An American adventure: Visiting the Strip and the Canyon
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An American adventure: Visiting the Strip and the Canyon

Neil Silver takes his family to the glitz of Las Vegas, the stunning views of the Grand Canyon, and explores San Diego

Neil avoiding the drop at the Canyon with his children Rachel and Jamie
Neil avoiding the drop at the Canyon with his children Rachel and Jamie

My grandfather Sid was a gentleman’s barber in the East End of London and I used to love hearing his stories about all the Jewish boxers and “gangsters” whose hair and moustaches he used to style.

That gave me an interest in Jewish gangsters in general from a young age, so I was pleased to be visiting Las Vegas recently because its history has always resonated with me.

The Vegas Strip was shaped by influential Jew Bugsy Siegel who, with the help of his friend and fellow mob boss Meyer Lansky, got the ball rolling when he built The Flamingo Hotel in 1946.

Vegas has come a long way since the Flamingo was its shining new star, and the Strip has some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

In fact, it is worth spending some time in the evenings, when it is cooler, walking the Strip and checking out the huge hotels in order to see just how much Vegas has to offer.

I was in Vegas with my wife Simone and children Jamie (20) and Rachel (16) and even though they were not old enough to enjoy all that the glitzy city has to offer, they loved it as much as we did.

We struck lucky by staying at the Aria, a truly luxurious hotel in an ideal location on the strip. If you like modern and elegant, then this is the place for you. The inside is lavish and the pool area is a calm oasis where we were able to relax before enjoying the nightlife. If you are staying in the Sky Suites you are escorted to your plush sunbeds and your towels are laid out for you by one of the hosts – proper pampering.

Vegas lights up in spectacular fashion at night and a good way to see this is on the High Roller, which is their equivalent to our London Eye. The other way to spend an evening is at one of the many shows on offer.

If you don’t want to splash out on a Celine Dion-type production but still want entertainment, then I recommend The Mentalist at the V Theater. There is a TV series based on the skills of Gerry McCambridge, and his mental trickery will truly amaze you. If you like being amazed, you can also see brilliant magician Mat Franco, who won America’s Got Talent.

Neil’s daughter Rachel meets Mentalist Gerry McCambridge
Neil’s daughter Rachel meets Mentalist Gerry McCambridge

Before we arrived in Vegas we took time out of our schedule to visit the Grand Canyon. There are various ways to see this wonder of the world, and we let the train take the strain. The Grand Canyon Railway will take you there from a town called Williams in a couple of hours, let you explore, and take you back again, all in very comfortable surroundings. It feels like a step back in time and it was a real highlight for us.

 

Next door to the train depot in Williams is the nicely appointed Grand Canyon Hotel, so you can stay over before or after your train excursion if you don’t want to drive to and from Vegas in a day, as the road trip takes four or five hours.

Let the train take the strain on The Grand Canyon Railway
Let the train take the strain on The Grand Canyon Railway

Vegas was the final stop on our trip, which had started in San Diego.

Our hotel in San Diego, The Bristol, was in an ideal downtown location and as soon as we arrived we dumped our bags and made the short walk to the USS Midway, one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers, at the nearby port.

Neil avoiding the drop at the Canyon with his children Rachel and Jamie
Neil avoiding the drop at the Canyon with his children Rachel and Jamie

Thanks to a self-guided audio tour, narrated by sailors who once served on the Midway, you can explore more than 60 exhibits with a collection of 29 restored aircraft. It is well worth allowing half a day to visit this floating museum.

One of the most entertaining ways to see San Diego is on a 90-minute, fully narrated SEAL Tour. This is an amphibious vehicle which drives you past the main points of interest such as the Maritime Museum where the Star of India, the oldest active sailing vessel in the world, is docked, and Lindbergh Field – the international airport dedicated to aviator Charles Lindbergh. The vehicle then drives off the dock and into the sea, transforming into a boat which glides past the resident sea lions.

San Diego is also host to one of the SeaWorld parks, and again it is worth building a day into your schedule to enjoy the marine life and shows on offer.

We are a family who loves to spend our summer holidays in the United States, most often Florida, but this diversion to the “other side” left us with memories we shall cherish for years to come.

It certainly satisfied my interest in Jewish “gansters” – it would have been a crime to miss out on such an opportunity.

Recommended links which helped us plan a memorable trip:

 

 

 

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