Hello again, and for this my 25th blog I’m going to concentrate solely on our 5 days in “Vegas baby” as we had an amazing time and there is a lot to tell!
We arrived on the Thursday after we’d been to the very underwhelming Hoover Dam and I was delirious with excitement as we drove down the strip towards our first hotel, Circus Circus. For Sally’s birthday I had surprised her and booked 3 nights for us at the Bellagio so we only stayed at Circus Circus for the Thursday and Friday nights.
As we walked in to the lobby to check in we saw the first of many happy and excited (and old we noticed!) brides we would see over the next 5 days! Twenty minutes, a mile of walking and 4 elevators later, we found our room. It was very nice but not hugely different from all the motels we’ve been staying in while in the US, apart from not being able to park right outside our door. After settling in, we ventured downstairs to take a look around the casinos and the inside amusement park they have called Adventuredome although that was more geared towards kids, not adults. Circus Circus also has various circus acts performing in the hotel throughout the day so we watched some Eastern European girl swing beautifully from the rafters for a few minutes then tried our luck at Midway, the hotel’s kiddy ‘casino’ – we weren’t ready to tackle the big tables just yet! First we played the game where you roll the ball up into various holes which denote points to make your horse run across the track behind the attendant. Know the one? There were 5 of us playing but I suddenly came from last to first, winning a cute gorilla soft toy. A few minutes later we played the game where you point the water gun at the clown’s head to fill the balloon so that it bursts. Well it must have been our lucky day because Sally won that one and won us a soft toy sunflower! For anyone who’s been counting, that’s now the 5th soft toy coming home with us from our trip. We’ve already shipped home Koali (the koala bear I bought Sally in the Blue Mountains) and Goldie (our dog from DreamWorld), and now Mickey Mouse (from DisneyWorld), Happy the gorilla and the sunflower will be coming home with us in a few weeks! Yes, at times our car has resembled Noah’s Ark!!! Feeling very embarrassed we took the new ‘kids’ upstairs and went back down to share a pitcher of frozen margarita – start as you mean to go on we thought!!
An hour or so later we were due to meet a friend of mine and her boyfriend (Gayle & Andy) in a bar at our hotel but there must be about 10 so it was a while before we eventually found them, also a few drinks down. We downed another quick drink for dutch courage and made our way outside on our way to the Stratosphere Tower to tackle the world famous rides on the top!!
Now, a few weeks ago while watching TV in Orlando, we happened across a TV programme showing the most intense rides in the USA. Both Sally and I watched with delight and made note of rides and theme parks to see if we could fit them into our already jam packed schedule. That is until they started talking about the 3 rides on top of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas! When I watched the footage of the Big Shot, X-Scream and Insanity it sent a chill down my spine. I’ll explain them to you and then you can decide whether or not you would do them! Just remember that the top of the tower is 900 feet high – that’s a long way up (or down)!
The Big Shot – imagine a 4 sided tower 100 feet tall with 4 seats on each side. You sit in one of these seats with a harness over your shoulders and then shot up to the top at high speed before being left to drop to the bottom and then bounce around a bit before being brought down to the bottom. You get to around 1000 feet in the air but the view of the strip is amazing, especially at night.
X-Scream – We’ve all been on see-saws as kids right? Nothing too scary about that? Well, X-Scream is a see-saw except one half tilts over the edge of the building, remember, 900 feet in the air! You sit in a pod that holds 8 people with just a bar across your stomach. As the ride starts you are slowly lifted up in the air (as if someone is on the other end) and your pod goes flying over the edge of the building, and then stops just as you feel like you are going to fall to your death! This repeats a few times, plus one time they let the whole thing drop a few feet so that you feel like the ride had broken and you are about to fall to your death!
Insanity – Imagine a claw and on each ‘finger’ is a pod that holds 2 people with a bar across your stomach to keep you in. Once everyone is safely in, the claw lifts up, spreads out and starts spinning quite fast. Doesn’t seem that bad, except you are spinning over the edge of the building, again 900 feet up in the air!
Well I was brave enough to go on all of them but Sally just did the Big Shot, and to be honest that was actually the most thrilling. When you watched the X-Scream ride it looks terrifying but after the first time that the pod goes over the edge and stops you realise that nothing is going to happen and so the rest of the ride isn’t scary at all. And as for Insanity it is actually fairly tame and not at all scary as you are very tightly secured in your seat. Overall it is a fantastic experience and you get great views of the strip so definitely worth a visit.
After the Stratosphere Tower we went on a bit of a bar crawl stopping for drinks at Slots of Fun (at Circus Circus) for $1.50 beers, then to the new Wynn Hotel. This is the newest, poshest and most expensive hotel on the strip and it really is stunning. What I loved about Vegas is that all the hotels welcome you in whether you are staying there or not and you don’t feel out of place anywhere. We sat at the bar at the Wynn and had a very expensive round of drinks and played Blackjack on the machines on the bar and then decided to move onto the next place before we bankrupted ourselves on our first night. We had one more drink at a random bar on the road, said goodnight to Gail and Andy and headed back to our hotel to grab a midnight snack before bed (pizza and subway in case you are interested).
The next morning we woke up with quite a hangover but Sally managed to walk down to McDonalds and the Krispy Kreme in the hotel for some takeaway breakfast. After some coffee, McMuffins and doughnuts we were ready to face the day. That’s another thing I loved about Vegas – you can do anything you want at any time you want. If you want a cocktail while playing Craps at 7am you can, or if you want Krispy Kreme at 3am you can – I love it!!
I insisted that we see every hotel on the strip during our visit, so on the Friday we managed to see the Wynn (again), the Venetian, Paris and Planet Hollywood. The Wynn really is stunning. It’s the epitome of wealth and glamour. The cafés sell $20 muffins, you need to re-mortgage your house to have dinner and all the horrendously haute couture shops look forward to visits from Victoria Beckham and Donald Trump because they are the only people in the world who can afford to buy anything from them. It is fun however to walk around just to see the sights, and I’m not talking about the décor or beautiful paintings hanging on the walls, the people are fascinating. Lots of women walking around in far too short dresses and dripping in costume jewelry desperately trying to look like they fit in and staying in the hotel, and lots of middle-aged men sat at high stake casino tables trying to look like they know what they are doing. Having said that, Sally and I said that when we return to Sin City we will stay there. Well you have to after the Bellagio, don’t you?
The Venetian is completely different. Just being outside feels like you are in Venice. As you walk towards it you can see a smaller version of the Rialto Bridge, a canal with (overpriced) gondolas and singing gondoliers, and the front of the building looks like it belongs in St Mark’s Square. As you walk in the experience just keeps going and going. You are surrounded by classic Venetian columns, marble floors and stunning gold adorned ceilings. As you walk into the Canal shops area the ceiling turns into a dusk sky and you feel like you are stepping outside into real Venice. There are real life statues dotted around, costumed courtiers, beautiful Italian shops and restaurants and a smaller version of St Mark’s Square. The ambience is also amazing. It doesn’t feel like you are in Vegas anymore, which can be a bonus if you’re feeling a little bit Vegas’d out. Being a big Italy fan I loved being in this hotel and would love to stay there to see if the experience extends to the bedrooms too.
Next up was Paris. I knew this wasn’t going to be my favourite for 2 reasons. I hate Paris and I hate the French. A bit harsh I know, but I can’t see one appealing thing about that city. Sorry, French rant over. The Paris hotel didn’t change my mind. Don’t get me wrong; from the outside it looks pretty amazing. They have an enormous copy of the Eiffel Tower as part of the building, which also has a restaurant at the top, and a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe to the side, but inside it’s pretty ghastly. There’s nothing special or memorable about it, and it’s pretty confusing to walk around too. It’s typically French – unorganised, unattractive and boring. ‘Nuff said I think.
We were seriously starting to flag at this point and the hangover wasn’t letting up so we went back to the hotel after we’d seen Planet Hollywood. The most memorable thing about it was the zone in the middle of the main casino where near naked girls dance on poles while men sit at the black jack tables spending more and more money. There didn’t seem to be any winners there, but they all looked happy.
We were finally done but still had to make the long, long trip back to Circus Circus where we went to the $13.99 per person buffet for a well deserved stomach stuffing. As per usual I managed my customary 6 plates, before feeling that my lungs were being crushed by my stomach so had to stop. After that, I felt like someone had been beating me up all day, so we went back upstairs to our room and collapsed for the rest of the night!
On the Saturday we moved from Circus Circus to the Bellagio. Apart from being at the bottom of the strip, Circus Circus was fun to stay in as it didn’t take itself too seriously, and has great amenities (especially Krispy Kreme!). Walking into the Bellagio was like going from a rack of ribs to fillet mignon –there’s nothing wrong with nice and cheap but sometimes you need something a bit more high class and seriously tasty.
Although, I must say, the Bellagio didn’t exactly endear itself to us immediately. When we checked in we were asked to wait and wait and wait some more before we could have our room. But, three hours later we walked in and we weren’t disappointed. It really was stunning. The bathroom was bigger than most motel rooms we’d stayed in, the bed was huge and so comfortable (although not as good as the Maui Coast Hotel bed) and we had electric curtains for goodness sake!
One gripe – every single motel we’ve stayed at has had free Wi-Fi. At the Bellagio, you have to pay $14.99 per 24 hours for the privilege! Cheeky b******s (said Peter Kay style).
After settling in we took a stroll across the boardwalk to Caesar’s Palace Hotel. This place is huge, the biggest on the strip and is incredibly impressive, outside and inside. Every little detail is made to look Roman and it does a great job of creating the right atmosphere for its theme. We took a stroll down through the shops and then, in the distance, Sally spied the Cheesecake Factory. Now, if you’ve never been to the Cheesecake Factory, the next time you are in the States, try and find one! I had never been, so Sally insisted that we have our main meal for the day there and now, which of course, I agreed to! I loves cheesecake, and the chain is famous for offering its customers no fewer than 40 different cheesecake flavours, so I couldn’t lose! I ordered the dinner plate of Chicken and Biscuits. It’s a serving dish size plate with an enormous dollop of mashed potatoes in the middle, 4 chicken fillets leaning up against it, 2 biscuits (delicious savoury scones that come with everything in the US), peas, carrots and mushrooms and then all covered in thick chicken gravy. Sound good to you? 10 minutes later and my plate was empty, licked clean practically, and I had a very happy and satisfied look on my face. I also managed to have a few bites of Sally’s leftovers too. After that, we shared a delicious white chocolate and macadamia cheesecake on a cookie crust and ordered and plain slice to go (for later).
That night we met up with Gail and Andy again for drinks at Planet Hollywood’s Hawaiian Tropic bar, then moved onto one of the bars at the Bellagio for some wine and chats, and finally went to bed at 2am.
The next day we walked up to New York New York to go on their rollercoaster, which costs $14 per person, but was actually quite good. The actual hotel is also very cute. It’s full of small building facades that make you feel like you are walking down a New York street, with American Irish pubs, hot dog stands and even an ESPN Zone restaurant/bar. After New York New York we walked down to the very cheesy and tacky Excalibur hotel. Now this place is amusing! It’s a great attempt of trying to look and feel middle England and in a crazy way it does work. It’s very cheap to stay there and looks like quite the party hotel with wet t-shirt competitions, crazy drink deals and entertainment. From there though you can walk through to the Luxor which is very disappointing inside in comparison to its impressive exterior, and then we walked across to the MGM hotel. In MGM we went to see the famous lions that live in the hotel lobby, who were very inactive and snoring away, and then booked to see David Copperfield for the next evening – David Copperfield is a legend!
That night we walked back down to the Venetian to meet Gail and Andy for a quick pre-birthday drink for Sally and then walked back up to the Bellagio to go see Cirque du Soleil’s ‘O’. I had booked tickets a few weeks prior as another birthday surprise but they don’t perform on Monday’s so we had to go the night before Sally’s birthday. This show is apparently the number 1 show in Vegas and it’s easy to see why. It is all beautifully done with amazing music to accompany the fantastic effects. The show is based in a water tank which is incredible but they also use fire and fantastic acrobatics. I think that this is arguably the most memorable show I have ever seen. If you are in Vegas you have to go!!!
The next day it was Sally’s birthday so we ended up hanging out in our room, watching movies and TV and having lunch and then in the evening we went to Smith and Wollensky’s, a famous steakhouse chain in the US. I was skeptical as it was in huge competition to the Ruth’s Chris we had a few weeks before in LA, but actually it held its own. The steak was perfect, the fries and creamed spinach were great, but it just lacked that special something that Ruth’s Chris has. After dinner we strolled down to Treasure Island to see the free 15 minute show they have 3 times a night outside the hotel but were bitterly disappointed that they have apparently recently changed it from a pirate show to a tragically bad girly show. It was so tacky and crap that we ended up leaving half way through and ended up catching the Mirage’s volcano eruption before heading back up to MGM for the David Copperfield show.
We entered the tiny theatre, were shown to our little table and ordered some drinks. A little while later we were all looking at a TV screen above the stage at a 5 minute montage of various talk shows, TV shows and movie lines that have mentioned David Copperfield. Very self indulgent I must say, but interesting and funny none the less. After that, out popped David Copperfield, from the side of the stage. Not much of an entrance for a magician I thought! But his show was fabulous! He’s very charismatic and charming! He’s looking much older and has had some very obvious hair plugs in recent years, oh dear. He did some amazing tricks like getting a car to appear in mid air, he disappeared and got 12 people from the audience to disappear, made flowers and ties float and dance in mid air and did some crazy number prediction thing with members of the audience. All in all we really enjoyed the evening and it was a perfect way to our time in Vegas.
We were both so sad to be leaving the next day, but vowed to return sometime soon so that we can try out some more of the world class restaurants (there are more Michelin starred restaurants here than anywhere else in the world) and see more shows, plus maybe do some more gambling next time!
Next blog will cover Arizona and California so make sure you don’t miss it!
Bye for now.