October 5, 2011

Las Vegas baby! Brace yourself.

Not so long ago if you mentioned you were off to Vegas, you’d mean Roto-vegas, and everyone would chortle. Or if you were more well-heeled you’d mean Bris-vegas, and everyone would mutter envious words about your upcoming awesome holiday.

Looking down the Vegas strip

But with the US dollar struggling and cheap airfares on the market, a trip to the real Las Vegas has suddenly become do-able. My brother is having his fortieth there next year (although I’ve been told it’s a boys’ weekend, so not to think about coming) and a girlfriend is going in the next few weeks for a hen party. A hen party for goodness sake!

I love Las Vegas. The real Las Vegas. The one that springs up out of the Nevada desert like a purpose-built adult playground the way that Disneyland monopolises Anaheim for kids.

I’ve been three times and I always run out of time to see and do all the things I want to. It might look like one street edged in hotels and casinos and decorated with kitschy billboards, buskers and replicas of global landmarks, but you’ll be sorry if you think a little pair of strappy heels will get you around it.

For one thing the Strip is 6.5km long. The other is that you can lose yourself for half a day in one casino – and that’s just trying to find the shops.

Spot the balloon in the clouds of the Forum shops

Take Caesar’s Palace; the Forum Shops in here are a highlight of Las Vegas. Built to look like the outdoors, you’ll reach this mall after walking about a kilometre from the hotel entrance on the Strip, past the many card tables and roulette wheels, beside the theatre hosting Celine Dion’s daily concerts and others that vary between Jerry Seinfeld, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Shania Twain at any time in the next couple of months. Finally you get to the shops with “outdoor” restaurants and people clearly forget they are still indoors and light up a cigarette at tables spilling onto cobble-stone streets in front of a replica of Rome’s Trevi Fountain. The ceiling is painted blue with the odd white fluffy cloud and the whole sky slowly darkens as the real night falls. The only giveaway that all this is an elaborate replica of the real outdoors are the helium balloons stuck “in the clouds”.

Las Vegas used to be all about gambling and high-flying parties for Hollywood’s glitterati. But these days there are shopping malls that cater to every budget, not just the Bellagio crowd, and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining. From fine-dining on New Zealand beef to the typical American diner serving hot dogs and meatloaf, each hotel does its utmost to keep you in their confines for an entire week. And it’s true, you could actually spend a week in one massive 5000-room hotel/casino and be perfectly happy.

Bare pool bar

“Don’t worry it’s coming off”

Take the Mirage; by day you can swim in the Mirage pool, and even book your own cabana with a day bed and a butler. You can visit Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden (where I was sprayed by a white tiger) and next door is the Dolphin Habitat where bottlenose dolphins perform daily shows and you can be “trainer for a day”. If you’re daring, head to the R18 pool, Bare, and book a cabana with sun-lounger service. It’s totally acceptable to get your top off – if you’re game in front groups of guys strutting their washboard abs accessorised by their perfectly shaped girlfriends.

The casino is open 24 hours, as are bars and restaurants. You can have a decadent spa treatment and at night in front of the hotel there is a free volcano show on the hour. One of the seven permanent Cirque du Soleil shows is based here: Love, based on the Beatles music. But if you’ve already seen that there are a couple more in other theatres in this massive hotel.

And this is just one example of at least a dozen completely over the top, yet fabulously affordable, Las Vegas hotels.

Jump here for my Top 5 picks of things to do in Vegas >>>

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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