Las Vegas. Ostentatious. Tacky. Glamorous. Seedy. Sleazy. The adult playground embraces all these things but there is no denying it’s a fun place to be, full of exhilarating experiences. It lived up to its reputation and provided the ultimate blow-out backdrop to celebrate my 40th birthday.
We crammed in so much that our four days felt much longer. I discovered the infamous sin city had so much more to offer than the iconic sights we all know so well. Here are my seven experiences you must put on your hit list if visiting this 24/7 action packed city.
1. Go back to the beginning
Jam packed with extravagant casinos on the strip. You’d be hard pressed to avoid one and Vegas without gambling is like a chip butty sans chips! Nearly every hotel on the strip has a ground floor bursting with roulette, card tables and pinging slot machines. No clocks, pumped full of oxygen and an endless supply of free alcohol (as long as you’re over 21 and tip the waitress $1 or $2) is how they help part you with your piggy bank.
Preposterously themed casinos are all the rage on the strip where you can actually ‘see’ the world without Leaving Las Vegas. Try Italy at The Venetian, a Polynesian island at The Mirage, Egypt at The Luxor or indulge in the luxe and swanky surroundings of the Wynn Las Vegas. You can read about my stay here.
However, I probably had my best gambling experience in downtown Vegas at The Golden Nugget. Fremont Street in old Vegas is where it’s at if you want to roll with the locals. It opened its doors in 1946 and at the time was the largest casino in the world. Well worth a visit. I loved the fact that once you enter you feel like you’ve entered a time warp and stepped onto a 70’s American movie set.
2. The secret drink
Head to the Chandelier Bar Level 1.5 at the Cosmopolitan and order a cocktail that you won’t actually find on the menu. The crystal ensconced bar is cocooned by thousands of shimmering ropes of crystals, casting soothing pinky, purple hue.
The Verbena, a rather unassuming cocktail, will take your mouth on a rollercoaster of a ride. The actual drink is made up of a medley of exotic citrus components – yuzu, kaffir leaves, and calamansi (similar to kumquat), blanco tequila, and ginger. The star of course is the ‘Szechuan button’, which also goes by the names ‘buzz button’ or ‘toothache plant’. It’s an edible plant filled with a natural alkaloid.
Chew on it, and within a couple of seconds your salivary glands go into overdrive. It tingles. It numbs. It’s an explosive sensation that awakens every one of your 10,000 tastebuds. When you take a sip of the margarita-like cocktail again your palate will be prepped to taste all the unusual flavours. The chemical reaction actually had me speechless for a few minutes, which was a sight in itself.
Definitely a Las Vegas taste sensation you don’t want to miss.
3. More to Vegas than Vegas
I believe you can’t travel all the way to Vegas and not experience the Grand Canyon, USA’s best known natural attraction.
Measuring more than 275 miles long and more than a mile deep, it’s an awe-inspiring sight. Time constraints meant the road trip and walk around the rim were not an option. Instead I flew over it with Papillon Helicopters, landing at the bottom for a champagne lunch. Extravagant? Yes, but seeing the canyon should be something that’s on everyone’s bucket list. You can read about the full experience here.
I managed to tick two things off my bucket list. Seeing one of the world’s seven natural wonders whilst pretending I was Airwolf. Dream come true!
4. A dessert like no other
I was told about this taste sensation by a fellow blogger Raj Popat – A frrrozen hot chocolate. An oxymoron dessert and I was there! To top it off I discovered it featured in one of my favourite romantic comedies ‘Serendipity’. In the film Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack after their accidental meeting enjoy one in the famous New York branch. You will find Serendipity 3 in Vegas right outside Caesars Palace.
The comforting taste of winter warmth in frozen form was strange but tasty with a blend of 20 different kinds of chocolate. It’s a dreamy hit of decadent chocolate, like a cross between a milkshake and slushy.
Apparently Serendipity 3 sell 10,000 of these chocolate beauties a month and I can see why.
5. When in Vegas – Roll like a boss
We couldn’t help but be swept away with the Vegas lifestyle. Combined with the fact that distances are not what they seem, moving along the strip can be a pain with the horrendous evening traffic.
Hiring a limo or even a Monster H2 Hummer in our case can solve all those problems. With a few of you it can also be more economical than catching taxi’s. Plus with champagne to boot what’s not to like!
6. There’s no business like show business
Entertainment is big business on the strip and catching a Vegas production is highly recommended. You’re completely spoilt for choice from mainstream pop acts, comedy, magic acts to musical productions. The most popular tickets are the numerous Cirque du Soleil shows and Broadway productions.
The Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil totally blew me away. For 90 minutes I was at the edge of my seat bopping away. A complete nostalgia fest the show works its way through MJ’s incredible catalogue. It’s not your typical Cirque, but the actors, lighting and effects made for an emotional and unforgettable experience.
My top tip – Be organised and book well in advance!
7. Sin City culture
One of the best cultural highlights (Yes, there are some believe it or not!), is the Neon Musuem which also includes the Neon Boneyard in downtown Vegas. Founded in 1996 it is a non-profit organisation dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs. It totally satisfied my need for a quality museum whilst on holiday.
The visitors centre is located in the historic La Concha Motel lobby. It was saved from demolition in 2005 and moved to its current location. The distinctive shell shaped building was designed by acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams.
Strolling in and out of the gigantic signs you take a step back into Vegas history. Walking tours are by appointment only. I’m glad I managed to squeeze in viewing these vintage neon signs hours before catching my flight home.
I know I said there were seven tips but this final one is a personal one from me to you. Take Vegas for what it is. When you’re there, Vegas ‘happens to you.’ Go with it. If you do, you’ll undoubtedly have a blast. I sure did and came back with birthday memories to last a lifetime.
Have you been to Las Vegas? I’d love to know your best experiences. If not, would you like to go? Let me know in the comments box below.
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