Most people share a common "image" of Las Vegas. I used to be one of them until I undertook the ride of a lifetime. Imagine flying just a few hundred feet above canyons that nature has painted orange and red, walking on naturally sculpted rocks, and floating down a river of dreams. These are the images that I will always carry with me each time I think of Las Vegas.
While taking a break after about twelve hours of the usual Las Vegas activities, my father and I looked at each other and thought there surely must be more to Las Vegas than the hotels and flashing lights. So we asked the wonderful concierge at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Resort for a few suggestions. He quickly arranged for a breathtaking helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.
Well, the Grand Canyon looks awesome in the movies so thought we might as well give it a try. Neither of us was anywhere near prepared for the amazing adventure that we were about to experience!
The tour company sent a limo to the hotel to pick us up. We rode through Las Vegas for only about five minutes before we were dropped off at the chopper launch pad. Fellow tourists from all over the world waited along with us for the tour to begin. We would never have expected to meet such friendly folks in Las Vegas!
A few minutes later, our pilot led us to one of the waiting aircraft. Intelligent and quite attractive (in a boy next door kind of way), he quickly told us that we had ended up in a helicopter all by ourselves because several of the other passengers decided to just fly over the canyon and then return to Las Vegas. The tour package that we chose actually had us landing on the bottom of the canyon!
We flew for about 30 minutes over a huge desert canvas which had been painted by nature in every color imaginable. We saw amazing rock formations, mountains, and the Colorado river.
After what seemed like mere seconds of smooth flying (the flight was that awesome) we were over the canyon itself. We saw the landing pad set amidst a backdrop of tumbleweed, mountains and cacti.
After we got off, the pilot helped us climb down a dirt and rock pathway that led to a little boat dock. There we met a family from England who would be our "partners" on our tour down the Colorado river. Las Vegas was now out of sight and out of mind.
The boat captain was a small oriental man with bright eyes and a wonderful sense of humor. He gave us our picnic baskets and commenced to regale us with interesting stories of how the Grand Canyon was created.
He stopped periodically to help us take the most breathtaking photos of the canyon. He knew every rock and ridge! He pointed out spectacular eagles and human faces carved into the rock by eons of erosion.
At the completion of our Las Vegas helicopter tour, we flew back to the launch pad and the limo took us back to the hotel. Content and awestruck, dad and I were certain that we would return to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon where we would repeat the fabulous Las Vegas helicopter tour.
Recommendation: Visit Las Vegas, have fun, then take the ride of your lifetime! You'll wonder why you even bothered with the usual Las Vegas activities!
Christakos is an international travel writer.
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