Okay HERE IT IS. A MASSIVE BLOG POST about a MASSIVE TRIP I did a few months ago with my boyfriend, Christian.
A small recap for those that don't know- I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ until I was 14. My family is originally from Louisiana so they wanted to move back when I started high school, so I've been in Louisiana for the past 12 years, meaning I've lived in both places for almost half of my life each. I absolutely love the west and miss it so so much, and my boyfriend Christian had never traveled further west than San Antonio up until this point! When he found out there was a conference he could attend for work in Vegas, we hopped on the opportunity to make a giant trip out of it.
We left New Orleans and flew to Vegas, spent 4 days there, then drove up to the Grand Canyon, then drove down through Flagstaff, then down through Oak Creek Canyon (where we almost died driving down the mountain when 2 deer jumped out in front of us), then Sedona to see the red rocks, then down to Phoenix to see my Grandma for a day, then out to Yuma to see my uncle, then over to Salvation Mountain to take photos, then onto San Diego for a day, then up to LA to stay with my friend for 2 days and OMG THIS IS SUCH A LONG SENTENCE but we collectively were gone for 11 days.
As you can imagine, I took a TON of photos and also spent a ton of money...still working on recovering from that part... but it has taken me so so so long to go through the many photos I took to get a blog post going! Since we did so much during this trip, I'm going to break up this post by place we went and a small list of things we enjoyed doing so maybe you can get ideas for your own trip!
Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show- I'm a massive Beatles fan so I had been dying to do this forever and wasn't able to last time I went to Vegas. I highly recommend it! But Christian fell asleep during it so.... opinions are biased. If you like The Beatles you'll like it. We also saw David Copperfield but I liked the Cirque show better.
Neon Museum- My absolute FAVE thing we did in Vegas. A must see if you're into typography, history, or retro stuff in general. We did a joint ticket with the Mob Museum which ended up being a great deal. Definitely recommend this joint venture, and then you're really close to Fremont Street which is a cool older part of town with lots of stuff to do and hip bars and restaurants like Le Thai!
Bellagio fountains- we stayed at the Paris hotel and casino which is directly across the street from the Bellagio but wayyyy cheaper to stay at! Honestly we had a great spot on the strip by staying there. The Bellagio fountains are famous for their synchronized shows that go off all day long. If you've seen the last scene of Oceans 11, you know what I'm talking about. It's free to watch!
The Wynn was the ABSOLUTE most luxurious thing I think I've ever seen in terms of contemporary architecture and interior. Christian's conference took place at this hotel and casino so I spent a lot of time hanging out there. I had an incredible poolside breakfast by myself at their Terrace Pointe Cafe. Be prepared to spend some $$ but definitely pop in the Wynn at some point to see their beautiful fresh flower sculptures, designer shopping, and colorful decor!
Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (Pawn Stars Shop)- This is the shop from the History Channel show Pawn Stars which Christian is OBSESSED with so of course we stopped there. It's a real pawn shop so you can just go during business hours!
Seven Magic Mountains- I had been dying to go to this art installation ever since I started seeing photos of it pop up all over Instagram! It's just a 30 min drive or so from Vegas so we hit it up on our way out of town. We had rented a car so this made it easy, but I hear it's a hefty Uber fee so find some people to go with to split that cost.
THE GRAND CANYON
South Rim- I have seen the Grand Canyon like 3 or 4 times and every time I think has been from the South Rim (since it's the AZ side.) I'm sure there's so much you can do at the canyon but it never seems to fail that I don't get there until later in the day when you're chasing the sunlight and rushed for time. We literally just went up to the edge and checked it out. It never gets old. Such an epic experience that you have to see at least once in your life!
Plaza Bonita Mexican Restaurant- Throughout this blog post you'll see the many Mexican restaurants I suggest because Mexican food is life. This was a phenomenal one right by the canyon in the small town right before you get there.
Galaxy Diner on Route 66- We stayed in an Airbnb- The Tranquil Loft on Cherry Hill the night of visiting the Grand Canyon because it's a lot cheaper to drive another hour or so and get to Flagstaff to stay than it is to find lodging near the canyon. We woke up and it was snowing (like, what? We didn't pack for that!) and headed to this Galaxy Diner on Route 66 which was like stepping back in time. I'm a big diner person too so we ate a lot of pancakes on this trip.
OAK CREEK CANYON
Native American Craft Market at Vista Overlook- Oak Creek Canyon is just part of the more scenic route to take when driving from Flagstaff down to Sedona and it's beautiful...but kind of terrifying (especially for Christian who had never seen a mountain till this trip much less driven on one.) You have to be so careful because there are deer and rabbits and coyotes and whatever else running wild...check the horrible photos of the pesky deer that nearly killed us above! There's a great lookout point called Vista Overlook where you can pull off and view the canyon, and then there's usually a little Native American craft market setup where you can buy local Indian jewelry.
Chapel of the Holy Cross- Sedona is beautiful and known for their unique red rocks. It's a super eclectic town where a lot of people travel to for spiritual and healing purposes. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a chapel built up into the side of one of the mountains and it's a really great lookout point if you're just wanting to get some photos of the town and the red rocks.
Since I grew up in Phoenix, I wanted to show Christian my old stomping grounds. We stayed with my Grandma too so we didn't have a whole lot of time to explore outside of visiting (we only had like 1 day!)
Desert Botanical Gardens- For as long as I lived in Phoenix, I really don't know if I had ever gone to the Desert Botanical Gardens until now (unless it was maybe a childhood field trip for school.) This was such an awesome place to visit! Christian was hell bent on getting a photo with a Saguaro cactus and although they're all over Phoenix, it was great to see them in an isolated, protected space. This took a good couple of hours to tour and it was HOT as you can imagine, so bring sunscreen!
Papago Park- These are just some weird rock formations near the Desert Botanical Gardens that the public can hike and climb on. There's this formation called Hole in the Rock where a lot of people go to watch the sunset. We were able to catch it last minute but this required me climbing the mountain quickly in a miniskirt which was quite the scene.
Imperial Sand Dunes- My uncle lives in Yuma and there's not a whole lot going on there besides cabbage farming, border patrol, and the Imperial Sand Dunes. Apparently this is where Star Wars was filmed? I don't watch that and we couldn't go to the dunes because you need an off road vehicle but we drove past them and they were beautiful! Looked like you were in Egypt or something.
Mi Rancho Mexican Restaurant- Continuing the Mexican restaurant suggestions with this authentic little place my uncle took us. It was great, as are most Mexican restaurants.
This place is just kind of its own thing...- Once again I've just seen tons of photos of this place on Instagram and when I found out we'd be so close to it I was determined to go. I'm still not really sure what it is, there's kind of a weird vibe there but it's this giant colorful art installation in the middle of NOWHERE. Actually it was very close to Coachella which was coincidentally happening that same day which was really crazy to think about.
Konos Cafe- We had breakfast here on the beach. It was super chill and laid back and very much a California surf joint feel.
La Jolla Sea Lions- This is all I really remember about visiting San Diego from when I was a child besides going to Sea World! If you didn't know, seals and sea lions dominate San Diego and are chillin on the beach in public areas. You can view them in the La Jolla area and it's pretty cool.
We jammed a TON of stuff into our 2 days in LA. Like, so much.
Laguna Beach- We just stopped and got out of the car to check it out. That's about it! It was beautiful!
Santa Monica Pier- A CLASSIC. Only had been here one other time and remembered it being like the ultimate Rocket Power experience. We didn't ride any rides or anything but we went and walked around. There's a cool area at the back that has the history of the pier written on the wall and with old photos. I'm a nerd like that.
El Compadre Mexican Restaurant on Sunset Blvd- Sunset Blvd in general is just cool. We hit up the legendary Whiskey A-Go-Go music venue for a Rolling Stones cover night but of course beforehand we had to eat some Mexican food. El Compadre was amazing and had that classic Hollywood feel.
Swingers Diner in Santa Monica- We stayed with my friend Katie in Santa Monica and walked to the pier from her apt, but stopped by this awesome diner on the way! Had a very cool retro rock n' roll Cali theme. And the food was delicious, but I'm not hard to please.
Warner Bros. Tour- Our favorite thing we did while in LA! We were only there for like 2 days and this took up a big chunk of one of them but it was great. We got to tour the studio backlots and sets and see where shows like Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars, Fuller House, Harry Potter, Friends, and so many more were filmed. It was really interesting to hear the behind the scenes aspects to Hollywood!
TMZ Tour- A last min decision we made, but this was a fun one. It starts at the Hollywood Walk of Fame by the Chinese Theatre so you can kill two birds with one stone. This was a really funny tour that brought us around the areas where celebrities are known to hang out. My favorite part of the tour was when they showed us the In-N-Out Burger where Paris Hilton got her first DUI. Oh, obviously In-N-Out Burger is on the list of places to eat too.
Griffith Observatory- A lookout point where you can see the Hollywood sign and the entire city, this would have been way cooler if LA wasn't so smoggy :(
Venice Beach- Wanted to spend more time here but we barely stopped by for 20 min. There's an OG skatepark there and tons of artistic hippy-types along the beach.
W O W if you made it this far, congrats! This was such a monster blog post! Hope some of this helps if you're looking to head out west- feel free to reach out with any questions about our trip!