Las Vegas is a very odd place, but you probably already knew that. After hours of driving down long, straight roads through seemingly endless desert, it rises up through the sand. There is no other major civilisation for hundreds of miles around, and yet people from all over the world flock to this patch of the Mojave desert to gamble, drink and have the best time ever.
Rather than falling in love with Vegas, I was bemused by it. It is the child of excess. The world doesn’t need Las Vegas, and yet it exists anyway. If you go, and I think you should just to experience the madness, here’s what you should do.
Bizarely, the places where people stay are the main attractions in Vegas. All the shows, gambling and drinking happen within these crazily themed buildings. We enjoyed simply walking down the main strip and checking out all of the hotels. Be warned that I somehow managed to catch a cold from the constant walking from desert summer temperatures to ice cold air conditioning every ten minutes.
Caesars Palace was probably our favourite. Even the guest areas are so large that we got lost – several times – and eventually we decided we’d been in there too long and tried to find and exit, but it just went on and on. It’s like a mini indoor world, and a very extravagant one at that.
The fountains outside the Bellagio hotel were another highlight for me. Every few minutes in the evenings the fountains would perform a synchronised routine to a different song; everything from Michael Jackson to ‘My Heart Will Go On’. The latter was surprisingly emotional!
Vegas mostly sleeps during the day, so we headed to the pool for a little while. I get bored of sunbathing incredibly quickly, but those ten minutes of lying on a sun lounger and sweating to death meant that I can forever say that I sunbathed in a desert. Fairly cool, right?
There is one thing in Vegas that I can recommend without a second thought; a day trip to the Grand Canyon. If your itinerary won’t stretch to spending a few days near this impossibly big ravine, one of the guided tours is the best way to see it while you’re nearby. I nearly refused, as a $100 day trip is pretty expensive on a backpacker budget. I remember telling my friends that “this canyon better be bloody grand” several times during the coach trip over (which also stopped briefly at the Hoover Dam and on the original Route 66) and I can confirm that it was indeed bloody grand. If you have the chance, go.
I’m afraid I didn’t find any hidden gem restaurants in Vegas, as I was completely obsessed with eating at Panda Express at the time. The orange chicken is to die for, though it can be found everywhere in the US so it’s probably worth finding something a bit more unique.
Find good restaurant
- Wait until you’re 21. Even if you don’t want to get trashed or gamble away your life savings, under-21s are treated like second rate citizens. It’s not particularly fun to be ushered quickly through a casino.
- Make a budget and stick to it. People may win thousands here, but they can also lose fortunes. The cash machines dispense $100 bills as standard, so it’s easy to get carried away.
- Prepare for the heat. Desert heat is like nothing I’d experienced before. When I first stepped off the coach it felt like all the breathable air had been sucked away and replaced with heat. I actually struggled to breathe for a few seconds.
- Take a jacket for the air con. You’d think that after all that heat people wouldn’t mind a fairly warm restaurant or theatre. But instead, they’re pumped with ice cold air.
- Don’t take the leaflets. Just don’t. Unless you are looking for some adult-only services; each to their own, after all.
Would I go back now that I’m legally allowed to drink and gamble the night away? Maybe. It’s crazy and insane, but maybe not quite on the level that I enjoy the most. It’s a little too artificial for my liking.
Have you been to Las Vegas? What did you think?