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Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas: College Tour

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by familyoutdoors, Jun 21, 2010.

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  1. familyoutdoors

    familyoutdoors Tourist

    Feb 23, 2010
    Spokane, WA
    Trips to Las Vegas:

    My Trip Report

    Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas: College Tour

    This was our tour of Northern Arizona University (NAU)and University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) with some other fun stops. –Beware, this is a budget-minded trip all around. Participants were my 17 year old son (DS) and I. This will be long and possibly boring for those looking for an action packed, thrill filled trip. Go no further if you are looking to read about drinking, gambling, or seeing expensive shows. This was not that kind of trip. DS and I worked and saved very hard for this trip and while many out there can spend hundreds or thousands a day and not blink twice doing it, that is not us. We are on this trip for a purpose. Check out the colleges and have a bit of fun at the same time. So gambling will not be in my future this time.

    Day one: June 13th. Got to Spokane International airport and checked in for our 0930 flight to Las Vegas. We were numbers A38 and A39 for getting on plane on Southwest. Found seats in the emergency row so that my DS would have extra leg room. Flight was uneventful and arrived on time in Las Vegas.

    We took the shuttle to the rental facility (Alamo). Had done my homework and reserved a midsized car for $79 including all taxes/fees. Watching the rates and changing as needed really helped. (Used the kiosk as recommended on boards.) Check in was very easy and was off to choose car. This was probably the most time consuming part. There were at least two rows of cars to pick from. We choose a Kia Soul.[From now on referred to as the hamster cage (see commercial if needed.)] Our hamster cage was a bright green color. Picked this color so it was easy to find in parking lots, and it was. Red and white were popular in lots, so glad I didn’t choose those colors. After getting the car we stopped off at Walmart and picked up some snacks to head on out to Flagstaff our first stop.

    We took the route through Laughlin and Kingman to miss the dam. The entire trip took around 5 hrs. Stopped at Kingman at half a tank of gas to refuel. Cruise control was great. There are photo enforced speed traps in Arizona, FYI.

    Arrived in Flagstaff around 5:30PM and found our Hotel Econo Lodge University. Found a good deal on Priceline.com for $35 + tax. Check in was quick and painless. Clerk gave me a two bed, non-smoking room in a quiet area (room 109). Room was small but clean. We ate at the Sizzler and then came back to room. DS went for a quick dip in the icy cold pool. Watched some TV. and then to bed. Bed was very comfortable!

    Day two: June 14th. Got up and partook of the free breakfast at the hotel. Selection was small but something to fill one’s tummy. Got to NAU to try and find correct parking for tour. New student orientation going on so parking was limited. Met with head of Hotel program to find out about what NAU had to offer. Then we took the tour of the school with other prospective students. I think we traveled the furthest in distance. NAU provided lunch. We checked out the book store and we were off for the Grand Canyon.

    Got close to the canyon and you started to see overlooks to get your first glimpse. Pulled into the first one. Sign said $2. I did a u-turn out of there. I’ll be paying $25 to see the canyon, I’m not paying more! The car behind me did the same. Finally arrived to the Grand Canyon via the east entrance. Walked around the Desert View area for a while. The Watch Tower is under renovation. There are people working on the outside and you cannot go all the way to the top. Got some great pictures from there. Didn’t stop at any other areas until we found Mather Campground. Set up our tent and then hopped on the Blue bus going to Yavapai Point to find a spot to view the sunset and eat our dinner. Took many pictures of the changing canyon at sunset. DS was asked by many other viewers if he would take their photo in front of the canyon. This would be a common occurrence on the trip. After the sun set, hopped back on the bus to go back to our tent. On the way back, DS was on left side of street and I on the right. I whispered get over here to him. He practically was going to walk into a huge elk! We both got some good pictures of the elk. Then continued to our tent to settle in for the night. Since we came by plane we had minimal camping equipment. We each had a sleeping bag, I had a pad, and a fleece blanket and we had the tent and ice chest. That night as I knew it would got very cold. I kept trying to cover the both of us with the extra blanket, but was not very successful. I kept tossing and turning all night as I could not get comfortable.

    Day 3: June 15th. Got up and it was still cold, but the sun was warming things up quickly. Packed up the camping stuff quickly and checked out of the campground. Moved the hamster cage over to the Market Plaza area. Hopped onto the blue bus to transfer to the Red bus. The plan for the day was to see the Hermits Rest area. We weren’t aware that there was a “que†to stand in. You didn’t do that waiting for any of the other buses, but some rude guy had to inform us that there is a que and that we needed to go to the end of the line. There was no sign saying this so when we arrived at the bus stop we walked around waiting for the bus. In the mean time a very large group arrived and got into the line. We ended up having to wait for the next bus. Just as well…We didn’t have to be in the same area with that rude guy. I did see that guy later and he was being rude to others, go figure! On and off the bus we went taking a zillion pictures.
    Took a hike a short way down. Heard a ranger speak for a while. Started heading back to the east on the bus. Coming back this direction are only 3 stops. You must pay attention. At one point (I swore) the driver had the wrong sign out and we were going the wrong direction.
    We finally saw all we had time for and headed back towards the car. Stopped in one of the gift shops and bought some souvenirs. Since we didn’t get a chance to take a picture at the Grand Canyon sign, we did that on the way out leaving by the south entrance. We again took others pictures. It wasn’t long before we found the small town of Tusayan. We first stopped at the McDonald’s, but a tour bus got there before us. We then drove across the street to the Wendy’s. The line was also long, but we were starved. Got our food and then left for our long drive back to Vegas.
    DS drove for about an hour and a half before he got tired and then I drove. The scenery in the desert is deceiving and you think you are going slower than you are. Cruise control definitely comes in handy here. Passed one more photo-enforced speed trap. There was a check point in both directions that law enforcement stopped each vehicle and briefly looked inside. Had the same white SUV follow me until after we passes the Hoover Dam. Stopped to take pictures of the dam and then off again. I’m glad that we went a different way for our return trip.
    Wasn’t long before we found our way to the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Had the valet park the car and proceeded to the check in. There were maybe a dozen people ahead of me in line, but the line when by rather quickly. I had a young female help me and I considered trying the $20 trick since I only booked a deluxe room. I asked her if any complementary upgrades were available and she said she would see what she could do. She said she had a nice room with a view on the 20th floor. A view is nice but it is technically not an upgrade. I did however take the room. The room was clean and rather large. I had a nice view of Cesar’s Palace and surrounding hotels. After getting settled, we headed over to the Hard Rock Hotel to eat at Mr Luky’s 777 for the all you can eat prime rib for $9.99. I read about this special online. I had one piece of the prime rib and DS had two. The veggies were particularly good. I asked if I could just have more of the veggies and was told only the meat was all you can eat. Was very loud inside the joint. Got a call from my DH saying DS4 needed stitches in his finger and were to take him??? Instructed him were to take son and were back to hotel.
    We then were beat after walking around Grand Canyon all day so we watched a bit of TV and went to bed. Never really got much sleep though. Apparently my room was above some source of music. I heard the thumping all night. –This after I asked for a quiet room. Even my ear plugs failed to make the noise go away.

    Day 4: June 16th. I awoke with a massive migraine. I called guest services first thing requesting a room change. I was told they could do it with no problem, but that I would not get the same view. I didn’t care about a view at this point, just getting some sleep. I was told my new room was ready now, so we shuffled our luggage down to the 5th floor to room 5151. It had a view…a view of some roof. –but what did I care? All I wanted was a good night’s sleep!
    The next morning we were up early again as we had a tour scheduled at UNLV at 9:00AM. Got directions on how to get to the college. Turns out we needed to be on the other side. Today was a wind advisory with gusts over 40 mph. Not only was it hot, but a hot wind was blowing hard. We found the correct building and arrived on time. Maybe 5 other prospective students joined us on the tour and we were again the ones from the farthest away. DH enjoyed the tour especially the part when the guide stated that UNLV just beat out Cornell with a number one ranking for the Hotel and Hospitality Mgmt program. The dorms at this school are suite style. (two rooms that share one bathroom and shower and not a community bathroom shower combo). DS likes this idea and the dorm room itself was of good size too! Had a quick bite at Carl’s Jr and then off to do some shopping. Then back to the hotel so that DS could enjoy the pool.
    While he was at the pool I went off to try to find the Rio to get my $10 free slot money offered though text. I was in for a rude awakening. The Rio is on the other side of the freeway and too far to walk. There was a shuttle though. I finally found were they were hiding the shuttle and got into the line. It seemed like it was taking forever for the bus to come so I finally gave up. I went back to the Flamingo and got the measly $5 and in one spin the five was gone. I guess that was a warning of not the throw my money away. I also discovered walking around by myself was no fun either. We went over to the Imperial Palace to see the Car Museum since I had two free admission tickets. DS really enjoyed seeing all the old cars and all the fast and expensive cars. There are even two cars that are two of a kind and they are both there.
    For dinner we decided we wanted to go to Fremont St to have dinner and see the Freemont St Experience. We got directions from the concierge and hopped on the freeway. It was dinner time and traffic was thick. We were almost to our exit and traffic in our lane completely stopped. Luckily DS had good reflexes and slammed on the brakes not turning the hamster cage in any direction. The car in front of us braked to the left and the one to the rear to the right. Everyone was in sink braking to the other direction. The emotions started to fly out of me, including tears. We got off the freeway and I didn’t get back on at dinner time again. We then got to experience the Las Vegas version of a turn- about. Instead of a circle like they are where we are from they were more like an S curve going around cones. The also had “speed humpsâ€. Very different and funny. We also passed a residential home that had a military tank parked in the driveway. We finally made it to the downtown area and parked at Main St Station valet. I had a coupon for BOGO on the buffet so we used that. Cost around $11 for the two of us to eat dinner. The selection was very good and most all of the food was hot and tasty. Our server was attentive and took the plates away quickly. After dinner we walked over to Freemont St for some shopping and then to see the show on the ceiling. I believe it was the same show that we saw last time, but it was still enjoyable and we took many pictures. Took the strip- route home. Got up to the room and found that neither of our room keys would open the door. Had to walk back towards the elevator to the phone and security came up and opened them door. I then had to call the bell man to bring us two more room keys. We then fell into bed.

    Day 5 June 17th.
    No set plans today so we slept in. Went and had lunch with a friend of DS at a joint called Raising Cane. They serve chicken fingers and chicken sandwiches. Food was just ok, nothing special. After lunch we checked out the outlet mall near the food place and bought a few items. Then went back to hotel to swim for a while. Had to watch the clock since I had to call home just before 5PM so that DS3 could check us in online for SWA. He clicked enter right at 5:10pm and we still got group B 8 and 9. Lots of people must have paid the extra $10 for the trip back!
    I had bought gift certificates for Hash House A GoGo on Sahara so we decided to go there. DS has the Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles. I had the Penne with chicken. Both were HUGE! We could have eaten family style with our family of six with these two orders alone. We knew we wouldn’t be able to finish so we just ate what we could. Since we had a fifty to waste, we also ordered dessert. DS got the cheese cake (banana was the flavor for the day.) I got the bread pudding. It was chocolate and came with vanilla ice cream. We took the desserts to go and ate them before bed and I also ate bread pudding for breakfast the next day. A couple behind us was debating what to order so DS pulls out his cell phone to show the couple a picture of the fried chicken. They both gasped and said maybe we should share! We saw a big guy who ordered a salad that looked like a tractor had served up an entire garden. The guy barely made a dent in that salad.
    After an uneventful drive back to the hotel we rolled ourselves back to the room to get ready to see the sights near the hotel. We took many pictures and saw the usual porn slappers, women in heels and people with signs asking for money. I saw a lot more people this time selling water for a dollar a bottle. The police were also out giving away bottles of water. Some woman said, “What’s the catch.†I said,†They don’t want you to have a heat stroke and die!†She said oh ok and took her free water.

    Day 6 :June 18th. Final day in Vegas. We wake up early to get everything packed up and check out of the hotel. There are still around a dozen people ahead of me when checking out but the line moves quickly enough. Since I chose to not have charging privileges on my account, I had nothing to settle up. I asked for a receipt any way. Picked up the car from the valet for the final time and got directions for Cici’s Pizza closest to the airport. I know you must be wondering why in the heck Cici’s, but we don’t have one were we live and see the commercials almost daily. I also had a coupon for BOGO. Total came to $7 for two including tax and two drinks. The pizza was just ok.
    While driving today saw a sign for a Scout shop so we pulled in to check it out. It is the grandest Scout shop that I think I have ever seen! Bought a scout patch for my collection. Next we stopped at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign to get photos there. DS again ended up being the photographer for about a dozen different people. Then we decided check out the strip north of the Flamingo since we still had a few hours before we had to drop the car off. We walked up and down taking a lot of pictures and shopping at a few of the stores for last minute souvenirs. Was really warm today. Finally it was time to drop the car off. Found our way to the Airport Car Rental Facility. Easily found Alamo. Checking in the car was a sinch and took just a minute. I think it took longer to take out the luggage and the trash then the actual check in and settling up of the bill. Took the shuttle over to the airport for our flight. Flight was totally booked and we volunteered to be ‘bumped’ if possible. Came right down to the last minute. I guess a couple didn’t show up so we didn’t get bumped.
    What I learned from this trip. If your spouse doesn’t go with you, it is probably a good idea to call a little more often than you think you need to. Also call and say that your flight landed safely or whatever. It’s just a common courtesy that was easily forgotten on my part. Also don’t send text messages with pictures of food and say see what I am eating? It might come across as haha…even if that’s not what you meant at all! I also learned that you can go on a vacation or a trip to Vegas on a strict budget and have fun. It can be done!
  2. jgates8

    jgates8 VIP Whale

    Jun 25, 2007
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    You can seriously send me pics of your food anytime! I didn't delete that message!!!! And I think I can handle bread pudding for breakfast on that HHAGG certificate I have to use.

    I really enjoyed reading it and I am so glad everything went well!

  3. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

    Apr 20, 2002
    Nice read. We were there the exact same week.
    Let's us know what college your son picks. Is he going into hospitalty/food mgt?
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