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      26.01.2014 20:17
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      Amazing.

      I have been lucky enough to go to Las Vegas three times in the past two years.
      All three times have been very different but very enjoyable!


      - Where is Las Vegas -

      Las Vegas is in the state of Nevada in the United States of America.
      It's about a 10 hour flight from London, UK with an 8 hour time difference (behind).

      Las Vegas is in a good location if you are wanting to travel to other places around the West coast.
      You can drive to Los Angeles, California it's pretty much a straight road if you're up for 4 hours of driving. Or you can hop on a plane for just under an hour.

      The Grand Canyon in Arizona is also a 4 hour drive or you can get on a small plane for 45 minutes.

      Otherwise the airport offers many flights around America.

      - The Airport -

      The main airport for Las Vegas is McClaren International Airport. It's actually located at the end of the Vegas strip! If you were staying at Mandalay Bay you could probably walk, but due to busy roads and no sidewalks it's safer to get a cab!
      The airport is pretty average for an airport, except the gambling machines!
      It was very clean and actually very quiet.
      Only once we had an issue at Immigration we waited well over an hour in a queue to get through. They were being quite slow and I think two large planes came in at the same time so double the amount of people.
      Otherwise no other issues with the airport.

      Getting to your hotel from the airport is really easy. There is a shuttle, however I have read very mixed reviews on this and although cheap at $6-7 per person one way I'm not sure I'd opt for this use of transportation from other reviews I have read.
      To get a cab follow the clearly laid out signs to the rank. There tends to be a daunting looking queue of people, this does go down very quickly! I think the longest I've had to wait is 10 minutes.
      Before you get in the cab ask for the NO tunnel route. Cab drivers can be cheeky and just drive the long, expensive route, some do ask which route you want to take- just say no tunnel.
      If you go no tunnel it should be about $20 depending where your hotel is. The further up the strip you are so towards the Wynn, Treasure Island you'd pay more.
      I believe I paid $22 for a central hotel (Bellagio, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Ballys, Aria) and we did get stuck in a little bit of traffic.
      I got caught out the first time I went to Vegas and the driver just drove and it ended up costing over $30! That was about a 25 minute journey where as the no tunnel was 15 minutes if that.
      Remember you will need to add on a tip for the driver.

      - Weather and busy times -

      Late November, December, January and February the temperatures tend to be lows of 4C and highs of 16C. From March onwards the temperatures quickly rise and in July you can get highs of 41C. August onwards the temperatures begin to slowly drop down.
      Busy times tend to be the Summer months, I was speaking to a lady who worked in a hotel and she said in Summer it was just crazy busy.
      Before you go I would recommend checking for American holidays or conventions as these can make Las Vegas busy.
      I went in late March and it was Spring Break in America so it was very busy.
      In October we got there on a weekend, it was the Rodeo convention and so the first two days of our trip was pretty busy but by Monday it was really quiet which was nice.

      Everytime I have been to Vegas (Beginning of September, Late March and Late October) we haven't had any rain and most days were blue skys, sun and either no clouds or a few.
      In March we had one overcast day which was overcast all day, otherwise it has been beautiful weather.
      In October we found that the mornings would start off a little overcast and chilly but by 10am it would be completely clear. I was walking around in dresses without tights or a jacket. I think we were lucky and temps were about 23-26C. We managed to spend a few hours by the pool one day it was so hot. By the evenings in October you'd just need a light weight jacket or cardie.
      September was just hot all the time, March was very much the same as October but clearer in the mornings.

      - Where to stay? -

      Picking a hotel is hard. There are so many all with their own uniqueness. You honestly have never seen a hotel like these until you've visited Vegas, they are massive!
      I'd recommend staying in a hotel on the strip as everything is pretty much on the strip so getting places is very easy.
      Hotels range from 5* and under.
      5* hotels are: Bellagio, Wynn, Encore, Venetian, Aria, Cosmopolitan, Vdara, Trump, Palazzo and a few more which are off the strip.

      4*: Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Paris, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York New York, Treasure Island & again more off strip.

      3*: The Stratosphere, Flamingo, The Quad, Excalibar, Ballys, Luxor, Harrahs, Circus Circus & more off strip.

      2 & 1*: These are pretty much all off strip.

      The 5 star hotels are quite expensive to stay in, but when you walk in them you will understand why!
      4 Star and 3 stars tend to be quite reasonable prices. You can get good deals if you book through the hotels website, as they often do Free Cancellation and sometimes you can book a hotel room with a no resort fee.
      I have stayed at Ballys a few times as it is very cheap with rooms ranging from $40 a night - $300 a night. Over weekends room prices go up and when conventions are on which you can clearly see when booking through the hotel website.
      Otherwise Expedia's prices are reasonable.
      The times I have been it has worked out a lot cheaper booking the hotel and flights separate.
      Believe it or not you can make a trip to Las Vegas cheap! Our last trip we booked our flight in the sale through their website and our hotel well in advance and it was very good value for money.
      When picking a hotel, I would Trip Advise them and see which one you prefer.
      I also go for a hotel in the middle of the strip just because it's then very easy to get everywhere.
      No matter which hotel you stay at, you end up going to them all as they all have something different to offer.
      New York New York is all about New York, The Venetian is like your in Italy and Treasure Island is pirate themed.
      Some hotels join together, so we stayed in Ballys but we were able to use the Paris pool as the Ballys pool was closed for the season. (This was October)

      If money wasn't an issue I'd pick the Wynn and Bellagio to stay at without a doubt. However when you have a budget the cheaper hotels are just as good if you think about the amount of time you actually spend in them!
      I don't have a single complaint about the cheaper hotels I've been in. But do Trip Advise before you book a hotel.

      - What to do in Las Vegas? -

      Well, Vegas is all about gambling? I probably spent the least of my time doing this.
      Nearly all the hotels have a casino varying in size from small to massive.
      Obvisouly when in Vegas you're going to have a little gamble, I loved the Amazon fishing machine, I recommend that one you can find it in almost all the hotels. When gambling you can get free alcoholic drinks, a waitress will come up order your drink and then just tip them $1 when they bring it back.
      Once you have visited the vast amount of gambling machines and had the excitement of a win big or small, all mine were small then there is plenty of other things to see and do.

      One of my favourite things I did was going to see LOVE the Beatles show in the Mirage.
      Even if you don't like the Beatles this show was incredible, it's a Cirque Du Soleil show. So there are many forms of acrobatics which I just cannot put into words- it's a must see.
      It's a story and they use Beatles songs through out, I can't tell you what the story is, because I didn't really understand it but it was just incredible. I highly reccomened it! I came out of the show and wanted to go back in for the next showing it was that good.
      We purchased our tickets through the Beatles LOVE show website and luckily they had 25% off ticket prices. You can also purchase tickets from the Mirage Beatles desk and ticket booths on the strip which offers discount tickets for shows so it's worth checking that out.
      For a ticket you're looking at about $80+ full price for a regular seat. But it's worth price hunting first for any show as you can nearly always get a discount.

      There are many shows on in Vegas all in different hotels on the strip- Current shows are: Blue Man Group, there are loads of Cirque Du Soleil shows such as Michael Jackson, O, LOVE and many more, Jersey Boys, Legends in concert, Pawn shop live, Shania Twain, David Copperfield, Donny & Marie Osmond, Rock Of Ages- Also highly reccomened, and many more ranging from comedy, sporting events, musicals, strippers there is something for everyone.
      It's also good to look out for concerts! I know One Direction played there last year.

      If you're looking for some thrills then the New York New York has a rollercoaster on the outside of the hotel, for a rollercoaster this is expensive at $14 pp, and looking at it it looks painful!
      Circus Circus also has an adventure dome with rides for little ones and more thrill seekers. You're looking at about $30 for an adult for an all day pass. You can also just pay for the rides as you go, but I think it works out better to get a day pass.
      The Stratosphere has what I'd say is the best ride ever! The Big Shot. Shooting up in the air from the tallest point in Nevada- why not!? The stratosphere is also a really good observation deck and has wonderful views of the strip and around the desert.
      You can purchase just a ticket to use the observation deck which has an inside bit and outside bit for $18. Or you can purchase the observation deck as well as the rides. They have three rides which are all scary and they vary in price. But again with this it's worth looking about for offers, if you get a free guide to Las Vegas found in your hotel reception or lobby you will find discount vouchers for the stratosphere.

      Another good observation point is the half scale Eiffel Tower. You can get good views of the Bellagio fountains from here. This is $12 approx in the day and more at night.
      You can also book a table to eat in the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

      The Mirage have a secret garden. I really enjoyed it here, you can get really close to the Dolphins and what I liked is that they aren't exactly trained to do shows. You watch them do there natural things and when they have a 'show' it's basically the dolphin people checking them over, weighing them, checking teeth, giving vitamins etc.
      If you stand in the right place you might get to touch one.
      They also have lions, tigers and cheetahs here. It's not a massive place but good to spend a few hours. I believe this was about $15.

      They have a kiss crazy golf which is off the strip but still in walking distance.
      It was probably a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel. Really good value for money and fun, it is Kiss (the band) themed and in the dark with everything glowing. It's about $12.

      Little White Chapels, Vegas have alot of these! Just off the strip near the Kiss crazy golf is the one where Britney got married.
      On the bus to Downtown Vegas you will see alot of them too.

      Free things to do involve the Volcano show at the Mirage (you will need to check show times for this) I believe it goes off from 7pm - 11pm on the hour.
      The Bellagio fountains they go off often and they are beautiful! Worth watching in the day and night as they change.
      There used to be a pirate show at the Treasure Island but this has recently stopped which is a shame as it was very good.
      There are also free slot machines about. If you find out have a go I won a $50 voucher which sounds great but you can't keep the $50 you either win the jackpot or loose it all, but it's good fun.
      If you go to Downtown Las Vegas the laser light show on the roof is amazing.
      The Las Vegas sign! This is by Mandalay Bay / the airport. We went quite early in the morning and there was nobody about so we got some great photos.
      We walked from the sign up the strip wandering into the different hotels as we went, which was quite good really. Except by the end of the day I ended up with blisters everywhere!

      Shopping is good in Las Vegas. There is Fashion Show Mall at the end of the strip by the Wynn. It's quite a trek from the central strip but it's ok.
      The Mall has many shops such as Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macys, Nordstrom, Forever 21, Aldo, Apple, Pandora and loads more. We visited here a few times and everytime we managed to get lost. But it's very clean and nice. They also have a good food court.

      Forum shops in Caesars Palace is also good. They have a big H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, (The staff are nicer in this Abercrombie), Tiffanys, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Marc Jacobs- Oh how I would love to shop in these places and many more.
      Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile has a lot more affordable shops.
      There is also Crystals next to Aria- Let's say I didn't visit any shop in here as they were all too expensive.

      You can also go out to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets north or south of the strip. I believe you can get the deuce here (a bus) it has discounted shops such as Ralph Lauren, American Apparel, Converse, DKNY, Gap, Gymboree and loads more.
      Pretty much every hotel has shops in though so you can shop til you drop!

      Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam. The Grand Canyon tour is worth every penny.
      I've done this twice once as a bus tour and once by plane.
      The bus tour is cheaper and costs from $80 depending what part of the Canyon you go too. You just have to be prepared for a long drive it's about 8 hours there and back with a stop as you get into Arizona.
      By plane you go in a tiny little bean can which has propellers. Lucky me got to sit next to them.
      This is the quickest way to go it takes 45 minutes by plane however it is more expensive at around $160. I'm a good flyer and I did get a little nervous on this but all was fine.
      You get amazing views from the plane and then you land and a bus will take you to a few different places where you can get on and off as you please. You just have to make sure your back at the airport on time for your flight back to Vegas.
      You can also opt for a Helicopter trip over the Canyon.
      Again it's worth looking about for different prices and offers either before you go or when you get to Vegas.

      You can do Helicopter tours over the strip day or night. I haven't done this but it's obviously popular due to the amount of helicopters you see. Prices for this are about $95.

      There is also Golf and spas to explore.

      Downtown Las Vegas have a few other hotels like the Golden Nugget and 4 Queens. You probably couldn't spend a whole day here and it's best to go in the evening to see the laser-light show and everything lit up.
      Soon they are opening a zip wire here which looks like a lot of fun! It's currently still in the building process but will be finished this year.



      - Nightlife-

      Nightlife is a big part of Vegas and they have many clubs.
      The newest club is Hakkasan in the MGM. In Vegas you might, no you will especially if you are female get stopped by club promoters. To be honest they do have some good deals on club crawls.
      We got stopped so many times, it's best to keep your head down and ignore or just say no thank you. But they do go on!
      Check out the clubs before you go as some clubs have different music themes. Tao at the Venetian is Hip hop and Rock. Woman $30 admission and men $100 and many clubs you will have a dress code.
      In most clubs you will find woman can get in free or very cheap compared to men who have to pay!
      Hyde is pretty good in the Bellagio. It has a range of music and I think it's $20 for everyone. However we got stopped by the promoter who put us on the guest list for free entry.
      A lot of famous people have been known to club in Vegas and it's good to Trip Advise or look up clubs to see which suits you best.

      - Food -

      First off buffets! Las Vegas hotels have some incredible buffets.
      My favourite has to be the Bellagio. We went here for breakfast which runs from 7am-11am for $18.99 pp. (I will go on later on how to get this for free)
      We rocked up at 10.55 and paid breakfast prices, we managed to get some breakfast in while they were starting to turn the buffet into lunch.
      Lunch is $22.99. So I had some fruit and a fry up and then went onto have more lunch based food. This turned out to be a very good time to go as we got a lot more for our money!
      The food here is amazing, the quality of it and the range of different food was really good.

      We also went to the Aria buffet which costs a little less but wasn't anywhere near as good as the Bellagio. It had lovely food, but not as much choice.

      Le Village is a very good buffet too in the Paris Hotel.
      Like all things in Vegas it's good to do your research and decide what buffet you want to go to and to see if there are coupons for them.

      Otherwise all the hotels have a food court. For cheap food we went to Nathan's in Ballys or Luxor for breakfast as it was really cheap and would fill us up until dinner time.
      You can also get coupons for Nathan's in the guide to Las Vegas booklet.
      Johnny Rockets is good value which you can find in the Ballys food court or in Fashion Show Mall.
      There are Gordon Ramsey restaurants and just so many you are spoilt for choice when it comes to food. Prices range a lot but I think most places are reasonable, unless you choose an expensive one and food portions are big!
      In our hotel we had a folder all about Las Vegas and it had all the restaurants in with how much they cost.
      My favourite place is the Cheesecake factory in Caesars.


      - Vegas for FREE! -

      If you have facebook you should play MyVegas before you go.
      It's simply a facebook game in which you earn coins, once you have enough coins you can redeem them for buffet vouchers, room upgrades, free show tickets, rollercoaster tickets etc.
      We got free Bellagio buffet vouchers and Aria buffet vouchers. And free rollercoaster tickets.
      When you want to redeem them just follow the instructions on the game and when you get to Vegas you need to find the Mlife desk which is where you get the vouchers.
      So for the Bellagio before our buffet we went to the Mlife desk and gave them the email and we got our free vouchers.
      You want to start playing a good few months before you plan to go so you can get enough coins. But it's really easy to do and worth it!

      Also you can sign up for a total rewards card. I signed up at the desk in our hotel, you get a card and when you gamble you put it into the machine to collect point type things.
      The more you gamble the better rewards you will get.
      Once you have signed up you get to spin a wheel in some hotels I only won a T-Shirt but there was the chance to win show tickets, $50, $100 etc. Always worth a go.

      Groupon have food deals for Johnny Rockets we got a half off voucher. So it's good to browse what offers they have too!

      - Getting About -

      Most things are easy to walk too, you just have to be prepared for a lot of walking!
      Otherwise you can get the deuce (bus) I believe we paid $5ish to get to and from Downtown Las Vegas.
      There is also a monorail. There are stations in certain hotels but this was really useful. You can get a pass for a single ride for $5 to a 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 day pass. We had a 2 day pass for $22 we used the monorail to get to and from the Stratosphere and the LVH where we watched a show as these are really far to walk too.
      Hotels which have the monorail stop have a sign outside and a list of hotels where it stops at. You can buy tickets in the monorail station or online.


      - Other Info -

      They are currently doing a lot of building work in Vegas. They are building more shops around the New York New York hotel and Treasure Island.
      They have a big observation wheel exactly like the London Eye which they have almost finished building and they have a new hotel and more shops. This I believe opens fairly soon and this is in the central strip called Imperial Palace.

      - Would I go again? -

      Yes!! I think I'd wait until all the new building work is finished but so far I've enjoyed every trip whether it's been a quick stop over or an actual holiday.
      I would stay in a different hotel next time just purely to experience a different one. But it is so much fun even if you're not there for the gambling or nightlife.
      You could take small children but there isn't very much for them to do. I did find there were alot of families in Vegas but by evening I just don't see it as a very child friendly place.

      The one thing that I hate is the amount of people trying to give you cards for strippers etc. I'm really not interested in that and it really annoys me that for every 100 yards you walk someone is trying to hand you something. Despite this I love Las Vegas!

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        31.10.2013 10:39

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        What will your Vegas be like?

        Strippers, gambling, waking up with a tiger in your hotel room, that's what Vegas is about right? Well, not at all, actually. I mean, yes the first two are in heavy supply, but there's much more to Las Vegas than the movies lead us to believe...

        You see, one of the best things about Las Vegas is that that it's not as "in your face" as you'd expect. Anything is possible, everything is available - but it's not thrust in your face. As you make your way up or down the strip, you'll notice that everyone is having their own unique Vegas experience. For every group of college kids in togas, there's a family of four. For every Bentley Continental, there's a tandem bicycle. It seems as if everyone is in their own little world, their own Vegas bubble, and everyone gets on ever so well.

        Hotels:

        Whichever you choose, you won't be dissappointed. Vegas hotels (well, the main ones anyway) aren't just a lobby and a bar, oh no. Vegas hotels are sprawling worlds, filled with unimaginable and wonderous things. These hotels are open to anyone, just wander in to see what's in store for you. One hotel may have a shopping mall, another may have a theatre hosting famous musicals, and another could well have tigers on show.

        Sights:

        It would probably be easier to make a list of things you can't see in Vegas. On the strip, you'll find any number of things to amaze. Whether its the Belaggio fountains, the Mirage Volcano or white-knuckle rollercoasters, there's something for everyone. If you want to see the strip at night by helicopter, you can. If you'd like to ride that helicopter out to the Grand Canyon, you can. Take a stroll out to the end of the strip and get your photo taken by the Welcome To Las Vegas sign, chance are you won't need to be prompted to smile.

        If you're looking for a wild weekend, Vegas has you covered. If you're looking for a family holiday, it's all there. If you're after a relaxing, tranquil getaway, then it's all there for you. As soon as you step off that plane, Vegas leaves you wanting for nothing.


        *Personal reccomendations*

        *Stay at: The Venetian Hotel. Amazing place to stay, great rooms, wonderfull restaurants and Gondola rides.

        *Eat at: The steakhouse at the top of the Rio. Great food with a view of the strip.

        *Drink at: The Wynn hotel. Cocktails by a lit waterfall, magical.

        *See: The Belaggio fountains. Run at set times and completely free.

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        21.03.2013 22:54
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        The original 'city that never sleeps'!

        Las Vegas - Party capital of the whole world.
        Fact!

        For our honeymoon in 2011 we did a little hop around the USA. Shopping in New York, relaxing in L.A. and partying in Vegas!
        No regrets!

        We actually drove up from LA; a 300 mile blast through California - across the Mojave and over the border into Nevada.
        The moment you cross the state-line, the signs for casino's start. A few miles beyond that border the Mojave Freeway merges with the Las Vegas Boulevard and you're well on your way!
        Several miles out , the enormous structures of 'The Strip' loom into view and Las Vegas has you in its grip! In fact, arrive at night and the City fairly glows from 50 miles away!

        On the drive in, our first ride down the strip, our eyes were popping out of our heads at the scale of everything! A true half scale model of the Eiffel Tower, the grandeur of the Bellagio and Caesars Palace, a Medieval Castle and the gigantic Stratosphere - an 1150 foot observation tower and casino - all caught our immediate attention, and there are a hundred other attention grabbers in every direction!

        Hotels
        --------------
        We stayed at the Luxor, so I'll just focus on that as accommodation. There are something like 150 different hotels in the city though, with prices as low as $20 a night up to thousands of dollars for a private suite.
        It's one of the older casinos on the strip, opened in 1993. While it has had several refurbishments over the years, we found it a little grotty. In our room the sheets were hard and scratchy, the whole place smelled of damp and the wallpaper was peeling - not the glitz and glamour I'd expected.
        Room service and TV services were good, and our room was on a low floor so amenities were very easy to get to. The maids were top notch - the whole room was freshened daily and everything topped up, but the sheets didn't get any softer...
        It's an interesting place though. Because of the pyramid shape, the floors all stagger inwards up to the roof. It means whichever floor you're on, the balcony below you is a few feet IN rather than protruding OUT and can be quite dizzying the higher you get! It also means a view directly down into the casino itself.
        The lifts are on a pulley system and slide up and down diagonal shafts rather than straight up and down - a very odd feeling and not one I was overly comfortable with!
        There is also a light in the tip of the pyramid shining into space. It's the strongest beam of light in the world at a rating of 42 billion candela.
        It's currently owned by the MGM group, who own a dozen other casinos on the Las Vegas Strip!



        The Casinos!
        ------------------
        Let's face it, while there is plenty going on this is THE reason Vegas has become such a tourist trap.
        Thousands of people flock there every week with wallets bulging with money expecting to lose it, and rarely are they disappointed!
        Most are amateur gamblers and thrillseekers, some are serious gamers with an eye to beating the casino with Blackjack systems and an eye for Roulette patterns, and others still are professional card sharps looking to take advantage of the soft opponents with money to burn, or hit the big money tables with stakes seldom seen elsewhere.
        One thing they all have in common, they are drawn by the idea of being the next big winner.

        Most casinos are 80% slot machines (or higher) with a staggering 200,000 machines across the city with payouts from a few dollars on the penny-slots to many millions of dollars on the accumulator games! The highest win to date was a monster $39,710,826 (wasn't me sadly). The rest of the floor space is taken up by table games - games of chance - mainly Blackjack (21/pontoon), Roulette and Craps, a dice game. There are also various 'wheel of fortune' games to be found.
        Most casinos now also host a poker room.
        Despite the fact that they make very little money from the games (they take an hourly charge or a small entrance fee as the money is passed around the table between players rather than bet against 'the house') the casinos must house these rooms to draw players in. Poker is one of the biggest growing games/sports in the world, and with the enormous online community now there are millions of players looking to make their name in Vegas. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is still held there every year and attracts the biggest names around, from pro players to celebrities to...anyone who can afford the $10,000 main event buy-in.

        Each casino has something unique to draw the punters in to spend their cash. Some have games not found elsewhere, some allow higher stakes to be wagered (ever bet a million bucks on a spin of a wheel?), some have loyalty schemes to encourage players to stick to one casino (or chain - MGM own half a dozen separate venues) and some have better 'comps' (the freebies offered for gambling there).
        The big draw, however, are the shows!

        Take in a show;
        Ever since the Sands casino poached Frank Sinatra from a rival casino (with a suitcase containing a million dollars in $100 bills!) over 70 years ago, Casinos have fought over who has the best attraction.
        These days you'll find megastar musicians, bill-topping magicians, Broadway Musicals and a selection of the worlds finest comedians gracing huge state of the art auditoriums each paid silly money just for being there!
        Why?
        Every guest of the show must walk right through the casino to make it to the theatre - and you can bet that they'll have a bet! A packed house means hundreds of thousands of dollars wagered.
        On offer when I was there was 'Wicked', 'The Blue Man Group', 'Elton John' and 'Chris Angel' - at the time some of the biggest shows on the planet, all within a square mile of each other! Nowhere on earth will you find so many megastars in such close proximity, and it's therefore probably one of the best places in the world for live entertainment.


        A day away from the tables?
        -------------------------------------------
        Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, gambling can get a bit much when you're surrounded by it 24 hours a day.
        Luckily, Vegas offers countless other distractions for when you need to unwind, see the sights (and save some money!)
        Day trips are a good way to take a break. We took a coach trip to the Grand Canyon, which is a good 5 hour drive South East into Arizona but great for a complete break from the flashing lights! It's a full day out but an absolute must since you're almost there anyway. Helicopter tours are available too if you're not scared of heights like me!

        In the local area there are a couple of huge shopping malls with stores ranging from cheapish local shops and chain stores to luxury boutiques (I spent a good half an hour with my nose pressed against the Cartier shop window!). As a watch lover I was in my element since you can't turn around without seeing a Rolex dealership or even some of the prestigious higher end brands rarely seen outside of 5th Avenue in New York! The staff are all very pleasant as well, regardless of appearance. I suppose in a place like that they can never risk losing a potential sale from a new millionaire!

        The cinema was a good afternoon out. There are a couple of huge multiplex theatres on the Strip and usually fairly quiet.

        Given that it's America, and more specifically the South, guns are plentiful. Perhaps not the most civilised day out, but there are a couple of shooting ranges where for various sums of money you can experience firing some incredible pieces of kit! My wife wasn't keen, but I'd have loved to shoot a machine gun in a nice controlled environment. Maybe just a boys thing...

        Another I missed out on and promised myself I'd see next time was the shoezeum - a museum dedicated to trainers! Every pair of Nike Jordans every produced, along with priceless one-offs, movie and TV related footwear and celebrity endorsed fashion abound, with 2500 pairs of sneakers on show with a combined value way in excess of $1million. Might just be a bloke thing again!

        My very favourite none-gambling place is another blokey one - "Insert Coins" is a bar/arcade with hundreds of vintage arcade machines lining the walls as well as individual screens at tables and huge screens above the bar with a selection of the latest console games available to play!

        And again, for anyone looking for a break from the strip there are a couple of car rental companies where you can hire anything from a quad-bike to a chauffeur driven limousine to hit the road and get away for a few hours!

        Food;
        --------------
        I have been to a few places now, and I can tell you categorically that there is nowhere better for a good feed than America. And then to narrow that down further, I'd have to say that Vegas is the food capital of the USA!
        Each hotel/casino has its own buffet, enormous halls with huge variety of cuisine prepared by some of the best chefs around. Prices from $10-$20 buys you a seat at the table and as much food as you can manage! Some of the places are pretty standard fare, but the more expensive ones have steak, lobster and smoked salmon on the menu along with free drinks (none alcoholic). It's another draw to pull people through the casino and past the banks and banks of slot machines - no matter if they don't make much on the food, as long as they rake it in on the gaming machines!
        We asked a rather rotund cab driver for the best place to hit (they always know! That tip's a freebie) and were pointed towards the Wynn casino for Sunday Brunch. The queue was enormous - we waited an hour to be seated - and it was well worth the wait! The food was some of the best I've ever had and cooked to perfection. How they hold the standards so high when mass-catering I have no idea, but it was incredible.

        Of course as well as the buffets there are hundreds of stand-alone restaurants, not many of them cheap but most of them extremely highly rated - some to the point of being Michelin starred. We didn't try many, but the few we did take a seat in were seriously amongst the finest restaurants I've ever experienced.

        Oh, and there seems to be a McDonalds on every corner!

        Overall;
        ---------------
        I'm really not sure what else to say about LV.
        It's certainly one of the party capitals of the world; truly a city that never sleeps. Anytime, day or night, you can find action at a gambling table, stores to shop in or a three course meal. The bars are open almost all day and night, and the clubs kick off around midnight and party until the sun comes up!
        For anyone with 'the gamble' in them it's an absolute essential destination - not cheap, but one that everyone should see at least once I reckon.
        While it's a beautiful sight seeing the strip lit up at night for the first time, the glossy veneer soon fades and after a few days it's easy to see through the money grabbing attractions for what they are so it's definitely recommended in small doses (maybe a weekend here as part of a longer trip to the states) or at the very least plan to spend a day or two away from the city.
        Vegas is one of those places which initially captivates, but the magic soon fades (especially if you're losing).
        It has something to offer everyone; though it's built around gambling it's also a shopping hub, an entertainment haven and a sight-seers dream!

        Vegas has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the middle of the last century when it was barely a step up from a wild-west cowboy town! Multi-billion dollar corporations bankroll the Goliath casinos these days rather than shady mobsters who'd put you in a hole in the desert as soon as look at you, and it's glitz and glamour attract celebrities, millionaires and average Joe's in their droves!

        Long way to travel, but I'd recommend anyone visiting the West Coast of the USA to try and visit for a weekend at least.
        I'll certainly be back!

        K

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          20.07.2012 10:02
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          Dont stay a week

          The sole purpose of Las Vegas is to pick up holidaying blue-collar Americas by the ankles and shake out every last cent from their pockets, anything but the city of high-rollers and fortunes to be made. It's a capitalist black hole that sucks up $500 million a week, no doubt why the nearby hydro electric plant that powers the city is called the 'Hoover' Dam. But as recession bites the cities revenue is falling faster than the water levels in the stunning Colorado River that carved out the Grand Canyon over the millennia as the cities ever increasing demand on the water table gobbles up shrinking resources in the desert. And this city is out in the middle of the desert and so can't keep growing at the rate it is, global warming sure to make it yet another ghost town you get in this part of the world one decade soon. It was the new Nevada gold rush but the seam is almost tapped out.

          As a tourist destination it's like nothing you will have ever experienced before, full on and extremely dazzling, yet vacuous at the same time. With all the neon lights and flashing signs ad razzmatazz it's like being trapped in a fruit machine, desperately waiting for some one to win the jackpot and flush you out onto the tin tray, clattering ad dazed like the coins to freedom. After three days of Vegas you will have had enough. It's that kind of town.

          Rather contradictory the casinos are mostly owned by the Mormons and Japanese, the mob days of Scorcese, shiny suits and being buried in the desert truly past. In cowboy land you are no longer robbed at the end of a six-shooter but by the green zero on the roulette wheel that was placed there to mean the house always wins, the coin now able to land on its narrow edge when flipped.

          Vegas is now a behemoth resort with more money made from the entertainment and shopping side than the gambling. Most people know they will lose on the slots and tables the longer they are in town and so just enjoy the shows the bright lights and the Florida style attractions. There is a sleazier side to Vegas though, that of the sex trade, which brings in the younger punters and college crowd. For $400 you can sleep with twins, midgets or fading celebrities, all at once if you can afford it. I can box tick two from three ad none in Vegas - and never paid for either. No it wasn't the Crankies!!

          When you hit the famous 'Strip' take your sunglasses guys, night or day, as it is bright. You can see this place from Pluto! I recall rolling through the desert night on the Greyhound bus and seeing the glow from the city from as far away as New Mexico, as if a huge UFO was landing. They do out here, apparently. They say the city burns more energy than a small Africa country - on just the Vegas air conditioners!

          You can arrive by trains, planes, helicopters, automobiles....you name it, and do all your trips to places like Monument Valley, the famous Arizona meteor crater and the Grand Canyon by basing yourself in Vegas for the duration. The more adventurous and geeky can do the Area 51 tour to look for those UFO's and there is also lots of great hiking and National Parks to be done in this area. The desert is not just cacti and tumbleweed guys and some stunning locations out there to explore, some of the volcanic stuff around Flagstaff like being on Mars. It was snowing in June when we got to the North face of the Grand Canyon, some 6000ft above sea level on that ledge, an example of that variation. The views are spectacular though so you must take in the canyons.

          Hotels in Vegas cater for every taste, from the $10,000 a night playboy suites to the backpacker's specials at $40 for the double. They want to fill the rooms so cut a deal. These are nice rooms to in the huge hotels and so if you are doing America on the cheap with your rucksack then make sure its Vegas where you treat yourself for a good catch up shower and fresh sheets. If you have hooked up with a bird of boyfriend on the road its even better for cheap R&R for a few days. There are lots of smaller authentic motels on and off the Strip if you prefer the more Route 66 experience.

          The actual gamblers turn out to be mostly rows and rows of Prozac doped retired and shriveled up Americans, pouring silver coins into the slots hour after hour, the blackjack tables full of tipsy preppy American students playing only for free drinks. If you get to sit down at a table a pretty waitress will be on you in a second with free booze for a tip and the hope you get drunk and keep playing and keep giving her more tips....let alone making the casino more money. This is why America introduced prohibition. Vegas profits maybe from the tables but they are facilitated by the booze. You can play stuff like Blackjack or Roulette for a dollar stake and that free drink and walk away so why not give it ago?

          If gambling is the point of Vegas and booze its lubrication then the food has to be its crowning glory. It's cheap and the portions are huge! One all-you-can-eat will keep you going for a week guys. And you don't have to be a resident of the hotel if your chosen grub is elsewhere; the food reason enough to stay a week. One night I had all-you-can-eat lobster for $9.99! As a hungry backpacker I piled six of them on top of each other and headed to my table. You should have seen the looks of my fellow American diners. They scratched their balding heads and queried why only six, English guy?


          So summing up, Vegas is more like Disneyland than the original Vegas as they increasingly embrace the family feel to keep the profits high. The giant hotels on the Strip are like the Manhattan skyline (and one of them is a Manhattan skyline!) and all shapes and sizes to marvel at. One has a working circus inside the lobby whilst another has a rollercoaster sliding between its escalators. They really are extraordinary places. But it is a must do venue in your lifetime as the neon lights are like one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This is not a holiday venue to retreat to snobbery in conversation so to avoid.

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            10.03.2010 22:54
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            A city with much to offer that is hurting right now.

            I first visited Las Vegas in 1999 - back then the Desert Inn still (just) stood, and several of the places that drew blue collar workers to the town to gamble on the Strip were still trading, such as the Westward Ho, The Boardwalk and the Klondyke, a hotel that had stood for years on the southern end of the Strip before the Mandalay Bay went up transforming the area.

            However at that time there was a tangible sense of change in the air.

            In the early nineties Vegas had flirted with the idea of being perceived as "family friendly" in the midst of a recession and there were some remnants of this still to be seen on the Strip, including the pirate show at Treasure Island, a Disney arcade down at the MGM Grand and the indoor theme park at Circus Circus. Byt the time I arrived that era was coming to an end as the huge mega resorts touted for adults to come and play instead.

            Since that first visit I have been back to Las Vegas another eight times and every time I have touched down at McCarran Airport I have seen something change. The most visible change was the eradication of the older places which brought the gambler with less cash to flash to the city in favour of the flashier and by definition more expensive places on the Strip which were targeting a very particular type of customer - the Californian rich.

            The Palms became famous as a trendy hotel for the young, rich and famous to party on down - for a while it was Britney Spears' second home - whilst the Desert Inn was razed to the ground to make way for Wynn, a huge luxury hotel which doesn't deal in anything even remotely cheap.

            As business boomed, Vegas suddenly found itself as the fastest growing city in the USA, leading to a huge influx of people searching for, and gaining, work. Older hotel properties were closed and demolished to make way for bigger, and supposedly better, developments as their owners speculated it wasn't the operating business that was worth the money - it was the prime land it stood on on Las Vegas Boulevard South - land which seemed to continually rise in price.

            It was on my final visit to Las Vegas with my husband at the tail end of 2007 that it became apparent that the bubble may well be about to burst.

            Several developments offering apartments and timeshares to wealthy Californians went bust without a workman donning a hard hat. A famous downtown hotel, the Lady Luck, which had closed ostensibly for a year long refurbishment in 2006, remained closed. A new shopping development in the south of the Strip was taking business away from other retail locations - something that had been unheard of just a couple of years before. Back then if a new mall opened, businesses would just open up another branch.

            So how can Las Vegas weather the storm? Diversification may well be the answer, along with perhaps trying to go back to basics to get the mom and pop gambler back, as opposed to the wealthy elite.

            ~~The Meadows~~

            Las Vegas means "the meadows" - ironic really considering it stands in the middle of an unforgiving desert in the state of Nevada - one of the most mountainous and least accessible states in the US. There is something quite incongruous about the entire city - it consumes huge amounts of water maintaining fake lawns in some of the more upscale suburbs and washing the thousands of visitors who are in town on any given day, and huge amounts of electricity lighting up casinos, hotels and advertising hoardings.

            This barren land relies on water from other parts of the United States and it is a credit to the infrastructure of the nation that it doesn't seem to run out. That said, the water quality here is terrible.

            The original part of Las Vegas was downtown - there have been hotels and gambling halls in this part of town, which is located to the north of the Strip, for over a hundred years. The city's oldest surviving hotel and casino, The Golden Gate, still stands here - a small and eminently manageable property which is dwarfed by the huge resort type properties which have become the norm on the Strip.

            The Strip first came into being when the El Rancho hotel opened in April 1941, with the Frontier Hotel opening the next year. The third property to open on the Strip was the Flamingo, which was the brainchild of Bugsy Siegel.

            It was a combination of mobsters and local characters such as Sam Boyd and Jackie Gaughan who made the city, but as big business realised how much money was there for the taking, one by one they were pushed out.

            The city's golden age for hotels, big shows and glitz and glamour was the sixties and seventies, when acts such as the Rat Pack, Bobby Darin and Elvis Presley pulled the punters in. During this period the hotels started to get bigger and bigger - properties such as Sands and Dunes which had been the place to stay suddenly found themselves dwarfed by larger properties such as the Las Vegas Hilton, which made it's name from Elvis' performances, Caesar's Palace and the MGM hotel at the place that was to become the spiritual heart of the Strip - the intersection with Flamingo Road

            In 1980 the MGM hotel caught fire, leading to the deaths of 85 people. The ensuing investigation and apportioning of blame led to the city to lose much of it's lustre, and the property was subsequently renamed Ballys while MGM opened a bigger, and supposedly better hotel further south on the Strip.

            The hotels were always able to ensure the gambler was kept happy by providing cheap hotel rooms, cheap eats and other "comps", bringing the same people back every year. However big business felt that the city was attracting increasingly older guests and newer resorts aimed at the young started to open, including the Hard Rock Hotel and the Mandalay Bay. These resorts drew big name rock acts to the city in concert leading to more and more people from California making the drive along the I-15 to the city.

            The suburbs of Henderson and Summerlin became home to upscale casinos as the city tried to attract customers to different parts of town, and the Westin Casuarina became the first huge hotel close to the Strip not to have a casino - although as time passed it caved in and opened one.

            Further tourist draws are Lake Mead National Park to the south east of the city, an area which will lead you to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Heading north is the natural beauty of Red Rock Canyon. Both these places offer a respite from the glitz of the lights and allow you to breath in fresher air and gaze in awe at the landscapes carved out by both man and nature.

            ~~Sin City~~

            The last recession in the 90s brought about an idea that Vegas might work better if it were "family friendly", an idea that seems utterly bizarre to anyone who understands that Vegas grew popular because adults could come here and gamble, drink, get married whilst drunk and just as easily get divorced once they had sobered up.

            The concept didn't last long and as the economy improved, Treasure Island found itself rebranded "TI", and the pirate show became the "Sirens of TI" show. This still entailed a huge bottleneck forming on the Strip as the pirate ship would light up and pyrotechnics would abound, however instead of pirates fighting one another with mock swords, scantily clad women took their place.

            The hell on earth that is Circus Circus still stands and does a brisk trade in the kiddie entertainment business, but the hotel is shabby and I think my Californian friend Mary Lou sums it up best when she says it is "totally ghetto". I have endured the theme park element of this hotel, and the car hire desk several times and can now rest easy that my daughter finally considers it "too babyish" for her.

            As the family friendly image died away, instead we were introduced to the swish new clubs opening up at the more upscale hotels, and the sight of Hollywood stars being offered huge sums of money to do PA's at these clubs.

            In our celebrity obsessed culture, Vegas became cool again and big stars earned big bucks performing in the city. Even mediocre acts could earn a good living performing in a town where there was a steady stream of visitors arriving from all over the world, many of whom were happy to pay over the odds for a show which wasn't much good just so they could say they saw a Vegas show.

            And then - the bubble burst.

            ~~The 2010 Return~~

            In the past I usually traveled to Vegas at Christmas or Easter. I was frequently in town for New Year's Eve, which is the busiest night of the year in the city.

            This time I visited in February, and during the week in February at that but what struck me as soon as I arrived was how quiet it was.

            The flight I had taken from New York wasn't empty, but the airport seemed relatively quiet in comparison to previous times I had arrived.

            When I headed to the car hire centre to get my car I was delighted to see no queue - just staff looking genuinely pleased to have something to do in processing my car.

            Heading out of the car hire centre and heeding the directions the lady on the desk had given me I found myself heading straight for the Strip. It was around 7.50 pm and I was worried about this as previous experience has taught me that driving on the Strip is pointless - you would be quicker walking.

            However much to my amazement it was very quiet and my daughter was so excited to see all the hotels and lights again that I decided against heading off and taking either Industrial Road or Paradise Road instead.
            It also meant we were able to take in the Bellagio Fountain Show and the TI Sirens pyrotechnics extravaganza as I drove past, even though I kept telling myself I was going to hit traffic any time soon. But any time soon never came.

            We drove past the Sahara, a hotel which has stood on the Strip for nearly 60 years, unaware that one of its hotel towers has recently closed. We also spotted the Fontainbleau, a luxury hotel development which went bankrupt and stands with idle cranes reminding Las Vegas that not all gambles pay off. The Fontainbleau has been bought up by a speculator but it isn't expected to open its doors until 2015 - at the earliest.

            Reaching Downtown we passed the now casino only Western and Binions, which was a fabled casino in the old days in Vegas when it was still family owned. Just before Christmas the hotel was closed down, along with the coffee shop. The story was this was a temporary measure but it's hard to know for sure. The Lady Luck is still closed, over three years since it supposedly closed for refurbishment. In the words of the Vegas Casino Deathwatch website, which I promise you is genuine, it's game over there.

            Hotels are struggling to fill rooms so offers abound. I could have found a room for far less than the £36 per night I paid for the Main Street Station had I been so inclined - I have, for instance, seen the Plaza offering a room for a week for $111 plus tax, the Las Vegas Club which seems to be getting run into the ground is just as cheap and the aforementioned "ghetto" that is Circus Circus won't set you back much either.

            Even the more salubrious establishments are feeling the heat and I saw deals offered on the MGM Grand and the Luxor advertised. The more upmarket hotels are cutting prices too but being less upfront about it; however it's hard to find a bargain in Wynn or Mandalay Bay. My friend Rachel who lives in the city and works in a smaller, off-strip resort, bemoaned this and said she felt this was one of the reasons why the recession was biting so hard.

            There are foreclosures everywhere in Vegas. Rachel and her husband moved to the city just as the bubble was about to burst, but fortunately for them they chose to rent a property in Henderson as opposed to buying. This means they can easily leave now they have become painfully aware of the fact they do not have secure jobs and they prefer the city as somewhere to visit for a weekend once a year.

            Shopping centres have become decimated too. There are, quite simply, too many malls in Vegas and it's unsurprisingly the locals' ones which have been hit the hardest, particularly in the ironically named Paradise area.

            Maryland Parkway is a major thoroughfare to the east of the Strip and it is home to the Boulevard Mall. When I first came to Vegas this was a busy, bustling mall with four anchor stores - Sears, Macys, J C Penney and Dillards.

            Dillards has now disappeared, leaving a gaping hole and many of the high street names you used to find here such as Gap and New York & Company have upped sticks to locales they consider more lucrative. In fact if it wasn't for the Old Navy branch located here and the mall's proximity to a huge Target store and a branch of Best Buy, it probably wouldn't be worth bothering paying a visit here anymore.

            The Paradise area is a deprived and at times dangerous area - a place which is located a mile or two from the Strip and looks positively benign but is actually home to the poor, the desperate and most likely the illegals - although it's been said the Mexicans don't bother heading to Vegas anymore so one cannot be sure.

            If you are brave enough, take the 109 bus which runs from the Downtown Transportation Centre to the Airport via Maryland Parkway and you can indulge in people watching here and you can see the America that Hollywood and network TV doesn't want you to see. I have done this several times and never had any problems but I have seen and spoken to people who retain the optimism and good manners American people are famous for which makes it very hard for me to reveal my natural cynicism about when, or if, things will ever get better for them.

            The Paradise area used to be a good one of course. For a couple of years my daughter was being cared for by a wonderful babysitter by the name of Carmen whenever my husband and I wanted a night out. Carmen had moved to Vegas in 1950 at the age of 12 and had seen some incredible changes in the city. She told us how the area used to be quite swish until better suburbs were built as the city grew, leaving the inner city as a ghetto.

            The city continued to grow with development out almost as far as Lake Mead with the Lake Las Vegas project. Planned to include houses with an idyllic view, hotels and a casino, Lake Las Vegas went bankrupt in the credit crunch. You know that times are hard when a Ritz Carlton hotel announces it is closing its doors and the casino next door announces its closure the very next day. But that is how it is in Vegas just now - with workers deeply concerned that their place of work will be next.

            To add to the city's worries, President Obama has been telling Americans to be responsible with their savings. A remark he made suggesting people need to be saving their money for their kid's college fund instead of blowing it in Las Vegas led to outcry in the city by some of the President's more vocal critics.

            But come on - isn't it common sense that when times are tough vacations are one of the first things to go? Gambling only comes before food to the addicted and in a city which likes to advertise "responsible gaming" it's hard to suggest it's more important than your kid's college fund.

            Obama pitched up in Vegas when I was there and the local media went crazy for the fact the mayor refused to meet with him "without an apology". The whole thing seemed petty and stupid to me, but my friend Rachel sided with the mayor. I guess I missed something by not living there although I must say my politics are the polar opposite of hers.

            ~~Lights at the end of the tunnel?~~

            So what can Vegas do? Not so long ago it was the fastest growing city in the US - now it is one of the fastest shrinking.

            People have said it has diversified in the past and can do so again but one has to wonder. It can still attract conventions to the city, having the convention space and hotel rooms to cope with them but conventions alone will not save the city.

            Vegas has always appealed to people's dreams and aspirations however in the past it realised that for some the dream has to be slightly less luxurious and pitched more realistically.

            It used to be Las Vegas and Atlantic City were the only places you could gamble the US but as more towns have legalised the practice, both cities have found their fortunes dwindling. Both have tried to head upmarket just as the market was heading down and as a result they are now paying the price.

            The busiest place I visited was the California Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas, which is famously patronised by Hawaiians. The recession doesn't seem to have touched this paradise state from the number of citizens who visit and the California knows how to bring people who love to gamble but don't have an endless line of credit to their establishment by deliberately keeping the prices low, offering coupons on food and making their guests feel treasured.

            When I first visited the city you saw lots of middle aged couples like the Hawaiians in the California dotted all over town - but now these people struggle to find a place that they can afford. There are casinos which still offer a beer for buck but by and large they are scruffy, attract a clientele which is at best worrying and at worst downright scary and offer a realistic look at where too much money in those slots, on the poker table or on the roulette table can lead to.

            So until the city can find a way to bring the blue collar and lower middle class Americans back to indulge in more realistic dreams it could well be longer than 2015 before Fontainbleau finally opens its doors and one also has to wonder how many other establishments will have closed their doors in the meantime.

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              22.11.2009 08:19
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              Great places for the whole family.

              Having just come from Vegas I have so much to tell everyone there is so much to do there and its not just Sin City any more. I have compiled a list of free things to do while in Vegas.

              1. Bellagio Fountains. The fountain show is free to watch you just have to arrive early to get a good viewing spot. As there is no seats its standing room only you want to be close to the wall to get a good view of the shows but you can get a good view driving down the strip when the show is going on.

              2. The Volcano at Mirage. They have recently revamped it and added more fire and explosions to it making it a much better show. The fact that its free really makes it a must see on any ones visit to Vegas.

              3. The Freemont Street Experience. Its a covered area that is about 3 city blocks long. The whole area is a pedestrian walk way. Above you there is a light show that stretches from one end of the covered area to the next. This is free and they also have shows that are going on at ground level as you walk you can stop and enjoy whats going on.

              4. Hoover Dam. You can drive up and park at one of there free parking areas and walk across from one side to the other and get a true understanding of how big the Hoover Dam truly is. Let me tell you its huge and truly amazing to look at it.

              5. The Strip. I have found that some of the coolest things I have ever seen have been just random people on the strip doing there own thing. This last time there was a man that was painted gold and moved like a robot. There was also a guy with his Monitor Lizard we did tip them to have a picture taken with them but its not required and it was only a few bucks.

              6. The Rainforest Cafe and Gift Shop. This place is amazing. Through out the store there are animals that move and talk. There is also a huge fish tank with all kinds of exotic fish in it. My daughter loves the huge Crocodile that sits out front of the store. Some times they have birds out and you can ask the keeper questions and even touch them if they are friendly enough.

              7. The Tram From Mandalay Bay to Luxor and Excallibur. This is a great little break from all the walking. You can ride the tram from Excallibur to Mandalay bay and even the Luxor. You don't ever have to really walk any where other than to the tram station. The fact that its free and gets you from the end of the strip to the middle of the strip for free is a nice little bonus. From the tram you can walk out to New York New York and MGM Grand, and all the way up the rest of the strip.

              8. Window Shop. Vegas is the greatest place to window shop. There are so many shops to choose from. You can spend your entire time window shopping and still not see ever store that Vegas has to offer and the fact that more open every day make it all the better.

              9. Try on Jewelry. I like to go into a nice jewelry store and ask to try on and to look at some of there nicest items. The sales lady knows I don't have any intention of buying it but it makes me feel good to look at it and it makes her feel good to think she is working.

              10. Pool Days. When we are in Vegas we always spend one day at the pool. Its free for hotel guests and you can leave and come back as many times as you want during the hours that the pool is open. My family loves pool day.

              So there you are 10 free things to do in Vegas that you can take your kids to.

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                26.10.2009 21:22
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                A truely amazing experience

                Las Vegas! Every time i hear those 2 words i get goosebumps, for me its the greatest place on earth!!

                Ive only had 2 weeks in vegas, but i wont forget a second of it, its the party capital of the world. I had the time of my life! From crazy rollercoasters, to slot machines, to lions in reception, to superb shows and acts, to amazing restaurants to gambling heaven!! If you like to party, gamble or just have fun, vegas is for you!!

                The Strip

                When you first walk down the famous las vegs strip, you will just be in awe at the size of everything you see, the hotels are huge, the rollercoasters are huge, the drinks are huge, everything is obscene!! There are many famous hotels you walk past like cesears palace, the mgm and paris, just to name a few. There are plenty of bars on the strip to just slip into, shops, restaurants, poker tables, slot machines, all just in the entrance to the hotels to tempt you inside. Theres people giving you flyers, theres even small acts and entertainment on the streets to keep you busy and entertained. You can get tickets to shows, the gran canyon, helicopter rides and other things on the strip. You can spend a full evening just walking along it looking at each hotel and taking it all in.

                The Hotels

                The hotels in vegas are out of this world, you have paris which includes a humongous replica of the eiffel tower, new york new york which has a full size working rollercoaster on the outside going through the hotel ( you must go on it), the bellagio which has a huge fountain show outside going off every 15 minutes or so (again a must watch, especially at night). There are many many more and you should really try and go inside as manya possible as there are may free shows in each hotel to view, such as circus circus which has free hourly circus show including acrobats and balancing acts. Then inside the MGM Grand theres a lions den in the reception area, where 3-4 lions graze during the daytime. There are also quite a few rollercoasters in these hotels, circus circus again has one , new york new york has an outside one which also ventures inside, there about 10-15 dollars to have a go, then theres the stratosphere hotel! on top of this hotel (999ft in the air) are 3 rides, including one which ventures over the edge and you can see 999 ft down, ive been on it and i can tell you now its not for the faint hearted!!!

                The Gambling

                In every hotel there are thousands of slot machines, poker tables, roulette tables, craps tables, sports betting bars, basically anything you can bet money on. You can either buy chips, when playing poker, craps etc. or put notes in the slot machines, when you win and want to withdraw then you get a betting voucher with the amount you had when you withdrew and you can then cash this out. You shoul always play within your limits as its very easy to get carried away and remember on the slots theres only one real winner, so quit while your ahead!
                The poke tables are always on the go, with reular tournaments, sit and gos and cash tables always happening somewhere at the rate you can afford. The roulette and blackjack tables are great fun for beginners who fancy a little flutter as its effectively luck and you can make a dollar or too and have a good crack with the people on your tables. Also when your playing in the hotels you can get your drinks free while you play but do tip the waitresses a dollar or two or they probably wont come for your order again!

                The Shows

                The shows in vegas are superb, you can see Tom Jones, The Blueman group, and many many more acts depending on whos on in what hotel at the time. These shows range from 30 dollars up to 150 dollars depending on who or what you see and where you see them. There are magic shows, live animal shows, classical singers, illusionists, fire eaters, you name it, there on in vegas. Each hotel has a few arenas, while i was there, i watched the blueman group, ricky hatton fight, and few magic shows, i would highly recommend the blueman group if they are on, a highly entertaining show full of colour music and visual entertainment.

                Food and Drink

                The restuarants in vegas do not let down, whether you fancy a cheesecake, an all you can eat sushi restaurant or a good old burger, your catered for in the resturants inside the hotels. I did put on a few pounds in vegas but that couldnt be helped with the amount of superb food on offer, eating in the cheesecake factory was lovely, a humoungous piece of cheesecake is just what was needed. An all you can eat buffet is a must aswell, most of them are full of top class food and the trays are never empty and always refilled when they are looking low.

                Things to do

                Other musts include a daytrip to the grand canyon, yes its not in vegas but there are regular trips there, shop around for the best deal and dont get ripped off, you should also visit the hoover dam on the way! Also a lot of people do the helicopter ride over the strip, if your going to do this i would recommend you do it at night, as the view is superb, again you only get about 10 minutes in the chopper but its a memory you will never leave behind.

                Conclusion

                A place with constant entertainment, superb bars and restaurants (try coyote uglys in new york new york, just like the film!), you can drink on the streets, everyone is friendly and there is a constant buzz about the place with a great atmosphere, especially at the roulette tables, great fun!

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                  14.10.2009 23:08
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                  The Most Wonderful Place in the World

                  I got married in May this year and we decided to make our Honeymoon an American adventure and hop to a few places. My husband Dave chose Las Vegas to visit as he had always wanted to go. Myself, I had never fancied it and to be honest the only reason I would want to go is for the lovely heat. Well now I have been to the absolutely wonderful place that is Las Vegas I could not imagine anywhere better and it is now my favourite place in the world I have visited. Here is why.

                  Las Vegas is in Nevada which is known for the desert and the heat. It is kind of on the West of America and you can get direct flights from London to the airport. It is best known for its bright lights and crazy drive in wedding chapels.

                  I stepped off the plane in Vegas airport and the first thing I noticed was how friendly everybody was. Everybody asked us we had been to Vegas before and when we said no they were all ready to give us advice. We stepped out of the airport and the beautiful heat hit us and the sun was shining and it was stunning. Now Vegas to drive around I will not kid you is scary as there are so many lanes and everybody is raring to go so we got a taxi everywhere.

                  The Old Strip
                  Las Vegas has 2 parts to it which is the old part and the new part which is more well known as the strip. We did not spend much time in the old town of Vegas but what I can tell you is that it is lovely. It has the same shops and casinos and hotels but just on a smaller scale. The casinos have a fairer buy in though so if you are a big fan of gambling then you will find it cheaper to gamble in the old strip.

                  The old strip is also not as busy but there are still plenty of people around and you feel instantly safe everywhere. You can just walk into any casino and play the games but what astounded me about the old strip is that everything is slightly cheaper so although you are not in the main area, it is nice to spend a bit of time here. I didn't eat in the old strip or go to any bars as we quickly had a look around but if I go back to Vegas I will spend more time here.

                  The New Strip
                  The Vegas Strip is the famous part of Vegas and if you watch programmes about Vegas or films, this is probably where it is filmed. My initial thoughts of the strip when I arrived was that everything looked so posh. The buildings are extravagant and even places like the car parks are dressed up and look stunning which I found amazing.

                  The main thing to do in Vegas is go and look around the new strip so literally walk up and down it and visit all of the hotels and casinos and shops. When I say walk up and down though the strip is miles long so it takes you a good while to get places. Me and Dave walked for about 10 hours one day without even realising as you are just in awe at all the new places and basically the way everything looks.

                  The new strip contains all of the hotels and casinos you will have heard about so the pyramid hotel (luxor) and the hotel with a roller coaster going through it (new York new York). It is amazing. The strip is very safe and no matter what time you get up in the morning there are plenty of people about. As I said above though you should expect it to a little bit more expensive becase it is so popular.

                  Things to do
                  Ok so apart from the amazing hotels, shops and casinos you can see which does take you about an hour for each one to have a good look. Vegas does have some must do things so this is a little bit about what we did.

                  On the main strip we went to the secret garden at the Mirage which is a dolphin education facility and they have some tigers there too which is nice. We enjoyed it here and spent a good couple of hours. Then we went to a cirque du soleil show at the Treasure Island hotel which was amazing. There are shows everywhere though so you can choose music, magic And even peep shows so a choice for everybody.

                  One place we didn't get to go to though and I wanted to was the shark tank at the Mandalay hotel and also the human bodies exhibition at the luxor hotel. There is so much to go to though that you will not be bored I can guarantee that.

                  Away from the strip and you have the amazing place that is the Grand Canyon and if you are in Vegas this is a must see trip! It was amazing and you have such a choice as you can go by coach, car or helicopter. Then you can choose to go to the bottom and even have a picnic or you can go on the sky walk which is a glass bottom platform leading over the Grand Canyon. Seriously you have to do this!!!! I cannot stress it enough.

                  You also have the Vegas sign to visit just outside the strip and there is also a huge outlet mall about 15 minutes away so if you love your bargain shopping this is a good thing to do.

                  Eating, shopping and gambling
                  Lets tackle my favourite thing in the world first which is eating. There are so many places to eat it is unreal but what we found was that you could either go to a really expensive place or cheap place and there was only a handful of medium priced places but maybe I am wrong and we just didn't find them.

                  We ate the first night in planet Hollywood which was great fun andc ost us around $60 for a main meal, cocktail and a pudding. We ate at a buffet place one night which was $50 but the selection was not great so we didn't enjoy it at all. Then we tended to eat in burger bars such as the Kahuna bar in the Treasure Island hotel and this was simply because we had a budget to stick to.

                  If you did go with a bit more money though there are so many nice Indians, Chinese' s, steak houses and some very posh restaurants. We looked though and the main meals costed around $30 just for the main meal so went somewhere a bit cheaper. Each hotel has quite a few places to eat though so you can just walk around until you really fancy something.

                  My next favourite subject is shopping and again there are so many places. You have the cheap souvenir shops which I love for presents and then you have some extremely expensive places which have shops like Manolo Bhlaniks (not sure if I have spelt that right). Everywhere is so nice to look around though and there us a big mixture so you will find somewhere to buy things.

                  For cheap shops they are dotted all around the strip and even in the extremely posh and expensive fashion show mall. For expensive places we found the Wynn and Palazzo hotel to have the most wow factor shops. We managed to find lots of things to buy though so we were happy. Look out for the discount booths for show tickets though as that is really useful and we saved a lot of money.

                  Gambling is a massive thing in Vegas as you probably know by now. Every hotel has a casino and there are even some extra casinos dotted around. Now I was nervous about gambling as I thought it would be awkward but it really isn't. There are so many people around and so many machines that slot machines are everywhere and some only cost $1 to play which is great but very very tempting but when in Vegas you have to gamble.

                  The tables where you find black jack and roulette are a bit more intimidating but the guys explained how everything worked for us and we really enjoyed it. My top tip is don't be scared and just give it a go.

                  Safety
                  When I go to any place on holiday I do think about safety precautions. Vegas is one place I have never felt safer. There are just so many people around at all times of the day it is crazy! We had to get up at 5am one day for a trip and we went down into the casino and it could have been 8pm on a Saturday night as it was so busy. I think this is why I felt quite settled in Vegas as safety is my number one concern.


                  Conclusion
                  Vegas is now my favourite place in the world. It is beautiful in the day and with all of the sparkly huge buildings lit up at night it looks even more spectacular. I love it and would go back tomorrow if somebody gave me the chance. Five stars from me.

                  If there is anything you want to know about Vegas which I haven't included let me know and I will try to put it in the review.

                  Thanks for reading.

                  xxx

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                    07.10.2009 23:08
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                    it's possible to have a great time without being stuck at the tables!

                    What a week!

                    It's always been a dream of mine to visit Las Vegas and thankfully in 2007, I was able to realise my dream. As I was travelling on a pretty tight budget, I was hoping to avoid many of those Vegas stories about gambling everything and coming away broke. Was it possible I asked myself? To be in Vegas for a week and not gamble my money?

                    Here's how it went.

                    I flew into McCarran airport, which was an experience in itself. Slot machines everywhere! On exiting the airport, at around 10pm, I found it was still fairly warm and after taking one of the many hotel/hostle shuttles I arrived at my accommodation. 'The Strip' is the most famous part of Las Vegas as it houses all the big casino's. The actual road is called Las Vegas Boulevard. The start and end of the strip is marked by the Stratosphere or Mandalay bay (by the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign) depending on which end you start from.

                    My hostel was situated several blocks down from the Stratosphere, in what seemed like wedding chapel central. The hostel shared one of the nicknames of Vegas, Sin City and for $20 a night, I waited with baited breath to find out what it would be like. What a nice surprise. Just because it was cheap, it doesn't mean it will be nasty. It was a very nice atmosphere and was obviously on an old motel site. It had all the usual hostel amenities and was cleaned daily.

                    Just outside of the hostel was a bus stop for 'The Breeze' which runs along the Blvd. It's modern, clean and air conditioned and runs at a reasonable price.

                    Having arrived late at night, I slept in that morning and didn't leave the hostel until around 11am. I opened the door to my room expecting a huge blast of heat to only to find it not so bad, and certainly no hotter than North Carolina and Florida which I'd been in previously. Then I got out of the shade. Wow. 45c/105f. It was like that every day of the week. Thankfully it's dry heat though, which makes it tolerable. UV is max though so wear some good sunblock if you burn easily.

                    So I decided to 'walk the strip' to get my bearings and see what was up. It must have been a couple of miles at least. One thing that did strike me was how quiet it was during the day. Obviously people choose to hide away from the heat. Makes it good for photo's though as you don't have loads of people around you when your trying to get that perfect picture.

                    After getting the customary picture by the Welcome Sign, I decided to take a rest and have lunch. Lots of fast food options available and quite a few cheaper restaurants, alongside those in the big casino's so that's always a bonus for me, catering for every budget. I picked up some leaflets/magazines about Vegas from outside the Harley Davidson Cafe and had a read. Glad I did as it included many money off coupons which saved me a lot of money during the week. I also picked up a load of literature from the hostel to plan my stay.

                    I decided that one of the days would be spent on an organised trip to the Grand Canyon. The tour cost me around $100 and included snacks and the usual tour items. The coach picked me up from my hostel and it took around 5 hours to get to the Canyon. If you ever have the chance to go there, do it. It is unbelievable. I was shocked as to the sheer size of it but also fascinated by the many different coloured rock. It was a great day and as is a must for anyone in the region.

                    Many of the casino's offer free shows or attractions, which I was going to visit, for both the pleasure and because it was free! At the time the MGM casino had a white lion enclosure and the Bellagio had a great exhibition inside. There was something to do in every casino where you didn't have to spend a penny. I visited all the major casino's and had a great time exploring all the different shops and exhibitions. I certainly have never seen a car on top of some slot machines before! As the casino's are free to enter, they are also great places for 'comfort' breaks! The Bellagio restrooms are amazing!

                    There are also many exhibitions outside of the casino's such as the body show (where you see under the skin and such) and classic car shows, both which were discounted in the free magazine.

                    I thought as I was in Vegas I should go and see a show. I was told about the cheap ticket outlets around the Strip and decided to visit the one inside the giant coke bottle by M & M World (which is also well worth a visit!) and ended up saving $50 off my ticket! I decided to go and see Blue Man Group at the Venetian Hotel. It was a great night, made even better by the discounted tickets. Acts like Beyonce, Celine Dion and Cirque Du Soleil were also showing, proving that Vegas has something for everyone.

                    Of course, it is at night when Vegas really comes alive. The lights and sounds are an experience in itself. After completing another must do by seeing the fountains outside the Bellagio, I was able to see other free shows like the Volcano at the Mirage and the pirate show at Treasure Island. It takes good time planning as they are on at set times...

                    I also took a trip up the "Eiffel Tower" at Paris Casino which offers amazing views of Las Vegas.

                    Many of the casino's also offer rollercoasters. The Sahara has a loop the loop on the side of the road, New York New York has a ride that goes round the 'NY skyline', Circus Circus has an indoor theme park while the Stratosphere has rides on top of it. Not for the faint hearted.

                    Sports fans can also catch a glimpse of some action. UFC often airs in Vegas while their is also minor league baseball on offer.

                    Many of the bars on the strip offer drinks deals in the evening but be warned, it is very crowded and if you don't like the hustle and bustle it may not be for you.

                    After spending several nights on the strip I decided to visit Downtown Las Vegas. I'm glad I did. I honestly feel it was a better vibe there, friendlier, cheaper, more fun! You can be entertained by many street acts or be dazzled by the overhead LCD display of Fremont Street which lasts around 5 minutes. It may not house the big name casino's but for me, that was the real Las Vegas.

                    Before I knew it, my week had flew by and it was time to move on.

                    Total amount gambled... A handful of loose coins into a slot machine as I was sick of carrying them around. Did I win? No!

                    I would definately go back as I feel there is still so much to see.

                    As for the rest of my activities...well...

                    What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

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                    21.09.2009 16:27
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                    Visit this place before you die!!!

                    --Getting there--

                    We flew to Vegas on a domestic flight from LA which took about 45 minutes with United. Good flight and if you tune into the audio channels you can even listen to air traffic control for the whole flight which I found fascinating. You can only fly to Vegas with Virgin direct from the UK as far as I know.

                    On arrival in Vegas you realise that everything is going to be very big and tacky from the outset! The airport has slot machines everywhere, musical blasting out and big billboards advertising all the Vegas shows. Made the trip to baggage claim less boring though! There's a big sign on the way to baggage claim that says Welcome to Vegas - good for photo ops!

                    The airport is VERY close to the Vegas strip - about ten minutes in fact - and cost us about $20. Vegas is extremely hot and the heat just hits you when you get out of the lovely air conditioned airport. It was about 110F during the day and 80-90F during the night when we were there - and it's so humid that you can never catch your breath. Luckily everywhere in Vegas is air conditioned (some places are freezing)!

                    We stayed at the Westin in Vegas which is just off the main strip. Although it wasn't a big casino hotel I have stayed in the Westin before so knew what to expect. It was a welcome change after spending the days and evenings in the bright lights of the strip actually.

                    --Hotels to visit--

                    One of the best things about Vegas is the many big hotels along the strip (Las Vegas Blvd). Each hotel is the size of a large shopping centre and are each decorated differently. A lot of the hotels join onto one another so you can walk from one to the other without stepping out into the hot Vegas sun. Some of these hotels are amazing and breath taking and they all have their own restaurants, casinos, clubs, bars, shops, you name it they have it! I'll list some of my favourite hotels (all of the hotels are available to non guests).

                    --Bellagio-- probably the most famous - the hotel from Oceans 11. It has spectacular fountain shows outside daily from 3pm til midnight and these have to be seen to be believed. The water dances along to the music and it truly looks stunning at night. Inside the Bellagio is the obligatory casino (all the casinos look the same in every hotel I have to say - all with horrific bingo hall carpets!) but there is an amazing stained glass ceiling in reception. Lots of shops, places to eat and drink and the décor is amazing.

                    --Venetian-- this is done up like Venice, Italy and its amazing. You can walk through Venetian streets and there are canals outside the hotel and inside which wind through all the shops. You can even take a gondola ride along the canals with your punter singing in Italian to you. Some very expensive shops in here (just like the real Venice) and cute places to brunch as well as a casino.

                    --New York New York-- complete with a Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building outside the hotel - and inside everything is like New York - with the streets with cafes to eat in, to a replica of the Coyote Ugly Bar (from the film and real life bar in New York). A big rollercoaster goes in and outside the hotel - does loop the loop a few times - very random to have a ride over Vegas! About $12 a ride per person. Again lots of shops and a casino as well.

                    --Luxor-- this is made to look like Egypt and is shaped like a pyramid with a replica Sphinx outside. Lots of hieroglyphics and Egyptian statues around as well as a Titanic Exhibition and again lots of shops and places to eat and of course a casino.

                    --Mirage-- not the best decorated but has a great volcano water show outside in the evenings every hour on the hour. Inside you have Siegfried and Roys Secret Garden with a dolphin show (about $12 to get in per person). A few shops and a casino too.

                    --Paris-- this looks like the streets of Paris, with little Parisian cafes and eateries, shops, and a big replica Eiffel Tower you can take a trip to the top of. It has spectacular views as well as a very nice restaurant at the top (bookings advised).

                    Other hotels worth a look include the Excalibur (medieval castle), MGM (very American with a big gold lion outside), Circus Circus (complete with amusements and rides), and Caesars Palace which isn't very exciting but it's one of the main points of Vegas so you have to go in. This has the Pussycat Dolls Lounge and world famous Pure Nightclub inside (both part of the same club). Pussycat Dolls lounge is where the band were formed so the shows are similar to the dance routines the band does - great to watch. Shows from 10pm til midnight every half hour I believe. Was a good night.

                    --Shopping--

                    There are lots of shops EVERYWHERE in Vegas! Every hotel has shops that sell clothes, jewellery, you name it they have it. But the two main shopping centres are the Miracle Mile Shops part of Planet Hollywood Hotel and the Fashion Mall which is next to the Mirage. The Fashion Mall is better - all inside and includes lots of shops high street and designer. Some of the entrances are also outside. Lots of places to eat and drink too. Miracle Mile shops is exactly that - a mile full of shops - again all indoors (needs to be in the Vegas heat). There are also Premium Outlets at the very end of the strip (we didn't go) which do designer stuff at very cheap prices. Will be trying this out if I ever go back to Vegas I think. And along the main strip you have a M&Ms World (anything and everything M&Ms you could think of - worth a visit), a Coca Cola World (much the same just Coco Cola not M&MS), Walgreens everywhere for any essentials and lots of places to eat inside like Wendys etc.

                    --Food--

                    There are so many places to eat - walking along the strip you may think there is nothing but that's because they're all inside the hotels. Harrahs Hotel and the Bellagio have great buffets that start at $20 per person and are all you can eat - and very good. Most hotels have these buffets. There is also an Outback Steakhouse along the strip, and Wendys etc. But there are great restaurants inside all the hotels - some will set you back a bit and some will require bookings. Some are full on black tie and some are more casual. My advise is to research before you go and find a couple of nice places to eat and then discover the rest as you go along.

                    --Travel--

                    The strip is very long so I would suggest using the monorail. This runs from the Flamingo Hotel down to one end and then the opposite way down to the other end. The monorail does stop inside the hotels though so you have to walk through the hotels to get back out on the strip (a money making scheme no doubt) but there is so much walking involved in Vegas that it's a welcome change once you've done for the day and are at the opposite end of the strip to your hotel, to just get the monorail back. It's $13.50 I think for a full day 24 hours (as many trips as you like) or about $7 for one trip or thereabouts. Quite expensive but if you are zipping around all day it's worth it. And if you buy it at midday for example it lasts til midday the next day - it doesn't finish at the end of the day like train tickets in the UK do - so it does work out cheaper in the end. Cabs are the same as anywhere - not too expensive but if you end up sitting in traffic the bill will rack up.

                    Also to note that the roads on the strip are very busy, so there are walkways which cross the main roads - you go up on the escalator or lift, cross the road via the walkway and come back down at the other end. A great invention for Vegas but can get annoying after a while. Although much safer than trying to navigate your way across the road especially at night! The streets are packed as well - all the time - so again it's much safer than getting shoved into the road.

                    --Other things to see and do--

                    We took a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona while we were there - which was amazing. Booked before we went and our coach picked us up at the Ballys hotel (across the road to us), dropped us to Planet Hollywood Hotel where we got our tickets and the coach the Canyon. The driver was also the guide and was very knowledgeable and the trip took about 2 and a half hours to 3 hours to get there. He narrated the whole way and knew so much about everything. We got 3 hours at the Canyon and then the trip home. Well worth doing - cost us $140 per person (about £85). Highly recommended to do this while in Vegas.

                    We also went to the Stratosphere at the far end of the strip - this is a bit like the Empire State Building in that you get very fast lifts to the top for spectacular views all over Vegas and the desert. Think it was about $15 per person to go up to the top to do this. You can pay extra to go up to the Tower where there is a revolving restaurant and loads of mad rides like rollercoasters that come out ride over the edge of the building VERY high up in the air - looked very scary and didn't do it!

                    Just past the Stratosphere also is the Little White Wedding Chapel where the likes of Britney Spears and Joan Collins got married (if you're into that sort of thing). This is where all the wedding chapels are situated - there's hundreds of them! There's also one in every hotel pretty much as well- have never seen so many weddings as I did on this trip!

                    --Overall--

                    Loved Vegas - thought it was amazing like something out of a movie. In fact the whole place looked like a movie set. Everything is so big and flashing and neon and just out of this world really. Some of the hotels interiors just take your breath away and there is so much to do. There's so many shows to see - big stars like Barry Manilow, Bette Midler and Donnie & Marie were there when we were there, Mandalay Bay is the place for concerts like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, and there's also magic shows, hypnotic shows, strip shows (if you're into that), shows like the Jersey Boys, and lots of cabaret shows and of course all the Cirque de Solei shows. I loved Vegas and am definitely going to go back. I was worried I'd be bored as I'm not really a gambler but there is so much to see and do. Definitely put it in your list of places to see before you die!

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                      17.09.2009 15:53
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                      Vegas is a place to see - but once is probably enough

                      It's been a few years since I went to Vegas, but I doubt the general atmosphere has changed too much! We went in May and stayed at the Excalibir Hotel, designed to look like a castle, and it had medieval banquets and that kind of thing.

                      Vegas is basically made up of the strip, which has all the hotels, clubs, etc. There's not that much outside of the strip, although there is a decent shopping mall. There's loads of different hotels (the NYC one is my fave!) and some famous ones like Caesar's Palace. Most of the hotels have shows or attractions to get you through the door. All of them have casinos.

                      There's also various displays and shows you can go to. In the day, unless you want to gamble, then you will probably be around the pool, it's a bit too hot to be wondering round if you go in summer. It was 35 degrees when I went. One warning - if you're under 21 you're not even allowed near the slot machines. The hotels are also freezing!

                      At night there's loads of all you can eat buffets (these are great) and loads of hotels etc to look at. Vegas is defintely somewhere people should go, but unless you're very into gambling or the big shows, I would say three days is enough to see everything. Personally, I enjoyed it and I'm glad I went but once is probably enough.

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                        03.09.2009 13:19
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                        Glitzy, over the top but fantastic

                        My partner and I have just returned from our first trip to Vegas. Wow! Over the top, glitzy, and truly wonderful.
                        Three nights at the start of a flydrive holiday and two nights at the end.

                        If you can't take the heat, don't go in the summer. We went in August and I found it pretty uncomfortable. Having said that, you are free to walk in and out of any of the hotels to take advantage of the air conditioning. I found that thirty minutes at a time was enough and I still managed to get a tan.

                        We stayed at the Excalibur Hotel for the first three nights which is at the south end of the strip and has free parking. This Hotel is also known as The Castle and looks exactly like a fairy castle from a Disney Movie. The room was comfortable with two Queen sized beds a nice bathroom with a large shower but unlike the Hotels on the rest of our trip you don't get any tea or coffee making facilities in any of the rooms in Vegas and I must have my coffee in the morning. There was a little place downstairs that sold coffee and pastries but I found this very expensive. They don't want you in your rooms when there is gambling to be done. It also sports six restaurants. The Hotel also has a spa and fitness centre and four swimming pools with a jaccuzi. The widescreen rooms have 42" plasma tv's. There are 3,991 rooms plus two towers with twenty eight floors in each tower.
                        Also there is a show called Tournament of kings if you buy a ticket for this show dinner is included. We didn't see it because there wasn't enough time. I think you need two weeks to see and do everything in Vegas and then some. When my grandkids saw my photos they couldn't believe I stayed in a fairy castle!
                        The Excalibur is a nice Hotel despite its bizarre look from the outside, and there is a moving walkway that takes you straight into the Luxor, or you can use the free monorail which takes you to the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay hotels.

                        Although the Excalibur is quite noisy and very busy we found it to be a very pleasant place to stay because it is on the strip where everything happens and we did enjoy having a little flutter on the slots. The downside for us was that we didn't realise that all drinks are free as long as you are gambling; we only found this out when we got home.

                        We went to the Mirage Hotel where we found Siegfried & Roy's secret garden and Dolphin habitat.
                        The Dolphin habitat has a main pool where you can sit round and watch the Dolphins perform at close range.The keepers also tell you about the birthing researching pool.
                        They also have Lions and Tigers right there in the Hotel grounds. At the front of the Mirage they have an erupting volcano which appears to have lava and flames spewing from it. This erupts every few minutes.

                        During these three days we went to the Stratosphere which is right at the North end of the Strip. The tower, which has a revolving restaurant, is the highest building west of the Mississippi river and right on the top are three pretty scary rides that take you out away from the building and you find yourself suspended over the city.These rides are quite expensive but well worth it for the adrenalin rush but if you book a table for a meal you get into the tower free.
                        The food was very good but personally I think a little over priced, we had lunch there and spent about sixty dollars plus the tip.

                        To get to this northern end of the strip you can use the monorail, which runs from the back of the MGM Grand all the way up to Sahara, with several stops in between. You can get a single ride ticket for $5, a 24-hour ticket costs $15, or a 10-ride ticket costs $35.
                        The downside of the monorail is that whichever Hotel to travel to it drops you at the back of the Hotel and it can take you a good half an hour to get back to The Strip.

                        Something else we learned quite quickly was that you don't pay $4 dollars a bottle for water ( it's essential that you have a bottle with you when you go out during the day ) there are street vendors on all of the walkways selling water for $1 and its ice cold, they may be illegal vendors but I know which I would rather pay.

                        The Luxor Hotel is where we stayed on our return to Vegas for our last two nights, this is also located at the south end of the strip between the Excalibur and the Mandalay Bay, we stayed in the pyramid but there are also two enormous towers as well which we could have upgraded to but we decided it would be nicer in the pyramid . The Luxor has an Egyptian theme there is a huge statue of the sphinx at the front of the hotel and inside the entrance there are more huge statues. The inside is also done in the same theme. Registration was a bit of an ordeal, the queues were extremely long but I must say there were lots of desks open and they dealt with everyone fairly quickly.
                        We were a bit disappointed with the room however. The iron had a dodgy lead that you had to move about to make the iron stay on, the sink plug had black gunge all over it, and at least one of the electrical sockets seemed to be hanging off the wall, apart from those minor issues it was comfortable enough.
                        On our penultimate night we had tickets for the Caesar's Palace Colosseum to see Bette Midler we bought the tickets in the UK, very expensive but well worth it. She was amazing.
                        The last night we walked back up to the Bellagio Hotel to see the fountains. This show of water dancing to music cannot be missed. They start at 3 pm Mon-Fri, or noon at weekends, and are shown every 30 minutes until 8pm. It then changes to every 15 minutes until midnight it was one of the highlights of my stay in Vegas.

                        Las Vegas may be glitzy and way over the top but there is so much more to it than just gambling, lots to see and do for everybody.

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                          01.09.2009 12:14
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                          GREAT FOR A FEW DAYS FUN

                          Las Vegas, where do i begin.

                          I was in San Diego for a 3 week long holiday and we went to Vegas from there.
                          I absolutely loved it and everything about it, though i will say this. 3 days was more than enough for me.

                          We stayed in New York New York. This hotel was absolutely fantastic it was right on the strip and right in the centre of the action. It had everything you could possibly want from a hotel and the price was excellent, while not able to remember exactly i believe the price was in around 70 dollars a night for us both and the rooms were out of this world.

                          People think of Las Vegas as being for gambling only, i think on my experience that whilst vegas is all based on gambling, you dont have to make this the purpose of your holiday. On the three days i spent there we spent our time going around all the different hotels and casinos and simply taking in the atmosphere and seeing the delight of them all. We spent very little time in the casinos and when we did it was simply on the 5 cent machines were we could have a laugh without losing any real money.

                          The weather was fantastic, very very hot and our hotel had fantastic pool if you wanted a few hours lounging around there.
                          There is so much choice in the selection of food and restaurants and i found that like anywhere you can have cheapish places to eat as well as more expensive.

                          There are also shopping outlets not far off the main strip with great bargains and savings to be had.

                          There are also a range of trips to the grand canyon and helicopter rides over vegas at night if you want that little bit extra from your holiday.

                          All in all i have to say i loved vegas. There is lots to do and see and you dont have to spend all your time gambling. You can get away with spending as little money as you please and still have a nice time. You can make the holiday as expensive or inexpensive as you please.
                          The weather is fabulous, the hotels are fabulous and the atmospher is equally fabulous.
                          I do feel however that 3 or 4 days is enough to spend in it to get the feeling and enjoy the fun. People also say its tackey, and yes it is but in a fun way and for those 3 days i let my hair down and enjoyed all the fun and tackiness as it was a once in a lifetime trip.

                          Take my advice, take a few days there i dont think you will regret it and it isnt as pricey as you are led believe.

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                            17.08.2009 18:14
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                            See review.

                            It's been a couple of years since I was last in Las Vegas. Located near the Nevada desert, Las Vegas is known for gambling. Generally the price of hotel rooms on the strip can be competetive. For example Treasure Island Hotel has very reasonable rates especially compared to the cost of hotel rooms in tourist attractions in other parts of America. However, the reason for such competetive rates is to entice people to the hotel so they will gamble there.

                            I assume that anyone reading this review will be looking at staying on the strip. Things people should be aware of, the strip is a few miles long with hotels up and down. To cross from one side to the other, one must cross a bridge. In America j walking is illegal. It always tends to be some European tourists who get stopped by the police for j walking.

                            The strip is full of hotels with casinos, with gambling machines and poker tables one after another. Other than gambling there are shopping malls and some shows. Be careful when booking a show. I once went to enquire about seats for Phantom of the Opera. They quote ridiculously high prices inform you that seats are severly limited and then out the blue tell you it's your lucky day since they have one left. The advertised prices for theatre tickets inflated. It should be possible to get reduced prices through other channels before booking. Further to this be careful of the waiters especially if they're too friendly. This means they're expecting a big fat tip. Try and be as cool as possible.

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                              16.08.2009 13:11
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                              A unique place that I hope remains unique

                              Let's not start with the statistics. Las Vegas spews out statistics like slot machine jackpots used to spew out cascades of coins. Research the city on the net and you will be deluged with numbers: of visitors, of hotel rooms, of dollars gambled - and the tumultuous growth in all these things. They are intrinsic to its nature, and the urge to quote a few of them can't be denied for long, but let's not start there.

                              Where then to start? Perhaps at the airport, just outside the doors of the arrival lounge, where there is a booth selling tickets for the shuttle busses that serve the main hotels. A one way ticket is $6.50, and I asked for that.
                              "You coming back?" said the woman behind the window. "The round trip is $12, so you save a dollar."

                              "If I win," I told her, "I'll be riding in a limo. And if I lose, I'll walk." Of course, I wasn't serious, just trying on for size a little bullshit and bravado, in keeping with the spirit of the place.

                              It didn't win a smile, or an expression of any kind. "What time's your flight out?" she asked.

                              "Late afternoon."

                              "That's going to be one long, hot walk."


                              * Now for some numbers *

                              The hotel to which the shuttle bus carried me, the Flamingo, was the first of the big casino-hotels to be put up along the "strip", the boulevard that runs south into the desert out from "old" downtown Las Vegas. The Flamingo was the brainchild of an entrepreneur called Billy Wilkerson, backed by investors of distinctly dubious provenance; there is still a memorial plaque in its gardens dedicated to one of them, the notorious mobster Bugsy Siegal.
                              Wilkerson, Siegal and their cronies conceived the hare-brained notion that if you built a casino big, ballsy and brash enough, and shouted about it loudly enough, the world would beat a path to its door, even in the sun-scorched wasteland of southern Nevada. Their vision was breath-taking to the point of lunacy, but archetypically American, as was the response. The punters were impressed, and came.

                              All this was way back in 1946, so naturally the Flamingo has been completely rebuilt and extended since. Who would want to preserve anything so old? Certainly no one in Las Vegas. In its new incarnation, under completely new management, the Flamingo boasts 3600 bedrooms. This makes it just the ninth largest in Las Vegas and the eleventh largest in the world; a truly astounding proportion of the world's big hotels are located in Las Vegas. Moreover, there are new hotels now planned that promise to increase that proportion, and push the likes of the Flamingo out of even the Las Vegas top ten. To put the numbers in perspective, less than a century ago the whole of Clark County, Nevada, in which the city stands, had a total population of 3321. So there are now more rooms in just one hotel, by no means the biggest, than there were people then. People now? About 1¾ million residents, plus up to another ½ million visitors at any given time. Yes, it's grown.

                              There was a long queue at reception at the Flamingo, and it took me nearly half an hour to check in. Maybe, I thought, I've arrived at an unusually busy time, or maybe this hotel has an unusually undermanned front desk. But no; whenever I passed through the lobby during my stay there was always a long queue, and the same was true of the other big hotels I went to see. Even in the depths of a severe recession, Las Vegas seems to be having no trouble pulling in the tourists.

                              You may be wondering why, staying at one hotel, I was going to see others. It is a curious feature of Las Vegas that the hotels are visitor attractions in themselves, rather than simply accommodating people attracted there for other purposes. Indeed, you could say that they aren't many visitor attractions in Las Vegas outside the hotels, whilst within them there are many, including concert halls, nightclubs, exhibition centres, restaurants, themed features and displays of many kinds. The reason isn't hard to find, being the same reason that animates almost everything about the way Las Vegas is organised: the desire of the hoteliers to entice prospective punters to play in their casinos, where the real money is made.


                              * The play's the thing *

                              Personally, despite my attempt at bravado with the woman at the airport, I'm not much of a gambler; I had other reasons for being in Las Vegas. To the extent that I am a gambler, I'm probably the kind that Las Vegas least wants or welcomes: a low roller who might play cards for small stakes among friends or wager a few quid at a racetrack to add spice to the occasion, but with no real interest in betting for its own sake. Especially unappealing is the kind of betting that consists of feeding money into an inanimate machine with the odds on its side. Call me unimaginative if you like, but I can't see where the fun is to be found in losing.

                              However, I am clearly in the minority, since the slot machines are easily the casinos' biggest source of revenue, taking nearly twice what is staked on table games like roulette, craps or blackjack. Enter any casino and rank after rank of them will greet you with their flashing lights and whirling dials, looking not so much like one-armed bandits as platoons of gaudily-equipped robotic soldiers. Added together, they form a formidable army, in total some 200,000 strong. They would not be there without willing victims, and many such are to be seen seated in front of them, pressing the buttons with routine repetitiveness - it is no longer necessary to pull the handles at their sides. Moreover, these people appear entirely normal, neither blank-eyed addicts nor wild-eyed compulsives, which makes their willingness to part with their money stranger still. They presumably know that the longer they play the more likely they are to lose, but they continue. Perhaps they are just exercising the American right to hope, even if it might prove to be the triumph of hope over experience. Either way, who am I to question how others choose to enjoy themselves?

                              Since I wasn't doing much playing, I spent more time observing the set up, noting how the ways through the big hotels always seemed to steer one towards the casino areas, how few places there are to sit down except in front of the slot machines or gaming tables, how even in the bars there are often slot screens built into the surface of the bar so that you can continue to play while you refresh yourself. It may have been a coincidence, but whenever my companions and I went for dinner at restaurants within casinos we were on each occasion told that they would have a table ready if we'd like to come back in about twenty minutes or half an hour. Just the kind of interval, it struck me, which we might fill by putting a little money into the adjacent slots, but not long enough for us to become so impatient as to go off elsewhere. I don't know whether or not it's true that the owners pump oxygen into the playing areas to keep customers feeling awake and self-confident, but I did notice that, in one or two casinos that have ceilings imitating sky, the light intensity was kept at a level that simulated early evening, the sort of time that you might be thinking of settling in one place, but far too early to go to bed. Meanwhile upbeat music maintains a lively atmosphere.

                              And I had to laugh when I read in the 'Guest Services' section of the hotel guide about "Our banking center, conveniently located in the casino." Convenient, I wondered, for whom?


                              * Render unto Caesar's Palace *

                              Before you can be kept inside by the kind of contrivances described above, you do, of course, have to be lured through the casino's doors in the first place, and it is fascinating to see how the big hotels approach the competitive challenge of luring. Some rely on nothing more original than sumptuous luxury (at the top end of the market) or cheap room rates (at the lower end), but others seek to make their mark by theming and/or entertainment. For example: -

                              ~ The Venetian. An ambitious attempt to recreate some of the monuments and features of Venice: St Marks Square, the Rialto, canals, gondolas and so on. The scale and the attention to detail are extraordinary, but it doesn't truly convince; you can replicate the architecture, but not the ambience. Here, the bustle of the adjacent strip keeps intruding. I remember once having seen a documentary about the building of this place, and the obsessive desire for exactitude of the entrepreneur behind it; for example, having the canals drained and relined so that the colour of the water would be to his satisfaction. In fact, it is nothing like as dark and murky as that of genuine Venetian canals, but is perhaps as dark and murky as American tourists will tolerate, and they are probably impressed that millions of dollars were spent in the quest for authenticity.

                              ~ Paris Las Vegas. Another remarkable pastiche of a European city, complete with Eiffel Tower and elegantly Gallic-municipal exterior. Embedded into this exterior is Mon Ami Gabi, an excellent imitation of a Parisian brasserie in all respects but the tastiness of the food and the tipping expectations. Dining there one night, I felt pangs of nostalgia both for genuine French cuisine and for prix nets, as opposed to an automatically-added 18% service charge. Still, if you can arrange to be seated on the terrace out front, Mon Ami Gabi does provide you with a good view across the strip to....

                              ~ The Bellagio. I'm a little unclear as to the intended nature of the Bellagio's theming, if any, but it hardly needs any when the choreographed fountains that play in the lake across its frontage are such a splendid spectacle. Large crowds gather each evening to watch them swirl, sway and spout skywards to music ranging from Pavarotti arias to Lee Greenwood's Proud to be American, which always goes down among a patriotic audience. The best free entertainment in Las Vegas, in my view. Alternatively, you can pay around $100 to see Cirque du Soleil perform within.

                              ~ The Mirage. Another plushy hotel of indistinct theming offering free entertainment in its strip-side artificial lake. Here a fake Volcano erupts at regular intervals through the evening, spewing out illusory lava like slot machine jackpots used to spew out cascades of coins. Meanwhile, one block north...

                              ~ Treasure Island... has a free outdoor display of a different kind, featuring two near-lifesize 17th century galleons. "Get enchanted by the beautiful Sirens of TI® as they lure a band of renegade pirates into their cove with powerful and captivating melodies"...as the hotel website describes it. This draws big crowds and I had a rather poor view of it from across the strip, but it looked quite fun as a song-and-dance routine if utterly unconvincing as a piratical showdown. Rather confusingly, the Cirque de Soleil seemed to be performing here as well.

                              ~ Luxor. The external Egyptana - the replica sphinx and similar statuary - I found curiously unimpressive, but the building itself is architecturally awe-inspiring. An outsize pyramid of which the rooms form the outer skin, it has a huge hollow interior housing all the usual facilities including exhibition halls and a theatre. At the time of my visit you could choose between exhibitions about the Human Body (said to be very good, but I missed it) or the Titanic; alternatively you could see 'Menopause - the musical'.

                              ~ New York New York. Just in case some of the theming seems a little exotic, here's one closer to home. The simulation of the NYC skyline, complete with Statue of Liberty, works rather well, even if the Coney Island-style big dipper winding its way among the skyscrapers looks somewhat incongruous. Brooklyn Bridge at sidewalk level is a bit of a disappointment, though, conveying no sense of being anywhere except beside the strip, which of course it is.

                              ~ MGM Grand. Allegedly the biggest hotel of all, at least at the time of writing. The theme here is Lions, in keeping with the MGM logo. Outside stands 'the largest golden statue in the world' depicting the relevant beast, while inside were two of the living beasts themselves, displayed in what the commentary told us proudly was a $9m dollar habitat. These specimens are bussed in daily by air-conditioned coach from the ranch where a full squad of them resides in waiting.

                              Those are just a few examples. More could easily be cited, among them the Mandalay Bay (with 'beach', aquaria and 12,000 seat arena), the Stratosphere (with a high observation tower and white-knuckle rides), Excalibur (which looks like a giant lego model of a fairytale castle), or Caesar's Palace, which seemed to me to conflate every classical archetype (together with some not so classical). And so on, and so on.


                              * That's entertainment, apparently *

                              In the list above I've already touched on some of the entertainment on offer, but in truth I've barely scratched the surface. At any given time there are hundreds of shows and concerts on offer, often featuring big name performers - many of them world-famous, though some seemingly world-famous only in Las Vegas. I won't name names, since they doubtless change over time, but many even I had heard of, though I must confess that this may only reveal their average age. Perhaps old stagers never die, just take gigs in Las Vegas. Still, the younger generation, both male and female, seems well-represented in the burlesque or strip-tease shows (is there a difference?) that also feature prominently along the strip.

                              If burlesque isn't raunchy enough for you, or if looking without touching doesn't appeal, there appear to be plenty of opportunities to arrange something more personal. Mobile advertisements go up and down the strip advertising 'Hot Babes' who apparently 'want to meet you', while sleazy characters wait on the sidewalk with packs of cards featuring semi-naked girls, prices and phone numbers, which they try to thrust into your hand with an odd snapping/slapping gesture. I'm no prude, but this did seem rather repellent and not in the least erotic.

                              Meanwhile, old downtown Las Vegas is trying to attract visitors away from the strip, its main weapon being the Fremont Street Experience. This consists of having roofed over the whole of the eponymous street with a long semi-cylindrical vault, its underside brilliantly illuminated with kaleidoscopic displays, while an all-round sound system spews out the decibels like slot machine jackpots used to spew out cascades of coins. At night, with the street full of enthusiastic on-lookers, it is really a rather exhilerating experience, and I understand it has done wonders in reviving the fortunes of the adjacent casinos, which lack the size and glamour of their strip-side counterparts.


                              * Strip steak *

                              While on Fremont Street, at the Four Queens Casino, I enjoyed a very edible rib steak with all the trimmings for $7.99 ($9.99 less $2 for joining the casino's gaming club, for which I also received a deck of cards), washed down with their own, very drinkable micro-brewery beer. This wasn't a great gastronomic experience, but great value. Eating in the casinos is often good value, for the usual reason of their wanting to tempt you inside for other purposes. Cheap drinks (e.g. Margaritas for $0.99) are also a commonplace incentive, or even free drinks apparently if you show signs of playing long and seriously enough, which I never did.

                              I really wasn't in Las Vegas long enough to make firm recommendations as to places to eat and drink, of which there are thousands. I did, though, quite enjoy the Rain Forest Café in the bowels of the MGM Grand. What it lacks in culinary sophistication it more than makes up for in atmosphere, being yet another themed experience, complete with simulated tropical storms.


                              * Slot machine payouts... *

                              ... incidentally, these days usually take the form of automatically-printed, machine-redeemable credit slips rather than cascades of coins, in case you were wondering. Such is progress.


                              * Beer and betrothing in Las Vegas *

                              It has always been a bit of a mystery to me as to why so many people choose to be married in Las Vegas, at least on a planned, pre-meditated basis. Impromptu weddings I can understand, given the almost instant availability of licences, and the disorienting potential of perhaps unexpected wins on the tables or being taken suddenly drunk while celebrating. Nevertheless, it was for a long-planned wedding that I was there. No, I wasn't getting married, but my son was, having been to Las Vegas with his girl-friend last year and become engaged in the process.

                              All big Las Vegas hotels are geared up for weddings, and the Flamingo is no exception. The only problem the young couple encountered was when they were asked what kind of minister they would like to officiate, and replied that they would prefer a non-religious ceremony. After some debate, they were told this should be possible; apparently, there was a Buddhist minister willing to keep religion out of it. So I was kind of expecting an oriental character in saffron robes, but when the relevant minister appeared one would more readily have tagged him for a rabbi than a biku. No matter, he was competent, amiable and as secular as anyone could wish for.

                              There is an air-conditioned chapel in the gardens, but the young couple decided on a ceremony al fresco. It all passed off as pleasantly as is possible in blistering heat, and once it was over we rushed inside for refreshment. No one seemed to fancy champagne - which, pricewise, was probably a blessing - and the only draught beer on offer in the cocktail bar was a substance called Blue Moon, which tasted a little like a sour continental weissbier, a flavour not improved by the addition of an orange segment on a stick. Ah well, it didn't spoil the wedding.


                              * Strip mall *

                              Even more than gambling, shopping is my least favourite activity, and I feel ill-qualified to comment on retail therapy Las Vegas-style. For those who like that sort of thing, though, there are plenty of opportunities, including what seemed to me to be some prestigious brand-names located in the more prestigious hotel-casinos.


                              * One long hot walk *

                              It was just as well that I never seriously contemplated walking back to the airport. The temperature while I was in Las Vegas in early August was hovering around 106-107 F (41-42 C), and stepping out an air-conditioned hotel lobby was like opening the door of a pizza oven. Even I, who love to explore cities on foot, never managed more than a few blocks at a time before wilting. The only way to stay cool while walking is to go through the casino halls, which is interesting at first, but soon palls.

                              Alternatively, you can hire a car, which is probably the American way, but which I'd never do to stay within a city, take cabs (expensive), or try what little public transportation exists. This consists of:

                              (i) The Monorail (seemingly alternatively branded "moneyrail" by its sponsors, the Bank of Nevada), which only really serves the lower strip. However, I liked the message on their ticket machines - "we're about to deal you the card you need" - when one put in the fare ($5 for a single ride or $13 for a 24-hour pass).

                              (ii) The Deuce bus, which for $3 single ride (or $7 for 24 hours) takes you from anywhere on the strip to downtown, or back.



                              * There and back *

                              There are at least half a dozen airlines that will fly you from Britain to Las Vegas. Shopping around on the net, you can usually find return fares at not much over £300, economy. With most flights, you have to change at one hub or another in the eastern United States. Although BA are also planning a non-stop route, at present only Virgin Atlantic, from Gatwick, will fly you directly there from the UK. Better still, they'll fly you directly back. Unless, of course, you are so waylaid by the slots in the departure lounge that you miss your flight.


                              * Sunny side down *

                              On one of my rare forays out into the sun, a short walk off the strip down Flamingo Avenue brought me to two buildings that helped me see Las Vegas through slightly (only slightly) different eyes.

                              One was a big hanger-like edifice, emblazoned with a sign proclaiming it to be the employment office for the Harrah's Group, and announcing "7 great properties, 1 great opportunity". Harrah's encompasses seven of the big casino-hotels, and seeing this huge hiring-shop surrounded by an applicants' parking lot, including disabled spaces, was a reminder of the vast army of staff that they employ: the cleaners and chambermaids and concierges and waiters and waitresses and croupiers and pit crew and security staff and cashiers and parking lot attendants and valet parkers and drivers and bellhops and baggage handlers and laundry staff and repair and maintenance people. And so on and so on. Many are Mexican immigrants and probably well pleased with what they can earn here, even in the most menial capacity, compared with what is available to them at home. Like the punters, they also exercising the American right to have hope, and have it more abundantly.

                              The second was a little single-storey convenience store and bar, barely a casino as Las Vegas accustoms one to think of casinos, though with its own slot machines. In the shadow of the 26-storey Flamingo, it is flanked on its two further sides by a vast empty plot. Above the doors is a sign that reads defiantly: "We have 21 years left on our lease. We are here to serve you."
                              One has to read between the lines a little, perhaps mistakenly, but somehow I imagined this might mean that the lease-holders were holding out against, and thereby holding up, the development of yet another mega-casino in the vacant plot. If so, it's a sturdy show of independence and arguably admirable, though how many more workers might have been employed in the mega-casino, and how many more visitors might want to stay there? Despite all that, I hope they make their 21.


                              * Strip cartoon *

                              It would be easy to be cynical about Las Vegas and you may think I have been, but that is something I have honestly tried to avoid. In any case, the place defies satire. How could you exaggerate what is already so exaggerated? Las Vegas always seems to be parodying itself, even when it is parodying other places. There is a cartoon quality to the strip, larger than life but somehow only tenuously real. The Mirage is an apt name for a hotel-casino. Maybe this sense of unreality is induced by the sheer ambition of the place, which for an aging European like me is almost mind-numbing.

                              The absence of self-doubt, introspection or irony is quintessentially American. They'd say this is a winner's mentality, one that makes them more successful. To which one can only question what constitutes success.
                              Successful or otherwise, what happens in America first does tend to happen here later. So is all this exaggerated artifice, this manipulated and manipulative artifice, really the future of leisure here as well as there? If only in the interests of conservation and variety, I hope not.

                              Even so, I'm not against Las Vegas. You can't be against Las Vegas without being against freedom and against people enjoying themselves in their own way, and I am passionately in favour of both. But I still find it hard to contain my ambivalence, because the things that people seem to enjoy most in Las Vegas don't happen to be things that much appeal to me personally. So be it; that is my loss, not theirs. I had a fascinating few days in Vegas, but I shan't be going back. Don't let me put you off, though. If you haven't already been, it's worth a visit just to experience at first hand the soaring scale, the exuberant excess. And you might be one of those who loves it.


                              © Also published under the name torr on Ciao UK, 2009

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                            • Product Details

                              "Las Vegas (often abbreviated to "Vegas") is the most populous city in the state of Nevada, United States, the seat of Clark County, and an internationally known vacation, shopping, entertainment, and gambling destination. It was established in 1905 and officially became a city in 1911. It is the largest U.S. city founded in the 20th century. The name Las Vegas is often applied to the unincorporated areas of Clark County that surround the city, especially the resort areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip. This 4½ mi (7.2 km) stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is mostly outside the Las Vegas city limits, in the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester. Las Vegas is marketed as The Entertainment Capital of the World, also commonly known as Sin City, due to the popularity of legalized gambling, availability of alcoholic beverages at any time (as is true throughout Nevada), and various forms and degrees of adult entertainment. The city's glamorous image has made it a popular setting for films and television programs."