Bright Lights, Big City - this is Vegas Baby!
It is glitzy, tacky and an enormous amount of fun. Ready to have your own Las Vegas adventure? This tinsel town is unrelenting fun. Las Vegas is a by-word for excess so even the expression “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” has moved into common usage.
As I walk off the plane at the end of a short flight from LAX and come into the McCarran International Airport terminal I’m immediately greeted by slot machines (the equivalent of our pokies) in abundance even before reaching the baggage carousel. Then after checking into the infamous Tropicana Hotel it takes me another 10 minute walk past more slots and endless gaming floors before reaching my room. Thankfully the room itself is slot machine-free.
I don’t usually gamble beyond $20 which makes me the odd one out in this town. People tend to win big and lose bigger. “Everyone who lives in Vegas gambles,” Frank, my taxi driver tells me. “And everyone eventually loses and ends up driving cabs or waiting tables. It’s sad but inevitable. We all arrive and flourish then flame out. It’s just the way it happens.”
For a gambler, Las Vegas is a Nirvana offering endless opportunity and exciting yet fraught temptation. For non-gamblers like me all of that money delivers great shows, good restaurants (and admittedly a few bad ones) and some of the most extravagant hotel architecture in the world.
History of the mob
Las Vegas is split into two main sections - down town and the strip (most of which is in the adjoining town of Paradise). The Strip is the place to be. Still, it’s worth a taxi ride down Interstate 15 to see the original heart of the city and to visit the Mob Museum. While you’ll learn a lot about how Las Vegas came about as an extravagant oasis in the middle of the desert, you will also see the bullet-holed wall from Chicago’s 1929 St Valentine’s Day massacre and walk through the court room where some of the renowned Mob senate enquiry was held. Fascinating stuff.
The Grand Canyon
There’s even an element of the great outdoors you can’t miss while in town. The Grand Canyon is close at hand (well, about 400 km by road) so it’s well worthwhile taking a direct overflight by small plane or, better yet, by helicopter to see it. It is both beautiful and awe inspiring. The flight may persuade you to tear yourself away from the bright lights to go for a hike and breathe in some fresh air. For the very keen multi-day walks and rafting trips await in the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert, Death Valley and Zion National Park are even closer.
The Strip is officially the section of Las Vegas Boulevard South largely between Sahara and Hacienda avenues. Along here you’ll find the Eiffel Tower (Paris Las Vegas), an Egyptian Pyramid (Luxor), the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building (New York, New York), King Arthurs Court (Excalibur) and you can even take a gondola boat ride along the Grand Canal at the Venetian. There's also the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo Resort.
Spectacular live shows
Plan to come to Las Vegas for more than a night or a weekend. There’s too much to see and do - from Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden with its white lions and white tigers, Madame Tussauds, Planet Hollywood and an M&M shop where you can buy these delicious chocolate drops in individual colours (a great present for those small or big kids in your life). Special events and conferences range from the ‘Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth’, horse shows, arts and crafts, classic cars, gun shows and craft beer festivals. There are eight Cirque du Soleil shows on in town including Michael Jackson One and the Beatles Love plus Mystere, Zumanity, Ka, Criss Angel Believe, O, KA and Zarkana. Spectacular.
Is there a performer you’d like to see live? There’s a good chance they are booked to appear somewhere in Las Vegas. Depending on who is in town you can see performers such as Maria Carey, Celine Dion, David Copperfield, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Donnie and Marie Osmond, Aretha Franklin, Enrique Iglesias, Jackson Browne, Olivia Newton John and the Steve Miller Band. It is a great idea to plan a visit around your favourite performer.
Explore after dark
In the hot desert climate it’s worth turning nocturnal as not much happens until after midday. Just make sure you are up in time for the sunset fountains and light show as The Strip comes to life. Of course, there are endless bars and clubs and more options to gamble than you would have thought possible. There is so much action here that it can be hard to make much progress along the sidewalk. Allow plenty of time if you have a set goal but simply meandering provides endless street theatre.
Memorable photo opportunity
Just south of the Mandalay Resort is one must see site – the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign that was erected in 1959 and is now immortalised in local souvenirs. Create your own photo memory with this iconic piece of Vegas history.
If you do a Google search, you’ll find a lot of La Vegas information sites. The official one is LVCVA for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. There’s a very good chance that if you start looking you’ll soon be ready to plan and book. Las Vegas is a lot of fun crowded into one crowded mile.
Have you ever been to Vegas? Is it on your bucket list? Join our conversation below…