Okay, so you’ve read quite a bit about my trip to Las Vegas with Travel Nevada (not to be confused with my trip to Las Vegas with my girlfriends a month before — I told you, I’m an addict!) I ziplined Boulder Canyon, I visited a winery, I saw a Cirque show, I toured a brothel and I hit 100mph in a $100,000 car. But I’ve saved the very absolute best for last.
A helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.
For my twenty-third birthday I took a trip to Nevada, and on the last day I visited The Grand Canyon via a long, long bus ride from Las Vegas. While I was indeed awe-struck peeking into that great chasm in the earth, I felt like the trip was almost a tease in some way. The Grand Canyon is just so impossibly vast, peeking in over one of the rims is just not enough to begin to comprehend it. I needed something more.
And that is where Papillon Helicopters comes in.
After a quick drive from the Las Vegas Strip to the launchpad in Boulder City, we were onboard and ready for takeoff. This was my third helicopter ride and thus far I’d had great luck with the random seat assignments — in The Big Island in Hawaii I nabbed a window seat, and over the Vegas Strip I was riding shotgun. So I crossed my fingers that the random weight distribution algorithm would once again work in my favor — and it did!
While I was in the backseat I was still at a window. And with my face pressed against the thick glass, that was all I needed.
Passing over an arid stretch of desert, we approached Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Having seen the Hoover Dam on my Grand Canyon bus tour years before, I had to conclude it was infinitely more impressive from the air. And Lake Mead! Suddenly I was planning return trips to try out all the boating, diving, and swimming the turquoise lake has to offer.
Between my iPhone, my GoPro, and my dSLR, I was in a frenzy trying to capture even a fraction of the beauty of the geological gems below.
Confession time: Despite how often I’m at the airport, I’m occasionally plagued by a small dose of fear of flying. Approaching Lake Mead we hit a bump of turbulence and suddenly, it was one of those times. I felt my stomach drop and I was done. I wanted out of that ‘copter. I started to feel so panicked I didn’t know how I’d enjoy the main event — that canyon we were rapidly approaching.
My insides were in knots and my outsides were coated in nervous sweat as we approached the rim. “It will all be over soon,” I was telling myself, which is not exactly the kind of thing one wants to think while checking off a bucket list item.
And then, suddenly, we were there — soaring over one of the great wonders of the world, a sight so majestic that people come from all over this planet just to gaze upon it. And you know what? Something magical happened. I was so awestruck there was just no more room in my psyche for fear. My anxiety just melted away.
One moment that really brought the experience into perspective was spotting the Grand Canyon Skywalk that I had visited on my first Canyon trip two years before. I remember thinking at the time how on the Skywalk I was jutted out into the middle of the canyon, so far from solid ground. At the time, it felt enormous. From the air, the Skywalk looked like a speck in comparison to the vastness stretching in every direction. The aerial view was just overwhelming.
Flying back into Boulder City, I knew I’d now seen The Grand Canyon in a truly fitting fashion. For a jaw-dropping wonder, you’re going to need a jaw-dropping ride. I’d had both.
Have 90 seconds? You can come along with me. Even better, add it to your own bucket list. You will never regret it, turbulence and all.
And with that, another fabulous trip to Nevada comes to a close!
I can’t quite imagine a better note to end on.
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Many thanks to Travel Nevada for hosting me and showing me a new side of Nevada. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.
What a great post Alex, the photos are stunning! Especially the turquoise one of Lake Mead, love it!
Lake Mead was such a surprise to me on this trip! I really need to get more up close and personal with it upon return 🙂
I’ve never really understood the draw to Vegas, but your recent posts have shown a much more appealing side to a place I thought I knew and had disgarded! Perhaps a trip to the Silver State is in my future after all!
I’m so happy to hear that Caity 🙂 That’s the best compliment you could give a blogger!
Beautiful photos! Definitely want to do this if I ever go back to Vegas.
I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner! I guess it seemed like it would take so long but really Boulder City is only half and hour each way — it’s less than a half day activity!
So, you pretty much hit everything on my “next trip Vegas wish list” this summer! A helicopter ride is a fantastic way to see the Grand Canyon!
I also really recommend the helicopter ride over the Strip if you want to go totally crazy 🙂 They are both so fabulous!
Oh my goodness, this is unreal! But I can feel you on the nerves – once in the Himalayas my flight back to Kathmandu was canceled and then switched to a helicopter (uh, score!) and when the thing took off it basically hobbled off a cliff and fell for a couple of seconds before rising back up. Terrifying!
Um, that sounds pretty dramatic! You know what they say… what doesn’t kill you, makes for a great story at a bar later.
I’ve been loving these Vegas posts!
The reputation of Vegas is party, party, party, but it seems that during the daytime it’s a completely different story!
It is indeed… if you’re not too hungover to enjoy it 🙂
Love it. Need to go to Vegas soon :))
Indeed! Nevada is waiting for you 🙂
Very very cool! My uncles first tour guide job was a five-night camping trek through the Grand Canyon. I love flying and this now seems like the only way to see the big hole.
That would be quite the dream job for an outdoorsman! I still need to return back to the canyon yet again someday to hike or raft through it. We aren’t done yet, Grand Canyon!
I’m not sure which I’m more impressed with, the Grand Canyon or Lake Mead! Those views are just breathtakong. Wow, what an amazing experience that helicopter ride must have been!
Seriously, I was so wowed by Lake Mead on this trip! I saw it for the first time ever from the zipline I did earlier in the week. It’s like a mirage!
That looks amazing! The older I get the more afraid of heights/flying I get so I would have panicked too. But, for a million dollar view like that I can survive (I hope). 🙂
I seem to be going in that direction too. It’s a bummer! I used to think of turbulence like a roller coaster ride!
Unbelievable! I love helicopter tours… sort of. They make me really nervous, but there’s no better way to get that view. Sigh. Adding another item to the bucket list…
I know how you feel! I do think the main problem though is the price. They are always pretty much the most expensive thing on offer.
those are some stunning aerials, alex! i also have (more than) a touch of the ‘fear of flying’ so heli rides are never high on my list. but rafting the canyon absolutely is & maybe in the name of balancing out my perspective, i should throw the ‘copter in there too.
Yes! I WILL raft the Grand Canyon someday. I actually read a feature once about doing it in the traditional dory and now I’m obsessed with the idea. Rubber rafts won’t cut it!
Another fun post and more great photos/video!
I grew up not far from the Grand Canyon and used to take school field trips there just about every year. I haven’t been back since I was 14 but your photos make it look far more magnificent than I remember it being–probably because I was ungrateful about growing up in the desert and thought the canyon looked like everything else I knew but just on a grander scale. It certainly is easier for me to appreciate the desert when I’m not living in it. Lake Mead, on the other hand, I always found impressive. The next time I visit the Grand Canyon, I’d like to see it from above, or from a raft at the bottom!
Man, I can’t imagine taking a field trip to the Grand Canyon! I guess I can appreciate though how it’s easy to take for granted what you grow up experiencing.
I’m going to do this in October! It will be my first trip to Vegas (at 31), and I’m most excited (and a wee bit nervous) about the heli ride… well, that and seeing Britney of course.
SO JEALOUS about Britney I don’t even think I can stand it! She just continues to evade me! It’s painful.
Oh Alex, these posts are making me so homesick!! I LOVED flying in and out of Vegas when I lived there. I always knew where to sit on those Southwest flights so I could have the best view of the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, etc. I’m scared to death of flying in a helicopter and totally understand how you felt when you hit those bumps, but I can imagine the anxiety melting away with views like that. The desert southwest out by Vegas is truly spectacular.
I always ask for the window seat but you’re going to have to tell me your secrets! Those views sound amazing!
I am LOVING these Nevada posts! I’m becoming more and more convinced to inch the place up on my travel list. Those views look amazing. Props to you for even getting in that helicopter. I’m not afraid of heights, per se, but even I would think twice before getting into one!
You know, my last two were so drama free I barely even though to be nervous for this one! But that one bump of turbulence and WHAM I was terrified. Guess my cool demeanor is very thinly veiled!
Wow! I’d love to do something like this but I think helicopters might make me a little nervous:) Great pics!
It is worth whatever bravery you can summon 🙂 Thanks Preeti!
I have never really had the urge to go to Las Vegas, but after seeing your beautiful photos and reading about your trips, I really want to go to Vegas! 🙂
This helicopter ride looks awesome! Have never been in an helicopter. My parents went on the same helicopter ride as you a couple of years ago, where they also landed next to Grand Canyon and had champagne lunch. It was pretty expensive though, so I guess I have to save up before I go to Vegas…. 🙂
Man, that sounds amazing! I certainly wouldn’t turn down a champagne lunch anytime soon 🙂 That would really be the best of both worlds, getting to see it from above and below.
LOL, I deliberately held off reading this until today, as we did a Hoover Dam/Grand Canyon helicopter flight this morning.
Complete coincidence, but also with Papillon!
Was a wonderful experience I’ll surely be writing about soon!
Glad you enjoyed yours 🙂
I’m so glad you had a good time! Look forward to hearing your take!
Flying over the Grand Canyon looks amazing! I spent a few days exploring it when I was really young, buy I really want to go back and try to do a hike down and up the canyon. It would be an awesome experience to fly over it, and see it all!
I still need to do the hiking thing someday too! The Grand Canyon and I are definitely not over yet 🙂
Looks so awesome! Definitely bucket-list-worthy!
Your pictures of the heli ride over Niagara Falls has me itching to get back there too! I showed them to my whole family when we were in Philadelphia!
We are so envious of all of your awesome adventures. They make our puddle splashing outings seem so mundane 😉 Thanks for sharing!
Puddle splashing is fun sometimes too! 🙂 It is always great to mix things up a bit.
I recently saw Mindy Kaling (one of my many heroes) did this on her birthday trip to Nevada. Looks great!
Awesome! If only she had been in my helicopter, I probably would have been too busy laughing to get nervous in the first place…
Love this! And I experienced the same juggling of iPhone, GoPro and DSLR while in my helicopter over Glacier last month. I also was riding shotgun 😉
Ha, travel bloggers are every other travelers worst nightmare for a seatmate!