Pssst...Looking for big fun while visiting Las Vegas? Try a 4,000-foot helicopter descent to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This trip carves through ancient valleys and escarpments before landing at the base of the canyon next to the famous Colorado River. Sound awesome? It is. Luckily, you'll be in Las Vegas because it's the only place where you can take this miraculous tour. Prices start at $280 and depart daily year-round, including all major holidays. The three major Las Vegas-based helicopter tour operators - Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance - offer it. Check out Papillon's website for the lowest price. I've used it multiple times to book trips and can vouch that it's safe and secure. It takes a helicopter 45 minutes to fly from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West, which is 120 miles due east. En route, you'll fly over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the Grand Cliffs Wash, and the Grand Canyon Skywalk before you make the descent. The Grand Canyon, a World Heritage Site, is 277 miles long, averages 4,000 feet in depth, and comprises 1.2 million acres of land. It's considered by experts to be one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion on the planet. It's also famous for its geologic importance: You'll see sections of the Earth's crust that range from 200 million to 2 billion years old. Be on the lookout for plant and animal life. The Park contains several major ecosystems and is home to five of the seven life zones, a phenomena you'd experience if you were to travel from Mexico to Canada. Inside its protected borders, the Canyon claims more than 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 8 amphibian, 17 fish, and 1,500 plant species. Helicopters gently land on private dirt "pads" at the bottom. Here, you'll deplane and enjoy a Champagne toast. Light snacks are provided. You'll have 30 minutes to explore. I suggest you hunt for fossils (the Canyon was once under a great ancient sea) or hike a stretch to find petroglyphs. You can also upgrade your package to include a pontoon boat ride down the Colorado River. Flights are done aboard EcoStar 130 helicopters. These "birds" are specifically designed for sightseeing, featuring comfortable stadium-style seating, climate-controlled cabins, and 180-degree wraparound windshields that deliver unobstructed views. The aircraft also feature two-way communication systems that let you talk to your pilot-guide. Pre-recorded taped narrations are available in multiple languages for foreign guests. The West Rim is the only place in the where you can take a canyon helicopter tour below the rim and land on the bottom. Helicopter tours are run exclusively out of Las Vegas. There are no helicopter flights from the West Rim to the South Rim and vice versa. The descent is the main highlight of a trip that includes Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and Grand Canyon West. Prices start under $300 per person and include hotel pick up and drop, Champagne, and light snack. This adventure lasts just four hours, making it the perfect day trip for thrill seeking Las Vegas visitors.
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