I edit VegasChatter, Conde Nast’s Vegas blog, and work as a freelance journalist for newspapers such as the Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Guardian, News of the World and various websites and magazines.
Ironically, I’d never had any interest in going to Vegas but when I took a road trip across America last summer, I thought I may as well pop by for three days. Ten days later, I forced myself back on the road, obsessed about Vegas all the way across America, and was over the moon when, somewhere in Mississippi, I found out that the newspaper that I worked for was to be closed down. Instead of looking for another job in London, I came home, packed up my stuff, and caught a plane back to Vegas to start life as a freelance.
Where I always grab a coffee: On the terrace at Serendipity 3. The service is great, the views of the Strip are spectacular, and if I’m tempted to grab some food, too, I have a two foot high menu to choose from.
My favourite stroll: The Moenkopi loop at Red Rock Canyon. It’s a short two mile trail from the Visitor Centre and back, across desert land and up onto a limestone bluff that was once a seabed millions of years ago. There’s hardly anyone there, the views are extraordinary, and you feel completely disconnected from the craziness of Vegas. When it’s not too hot, I’m there every day.
Fiction for inspiration: There are many, of course, but my favourite is probably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson – it really encapsulates the spirit of the city and the freedom it unleashes in people (you don’t have to be on a shedload of drugs to relate to this!). I’m also really fond of Divas Las Vegas, by Belinda Jones – it’s a fun chicklit book, and although I’m not usually into that genre at all, I have yet to find a better introduction to the city - she used to live here and her love for the place is really infectious.
Where to be seen: Encore Beach Club – the private pool at the Encore hotel (even guests have to pay to get in) was the biggest opening this summer, and it’s still the place to be seen. If you’d rather go out at night, rather than lounge by a pool, you’ll be pleased to know that at nighttime they open up an adjacent room and turn it into a poolside nightclub called Surrender. It’s definitely where all the cool kids are going this year.
The most breathtaking view: On the way back from the Hoover Dam (or the Grand Canyon) on the 515 highway from Boulder City, there’s a point, as you swing round past Henderson (a suburb of Vegas) where the Strip, with the mountains behind it, suddenly comes into view. It makes my eyes prickle every time – and as you get closer, switching onto the 215 west, the views only get better.
The best spot for peace and quiet: The gardens at the Flamingo Las Vegas – and no, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy them, as you can walk straight in. Lots of grass, plenty of nooks, and bright pink flamingos stalking by.
Shopaolics beware: I spend far too much time at Nordstrom Rack, the cut price outlet version of the posh department store, Nordstrom. It’s a 20 minute drive from the Strip in the suburb of Henderson, but if you buy a few things, it’s worth the taxi ride or the cost of the car hire. I’m also addicted to America’s Primark, Century 21 – the new flagship store in Fashion Show Mall is like a second home to me, and prices are so low that my credit card barely registers my presence there.
City soundtrack: So many options! To remind me of Vegas as I like it (laid back but elegant), anything by Frank Sinatra. And if you want to experience the thriving rock music scene here, you can’t do better than The Killers.
Don’t leave without… Going into the desert, and seeing a show. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sporty, or you don’t like musicals – the desert will floor you, and the shows are so infectious you can’t not love them. My favourite at the moment is Vegas! The Show at the Miracle Mile mall.
My expert information
With 320 days of sunshine every year, if you’re looking to escape dreary weather at home, you can’t go far wrong with Vegas. And it’s a dry heat, which means not only that you can withstand higher temperatures (and, ladies, that you escape “humidity hair”), but also that we don’t get the summer storms that destinations on the East Coast – Florida, for example – do.Read more...