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From the minute you land in Las Vegas, it feels unreal. There you are, in the middle of the desert, red sand as far as the eye can see, and yet you are standing under the bright flashing lights of the Strip, surrounded by thousands of people piling into the world’s largest casinos and top restaurants, with the allure of money so thick you can feel it in the air. Vegas grabs you, sucks you in and, within days you are ready for it to spit you back out.
The first time we went to Vegas in April 2010 we didn’t expect to love ‘Sin City’. Neither of us gamble and we travel in search of authentic travel experiences – not the gluttonous extravagance of Las Vegas. And yet somehow, we fell in love with the city just about the minute we stepped out of the plane into the scorching desert heat and whisked away in a cab along bright lights of The Strip to our hotel.
The only reason we ever ended up in Vegas in the first place was the fantastic flight and hotel packages we discovered while looking for an economical way to fly from London to Los Angeles. Round trip flights to Las Vegas, just a four-hour bus ride from Los Angeles, were far cheaper than a one-way to L.A., and that included seven nights accommodation right on the Strip. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse. We never did use that return ticket, but no matter if you are looking for a last minute getaway, a cheap vacation later this year – there are always incredible bargains to be found to get to Sin City.
What we quickly found out was that the city is not just one ‘type’ of traveler. In fact, Las Vegas is for everyone, perfect for gamblers, of course, but also for families, romantic getaways and big bashes with groups of friends a la The Hangover. Here are our top tips for a perfect city break in Vegas:
No matter where you stay, you almost always will have a world-class casino right on the main floor of your hotel. The top casinos are in the iconic Paris Hotel, the celebrity-friendly Mandalay Bay, and of course the most luxurious casino, the Bellagio. The Venetian, the giant gambling floor at the MGM Grand, Roman-style Cesar’s Palace’s casino and the Luxor are also worth a visit – even non-gamblers can appreciate the unique design and vibe of each one.
Vegas is well-known for its excellent restaurant options, and real foodies can experience the world’s best chefs, as long as you make reservations well in advance. Most worth a taste is the exquisite New French cuisine at the Guy Savoy at Cesar’s Palace, Joël Robuchon’s restaurant in the MGM Grand or the Picasso in the Bellagio. You can taste some sensational Japanese food at Raku and Sen of Japan, the best steak in the U.S. at N9NE Steakhouse or modern Italian cuisine at Nove Italiano, located on the 51st floor of the Palm’s Fantasy Tower. The Mandarin Oriental is home to TWIST by Pierre Gagnaire, the famed Three-star Michelin chef’s only restaurant in the United States, plus the Foundation Room, originally a ‘members only’ secret on top of Mandalay Bay, is now open to everyone. For those who are not into fine dining, your options are even wider- from great people watching spots on the strip to the all-day buffets inside the casinos. Our favorites include Cesar’s Palace, Paris and the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio Hotel.
For party goers
Most people know that Las Vegas is synonymous with clubbing, and Sin City certainly gets its name from what goes on after dark… This city has some of the most excessive parties in the world, with top night clubs including the XS at the Encore – the hottest club in town right now with it’s indoor/outdoor pool party space, and Tryst at Wynn, which boasts a 90-foot waterfall and a lagoon. Studio 54 at MGM Grand combines a nightclub setting with a Cirque du Soleil act with a spectacular troupe of dancers and of there is Moon at the Palms Fantasy Towers, famous for its celebrity spottings and unforgettable views over the Strip from 50 stories above. Other Vegas classics include Pure at Cesar’s Palace, Tao at The Venetian and the Eye Candy Sound Lounge at Mandalay Bay.
For nature lovers
Las Vegas might not seem like the greatest destination for nature lovers, but at second glance there is so much to admire just beyond the bright lights! The Grand Canyon’s West Rim can be visited on a day trip, and if you don’t want to spend hours in the car, you can even take a helicopter there. Car rentals are cheap and plentiful though, and the Red Rock Canyon Nature Reserve just outside of Vegas is a hiker’s paradise, plus offers a 13-mile scenic drive with magnificent vistas over the canyon and the desert beyond.
While Vegas might be mainly known as a gambling destination, there is actually plenty to do for non-gamblers, as well! We already mentioned hiking around Vegas and clubbing at night, but there are more than enough attractions to keep you entertained during the day: Adrenaline junkies can enjoy the many theme parks, such as at Circus Circus, the roller coaster at New York New York or the breathtaking rides on top of the Stratosphere Hotel. Vegas also has fantastic shopping options, like the Via Bellagio, the Forum Shops at Cesar’s Palace or the Fashion Show Mall with over 250 shops and restaurants. Who could forget one of Las Vegas’ main attractions – the world’s greatest shows that can be seen here – like Cirque de Soleil, Blue Man Group, some of the more infamous ‘adult’ shows like The Chippendales and top music headliners like Shania Twain, Boyz II Men, Celine Dion or Santana and magic shows by Criss Angel or David Copperfield. For more ideas how to fill your days and nights in Sin City, check out our top ten (non-gambling) things to do in Vegas here.
Have you been to Las Vegas? What’s your favorite thing to do or see there?