The ultimate Grand Canyon travel guide
For many, Grand Canyon National Park is a sightseeing coach stop, a natural tonic for the lights of nearby Las Vegas and a ‘been there’ photo opportunity. But the world’s most famous canyon in Arizona, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a national park, deserves better. As you’ll see here, it’s been home to people for thousands of years, and it took millions of years for the Colorado River to expose billions of years of geological history as it scoured a path down into the bedrock.   Bordered by several Native American reservations, the World Heritage site is steeped in Navajo, Havasupai and Hualapai culture and you can spend days walking trails with vistas of unparalleled scale. Perhaps you should pop to Vegas for a day and spend a week here instead… Getting there The Grand Canyon is split into two distinct zones, the North Rim and the South Rim.   It’s about a four-and-a-half-hour drive to get from one rim to the other, so ensure you  plan your trip accordingly. [caption id="attachment_47355" align="alignleft" width="600"] Toroweap Point – a jewel of the North Rim[/caption] If you’re keen to visit the North Rim, your best bet is to fly to Las Vegas, then drive the four and a half hours to the park.   If you're heading to the South Rim, from Phoenix it’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive.   For those without a car, the Arizona Shittle runs vans from Flagstaff to to the village three times a day. When to visit The best times to visit the Grand Canyon are March through May and September through November, when the crowds have shooed and daytime temperatures are predominantly cool.   If you decide to visit during the summer (the park's peak season), be prepared for hordes of tourists and very limited lodging availability. What to bring When travelling through Grand Canyon National Park, it's best to over prepare with your packing. We suggest sunscreen, a water bottle, optimum snacks, a camera, a small first-aid kit and a backpack to carry it all in. What to see Fit these natural and woman-made wonders into your Grand Canyon itinerary. Havasu Falls You’ll need to reserve a permit to hike to this natural spectacle in the Havasupai Indian Reservation.   A 30-metre waterfall cascades into a brilliant aqua-blue plunge pool that owes its colour to the high levels of calcium carbonate in the water, forming a stark contrast with the steep ochre cliffs of the creek. [caption id="attachment_47356" align="alignleft" width="600"] Havasu Falls – a view from the top[/caption] The 16-kilometre trail to the campground takes four to seven hours to hike, passing through the village of Supai. Horseshoe Bend See the Colorado River at its dramatic best from this vantage point on the rim of the Grand Canyon.   A view of the river carving a tight meander through the red rock, it’s perhaps the best spot to see how the power of water has hewn the steep sides of the Grand Canyon over millions of years.   Just outside the northern confines of the park, take a short walk from the highway to reach Horseshoe Bend and get snapping. Mary Colter architecture You wouldn’t think that architecture should be on your Grand Canyon agenda, but you’ll find the works of architect Mary Colter, who designed gift shops and other tourism structures sympathetic to the landscape here in the first half of the 20th century.   One of the few female architects of her day, she was the pioneer of a rustic style that incorporated Native American touches and traditional pueblo design. Make sure you head to Colter’s Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower. Tusayan Ruins Having marvelled at 20th-century faux Pueblo Indian architecture you can see the fascinating remains of the real thing at the 800-year-old Tusayan Ruins, a snapshot into the lives of people here before European settlement.   The low stone semi-circular walls of the main living area, storage rooms and a kiva, a ceremonial space, can be explored with a guide or by yourself on a short trail.   The Tusayan Museum here is a reconstruction of a Hopi Indian house. Whitewater Rafting One of the most spectacular places on the planet to go rafting, the Colorado River surges and at times sedately pours past gargantuan cliffs. Take a multi-day trip with experts in the field like advantage. Go Hiking The South Kaibab Trail gives you a taste of the gradients that make this place so special, rewarding you with the best views for your efforts.   It winds down the canyon to a campsite on the Colorado River, taking about four to five hours each way. [caption id="attachment_47353" align="alignleft" width="600"] Views from a hike in the Grand Canyon National Park[/caption] Desert view drive Rent a convertible for this one, a scenic drive that affords sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon dotted with pull-over viewpoints along the way.   Plus it takes in the Tusayan Ruins and Museum, and Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower. Animal spotting Mountain lion You’ll be fortunate to spot the biggest predator in the park, aka the cougar; don’t worry, they’re not interested in humans. Tarantula The Aphonopelma behlei, a species of the world’s biggest spiders, lives here. Watch you don’t step on the four-inch beasts. Gila monster Like miniature Godzillas, these lizards have orange and black blotchy scales and lounge around in the surrounding deserts. Tiger salamander Look out for this striking black and yellow amphibian in pools and creeks around the Grand Canyon’s rim.  
Villas of Octavius Tower Caesar's Palace
High Rollers Only: The Suites You Can’t Buy in Vegas
If you have heard rumours of the opulence that used to be thrown at Kerry Packer in Las Vegas and have always wondered what it looked like, hold on. We got access to two of the strip's invite-only, money-can't-buy suites. By Quentin Long
Venetian Palazzo Resort Las Vegas features gondolas around the hotel
Review: Venetian-Palazzo Resort, Las Vegas
What do you get when you cross the city of Venice with the extravagance of Palazzo Versace, then plonk them both in the Nevada desert? Either the best or worst of two worlds colliding. Mark Juddery went to Vegas to find out which. Background Las Vegas’ five-star Venetian-Palazzo Resort promotes itself as the world’s largest resort, and if you discount natural features like beaches – which tend to expand resort properties – that claim appears to be true. [caption id="attachment_464" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The lobby fountain at the Venetian Palazzo Resort[/caption] The Venetian was huge when it opened in 1999, and it now has 4027 suites.   The addition of the adjoining Palazzo in 2008 meant another 3066 suites, many of them with three or more TVs, fully stocked work centres, and all-marble bathrooms with TVs of their own (in case the ones in the living area weren’t enough).   Sure, it is grand opulence – at a remarkably good price – but would staying in one of these suites truly make you happy? Answer: who cares? If I want spiritual fulfilment, I’ll go to Tibet. The room For those looking for meaningless thrills, nobody does glitz quite like Vegas – and while the exterior of this resort is indeed garish, the suites themselves are designed more tastefully than you might expect. [caption id="attachment_461" align="alignnone" width="1000"] There's no shortage of glamorous touches in guest rooms at the Venetian Palazzo Resort[/caption] In my room (like many, though not all, of the others), the generous sleeping area was linked by a few steps to a “downstairs” work/living-room zone big enough for a cocktail party. Facilities In a resort this size, the huge lobby occasionally resembles a particularly well-decorated airport ticket counter, though the cheerful staff now has it down to a fine art, ensuring that – if you’re happy to carry your own bags – you’ll be in your room before you know it. Just go through the casino (see how this works?) to the elevators. [caption id="attachment_465" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Tao Lounge at the Venetian Palazzo Resort[/caption] Other hotel facilities are generally very impressive. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub offers not just spa and fitness centres, but also physiotherapy, nutrition counselling, gait analysis for runners and the Canyon Ranch Café, a glam health bar.   Only the swimming pools are a letdown, as they’re either decorative, which makes them ill-suited for actual swimming, or open for only a few hours a day – which is fine if you plan to sleep in until lunchtime.   Of course, physical exercise is probably not the most common recreational activity in Vegas, so it is churlish to complain.   Vegas doesn’t have beaches, naturally, but it’s still synonymous with entertainment and misspent adulthood – the scene of countless Hollywood movies and TV shows, showing people having enormous fun gathered around a roulette wheel. Casino The resort’s 9755m2 casino includes 1400 gaming machines and 139 table games, so you have plenty of choice in how to fritter away your money.   For all the clichés, Vegas wouldn’t be so popular for holidays if it only had gambling dens. Visiting for a conference, I ensured that I took part in some of the entertainment on offer, but I didn’t do any of those things your mother would warn you against. Things to do Though I was there for three days, I didn’t gamble, see a drag queen (to my knowledge), watch a tribute show, or get quickly married – by Elvis or anyone else – and only once went to a funky nightclub at the Venetian-Palazzo… when I thought the queue was for the Blue Man Group show. Which explained why I had to show my ID.   Along with the casino, the lower floors of the Venetian-Palazzo are an assortment of boutiques, formidable restaurants (including Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, the Grill at Valentino and the celebrity-magnet TAO Asian Bistro), nightclubs and popular shows. This is the Pentagon of resorts.   You could spend a week here without ever going outside. When I talked about going elsewhere, one of the staff seemed surprised: “Why would you go anywhere else?” She was joking, I think, but she had a point.   The two structures, shooting into the skyline, would upstage every other building anywhere else, but this is The Strip in Vegas, where many buildings are outrageously tall and bright. Picture New York’s Times Square, only less subtle. Reproduced Venice Possibly the most interesting part of the Venetian-Palazzo Resort is… well, Venice. [caption id="attachment_15235" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Gondalas at the Venetian Palazzo Resort Las Vegas[/caption] The Grand Canal Shoppes area reproduces Venice’s Grand Canal, with cobbled walkways, “streetside” cafés and restaurants, street performers and gondoliers who sing “O Solo Mio” and ­other standards in wonderful tenor, making you fall in love with whoever is next to you in the gondola.   Above is a bright blue sky, with pretty white clouds. I did a double-take when I saw this, because it was late afternoon.   In Vegas, even the sky is artificial, though this wide ceiling, covering a wide area, is bizarrely convincing in its mimicry of nature. But Vegas deals in fantasy.   In the real Venice, it occasionally rains; the sky of Vegas’ Grand Canal remains clear and bright, though the lights are dimmed in a timely fashion to provide a romantic, early-evening feel.   The Venetian-Palazzo does fake Venice with aplomb, but does it offer a taste of the real ­Vegas?   In a city where Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty miniatures decorate the main street, where Elvis, Sinatra and the Beatles still perform, authenticity might not be the major selling point.   This is as “real” as anything else in Vegasland. The Details Where? The Palazzo is at 3325 Las Vegas Blvd S. The Venetian is at 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S. +1 702 414 4334 palazzo.com Notes Both hotels offer special packages from $172 per night for a luxury suite, which includes extras and a 20% discount on 60-day advance bookings. Breakfast isn’t included, but the specials allow you discounts at many of the on-location restaurants. These are remarkably good prices for what they offer. Of course, their real profit isn’t in the rooms, but in the casinos, so… best of luck! What’s the gossip? “Over-the-top room décor (multiple flat-screen TVs, sunken living rooms, and mini-bars stocked with everything from champagne to La Belge Chocolatier desserts) belies the eco-friendly construction of [the Palazzo]. With a two-storey fountain gushing in its entry, the 3066-room high-rise resort is a memorable new arrival to the hotel scene.” Travel + Leisure The IT verdict: Mark Juddery, who paid his own way, says: “It’s basically a complete manufactured holiday – the Spice Girls of travel destinations – which is, of course, the archetypal Vegas experience.”

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