It’s as breath-taking as it is shocking, and overwhelming at times, with risqué nightlife and a high-octane atmosphere. I loved every minute of my Las Vegas adventure, embracing the lights, the noise and the hordes of tourists. There’s no false advertising here; it is what it is – an adult paradise.
Touch down at McCarran Airport after a 10 hour flight from the UK, to be greeted by slot machines! Las Vegas was built on gambling, with casinos as far as the eye can see – but there is still a huge amount to explore otherwise.
A short taxi ride and we arrive at the luxury Venetian Hotel, beautifully designed with endless character. This is an opulent, busy Italian-themed hotel with a central strip location. Our king suite is just amazing; huge with beautiful decor and views of the surrounding mountains. A venetian water canal runs through the hotel and the recreation of St Mark’s Square, covered by a dome on which the sky is depicted, is stunning.
The famous gondola ride is a must do is with singing gondoliers. It’s charming and slightly cheesy, but we enjoyed our 30 minutes and it really felt like we were in Venice. Look out for the wedding gondola and real life proposals. Expect to pay around $40 for the experience.
As evening falls Vegas comes alive. Distances are further than they appear as we discovered walking up the strip towards the Paris Hotel. Tonight, we are dining at Mon Ami Gabi Restaurant, a bistro bringing French classics to the strip. It is a wonderfully elegant restaurant and the food is rich and flavourful. The speciality steaks are large and the wine list comprehensive – just how they should be.
Top Tip: Wait for a table on the patio which overlooks the strip and the beautiful fountains of The Bellagio Hotel. What a location! It’s a great place to sit and people watch and, boy, are there some sights to see on the Las Vegas strip.
Where else but in Vegas can you sit under a replica Eiffel Tower and watch the iconic Bellagio Fountains?
The eight-hour time difference means we are up with the larks and wandering through the casino at 7am. It is buzzing with people playing on the slots and gaming tables. The sun comes up, the sun goes down; whatever the time, Vegas is open for business.
We head up the strip towards Ocean Bar One and Grille at Planet Hollywood. Breakfast is fabulous with eggs any way you please. It’s a snip at $5.99. I’d recommend a Bloody Mary alongside, full of spice, olives and lime. Vegas has its share of great places to start the day, or even recuperate from the night before. Check out the great cocktails at All Bar One, 3 for $10 all day every day.
Saturday night and Vegas is jumping. No other city offers performances like Vegas. Think Celine Dion, Elton John, Britney and a choice of Cirque du Soleil shows. We chose an all-time favourite, Lionel Ritchie at Planet Hollywood. Even if you’re not a fan of the music, the performer’s high energy and the slick professionalism of the show will have you dancing in the aisles, or even on the ceiling.
We continue dancing into the night up at The New York, New York Hotel. Try the Duelling Piano bar, Coyote Ugly and Nine Fine Irishmen for a great night out. It’s a long walk back down the strip at 6am; Vegas lives, 24 hours.
Next day we’re onto another must-do; the mighty Grand Canyon, with the most incredible views in the world. We decide on the helicopter with an early morning hotel pick up for the short ride to Boulder Airport. Taking in the amazing views of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam before landing in the Canyon for a champagne breakfast. There’s plenty of time for photographs.
Back in Las Vegas, we swap hotels and head to the pool at Treasure Island. We are lucky enough to be upgraded to a strip view room with floor to ceiling views of the strip. Treasure Island is one of the older strip hotels and I love the down-to-earth atmosphere. It’s not as glitzy as some of the newer offerings, but it is great value with a central location. The pool is lively with a weekend DJ. Great music, litres of Margarita and buckets of Budweiser. Party time! That’s us for the rest of the day until the sun goes down.
Vegas is an anytime destination. The casinos are always open, even at Christmas; whether it’s gambling on the penny slots or big bets on the tables, Vegas has it all. The City’s culture of vice was established by the Mafia. The Mob Museum in old Vegas tells of this fascinating history and how they were eventually kicked out by J Edgar Hoover. It’s well worth a visit.
We spend the evening on Fremont Street, where it all began. It is a visual sensation overload with the Viva Vision light shows every hour on the canopy, which sits over the pedestrianised street. There is live music, street entertainment with a great atmosphere and low prices for food and drink.
We opt for a free photo opportunity at Binions Casino, where you can have your photo taken with a million Dollars. I love the nostalgia of the old casinos near Fremont Street, and the experience of the classic cool of old Vegas at El Cortez, Four Queens and the Golden Nugget. Fremont Street is a whirlwind adventure; fly high above it on the thrilling zipline or dine at Siegels 1941, just like Bugsy, it’s a cool dining spot open 24 hours.
Next day we visit the High Roller at the Linq Hotel. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, eclipsing the London Eye at 520 feet in diameter. We loved the views of the strip. The wheel takes 30 minutes to complete one full revolution and features 28 glass cabins. With a fully loaded open bar inside, it’s a fun way to start the party that never ends. The most popular time is just as the sun is going down for the superb views down the strip. Pre-booking is a must, as it is always busy.
My advice is to visit Las Vegas with an open mind. It’s an anytime destination, centred around 24 hour casinos, themed hotels and world-class entertainment. It’s a foodie paradise, with great shopping at the premium outlets.
As they say ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. It is just the right amount of wrong.