What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.
It gets shared on my blog. And various other social networking sites.
Last week I ticked off a destination on this years bucket list and made my first ever trip to the US of A with a three day visit to Sin City. Take note, a mere three days is NOT enough to get over more than 11 HOURS of being stuck on a plane and the severe jet lag that goes with it. For most of the trip I looked like the lead zombie in Dawn of the Dead, and the time difference left my body clock utterly confused. At 3am each night I was ravenous and no amount of mars bars could appease my hunger. The shift in other bodily functions was also cause for alarm.
Nevertheless I soldiered on, determined to make my brief stay in the internationally renowned entertainment capital of the world a memorable one.
Las Vegas boasts 15 of the worlds 25 largest hotels on its Las Vegas Strip, including Caesars Palace (featured in The Hangover), The Bellagio (famous for its musical fountains), The Mirage, Encore, Wynn and the MGM Grand.
We stayed at The Venetian – a luxury hotel and casino resort situated between Harrah’s and The Palazzo on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip on the site of the old Sands Hotel. The hotel’s design is inspired by Venice and features architectural replicas of various Venetian landmarks complete with gondola rides accompanied by singing gondoliers.
The hotel also boasts top nightclub TAO, although when I went down on the Friday night to have a look, the queue was full of youngsters and didn’t look particularly inviting for someone looking for a high end classy vibe.
The room suites were MASSIVE. My Greek man and I each got a large double bed (they stated it was ‘king size’ but I know my king size and that wasn’t it), and the room featured a lounge area and a luxurious bathroom complete with TV and toilet telephone (in case you run out of bog roll and need to call for assistance).
On our first morning we casually strolled downstairs at 7am to find that there was NO BUFFET BREAKFAST. The hotel has restaurants of course, but I was expecting massive plates of pancakes, maple syrup and doughnuts and was really quite disappointed (and by this point going ever so slightly mad with hunger and sleep deprivation).
We ended up walking all the way down the strip to The Flamingo Hotel whose ‘buffet’ breakfast barely lined the walls of my grumbling stomach, and I was highly tempted to gorge on one of the tasty looking pink flamingos that were being fed in the outdoor wildlife area.
On our final morning we decided to treat ourselves to the real deal and popped into Caesars Palace to sample their renowned Bacchanal Buffet Breakfast. Undeterred (although slightly shocked) by the entry free (almost 50 dollars each!), we entered the grand eating arena to be met by a site much like the scene in Willy Wonka when all the children enter the candy garden. A feeding frenzy ensued as we piled our plates high with bacon, ham, sausages, lobster (!), eggs, muffins, pancakes, doughnuts and fruit all washed down with a cup of Joe and brightly coloured juices.
My only complaint was that there were NO BAKED BEANS. Or feta cheese. Oh and you are also expected to tip – even though the ‘waiters’ didn’t really do anything as you serve yourself.
Of course you can’t go to Las Vegas without experiencing the gambling craze. (As my father says, “The Greeks invented gambling”.) Seeing as I have no interest in gambling whatsoever, the casinos really didn’t interest me, although obviously the décor and sheer size of all the hotel casino areas was amazing. It is quite obvious that the hotels are designed so that you HAVE to walk through the casinos to get in and out and most people will have a gamble along the way.
The stunning display of fountains outside The Bellagio hotel are a must see but I couldn’t help thinking that I would have appreciated them more had I not already been enthralled by the Burj Khalifa Lake fountains in Dubai.
As far as shopping goes, Las Vegas has all the standard American suppliers that most people go gaga for including Abercrombie, Hollister and Macy’s. If you are looking for designer goods at a fraction of the UK price, head to the Premium Outlet in downtown Vegas which had a similar feel to Bicester Village in Oxford. There you can find any type of trainer (sneaker) you want, sports wear, designer handbags, sunglasses etc at a much cheaper rate than in the Fashion Show Mall, which is located on the strip.
Dining out shouldn’t be a problem, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from (if you like MEAT) although we had a terrible meal in a pizza joint in the hotel forum. Clearly my food standards have been raised by my Mediterranean upbringing and nothing quite compares to good old homemade Greek cooking.
American customer service is by far and away the best I’ve experienced. Everyone serves you with a dazzling smile and address guests with Sir and Mam. UK customer service could learn a lot. I also observed that there were a lot of…ahem…slightly older people taking on roles such as security and hotel staff, which was nice to see, although I was a tad concerned for a rather frail looking security lady who was zooming around on an unstable electric stand up scooter.
Underneath all the bright lights, glitz and glamour there is clearly a darker more seedy side to the city – the streets were lined with homeless people, and on every corner, ‘pimps’ were desperately trying to shove call girl cards into your hand. While we made fun of the way they kept shuffling and tapping their cards in our faces, it was really a sad observation.
Other experiences to behold in the city that never sleeps include museums, zoos and of course shows. Cirque du Soleil perform several different productions including ‘O’, described as an “aquatic masterpiece of surrealism and theatrical romance”. Why these performers aren’t Olympic gold medallists I do not know, for their astounding athletic feats are above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
Celine Dion, Britney Spears and Shania Twain were just three of the big names taking residency and performing this year, along with shows for children and comedy acts.
If you are looking for something more action packed, then a shooting range might be up your street. We visited The Range 702, the largest in Las Vegas which features a selection of full auto firearms.
There are plenty of shooting joints around; some are more catered for bachelor parties offering ‘girls and burgers’ alongside the normal shooting experience. I had no desire for a burger so The Range was ideal and was surprisingly very quiet. There are different packages to choose from, although all are fairly steep in price considering you only get to fire 3-4 guns. All the staff are clearly in the military field and while our instructor was a serious Matt Damon type, we were able to have a (brief) laugh with him.
(American accent) So all in all y’all, Las Vegas was definitely a larger than life experience. So get going already. Will you have a good time? ABSOLUTELY! But make sure you tip.