Destinations, Las Vegas, North America, What to do in...

What to do in…Las Vegas

The other half got me the best 30th birthday present ever; my first ever trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles! I had no idea about the trip until I was surprised with it on the morning of my birthday leaving less than 4 weeks to plan the finer details of the trip and for someone who loves planning this was a little bit stressful. Luckily we were due to meet some very good friends out there and spend the week with them so we had some other people to bounce trip ideas around with and thankfully my other presents were these handy travel guides Lonely Planet – Las Vegas and Lonely Planet – Los Angeles. I had some key things that I wanted to do whilst being in Vegas; see a show, gamble, walk the strip and go in the majority of the Hotels and see either the Hoover Dam or Grand Canyon.

We stayed at the Bellagio and after visiting almost all the other hotels on the strip have to say this was a perfect choice. The casino was big but not overcrowded or smokey, the restaurants and bars inside are lovely, rooms are very comfortably elegant and of course it’s home to the fountains. I could have watched the fountains all day but had to make do with seeing them about 5 times in total – they are truly enchanting and much like the rest of the hotel a spectacle in themselves. Our first day was spent exploring the strip, stopping at the odd shop, drinking, eating and easy gambling. I say easy gambling as I didn’t really want to get into the tables on the first day so stuck to the slot machines.

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My favourite areas to stroll around were the Venetian; the inside of the hotel is beautiful and an easy way to spend a couple of hours between the shops, restaurants and replica St Marks Square. I also loved the area up by the New York New York Hotel, there were some really cool shops and just found it to be just a general nice vibe sat beside the Brooklyn Bridge.

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That evening I was so excited to see the Cirque du Soleil show ‘O’ which is housed in the Bellagio Hotel so after eating at the chinese restaurant Jasmine in the hotel (amazing view of the fountains, food not so great) it was just a short walk through the casino to the theatre. I had insanely high hopes for Cirque, and was a little bit concerned about the price of the tickets and whether it would live up to my expectations however that all ebbed away with the first few minutes of the show. I don’t want to give too much away as it is such a beautiful and exciting show but I will say this; there is a swimming pool on stage, there are carousel horses and a high jump! It was absolutely worth the ticket price and to be honest after seeing it I would probably be prepared to pay more in the future – the quality of skill and entertainment was exceptional. Feeling very buzzed after the show we had a walk to see the fountains and the strip in the dark and then headed for bed as we had an early start the next day – more on that after these snaps.

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Our very early start was down to the fact we were getting picked up by the guys from Bullets and Burgers. I wasn’t really sure about the prospect of shooting guns but it was something the other half really wanted to do so not wanting to miss out I decided I ‘d at least have a go. The first stop before the shooting range was the Hoover Dam, as this was on my bucket-list for Vegas anyway I was pretty happy about this. It’s so much bigger than it looks in the pictures and pretty cold at 7.30am in the morning so wear layers! After a 30 minute photo stop we then carried on to the range, where we were then met with the beast! We were going to ride to the range in a custom built monster truck!! EPIC! It’s tyres were bigger than me! The ride was crazy, going over various dunes and banks at differing speeds. Such an adrenaline rush and really got me pumped for the range. I’m not going to post any pictures of us shooting guns as I don’t feel that’s appropriate but I felt completely safe under the instruction of Bullets and Burgers. I ended up really enjoying the experience of shooting 5 different guns including an actual Sten WW2 gun made in the UK and got quite into the technical aspects of the task. After all the excitement we were shown up to the Arizona Last Stop diner for burgers, maybe it was the amount of energy we had expended or the fact the burger was a proper all-american hamburger but it tasted like the best burger on Earth! And because we crossed the state line from Nevada to Arizona it meant we were back at the hotel by 1pm thus gaining ourselves an hour and ready for the strip in the afternoon.

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Another thing that became a must do after doing some research was a trip to the Neon Boneyard. We went for a golden hour tour (4.30pm -5.30pm) as I wanted to get the best chance to photograph as many of the old neon signs in natural light as possible. Night tours are also available and I am sure seeing some of the restored signs light up as they did in their heyday would also be great for photography. The tours are an hour long and you have to stay with the guide at all times due to Health and Safety reasons but the information on the signs history and the stories behind them are so interesting, we found out so much about the old Vegas and how the majority of the casinos used to be financed it really was quite an eye-opener.

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There was still so much of Vegas we could have seen/done/experienced. When I go back I will definitely make it a priority to see the Grand Canyon, I will probably want to see another Cirque Show, go to the Fremont Street Experience and finally head to one of the pool parties during the day and carry on into the night at one of the clubs but for a first-timer I feel I got what I wanted out of sin city and it didn’t take too much out of me!

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