We arrived in Las Vegas in the dark. Which means all we could see were bright lights and huge hotels and flashing casinos, and you could almost forget that it was dark – but you definitely couldn’t forget that you’re in Vegas.
Hotels are, of course, a quintessential part of any trip to Vegas, although at this point any hotel would have been exciting to us because we’d almost forgotten what hotels are. As it happens, we were staying in one (I bet most of you expected me to find a hostel!), although far from the luxury of the Bellagio or Mirage; we were right down at the end of the strip, in the totally tacky Circus Circus.
Circus Circus is a weird hotel, in that it’s split into several sections, and you can pay an increasing amount to “upgrade” to each one. So naturally, the $20 per night base rate that I had paid (plus $36 per night resort fee) was for a section that wasn’t even part of the hotel. We could upgrade for $8 per night to stay in the actual hotel but in the furthest away block (the one to the right in the picture), $11 for a nice part of the hotel, or $17 for the most deluxe rooms. I was relatively annoyed, but decided to pay the $11, having read that the “run of house” rooms were VERY sub-par.
I’d read about them doing this, although I don’t know if other hotels do it too. It’s a bit sneaky and I wonder if we would have been better staying on the proper part of the strip.
It was alright anyway; our room was absolutely fine and we were a short-ish walk from Treasure Island which for me, really marks the start of the strip.
Vegas, naturally, is pretty crazy, and I couldn’t wait to get started. We were going to be out until 4am partying Vegas style, knocking back shots and accidentally ending up with hookers and maybe a tiger in our room.
HA! Only joking – to my horrified disbelief, we were back at the hotel and tucked up in bed by midnight!!
This trip, I realised, was starting to take it out of us, and Vegas with its sensory overload was a bit too much for our blitzed brains.
So what did we get up to for our couple of days in the city of flashing lights, if it wasn’t drinking ourselves silly and befriending all sorts of immoral people and losing all our money (and possibly teeth)? Here’s what!
The First Night
I already said in my last post that we wanted to make sure we took full advantage of our first night in Sin City, otherwise we could have stayed at Pioneer Saloon all night! But rather than being sinful, we went for a walk.
Went for a walk??? What kind of boring motherfuckers are we?!
We hopped into a couple of hotels on the way (namely Treasure Island, because Ash really wanted to see it, and we immediately wished we had stayed there instead, to be honest – especially when we saw the ship!!) but our main destination was the famous fountains of the Bellagio.
The last time I was here, I was drunk. This time, I was clearly old.
We couldn’t have timed our stop at the Bellagio better – minutes after arriving, the fountains set into motion one of the most beautiful displays I’ve ever seen. We saw the fountains a couple more times over the course of our visit, but none of them were as emotional as the first one, set to Time To Say Goodbye.
Unfortunately, YouTube blocked my video on grounds of copyright issue, but apparently sees fit that there are plenty of others still on there with no issues whatsoever.
But anyway, bitterness aside (because my video is great), here is one of the unblocked videos that captures it excellently.
We wandered through a couple more of the hotels like the Venetian, and swung by Caeser’s Palace. But really, we were just soaking up the atmosphere and taking it all in, as well as sort of planning what we’d do the next night.
We also took a detour down “The Linq” which I’m pretty sure wasn’t there last time I was in Vegas, and it happened to be where In-N-Out burger is!!! I finally had my fix, having missed out on it in San Francisco AND LA!!
We only made it as far as what I call the “central” part of the strip, i.e. Caesar’s Palace, the Venetian and Paris et al, but it was the perfect introduction to the desert city.
The First Day
We were up bright and early the next morning with grand plans to go for breakfast at IHOP. I have an obsession with IHOP. I mean, anywhere that calls themselves the International House Of Pancakes can ONLY be amazing, and it happened to be a short walk from our hotel.
However, what looks like a short walk on the map, is not necessarily a short walk on the strip. And after a 20 minute walk, my heart sank when we walked in to find at least 20-30 people waiting for tables.
We were told there would be at least a half hour wait, which meant we wouldn’t even be seated until 10am, and we wanted to basically walk the entire strip. I told them to forget it and stormed out, much to Ash’s dismay. He just wanted breakfast!
I stomped onto a bus, reassuring him that at least we could have a cheaper breakfast elsewhere and make the most of our 24-hour bus pass and our day exploring the strip.
Turns out that short of finding a convenience store off the strip, there ain’t really such a thing as a cheaper breakfast, and we ended up having horrendously overpriced food at Johnny Rockets in one of the first set of hotels (Luxor, I think). It was cheaper than IHOP, but for what you got it had damn well better be.
We started off, though, by going beyond Mandalay Bay and heading out to the infamous Welcome To Las Vegas sign. This was a huge reason I’d left IHOP in a strop – I wanted to get to the Vegas sign before the crowds did.
Because – err, even this early…
Anyway, we got our compulsory photos by skipping the queue and taking just-as-good photos from the side, and swiftly jumped back on a bus to the hotels. (Once again, what looks like a short walk – you can even seen Mandalay Bay in the background of the photos – actually takes at least 10 minutes, and we were about to do a WHOLE lot more walking!)
The cool thing about the first few hotels of the strip is they are all interconnected. You don’t even have to go down onto the strip to go to the next one.
And so we began our day with Luxor, Excalibur and New York New York, where I somehow justified spending a whopping $15 on the rollercoaster that I had loved ten years ago. This time, it was rattling to the point that my teeth felt funny, and I mean it was a fun little rollercoaster, but I didn’t love it. I kinda wish I’d saved my money and spent it on some of the rides at the Stratosphere instead! Ash whiled away some time in the arcade while I was on it.
I actually really like the first few hotels, because they’re a bit more subdued than the more famous ones, but the themes are still fabulously executed and they have a really fun atmosphere!
We crossed over the strip to MGM Grand, which has been highly renovated since I was last there. It no longer has lions – thank God – and with nothing else particularly of interest, we moved on to the commercial section of the Strip. Am I allowed to say that? Surely it’s all commercial?
But, you know – the Hard Rock Café and giant Coca Cola bottle and M&M section.
The M&M store wasn’t actually as fun as the London one (I only took one photo and it hasn’t even made it onto the blog!) but the Coca Cola store is ridiculous. We spent a surprising amount of time in this section of the strip – and probably could have actually found a cheaper breakfast – and quickly found that we were back where we had got to the night before. In all its glory and flashiness, the strip isn’t actually that huge. (It just seems to take a long time to get anywhere!)
But we had to take a temporary time-out from our wander down the boulevard – we needed to hop on a bus to the Stratosphere for one of my most anticipated activities of the whole trip!
I was about to spend less than 20 seconds of my life jumping off a building.
And the best part is, you can watch!
The whole thing was a little disorganised from start to finish, but not at all SkyJump’s fault. The escalator up to their floor was out of order, which meant I had to take an elevator up to the “retail” level, and my ticket said only I had access to the upper floors.
So I obviously took that as meaning Ash couldn’t come up with me at all. I handed him all of my stuff and off I trotted to the elevator that I couldn’t find. When I queued up to check in, they asked for my ID.
“But I just got asked for ID downstairs when I collected my ticket!” I protested. “My partner has all my stuff and I have no idea where he is!”
“Then you won’t be able to jump,” she said matter-of-factly, as if it was no big deal that I might be throwing away $130.
Panicking, I stopped myself from bursting into tears there and then, and took the lift back down and hoped in all hell I would be able to find Ash. “They want my fucking ID!!!!” I shouted at him when he looked up at me in surprise. Of course, if I’d been paying any attention whatsoever, I would have realised he could have come back up with me, and it would only be for the jump itself that I go up to the “restricted section”. Instead, I left him where he was again and frantically took the lift back up, hoping I hadn’t missed my slot by now.
All was well, and as I suited up, I realised that shit, Ash could have been up here with me, and now it was too late for me to go and get him. I was taken upstairs with another guy, and we joked around about who should go first before deciding it should be me. They set me up, weighed me, strapped lots of bits to me, and said I was ready.
“But where’s the camera?”
“…Didn’t I book the video package?”
“You would have been given that downstairs. Let me check.”
Turns out that no, I did not book the video package. I felt myself almost close to tears again. How had I messed this up SO MUCH?!?
I’d have to fork out another $40 for the video, which I agreed to, and they arranged for someone to send the GoPro up to me. Which meant that the guy had to go first – he joked that I definitely did that deliberately!!
Anyway, soon it was my time to shine, and, well, you can see the result in the video! It was a lot of fun, but definitely over way too quickly.
Ash had gone outside to see if he could see me, and I think he saw the guy jump! Ah well. The whole thing had been a bit of a disaster, really! Whoops!
I then left him for even longer by going back up to the top level to take some photos of the views. In the lift up, a member of staff was telling us how long the elevator takes to get to the top floor, but that the fastest way to get back down was to do the SkyJump! She asked if anyone would be brave enough to do it, at which point I had to say I had just done it! Everyone in the lift looked at me in amazement. I feel like it’s the first time that many people have been impressed by something I’ve done, ha!!
Anyway, the views from the top are quite something. It’s really bizarre seeing the whole strip in one direction… and then just desert.
We took the bus back to where we had got to and resumed our walk before it got dark.
Paris is pretty cool inside, and we did nip briefly into the Bellagio in the knowledge that it was going to be posh as hell – but we really wanted to get to Caesar’s Palace for dinner and jackpots!
Caesar’s Palace is insane.
I love the Venetian on the outside and inside, whereas Caesar’s Palace from the outside looks a bit disjointed and jumbled (I didn’t even know where to go in), but I think Caesar’s might be my favourite purely for the grandeur.
In fact, there’s so much to explore in Caesar’s Palace that you could probably spend a whole day in there! I’m pretty sure we spent most of the evening there.
Amazingly, Ash played $5 and having absolutely no idea what he was doing except pressing some buttons, won $25! He spent some of it, and decided to cash out $15. A very modest amount, but I’d call that a win!
To make up for our IHOP disaster earlier, we indulged in another chain that we love – Cheesecake Factory!
While we were eating, the screens suddenly went all dramatic and the statues in the middle of the courtyard started booming and bellowing and changing colour. From behind the display, we couldn’t see a thing. I asked our waiter what the hell was going on.
“The Atlantis Show!” he said. “I’ve heard it a million times, but I’ve STILL never seen it!”
It sounded a bit naff to be honest, and once we finished our dinner we had a quick meander around the shops and I was happy to leave. Ash, however, wanted to perservere and wait for the next show.
It WAS pretty naff!
It probably would have been impressive when it was first installed, but it wasn’t even the most impressive thing in Caesar’s Palace – and you have so many other excellent and mindblowing things going on elsewhere in Vegas!
And so many are free, too – our next stop was the Mirage for their volcano show! I don’t even have any photos, because it was so cool that I started filming it and then didn’t stop. So I’ll upload the video and see if that gets blocked.
In fact, it’s so easy to do Vegas on a budget if you’re not bothered about clubbing and gambling all your money away.
So our choice of hotel hadn’t been great, but it wasn’t BAD. It was still cheaper than anywhere else on the strip, and we were in walking distance of everything. I feel like if you’re going to stay in Vegas, you kind of have to do it somewhat properly.
And we did – we’d stayed in a hotel on the strip, won some money and done something fairly crazy.
Not forgetting-a-whole-night-of-coke or finding-hookers-in-our-room kind of crazy, but our kind of crazy. Speaking of girls:
We couldn’t believe how many of these adverts were so blatant – I guess they don’t call it Sin City for nothing, but still!
The only thing that was missing for us was a show (I REALLY wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil show, but those things are expensive!).
And a buffet, which we did the next morning.
We spent the morning actually exploring our hotel, because we’d kind of avoided it up until that point, and it’s actually got a pretty cool adventure park and water park which we didn’t get to use. I didn’t go on any of the rides, but we did venture into the dome and it looked pretty fun. By the time we checked out at 11am, we were more than ready for an all-you-can-eat buffet.
I don’t remember which one I went to ten years ago, but it had all manner of foods and I was hoping to find something similar. We ended up at the Palace Station buffet, which was one of the cheapest ones I’d found and had a huge array. It was perfect!
I made the mistake of carbing up too quickly, but we ended up spending about two hours trying to jam as much food into ourselves as possible! It worked – I have never actually eaten so much food in my life, and I spent the next two hours unable to move, which made driving very uncomfortable.
A perfect way to end Vegas, I’d say!
As with everywhere on this trip, we could have spent longer there, but to be honest we felt like we had done everything we wanted, especially on our budget. We could have explored downtown and gone to the Mob Museum and Neon Museum, we could have gone to some bars that came recommended from the barmaid in Pioneer Saloon, we could have checked out some of the smaller hotels and spent longer in the larger ones, and there were some fun simulator experiences like Star Wars virtual reality that sounded really awesome, but we didn’t WANT to be too action-packed.
So we did Vegas our way, and it was fantastic.