Restaurants · travel

Days 39 to 41 of USA Road Trip – Grand Canyon & Las Vegas

On Friday, we headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to spend the day. Sadly, as we were arriving it started to piss down with torrential rain. At the first stop, Desert Tower, the visibility was terrible and it was freezing! We decided to drive on to the visitor centre and come back to Desert Tower later in the day.

Thankfully the weather cheered up by the time we had parked. We hadn’t been as organized as usual and had forgotten to make a packed lunch, so we headed into the cafe to grab something. I paid almost $20 for a tiny, plastic-wrapped, gluten free sandwich and a coffee… but at least they had a gluten free option!  

We were feeling pretty spritely so decided to walk the rim all the way to the start of the Red Line bus route. The whole thing took us about an hour and a half, but the weather was gorgeous and the views were incredible! I had a very well earned ice cream (they do gluten free cones!) in The Village before we hopped on the Red Line. 

At the South Rim, they offer free bus shuttles for visitors that operate on three different routes. The Red Line is the only one we used because it covers an area that you aren’t allowed to access in your own car. We took the bus all the way to Hermits Rest and snapped lots of pictures along the way. 

By now, it was nearing the end of the day, so we hopped back in the car to Desert Tower and managed to get a clear picture of the view we were unable to see earlier. Beautiful! 

We stayed overnight at the Super 8 in Flagstaff, which we were mega impressed with because they gave us a bag of assorted welcome snacks (basically, we will like you if you give us food). For dinner we headed to The Village Inn right next door. The Village Inn offer a very small but adequate gluten free menu and are very good at restricting the risk of cross contamination. They didn’t even bring Ewan’s pancakes out on the same serving tray as my meal, just in case they touched my food! I went for the Ultimate Skillet and it was tasty. 

Saturday morning and it was time for us to head to Vegas! I’d never been before so I was super excited. We were staying at the Stratosphere as it’s the only place we could find that offered free parking. I won’t bore you with the full Tripadvisor review but the short version is DON’T STAY THERE because it’s smelly and it’s gross. It made most of our dodgy roadside motels look luxury! No bed bugs though, thank Christ. 

On the way to Vegas we had our first In N Out! I’d been waiting to get to the west coast to try it because I’d heard they do good gluten free options, and I was not disappointed! I got a double-double (simply double patties and double cheese) ‘protein style’, which means it’s wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. It was incredibly messy but delish! I also enjoyed the fries. We will definitely be back during the California part of the road trip! 

Once in Vegas, we waited in the 30 minute line to check in (that I was fuming about but it turns out this is standard in all the hotels, even the crazy expensive ones) and dropped our bags in our grim room. There’s a very good bus called the Deuce that goes up and down the strip 24 hours a day, so we purchased a day pass and went out exploring. 

While we were checking out the shops in Caesars Palace, we came across an area with an aquarium and a dragon statue blowing fire, which as we are both 5 years old mentally, we were drawn to. Behind it was a Cheesecake Factory. I am a HUGE fan of the Cheesecake Factory and am quite frankly livid that we have a sodding Bubba Gump in London but no Cheesecake Factory! Madness. The queue looked ridiculous but we were only waiting about 10 minutes before we were seated. I had the insanely good chicken and roasted garlic dish with gluten free pasta and it was absolutely amazing. I could eat it a million times over! I had planned to treat myself to a slice of their gluten free Godiva Cheesecake for pudding but sadly I had stuffed myself to the brim with peach bellinis and creamy pasta that there was no room left 😦 

We spent a few hours exploring more of the crazy hotels and watched the fountains at the Bellagio while soaking up the atmosphere. We were pooped by the time we headed home for bed!

On Sunday morning we got up bright and early and tucked into a big Denny’s breakfast before hopping on the bus down to the Welcome to Vegas sign. Top top: don’t bother with the huge queue, stand slightly to the side of the sign and take your photos. They come out just as good and you don’t have to stand out in the 100 degree heat for 30 minutes!

We spent the first half of the day literally just working our way around every single hotel on the strip, stopping for a drink now and again. Our top favourites were the Luxor, Paris and the Venetian – I’d love to stay in one of them the next time I come to Vegas. 

We had lunch at Yolo’s Mexican Grill inside Planet Hollywood, which was nice but you have to be very careful if you’re a coeliac. When I first explained my dietary requirements, I was told I could eat basically anything that’s served on a corn tortilla. Thankfully, I questioned if the pork was also gluten free before ordering, and it turned out that I could only eat pulled chicken or beef, and all the other meats were off limits. I played it safe with a pulled chicken salad, which even they thought was odd because they served the chicken on the side! It tasted pretty good though. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Stratosphere pool, where we indulged in the 2 for 1 cocktail happy hour and topped up our tans. Who am I kidding? I just topped up my blame-my-mum-she’s-ginger pale skin with a couple more freckles. 

We grabbed a quick dinner at Roxy’s Diner inside the hotel before getting ready for the evening, where I had the gluten free pancakes with bacon.  Nom.

If you’re staying at the Stratosphere, you get to go up to the top of the tower for a discounted price of $5. The view is nice, but the main highlight is watching idiots ride the 3 horrible thrill rides. One of them is a roller coaster style train that hangs off the side of the tower and looks completely unsafe. It actually makes the whole observation deck shake when it goes over the edge, so god knows how scary it is to ride! There’s also a drop ride and a spinning ride that again hangs off the side of the tower. 

My friend Dilys who I worked with in Toronto now goes to uni in Vegas, so we met her up the tower for a cocktail. She gave us a gift of Royce Nama Chocolate from the Venetian and it was AMAZING. It’s chocolate made with loads of double cream, so it has to be refrigerated and only has a short shelf life. She gave us both the Champagne and Macca flavours but it was the Macca (green tea) that stole my heart. We didn’t have a fridge so I had to eat it that night or it would go off. Don’t worry guys, I was up for the challenge. 

I was so sad that Britney wasn’t doing a show on the nights we were there as I would have loved to see her, but overall I really liked Las Vegas and will definitely return – but when I have more money to burn!