So I finally got a chance to leave Canada and go on vacation in the USA. A Scottish friend, who also lives in Van wanted to celebrate her birthday with a 4th trip to Las Vegas.
Vegas has been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time so I was pleased to get the opportunity to go. However, not being much of a party animal, I was concerned that I would either love it or hate it…
The old saying of ‘Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ applies to my post so I am not going to discuss every little detail about my trip 😉 – all that needs to be said is: I have a weakness for frozen margaritas, I am unable to open a toilet door the right way when drunk thus presuming I am locked in and I enjoy GOING DOWWWN with the automated elevator speaker as opposed to ‘going up’! (Nothing sexual here by the way).
A trip to Vegas from Canada is always going to be much cheaper then from the UK, however to make things even cheaper, we flew from Bellingham airport in Washington state (20 minutes from the US/Canada border). It can be more time consuming as a bus is needed from downtown to the border and then on to the airport. This can take around 2 hours as opposed to spending another $100-$200 on a flight from YVR.
The journey to airport was smooth as well as the border crossing (note: even if you have an ESTA, you will still have to pay $6US for your visa waiver as you are going over by land). Bellingham Airport is tiny and there is not much going on. After standing in a line for an hour waiting to check in our luggage whilst the eccentric check in guy spent 15 minutes with each customer selling them tickets, it was through to departures and to board the plane.
Our hotel was Excalibur – a really tacky version of Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld. Still it did the job as it was clean, spacious, had plenty of gaming machines, bars, food court, pool and buffet. One of the best parts was being able to buy a yard funnel and then getting refills of Margaritas, Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris for $8 and taking them inside other hotels and out on the strip.
All the hotels are linked via bridges or underground, however the size of the strip is very deceiving and just to get from one hotel to a couple of others down the strip can take upwards of 20 minutes – my advice for this is to ditch the heels and wear flats! All the hotels are very individual inside and have their own attractions; The Belligo has a foundation show, which is on throughout the day but impressive at night as well. The Mirage boosts a volcano show with fire and a dramatic performance. Just walking around the hotels is an experience and of course free! I personally visited: MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Belligio, Planet Hollywood, Luxor, Venicetian, New York New York (complete with rollercoaster ride for $14), Paris and Encore.
In my opinion, Vegas can get expensive if you wish to drink, eat out all the time, party in the clubs and of course gaming. I didn’t really experience the latter, $5 went into a variety of slot machines with no wins so I gave up! The clubs are easier to get entry into for women then men and generally women do not have to pay a cover charge. We visited: Foundation Rooms in Mandalay Bay (awesome view of the strip, so worth just going up for that), XS in Encore (lots of fun but waited a long time to get into the club) and Hakkasan in MGM (expensive drinks – $10 for a beer and $18 for vodka and soda). The clubs will sometimes have famous DJ’s on and both me and my friend were gutted that we missed out on seeing Calvin Harris by a day.
Food along the strip is your typical fast food joints – expect grease and huge American sized portions. We did try out the dinner buffet in Planet Hollywood which was $45 all you can eat and then another $13 for unlimited wine, beer and champagne. The choice at the buffet was immense – seafood, Italian, Asian, American, Middle Eastern, Mexican and a dessert counter with choices of cakes, brownies, crepes, ice cream and candy floss, needless to say the buffet beat both of us hands down.
Other things to be aware of:
– The Vegas Strip is generally safe during the day and night but be mindful that there are a lot of beggars, pan handlers and drug pushers along the bridges between the hotels. Some will try and give you flyers/CDs etc but will then demand money. There are also a lot of people that dress up as famous cartoon characters or action heroes in order to get money from people wanting photos with them. There are also people giving out nude calling cards for prostitutes (although the explicit features are starred out). As funny as we found these, they can get annoying.
– The neon Vegas sign is away from the strip and requires a taxi there. We took a limo ($70 per hour) and had our pictures taken by an Elvis impersonator with a light box – the pictures turned out well and we did give him a tip.
– One thing that annoyed me was the amount of families with small children visiting Vegas. I saw children passed out on benches at 12am/2am whilst their parents were drinking or on slot machines. Although children are not allowed in the casinos, it seems they can stay in the hotels. As far as I am concerned, Vegas is not suitable for young children and Disneyland would be a much better option for them. This seems to be an ongoing argument along the strip and in the hotels to see whether or not children should be accomodated in ‘Sin City’
– On the subject of tipping, expect to tip 15-20% in restaurants and $1-$2 per drinks in bars – it adds up but it is expected.
– Luckily, the pool at the hotel was open (very warm for February). It was good to spend an afternoon relaxing in the sun so I highly recommend this. The pool parties in the summer are meant to be amazing if you like that sort of thing (I would).
– The old town of Vegas (Fremont Street) is worth a visit. Again you need a taxi there but it was good to see all the old places from the Mob era. There is much more of an older crowd down this end due to commercialization and hustle/bustle of the strip.
Even Ozzy partipated in the madness and left with his very own Vegas pin badge.
In conclusion, I loved Vegas and enjoyed myself immensely. You definitely do not need to be a gambler to have fun and there are things to do aside from drinking or partying – although it probably helps if you do like those activities.
My only issue was going in the low season as not all the clubs or hotel pools were open but this did mean it was quieter then normal.
There are probably things I have missed or omitted from my post so feel free comment. 🙂