PRESUMING Las Vegas has only bright lights, fast food and gambling is akin to thinking the only colours that exist are depicted in the rainbow. My recent trip taught me Sin City is a destination with so much to experience you couldn’t possibly enjoy it all in a single trip. Ten even.
Virgin Atlantic recently launched a twice weekly direct flight from Manchester. In upper class on the inaugural journey I strapped in for the holiday of a lifetime. With a mixologist drafted in to baptise their first airborne I was glad of the reclining leather seat/bed after a few concoctions. 10 hours passed in a heartbeat without a mid-journey terminal traipse. That is how to do it.
The first flash of the four mile strip from the air is spectacular. Dramatic structures dominate in stark contrast to the desert surroundings. Bright, brash themed hotels carve out unique caricatures including a pyramid, spoof New York skyline, a mini Eiffel tower and a mock castle combined with more glossy super-slick, buildings.
Imagine a series of Trafford Centres and more. Sprawling, landscaped estates boast multiple pool areas, shopping centres and eateries. The Wynn and Encore hotel complex boasts 22 restaurants alone. Everything is supersized.
Aria Resort and Casino was to be home for four nights at CityCenter, a new multi-billion dollar purpose-built development like nothing Vegas has seen before. This chucks out the chintz with stunning architecture and ultra-high end retail and entertainment. The Bond Street of the Boulevard. High tech and high spec, the room remote controlled most things ,including closing the curtains.
Wandering through the casino it could be any time of day or night. No windows or clocks with minimum distraction from the outside world is clearly the objective. But I was heading out to see what else was on offer in the first instance.
Comfortable shoes are the order of the day to take in the sights. Theatre on the street isn’t in short supply. Stop by The Belagio for a stunning fountain display, columns of water cannoned into the air to music, a pirate show down at Treasure Island or hop on a gondola at the Venetian. Bonkers. It’s busy and bustling, teaming with people.
Coach tours are a whistle-stop way to see the iconic welcome sign, wedding chapels, and downtown, the grittier, less polished but must-see end of the strip. The Freemont Street experience at night is a sight to behold.
Kill plenty of time, and a sizeable chunk of your bank balance, at any one of the many malls but make sure you take yourself further afield and visit the Grand Canyon. Magnificent.
Heli USA’s helicopter package includes a horseback tour of the Grand Canyon ranch. This was a once in a lifetime on my trusty steed, Starsky, even if he was a little wayward. With real cowboys who live this life, it felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. If you fancy something different you can even stay the night in a cabin with nothing but firelight, candles and wildlife roaming the wilderness around you. One for next time.
Down time was needed after a few days of pounding the pavement. Encore and Caesar’s inner sanctuaries are world class with every conceivable treatment; you won’t want to move. I had one of the best massages of my life. I could still feel it two days later. For something special poolside cabanas are good to splash out on if you want your own hidey hole for the day.
Not cheap, these can range from $5,000 for the day, but you’re guaranteed prime people watching positions and a waiter to tend to every whim mine came in the form of steak and eggs with a Bloody Mary after rather raucous night out. And people watch you can. LV has positioned itself as business catering to adult entertainment, so expect families to be in short supply. Same sex and mixed sex groups were all around, as were many couples.
Night time is where Vegas comes into its own.
It’s fascinating observing people in the casinos. Mesmerised, robot-like, repetitive slot players feeding their funds endlessly into flashing machines. Then the table players showing more thought and skill at attempts to beat the house. After a poker lesson I tried my prowess, only to burn through cash quicker than a forest fire. Not for me that malarkey, though the upside is they serve you free drinks while playing so if you do the math on your stake versus drinks cost this is probably your best bet of profiting.
With more shows than you can shake a stick at, Aria’s Elvis Cirque du Soleil is a toe-tapping, show-stopping, astonishing visual explosion of acrobatics, dancing, fire-throwing and aerial stunts. Plenty of footage of The King screened in the background, I fell in love with a dead man. My God he could move. A most appropriate show to see in this city but the choice really is endless.
The part of Vegas that impressed me most was the dining. Food at its finest. This is the unsung side of the city that will shortly receive a full review in its own right. Go to Las Vegas it has so much more to offer than you probably imagine.
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