We never meant to start our globetrotting adventure in Las Vegas. Instead a series of random circumstances led us to start in Sin City, but after three and a half cold & rainy years in England, the sweltering and sunny Nevada desert seemed the perfect kick-off for our around-the-world journey.
Neither of us are any good at gambling, and with no desire to lose all our savings to slots and booze, we set out to explore how to enjoy the city of Vegas beyond the sin.
1. Stroll up and down the Strip
The 4.5 miles between the Mandalay Bay and the Stratosphere offer nearly infinite people-watching pleasure. Either belly up at an outdoor bar/restaurant like the tequila and taco treasure – Planet Hollywood’s Cabo Wabo, the silly slots and parrots outside the Flamingo’s Margaritaville bar, or for an Ocean’s 11 replay, score a spot at the fountain in front of the beautiful Bellagio hotel.
People-watching throughout Las Vegas, you are almost certain to see at least one, but probably more of the following: the heaviest (or even thinnest) person you’ve seen in your life, too many tattoos, people from countless countries, the most eccentric, or eclectic groups of rich or poor, lucky or un-lucky bunch of average Joes or crazy Susans and other interesting creatures than you’ve ever seen in your life. Lean back, sip your margarita and enjoy.
2. See Vegas from above on the Eiffel Tower
The Vegas Eiffel Tower (120m/460ft) doesn’t come anywhere near the height of the true blue Parisian version (324 m/ 1,063 ft) but it offers fantastic views over the Strip, Las Vegas and the desert beyond.
A trip to the Fremont Street Experience inspires the nostalgic, classic Las Vegas of the early 20th century before Sin City became the epitome for bigger, better, more.
Many of the famous hotels and casinos such as the Golden Nugget are still operating and you can feel the special flair that Vegas must have had in the 1950s.
In the 1990s, a roof was built over Fremont Street and area of Old Vegas was repackaged as the Fremont Street Experience in an attempt to draw visitors back after numbers sunk thanks to the explosion happening over on ‘The Strip’. We could give or take that darned roof overhead, but the casinos are more fun, there is more free entertainment, the staff is more friendly and apparently the odds are even better.
Competition among the hotels on the Strip is fierce, and Las Vegas is one place where the concept of ‘Less is more’ has gone completely lost.
The Bellagio has its famous fountain show and Italy-inspired design, while the Mirage is home to Sigfried & Roy’s dolphin and white tiger garden and not to mention daily volcano eruptions.In Vegas you can walk by the Egyptian pyramids at Luxor, a near exact replica of Venice at the Venetian with its lake and gondolas, the aforementioned famed French tower at the Paris hotel and casino, a replica of the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace, a pirate battleship at Treasure Island and and and… who knows what they will come up with next.
Several hotels in Vegas have added an adventure ride to their premises, but the most spectacular rides can be found on top of the Stratosphere tower:
Three extreme rides on top of the 350m (1,149 feet) tower – Insanity, which dangles you over the edge of the tower, Big Shot and X-Scream. If that’s not enough of an adrenaline rush, you can now also jump off the tower with the Stratosphere’s latest thrill: the Vegas Skyjump.
Other rides include:
- The roller coaster at New York New York
- The Las Vegas Cyber Speedway at Sahara
- Various rides in the Circus Circus Adventuredome
Vegas has always drawn the biggest stars of entertainment to have their own permanent show – there is something for everyone: comedy, cabaret, circus, burlesque, hypnosis, musicals… The biggest thing at the moment seems to be Cirque du Soleil, with currently 7 (!) different productions in Vegas.
- Cirque du Soleil – Zumanity
- Cher at the Collosseum
- The Blue Man Group
- Le Rêve at Wynn
- KÀ Cirque du Soleil
- Penn & Teller
7. Shop ‘til you drop
Las Vegas offers some great shopping opportunities for shopaholics: Not only do most hotels have ‘shopping streets’ under their roof (Via Bellagio,the Wynn Esplanade, Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, Mandalay Place), there are also a couple of malls on the Strip:
I. The Fashion Show Mall
Located opposite the Wynn hotel, the Fashion Show Mall has more than 250 shops and restaurants – clothes, shoes, accessories, technology, books, etc – incl. stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Sketchers, Abercrombie & Fitch, Mango, Apple, Levi’s, Nordstrom, Bath & Body Works.
II. Crystals at Las Vegas CityCenter
The more up-scale shoppers will find satisfaction in the long awaited newly-opened CityCenter which includes shops like Prada, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Carolina Herrera, Hermes, Roberto Cavalli, Cartier, Versace, Tom Ford, Miu Miu, Paul Smith and Porsche Design.
8. Wildlife in Vegas
Even animal lovers get their money’s worth in Vegas – with several hotels having some fantastic animal habitats:
- Shark Reef (not only aquarium, Shark Reef also displays reptiles, such as golden crocodiles, and turtles at the Mandalay Bay ($ 12.95)
- Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Hotel (with Chilean Flamingos, African Penguins, exotic birds, fish and turtles, ducks and swans – in a beautiful lush environment with waterfalls – FOR FREE!)
- Secret Garden (including white tigers, white lions, snow leopards, and black panthers) and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage ($15.00)
- Atlantis Aquarium at Caesar’s Palace – divers feeds the more than 100 species of tropical fish including sharks each day at 1:15 and 5:15 p.m (FREE)
Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon – check out our Las Vegas: Get Outta Town for more things to do outside of Sin City.
Success in Las Vegas comes from rising to the challenge. As we mentioned above, the gambling girls we are not. Our challenge, our Everest if you will, was food-based. It was the Buffet of Buffets – a 24-hour pass to seven of the biggest and best gut-busting buffet in Vegas: Caesar’s Palace, Rio, Paris, Harrah’s, Planet Hollywood, Imperial Palace and Flamingo.
While we may have taken the challenge very literally, (the Globetrotter Girls can proudly boast hitting 6 out of 7 buffets within 24 hours!), instead of testing all 7 it might make more sense to try out 3 or 4 in the better hotels. At $54.99 (Jan ’15) the Buffet of the Buffets is still cheaper than even two buffets, would cost separately. Skip the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace unless you want to do all seven to beat us :-). Go to Paris twice if you can, their buffet is by far the best of all.
Looking for an inexpensive hotel in Vegas? Check out Booking.com for their fantastic deals on Vegas hotels – both on and off the Strip!