This is the tale of a small community in Colorado City.
Getting to Antelope Canyon With The Fanau
Surprisingly we didn’t need to be that organised to get to Antelope Canyon but timing is everything, right from month and hour. Here’s how we planned our trip and why we ended up planning it in this way, and why it’s worth driving yourself to Page, rather than taking a tour bus.
Having Antelope Canyon as our first destination on our sabbatical meant planning all steps on how to get there prior to leaving NZ. So along with everything else that needed prep before leaving the country for twelve months, I had to have a few things booked – apparently. Here’s how we got to Antelope Canyon. Skip to the end for a summary.
Turns out that the reviews were for peak season travel which is America’s school summer holidays. We were traveling in their autumn- October. That was fortunate for us because two days before we flew out the only thing we had booked was the tickets to Las Vegas which is the nearest city to fly into to reach Antelope Canyon. We decided to staying Las Vegas for a few days. It seems that paying a taxi USD20 + tip would be sufficient from airport to city.
We were flying out on the Monday and on the Thursday I booked a two bedroom Las Vegas Airbnb close to public transport that would get us to The Strip. Then on Friday I booked the deposit on a rental vehicle that could seat six passengers. Thank goodness for Trello because I was so exhausted I wouldn’t have remembered the high priority stuff.
Our plan was to rest in Las Vegas, recover from jet lag and general stress of winding up everything in Auckland before embarking on a four hour drive to the small town of Page which is the closest resting place to Antelope Canyon.
We decided that with everything going on, our most important steps were to get to LV and have accomodation after a 35 hour journey.
As long as we had good internet connection (wifi) then we could book the rest. We figured if we missed out then we’d do something else.
This worked out well for us because we did have a better head space after arriving in LV and getting some sleep.
We were still tired but excited about being “on holiday”. We ended up booking an Airbnb the night before we needed it. We decided to go for a cheap place so that we could stay in a slightly nicer place in New Orleans. That meant booking one room that slept six with a private bathroom and shared kitchen. We would be based at a junction one hour from Zion National Park heading north and two hours from Antelope Canyon heading south. That also meant we only had to drive two hours from LV instead of four to Page.
Turns out that was the best decision because the hosts we stayed with were super lovely. They lived onsite and gave us some history about the small town of Colorado City in Utah that shocked America. Plus they told us what to see and do. They also recommended we book Lower Antelope Canyon tours that night if we were planning to see it the next day. Sure enough there were only two time slots left for a group our size (ie four adults and one child and one two year old). I picked the afternoon booking because I didn’t want to get everyone ready by 6:30am to reach a 9am tour that was two hours away.
I’ve driven in Australia from Melbourne to Wagga to visit family. That’s a boring five hour drive of straight roads and flat terrain with very few noteworthy landmarks along the way. It’s easy to fall asleep there.
Although driving from Utah to Arizona to get to Page is through desert, it is not boring!
There are amazing structures carved by the elements. A more in depth analysis in the school section. There are plenty of stops along the way if you have time. We stopped at Glen Canyon Dam which is just outside of Page and has an info centre with lots of information on how the canyons are formed and how these amazing rock structures have been carved out.
As a side note I asked my host if we should see the biggest dam in America which is close by. His answer implied that a dam is a dam. His mindset is more like ours when it comes to “hot spots”: The beautiful national parks and reserves were far more worthy of time out here in Utah than another man made structure.
Best way to get there from Auckland is to fly to Las Vegas then rent a car to Page. From Page it’s an easy drive to some beautiful national parks and many tours operate form here. Antelope Canyon can only be accessed through tour operators so it’s best to book that ahead of time so you don’t miss out.
This article is really useful for getting around Las Vegas
For family ideas on what to do around Page I found this awesome article
Although you can stay in Page to view Antelope Canyon, if you are arriving via Las Vegas, I recommend staying closer to Zion Canyon. Stay here for a few days so that you are not rushing around and you get a higher absorption of this beautiful area. From many towns near Zion Canyon, like Kanab, you are roughly a two hour drive to Antelope Canyon which you could cover as a day trip. On the other days you could visit Zion Canyon or Bryce Canyon. Depending on how long your stay is, you could then visit the Grand Canyon.
Our Glimpse of the South West Region of America
Getting Around Las Vegas With A Family
Getting to and from Las Vegas airport
Arriving in Las Vegas we hadn’t organised any transport to the Airbnb. We had read reviews saying we should take an Uber. There was free wifi at the airport but not in the carpark which is where the pick up zone for the Uber is. We ordered the Uber but couldn’t track its progress because we were a ten minute walk from the airport wifi zone.
The Uber arrived but the driver rejected us because he didn’t have a car seat. We canceled the Uber and Uber charged a cancellation fee (the price of the fare) even though it was the driver that cancelled us.
We took a taxi and the cost was only $5 more than the Uber quote so I would recommend just taking a taxi for the sake of ease. On a side note, I unfortunately dropped my license and bank cards in the vehicle 🙁 I’ll only be able to order new ones once we book long term accomodation which is a few weeks away. Not very comfortable about the idea of ordering a bank card to be sent to a third world country. Will soon see how reliable their mail system is in Cuba or Mexico.
The taxi driver took us to our accomodation but we were a few hours early so the place was not yet ready so we requested the driver drop us to the nearest mall. We shopped around for a few hours with all our luggage and once the place was ready we lugged it all the 1.5km to our Airbnb.
Getting to and from The Strip
The Strip is the street tourists come to see. It has the famous hotels, the Palaggio dancing fountain, the mini Eiffel Tower etc. We were staying in a residential area ten minutes drive from The Strip.
We were very close to a bus stop, only ten minutes walk and ten minutes walk to the mono rail. We ended up using both options. The bus is super cheap being only a couple of dollars per person. Check out the bus routes here The monorail is USD5 per person and is only worth buying a ticket if you plan on using it multiple times over a 24 hour period, in which case you can buy the USD12 day pass. Check out the monorail website here.
To get to the malls, we walked since they were only a twenty minute walk. But we did find the taxi fares were pretty reasonable, perhaps because we were not travelling very far. It also meant we had more flexibility to explore other malls because the taxi driver could take us to cheaper supermarkets or malls that had what we were looking for.
Using a taxi is not much more than ordering an Uber and allows you flexibility.
Buses are super cheap and more worthwhile than using the monorail.
Our Glimpse of the Southwest Region of America
Vehicles in Arizona & Utah
Rented this massive car
Hired this massive American car from Las Vegas and drove it to Antelope Canyon as well as Zion National Park. The two little ones loved the DVD player where they could watch Paw Patrol. The boot was massive and could comfortably fit all our luggage.
Driving was smooth and it had a lot of power. Only one incident where I was driving on the left side of the road! Fortunately my 14yo (sitting in the middle row) reminded me and it was a quiet country road.
Other vehicles of Utah & Arizona
We were fortunate enough to see this ambulance and fire truck pull up in the carpark where we were ordering Mexican food in the small town of Page which is the closest town to Antelope Canyon
This MedicWest ambulance is a reminder of the lack of free health care here. It’s a private ambulance so has the colours of it’s company. The long petrol tanker has a trailer and was leaving the carpark where we found the MedicWest ambulance.
We visited the Staheli Family Farm, famous for it’s Halloween zombie night runs. We saw tractors and rode a trailer being pulled by a tractor. We also saw it’s famous Zombie paint ball bus.
Our Glimpse of Vehicles Around The World
Vehicles in Las Vegas
This colourful car captured 2yo’s attention. We found it in the M&M store, which btw, was four levels.
And a run-down yellow school bus
Our Glimpse of Vehicles Around The World
Our experience of Las Vegas was not the party life that tourists usually seek when visiting. Instead we stuck to sight seeing the strip, and shopping at some of the malls, which meant a lot of walking plus navigating the terrain outside of “The Strip”.
We didn’t do any casinos or bars at Las Vegas so I wouldn’t say we did the usual Las Vegas trip. Having four kids, Las Vegas wasn’t on our list of to-dos. We ended up here because it was the closest city from Auckland that would get us to Antelope Canyon. However we had decided to stay two nights here so that we could recover from the 35 hour journey. Which actually is more than that because we woke up five hours before our flight and couldn’t check in to our Airbnb until five hours after we landed.
We were all exhausted and what I didn’t realise was that we were about to start the pattern of having 2yo and 4yo waking up early (at 6 or 7) while 12yo and 14yo woke at 11am or 12pm. I suppose if I’d known then perhaps I could have nipped it in the bud straight away. But I think it’s really been because quiet time is when 2yo and 4yo go to sleep so we all get to chill or catch up on digital time.
Anyway, landing in Vegas for us meant experiencing a version of American culture that most would expect in a city like Las Vegas. There were fast food joints everywhere, big cars, big roads, malls, bars, and everyone charging for anything. People trying to make money off tips dressed up in flamingo outfits, or even as minions, walking up and down the Strip hoping to pick up tips from a tourist wanting a photo op.
Stepping a few blocks away from The Strip where we stayed was run down pavements, ordinary people that do ordinary jobs, and although we saw a couple of drug addicts we didn’t see any homeless.
For 12yo and 14yo it’s been a lot of walking, looking after a backpack or helping with a younger brother in the dry heat. We were always grateful to step into an air conditioned hotel, which is often the only way to get off one of the pedestrian bridges used to cross the road. They don’t make it easy to escape these hotels so you can end up on the casino floor instead of back on the street. But at least that meant there were plenty of clean toilets for us to use. And if we went up one floor in the hotel we had have a quiet space to recoup before the arduous walk to nowhere.
Everywhere on the Strip was crowded and that meant extra walking because we were negotiating people traffic.
Outside of the Strip it was spacious and quiet. Malls were cheap if you went to a store that specialised in sales. Ross Dress For Less had branded gear left overs from last season. Another store did the same but with shoes. But even, the department stores are relatively cheap. We picked up some great quality sneakers for the little ones at half the price it would’ve cost in New Zealand.
Because we were eating out we struggled to find fruit and veg so I ended up feeling bloated every time I ate. I could taste the high levels of sugar in everything. I bought bread for the kids and it was inedible because it was so heavy in sugar but not in a nice way.
The supermarket, although 24 hours and only one kilometre away from our Airbnb, was set in a neighbourhood that meant we were not to walk there at night. Our Airbnb was very clear that we must not. So we went to the petrol station across the road on the corner. The counter staff were friendly and helpful but we struggled to find food we could call sustenance. After two nights I was glad to leave Las Vegas in the hope that being in the country meant we would find healthier food options.
Interestingly, after learning we were from NZ he asked if we were mayohree (Maori). Although I watch a lot of American fluff we have had a few funny moments where one of us didn’t understand the accent which meant answering a question nonsensically.
There are many beautiful hotels to explore which we did a lot of. And although we didn’t see any, there are also free shows. We did, however, manage to catch the famous Bellagio dancing fountain.
Not sure that I would revisit Las Vegas. Compared to a place like New Orleans it definitely lacked a depth of culture. Having said that we still enjoyed it for what it is and that included the famous hotel district, the very American food places and the many cheap bargain shopping opportunities.