LAS VEGAS & GRAND CANYON South Rim TRIP REPORT JUNE/JULY 2012
Our family of 3 generations ventured to Vegas and the south rim of the Grand Canyon in the arid heat of June 2012. We gambled & gawked at glitzy, seductive Las Vegas. We enjoyed a dip in the quiet pool at The Desert Rose Resort in Vegas with my 3-year-old splashy blue-eyed granddaughter, Tinkerbell. (No, her name isn't really Tinkerbell, but she is currently enamored with Tinkerbell!) We feared losing “Grandpa” (my husband), who overheated because he was unable to sweat on the 14-mile “man hike” into the canyon where temps were 106 F. He suffered from hyponatremia due to hiking in 106 F temps with insufficient electrolytes (sodium, potassium etc.). Hyponatremia was preceded by heat exhaustion. We had to call the medics to our room several times. My husband, an active grandpa in his 50's, hikes a lot but never in temps this extreme.
This was our 2nd annual 3-generation family trip. We have declared the trip an uncertain victory. We survived the trip. But we are still searching for the recipe for a more relaxing bonding trip! (Last near we went to Yosemite.)
I hope this trip report about our highlights and what bombed will help other travelers.
Our family of 1 child and 7 adults traveled from San Diego to Grand Canyon South rim via Las Vegas both ways. Here is our itinerary:
3 nights: Las Vegas (The Desert Rose Resort)
5 nights: Grand Canyon (El Tovar Hotel & Bright Angel historic cabins)
1 night: Las Vegas (Tropicana hotel)
THE DESERT ROSE RESORT: LAS VEGAS
5051 Duke Ellington Way, Las Vegas, NV 89119
We booked 3 1-bedroom condos to comfortably sleep 7 adults and 1 child with plenty of privacy. Booked as “mystery” condo rooms on hotwire.com and got the Desert Rose Resort.
YES! We were very pleased with the condos at The Desert Rose Resort.
Location: The condos are on Duke Ellington Way, behind the Tropicana & Hooters at the south end of the strip. Although the condos aren't right on the strip, they are walking distance to the strip. (However since it was so hot in June, we didn't want to walk anywhere, so we drove & used the free valet parking which most of the big hotels, casinos, and shops on the strip offer even to non-guests. You just have to tip the valet.)
PROS: The Desert Rose Resort is very comfortable, convenient to the strip, and it's a good value, whether you book it on hotwire, or book directly on their web-site. Each condo has a nice bedroom, sitting room with sofa sleeper, bathroom and kitchen, plus a table which seats 4 people...great for meals or for card games with your family! There is a nice quiet mid-sized pool, big enough to swim a few laps, plus a jacuzzi. There is also a small kiddie pool. The pool is open late enough so that you can swim at the end of the day. Breakfast is included...it's just an ok breakfast but its free. Clean rooms, comfortable bed, decent pillows, good shower. We were able to park relatively close to our rooms. Great service, and front desk was open 24-hours. I requested quiet rooms upstairs with a “view” of the inner courtyard, and we slept well. (This isn't really a view; these are just the quieter condos.)
CONS: The Desert Rose Resort doesn't have a casino. You will need to walk or drive to the casinos at the Tropicana or the MGM Grand. Hooters may also have a casino but I didn't check. If you are looking for a party place, The Desert Rose Resort isn't it. However for a 3-generation family like ours, this was an advantage!
SUMMARY: I would happily stay at The Desert Rose Resort on a return visit to Vegas. It's an advantage to have a car so you can use free valet parking when you visit the other hotels & casinos. Vegas is huge and no matter where you stay, you will have a lot of walking. I have some foot issues so I couldn't have walked everywhere no matter where I stayed. I liked the extra space in our condo rooms at The Desert Rose Resort, the nice quiet pool, the welcoming staff, and the rooms with the “inner courtyard view” as they were quiet at night. You can walk to the strip from The Desert Rose Resort if you don't have any mobility issues. But in our opinion it's too hot in the summer to walk anyway! I was VERY VERY pleased with The Desert Rose Resort for our 3-generation family.
EL TOVAR HOTEL, Santa Fe suite
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
PROS: YES! YES! YES! My husband and I were delighted with the Santa Fe suite at the historic El Tovar Hotel, close to the rim of the Grand Canyon. The Santa Fe Suite was the only room available at the El Tovar when I booked, and it was a huge splurge. Worth every penny! Note that this suite doesn't have a canyon view. But it's a wonderful big suite, and the private solarium (sitting area) has comfortable chairs to seat 8 people! We had a pizza & card party in here one night for the whole family. There are 2 TVs, 2 separate A/C controls (one for sitting area and one for bedroom), a great shower, an amazingly comfortable bed & fluffy down pillows... Oh I'm so spoiled now!!! I must say that one of my favorite experiences on this entire vacation was getting to stay in the Santa Fe suite at the El Tovar hotel.
Because I currently have mobility issues due to my feet, it was important to stay near the rim in a nice hotel. This way I could be content when the others went for hikes I couldn't do. The El Tovar has some nice porches with rocking chairs where I would sit and read or write, with a view of the canyon! The El Tovar also has a good restaurant (reservations required for dinner but not for breakfast or lunch.) Hopefully I will be able to hike again by our next trip.
If you stay at the El Tovar, I recommend any rooms upstairs. The Santa Fe suite was upstairs, which is quieter and more private. I would avoid the ground floor because you will have day-trippers & hotel guests walking past your room all day long.
As long as you don't have mobility issues, you can easily walk between the El Tovar Hotel, the Thunderbird hotel, and the Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins. But for me currently, I couldn't do that walk.
The staff and the concierge were excellent at the El Tovar hotel. They took good care of us.
CONS: My only minor complaint about the Santa Fe suite at the El Tovar Hotel is that the A/C blows directly onto the bed. But we worked around this problem at night by mainly using the 2nd A/C in the sitting area, and shutting off the A/C in the bedroom when we went to sleep. This usually worked well enough. You can also open the windows but we kept them closed as I like it quiet at night.
SUMMARY: The El Tovar Hotel is an excellent place to stay and worth booking well in advance. It's an historic hotel with plenty of atmosphere and it's classy for a national park hotel. Avoid the ground floor rooms. It is more private and quieter upstairs. On a previous trip we stayed at the Yavapai lodge, before they remodeled. The Yavapai lodge is much further from the rim. I much prefer the location of the El Tovar. I would also consider booking rooms at the Thunderbird lodge, which is also on the rim, next to the El Tovar, if the El Tovar was booked.
BRIGHT ANGEL LODGE & CABINS:
3 “historic” cabins to sleep 6 people (5 adults and 1 child)
These small “Historic cabins” sleep a maximum of 2 people (counting children or adults).
Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
No! No! No! My family didn't sleep well in the 3 “historic cabins” which I booked for them at the Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins. These are the smaller cabins which sleep a maximum of 2 people per cabin. Nobody was happy with these cabins, except for my son, who said he would stay there again if he were hiking the Bright Angel trail. The others complained about the cabins.
PROS: All of the cabins at the Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins are located close to the canyon rim and close to the Bright Angel trail. But keep in mind that only a few cabins actually have a canyon view. The 2-person “historic cabins” don't have a view.
CONS: The 2-person “historic cabins” at Bright Angel aren't really cabins...they look more like little prefab quads. No A/C, and they do get hot...even with the fan on and the window open. The beds, pillows, and sheets are uncomfortable, my family reports. They weren't too clean. One cabin still had dirty towels on the floor from the previous occupants upon our check-in. They are very small, and while I visited my family in the cabins, I personally stayed at the El Tovar with my husband! The cabins have no atmosphere outside...they are located near parking lots, garbage dumpsters, and a few scattered scraggly trees. Every morning around 5am the trash truck came noisily to empty the dumpsters, waking everybody up. No cooking is allowed in the cabins.
SUMMARY: Only my son would ever stay in these cabins again. He said he would stay again if he were hiking the bright angel trail. He slept with ear plugs. None of the others would ever stay in these cabins again. Personally I was relieved that I had splurged for the El Tovar for my husband and I. If you look at my tripadvisor reviews you will see some of my favorite accommodations are the humblest ones. But in this case, I wouldn't have spent more than 1 night in these cabins personally. The 2-person cabins are only a good value for 2 people. If you have a family, you will need to book more than 1 room, and that's not a good value for a family. A family would find better value by booking a bigger room at the Thunderbird lodge next door.
In case you are confused, please note that the 3-person cabins at Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins cost a little more, are closer to the rim, and usually book up a year in advance. The 2-person cabins are cheaper, and are walking distance to the rim .)
TROPICANA HOTEL, LAS VEGAS
3801 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Booked 4 “mystery” rooms to sleep 7 adults on hotwire.com and got the Tropicana. We didn't count the toddler in this case as for some reason this deal disappeared each time we tried to add 1 child. She slept in her parent's bed at the Tropicana.
The Tropicana is on the south strip in Vegas, and we found it to be just ok. We got a good price on hotwire, and had standard rooms.
PROS: The Tropicana is right on the strip, on the south end. It has been refurbished. If you need a casino right at your hotel, the Tropicana of course has that too.
CONS: The Tropicana is currently over-rated on tripadvisor reviews in my opinion. Our standard rooms were just ok and could use improvements. The bathrooms were clean enough but not sparkling clean. There was water in my tub for some reason. The extra towel in my bathroom, on a shelf below the level of the sink, smelled dirty. The drinking glasses were sitting upside down on coasters but weren't actually covered which bothers me...I have never seen that before. I couldn't tell if the coasters were reused or not. Usually drinking glasses have clean paper covers or plastic covers. The pillows were cheap foam pillows and they could do better since this is a 4-star hotel. The rooms seemed more like 3-star rooms to me. The bed was ok but a little soft. The shower heads were too low and I'm only average height! The hotel & casino smells like coconut or vanilla...it gets to the point where you can almost taste a chemical perfume on your tongue, but I guess that's better than smelling smoke. BIGGEST COMPLAINT: The pool closed early at 7:00pm during our stay, which was VERY disappointing as we didn't get to swim after our long drive from the Grand Canyon!!! Why does the pool close so early?! My daughters complained that the casino at the Tropicana wasn't exactly the hippest spot on the strip. This doesn't bother me. The front desk staff was tired and overworked and grumpy. But the valets and the man who helped me to rent an electric scooter for my injured feet were extremely helpful and friendly.
Beach Cafe at Tropicana: The Beach Cafe at the Tropicana had very disappointing food. We are a group of 7 adults and a toddler, and nobody was too impressed with their food. The Asian food at the Beach Cafe was especially disappointing. (We live in San Diego where we have all kinds of great Asian-themed restaurants.)
SUMMARY: Considering that I only paid about $94 per room on hotwire for the Tropicana on a busy crowded expensive weekend in late June, the Tropicana was a good value. However my son and I combed the internet thoroughly, and the Tropicana prices are a lot higher if you try to book direct with them. We also tried using kayak, but this particular weekend in June was expensive everywhere...so that was a relatively good value. The Tropicana was just ok, and I wouldn't stay there again...I would try someplace new. I actually preferred The Desert Rose Resort, where we stayed at the start of this trip.
TO BE CONTINUED: COMING UP NEXT: ACTIVITIES & BEST FOOD & "MAN HIKE" DETAILS!
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Our GRAND CANYON & Vegas Summer Excitement: NO SWEAT, Grandpa!!!
LAS VEGAS & GRAND CANYON South Rim TRIP REPORT JUNE/JULY 2012