Seen through the eyes of: Sean Gasser
Who went: My wife, Hollie, and I
We went because: It became a last-minute honeymoon trip. We got married on March 13, 2021. I had to be in Vegas for a wedding shoot (I’m a photographer) in early April already and it coincided with her spring break (she’s an elementary teacher). She had recently mentioned how she really wanted to see Zion National Park. I happened to look on the map and see it was only a 2-hour drive from Vegas. The pieces came together quickly after that.
How our plans changed because of COVID: We originally wanted to go to Italy for our honeymoon but were not able to because of travel restrictions. Once I booked the trip to Utah and Arizona, the place I wanted to see the most was Monument Valley, but it was closed due to being in the Navajo Nation.
Special items we took in order to stay safe: We wanted to do something mostly outdoors. We brought some hiking gear and outdoor clothing that was good for most weather conditions.
Where we stayed: We flew into Las Vegas, stayed downtown there the first night, drove to a tiny house in remote southern Utah outside of Zion National Park for a couple nights, then to a former 19th-century brothel turned B&B called The Red Garter Inn in Williams, Arizona, (along Route 66) south of the Grand Canyon for a couple of nights, then back to downtown Las Vegas.
Where we ate: Mostly brew pubs, classic diners, Americana fare and sandwich/burger shops. Nothing super special. Everything was on the pricy side but tasty.
Favorite dish on the menu: The Elevated Elk Burger at Zion Canyon Brew Pub. The meal and 48-ounce beer after the epic hike up to Angel’s Landing were great.
Favorite historic landmark: Zion National Park was our favorite site overall.
Attractions worth a drive-by: Horseshoe Bend and the Hoover Dam
Fun experience off the beaten path: Seligman, Arizona, which is the named birthplace of Route 66. It was a few miles off the main modern highway. We went there on a whim but it was a colorful old town with a lot of quirky Americana.
Worth the splurge: We rented pedal bikes to enter Zion. It was a last resort really because you can’t enter by car. The ride in was mostly uphill, so a bit tough, but the ride back was a relaxing cruise downhill and you could really take in all the natural scenery around you.
Honorable mentions: The tour of the Neon Museum in Las Vegas was cool. They wouldn’t let me bring in my camera, though, so we only got cellphone pics. For free, you can view the Bellagio Fountains on the Vegas Strip. We ended the trip there as the fountains performed to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” It was a great bookend.
Not worth the splurge: We stayed in a classic hotel on Fremont Street where the main “Fremont Street Experience” is. It’s like the Bourbon Street of Vegas. The music was thumping all night and we got very little sleep.
How this vacation differed from others pre-coronavirus: It was more crowded and there were longer wait times. At the Grand Canyon, they only had a fraction of the usual number of shuttle buses running and would only allow less than 10 people on a time, so it took a long time to get around.
Something surprising we learned on the trip: That our old hotel in Williams is reportedly haunted and considered one of the most haunted places in Arizona. In a review, I saw it referenced but didn’t think much of it and didn’t bother to mention it to Hollie. We arrived pretty late the first night. No one was there to greet us and everyone in the three other guest rooms had presumably retired for the night. Hollie was in the bathroom washing up for bed while I was down the hall in the communal kitchen when she felt a sudden and obvious pinch on her behind. She quickly swung around expecting to see me, but no one was there. When I came back, she questioned me and had me search the room for any intruders. No one was there but us. It took us a little while to fall asleep that night.
Advice for traveling during a pandemic: Research, plan ahead and be patient.
We would suggest this trip to others because: Everywhere you looked it was quite scenic and very different than what we’re used to seeing in Louisiana. I love old Americana, and not just American history. You can feel the age of the old rock formations.