Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by our Editor-in-chief and her partner S.F., who takes us on a journey through Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park, and Death Valley.
Vegas has a bad rap for being a 48-hour (max) vacation destination littered with faux “mini” cities (fake Paris, fake New York, etc.), rowdy basic bro tourists, smoke-filled casinos, and crime. My partner S.F., who is from Europe, certainly didn’t understand her Southwestern gal’s obsession with this over-sized adult Americana sandbox. (I’ve been in NYC for 15+ years now, but am originally from Albuquerque. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the desert.) Even when I tried to convince her that Vegas also has amazing shows, food, and shopping, she wondered why we’d have to do all that in a make believe Venice (the Venetian) instead of actually going to Venice itself. But, for my birthday this last January, I convinced her to give it a shot and take me on a 48-hour Vegas vacation. Needless to say, we had so much fun that she wants to return ASAP!
Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon National Park
One of the best things about Las Vegas is that it is surrounded by natural beauty that is easily accessible. It is much more affordable to rent a car in Vegas than in NYC, so we picked up a little ride and headed to the Hoover Dam (45-50 minutes from the Vegas strip) and then to Grand Canyon National Park (2.5 hours from Hoover Dam).
For the most part, we felt safe in our travels to these areas. However, LGBTQ and QPOC individuals should keep in mind that (1) these areas are full of tourists, and they are not all liberal and (2) some of the towns on the outskirts are not as open to diversity as Vegas. We got a few stares from people when we were holding hands and when we stopped to use the restroom and get a grilled cheese and fries at a diner that had pro-gun signs posted all over the front door. (We were in the desert on the way to Grand Canyon and there were no other options.)
As expected, my partner was not impressed with the Paris, Venetian, etc. But, she did really like the gaudy, lux designs of the Wynn, Cosmopolitan, and Aria. We window browsed all of the high end shops before we prepared for the nighttime festivities. While shopping, we met this amazing dapperQ, Destiny Washington, who was working at one of the luxury stores.
Another great thing about Vegas is that you can get cheap tickets to performances that would otherwise cost an arm, leg, and $300 worth of bottle service in NYC. For example, we went to the Wynn to see Zedd spin for $20 each! And, the space was amazing. Sure, the scene was a bit popped-collars and models-and-bottles. But, no one hassled us and the poolside sound system was as good as it was inside the sweaty club. We escaped the hot, packed dance floor and instead frolicked and danced and kissed barefoot in the gorgeous pool. The Wynn also brings in other great DJs, like Diplo, David Guetta, Skrillex, and more for about $20-50. If DJs aren’t your thing, there is a wide range of entertainment from concerts to break dancing performances to gambling.
About 2 hours away from Vegas you can find Death Valley, a below-sea-level basin that is the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. January was the perfect time for us to attend temperature wise. You can spend years exploring this vast natural wonderland, but we visited the Badwater Basin (the lowest elevation in North America, at 282 feet below sea level, with amazing salt flats), the smooth marble walls of Mosaic Canyon, and the sand dunes.
So, I guess what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas given that I’m blasting it on dapperQ. But, for those of you like my partner who once turned her nose at Vegas, we say give it a shot. Vegas and the surrounding areas are so much more than gambling and strip clubs and germ filled buffets. They are even more than great food and clubs and shopping. The Southwest is full of natural beauty, from the geologic features to the stylish queers. Stay tuned for part II … we’ll be back for sure.