Its world famous strip is the brightest place on earth when viewed from outer space and more than 41 million visitors head there every year. We are of course talking about Las Vegas. Capital of crazy, fuelled by excess, and the Mojave Dessert’s most famous occupant.
Given its water starved position, you could be forgiven for thinking that Las Vegas is the least likely place in the world to kick-start a cruise, but our new Rocky Mountaineer ‘Rockies to Red Rocks with Las Vegas and Mexico’ Cruise & Stay package kicks off with three days in Sin City – here’s how to spend them.
McCarran International Airport is one of the busiest in the world, so allow plenty of time to collect your luggage and then grab a cab to your hotel – you’ll usually pay around $20 including tip. Drop off your bags and start exploring; Las Vegas is home to 15 of the world’s 25 biggest hotels, so you’ll have plenty to see.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with your own hotel, head out onto the strip. It’s perfectly feasible to spend a whole day exploring the various hotels but there are some sights that really mustn’t be missed including;
» The Wildlife Habitat at The Flamingo
» The Grand Canal at The Venetian
» The Big Apple Rollercoaster at New York New York
» The Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris
» The Volcano at The Mirage
It takes 5-10 minutes to walk between hotels but bear in mind the heat; the mercury regularly hits 38° in Vegas. Those who don’t fancy the walk from one end of the 4.2 mile strip to the other can hop on the InterRail for less than $5.
Head back to your hotel to change, before heading for dinner and a show.
When it comes to food, Las Vegas takes choice and excess to a whole new level. Brazilian BBQ joints supply a seemingly never-ending array of meats direct to your table, steakhouses serve the biggest and best cuts with a side of Old Vegas charm, buffets see the age-old adage of ‘eyes bigger than your belly’ cast aside in favour of the next plate and Michelin-starred chefs take the opportunity to create their most extravagant menus yet. If there’s one thing you’ll never be in Las Vegas, it’s hungry!
Your travel agent or hotel concierge can arrange show tickets or show and dinner packages, though many opt to book through discount ticket booths along the strip, some of which offer hefty discounts on shows that night.
Entertainment takes on a whole new meaning in Las Vegas and you really will be spoilt for choice. Cirque du Soleil has been a regular on the Vegas show scene for 20 years and there are currently eight different versions showing in hotels along the strip. Music fans should check out the Michael Jackson themed MJ ONE at Mandalay Bay or head to The Mirage for The Beatles LOVE. If you’re keen to embrace the naughtiness of Sin City, head to New York – New York for the X-rated Zumanity.
Only 17% of people visit Las Vegas with the intention of gambling but a whopping 71% end up doing so once there. Try your luck at the $1 slots and take advantage of the waitress service to keep the free cocktails coming; tip $1 each time and she’ll keep you topped up. Feel free to join the high rollers at the poker and blackjack tables but remember the casino never loses!
Cash in your winnings and head to bed for what’s considered an early night by Las Vegas standards.
After your first experience of a Las Vegas breakfast buffet, head to McCarran Airport to collect your hire car. It’s often cheaper to pre-book prior to arriving in Las Vegas and your travel agent can advise on the best car hire deals. If you’re going on an All American road trip, you’re going to need an All American muscle car, with the Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger up there with the icons.
Las Vegas is perfectly positioned for visits to some of America’s most amazing national parks but the Hoover Dam should be your first stop. An easy drive of just over an hour will take you to this engineering marvel but remember to pack your sunscreen – temperatures at the Dam are known to peak in the late forties.
You’ll find plenty of companies along the strip offering Grand Canyon tours but it is perfectly possible to make the drive yourself if you set aside the time. The drive from the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim will take around two hours.
Those not keen on a fancy a full day of driving can find views almost as impressive at the Red Rock National Park or the Valley of Fire State Park, both of which are an hour from the strip and easily combinable with a trip to the Hoover Dam.
If retail therapy is your thing, you’ll find heaven at either end of the Las Vegas strip. Las Vegas Premium Outlets can be found to both the north and south, though many favour the northern location. Designer fashion fans will revel in discounts of up to 80% and there are some real bargains to be had; the perfect place to pick up your outfit for formal night maybe?
Drop off the car and head back to the hotel to wash that dessert dust out of your hair; after a long day exploring you’ll be ready for a good feed and a lazy evening. Stick to comfortable shoes and see the Vegas lights of the strip at night (don’t miss the Bellagio fountains!) or embrace the Sin City spirit, slip on some heels and toast a day of amazing sights in one of many rooftop bars overlooking the city lights.
Spend the morning soaking up the sun around the pool, cooling down with a frozen daiquiri or two and grabbing lunch poolside, before catching a cab downtown mid-afternoon.
Speak to any Las Vegas local and they’ll tell you that the real Sin City starts downtown. For a taste of a time when the Mafia ruled supreme, head to the Mob Museum at 300 Stewart Street. Originally opened in 1933 as a US Post Office and Courthouse, the three-storey Mob Museum contains endless secrets of the underworld within its walls. Construction of the courthouse resulted from the building of the Hoover Dam, with officials knowing that a growing Las Vegas would need a federal building in which to deal with an increasing mob presence. Now, the museum is home to intriguing exhibits on some of America’s most notorious mobsters and most deadly criminal organisations.
The Neon Boneyard is just minutes from the Mob Museum and is an absolute hidden gem. The main Neon Boneyard itself houses over 150 historic neon signs, with a further 60 contained in the Neon Boneyard North Gallery. Each sign has been donated by the hotels, motels and diners of yesteryear, each one telling a tale of a Vegas past. It is a photographer’s dream!