Vegas, baby, Vegas. It’s usually a trip of pure drunkenness and debauchery that dare not be mentioned ever again once your seatbelt is securely fastened and your plane is wheels up for the flight home. And if you did it the way most guys do it, you’ll probably need a vacation from your vacation. (And a loan from your parents to pay the mortgage next month.)
But there is a better way.
The next time you’re planning a Vegas trip for a bachelor party, guy’s weekend or even a romantic getaway with your significant other, add Utah to the agenda. It’s just a scenic 2 hour drive to Zion National Park, where you can hike, rappel, explore canyons, or just relax. Drive another couple of hours and you’re at Bryce Canyon, one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the country.
And if you do it right, you’ll have the ultimate vacation, and get home relaxed and ready to go, instead of hungover and dragging ass.
1. Get crazy in Vegas
2. Work out the toxins with a few at-altitude hikes or a day deep in the canyons of Utah
3. Head back to Vegas for a day of luxury relaxation
What to Do: Do exactly what you normally do in Vegas, drink, party, gamble, eat at overpriced restaurants… get it all out of your system.
Where to Stay: My personal favorite is the Bellagio. It’s got the right mix of old school Vegas vibe, mixed with new Vegas amenities and 5 star service.
Don’t Miss: Cypress Pool. All the casino/hotels are pushing their pool experience, and the pool area at Bellagio is large and beautiful. But the Cypress Pool really shines. Roped off from the rest of the pools, it strictly limits the number of people allowed in, and you must be over 21 to get past the velvet rope. Your lounge is reserved all day for $50 ($75 on Fri & Sun, $100 on Sat), and an attentive staff sees to your every need and brings hourly treats, like fresh fruits and frozen drinks. Well worth the extra expense.
Where to Eat: Bellagio’s Pool Cafe. Vegas is littered with overpriced restaurants fronted by celebrity chefs. And that’s fine, I’m a foodie and I love eating there. But for breakfast and lunch, you can’t beat the Pool Cafe at Bellagio. It’s a little pricy, but the plates are big and the food is incredibly well done. And you can’t beat the view.
Where to Party: This is Vegas. Walk 10 feet and you’ll find a great place to get your party on.
What to do: Point your car north on I-15 and drive until you hit Springdale, Utah. It’s a small town nestled in the foothills of Zion National Park. From here you can get a hotel room, eat some fantastic meals, and gear up for your hike, climb, tubing or canyon adventure.
Head another couple of hours north and you’re at Bryce Canyon National Park. Described when first discovered as “a giant hole in the ground” Bryce is home to hoo doos, prehistoric columns rising hundreds of feet in the air, created by millions of years of erosion.
Zion: The Desert Pearl Inn. Upscale rooms right at the entrance to Zion with spectacular views of the mountains, a pool and hot tub to relax in, a cafe that opens early morning, and a selection of hundreds of movies on VHS you can borrow. (Seriously.) Plus, the free shuttle to Zion stops at the front door, and you can walk to everything else in town from here. Park your car and forget it.
Bryce Canyon: Ruby’s Inn or the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. Owned and operated by the Syrett family since the early 1900′s, Ruby’s is a throwback to the good old days of the west. A towering stone fireplace still welcomes guests just like it did almost 100 years ago, and there’s a general store, diner, and even a hair salon on premises. If rustic isn’t your thing, the family built the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel a few years ago, with more modern rooms and amenities.
Zion: Jump the free shuttle and ride into the park. Zion has a number of trails and canyons at all skill levels. Gear up and sweat out the toxins. The high altitude is a challenge, and the sheer beauty of the mountains will help you forget what you did to your body just a day before.
Bryce Canyon: Grab the shuttle or drive your car the mile or so into the park. Choose one of the many trails that take you deep into the canyon, or just head to the observation decks along the rim.
Zion: Head over to Zion Adventure Company and gear up for some canyoneering. Zion is famous for its canyons, especially the Subway (which, unless you secure a pass early, you wont get to see, but there are plenty of other spectacular ones), and you can even hired an experienced guide to take you to some off-the-beaten-path canyons. (More on this in an upcoming post.)
Bryce Canyon: If you think you’ve seen a lot of stars at night before, head over to the Canyon after dark and look up. Since there’s virtually no light pollution surrounding the park, the sky here looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
What to Do: Now that you’ve worked out the toxins and undid some of the damage from partying, drive back to Vegas and spend a day and night of pampering and relaxation.
Where to Stay: The Mandarin Oriental. It’s known worldwide for its attention to detail and 5-star service. Plus there’s no casino in this hotel, so there’s no temptation.
What to Do: Book a treatment at their legendary 27,000 square foot spa. You’ll be able to use the entire facility for the day, including steam rooms, heated relaxation lounges and a Vitality Pool (think hot tub with a submerged lounge chairs) with views of the Strip, a Laconium (a lightly-heated steam room), and programmable Experience Showers. I promise, once you slide that luxury robe on and enter the pure Nirvana of this spa, you’ll never want to leave.
Don’t Miss: The Mandarin Bar. Located on the 23rd floor of the hotel, you can enjoy one of their signature cocktails, while taking in wraparound views of the Strip.
Split your trip like this, and you might actually be able to function once you get home. And for once you’ll have Vegas trip pictures you can show people, without violating any rules.
[This is the first in a series of four articles on Southern Utah. Watch for in-depth articles on how to plan an adventure trip to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and canyoneering.]
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