Las Vegas, Nevada, was the first stop in a West Coast USA Roadtrip for me in summer 2016. Sitting in the middle of the desert, this not-so-barren piece of land is visited by millions of people each year from around the world looking for an outlet for their ‘sins’, and boy, do they find one!
While the city’s foundations are built on gambling and most people do go to ‘Sin City’ to do just that, it’s still a hell of a place to visit even if gambling isn’t your thing. There’s nothing quite like it in the world. If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie set in Vegas (and chances are you have), it really is like what you see on the big screen and is an experience in itself just to be there and take it all in. Set your senses on fire!
So here’s my top 5 must-dos to get that quintessential Vegas experience:
- In at number one…yep, you guessed it, gamble your money away. Make some more, then lose it again. Or, if you’re actually decent at poker or blackjack and know what you’re doing, try your luck and don’t lose! The Vegas strip is lined with oversized buildings, flashing neon signs and age-old Elvis impersonators. I didn’t come across one hotel that didn’t have a casino attached to it, and even the airport has slot machines, so there’s no escaping. I wouldn’t call myself a gambler but it was definitely fun giving it a go. Having only recently learnt how to play poker, I decided to stick with what I do know (and also the game that requires no skill at all and is just pure luck), roulette. And I won, of course! First $50, then $70, then…I lost. If you know how to stop, set yourself a maximum, say $20, and enjoy the rush of winning. Or just take a pew at one of the hundreds of $1c machines. There’s something for every ‘budget’ when it comes to throwing your money away!
- See a show. There’s plenty to choose from but some of the most popular are the Legends show and Cirque De Soleil, of which there are five or six different themes to see, including a Beatles-themed show and a Michael Jackson-themed show. The tickets are (unsurprisingly) pretty pricey but most hotels offer some kind of discount for certain shows. There’s also a discounted ticket booth near the Planet Hollywood Plaza which offers up to 70% off same-day tickets. If it’s live music you’re after there’s always an artist doing their ‘residency’. While I was there it was the Queen of Pop herself, Britney Spears as well as Mariah Carey.
- Pay a visit to the strip’s most famous hotels. Ask anyone to name a hotel in Vegas and they’ll probably say Bellagio or Caesar’s Palace. Most people know them because they’ve either been in or mentioned in a lot of Hollywood movies, like the Bellagio in Ocean’s Eleven and Caesar’s Palace in The Hangover. The Mirage (Ocean’s Eleven), MGM Grand (Ocean’s Eleven) and Treasure Island (Miss Congeniality 2) are also in major movies. Bellagio hotel is also where you can watch the famous fountain show every 15 minutes until midnight. Treasure Island also puts on a show, as does The Mirage’s with its volcano. All these hotels are also known for their all-you-can-eat buffets.Walk along the strip to see where the big bucks has been spent at The Wynn hotel – $2.7 billion was spent on the gold-facade hotel which has a secret entrance concealed by a 7ft artificial volcano! It’s just so Vegas! Or head inside The Venetian hotel for dinner by the Venice canals.
- Take in the desert view. It’s easy to forget you’re in a desert in the middle of Nevada when you’re visiting Vegas because everything is so big and covered in bright lights; it’s only the city’s sometimes unbearable heat that reminds you! Take an afternoon or evening to get away from the tables and slot machines to drink in the view from a number of high-up bars.I visited the Sky Lounge on the 107th floor of The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. Go late afternoon to catch the Happy Hour and to watch the sun set – the cocktails are pretty damn good. If you want to splash the cash on dinner you can take a seat on the floor below in the hotel’s revolving restaurant for 360-degree views of the city and surrounding desert. You can also pay $20+ to go a few floors higher to the outdoor observation platform and have a go on three fear-inducing rides at the top of the tower, if you’re brave enough. You can also pay to do a ‘Bungee Fall’ from the top.
Tip: Instead of paying extra to go up higher, head to the bar first (it’s free to visit) then jump in the elevator after. That way you’re already up there without having paid. Of course you’ll have to pay for any extra rides you’ll want to do but you can wander around and take a few piccies without paying.
You can also enjoy the view from the High Roller by The Linq Hotel and Casino. The replica of the London Eye offers 360-degree views and for $20 an open bar for the 30-minute ride. It’s extremely popular though, so book your tickets in advance rather than on the day, especially if you’re going up at night.
- See the original Las Vegas. Pay a visit past downtown to Fremont Street for a more relaxed vibe. The first ever casino in Vegas – The Golden Nugget – can be found here, along with the older hotels and casinos that followed. Fremont Street Experience puts on a light show at night with enough LEDs to cover five football pitches, while street performers sing and dance throughout the night. Think Elvis, Marilyn and Michael Jackson. Personally I wouldn’t spend a whole day here but it’s good to see for an afternoon or evening, and for a break from the chaos of the new Vegas strip.
What else can you do in Vegas?
- Shop to your heart’s content in the Planet Hollywood Plaza or inside The Venetian.
- Visit the Welcome to Las Vegas sign for an iconic photo (located by Mandalay Bay Hotel at the top of the strip).
- Go to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay Hotel which has everything including turtles, rays and sharks.
- Fancy a spot of indoor sky diving? Vegas has it.
- Fancy going for a surf on an artificial wave? Vegas has it.
- Fancy having dinner up the Eiffel Tower? In Vegas you can.
Do you have any other must-do’s for Las Vegas? Comment and share below 🙂