Travel

Mini travel guide: Las Vegas

I was thinking that I might do a series of posts about places I’ve been, where I share my experiences with places to go, eat or sleep, activities worth checking out  – things like that. I’m going to start with my most recent destination, which is Las Vegas.

I have been to Vegas four times in about five years, but I still find it hard to be very specific about it. It’s always changing, there’s always something new, and there’s a big chance that the thing you never got around to check out won’t be there the next time. Now, I realize that this is probably the case for many other cities as well, but in a place where most of the touristy stuff is concentrated in a relatively small area I think it is more visible.

Anyway, Vegas is never boring. Ever. And the great thing is, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. You can, but you don’t have to.

Do:

There’s always something to do. I’m not going to go much into gambling or drinking because these are obvious if you’re into that kind of stuff, and completely uninteresting if you’re not. Personally, I do enjoy the slot machines but I don’t make it the sole focus, and I am most definitely a low roller. I also don’t have strong opinions on which casinos are the best and which ones are less enjoyable – it all depends on the mood and which machines are available where at the time. When it comes to partying, I think the only thing that we’ve done that comes close is seeing Steel Panther at House of Blues. Never been to any of the popular night clubs or anything.

Fremont Street Experience:
IMO, this is a must-see. The hourly Viva Vision Light Show (12.5 million lamps over your head, accompanied by some great tunes) is amazing, there are live shows happening on the stages, a zip line, and some pretty iconic casinos. The atmosphere is simply magical.

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Viva Vision Light Show

Free attractions on the Strip:
When talking about things to do in Vegas, it’s hardly possible to get away from the free attractions on the strip, such as the Bellagio fountains and the volcano show at The Mirage. And both of them are definitely worth seeing. Also worth checking out is the Bellagio Conservatory. In addition to this, the malls in some of the resorts (such as the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian/Palazzo) are really a sight to see even without shopping.

vegascollage

Shopping:
Speaking of fancy malls… The shopping opportunities are pretty much endless. While the previously mentioned Grand Canal Shoppes, as well as many of the other in-resort malls, are beautiful to look at, they are mostly filled with high end designer stores that might be too pricey for the average Jane – at least they are for me. There are also more traditional malls and shopping areas on and nearby the Strip, and also, the outlet malls deserve a mention. My personal favorites are Fashion Show Mall, The Boulevard, and Premium Outlet South.

Take a break:
If you have the opportunity to rent a car, there are some great places to go if you want to take a break from the city buzz. Cool nature is to be found in places like Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire. The Hoover dam is fantastic to look at, and there are some good sights on the way out there, too.

Of course, there is the possibility to go to Grand Canyon as well, but the drive out there is pretty long – especially if you want to go to the actual national park (south rim), and not “just” the west rim (I would like to see both). Because to this, we’ve never gone there.

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Valley of Fire

View:
I’m a sucker for bright city lights, which is one of the things that make Vegas a great destination for me. And the density of all the huge resorts is just fascinating. Luckily there are many great spots to get that perfect view of the Strip. I have only been to one of these spots, the High Roller observation wheel. It was during daytime, so it wasn’t as great as it could’ve been. It was still amazing. Will definitely do it in the evening if I ever get the chance. Other places I heard are great includes the Stratosphere, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, and the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay.

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View from the High Roller

Shows:
Ok, so we haven’t been going to a lot of shows. We’ve seen a couple of the smaller ones, such as Defending the Caveman and Greg London Impressions That Rock. We also saw Rock of Ages. They were all great. As far as I know, Defending the Caveman is the only one of these that is still running. Catching at least one show is a pretty usual thing to do in Vegas, so it might be a good idea to do some research on the options. There’s probably something for everyone.

Eat:

Although Las Vegas is known to have an enormous selection of fancy restaurants and gourmet food, I don’t have experience with that kind of dining. All our trips have been on a budget that didn’t allow for that, so we have gone with cheaper alternatives (chain restaurants such as Outback, Tony Roma’s etc.) and of course, the other kind of dining Vegas is famous for, buffets. I’m not really a buffet person. However, Vegas is the exception. Personal favorites: Cravings (The Mirage), Spice Market Buffet (Planet Hollywood), The Buffet (Bellagio).

Stay:

Because you generally get a lot for your money when it comes to Vegas hotels, we’ve basically just stayed at hotels in the low to medium price range. Once at Excalibur, twice at Flamingo, and on one trip we had one night at Hard Rock Hotel and two nights at The Mirage.

Excalibur had decent rooms for the price, but doesn’t have the best location IMO. It is also one of the more family-friendly resorts. I also got to try out their spa, and it was nice (I don’t have much to compare with, though). The pool area is pretty small and seems kind of dull compared to the others I’ve seen – but to be fair, the others are pretty spectacular. Many food options – but not the best. However,  I don’t know much about how it is now as I’ve heard they changed a lot since our stay in 2011.

Flamingo is usually a tiny bit more expensive, but their GO rooms are very nice and the location couldn’t be better. I really like it there. The pool area looks amazing. Decent selection of places to eat.

The Mirage is even more expensive, but not as much as the really fancy ones. It is my favorite out of the ones we’ve stayed at. Rooms are great (standard rooms have shower curtains, though. In case you’d like to know). The pool area is simply beautiful and really consistent with the tropical theme of the hotel. Food options are not bad, but they don’t do the food court thing filled with fast food chains like Flamingo and Excalibur does, so cheap quick eats are slightly limited.

Hard Rock Hotel is a decent enough place to stay, we were lucky to score one night in one of their suites with some airline miles we had. The suite was heavenly. Unfortunately, this hotel’s off-strip location makes it a little less attractive, even though they do have a free shuttle to the Strip. They have a cool pool area, and I really like the decor in the casino. Didn’t really get to explore their restaurant options, all I know is that they have a Pink Taco restaurant which is not bad at all.

 

Of course, all the things I’ve mentioned only make up a teeny, tiny part of what Vegas has to offer. I could mention a lot more, but that would mean I’d be going on forever. 
If you stumbled into this while looking for info for your first Vegas trip, then I hope this was at least a little helpful. 

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