Death Valley National Park (with a little bit of Las Vegas 🎲)

As someone who loves to travel, I'm fortunate that I get to travel for work from time to time for trade shows. While the typical trade show hot spots like Orlando and Las Vegas aren't necessarily my #1 choice of destination, I'm pretty good at doing a little research to see what's within a few hours of driving distance so I can extend my trip to visit someplace I actually do want to spend time. 

Back in June, I worked a show in Vegas and had my heart set on visiting Death Valley National Park afterward. Dan opted out of this trip so I asked my good friend Kim if she wanted to tag alongβ€”which, of course, she said yes to because we are both Sagittarius' who don't need to be talked into an adventure.

She flew in from New York City the night my trade show ended and we picked up our rental car the following morning and headed off into the desert. 

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Before we left, we hemmed and hawed over where to stay and we finally settled on The Oasis at Death Valley, which was 100% the right decision. There aren't a ton of lodging options in the Death Valley area but this place turned out to be amazingβ€”it truly felt like an oasis in the middle of such a dry and vast landscape.

The grounds were immaculate (and surprisingly lush), the room was perfect, the pool felt like it was straight out of CondΓ© Nast Traveler, and the on-site restaurant and bar were both way better than we were expecting for desert dining.  

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The day we arrived we kept it low key and sipped piΓ±a coladas by the pool, but by day two we were ready to get out an explore. It was mid-June and we knew it was going to be hot, but holy hell, it was HOT. Upwards of 114 degrees Fahrenheit, hot. So hot that there were warnings all over to not even walk around outside past 10amβ€”and we even learned at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center that your body can lose 2 gallons of water a day just sitting in the SHADE in that kind of heat. Whoa.

While I love nothing more than taking a long hike in a National Park, hiking in extreme heat like that wasn't going to happen. Lucky for us, Death Valley is gorgeous to drive through, and we were happy to see most of the park by car, stopping off at various scenic points to (cautiously) explore. 

Death Valley In a Day: Must-Sees

  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Kim and I are both from a beach town and at one point here we looked at each other and said: "But...where's the ocean?". Beach that goes on, and on, and on...with no water.
  • Badwater Basin: It's the lowest point in North America, cool! And the ground is literally covered in salt, that yes, you can actually eat. We did, it was wild. 
  • Artist Pallete: We were here at the wrong time of day for taking photos, but wow, it was one of the most beautiful natural wonders I've ever seen. The drive to and from is absolutely stunning. 
  • Dante's View: Truly breathtaking and the elevation is higher which means cooler temperatures for hiking around. We almost skipped this one and I'm so glad we didn't. 
  • Zabriskie Point: One of those sunsets I'll remember for the rest of my life. We brought some cans of cheap Trader Joe's rosΓ©, camped out, and watched the colors transform the landscape before us. Not wanting the magic to end, we chased the sunset, driving through the park until after dark. After that we laid out on the deck of our hotel and looked at the starsβ€”which are so much more vibrant in parts of the country without light pollution. They have a saying that "half of the park is after dark" in a lot of National Parks and it's so true. πŸ’«
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But eventually we did have to make our way back to Las Vegas to fly home, so we made a few fun pit-stops along the way to try to ease the transition back to reality. Sidenote: Taking a red-eye across the country after a crazy week/weekend and going directly to work from the airport is the opposite of easing back into reality. Lesson learned. That was rough. 

Now, I love Vegas, we got married there after-all, but somehow the few times I had been before this trip, I hadn't made it to Seven Magic Mountains or The Neon Museum? Being such a big fan of kitsch, Americana, and weird contemporary art, I knew it had to happen on this trip, and I'm glad Kim was game because both were amazing. 

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And while I did a lot of traditional Vegas-ey things during the week of the trade show, I think what took the Vegas-Cake this time around was when I tagged along for a desert-drive to Mt. Charleston with a co-worker who rented a lime green Lamborghini. I never thought I cared much about exotic cars, but um, it was pretty awesomeβ€”and a Vegas-AF thing to do.

And speaking of cars, when we were planning this trip, Kim and I had a dreamy vision of renting a convertible and driving through the desert with the top down. You know, like Thelma with Louise but without the driving-off-a-cliff part. 

When it came down to it though, we ended up not getting the convertible and settled for whatever compact car Hertz had available (sometimes Kim and I make financially responsible decisions, sometimes). When we arrived to 114-degree weather and 40mph winds in Death Valley, we could not stop laughing at how stupid of an idea a convertible was. I think our skin literally would have melted to the seats and I would still have a sunburn 3 months later.

A word from the wise (read: the stupid): do not even consider renting a convertible if you're driving to Death Valley in the summertime. After baking in the sun at every stop, we were VERY happy to retreat back to our nondescript, air-conditioned Toyota sedan with a roof. Dear God...

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p.s. One of my favorite stories from this trip happened right after this photo was taken. I wanted a pic of me in the Lamborghini (because how many times was that going to happen in my life?) so I took my sandals off to stand on the seat. I may or may not have been a little hungover that day (a common side effect of Las Vegas) and didn't realize until we got back to the car rental office that I had accidentally left my sandals on the side of the road...about an hour away from where we were. Oh. What followed was an epic walk of shame through the Hard Rock Hotel to get back to my room, barefoot and filthy with gnarley wind-blown hair. Holy, Las Vegas moment.

The best part though? The next day when Kim and I were driving out to Death Valley, we serendipitously passed by the Lambo photoshoot location and I decided that we might as well stop and see if my sandals were still there. After a little searching to find the exact spot, low and behold, I actually freaking found them. Untouched and right where I had left them the day before. Yes way.  

I'll thank Lady Luck for that one 🎲 ✨ 🎰