As the plane banked round and the altitude dropped, I saw it appear from the darkness of the Nevada desert. The bright lights of Las Vegas were welcoming me, but little did I know what they had in store. With such an iconic perception of ‘The Strip’, from popular movies such as The Hangover and Ocean’s Eleven I thought I would be prepared for what I was about to see. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As the largest city in the state of Nevada, Las Vegas, or Sin City to some, is a pleasure island, teeming with luxury, excitement and temptation you can only dream about.
Las Vegas is primarily known for it’s prominent gambling scene, however it has so much more to offer. This city resort boasts endless shopping, from high-street to high-end designer goods and exquisite restaurants and bars for ladies who require the finer things in life. It was only when I stepped outside the hotel lobby, that I began to understand the vastness, of this man-made adult playground. Where on earth literally should I start? From the Eiffel tower in Paris to gondola’s travelling up Venetian Canals, Las Vegas is like travelling around some of the world’s most iconic landmarks in a matter of minutes.
Where to stay
There is a well know phrase, ‘quality over quantity.’ Seeing as Vegas is composed entirely of hotels, there was an unbelievable array of choice. However, true quality can only be found at The Vdara Hotel and Spa situated in the newly developed City Centre district of ‘The Strip.’ Surrounded by the likes of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Dior, this spa hotel boasts the up-most taste and sophistication. It’s muted, modern decor and alluring spa scents, make for a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the casino floor. Equipped with a deluxe gymnasium, numerous roof top pools and first class Spa treatment facilities, this urban retreat is the perfect place to find a little peace and tranquillity. Compared to it’s large and highly themed neighbours, The Vdara, oozes first class service. Connected by monorail to sister hotel, The Aria Casino, The Vdara is set back just off Las Vegas boulevard. It also has moving walkways which connect it also to the world-famous Bellagio casino, so there is no excuse not to dress to impress in your best pair of heels. The views from the Vdara suites are also an added bonus. You feel like you are on top of the world as you stare down at ‘The Strip’ which is surrounded on all sides by the breathe-taking Sierra Nevada mountain range. Prices start from $99 per person.
Where to start
Do not be deceived by appearances, Las Vegas boulevard is a vast 4.2-miles of pure entertainment. Whether you require a relaxing cocktail next to a pool or an exhilarating ride on New York, New York’s roller coaster, ‘The Strip’ has it all. However, due to the immense heat and size of the buildings which engulf the skyline, you may think that your destination is a lot closer that what it is. Be sure to carry water with you, during the day as desert temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit between June and September. There are regular air-conditioned taxis which run all day and night, from all hotel lobbies which is perfect for casino hopping, because trust me, you won’t want to miss a thing. There are several free trams which also operate on the west side of ‘The Strip’ connecting Mandalay Bay, to The Luxor and The Excalibur, as well as the city centre circuit and the Treasure Island monorail.
What to do
Many of the casinos on ‘The Strip’, will go to any lengths to get you in the door. The free volcanic fire show at the Mirage and the swash buckling antics of the pirates at Treasure Island are a must see, shown every hour after dusk. Also you cannot leave without experiencing the iconic fountains of the Bellagio, set exquisitely to a music and laser show. For the best seat in the house, treat yourself to Jasmine’s fountain brunch at the Bellagio. Set on the front elevation of the hotel, this Indo-Chinese buffet, has a ring side view of the show, whilst you dine in 5 star luxury ($58pp).
To work off some of those calories, The Mirage offers something a little different, dolphin yoga, set amongst the lush greenery of the Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden. The class is held in an underwater dolphin viewing area, where you can find your inner poise and serenity amongst some of the animal kingdom’s most intelligent creatures (Classes are offered Friday-Sunday (space is limited) 60 minutes $50). Once refreshed, exit through a menagerie of wild cat enclosures, housing White Lions, Tigers and Leopards. If exercise isn’t on you agenda, you may want to take in one of the seven Cirque du Soleil shows, and where better to see Elvis than in Vegas. Viva Elvis at the Aria Theatre takes the audience through the life of the King and his music, in a explosion of acrobatics, dance and visual effects.
Where to eat
Whether you prefer an authentic American hotdog or al la carte cuisine, there is a restaurant to suite every taste. Julian Serrano at the Aria takes tapas out of this world. Specialising in authentic Spanish cuisine, with a twist, this restaurant is perfect for day or night. Or if you would rather have a quick snack, in between black jack and roulette then Cafe Vettro has all of your favourite dishes in a fresh and contemporary environment.
Flights operate directly from London, Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff to Las Vegas.
The currency is American dollars, however you may want to invest in a cash passport, available from Thomas Cook and The Post office. The USA has some the highest bank card charges in the world, with a cash passport, you can load your currency on, before you travel and draw on it at all cash points in the USA, without being charged.
by Sasha Fuller