Vally of Fire State Park (Las Vegas) & Death Valley

Situated 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas is an extraordinary state park called Valley of Fire. If you want to get away from the concrete & craziness of Vegas and hang out with Mother Nature for a couple of hours, head here. The red sandstone covering most of the park is what earned it its name, and on a sunny summer day, you’ll feel like you’re driving through a valley of fire!

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The sediment here have been dated back to the dinosaur days.
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The Anasazi had occupied this area at one time and you can find interesting petroglyphs here left by this ancient civilization.
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and the main attraction, Elephant Rock.
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We didn’t hike too much during our time here because it was so hot, but it was well worth the trip if you’re looking to do something besides debauchery in Vegas. Another really neat place to visit while in Vegas? The Neon Boneyard Museum – especially at night!

Neon Boneyard Museum

“Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs” – Neon Boneyard website.

Sign up for a tour early since they take small groups and it books up fast. It may not seem like much when you first enter the museum, but there’s actually a lot of signs laid out nicely in the back – which you only get to see on the tour. Our guide was very energetic and had tons of neat little tidbits to share about Vegas history.

This sexy heel was from the Silver Slipper Gambling Hall (1950-1988). It now sits across the street from the museum.
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Although the original bulbs aren’t lit, I still love how they shine colored lights onto the signs.
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The Sahara (1952-2011). This former resort had hosted some of the most famous entertainers of its day including Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, and Judy Garland. Did you know it also used to host the Jerry Lewis Telethon each year?
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La Concha (1961-2003). The lobby of the motel is now the visitor center for the Neon Boneyard Museum. It’s 1950’s futuristic “Googie” architecture distinguishes it from so many of the buildings surrounding it. Side tidbit: the silhouette profile famously known as Caesars is actually that of Caesars Palace developer, Jay Sarno.
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Death Valley.

Two and a half hours west of Las Vegas, you can find yourself at the lowest elevation point in North America.

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It’s Badwater Basin, to be exact, that sits at this low elevation point of 282ft below sea level. There’s a small, spring-fed pool at Badwater where salt accumulates, making the water undrinkable, thus bad water.
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A light layer of salt laid over the mud when we arrived, a few days after rain fell over the area. If there hadn’t been any rain, we would’ve seen these amazing hexagonal shapes of salt crystals formed by evaporation. Here you can see the shapes just barely starting to form.
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We didn’t have much time to explore all of Death Valley – only 2 days and one night spent at Furnace Creek Resort. So a stop at the Visitor’s Center was definitely helpful since the rangers can give you great tips as to what you can see given the time you have. Our first stop, Artist Drive & Palette. Oxidized metals is how these rock formations got their colors.
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The vastness and desolation makes for a strange, but beautiful serenity.
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With only so much time left in the day, we raced against the sun to get to Mesquite Flats sand dunes.
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So excited to be alive!
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Miscommunication of what we were supposed to do here. One person was going in for a chest bump while the other wanted to hi-five.
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Early, REAL early, the next morning, I decided to not be a lazy photographer and drag my butt out of bed for sunrise photos at Zabriskie Point. Being in the desert in early morning before the sun was out, it was FREEZING COLD. But I stayed anyway and got a few shots that were well worth the early rise and numbing cold.
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Named after Christian Zabriskie, the VP of Pacific Coast Borax Company, the range here was formed by dried sediments of Furnace Creek Lake about, oh, 5 million years ago.
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This mini-trip was a great intro to Death Valley, though I know there are a few other sites here we wanted to see if we had more time, like Racetrack Playa where rocks mysteriously move across a dry lake bed, leaving tracks -with no other tracks (human or animal) around. And they still haven’t figured out how these rocks move! Cue Twilight Zone music as I fade out of this post…