So, I never imagined that my first time in Las Vegas would be with a toddler, but there we were, looking out onto the glistening neon lights of sin city.
As part of a two week visit to America, my parents and I, and Noah of course, road-tripped from Hollywood, California to Las Vegas so that we could go see Earth’s natural wonder, the Grand Canyon.
We’d allowed a whole day to drive across the desert. It’s meant to take about four and a half hours but traffic driving across and out of LA can be horrendous, and with a kid in tow, its likely there will be at least a couple of stops.
What’s surprising as you’re leaving Los Angeles, is the change in elevation. With the drive taking you over the San Andreas fault line, the terrain gets pretty interesting! Be prepared for some spectacular views but also some sheer drops along the side of the road in places.
The road through the desert, the I-15, was not as desolate as I had expected. It’s a major highway, so there’s plenty of traffic. Of course, it’s still important to prepare, making sure there’s sufficient fuel and stock up on food and water case of a break down.
There are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way. We made a stop at the town of Victorville for breakfast and then later on at Baker, where there is a significant increase temperature due to its close proximity to Death Valley. It’s hard not to miss the World’s Largest Thermometer!
We just had a Burger King but there are lots of eateries in this town that you could choose from. Nana and I were also very excited that we also spotted a police car chase whilst eating our food!
We arrived at the Trump hotel in Las Vegas which, putting my personal views of Donald Trump aside, was a really nice family option. It was just off the strip so a little quieter and it didn’t have a casino. Staff were really accommodating. The concierge was particularly helpful in confirming my Grand Canyon tour booking for me; we had arrived later than expected at the hotel so I was in a bit of a flap because I had not been able to call the tour company.
Our rooms were large and impressive with features like microwaves, fridges, gorgeous smelling products, TV in the bathroom, jacuzzi bath and a separate walk in shower. Honestly, the only downside to the hotel was the hugely marked up drinks prices.
After all that traveling, it was time to indulge in some well-earned room service.
We took a coach tour to the Grand Canyon the next day, to give Grandad a break from driving. Instead of the popular South Rim, we opted for the shorter trip to the West Rim (121 miles away from Las Vegas vs. 278). Our choice surpassed all expectations and was as spectacular and unspoiled as you might imagine.
Noah loved scrambling up the red rocks and investigating. There were no barriers to protect anyone from falling off the cliff edges so we used reigns for a bit of safety.
At the West Rim there is also the option to pay to go on the Skywalk, a glass viewing platform. We didn’t bother with this because the views were so breathtaking it seemed unnecessary. There is also a restaurant so you can get something to eat, although the options were pretty basic.
The land is in a Native American reservation. Noah really enjoyed exploring the examples of teepees.
The following day, we explored the strip a little bit, which was far bigger than I had imagined (it’s actually around four miles in length). Although there was plenty to see, I had underestimated how tiring this would be with a toddler (who still wanted to be carried some of the time) and in the desert heat. If we were to do it again and had more time, I would probably use public transport. Even getting across the road was tiresome as you can’t just walk across, you have to use specific walkways that take you over to the other side.
Despite its reputation as an adult playground, Las Vegas actually has quite a bit for children to do (they have kids there too, you know?). Even among the casinos and hotels of the strip there are shows and attractions that are child friendly. I would have loved to have taken him to the Discovery Children’s Museum or the Shark Reef Aquarium, but by that point we were so exhausted!
We resorted to the far more relaxed atmosphere of the hotel pool. This was great for Noah as it had very large shallow areas that he could splash about in. There was also a spa pool, which Noah didn’t want to go in, but Mummy enjoyed.
It was time to head back to Los Angeles the next morning. We had the unusual experience of seeing rain in California, in fact, torrential rain. Within a couple of minutes we had sunny skies again!
We stopped in the city of Barstow to have a novel lunch – Mcdonalds in a converted train carriage. It sits right next to a railway line and Noah really loved waving to the enormous freight trains as they went by.
I would really love to do this road-trip again. There are so many other quirky stops or small detours we could do like visiting a ghost town, investigating the deserted and strangely named Zzyxz Road or Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch where bottles are recycled into art.