EDITOR: Sadly I (Neil) have not been to Las Vegas this past month *sigh, this tale comes from a mate who I’ve know for years and like to share the occasional Nando’s with :-). Lauren is an actress by trade (check out her website which is amazing, I know this because I built it www.laurenwigmore.co.uk), but offered to write an article for this site based on her amazing time in Vegas where she travelled to celebrate her friends wedding.
So holidays to Las Vegas, where to even begin? Immense, awesome, over the top, fabulous, crazy, giant, fun – would very basically sum it up!
But seriously it is such an amazing place – I don’t know anyone who would go to Vegas and not be able to find something for them. There is literally something for everyone’s taste, it’s like a giant cool adventure park for adults! You can stay purely in your own hotel where there are numerous restaurants, bars, spa’s, shows, shops etc or you can venture further afield and explore the sheer wonderment and ginormousy (ok so that’s not a word but it should be) of all of the other Hotels and amenities.
I only visited a handful of the Hotels and that was not through want of not trying! It’s a good idea to have a few of the Hotels and sights in mind that you want to see prior to getting to Vegas so you can have a bit of structure to your trip to get the most from it, as it can seem a little overwhelming to some people who wouldn’t know where to start. I visited the Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay Hotel which is cool, costs about $18 for an adult admission. The Mandalay Bay Hotel is at the South end of the Strip – nearest to the Vegas sign which we went to on a party bus after the Wedding Ceremony (my primary purpose for this visit was for my best friends wedding).
The Bellagio Hotel is very grand and renaissance – and this is where Amy and Adam’s Wedding took place, the ceremony was short but lovely and Amy looked absolutely stunning (though it’s hard for her not to really.) We all then caught the open top bus to the Las Vegas sign, had photos there and then headed over to the Grand Lux Café at the Palazzo for the Wedding Reception meal. They had a really good range of food available here, which catered for all tastes and was reasonably priced too. After this we went to a Chapel to see the newly Weds get ‘re-married’ next to a pink Cadillac – very cool, very Vegas. After that a few of us went out for drinks – it was quite surprising, seeing as Vegas is 24hour partying – that we couldn’t find a club that was open in the few Hotels we went in (it was a Sunday), so clearly even Vegas has to sleep! Lol not that that stopped us a few bars later when they had all closed, we ended up in one of the Casino bars and let’s just say the next day I didn’t feel like a person again until 9pm! KO’d!
The fountains at the Bellagio are absolutely amazing!! It was like watching water ballet – seriously so beautiful to watch – a definite must see and free!
THE HEN DO
For Amy’s hen do we went to the Stratosphere hotel and had dinner at Roxy’s diner – a typical American diner where the waiters and waitresses sing 70’s songs! The Stratosphere hotel is a bit out of the way and it seemed to be one of the cheaper places to stay – from what I saw – so if you want glam Vegas don’t stay there, but if you want cheap then go for it, the view however from the top of the Stratosphere tower is meant to be well worth it and there is apparently a ride on the very top of the tower – so for all those adrenaline junkies it may be worth a visit – I’m a real scaredy cat when it comes to rides so that and the New York New York rollercoaster I avoided! Then we went on to The Mirage and saw ‘Love’ by Cirque de Soleil – based on the Beatles songs– it’s really good from what I saw (I ended up falling asleep due to jet lag through bits of it! oppps, we all looked like nodding dogs – hardcore hen party huh) …..I went to the Beatles Bar – Revolution in The Mirage another night but it’s not all that – tiny and not great, so you won’t be missing much if you don’t visit it. Then we ended up in the newest club (or one of) Hyde at the Bellagio! Seriously so much fun!! Bouncers and PR dudes were lovely, so unlike England! We stayed here, danced on some tables, got some free drinks, waved our crazy giant foam glow sticks and crawled home in the wee hours…too much fun! I’m not a massive clubber these days, nor am I into pretentious places but this had a good vibe and on the night we went (a Friday) a good range of clientele. The girls generally get a good deal in Vegas – a lot of places give girls free drinks if you have wrist bands, some places include free entry, others you pay a small fee i.e. $20 and get free drinks all night etc. If you want a table in a club though you need to pay for it and the prices for this range depending on the club but include free bottles of alcohol and mixers – depending on the group size it could work out to be anything between $50 -$150 per person as a very rough guide.
I visited a handful of the other hotels too but in 6 nights it’s impossible to fit in everything – The Venetian – good for nice shops and the Gondola rides – I went on the outside ride – only $16 – you don’t really go anywhere but it’s a bit of fun – and the gondolier sings for you if you ask – we did – he was very good! Had a nose around the MGM Grand – unfortunately the lions have now gone L. Loved New York New York had a good vibe and got some pretzels and gifts from in there. Used the Spa in my hotel (The Aria) it was fab sooooooo nice – guys and girls you def should go to a spa if you go to Vegas – they know how to make everything fabulous! Including cocktails (not in the spa’s just in general) which you may think seem a tad overpriced but once you’ve had one – you know why. Not only do the bar staff actually know how to make cocktails (none of this pub – bit of ice, bit of juice, bit of vodka – here’s your cocktail rubbish) but they take time, put in A LOT of alcohol and ‘unusual’ alcohol at that – I had cucumber vodka (I think..although I could be lying…either way it was lovely and very refreshing)! Like seriously I didn’t even know it existed (…I just googled it to make sure I wasn’t lying, nope it exists!!) They mix the cocktails with a wide variety of mixers – some standard, some odd, garnish it perfectly and always serve it was a smile – $20/£15 for a cocktail like that I would gladly pay as you are getting a really nice drink, that you enjoy. And over there you drink them for the taste too not to get plastered – which makes a nice change – and they compliment most foods too (I didn’t have wine once over there, and I love wine – which actually does seem over priced from looking at the menu’s).
You can have fine dining, casual dining and walk in/take away convenience dining – so something for everyone. There are buffets in each Hotel which are good value if you have a big appetite – I preferred eating in the more relaxed restaurants /cafes for breakfast and lunch as I don’t have a massive appetite but the buffet would definitely suit the guys! I went to some really nice restaurant; recommended restaurants that I visited– American Fish (The Aria) good value for very nice fresh fish, although our waitress spoke extremely quickly so at times couldn’t understand a word. Yellowtail (The Bellagio) – Sushi –YUMMMYYYYY gorgeous fresh sushi and very very reasonably priced, generous portion size and fab cocktails (this is where I had the cucumber cocktail) def recommended (this was my fave restaurant). Grand Lux Cafe at the Palazzo as previously mentioned – BIG portion sizes and lots or variety. Tao (Venetian) lovely food – people in the bar where a bit conceited and into themselves – we contemplated leaving (it was that bad) but we were glad we stayed, the restaurant was nice with amazing decor, the waiter was very knowledgeable and the food lovely (Asian Bistro) – it was very expensive though so a high level of the service/quality was to be expected really. It was just a shame about some of the clientele, apparently the club is a little on the pretentious side too but I didn’t visit the club so couldn’t comment. I’d recommend if there are any restaurants you definitely want to go to, to book in advance either on line or via the concierge when you get to your hotel, you can just turn up but you couldn’t guarantee that you would get a table without a long wait, especially I imagine during peak season (I went in March).
Oh I guess I should comment on the weather in March! I think it was a really good time to go as it was sunny and with a pleasant temperature. In the shade it was quite chilly and a little brisk, and at night you would need a blazer / cardi if you were planning on walking around outside. I must admit I am a ‘cold’ person generally but if you stay in the sun as much as you can in the day you can be in shorts and t-shirt and perfectly warm. The hotels are all air conditioned to an extreme so again depending on the type of person you are an extra layer may be advisable even when inside!
I also hit the M&M shop, Hardrock Café (when highly hungover not recommended as its loud, but very cool and the food looked nice, I had about 5 fries…), Harley Davidson Café def worth a visit if only for the bikes, the food was average but with big portions. Had a go at an Oxygen bar which was fun but made me feel a bit ill if I’m honest, it’s a clever concept you basically inhale different smelling/flavoured? oxygen which is supposed to revive, chill you out, give you energy etc depending on the type of flavoured oxygen you go for… kind of like oxygen aromatherapy I guess!
THE GRAND CANYON
I also did a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon – I flew over the West Rim as I was short on time but if you have time the South Rim is recommended and ‘better’ apparently. It is definitely worth a visit either way. It’s hard to sum it up as it’s so vast and the kind of place you just need to experience. You are left in awe with it though. I did the skywalk – which the concept of a suspended see through circular walk way so you can see straight down into the canyon is amazing – however I didn’t find the actually experience that mind blowing – so I probably wouldn’t recommend this if you were on a budget as I don’t think you’d miss anything by not doing it but each to their own, as I know other people who really enjoyed it and those who freaked out because of how high up they were suspended – I’m ok with heights though so was no biggie for me. The company I went with was Papillon – there are lots of companies that offer tours, check out the reviews on trip advisor and also recommendations from friends before booking.
CASINOS AND GAMBLING
And the part I bet everyone has been waiting for information about the casinos! So I was silly and didn’t read up on rules and etiquette of the table games before I went, so if I could recommend anything to those inexperienced gamblers who want to join the tables it would be LEARN THE BASICS IN ADVANCE. I only went on the slots because of this (did win a little on my first go! Then lost more…) I really wanted to play some table games but I didn’t know what I was doing and with minimum bets rising as it gets further into the evening or depending on which casino you are in, I didn’t fancy wasting $50/$100. But it is addictive and great fun- you can’t go to Vegas and not go in the casinos. You get free drinks if you are seen to be playing for a lengthy amount of time and/or spending enough money etc and there is such a mix of people – all the stereotypes are fulfilled from the oldies in their trainers to the glam ladies to the business exec’s to the millionaires, everyone’s welcome and anything goes as long as you’ve got the cash to bet! People watching here is amazing!
I didn’t venture to Fremont Street, which I was a little gutted about as this was probably the only thing on my ‘definitely want to visit’ list that I didn’t get around too. I heard that the Golden Nugget was full of old Ladies and smelt like wee! Lol but would have been cool to have experienced it still.
There are 2 shopping precincts that stand alone from the Hotels – Crystals which is mostly designer and next to the Aria Hotel and Fashion Show which has a Macy’s, Victoria Secrets etc and is just up by Treasure Island on the North end of the strip. Within the hotels there are more shopping centres, Caesar’s Palace has a wide array (mostly designer / expensive) and so does Mandalay Bay – it’s a little more quirky there. Miracle Mile in Planet Hollywood seemed popular too. I wasn’t really there for shopping though so had a glance at the shops in the Hotels but didn’t really stop to explore them fully, plus I’m not really a shopping kind of girl! (I know shock huh?!)
One thing to be aware of is that it takes so long to walk along the strip – actually even just out of your hotel depending on where your room is! So be sure to allow plenty of time to get to your destinations!!
I can obviously only comment on my Hotel the Aria (a five diamond award hotel – this award system is similar to stars) but the rooms were very spacious and very luxurious – even just the standard rooms. It’s definitely a level of luxury I could get used too!
Also tipping is a huge part of the Vegas/American culture, as a general rule basically tip everyone, so take small notes like $1 and $5 for that because you’ll need it as soon as you touch down. Limos are also mega cheap over there, we got one as our transport from the airport when we landed – it was only $10 more than a standard salon car, so you can travel in style very cheaply as much as you please! Get a quote in advance though. I booked via my Hotel.
To summarise basically anything goes in Vegas. I personally wouldn’t recommend trying to do Vegas on a budget – it’s such a blow out place, you really do have to embrace it for everything it is, otherwise it’s almost a wasted trip. I absolutely loved it and have every intention to head back in a few years for another injection of the city that never sleeps (except for on a Sunday)! x x x