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.
It may be 300 miles away from the ocean, but Vegas doesn’t half have a kicking pool scene. Yes, you can sit in a normal sunlounger but they start to look grotty when you see the beds, cabanas, lilypad-shaped mattresses in the water and poolside bungalows that you can rent (for extortionate amounts of money, of course). You can order gourmet food and cocktails from your resting place, or hit up one of the legendary Vegas pool parties – which are basically nightclubs, only in the day and with people wearing bikinis.
…and sand (but you’ll be more interested in the canyons)…
Anyone who says Vegas is just about the Strip needs to get out of the casino and look at the landscape. The desert is spectacular here! It’s a sand fest, but it’s more interesting than that – the Vegas valley is closed in on all sides by mountains that flush red at sunset, and canyons and gorges cleaving their way in between. It’s geologically extraordinary, astonishingly beautiful and pretty famous, too – people come here just to see Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire. Oh, and there’s a little something called the Grand Canyon, just down the road.
Your dollar stretches far
A combination of fierce competition and dropping revenue since the recession hit means that I can’t think of any other city in America that offers such great value hotel rooms. US$100 for a five star hotel? Suggest that in New York or LA and they’ll laugh you out of town. And if you can show me any other major city where you can bag a decent three star room for £20, I’ll eat my (sun) hat.
America at its most American
Yes Vegas is raucous, but there’s something fascinating about seeing the whole of America congregating on a few square miles to let rip together. In Vegas you meet people from states you’ve only ever flown over, from towns you’ve never heard of, speaking in accents you’ve only seen on the big screen. There are people from all over the world here, of course, but I’m most interested watching Americans come to be at their most American. And yes, there are a lot of patriotic logos on their t-shirts.
It’s playtime for everyone
People talk about Vegas being an adults’ playground, and of course it is – this is somewhere where it’s normal to switch off the Blackberry, sling a foot-long frozen margarita around your neck and waddle off to play the slots. But – and forgive the cliché here – it really does have something for everyone. Fantastic restaurants for the foodies, spectacular scenery for the active, and plenty for families to enjoy. What’s more, most of the attractions are either free or cost very little. Rarely does fun come so cheap.
Gateway to the Grand Canyon
Ok, so the Grand Canyon’s not exactly next door by UK standards – 120 miles to the west rim, and 280 to the most famous south rim and national park – but it’s still the nearest major city (unless you plan on visiting Phoenix, which is closer to the south rim). I still haven’t got over the fact that four hours from my front door I can be at one of the best-known wonders of the natural world – and I’ve been here a year.
Nights on the town
If you’re into nightlife, you’ll love Vegas. Nearly every hotel has its own club, and standards are seriously high, with world class DJs and regular celeb hosts. And while queues can be long to get in, entry to a Vegas club is nowhere near as tricky to crack as, say Miami, which also has a reputation. I’m not a clubber myself, but I find Vegas clubs delightfully unimtidating.
Celebrities love Vegas. They come to host events, they come to promote their lastest work, and, like everyone else, they come to party. Hit up any club on a weekend and you’ll see famous faces letting their hair down in the VIP section. And with any luck, you may find yourself next to one sunbathing your hangovers away at the pool the next day.
Ain't no business like Vegas showbusiness
What to do in between eating for Britain at the buffet and playing the slots? See a show, of course! Cirque du Soleil pretty much has the monopoly on big budget shows but, personally, I prefer the ones that hark back to an idea of how Vegas used to be – awesome lounge acts like Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns (Monday nights at the Palms) and Vegas! The Show at Miracle Mile, which is an all-singing, all-dancing musical history of the town. And of course there’s the last remaining showgirl extravaganza - Jubilee! - at Bally’s.