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50 States in 52 Weeks: Road tripping from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon

Alan Rider
03 January 2016

While visiting Las Vegas and Grand Canyon National Park back-to-back makes for a memorable holiday, guidebook author Alan Rider says the road trip between them can be half the fun

When you compare the noisy crowds and in-your-face lightshow of the Las Vegas Strip to the reverent stillness and expansive views of the Grand Canyon, the two would seem to have little in common.

What these two popular attractions do share, however, is the extraordinary road trip that connects them: a day-long ramble through southern Nevada and northern Arizona, full of man-made sights and natural delights. To help you make the most of your drive, here are eight great unexpected finds along the way:

Vegas Kitsch
From the Mob Museum to the restored neon signs lining the 3.4-mile Las Vegas Boulevard National Scenic Byway, Vegas has a unique knack for celebrating its own kitschiness. One of the most fun ways to partake of the cheesiness is to get hitched by (or renew your vows before) a sequined jumpsuit-clad Elvis impersonator at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.

Hot (Hoover) Dam
Located on the Nevada-Arizona border, this massive hydroelectric dam is a must-see stop along the Las Vegas-Grand Canyon route. The dam forms Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the United States – and generates all the electricity to keep all those Vegas lights burning brightly. Tours of the dam are offered daily.

Walking On Air
Just because it’s hard to improve on the Grand Canyon doesn’t mean people won’t try. Case in point, the Hualapai tribe’s breathtaking Grand Canyon Skywalk. An attraction that features a cantilevered glass walkway that juts out 70 feet over the canyon rim and allows you to look straight down 3,500 feet into the Colorado River gorge below.

Happenin’ Hackberry
When you imagine old-fashioned outposts along Route 66, America’s Mother Road, chances are you’re picturing someplace like the Hackberry General Store. Equal parts museum, tourist information centre and tchotchke shop, this lonely outpost is a vintage gem. Be sure to stop to pose for a photo alongside the store’s classic 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.

Take Me To The River
Besides being another long-forgotten stop on Route 66, the town of Peach Springs is the home of the Hualapai River Runners. While multi-day whitewater raft trips through the main part of the Grand Canyon book up a year or more in advance, here you can enjoy the same basic experience on a one- or two-day Colorado River expedition on much shorter notice.

Get Your Kicks
You’ve seen the Pixar movie Cars, now see the town it was based on, Seligman, Arizona. As the terminus of the longest uninterrupted segment of Route 66 still in existence, Seligman offers a historic district complete with old-road businesses like Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In. It’s a place where practical jokes abound, starting with the neon sign that says “Sorry, We’re Open.”

America’s Main Street
The historic railroad town of Williams Arizona bears the distinction of having the last section of Route 66 to have been bypassed by the interstate highway. While simply cruising up and down the main drag soaking up the small town vibe is fun, be sure to stop at the Pine Country Restaurant for a slice of one of their famous sky-high homemade pies.

Plane Fun
When it comes to under-the-radar attractions, few are more stealthy than the Planes Of Fame Air Museum. Located in a large hangar in the small crossroads town of Valle, Arizona, it’s easy to miss even with the giant Lockheed Constellation parked out front. Missing it would be a downright shame, though, as it’s home to more than 40 vintage aircraft, many of which are still in flying condition.