Las Vegas - there are few places I’ve been less enthusiastic to visit. But, as it turned out, I kinda liked it…
Think of Las Vegas and what comes to mind? Gambling? Sin City? 24-hour party people? A symbol of shameless consumerism in the middle of a desert?
Yes it is tacky, loud and full-on but it is perfectly possible to negotiate all of that and enjoy the experience on your own terms without spending a fortune. Or maybe you want to wallow in tacky, in which case, fill your boots!
Not sure what you want to see and do or like to get your bearings first? Take a Big Bus Tour. Get online and find a 2-for-1 deal and this may be the best $38 you spend. It’s the usual touristy hop-on, hop-off experience but if you’re lucky with your tour guide then you’ll get a fair amount of stand-up comedy sprinkled over your facts & figures. Best to allow a full day for this to get maximum benefit.
Almost everything is based on or around ‘The Strip’, local shorthand for the 4 mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that hosts most of the Vegas action. To experience anything approaching ‘old’ Vegas then a visit downtown is recommended, so this is definitely one of your ‘hop-off’ priorities.
Here is the Vegas of the old films, overdosing on neon signs and celebrating Nevada’s cowboy heritage. Compared to The Strip everything is smaller, tackier and, well, cheaper. Old names do survive, like the Golden Nugget Hotel or Binion’s Horseshoe, all within walkable distance from Fremont Street, the original main street.
But you can quickly get bored of small and tacky so it’s time to hop back on your bus and rejoin the big and tacky…
On The Strip virtually everything is new and shiny, and if it’s not then it’s being demolished or redeveloped into something newer, shinier, and bigger!
It may be show-offy in the extreme, but there is something cool about finding Manhattan, Paris, Venice and the rest surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert wasteland.
That wasteland hosts the awesome Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Americans tend to over-use ‘awesome’, but flying over the Canyon truly is. Again, choose your deals wisely and never, ever, ever pay full price. There’s always a discount…
But… The Strip is what you’ve come to see, right? It’s all about gambling, casinos and drinking and… if you’re gambling in a casino you’ll never have to pay for a drink! Seriously.
Just tour all the hotels until you’ve had your fill of fake grandeur. Check out the Grand Canal at the Venetian, Brooklyn at New York, New York or even the Pyramids at Luxor. My favourite? La Tour Eiffel, the centrepiece of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and a half-size replica of the real thing.
Vegas on a budget is possible and enjoyable and, at the risk of repeating myself, I kinda liked it!