SPOTLIGHT: Why I Changed My Mind & Now Endorse ONLY the Las Vegas Helicopter Tour that Leaves from The Strip & Lands on the Bottom of the Grand Canyon's West Rim.
I've been getting a lot of requests for the Las Vegas helicopter tour that goes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Inquiring travelers refer to it as the "Champagne Picnic" or "the one with the boat." As you can see, the flight is referenced in numerous ways and I'll deal with that in a moment. The bigger issue is picking the right version of this trip.
In the past I recommended the basic version of this tour. That's the one that flies out of Boulder City and includes up to 30 minutes at the base. It's this trip's cheapest option and remains it's most popular booking. However, based on a lot of my conversations in live chat, I'm now recommending the more expensive versions first. Before you run for the door, please hear me out.
The Las Vegas Strip
The deluxe version of this package departs from the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. It also comes in sunset, which means a trip that departs in the late afternoon with return over LV at dusk. Each of these trips include stretch limousine pick up and drop off at all major Las Vegas hotels. Talk about Putting on the Ritz! In addition to that, the ride from your hotel to the terminal is around 10 minutes. That's a blink of the eye compared to the 30-minute shuttle to Boulder City wherein you and a group of strangers huddle together until you reach check-in.
Then there's the fact that on the return from the Grand Canyon you fly from the north end of The Strip to the south end (e.g. from Downtown/Freemont Street Experience to Mandalay Bay/Luxor). Now that's the way to you end your trip with on high note! Often I tell folks to look at the Strip segment like separate trip. And when you combine it with the limo, the more expensive versions of the Champagne Tour are totally justified in my opinion and definitively better.
Or not. It really depends what you are trying to do. If you are on a super-tight budget and are absolutely set on flying to the bottom (the West Rim is the only place where you can do this!), then please opt for the basic. It's the ultimate experience and worth every penny. You just need to be prepared for the ride to and from Boulder. But if you are looking to break out from the pack, go with any version of the Champagne that departs from LVBD (e.g. Las Vegas Boulevard a/k/a The Strip).
Understand that the limo pick up/drop off and Strip flyover are the only two elements separating deluxe from basic. Everything else is identical. For example, both use the EcoStar 130 (you only want to go on this heli), which is the biggest "bird" in it's class, offering travelers more comfort and views (via a 180-degree wraparound windshield) than any other aircraft in its class. Further, the routes are the same: You fly over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Grand Cliff's Wash, the Colorado River and more before alighting on the Canyon's floor for a picnic.
Now let's talk boat. This comes up a lot in live chat and the fact of the matter is that there are NO versions of the Champagne Tour that come with a boat ride down the Colorado River. Of course, this could change and I hope it does and when it does I will update you guys in the newsletter. For now, if you want boat, you need to sign up for the 3-1 tour. This is the package that lands at bottom, comes with boat, comes with Skywalk and lets you explore the top of the West Rim for 2.5 hours. What I'm getting at is "boat" is a whole different trip.
And while we are on the subject of "boat," I want you guys to start thinking "raft," as in 1-day smooth water rafting. What's that mean, right? It specifies a rafting trip that has NO white water rapids. This is great news for kids, families and active seniors because it means you can literally show up in any physical condition you please and enjoy one of the most exciting ways to experience the Colorado River. The Vegas raft tour combines a helicopter to the bottom with a 11.3-mile float to Willow Beach, AZ. The trips that originate at South Rim offer you the option of taking an airplane ride or a bus trip to Glen Canyon Dam where you start the 15-mile float down to Lee's Ferry. Definitely book ahead if float tours appeal to you.
I hope this article about the Las Vegas Strip version of the picnic tour that lands at the bottom of the Canyon explains why I'm now primarily endorsing this option. If you have more questions pertaining to this Las Vegas helicopter tour, feel free to email me (grandcanyonkeith At gmail.com), call me (direct line: 702-530-8687) or meet me in live chat. Have a great day everyone and I look forward to seeing you up here at the National Park!
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