Monday, October 31st, Day 3
Las Vegas, Day 2
Todays events consisted of two helicopter flights, one to the Grand Canyon and the other a nighttime flight up and down the famous Las Vegas Strip. The weather, for all three days here was really quite incredible. It was sunny with no clouds in the sky, comfortably warm during the day and cool but not cold in the evenings. As you will see in the pictures, there was a bit of a haze in the air (mostly in the valley Las Vegas is situated in) that wasn't really visible until you got up in the air or a ways out of the city.
The two helicopter flights were booked over the internet on Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters web site (www.Papillon.com). They do not push this too hard but if you book and pay for the tours through the web site there is a substantial price reduction. The two trips I took were called the Grand Celebration and Neon Nights. Grand Celebration took about three and a half hours from the hotel to the hotel and went to the Grand Canyon with a landing in the canyon for a boxed lunch with champagne. (yes I did try some!!). Neon Nights was an all too brief flight up the strip and back at night.
Grand Celebration started at around 8:45 AM with the hotel pickup. It had originally been booked for later but Papillon had called yesterday wondering if I could go earlier which was no problem for me. On the way to the private airport terminal a safety video is shown and some instructions given. The ride was less than 10 minutes as the Luxor hotel is close to the airport. At the airport, you check in, get weighted, for proper balance when seated in the helicopter and wait until the helicopters are ready to go. Then, off we go......
|As the helicopter took off from the airport this view was taken of the south end of the "Strip".||
The flight headed off to the east over the city.
A community out in the desert.
|This is an exclusive gated community with its own lake. Celene Dion supposedly has a home here.|
|Of the many pictures taken on this flight, this one, I think, is my favourite. It is the best one of a series taken as the flight passed Hoover Dam. The picture has been straightened and slightly cropped but otherwise unchanged.||Once passed the face of the dam the chopper turned and flew up the canyon (Black Canyon) and this view was taken. For details about the dam, see tomorrows page about the tour to the dam. These two pictures will be there too.|
|Dams create lakes and here is the opposite end of Lake Mead, Hoover Dams lake.||This is were the Colorado River feeds Lake Mead. The lighter colour around the shore shows how low Lake Mead was at this time.|
Some scenery as my flight approached the Grand Canyon.
Some more scenery.
So far the flight has taken approximately 45 minutes and is now approaching the Grand Canyon. The part that this tours visits is not the famous section. Flights of any kind are not allowed in that section due to some accidents/incidents that have occurred in the past. This may not be the most colourful section but it is still very impressive scenery as you will see below. The section below shows the approach to, landing in, and departure from the Canyon.
|You can start to see the topography of the Grand Canyon in this picture (along with several window reflections)..||Starting to look like the canyon now (with a few more window reflections).|
|Here are a couple of shots out the front window showing what I think is the Colorado River and heading towards the spot where we landed.||
Here is a second shot slightly further along.
|The native population of this area are building some sort of tourist observation spot here.||This is the spot where we landed. This is the helicopter I flew in, along with 5 others.|
|Here is the scenery in the direction we came from. The two people give you some perspective to the scale of the cliffs here.||For safety reasons several (I think 5) helicopters are here at the same time. This was one of the other ones with a pretty impressive backdrop, don't you think?|
A wider view in the same direction as above.
|This view looks in the opposite direction to the one to the left.|
|This is where the meal was served. It is called a Ramada. It is apparently an "authentic Hualapai Indian Shelter". The Indian Band is paid by the helicopter company for the use of this spot and they keep it very clean. The meal is boxed and brought in and the garbage is taken out.||We were there for 45 minutes to an hour and then each helicopter left
with the second to last one making sure the last one takes off ok.
This picture shows what it was like as we climbed up the rock wall and over it heading back towards Las Vegas
|Same rock wall as right above a bit further along. There is some window reflection as well.||
More of that same rock wall.
|The last of the major scenery as we headed out of the canyon area.||
Farewell to the Grand Canyon
From here the flight took a slightly different (but similar) route back to Las Vegas. Here is the concluding portion of the Grand Celebration tour including the daytime flight along the "Strip".
|This is a different (and somewhat better) view than the ones above of the Colorado River where it enters Lake Mead.||This is a distant view of Black Canyon. This is the original gorge/canyon of the Colorado River.|
|Here is a closer view of Black Canyon. Hoover Dam is around the turn in the canyon that can be seen turning to the right just above the helicopter's red flagged radio antenna. You can also see how low the water is.||Leaving the area of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam and heading back towards Las Vegas, here is a view of some colourful rocks like those that are seen in the more visited portion of the Grand Canyon.|
|Las Vegas in the distance. You can faintly make out the strip in the upper centre of the image.||A close view. The ridge in the foreground is the one to the right in the previous picture.|
|North east Las Vegas. If you could see them the Las Vegas Speedway and Nellis Air force Base would be near the upper centre.||A golf course in Las Vegas. If you traveled some distance further in this direction you would come to that spooky super secure place called Area 51.|
|The north end of the "Strip". You can see the arches of the Fremont Street experience slightly right of centre.||The course of the flight took us just left of Fremont street and up the "strip" with it mostly on the side of the helicopter away from me.|
|The west side of the "Strip". From bottom to top, The Mirage, Caesars Palace, Bellagio, Boardwalk, Monte Carlo, New York - New York, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay.||The approach to the airport takes the chopper over, or just north of, the Excalibur (very bottom of the picture) with my hotel, the Luxor and Mandalay Bay beyond it. There is also a noticeable window reflection.|
|Part of McCarran International Airport. The large parking lot with the plane near it is apparently where the people who work at the mysterious Area 51 go to catch their flight to work each day.||A view of the Luxor Hotel as the helicopter landed at the airport.|
|The tour helicopter area of the private airport section at McCarran airport. This is the only part of this section of the airport where pictures could be taken. The other portions were off limits because this is where the rich and famous come and go in their private aircraft. For those people this is very conveniently located close to the "Strip" hotels some of which you can see in the background.|
With this landing the Grand Celebration Tour was nearly completed. All that remained was the return to the hotel. That happened around mid-afternoon. After all this excitement I took some time to rest, eat and get ready to repeat the process for the Neon Night tour.
All the processes were repeated around 7:30 P.M. and here are what pictures there are from the Neon Nights tour.
|The MGM Grand as the tour departed the airport.||The Las Vegas Hilton with the northeast part of the city in the distance.|
|The older north end of the "Strip" with the northwest part of the city behind.||A slightly blurry view of the Stratosphere similar to the daytime one above.|
The south end of the "Strip" from the north end. You can see the beacon from the Luxor pyramid shining upwards.
A slightly closer view.
|A view similar to the daytime one above showing the west side of the strip starting at the Mirage|
The MGM Grand from a different direction.
The Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay.
|A somewhat overexposed view of the Luxor and Mandalay Bay as the chopper approached for landing. The lights on the side of the Luxor pyramid move up and down which creates quite an eye catching effect. Of course everything in Las Vegas is there for the "effect".|
This completed the busy day of helicopter tours. I wish that they had been able to fly around the strip twice but this was the way it was. It was a very busy and enjoyable day.
Tomorrow the Hoover Dam on the ground by motor coach.
Created: January 16 & 17, 2006
Last Updated: March 14, 2006