When planning a USA holiday, it can be hard to match everything you want to see with the time you have. While there are plenty of ways to get around this matter (just ask our Experts) one of our favourite US travel secrets at Flight Centre is that you can see the mighty Grand Canyon in just one day. And, best of all, you can see it without having to drive, or even staying near the Canyon.
Introducing the Wild Dancer Air and Landing Tour with Maverick Helicopters
Starting in Las Vegas, the helicopter tour will see you soar over the Grand Canyon (where you’ll land for lunch), before flying back to the City of Sin. In total the trip takes just four hours.
It starts with a stretch limo transfer…
Yes, as if going in a helicopter wasn’t enough, you’ll be picked up from your hotel in a limousine too. And, in true Las Vegas style, this is a stretch limo on steroids, about as wide as an SUV and with enough headroom for me to do star jumps in.
From our hotel we, along with two other couples, were driven down the Las Vegas Strip on a beautiful blue-sky morning, and dropped off at a miniature airport, complete with lounge, gift shop and café. Much like any other airport, we were asked to check-in and were weighed – not just our baggage, but our whole bodies to ensure each helicopter holds a safe weight.
And then your boarding call…
Following our check-in we met our pilot for the day, Robert Grant. He assured us he’d had plenty of experience flying – later admitting that flying to the Canyon for him had become almost instinctual, like a bird migrating. After a simple safety briefing it was time to board the helicopter, buckle up and take off.
Within seconds we were up in the sky and soaring over the Las Vegas Strip. Interestingly Robert, who is based in Las Vegas, told us he probably visits the Strip about twice a year. As a local he also had fantastic knowledge of the city, including being able to point out where Vegas stars like Celine Dion and Jerry Seinfeld have houses.
Flying over the Hoover Dam…
Soon enough the city was far behind us and we reached Lake Mead – the largest man-made lake in the USA – and the Hoover Dam. I’d driven past the Hoover Dam before (yes, on that bridge!) but by flying over it I was able to fully take in the sheer scale of the structure, and realise just how impressive this epic feat of human engineering is.
Soon, we reached the Canyon, and suddenly the ground that had seemed not too far below us dropped drastically. Our helicopter felt incredibly small against the vast size of the Canyon – a view and a feeling you just don’t get when driving or hiking around the rim.
Landing in the Grand Canyon for lunch
After a few roller coaster-style manoeuvres, our helicopter balanced upright and gently lowered onto a flat rocky ridge 914m above the Colorado River. As per our safety instructions, I waited until Robert came around to open the helicopter door to let us out. By this time the propellers had stopped, and I stepped out to a completely still and silent Canyon and, much to my delight, a picnic table with umbrella.
As Robert prepared our packed lunches, I couldn’t help but wander nearby, stepping over rocks, passing all sorts of prickly cacti, and looking up at the towering rocky peaks that enveloped us.
Lunch was served and we settled onto the picnic table, toasting with glasses of Champagne, before sampling the selection of cheeses, grapes, croissants and snacks while distractedly taking in the view. As we ate Robert told us more about the Canyon, his career as a pilot and happily obliged to any photo opportunity we wanted.
Taking off from inside the Canyon
Taking off from a spacious airport is one thing. Taking off from a rocky outcrop inside the Grand Canyon is quite another; an experience I don’t think my stomach and I will ever forget! This was by far the most fun/nail-biting part of the ride and I couldn’t help but squeeze by partner’s hand tightly as Robert calmly soared our helicopter round a couple of hair-pin bends before ascending the chopper above the rim.
Flying over the Strip one more time
After flying out of the Canyon we then proceeded to glide over the Bowl of Fire, a dazzling collection of multi-coloured sandstone formations featuring white, pink and orange tones. We passed Lake Mead again and Robert pointed out wild donkeys by the water below, telling us he’d seen all sorts of animals in these parts, from wild horses to bald eagles and even a mountain lion.
Soon enough we were back over Las Vegas as we flew right above the Strip, weaving over the casinos and lavish pools below before going on to land smoothly at the airport. And that, ladies and gentleman, is one hell of a way to see the Grand Canyon.