Well, in the words of the King himself – VIVA LAS VEGAS!
I have never been to such a crazy place – so much so that I’m shocked that they call New York the city that never sleeps, I definitely slept a lot more in New York than I did in Vegas! We didn’t stop for the whole 5 days we were there – watching the Bellagio fountains, riding a gondola inside the Venetian, flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, eating steak while slowly rotating 1000 ft above the strip (yes, really!)….it was 100 hours of insanity but we loved every second! Take a look at our YouTube video above to see just how crazy it was!
I had arranged the trip as a surprise for Alex’s 21st as he had done so brilliantly a few months before for my birthday. I told Alex where we were going (with a bit of help from Elvis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ghqbZLdHKA) on his birthday which gave us a couple of days to pack and get ourselves sorted before we flew out. After a lovely flight with Virgin Atlantic in their Premium Economy we arrived at 3pm local time. It was a warm 20c and we lapped it up as we stepped outside (I’d forgotten what it felt like to be warm after such a loooong English winter)! We took an airport cab to our hotel which was easy enough to get. Due to the Saturday afternoon traffic (traffic is horrendous in Vegas from Thursday – Monday due to Americans coming into the city for the weekend to party), our cab ride wasn’t that cheap at around $40 but we didn’t care – we were in Vegas baby! Walking into the Bellagio lobby for the first time was quite mesmerising – there were people everywhere taking photos, exciting noises emerging from the casino and the longest queue I’ve ever seen for check in. We wheeled our cases to the back of the queue but we soon realised that it wouldn’t take very long as they had around 20 desks open – not surprising I suppose for a hotel that has over 3000 rooms!
We had a fantastic room overlooking the fountains and the biggest, most comfortable bed!
After dumping our cases and freshening up from the 11 hour flight we headed downstairs and had our first little gamble in the casino – it didn’t go too well but it didn’t phase us – still plenty of time left in Vegas for a big win! 😉
Suddenly realising that we were starving we headed into the Cafe Bellagio for our first burger and chips of the holiday – the portion size was huge and when the bill arrived we held our breaths, expecting the price to be extortionate but were pleasantly surprised at $40 for a huge meal.
The Cafe Bellagio overlooks the famous Conservatory that features seasonal decorations. While we were there it was decorated to honour the Chinese New Year. It was stunning and on the last couple of days of our stay they were in the process of changing it for the Spring season. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to see the new display as it takes a good few days to re-do but they have pictures in the lobby showing the new design and it looked to be equally as impressive.
We then took our first wander up the strip and as it began to get dark the lights came on, creating a similar effect to what we saw at Times Square in New York. Neon lights surrounded us and people in costumes ranging from Iron Man to Minnie Mouse to racy burlesque dancers lined the strip busking and performing for tips. We took a stroll down to the MGM to visit the lion enclosure that we had read about, stopping off at a few other places along the way. Sadly we found that the lions had been removed in 2013 but we stayed in the casino for over an hour gambling on the roulette wheel and hundreds of other games on offer.
The sound of the casinos in Vegas is completely unique and paired with the lights and colours of the various machines it was the ultimate big kids playground. Needless to say, we lost all our winnings once again but we had a lot of fun. We staggered back to the hotel and didn’t wake up until 6am the next morning. We watched the sunrise over the strip and got ready for breakfast at Denny’s which we’d spied near the MGM the night before. Denny’s didn’t disappoint with huge sandwiches filled to the brim with bacon, egg, ham and cheese and a generous helping of breakfast potatoes on the side. 😍😍
Alex had mainly got money for his birthday so we went in search of the two major designer label outlets in Vegas for him to go mad in Lacoste. We visited both the South and North outlets and the North was definitely better – there were more shops and bigger brands. To get to both we jumped on an RTC/Deuce bus. These buses are really handy as they stop at all the main points on the strip and take you a bit further out to sights such as the Welcome to Las Vegas sign (south of the strip) and the Freemont Street Experience (north of the strip). Tickets are really reasonably priced – $8pp for 24 hours or $20 pp for 3 day pass. Be warned though – you MUST buy your tickets before you board from machines at the bus stops – police jump on at certain stops to check tickets! (See here for more info and bus timetables – http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/las-vegas-deuce.php). We used the bus quite a bit if we wanted to get from one end of the strip to the other quickly as it would take a good 45 mins at moderate speed to walk the full length of it (2.5 miles!). We were officially shopped out by the early afternoon and so stopped off in the Hard Rock Cafe for some nachos. It turned out to be happy hour which was a bonus – cocktails and beers all round!
We walked back to the hotel slightly tipsy which felt a bit odd but is the complete norm in Vegas – (I’m not sure I spoke to 1 fully-sober person on the entirety of our trip!). After a little afternoon snooze we got ready for a show we had booked at the Rio hotel – Penn and Teller. Upon leaving the Bellagio, the Rio doesn’t look far away at all – maybe a 10 min walk max. The reality is very different. We left with a good hour to spare before the show started and after a very dodgy walk along the busy Las Vegas freeway, arrived at the hotel with 10 mins to spare! We navigated the complicated casino layout (standard in any Las Vegas hotel, designed to confuse you so much that you just give up trying to get to where you need to go and sit down at one of the fruit machines) and rushed to our seats. We’d heard that the theatres in the casino are tiny and everyone is crammed in with cramped seats and legroom – we had a completely different experience with really spacious seats and lots of space in front. We were sat just a few rows from the front meaning we got a really close up view of the magic and it was a brilliant show but I won’t give anything away. Penn and Teller do a meet and greet in the lobby afterwards but it was rammed and so we decided to skip ahead and play a few machines in the casino. We left in the early hours of the morning and headed back to the hotel (this time in a cab!).
We woke the next morning at 5:30am with only a few hours sleep – ouch! – for our helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon that Alex’s parents had arranged as a present for his 21st. We were picked up outside the hotel in a cool 4×4 and driven to McCarran airport to the Maverick Helicopters hanger where we paid the extra fuel costs and were weighed (much to our dismay after the 100,000+ calories we had probably consumed in the past few days) to decide which helicopter we would be getting in with which people. I dosed myself up with motion sickness drugs and we were called forward to have a safety briefing with our pilot Hawley. We boarded the helicopter and got to ride in the front seat which was really exciting! We got some cool videos on the GoPro of our helicopter flight and I even got some selfies with the pilot! 👍🏻
After a 40 min helicopter ride, we landed in the canyon for around 30 mins and were served Buck’s Fizz and a little picnic. It was the most amazing experience and we spent some time getting to know our pilot a little better who was really lovely and knowledgable about the canyon and Las Vegas. I would definitely recommend taking a tour with Maverick helicopters (http://www.maverickhelicopter.com), we had the best time and we will always remember it. Check out our YouTube video below to watch us in action:
We were dropped back on the strip and went to get breakfast but sadly Denny’s was really busy so we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe 😋.. After eating our body weight in breakfast waffles and having a little nap after the early start, we decided to head to the South side of the strip to check out the hotels at this end.
Handily, we found a number of free monorail services between the hotels. We took one from the Bellagio to the Monte Carlo and jumped off to visit the New York New York hotel. It was here that we first found the fruit machine that gave us the most luck in Vegas – The Lucky Tree! All together we won about $300 on this game so we made sure to play it whenever we saw it in other casinos! We headed into the New York New York and felt like we were extras walking round a film set in Manhattan – from little bistros to old launderette shops, the design was brilliant.
We decided to ride the Big Apple rollercoaster while we were there which takes you to the height of the hotel at it’s tallest point and some of the ride even goes through the hotel! It’s priced at $14pp for a single ride or $25pp for an ‘All Day Scream Pass’ which didn’t sound very appealing so we stuck with the one ride which was more than enough for a thrill! I didn’t expect it to be as scary as it was and we both left the ride slightly green from being thrown around all over the place! We soon sorted this out though with a Shake Shack burger, crinkly fries and mango lemonades 🍔 🍋
We then walked through a number of other hotels including the Mandalay Bay which houses a huge aquarium ($22pp for admission), the Excalibur which has a medieval fairytale theme and finally the Luxor, also known as the Pyramid hotel. The entrance to the Luxor and lobby area was really impressive with a huge Sphinx guarding the entrance and the Sky Beam, a small opening in the top of the pyramid that lets in the only natural light in the hotel.
Every day we watched the Bellagio fountains that dance to hundreds of different songs ranging from Uptown Funk to Elvis to famous classical music. Every display we saw was brilliant and we watched most of them from our hotel room but did venture out to the front of the hotel to see them a few times.
On our penultimate day in Sin City (sob!) we got up and wandered over to Serendipity at Ceasars Palace.(https://www.caesars.com/caesars-palace/restaurants/serendipity-3#.Vv0-EBIrLJw). I had heard good things about this cafe and it did not disappoint! Don’t let the cutesy bubblegum pink interior fool you – the food here is pretty epic with huge portions and delicious milkshakes!
We then wandered through Ceasars Palace, browsing the Roman Forum shops and taking in the various fountains and statues inside the hotel.
One of my favourite hotels in Vegas was The Mirage. The waterfalls and palm trees gave it a tropical vibe and it was here that we visited Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat. It was $22pp for entry and you could come in and out as much as you wanted all day. Here they have dolphin shows every half an hour and opportunities to swim/play with them. We grabbed a drink from the cafe surrounding the dolphin lagoon and watched the shows and members of the public who had paid to swim with them. Here they also have a sanctuary for White Tigers, White Lions and Leopards.
We then swung by Margarittaville but sadly, didn’t stop for a Margatitta and instead headed back to the hotel to lounge around the impressive pool. It was the hottest day we had experienced so far and at 26c was perfect to dip in and out of the pool with a few pina coladas. This was the only place in Vegas that I got ID’d which is a real achievement for me considering I am asked for it almost daily in the UK!
After a few hours of enjoying the sun we went back to our room and got ready to venture out for dinner at the Top of the World restaurant at the Stratosphere (http://www.topoftheworldlv.com). We jumped back on the Deuce/RTC bus that dropped us right outside after around a 10 minute ride and we craned our necks to see the structure that stands at over 1000ft tall! After a few security checks we headed straight up to the restaurant which is at the very top of the hotel. The restaurant rotates slowly and so you are able to get a 360 view of Vegas without leaving your table. It was a great experience but a bit of a strange one. The waitress took us to our seats and explained that we would need to remember our table numbers if we needed to get up to use the toilet because our table wouldn’t be in the same place when we came back! There were also signs at specific points on the glass that told us to wave to bungee jumpers that were throwing themselves off the Stratosphere a few floors above us! The food was really good and although quite expensive, it was a great night and the view was pretty amazing. A photographer also mingles among the tables taking beautiful photos that she will bring to you at the end of the evening in case you wanted to buy them. They’re not cheap but come in a leather photo album which is inscribed with ‘The Top of the World at the Stratosphere’ and the date of your visit. We bought ours and think it’s a great souvenir to remember our night there.