I am officially starting a petition to make sure we only refer to Vegas as ‘Fabulous Las Vegas’ from now on (this is not true, but should be). Last month I returned from an entire week in the craziest place in the US, and had the most incredible time imaginable with my dad and sister. Here is my guide to fabulous Las Vegas, illustrated with photos I took on my new toy, the Olympus Pen E-PL8 (which I am head over heels in love with, and hopefully you’ll see why…) Grab a cup of tea, it’s going to be a long one!
Where To Stay In Las Vegas
When choosing where to stay in Vegas, we were hardly stuck for choice as you can imagine! After whittling down our options following hours on TripAdvisor, it came down to two choices – the Luxor and the Paris Hotel. In the end we chose the Paris, largely because of its central position on the Strip and the glowing reviews it had received. It wasn’t the most expensive option, but many noted that on balance the value of the accommodation was excellent given the high quality of the rooms and surroundings.
We arrived and were left instantly speechless by the interior of the hotel and casino. Every shop, cafe and design detail left you feeling like you were in the Disneyland version of actual Paris, which only made our awesome first impressions (courtesy of the helpful and friendly hotel staff) even more spectacular. My sister and I visited Vegas 10 years ago and stayed at the Flamingo hotel, and whilst I would love to try other hotels in Vegas, Paris impressed me so much that I’d definitely consider staying there again.
Other hotels that massively impressed us on our wanders around included the Bellagio, Venetian, New York New York, Caesar’s Palace and the Luxor. I’m happy we decided to stay on the Strip, and centrally so too – it just made getting around easy, and meant we had an awesome base for trips back to the hotel during the day.
What To Do In Las Vegas
Chances are when you think of Las Vegas, you think of the Strip right? This is by far the most famous part of Vegas, where most of the major hotels are and it has good reason to be so renowned. Visiting each hotel is a unique experience in itself – in a single afternoon you can hop from New York to Venice via Paris and Ancient Egypt. Each hotel is fabulously over the top (and at times cheesy), but that’s part of the whole charm and appeal. Our time spent wandering around the hotels, casinos and shopping malls within was always memorable and thoroughly enjoyable. Whilst we’re on the shopping point, there are SO many malls to choose from but a couple of our favourites included the Miracle Mile mall at Planet Hollywood and Fashion Show mall. The latter is one I vividly remembered from our previous trip, and the former has an amazing selection of shops (including Sephora, i.e. my happy place).
You can’t head to Vegas without visiting the Welcome To Las Vegas sign – it’s totally worth the small journey away from the centre of the Strip to see it and get that classic photo. We actually walked to it – just head past the Luxor and Mandalay Bay hotels on the Strip and keep going straight. It’s probably just under a mile from this point, and a pretty pleasant walk in April. If you’re not keen on the full walk, you could get the Deuce bus to Mandalay Bay and wander on from there, or grab a taxi. TIP: don’t bother queuing up for a photo directly in front of the sign. Just stand to the side (don’t worry, you won’t be in the way of anyone else’s photo) and get snapping! We couldn’t understand why everyone was queueing when we got a potentially better angle from the side. Here’s the proof!
We decided to head Downtown to Old Vegas on the bus and we definitely didn’t regret it! Fremont Street in Downtown Vegas has a totally vintage look and feel, and is home to the famous zipwire too. We didn’t actually do the zipwire as it was under the cover of the shopping strip rather than totally outside as I’d pictured, but it looked fun nonetheless! Downtown Vegas is a truly different experience to the Strip and is well worth the 30 minute bus ride (it’s not particularly far away, but the number of bus stops bump up the time). On our way we also visited the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, made famous by the show Pawn Stars (a huge favourite of my dad’s – he loved visiting!) which I’d totally recommend if you’re an avid viewer of the show. On the way back to the Strip we also spied the Little White Chapel and other legendary wedding destinations too, which was awesome!
Vegas is also famous for its shows and exhibits, and there really is something for everyone. From resident performers like Britney and classic shows like Cirque du Soleil to specialist exhibitions, you will never be stuck for something extraordinary to see. A highlight of ours was the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor – it was so moving that I spent most of the walk round holding back tears. If you’re a history enthusiast or fan of the movie you must go along, I won’t say too much more as I don’t want to spoil it but its an incredibly touching experience.
The Grand Canyon: Do or Don’t?
I had to give the Grand Canyon its own section of this post as there is so much to say! Technically it is in Arizona, but many people opt to visit the Grand Canyon on their trip to Vegas. The main reason we chose to visit this part of the world in the first place was because of our dad’s then-upcoming milestone birthday – we asked him where he’d most like to see in the world, and the answer was the Grand Canyon!
Because of the very special occasion, we chose to do the Grand Canyon in an epic fashion (more epic than it already is!) – we booked to fly into the canyon in a helicopter and have a champagne picnic whilst taking it all in. If something’s worth doing it’s worth doing in style, right?! Our booking was with the incredible Sundance Helicopters, and I couldn’t recommend them enough. We were picked up from our hotel in a limousine and taken to the airport, then after a short wait we met our pilot, Tara, who introduced us to the amazing helicopter we’d be flying in.
I don’t want to spoil things too much, but suffice to say it was the trip of a lifetime. If you’d like to see more, take a look at the vlog I filmed just below – it’s an excellent overview of what you can expect on the tour. It took just 30-40 minutes to get to the Grand Canyon, we spend 30 minutes at the location itself, then it was a 30-40 minute flight back. We couldn’t fault Sundance, and the experience itself was simply breathtaking. I’ve never seen something so beautiful in my entire life!
So, should you visit the Grand Canyon? It’s one huge YES from us!
Where To Eat & Drink In Las Vegas
Myself, my dad and my sister all love our food, so naturally our trip to Las Vegas was always going to include hunting down some awesome places to eat! I’m vegetarian so we assumed this would limit our restaurant choices ever so slightly, but in all honesty it didn’t much affect where we chose to eat. Here are some of our top recommendations…
Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar: all three of us are huge Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives fans, so we absolutely had to head to Guy Fieri’s Vegas restaurant. We were NOT disappointed! The meals were delicious – my dad and sister assure me that the meat options were out of this world, and my veggie choice of stuffed mushrooms and perfectly seasoned spicy fries was similarly delightful. The dessert deserves its own blog post, to be honest! We shared the ‘half a cheesecake’ option and OH MY. It was amazing. Be sure to share with at least two other people though, as it is quite literally half a huge cheesecake. You must visit this place on your Vegas trip!
Rainforest Cafe: being based in Manchester, all three of us have been long-time Trafford Centre fans. When the shopping centre first opened, there was a huge Rainforest Cafe which we just adored the look of. We never ended up going as a three, but found the Vegas version on our first night there and the nostalgia was too strong to resist! We didn’t regret our choice as the food was delicious – my dad and Steph shared a huge platter of nibbles whilst I had a gorgeous veggie wrap.
Hard Rock Cafe: we are all mega music people, and the Hard Rock Cafe on the strip is such a feature that we simply had to pop in for dinner one night. We had such an awesome experience that we went back again the next day for brunch! The food was delicious, the staff were super friendly and it was like eating in a music museum. If you can (and there are no private functions taking place) head to the top floor for even more music memorabilia. I won’t ruin any surprises, but if you’re a rock fan you won’t be disappointed.
Jamba Juice: we’d never come across this smoothie chain before on our USA travels, but stopped by the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile branch several times for a lighter breakfast option. The smoothies and juices are divine and give a much needed boost of vitamins amongst the general indulgence of Vegas! I loved the fact that they included less common fruits in their recipes – you must try anything with pomegranate in!
Rock & Reilly’s: located in the middle of the Strip, we stopped off at this bar and eatery a couple of times during our visit. Cold beers in the hot sun is always a winning recipe, and the food was also fabulous too! The staff were lovely and always up for an extra chat, and there was so much to look at inside the bar too – check out the band photography adorning the walls to try and spot your musical favourites.
Food Courts: Las Vegas is expensive, there’s no getting around it. For those afternoons and evenings where we fancied lighter bite (both in portion size and $$$) we headed to the hotel/casino food courts. There are so many different options and we ended up having some super tasty meals!
How To Get Around In Las Vegas
One of the awesome things about Vegas is that (almost) everything is pretty close by! You can walk along the Strip and see most of the sights, but there are some travel tips I picked up for things outside of the immediate Vegas bubble.
Buses: If you fancy heading downtown to ‘Old Vegas’, or don’t fancy the walk to the Vegas Sign, hop on a bus! The bus system is fairly straightforward. The Deuce bus runs 24 hours a day and can get you to most places (double check your stop info on the signs near the bus stops) and the SDX (more of an express service that runs from 9am-midnight) is great for heading downtown.
Taxis: when we arrived at McCarran airport, we grabbed a taxi from outside and the lovely driver took us directly to our hotel. I would recommend this approach after a long flight as waiting around for a shuttle bus with heavy suitcases just isn’t the best way to start your Vegas trip. We asked to go the Swenson route as I believe it’s a bit quicker – the driver gave us lots of handy Vegas tips along the way which were super useful. We also got a taxi back to the airport and again, for our group of three this was definitely the best option.
Thomas Cook: we flew to Las Vegas directly from Manchester with Thomas Cook. Our flights were fantastic – the seats were comfortable, the food was surprisingly delicious and the cabin crew were lovely. We paid the optional entertainment upgrade fee of £5 per person for extra movies and music etc, and would definitely recommend it. We did end up spending a bit on drinks on the flight but when you’re heading off on holiday, you can’t complain too much. All in all, we had a great experience with Thomas Cook and would definitely fly with them to Vegas again!
Phew! That’s about it! If you have any extra questions about Las Vegas, just leave me a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP! The next instalment of the travel section of my blog is coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled…