We started our trip with flights to Las Vegas, rented the car straight from the airport and drove to our accommodation. My perceptions and expectations of the “party and gamble capital” are mostly from Hollywood movies and American television shows. In many ways I was not disappointed and the city (at least the Strip, 7 km long road where most of the famous casino hotels are located) felt very alive and full of partying people. We stayed in a Center Strip Travelodge which was nicely positioned midway of the strip and we could easily walk to see the hotels such as Bellagio, The Mirage, MGM Grand, NewYork NewYork and Luxor.
Altogether we spent three nights in Las Vegas mainly to get used to the time difference. During this stay we spent one day walking up and down the Vegas Strip looking at the different casinos and hotels both in daylight as well as by night. Unfortunately our schedules and ticket availability did not match with any of the huge shows on-going in the city so this will be left for next visit. We noted that Vegas is a place where you can easily lose all your holiday budget and I don’t mean just by gambling but also to shopping, shows, dinners etc. Also as a tip when booking hotel in Las Vegas check if the hotel has additional resort fee. This is very common to all the hotels and will be added to the mentioned room price when checking in.
During the three days we also did a day trip to sunny California and Death Valley National Park. We drove the NV-160, approx. 2 hours 30 minutes to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and purchased the annual pass for National Parks. We started our visit by driving a little way back to the park entrance and take the Dante’s View Road to a scenery point (B in the map) for a general view of the whole valley.
After this we drove down to the valley, Badwater Basin (D in the map), which is the lowest elevation point in North America with 86 meters below sea level. We also stopped at Devils Golf Course (C in the map) on the way to see the white salty rocks up close. The valley is very warm and shadowless place on sunny days and I suggest to take some water and a sunhat with you (or at least have water in the car).
We were really lucky as this year was exceptional with the spring bloom in the desert and the sides of the road were full of yellow flowers.
I also recommend to take the short scenic drive between the hills called Artists Drive (E in the map). There are beautiful colors on the hill sides caused by the oxidation of different metals throughout the drive. Half way through the loop you can find the best colors in a place called Artists Palette. The road quite narrow and oneway but in good condition (paved road) and can be accessed with normal car.
For the sunset we drove to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (F in the map) a bit farther into the park. The sun doesn’t set behind the dunes but gives nice red glow to the sand and the mountains behind. If you go to see sunset and walk in the dunes I suggest to bring a flashlight with you as it gets fast dark after the sun goes down behind the mountains and there are no streetlights on the parking lot.
After dark we still had to drive back Las Vegas on the I-95. The drive was rather monotonous and as it was pitch black there was no scenery to view.