Holidays to Las Vegas are one-of-a-kind. Only here can you ride a rollercoaster around New York, play poker inside a pyramid, and then watch Medieval jousting in a fairytale castle.
If you’re after an escape from reality, nowhere does it better than Las Vegas. This neon-lit metropolis in the middle of the Mojave Desert really knows how to overload the senses – from the big-beyond-belief hotels to the dazzling shows and inventive food and drink. In the same way that it breaks free from reality, it’s a place where the time is irrelevant, too. Casinos, bars and restaurants are open around the clock. After all, catering to its visitors’ every whim is how Las Vegas became known as the Entertainment Capital of the World.
An exceptional skyline
Hotels here are more like giant playgrounds, each offering something different to the last. There’s the Luxor with its enormous Egyptian pyramid, complete with pharaohs and sphinxes. Inside The Venetian, you’ll find a carbon copy of Venice’s streets. And New York New York gives you a taste of the Big Apple. You can go back in time, too, at The Excelsior, where Medieval jousting is on the table. ARIA, meanwhile, fast forwards to the 21st century, with its towering glass façades and modern in-room amenities.
Bigger is better philosophy
The United States’ talent for super-sizing everything is pushed to the limits in Las Vegas. The Peppermill Restaurant lists a 10-egg omelette on their menu, while the Carnegie Deli at The Mirage serves 30-centimetre-tall sandwiches. The city is also home to some of the world’s largest shops and hotels. And the fountains outside the Bellagio can reach loftier heights than the big wheel of the London Eye.
Venture away from the bright lights of the city and you’ll see this part of the States has plenty to offer in the way of natural scenery, as well. The Grand Canyon’s otherworldly terrain has to be seen to be believed. You can drive to the Skywalk – a glass bridge that teeters over it – in two and a half hours. Less well-known but only an hour’s road trip is the Hoover Dam. As the highest concrete dam anywhere in America, towering more than 200 metres above the Colorado River, it’s well worth a look.
Things to See and Do in Las Vegas
Land-locked Las Vegas
As a city that’s surrounded by land, Las Vegas doesn’t have any real beaches to call its own. The nearest is in Los Angeles, which is nearly a four-hour drive away. But, since it’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert, there’s plenty of sand to go around. A couple of the hotels have made good use of it, moulding it into their own manmade beaches, and accessorising them with the likes of wave pools, lazy rivers and towering palm trees.
The Mandalay Bay Hotel is where you’ll find as close to a beach as you can get in Las Vegas. Here, nearly 3,000 tons of sand brush up against a wave pool that’s big enough for surfing. There’s no race for the sunbeds, either. You can hire out your own private cabana or bungalow, fitted out with lounge chairs and love seats, an MP3 docking station, and a fridge stocked with drinks.
The manmade Voodoo Beach is tucked within the grounds of the Rio Hotel, and non-hotel guests are welcome to use it for a fee. It lays claim to a sandy beach zone and three wiggly-edged pools, each with a whirlpool bath on the side. You can set up camp for the day on one of the poolside loungers, or in your own personal cabana. Waterside massages are up for grabs, as well.
At the Crystals shopping mall, there’s no such thing as popping to the shops. Spread over 500,000 square feet, it’s more like visiting a small town. Here is where you’ll find some of Las Vegas’ largest designer boutiques. The two-storey Louis Vuitton store is the biggest in the United States. There’s also a 10,000-square-foot Tiffany & Co, along with Versace, Gucci, Dior and Cartier – to name a few. Shopping aside, the mall is full of surprises. Have your camera ready for the colour-changing fountains, the ‘flower carpet’ and the tree house.
The Las Vegas South Premium Outlets centre is one of the city’s top-rated places for outlet shopping. Here, you’ll find 145 stores covering a whole range of goods, including everything from Michael Kors to Claire’s Accessories, Levi’s jeans, and Skechers trainers. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants dotted around, too, giving you every reason to make a day of it. You’ll find it just south of the strip, five minutes’ drive from the Welcome to ‘fabulous’ Las Vegas sign.
Labelling itself as the world’s largest gift shop, Bonanza lines up 36,000 square feet’s worth of Las Vegas memorabilia at knock-down prices. With that much space to play with, there’s every type of souvenir you can imagine – from mugs, key rings and t-shirts to handbags, American footballs and magnets.
No trip to Las Vegas is complete without seeing the Bellagio Fountains work their magic. Watch water from over a thousand jets dance and change colour to the music during this carefully-choreographed performance. The water can shoot as high as a 24 storeys and it all takes place at the centre of a lake the size of eight football fields in front of the Bellagio Hotel. Timings-wise, the shows are on every 15 minutes, from 8pm until midnight, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch one. And best of all, it’s free.
As the entertainment capital of the world, there are hundreds of options for nights out in Las Vegas. But one of the most iconic things to do is to go to a pool party – because where better to rave in the sizzling hot desert than in the water? Wet Republic at MGM Grand is one of the best. The likes of Tiesto and Afrojack take to the decks as hundreds of bikini-clad partygoers dance in and around the water, and sip Champagne cocktails while lounging on daybeds.
Wagyu steak at CUT
Wagyu beef is known for being the richest and tastiest beef on the planet, with a distinctive melt-in-the-mouth texture. And CUT, owned by skilled restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, is one of the best places for it in Las Vegas. Pair your steak with a red wine bordelaise sauce, hand-cut fries, and tempura onion rings.
Italian fare at Battista’s Hole in the Wall
The legendary Battista’s Hole in the Wall has been serving Las Vegas locals since 1970. Book a table here and you’ll be surrounded by quirky décor – there’s everything from buckets hanging from the ceiling to old vinyl records – from a comfy booth. The menu features Italian favourites, like spaghetti and meatballs, and the staff are renowned for their friendliness.
French fine-dining at Joël Robuchon
At this three Michelin Star French Restaurant, every dish looks like a piece of art. Take the langoustine with green curry jus, or the salmon confit with caviar and wasabi cream. The desserts are just as spectacular. One of them consists of a white-chocolate sphere, which is drizzled with hot raspberry sauce to make it bloom like a flower.
Peanut Butter Bacon Crunch Burger at Pub 1842
Peanut butter in a burger sounds totally wrong but this daring combination of savoury and sweet just works. A Black Angus beef patty is slathered with creamy peanut butter, and then layered with bacon and – wait for it – crisps, inside a toasted bun.
Barmasa redefines the term ‘fresh’ – dishes are prepared using only fish that’s been caught within the last 24 hours. Cuisine covers modern Japanese, including seafood tempura, miso cod and grilled unagi rice. But our favourite is the sushi – there are 14 different types of sushi roll on the menu.