Well, I think everyone should visit Las Vegas once in their life… It’s never been a place that tops my personal list, but we had the opportunity of a holiday away from the kids in May of this year (3 months ago now), and decided to go somewhere that we couldn’t go with them normally. I figured that it would have to be an extravagant one if we were going to do it properly, and I had a windfall in April that we hadn’t expected, so I decided to use it to have a grown up holiday. Las Vegas is the epitome of life to excess, and is definitely an adult only destination in my opinion. That said, NOTHING could prepare me for the sheer size and scale of the place. When you see pictures of it on CSI, and other TV programmes, you know it’s big, but it far out-stripped my expectations (pardon the pun). I lost my sense of scale as it took me best part of an hour to walk the space of 3 or so large hotels along the Strip.
I booked our holiday, and since Las Vegas is famed for it’s hotels; this is one time I felt that I did want to go with 5* luxury all the way. Having never been, I asked several friends that had, and opted for The Bellagio. Now that I have been, I can honestly say it is one of the most decadent hotels on the Strip, but personally if I ever went again, my preference would be for The Encore (part of The Wynn) or Cosmopolitan, as I felt these were far more En Vogue for our age group. It seemed to be a general consensus with the locals that The Wynn/Encorre (both part of the same hotel, but with a different feel for each tower) seem to have stolen the crown for the ‘Best’ hotel, though Cosmopolitan is a close second to The Encore crowd in my opinion.
I already mentioned food in my previous post: ‘Eating in Las Vegas and ‘Top of The World’ Revolving Restaurant’ below, so I wont touch on that again in this post…
The Strip is currently 7 miles long, (though it is growing and growing all the time, as new hotels are added) and it houses a staggeringly high percentage of the worlds largest and best reviewed hotels. Not only are the hotels enormous, housing buffet restaurants the size of supermarkets, huge windowless casinos with no natural light, entire shopping malls with artificial skies and impressive theatre houses with crazy rigging, but they are also wacky beyond your wildest imagination, with some housing circuses, a 50% scale Eiffel Tower, a replica of the great pyramid, the sphynx and cleopatra’s needle (at the Luxor), an erupting volcano, theme parks, a massive fountain show, and sidewalk shows including pirate ship battles on water, numerous wackily dressed people in fancy dress costume inviting you to have your picture taken with them for money etc (the most common of which were numerous Elvis impersonators)… Some of the hotel/casinos also have moving sidewalks (like you see at airports) running up the long driveways to try and entice you into the entrances. It’s literally mind-blowing to a ‘Las Vegas virgin’. It was like Disney World for grown ups!
When you take your first step out onto the strip, it’s hard not to be shocked by the number of short, plump little Mexican male and female workers (at least I think they’re Mexican) flicking decks of cards against the backs of their hands to grab your attention… Many will approach you, regardless of whether you are single, with a partner or even with walking your family in tow and hand you one of the cards! …They are X rated calling cards for prostitutes; needless to say, they are littered all over the sidewalk/pavement. I consider myself pretty open-minded, and had been warned that this happened, but still found it hard not to be shocked by how brazen this culture was in Las Vegas. We passed one little boy of about 6 or 7 years in age stooped over some of the littered cards on the ground, wide-eyed and shocked looking at the X rated pictures of the women printed on them before his father noticed, walked back, grabbed him by his collar and jerked him away. There are also bill board vans that drive up and down the strip 24 hours per day with similar pictures advertising ‘hot women to your room in 20 minutes.’ It is definitely NOT a tourist spot to take children to in my opinion! If you want to take your kids on holiday in America-take them to Disney!
One thing that I think most people agree is a MUST in Vegas, if you have the budget is seeing one of the Cirque Du Soleil show. The one that everyone is raving about at the moment is O at The Bellagio, where we were staying. Also a tip for you-I phoned them and asked if we could have a discount since we were staying in the Bellagio. Although they said no, they did allow me to have the tickets at the significantly cheaper on-line booking rate.
It sells out every night as far as I’m aware, and all of the seats are good (though I didn’t realise this at the time of booking, and did book the more expensive seats). I would recommend not booking seats too close to the front, as the people right at the front did get wet. We were in the 4th row from the front and managed to stay dry. The show was a real play on surrealism, and felt like you were in some bizarre trippy dream where the usual laws of physics and gravity didn’t apply. You have to wonder where the inspiration for such vividly imaginative choreography, costume, make up and set design comes from. It was simply out of this world and quite honestly the best theatrical prodction I have ever seen, an honour I previously reserved for a show I saw at the Lido on the Champs Elysees at Paris which was amazing, but not quite on a par with this! I haven’t seen any of the other Cirque shows, but I would definitely recommend this one-and if you only have a short time in Las Vegas, I would put this near the top of your bucket list!
Here is a selection of photos from our trip:
The strip seems to be a bustling hive of activity 24 hours per day. Sometimes it’s hard to move amongst the swathes of people stood staring at various spectacles. One thing is for sure. I am glad I took my sequinned fit flops! I wanted to wear pretty shoes, because people tend to make a lot of effort with their appearance when they’re out and about in Vegas. I have no idea how women cope with high heels in Las Vegas, we were walking miles and miles every day, so much so, that even after a week of eating massive portions of calorie laden, rich food, I had only gained a single pound.
Prior to going, I learned that there was a new attraction at the MGM Grand, called CSI – The Experience. I am a big CSI fan, and decided this would be good fun… The truth is, it was okay. You could choose from three scenarios and then you looked around the evidence, etc and played the role of a CSI. In my opinion it could have been better. It wasn’t what either of us were expecting. It was all static displays with no personal there to participate, it was entirely self focussed. If I had a limited time there, I dont think I would bother doing it to be honest.
One of the things I really wanted to do was all of the rides at the Top of The Stratosphere tower, which comprise of 3 extreme adrenaline-pumping thrill rides (no good if you have a fear of heights):
Aside from the following three rides, you could also pay $100 to do a vertical bungee jump/ride down to the bottom of the tower from level 108. This looked fun, and I was tempted, but it was a controlled descent between 2 wires and I decided that $100 was a lot to pay when I would be doing my sky dive in less than a month’s time any way
- The X-Scream – which is basically a short run of roller-coaster track that rises and drops as the roller-coaster car rushes forward to the end of the track.
- Insanity – a swinging arm with a spinning carousel that hangs you over the edge of the tower at over 1000 feet high and spins you around so that you are staring down at the ground below
The Big Shot – which is billed as the worlds highest Thrill ride. I was surprisingly terrified getting onto this, especially since I had booked up to do my sky dive in less than a month, and don’t consider myself to have a fear of heights usually. We didn’t buy our pictures from any of the other rides, but found this one so hilariously funny, that we couldn’t resist
Things to see and do in and around Las Vegas:
- The Fountain Show outside the Bellagio
- The Volcano Sidewalk show outside The Mirage
- The Pirate ship show outside TI/Treasure Island
- The funfair ride at New York, New York!
- The Pyramid, and Sphinx at The Luxor,
- The Big Shot, The X-Scream and Insanity rides at the top of The Stratosphere
- Sight see at the top of the Stratosphere
- Take a helicopter ride over the Strip
- The Top of The World Restaurant at Caesars Palace
- The Gondola Ride on the River inside The Venetian
- The Eiffel Tower at Paris
- Any Cirque Du Soleil Show, ‘O’ seems to be the one everyone is currently raving about, and I have to say it was the best stage show I’ve ever seen.
- Eat the Buffet at Cosmopolitan and The Encore/The Wynn.
- CSI The Experience at MGM Grand
- Walk around the shopping mall in Caesars Palace
- Go into The Bellagio and see the current seasonal theme inside the atrium. There was a summer fair theme when we were there, complete with a ferris wheel, and a butterfly house
- Zip Lining/Zip Wiring in the Mountains near Boulder City and Boot Leg Canyon, a short drive away with Bootleg Canyon Flightlines (see my post about zip lining from the Top of Red Mountain)
- Visit The Grand Canyon, (see my post about the Grand Canyon)
- Visit Hoover Dam (see my post about Our Visit To The Hoover Dam)
- Hire a car and drive out to the Valley of Fire (see my post about Our amazing day out at The Valley Of Fire)
FUN RATING – 10/10 – Although I suggest that if, like us, if you have a week or more there, that you break up the trip with a visit to The Grand Canyon, The Hoover Dam, Fire Valley, and possibly do some flightlining, etc, as the excessive 24 hour fake neon coloured lifestyle does become tiresome and too overloading on the senses after a while if you’re not used to it.
- Best Buffet – The Encore and Cosmopolitan
- If you go to watch ‘O’ anticipate that you might get wet and also take something warm to wrap around your shoulders. I was really chilly whilst I watched.
- Best 5* hotel for a 20-30-something crowd – The Encore or Cosmopolitan, closely followed by the Venetian
- Best 5* hotel for an older crowd – Bellagio or The Wynn
- Biggest Hotel (at the time of writing) The Venetian
- Worst end of town – down town, near the Stratosphere, it can be very dangerous to walk around here at night-do NOT walk off the Strip
- If you are easily offended by pornography or hooker touts approaching you or your partner-this is not the place for you
- DO NOT – buy club tickets from touts on the street. No matter how tempted you are-you could and probably will be scammed. We made the mistake, and our ‘guest listed status’ never happened.
- If someone offers you a free meal – they are trying to sell you a time share talk which will waste hours of your time if you’re sucked in. There’s no such thing as a free meal-just tell them NO.
- DO – Take pretty flat shoes. No matter how sexy you want to look at night, there is nothing less sexy than someone who has to hobble in high heels. NOTHING is near by in Las Vegas, even the walk from our room to the Concierge desk took 10 minutes!
- If you dine at Top of The World. Arrive early and wait for a window seat, as they wont reserve them specifically for you
- Check out the sunset time and reserve your table for 45 minutes before sunset, so that you get to watch the sun setting. If it’s fully booked, at this time-head to Level 107, the bar and take advantage of the 2 for 1 Martinis at Happy Hour whilst you watch it instead.