The City of Flashing Lights! – Us Explorer

US Explorer - Teen Tour

Welcome Back US Explorer Families!

Viva Las Vegas! We all can’t imagine we have made it all the way to Nevada already. We left our campsite in Kanab, Utah in order to conquer the city of flashing lights, Las Vegas! As we arrived in Las Vegas, everyone’s eyes widened and jaws dropped as we drove through the strip. Passing hotels such as Paris, Luxor, and the MGM Grand, we were all amazed. Before we arrived at the beautiful Monte Carlo, we stopped at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. We all snapped many pictures in excitement of our stay in Vegas. After this great photo-op, we went to check into our luxurious hotel. We then spent some time checking out the hotel amenities. It was a blast fist-bumping to the DJ by the wave pool, or lounging around the lazy river. After getting refreshed, we all headed to the New York New York hotel for dinner and some exploring. The food options were plentiful as the hotel was made to appear like the streets of New York City. Julia S and Ally indulged in some sushi, while Eric and Mike grabbed some New York burgers. After dinner, we rode the famous roller coaster that went inside and around the New York New York hotel. Ben had the time of his life riding this exciting ride. We all had fun singing some Billy Joel while taking pics with a life-size Knicks player statue. After exploring the hotel, we headed to the Coca Cola and M&M stores. While some trip members ran to get some Vanilla Coke, Lainie and Valerie got coca cola onesies. We all then headed to the four-story M&M store. Sydney D got another keychain to add to her collection, and Ross grabbed a champagne bottle filled with M&Ms. Before we headed back to the hotel, Matt Z and Jon decided to get foot massages! We all then went back to the Monte Carlo to get some rest before another exciting day in Las Vegas.

Our second day in Vegas began with a nice long sleep-in. Afterwards, we made our way to the elaborate Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace where the girls loved exploring, and the boys were amazed by the huge Nike store. Matt A, Jared, and Ross ended up meeting college basketball players there from the Kansas Jayhawks and Oklahoma Sooners! We then headed back to the hotel to spend some additional time in the elaborate hotel facilities. For dinner, we all ate family style at the tasty Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo. After dinner, we ventured off and explored more of the Vegas strip. We went all the way to the top of the Stratosphere to see the city of Las Vegas lit up in lights. Daredevil Ben rode the X-treme ride, a gigantic teeter-totter that propels you 27 feet over the edge of the tower. Julia G decided to ride Insanity, a massive mechanical arm that goes 64 feet over the tower! After this thrilling experience, we went to the Bellagio hotel to see the famous fountain show. On the way, trip members stopped and grabbed pictures with the Hangover and Elvis lookalikes. After spending over a week in small town USA, we all had a great time in the high-speed lifestyle of Las Vegas.

It’s been an incredible two days in Las Vegas, and we are all ready to head to our final state of the trip.

California here we come!

Lauren, Larissa, Phil, Jessica, Ryan

Exploring San Diego and Las Vegas

Hello Parents,

Lets get you up to date as we finally have internet service!!

After an action packed 4 days in LA, Day 12 was finally time for us to move on to our last stop in California – San Diego. We hopped off the bus with palpable excitement, awaiting one of the most diverse and unique collection of species in North America. Our wildlife exploration at the world famous San Diego Zoo began with a guided bus tour around the premises, traveling from environment to environment.

Molly, Jenna and Samantha R were fascinated by the giraffes, lions and the massive elephants. We were even greeted by a new arrival, Michaela, a young (and oh, so cute) baby giraffe- just a month of age! Everyone then had free time to explore and, if they wished, to visit the Asian pandas- one of the rarest species on the planet. Andrew, Zach, Jameson, Jonathan and Jacob took advantage of the Skyfari, which gives a bird’s eye view of the entire zoo, not to mention the San Diego skyline.

After a quick pit stop at the hotel, and a dinner at the Souplantation, we walked over to the laser tag arena for some friendly competition among the trip members. We crouched, hid and plotted our way through a labyrinth of lights, lasers, smoke and fog to vanquish the enemy- but more importantly, to get the coveted high score. Big winners were Vedant, Gillian, Matt and Jason; their scores consistently blowing out the rest of the field.

A tasty surprise ensued- it was only fitting to reward such tremendous effort. Right across the street was a west coast original: In-N-Out Burger. Giorgia, Peyton, Joey and Reid enjoyed the famous milkshakes, french fries made from freshly cut potatoes and, of course, the ever famous burgers.

Day 13 was our last day in Cali, so it was only fitting to spend the day at the beach and go surfing! We took in the sun, played our share of beach games – ultimate Frisbee, football, volleyball- and just hung out. After doing our own thing for a while, it was time to go surfin’ USA. We started off with training on dry land which included naming parts of the surfboard, paddling out and popping up. Feeling confident and extreme, we grabbed our boards and attacked the waves! While everyone did a great job, trip members who definitely have a future in the sport include Annie, Eli, Kerry, Danielle and Ben.

After our metamorphosis into surfer dudes (and dudettes), we took in the sparkling ocean water one last time and headed back to the hotel. Showered up and looking spiffy, we indulged in a family-style dinner at Red Robin before returning to the hotel once again. It was an emotional night as we said goodbye to Rachel and Sarah, but also an opportunity to reflect on the trip up until that point- all positive memories for the twins and everyone else!

Day 14 was so exciting because the bright lights and heated nights awaited us in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada! We checked into the Monte Carlo- a hotel located right on the strip. After dropping off our bags, we walked to New York, New York for dinner and an opportunity to ride the hotel’s signature rollercoaster. Among many others, Jourdan, Joelle, Emma and Brennan had their heads cranked skyward before a series of thrilling drops and heart-throbbing twists and turns- not to mention the breath-taking views of Las Vegas.

Next up, we took a walk to the M&M store and then the Coke Store. Everyone got the chance to sample their favorite M&M colors and coke flavors plus the plethora of merchandise available from each store. Each store featured four floors of fun and innovative architecture, such as an elevator inside a giant coke bottle! Goodies in hand, we walked back to the hotel, taking in the street entertainment and retired for the night.

With one more day in Vegas, it was time for the trip to seize Day 15. We headed off for the posh Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace not fully knowing what to expect. What we got was the opportunity to take in some of the most beautiful artwork, sculptures and architecture we ever laid eyes on. Kaylie, Becky, David and Justin will have memories of talking sculptures and Roman-like beauty.

We came back to the Monte Carlo to frolic in its swimming pool, wave pool and lazy river. After that, it was off to Buca di Beppo for another family style meal but at a truly authentic Italian meal. Our stomachs full, and full of excitement, we were off to the Stratosphere for the highest view in Las Vegas. We were able to gawk at the Vegas skyline, and see the edge of the city where it meets the desert.

Continuing our trek down the strip, we stopped by the Venetian and then all stopped by the Bellagio and stared in awe at the water show. Annie, Jen, Jayden, Sam P and Jillian saw how the fountains timed their spurts with Chicago’s “All That Jazz” to perfection. Heading back to our hotel, we all strolled down the strip one last time and took in the scenic views of fabulous Las Vegas.

We are now in Flagstaff and heading to our last stop in Scottsdale. We will be sure to update you soon on our Bryce and Grand Canyon stops.

Until Next Time,


The Westcoast Blogger

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