Las Vegas - who would have thought you could have so much fun in the middle of a desert?
It’s 3am and you are sitting in your plane seat. Not a lot is happening except that Betty the airhostess is offering you some questionable eau de toilette from her cart. Out of your window there is only darkness. You cannot possibly anticipate what is to come. Suddenly, on comes the “fasten your seat belt” sign and then, as if by magic, millions of little lights of all different colours begin to come into view and the butterflies start to churn in your belly. You are almost there. You are almost in Las Vegas - everyone’s favourite adult theme park. Never has the “fasten your seat belt” sign been more appropriate.
A taxi to the Strip
From the moment you enter the airport you will be tantalised by slot machines and massive billboards advertising the best shows Vegas has to offer.
A taxi from the airport to the main Strip will set you back $20 to $30. The price will of course depend on which casino you are staying at. If you fancy treating yourself on arrival, get your taxi driver to take you all the way along the main Strip. If you opt for this just sit back, let your jaw drop and your spine tingle. The lighting on show and the enormity of some of the casinos will leave you speechless.
Gaming and eating
Each casino is unique and one might take your fancy more than another. For example, New York New York caters for a young, sporty and informal crowd whilst the Wynn oozes sophistication. My advice would be to sample a vast selection. Vary your selection daily as they all have something different to offer. The main casinos such as the Mirage, Bellagio, MGM Grand and Caesar’s Palace are all centrally located and within a 5 to 20 minute walk from one another. With regard to eating, the choice varies from excellent value buffets and well-known inexpensive chains, to Michelin-starred restaurants. Do your research before you go and you can sample some of the finest cuisine in the world.
Not a gambler?
If gambling is not your thing do not worry as you can still have a ball. The variety of shows on offer is incredible. You could literally spend an entire morning flicking through all the brochures. They can be pricey with cheaper tickets for some of the better-known shows still coming in at around $120 a seat. Do not worry too much however as there are numerous half-price ticket selling booths along the Strip offering really good deals. Shows include famous singers, comedians, magicians and group performances. Each casino has its own act. For example, Bette Midler, Cher and Penn and Teller were all in town whilst I was there. My girlfriend and I treated ourselves to the “Blue Man Group” at the Venetian Casino for about $90 a ticket. It was visually amazing.
Other non-gambling casino highlights for me were the roller coasters at the Stratosphere, the fountains at the Bellagio and the Sirens of Treasure Island:
The Stratosphere provides you with an amazing view of the Strip from the city’s highest point. You can also go on one of the thrill rides at the top of the tower. Pick the ride called “Insanity.” It dangles you off the edge of the tower (over 1000 feet in the air) and spins you around the outside of the tower. Shaking legs and adrenaline rush guaranteed.
The Bellagio fountains, featured in many Hollywood movies, are truly beautiful. Simply take a walk down to the Bellagio anytime of the day or night. The mesmerizing show takes place every 15 minutes or so.
The Sirens of Treasure Island answer their call four to five times a night, putting on a 20-minute musical display each time. This basically involves 15 or so scantily clad ladies dancing on a pirate ship. They are then approached by 15 or so equally scantily clad males on another ship. A love story and fireworks ensue. A very basic story but a hell of a good laugh!
Where to stay
On my first visit I made the error of staying a couple of blocks off the strip. I soon learned the error of my ways. The Strip hotels are outstanding in quality and value. You will definitely save in the long run as taxis in and out from the Strip are not cheap.
On my second visit I chose Treasure Island (more affectionately known as TI) and would highly recommend it. The hotel has plenty to offer with a busy gaming floor, adult pool and of course the Sirens (see above). TI is located right in the middle of the Strip and perfect for making your way around. From the moment you walk across the rope bridge into reception you will feel like Jack Sparrow! Just a little warning about TI, it is not suited for kiddies and is directed towards a more adult market.
If you are looking for luxury and to pamper yourself then look no further than the Wynn and the Wynn Encore. Their marble decor, stylish shopping malls and attention to detail are phenomenal and definitely worth at least a nosey. In my opinion these are the stars of the show.
Getting out of town…
Why not take a trip to see the impressive Hoover Dam? It is a mammoth piece of engineering situated no more than a 45 minute drive from Vegas. It is a towering figure that holds back the world famous Colorado River.
Visiting the Grand Canyon is a must. Before I went a friend of mine asked me, “is it not just a big hole in the ground.” Indeed it is, but what a hole. The sheer enormity of the canyon, the scenery and the rock formations are breathtaking. My advice is to fly either by helicopter or light aircraft. If you opt for four wheels then it is a long day with between 8 and 12 hours driving. My girlfriend and I flew via light aircraft with a company called Maverick Tours. We flew for under $600 for the two of us and the service was outstanding. This included collection from our hotel, breakfast and a guided tour of the West rim with opportunities to get out and explore.
If you choose to go then please go and visit the Sky Walk. This is a horseshoe shaped glass platform that you can walk out on and look down into the canyon. You know it's stable and you know it's safe but if you can get around the circumference without walking like a tortoise or crawling like a baby then I’ll be impressed! At just $30 per person it is exceptional value.