I took the photo below from my window seat on the plane. Did you know it's a 5-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale? Throwing a 3-hour time difference into it gave me a new-found appreciation for Wisconsin's more central location within the United States.
During my first visit to Las Vegas in 2010, we took a 2-day side trip to the Grand Canyon and it was amazing. I highly recommend taking time to make your way to Arizona if you're visiting Vegas. This time around we wanted to do something kind of similar, but a little closer. We decided on Valley of Fire State Park, which is 1-hour from Vegas.
It was fun to see the rock formations and crazy landscape, but the government shutdown thwarted our plans to see Lake Mead and take a different route back to Vegas. Neither of us had considered that Lake Mead is a "National Recreation Area" nor did we realize that the route running the length of the lake would be closed, so we spent an hour backtracking through Valley of Fire before heading back to Vegas.
We were in Vegas to celebrate birthdays, my mom's 60th and my brother's 34th. It was six adults and my 1 year-old niece Lucia, who provided all the entertainment I needed in Vegas. She is hilarious and I wished she lived closer! Did you know that Seattle, WA and Miami, FL are about as far apart as you can get in the continental states?
We spent a lot of time in the pool and I got a lot of great photos, but I'm guessing my family doesn't want me posting swimsuit shots, so I settled on a cute one of Lucia. This was my second time using my new waterproof camera and I LOVE IT! It was awesome in the ocean during our time in Key West and also worked great in a Vegas pool.
I should also mention two restaurants I loved during this visit, which were Lindo Michoacan (Mexican) and Mon Ami Gabi (French). Our hotel had a proper kitchen, as in full-size appliances, so we made quite a few meals there which was convenient and so much tastier than the two casino buffets we tried.
The landscape of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas is so different than South Florida. It was fun to see the dry desert landscape during our flight home, especially because I knew I was heading back to a tropical warm paradise in comparison.
We flew Spirit Airlines for the first time and despite warnings about it being a cheap, crappy airline we both thought they were great flights. The only thing I dislike about Spirit is their 40 lb weight limit for checked baggage.
At 4am on the morning of our flight, I weighed my suitcase and discovered it was 2 lbs overweight. So I removed the easiest thing, my nice Canon camera, which brought me down to 39 lbs. I was bummed not to have it, but ended up happy with my iPhone and waterproof camera photos.
My mom has already booked her next trip to Vegas and although I didn't let her talk me into joining her in March 2014, I have a feeling this wasn't my last trip there. Next time, we're definitely taking a side trip to Utah to visit Zion and/or Bryce Canyon.