After we had driven away from the Grand Canyon on our family RV holiday, I felt a sense of sadness about leaving the landscape that has always been such an iconic part of the Western United States. Yet, due to the variety of natural beauty in the west, the Grand Canyon receded into my memory and was replaced with other less revered but still spectacular views and experiences. Along the many highways that we cruised, the landscape seamlessly changed and never failed to capture my attention.
With the Grand Canyon behind us, we headed north to Zion National Park in Utah. Zion was one of the highlights of the holiday for me, because it was unexpectedly fun and enthralling. I highly recommend hiking in the Narrows, where you can wade through a river surrounded by cliffs on either side, which I found a refreshing experience, though the rocks can be slippery. It is sensible to wear suitable clothing and shoes and not rush, as my mum found out, when she nearly slid head-first into the river. The peak time to go into the Narrows is the summer and autumn when the water is refreshingly cool. It is possible to go in the winter and spring, but wearing wet or dry suits is recommended if you go then.
In Zion National Park, there are a variety of non-guided or guided hikes that range from easy, one-day excursions in the Narrows and on the rocks above the river, to longer, more challenging overnight trips. Alongside hiking, Zion offers a range of adventure activities from rock climbing, golf, and cycling, as well as helicopter and off-road tours. The Rocks Odyssey Guiding Co. offer rock climbing trips in Zion for £96 per person and Zion helicopter tours range from $45 to $299, depending on the length of the trip. There are also off-road tours from Zion ATV & UTV tours from $125, where more of the landscape is accessible.
I conclude my West Coast experience here with another 5 highlights from my two week coach trip around California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. These are a selection of places I was not necessarily expecting great things from, but nevertheless enjoyed thoroughly. As with my first set of highlights in Part 1, I would highly recommend visiting these locations if you get the chance!
Sedona – This was a truly thrilling day. As an avid Mumford and Sons fan, listening to their live album ‘Red Rocks’ which was performed in Sedona, I am not afraid to admit that Continue reading
If you are on the America’s West coast for long enough, the chances are you will succumb to the magnetic temptation offered by Las Vegas. For most, bright lights, decadence and debauchery seems to be a trifecta of fun too potent to ignore. Indeed, I found myself being suckered in by all that Las Vegas had to offer. I committed to making the journey for a friend’s twenty-first birthday and justified spending my dwindling dollars by telling myself “when in Rome…”.
Having committed to a weekend in Sin City, it’s impossible not to get swept up in dreams of Hangover-esque fun and stories of irresponsible yet hilarious bad decisions. Somehow, it seems inconceivable that you might have a negative experience delving into Vegas’ legendary and lavish mystique. Gambling all your money away will not seem like a possibility as you tear through the seemingly endless Nevadan desert – you are GOING to win big. You’re not considering potentially embarrassing yourself, as Vegas’ impossibly vibrant lights appear out of the desert’s darkness – you’ve seen the movies, everyone in Vegas is a suave and sophisticated party animal. Now your excitement has reached fever pitch and your wild weekend awaits.
Las Vegas Boulevard c/o National Geographic
In July 2011 I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the United States on a school trip. Our travels took us around the west of the country from San Francisco and the remote prison island Alcatraz, down to Monument Valley, Utah, passing through some incredible places along the way.
The beautiful San Francisco Bay
We began our trip in the beautiful city of San Francisco, where we got our first taste of a real American diner (complete with massive portions!). I went for the classic American hamburger piled high with just about every topping imaginable and ketchup and mustard to top it off! We all decided to try the American diner’s traditional drink: the ice cream float. For those of you who don’t know what these are, they are essentially a glass of some kind of fizzy drink (usually Diet Coke or lemonade but some also offer ginger beer) with a spoonful of ice cream on top. It doesn’t sound like it should work but trust me, they are heaven! We also got to ride on the famous cable cars from our hotel at the top of the city right down to San Francisco Bay, where we got a brief glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog. The real lure of the city for us though was the historic Alcatraz Island, a short ferry ride away. The island is famous partly for the Native American occupation in 1969 (although the tour guides often neglect to mention this!) and for being a notorious prison. It is now a tourist attraction in which visitors learn about the prison and the famous criminals who were incarcerated there. Well worth a trip for those interested in American history, despite the fact that the tour guides often skip over the Native American occupation of Alcatraz as a somewhat embarrassing chapter of the San Franciscan story.
The occupation was the result of the discrimination suffered by Native Americans, who had long been referred to as ‘savages’ and were thought of as inferior by many Americans. They staged a non-violent (inspired partly by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s) takeover of the island in order to attract national and international attention to their suffering. It is often not mentioned by the tour guides as it highlighted the racist tendencies of much of the country, a reputation forged out of years of discrimination suffered by many ethnic minorities in the United States.