest, this would probably be the only time we ever spend time there. So I don't want to shortchange it.

Unless you really, really love gambling and lounge-style entertainment, I would not worry at all about shortchanging Vegas. I was excited to see it the first time (it's really part of our cultural mythos) but ended up hating nearly every minute of my two days there. What doctor_negative said in spades. I don't mean to sound forceful, but unless you're really pumped for Vegas in particular, you may be disappointed.

Even if Vegas is exactly your cup-of-tea, rkent is spot-on: everything in Vegas happens overnight — the days can really drag.

(On the other hand, I loved the Grand Canyon. But I'm a "natural beauty" kind of guy. Make of it what you will.)

The Dam is worth seeing on your way to the Canyon. No big time commitment — park nearby and walk across. Shouldn't be more than a half an hour unless you're a history buff who wants to read the plaques.
posted by rafter at 3:37 PM on November 9, 2005

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