Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

We returned late last week from a great break in Las Vegas, so we're just starting to get over the jetlag which hit us on the return journey. If you've not experienced Vegas, hopefully our photos will give you some idea of what you will experience if you choose to visit this larger than life city, in the Nevada desert. We chose to spend a week there as some friends were getting marrried in Vegas midway through our break, most people stay for just 2 or 3 days.

Bellagio hotel with Caesars Palace in the background
We stayed at the Bellagio which has a great location, fairly central on the Vegas Strip. That in itself is a great reason to chose a hotel in Vegas, especially in the summer when temperatures soar well into the forties, the heat is incredible. Don't forget sunblock and a cap of some sorts. Perhaps the most well know attraction of the Bellagio is the lake in front, on a daily basis the famous Bellagio Fountains perform to music, a fantastic sight. For those of you who have seeen the movie Ocean's 11, you'll know what I mean. From 8pm onwards the fountains perform every 15 minutes and to get the most impact from the show you need to see it at night and ideally from the Strip.

Bellagio Fountains

Like most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip the Bellagio is huge with almost 4,000 rooms, despite this it doesn't make it into the top 5 largest hotels. One of the bizarre attractions of Vegas is the hotels themselves, they are huge and many have specific themes such as New York New York, Excalibur, Treasure Island and Circus Circus. Added to this, all of the hotels have multiple reasons to visit them aside from the obvious, the casinos. You'll find fine art exhibitions, shark tanks, roller coasters, botanical gardens and even a replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel. In the Venetian you can even take a ride on a gondola on the canal which runs through the shopping mall in the hotel. Yes, many of the hotels have their own shopping centres as well as concert/show arenas.

 Paris

 Venetian

 Mirage
There is no doubt that Vegas is not a cheap destination and to be honest some of the prices charged are way over the top. Tickets to visit the Leonardo di Vinci exhitbtion in the Venetian were $27, in the Luxor they were charging $32 to visit their Titanic exhibition. When you compare these prices to those charges by some of the great museums in other cities they are a bit of a rip off. That said, there are ways to make Vegas a while lot cheaper and some great things to do without having to pay that much. One activity is simply to spend some time visiting the hotels, there are many and as they're spaced out along the strip you can easily spend a couple of days just doing this. Its also a great way of cooling down from the heat outside by escaping into the airconditioned interiors.

 Excalibur

New York New York
Mandalay Bay & Luxor
So, touring the hotels won't cost an arm and a leg and the Fountains show at the Bellagio will cost you nothing. Next best free show is the Fremont Experience in downtown Las Vegas. Fremont Street has been covered with the "worlds largest lightshow", on a nightly basis you'll be entertained by a breathtaking show above your heads which costs nothing, as well as that there are free concerts in ths street and a whole lot more going on. Downtown Vegas is also a lot cheaper for hotel rooms, meals etc than the more commercialised areas on the Strip. Its also said that the slot machines tend to payout more than their cousins on the Strip, sadly I can't say whether thats true or not.

 Fremont experience


Another of the of the famous attractions of Vegas are the Shows, and there any many to chose from with all of the large hotels having at least one running. We were lucky enough to see two of the seven Cirque du Soleil shows that you can visit in Vegas, "O" in the Bellagio and "Viva Elvis" in the Aria. These were our first experiences of Cirque du Soleil and after seeing "O" on the Friday evening we were hooked and booked the following afternoon to see "Viva Elvis" on our last night. It's hard to find enough words to describe just how amazing they are, if you get the chance to see one of the Cirque du Soleil shows anywhere in the world, don't miss out as they are simply out of this world.

A toast to the King if Rock 'n Roll
The nightlife in Vegas is legendary and it has something for everyone with hundreds of places to dine, we enjoyed a great meal in the Jasmine Restaurant in the Bellagio, it overlooks the lake so in the evening you are entertained by the fountains if you ask for a table towards the front. We also had a wonderful meal at Gordon Ramsay Steak in the Paris, you won't find a nicer steak in town. For a great view of the Las Vegas Strip at night, visit the Ghostbar at the top of the Palms hotel.

View from the Ghostbar
If you get the chance don't leave Vegas without visiting the Grand Canyon, you can chose from a coach tour or a helicopter tour. It takes you about 4.5 hours to get to the Canyon by bus compared to 45 minutes by helicopter, that said the prices are obviously very different. The helicopter trip is a once in a lifetime experience so if you can choose this option don't miss out.

Valley of Fire

Lake Mead

Grand Canyon
I could go on for ages about Vegas as there is simply so much to do and see, however I don't want to bore you so I'll end here. One thing not to forget if you're travelling from Europe is the shops, the Americans do retail in style and in Vegas you'll find everything from Prada and Tom Ford to H&M and  GAP. There are two Premium Outlet Malls, one at either end of the strip and the Nike Shop in Caesars Palace is also really worth a visit. That's enough for now, enjoy Las Vegas.