New York - Las Vegas 2014
Who: Jelle Collignon and Heidi Willekens
States: New York, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah
When: July 2014
Destinations: New York, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon Village, Flagstaff, Window Rock, Blanding, Moab, Bryce Canyon Village
Sights: Vrijheidsbeeld, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park
Day 1: Brussel – Newark – New York
Our flight to New York landed on Newark. To get to Manhattan we took a iconic yellow cab to get to our hotel, Hotel Beacon. The trip should have lasted about 30 minutes, but the famous traffic jams in the tunnels thought otherwise.. We finally arrived at the hotel 45 minutes later. On the way we had some amazing views of the New York City skyline. We checked in and went to our room. A very nice room on a high floor with a view of the busy street below.
We dropped our bags in the room and headed for Central Park. We would start our citytrip in Central park. First stop: Central Park Zoo. We must say we were disappointed. There were very few animals in the zoo. A lot of cages were empty. Next was Bethesda Terrace And Fountain. There were a lot of people enjoying the sun near the fountain.
Central Park is a great place to escape from the busy city and there's always something to see or do. There were even some creative homeless people trying to earn some money. One would tell you a joke for 1 dollar. If you didn't laugh you got your dollar back!
We had dinner in Dallas BBQ, near the hotel. We had our first burger of the trip!
Before heading back to the hotel we went to the subway station at 72nd street to buy a MetroCard so we could ride the subway for 3 days.
Dag 2: Top of the Rock
We got up early, at 7am to start a busy day. We had breakfast in a bakery right across the street from the hotel before taking the subway to Union Square. We picked up a geocache and headed for Madison Square to see the Flatiron building. This was the first skyscraper of New York. In front of the Flatiron Building we had a nice view of the Empire State Tower. But that tower would have to wait an other day for our visit.
Again we used the subway, now to get to Times Square. This is the New York you mostly see on tv. 5th Avenue and Broadway are the place to be in New York City. The streets are cluttered with led-screen showing advertisements non-stop. We also saw the world-famous 'Naked Cowboy' singing his songs.
From Times Square we continued our trip to Bryant Park. This is a lovely park with a lot of terraces. The park is next to the New York Public Library. We were eager to see the large reading room, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations.. We went further to Grand Central Terminal. This is a really magnificent and huge building. On the lowest floor there is a food court where we had lunch: chicken with noodles.
In the afternoon we went to the HQ of United Nations. Due to the incident with a Malaysian plane in Ukrain there was a lot of press here.
Next on the list was the Rockefeller Center to visit Top of the Rock. We took the elevater up to the 67th floor. The sight was magnificent! You really feel tiny. From Top of the Rock you have a great view on Central Park on one side, and a great view on the Empire State Building on the other side. There was a long line for the elevator back down. While we were waiting an American women suddenly said to Heidi: "Hey, I like your shoes!" Thanks! Friendly, those Americans. From Rockefeller Center we went to Macy's for some shopping.
In the late afternoon we returned to the hotel to freshen up because we had tickets for the 8pm performance of Aladdin in the New Amsterdam Theater.
When we got to our seat in the theater Heidi felt that hers was broken. We went to find someone from the theater and yes, there was a screw missing. An engineer was called to fix it and when he was waiting for his assistent to get spare parts we had a nice conversation. He had recently travelled to Germany with his wife. After about 20 minutes the seat was fixed. The manager of the theater offered us a cd of the show for the inconvenience. A very nice gesture! The show was amazing! Great Disney songs and a lot of humor! Especially the genie was marvelous!
After the show we enjoyed the night-time view of Times Square.
Day 3: 9/11 museum and the Statue of Liberty
Our third day was also very busy. The day had an emotional start. We visited the 9/11 museum on Ground Zero. There was a very long line, so we were lucky to have bought tickets upfront. We really recommend a visit to the museum. We were speechless by the sight of the terror that shook New York on 9/11.. The museum left an everlasting impression.
From the new One World Trade Center we went through Battery Park to get to the ferries for the trip to the Statue of Liberty. Honestly? The best views of the statue are on the ferry, not on the island itself. But we must say the statue is impressive. We didn't go all the way up into the crown, but we climbed the 195 steps to get on top of the socket. We had a great view of the New York skyline.
After our visit of the Statue of Liberty we went to another New York City icon, Wallstreet. We saw the world-famous facade of the New York Stock Exchange. From Wallstreet we continued our walk to the South Street Seaport, but it looked like the shops didn't exist anymore. We went back to the hotel to freshen up and headed for BXL, a Belgian restaurant. We loved the menu, all Belgian favorites. Jelle enjoyed the stew with a white beer and Heidi tasted the pasta carbonara with a raspberry beer.
We ended the day on top of the Empire State Building. Visiting the Empire State Building is like visiting a themepark. Long lines, a lot of entertainment. There is even a ride, the spectacular elevater ride up to the 80th floor. From there on you can take the stairs or an elevator to the 86th floor. There were a lot of people up there, all enjoying the sunset over the city. The view of all the lights in the city was amazing.
Day 4: Brooklyn Bridge – American Museum Of Natural History
On our last day in New York, we went for a walk, again.. We took the subway to Brooklyn, to walk across Brooklyn Bridge. The weather was very nice, just like the view of the city.
After our crossing of the bridge we walked passed the Criminal Courts Building. There was a lot of press (we could see all the satellite dishes on the vans), so we thought there was a major crime case being covered. But they were just filming an episode of 'The Newsroom'.
We continued our walk to China Town. We heard a lot of noise and drums. There was a dragon competition. Different teams were competing by showing of the best moves of their dragon. A nice extra! From China to Italy in a few minutes, it's possible in New York. We had lunch in Little Italy. Pizza, of course!
Next stop was Economy Candy. A small shop with a lot of candy! You can find every kind of candy here. They even had Kinder Bueno and (very expensive) Côte d'Or chocolate!
Then we took the subway to the American Museum Of Natural History. This museum was one of the reasons we were in New York. But we were a little disappointed.. It was very busy and there wasn't a clear structure. We thought the Natural History Museum in Berlin was better.
After our visit we returned to the hotel to rest a little. Before going back to Times Square for dinner, we reserved a place in a shared van for the ride to the airport the next day.
Day 5: New York – Las Vegas
On our last day in New York we went to The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. Nice store, but a little expensive... Just like the DKNY shop..
Around noon we left New York and returned to Newark for our flight to Las Vegas. We were lucky, the flight only lasted 4,5 hours instead of the 5,5 hours posted.
Once we arrived in Las vegas we were waiting for our luggage, but it didn't come.. Then Jelle saw some bags in a corner of the baggage claim hall. There was a little sign saying "Newark", next to our bags! Apparently our bags were flown to Las Vegas with an earlier flight.
We took the shuttle to the Car Rental Center to pick up the car. Alamo had a nice Ford Fusion on the lot, so Jelle was happy!
We slept in the Circus Circus hotel. Luckily it was just 1 night. It's a cheap hotel, and it shows... It's old, noisy and not very clean..
Day 6: Hooverdam
Early in the morning we used a reward from MyVegas, a breakfast buffet for 2. Very nice breakfast! After eating more than was good for us, we checked out and headed for Hooverdam. About an hour later we arrived at the enormous structure.
In the visitor center we booked the 11am tour to visit the inside of the dam and the power plant with a guide. The tour costed 30 dollars and was worth every penny! The group was small (max 20 persons) so everyone could enjoy all the views. At the end of the tour we stepped in an elevator and all of a sudden we were on the top of the dam.
We had lunch in the restaurant next to the visitor center and started the 5,5 hour drive to the Grand Canyon. On one of the most beautiful stretches of Route 66, between Kingman and Seligman, we picked up a geocache.
Finally we arrived at the hotel, Maswik Lodge South. It wasn't a large hotel, there were a couple of buildings in the woods with each about 10 rooms. But the worst thing was the airco. Well, actually, there was no airco! There were only 2 fans...
We went to a store to get something for dinner and breakfast the next morning, and a lot of water for the hike the next day.
Day 7: Grand Canyon
We couldn't sleep due to the heat in the room. At 5.15am we gave up and went outside, where we met the neighbours! They couldn't sleep either. The last time we booked a room without airco...
Now we were up early, we had breakfast and left for our hike by 7.30am. Two years ago we hiked from the visitor center to Mohave Point on the Rim Trail. This year we took the bus to the end of the Rim Trail, at Hermits Rest and hiked back to Mohave Point, so we would have walked the full trail.
We didn't see a lot of other people on the trail, but we did meet other Belgians. By noon we finished our 8km hike and took the bus back to the hotel. We had a snack for lunch and started driving to Flagstaff.
Before we left Grand Canyon National Park we picked up another geocache. We also left 2 travelbugs in the cache: Zeb and Bruudruuster. Bruudruuster should visit all 50 states before returning home. Zeb should return home as fast as possible.
We filled up the tank and drove to Flagstaff. At 3pm we arrived at the Days Inn. The weather was a little rainy so after we freshened up we went to the local shopping mall, not very large, but we did find some nice things. On the way back to the hotel we ate at Pizza Hut and bought some breakfast for tomorrow.
In the evening we saw that our travelbugs had already started their trip. Zeb was going West and Bruudruuster was going to New Mexico.
Day 8: Sedona and Petrified Forest
Time for a busy day. Skyping with the family at home, a little breakfast and we were ready to go.
First stop, Sedona. This is a very beautifull village in a magnificent decor. Outside the center there were a lot of large, very large houses. Not all poor people here.. We searched for one of the houses on the internet, but it looks like nobody knows who's it is. We found the names of Madonna, Johnny Depp, Nick Cage, ...
The main reason for our visit to Sedona is The Church of the Holy Cross. This is a little church that is built inside the red rocks. We lit a candle and continued our trip to Meteor Crater.
We arrived at the Barringer Crater after 1.5 hours. About 50.000 years ago a meteor crashed into the earth here and left a enormous crater. The crater was beautiful in pictures taken from the air, but it's not that impressive when you're standing next to it. It's hard to get a feeling of how large it actually is. On our way back to the interstate we picked up another geocache.
Next on the list was Petrified Forest National Park. This is a beautiful park, filled with petrified trees. It was a little to hot for a hike in the open space, but we took some nice pictures. Route 66 used to pass through the park, but the only remaining remnants of the Mother Road are the wooden electricity poles.
We were coming closer the our hotel in Window Rock. Last stop was Gallup. This is the Indian Capital of the United States. We thought we could by some nice Indian necklaces, but when we arrived at 5pm all the shops were already closed. We were in New Mexico and they are in another timezone. It's 6pm here! We stopped at a gas station and drove to the hotel, Quality Inn Window Rock.
Window Rock felt a little like Kayenta 2 years ago. We didn't feel safe here. On the nearby parking lot a police man was yelling at some young trouble makers.
We had 2 options for dinner: Pizza Hut or Taco Bell. We already had pizza yesterday, so Taco Bell, here we come! This was our first time in Taco Bell, and honestly, probably also the last time. We really didn't like it.
The hotel was OK. The rooms were small, but very clean. And there was a free breakfast!
We went to bed early, because tomorrow we will have a long trip of 450 km.
Day 9: A winding road
We had 3 options for breakfast in the hotel: We went for menu 1: an egg with toast and fruit. When we returned to our room, our key didn't work. Jelle went to the reception and got a new one. But this one also didn't work. The receptionist called someone of maintenance and this guy showed us how easy it is to break into the rooms.. He could open the window very easily! There was something wrong with the lock. It locked us out..
First stop for today was Canyon de Chelly. We could visit the North or the South Rim. We chose the South Rim. In Canyon de Chelly there are ruins of houses in which the Indians have lived thousands of years ago. We didn't have time for a hike, so we only saw the ruins from the viewpoints.
From Canyon the Chelly we drove to Goosenecks State Park. This should take about 2 hours. Goosenecks State Park is comparable to Horseshoe Bend in Page: curving canyons, carved by the Colorado River. It was a beautiful sight.
We were about 2.5 hours away from our next hotel. But we didn't take the fastest way. We made a little detour so we would pass the Moki Dugway. This is a narrow dirtroad, that curves up the steep cliffs. Halfway we picked up a geocache and enjoyed the magnificent view.
After very long day we arrived at the Super 8 in Blanding, a small, but cosy town. The hotel was great and again, free breakfast!
For the first time on our roadtrip we had a decent meal in a Steakhouse. Jelle had some delicious spareribs and Heidi ate chicken with mashed potatoes.
Day 10: Arches National Park and Canyonland National Park
A good night's sleep, cornflakes and freshly baked Belgian waffles. We are ready for day 10!
We drove through Moab, past our next hotel, straight to Arches National Park. We wanted to walk to Delicate Arch before it was too hot.
We parked the car near the trailhead. It was quite busy on the parking lot. We doubted if we would hike to the arch, because the temperature was already around 34°C. We decided to go ahead with our plan, so we took 3l of water from the trunk and we started walking.
The Delicate Arch Trail is 2,5km one-way, but is quite strenuous. There is no path, you need to follow small towers of rocks up the steep rocky mountain. But we did it! We reached Delicate Arch and were rewarded with a beautifull view of the arch!
When we got back to the trailhead, our 3l of water was gone and it was already after noon, so we were hungry! We stopped at Subway for a sandwich before going to the hotel, Moab Valley Inn. We rested a little and then headed for Canyonlands National Park for a magnificent view!
Day 11: Moab – Bryce Canyon
A long drive from Moab to Bryce Canyon today, about 6 hours..
Normally our first stop would have been the Mars Research Center, but we didn't find it. Somewhere we must have mist the dirt road leading to it. We drove further to Capitol Reef National Park where we ate our sandwiches and visited the visitor center. We were not very impressed by the park..
Back in the car for another 3 hours of driving..
After 6 hours of driving we arrived at our hotel in Bryce Canyon Village, Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon. We had some rain on the way here, so the temperature was comfortable. We checked in and went to our room. We will stay here for 2 nights. The hotel is very nice, with spaceous romes.
For dinner we went to Ruby's Inn, the hotel across the street. They have a good buffet restaurant.
Before returning to the hotel we bought water to take with us on our hike tomorrow.
Day 12: Bryce Canyon
We got up early to hike throught Bryce Canyon. We drove to Bryce Point and parked at the trailhead of the Peek-A-Boo Loop. We would walk about half of this loop and than follow the Queens Garden Trail to get back up to the canyon rim at Sunrise Point. The total hike would be around 7,5km. We would then return to our car with the shuttle bus.
We thought this hike would be easier than the Delicate Arch Trail, but this was definitely not true. But the views were worth it!
By noon we were back at the car. Luckily, because the weather predictions were bad for this after noon. They expected a large thunderstorm. When we arrived at the hotel the sun was still shining, so we quickly changed in our swimwear and went to the pool. But after half an hour we heard thunder, so we left the pool and went back to our room. The thunderstorm lasted the rest of the day..
Day 13 – 16: Las Vegas
The last part of our roadtrip took us from Bryce Canyon, through the Valley of Fire to Las Vegas. We would spend 4 nights in Paris Las Vegas. We did a lot of shopping and visited all hotels on the strip.
Every night we ate at a buffet in one of the hotels, for FREE! We had gathered many points in MyVegas, a Facebook game. The points could be exchanged for real rewards. We ate at Aria, The Mirage and Mandalay Bay.
The first night we went to see Blue Man Group. The show moved from The Venetian to The Monte Carlo, but was still very good!
The next evening we enjoyed a concert of Spandex Nation at the Hard Rock Hotel.
For the third night we had tickets for KA, a Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM Grand. It was our first Cirque show and were impressed!