Las Vegas is the complete polar opposite of everything Paul and I like to experience when we travel; it’s crowded, loud, brash and over the top – and yet we absolutely love it. We’ve visited 3 times now but never for more than a few days and I think that’s why our trips have been so successful. It IS like Disneyland for grow-ups but it has an expiry date for me and I definitely couldn’t spend longer than a few days there. We’ve learned what we like, what we don’t like and how to make the most of a limited amount of time.
I know it has a reputation for drunk stag parties, cabanas that cost more than a month’s salary and the obvious temptation to gamble all your money away… but if you’re not into any of that stuff there is still a side to Vegas that you can experience. We don’t gamble, we don’t drink hideous amounts and aren’t interested in blowing money on expensive hotels or restaurants – and yet we still manage to have a great time.
First off, we’ve always been on a budget. We’ve passed through Vegas as part of much longer trips and it was important to us that we didn’t blow tons of cash on hotels, food, drink or casinos. The biggest tip I can offer anyone is to book your accommodation last minute and do it with Priceline, Hotwire.com or TravelPony. Priceline’s Express Deals are usually great and you can also use this brilliant hack. We always stay in the Rio and before you turn your nose up – it’s just really good value for money.
- Massive suites with a great view
- Cheaper because it’s off-strip
- Just around the corner from Caesars and the Bellagio – central strip
- We’ve never paid more than $40 per night
Our favourite things to do in Las Vegas
Take good walking shoes and hit the sights. The single most enjoyable activity I think there is to do in Vegas is walk The Strip and gawk at the hotels, casinos and people. The first time you see The Strip, I promise that you will wander around with your jaw hanging open either in wonder or disbelief, depending on what floats your boat!
The Welcome to Las Vegas sign at the South end of The Strip near the airport
It’s the stereotype that features in most people’s holiday photos but it is really is a cool sign and you can stop on your way out of the airport if you fly in. If you are driving from LA or San Diego, just come off the I-15 for McCarran Airport and you can’t miss it.
The Bellagio Fountain and beautiful indoor gardens
My favourite place on The Strip, Paul and I could stand and watch the fountains for hours. The Bellagio itself is a beautiful hotel but our favourite part is the seasonal garden they have just past the lobby. We were lucky to visit in October last time so the whole place was decked out for Fall – beautiful.
Mandalay Bay’s aquarium
A full aquarium – inside a hotel. Enough said.
New York, New York for the roller coaster
New York, New York as a casino isn’t too much to write home about but it does have an enormous roller-coaster attached to it which Paul braved with some friends of ours a few years ago. Apparently the views are amazing but I was too chicken to go for a ride!
Caesar’s for the ridiculous scale and beautiful window shopping
It takes a good 20 minutes to walk from one side of Caesar’s to the other, this place is enormous. It’s great for shopping and has tons of restaurants and bars. It’s also home to Serendipity (of frozen hot chocolate fame) and the Cheesecake Factory which makes the best Oreo cheesecake in the world – fact.
The art galleries
You wouldn’t think Las Vegas would be synonymous with lovely art but there are tons of galleries. This gallery just beside the Aria is for one artist’s amazing photography portfolio, he features a lot of shots from the surrounding landscapes which are wonderful.
The Venetian’s canals
The Venetian is like stepping foot in a slightly Disneyfied version of actual Venice and has the canals and bridges to match. It’s fun to check out their replicas of things like the Piazza San Marco.
Old town Vegas – see where is all started. Admire the vintage neon and imagine what is what like when there was this street and not a lot else apart from desert.
Shopping at Fashion Show Mall
For any Brits that want to grab a bargain, this place is brilliant. It’s at the North end of The Strip next to the Wynn Casino and has a large collection of department stores and the more mainstream brands.
The incredible fountain in the Wynn
The Wynn is where the other half live and it’s fun to get a glimpse of this beautifully designed hotel. We had some friends staying there a few years ago and Paul and I rocked up to spend a day with them having been hiking in Death Valley in the morning – hiking boots on and covered in dust, we most definitely did not fit in! The fountain in the lobby is incredible and they have the fanciest bathrooms I’ve seen in Vegas 😉
Whether you’re spending $1000 on a bottle of champagne or getting a hot dog from a street wagon – the food in Vegas in incredible. You can find dishes from every corner of the globe and it’s so very easy to indulge.
Of course if you have more than 2 days available and you’re anything like us – head out of the city and explore some of the most incredible attractions the United States has to offer. Within a few hours drive you can visit;
A little further away are the phenomenal National Parks of Utah – Zion, Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands. These parks don’t get as much love as some of the more well known but they rank as favourites of ours – the landscape is unreal.
You will have sore feet after a couple of days of pounding pavement but it will leave you wanting more rather than being overwhelmed by Sin City. It doesn’t all have to be stag parties and scenes from The Hangover, there really is something for everyone and if you are sceptical like we were, give it a chance – you might be surprised.