…Stays in Vegas, except for when you’re required to share your information for the purpose of a travel blog, that is. Of course, if everything stayed in Vegas then prospective visitors wouldn’t get to hear about just how great this flamboyant, party-hard, neon-lit city is. As one of my all-time favourite places, Vegas blew my money and my mind. I mean, where else would you find pavement escalators, a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower and a volcano that erupts like clockwork?
Casinos & Mega Hotels
As you can imagine for somewhere that boasts the highest concentration of casinos in the United States, there’s a perception that Vegas means gambling – and the opportunities are fairly abundant, with one arm bandits at McDonald’s and the airport. With most hotels home to some pretty sizeable casinos, the chances are that even if you need to use the loo or visit a bar, you’ll be weaved through the pumping heart of a casino. Don’t think that you have to use gambling as an excuse to enter air-conditioned casino heaven, though. This is Vegas, baby, and in the hotels of Sin City you can awe at lions descending from the famous felines at the start of MGM movies (MGM Grand), shop in a replica St Marc’s Square and ride a gondola through the canals of Venice (The Venetian), and take a step back in time to King Tut’s Tomb (Luxor). With Vegas, expect the unexpected.
Buffets are something of an American speciality but the ones in Vegas are as all-singing, all-dancing as its shows. For just a few dollars you can experience the most amazing feast you’ll ever set eyes on, featuring foods from all over the world and almost every kind of gourmet greatness imaginable across 3 courses. Once you’ve bought your ticket to tuck-in, these dining spectaculars are all you can eat, so to get your dollars worth be sure to go on an empty stomach. All major hotels on and off the Strip will offer a highly commendable buffet, but for the very best breakfast in town try Le Village at Paris (queues likely), and if it’s lunch you’re after, not many mid-time buffets beat the Bellagio’s.
After being blown away by the Trevi Fountain in Rome (I expected a Roman Manneken Pis and found a fountain-y masterpiece), one could argue that I have developed a slight fountain obsession – and let me assure you that the water ballet of the Bellagio Fountains does not disappoint. Performing every 15-30 minutes, this mesmerising fountain display choreographed to music (Time to Say Goodbye was my personal favourite, hotly followed by Elvis’s Viva Las Vegas) set to the beautiful backdrop of the Bellagio won’t fall short of stirring your emotions or tugging at your heartstrings. What’s more, this street-side spectacular can be enjoyed from Las Vegas Boulevard free of charge. To get a supreme seated view of the fountains or to add a little extra romance to the proceedings, book an outside table across the strip at Mon Ami Gabi (Paris) or head to the Fontana Bar (Bellagio) and sip martinis while you marvel.
As you may expect from a city with a high-octane reputation, Vegas is home to a few renowned thrill rides that are not for the faint-hearted. Limber up first on the Manhattan Express rollercoaster at New York, New York, which may look like a jaunty ride round the facade of the hotel but is actually a 67mph neck-cricker involving a jet fighter-style barrel role and a shoulder-rattling ‘heartline’ twist. For the ultimate thrill finale, head to the top of the 112-storey high Stratosphere to be catapulted into the air and dropped like a dead weight on the Big Shot, then dangled off the side on Insanity and X Scream. Once you’ve done them, they’ll go down amongst your greatest achievements and you’ll be reminiscing to your grandchildren for years to come.
From world-famous artists (Celine Dion, Elton John, Bette Midler) at Caesar’s Palace to Cirque du Soleil acrobatics and tribute acts at the Imperial, Vegas has enough razzmatazz to go around everyone, whether you’re looking for topless revues or tack. Be sure to research what’s on before you go, and if you want to catch a big name live, it’s advisable to book in advance.
If you’ve not lost it all on the slots you could always guarantee a return for your investments in one of the city’s shopping malls. If you’re still perfecting your poker, the Miracle Mile shops of Planet Hollywood shouldn’t break the bank, and the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace has a healthy blend of over 160 high-end and affordable stores. Fashion Show Mall is another shopping showstopper, boasting 2-million square feet of boutique and chain stores (among which are Macy’s, Saks and Bloomingdales), as well as regular fashion shows from its 80ft retractable runway If your poker face pays off, you might want to head to ultra swanky Via Bellagio (Bellagio), which is lined with the likes of Dior, Gucci and Armani.
Pavement escalators, handy monorails and cool casinos aside, it can be a hot old day trekking Las Vegas Boulevard. Cue the mega resorts again, where even the sunbathing oozes with style. Soak up the rays on beaches made from tonnes of imported California sand (Mandalay Bay), bathe to a backdrop of Romanesque columns and sculptures (Caesar’s Palace), play swim-up black jack and frolic in hot tubs (Hard Rock), or lay back and admire a Polynesian-themed tropical island through your shades (Mirage). Bear in mind that in some cases you have to be a hotel guest to sunbathe on their sand, so pick your accommodation carefully.
You cannot go to Vegas without experiencing nightlife of some description, so much so that it could be in small print on the US entry visa. From funky roof-top lounge bars overlooking the Strip to blues bars with live bands, there are more bars, boutique clubs and mega clubs (where the drinks cost more than the rooms) to keep you occupied from dusk till dawn on a lifetime of return visits. With so much on offer it’s just too hard to choose, but the pulsing VooDoo Lounge atop the Rio Suites is one of my must-dos, and to satisfy sheer intrigue try the well-known Coyote Ugly and Studio 54. Wherever you go, go armed with even funds to enjoy the night and dress to impress.