Three Las Vegas facts: a weekend in the city is as close to guaranteed fun as you can get, a night in a casino is a recipe for an empty purse and Elvis is an asset to any wedding on The Strip
It was a small, intimate wedding. Just the bride, groom, a few friends and Elvis (a young Elvis, much to the groom’s disappointment, who had been hoping for a fat, ageing Elvis a few burgers away from his last rendition of Blue Suede Shoes). A wedding in Las Vegas is certainly not your average ceremony, but then a long weekend in the city of neon is not your average short break.
Las Vegas is not as expensive as you might think – several of the big hotels on The Strip have got special offers on to entice people. We stayed at Caesars Palace and it is well worth upgrading to the newly refurbished Augustus Wing, which will almost certainly be offered to you at check-in (and the rate is negotiable).
The hotels themselves are a tourist attraction, and it is easy to spend the day wandering in and out of the resorts. Particular highlights include the Bellagio fountains (every half hour 3-8pm, every 15 minutes 8pm-12midnight), the Treasure Island pirate show (7pm, 8:30pm and10pm) and the streets of the Big Apple inside New York New York. For those of you wanting a bit more of an adrenaline rush than wandering along the fake canals of the Venetian can provide, head to the Stratosphere. Three stomach-churning rides await you at the summit ($29.95 for tower admission and all the rides), or alternatively you can just enjoy unrivalled views of the strip and desert ($15.95 for tower only admission). If you don’t fancy trudging along the road all day, the Deuce is good way of getting around (http://www.rtcsouthernnevada.com/transit/deuce/). The bus costs $4 for 24 hours and will take you almost everywhere you’ll need to go in Las Vegas.
Like the casinos. Rows and rows of slot machines, dozens of card tables and no shortage of roulette tables means there is no end of opportunities to lose your money (or double you cash) wherever you are. Head over to Fremont Street to find tables with a lower minimum bet and witness the Fremont Street experience – a bright tunnel of light that puts on an audiovisual show every hour.
While I had a great time exploring the strip and losing my money in what seemed like record time, the main event on the trip was to see my friends get married. There are some very upmarket chapels in the five-star hotels, but Sarah and Sam had chosen the Gracelands Chapel (www.gracelandchapel.com), about a ten-minute drive down the road from Caesars. It was the archetypal Las Vegas wedding chapel, and this one prided itself on being the premier Elvis chapel in the area. I can safely say that at a mere $150, Elvis was a bargain and also the best wedding present I have ever given someone.
The ceremony was short but fabulous, and ended with the words “By the power vested in me by the state of Nevada, I pronounce you man and wife.” Cue Elvis and his rendition of ‘All Shook Up’, several photos with the chapel’s official photographer and then it was out the side door so they could prepare for the next wedding. Our limo took us back to Caesars (much to our general disappointment we couldn’t drink champagne in the car – they didn’t have an alcohol licence) and we continued the festivities at the café in the hotel.
Our burgers seemed like the perfect wedding breakfast, though there are more fashionable and more acclaimed eateries in Vegas than the Augustus Café (try Rosemary’s - www.rosemarysrestaurant.com - or Picasso - http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/picasso.aspx - for a finer dining experience; for something with a bit more quantity, Wynn does an excellent buffet breakfast, while the Bellagio does the best buffet dinner on The Strip). And because you can never escape betting for too long in the gambling capital of the world, we played a couple of rounds of Keno at the table (a game similar to bingo).
There was no shortage of celebratory options available to the happy couple. After a ride on the New York New York rollercoaster ($14 for an individual, $25 for unlimited day pass), the big question of the day was which show to see in the evening. The TKTS booth on The Strip had some shows on offer, but Sarah had her heart set on a Cirque du Soleil, and Zumanity (www.zumanity.com) in particular. It is definitely worth booking cirque tickets in advance – we were lucky to pick some up from the box office on the day, but many of the other shows were sold out.
Not for the easily embarrassed, Zumanity was a whirl of impossible feats of human strength and flexibility, sensuality and, in my case, desperate prayers that I would not be one of the audience dragged onto stage for participation. Luck may have escaped me on the tables, but it was at least with me at the show and I was spared a turn on the stage.
The newlyweds set off the next morning for Death Valley and beyond, and I headed to the airport. A lot poorer for my few days in Vegas, and unable to stop singing Elvis songs at check-in, but already planning my next trip back. Because the bright city light has gone and set my soul, set my soul on fire. Viva Las Vegas.