March 23 – We arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park yesterday, and I’m so blown away by it that it’s hard to focus on where we were before. We’re having some exciting weather here – thunder and lightning, hail and snow – with a couple of lulls to get to see the canyon (which isn’t really a canyon, but I’ll get into that next post) and walk the dogs. But while we’re hunkered down in the rig this evening during some high winds and more snow (after a swim at an indoor pool so don’t feel too bad for us), I’ll share some pictures from Vegas and Zion Canyon before the weather clears and we hope to get out hiking in Bryce tomorrow.
An unexpectedly great part of our time in Vegas was getting to socialize with friends who happened to be in town at the same time. The kids and I met a friend from Michigan and her family at Springs Preserve, a surprisingly serene nature preserve in the middle of Vegas that includes the natural spring around which the town was originally settled, and a butterfly garden where Rita and Charlie would have been happy to spend the entire day.
Other good friends were in town for a St Patrick’s Day event, which ended up being so much more fun and family-friendly than we could have imagined – for St Patrick’s Day on a Friday in Vegas. The Las Vegas Firefighters Benefit Association put on a parade and block party just off the main drag of Fremont Street in Downtown Vegas that was sponsored by local businesses. There were bagpipes and drums, firefighter games (wheelbarrow races and fire hose bowling), corned beef and cabbage, Guinness, and, yes, green beer. Rita was thrilled to march in the parade with our friend’s Fire Chief uncle, and ran around with some kids on the closed-off street. We all had a great time, and were back to the dogs and RV by the mid-afternoon.
We also took the kids Downtown one day. It was fun to walk with along Fremont Street, under the casino lights and zip-liners and among the street entertainers and early-evening revelers. The best part was discovering the Downtown Container Park, an open-air collection of shops, galleries, and restaurants built out of shipping containers, and surrounding an awesome fenced-in play area. If we had known about it beforehand, we would have planned dinner there for the adults while Rita and Charlie played within sight.
Red Rock Canyon is a gorgeous National Conservation Area, and feels even more special for being only a 20 minute drive out of the heart of Vegas sensory overload. The kids earned a Junior Ranger badge at the excellent Visitor Center, we took the 13-mile scenic loop drive, and a beautiful, if hot, hike with the kids and dogs.
Of course, we couldn’t stay in Vegas for a week and not visit The Strip. It was really fun just to cruise along it (in the late morning, when it’s not too jam-packed) so the kids could gawk at the Luxor pyramid and the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty and M&M World, and all the other giant buildings and general excess. We stopped at Circus Circus because Charlie had his heart set on it after hearing a pre-school friend talk about it over a year ago. Chris and I were reticent and for good reason – Circus Circus has seen better days, if it ever did – but the kids enjoyed the midway games and a short circus performance, and Charlie experienced a Vegas heartbreak early in life when he made the first shot in a throwing game, but found out that he only won a generic teddy bear and not the Pikachu he really wanted. We then showed the kids a study in contrast by taking them to the Bellagio. While we were too early for the fountain show, they appreciated the mosaic tile floors, glass sculpture ceiling, conservatory garden, and luxurious decor. Rita wanted to check in and stay a while.
After Vegas we drove northeast into Utah, via a corner of Arizona, to visit Zion National Park. We stayed 4 nights at Zion Canyon Campground in Springdale, just outside the Park gate. The campground is on the rushing Virgin River and bordered by the stunning, dramatic red cliff walls of the canyon. It was really incredible to have those cliffs in sight at all times. I’ll let the photos from Zion speak for themselves. It’s spring break, so the Park was busy, but the upside was that Rita and Charlie got to hang out with the kids from two different families who each camped next to us. They had a blast playing frisbee and jump rope, looking for lizards, climbing trees and a dirt pile that was apparently irresistible to all children.
We have to dress a lot warmer than this to explore Bryce, but it is really magical to see with snow.