To say you’re going to visit Vegas and not gamble is like going skiing and never taking to the slopes. Or going on a beach holiday and never getting a grain of sand in your flip flops. Everyone knows Vegas goes with gambling as it goes with bright lights and dodgy Elvis impersonators.
But what if the only card game in which you’re totally confident of the rules is snap, and you don’t fancy losing your house, car and other worldly possessions in a whisky-fuelled late night poker session? Is Sin City a good choice as a holiday destination?
Although it may not appeal to all, Las Vegas is somewhere that has to be seen to be believed, and even then you still may not believe it. As the backdrop to Ocean’s 11, The Hangover, and countless other films it may seem strangely familiar, but nothing can prepare you for the uniquely Vegas attack on your senses.
While it’s true that the hotels and casinos are in themselves the main attraction, this crazy playground for grown-ups has so much more to offer than blackjack and bandits.
Whether you’ve arrived via a long-haul flight or not you’d be forgiven for rubbing your eyes as you circle over the twinkling wonderland bizarrely located in the middle of the Nevada desert.
McCarran airport, gateway to this surreal world, is surprisingly small. Although arrivals and departures are lined with fruit machines tempting you to part with your dollars from the very start to the very end of your trip, there’s little other indication as to the over the top scale of what you’re about to experience on Las Vegas boulevard – the infamous ‘strip’.
But what’s on offer if you’ve got no intention of joining the high rollers? And any spinning you plan to experience will be your hotel room after too many cocktails, not the black and red flash of a roulette wheel.
The good news is you’re in the entertainment capital of the world and boredom is simply not an option!
1) Staring at things
This place has such a sense of unreality you may spend a large chunk of each day with eyes wide in disbelief. Here are some exciting things to stare at:
Kick off your visit with a bird’s eye view of the legendary landscape. Pick a hotel and get high, as in get yourself up on the rooftop, at sunset. This is the best way to try and absorb exactly where in the world you are. The Rio hotel – just over the highway from the main strip is a great vantage point.
The Bellagio hotel’s seasonally themed conservatory and botanical garden with its giant plants, flowers and animals is a masterpiece reminiscent the chocolate room in Willy Wonka’s factory – just don’t expect to see any Oompa Loompas.
2) Do a world tour
Thought you’d only come to America? Oh no – in one deceptively long strip of themed casinos you can see an Egyptian pyramid, sail a gondola along a Venice canal, shop on the streets of Rome, climb a New York Skyscraper or eat at the top of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re planning on covering the whole strip make sure you take advantage of the monorails and moving walkways – a near 5 mile trek in the desert warmth can take it out of you. Which brings us to point three…
3) Cocktail crawling
Quench your heat-induced thirst with some cocktails in some of the most glam locations going. With a prime view of the mesmerising famous dancing fountains Hyde at the Bellagio steals the crown for the wow factor. Snapping at its stylish heels is The Cosmopolitan, one of the newer additions to the strip. A cocktail of the same name in a bar shaped like a chandelier should go down a treat.
4) See a show
Magic, cabaret, music, the list is almost as long as the strip! Penn and Teller at the Rio, the spectacular Cirque du Soleil shows at various hotels, or a range of musical legends at the tail end of their careers. You may not wish to be seen dead at one of their concerts at home, but somehow saying you saw Elton John or Celine Dion in Vegas sounds more acceptable. Actually perhaps it doesn’t. Musical taste aside, save on box office prices for all of these at one of the many discounted ticket outlets such as Tix4Tonight.
5) Escape to the Grand Canyon
After a couple of days the sparkling lights and 100 miles per hour pace of Vegas may start to get a bit much. Change the scenery and the tempo with a trip out of town.
Holding a worthy place in the world’s seven wonders the Grand Canyon steals the breath right out of your lungs. Stick two fingers up to any vertigo and step onto the Skywalk – an overhanging glass platform 4000 feet above the Western Rim of the canyon.
It’s quicker and perhaps more impressive to travel to this giant hole in the earth by helicopter, but if you’re happy to take a longer journey and save a bit of cash then try an off-road Pink Jeep Tour. The land option means seeing more of the dusty landscape – plus you can tick off another American state by setting foot in Arizona too.
Love it or hate it, Las Vegas is a place so surreal that you may wonder if it really is a cocktail-induced desert mirage. Luckily your horrendous hangover, damaged bank account, and souvenir poker chip keyring will confirm you really did experience it.
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