A May 2002 trip
to Las Vegas by Red Mezz
Quote: Putting a trip like Las Vegas into words can't do it justice, but if you make it to Sin City you'll get to see firsthand
Las Vegas--where oh where to begin? There is no place to start with highlights on a trip like Las Vegas, as there would be no place to end. My friend and I arrived into Las Vegas at the end of a cross country trip on the very thinnest of shoe string budgets, determined to enjoy it for all it was worth. Both of us had long had high expectations of seeing Las Vegas, from as far back as I could remember it was somewhere I felt moved to see. And he flew in all the way from Scotland.
Despite our ridiculously high preconceptions and movie-fueled assumptions about Sin City--it surpassed our every expectation, and then some. I really wouldn't know where to begin with highlights in a city that has something for absolutely everyone. We came with the hopes (if not the cash) for gambling...and with so much to do never even made it near a table. You do not have to like the idea of gambling and strip clubs to thoroughly enjoy a trip to Vegas (though you will be well pleased if you do).
The fountains at the Bellagio is one of the best things I experienced (see review). It’s one of the best, most unexpected moments I haven stumbled across in all of my travelling. Try to have a drink in the Top of the World lounge at the Stratosphere for moody candle-lit atmosphere and stunning view of the city. See if you can't catch Tom Jones at the MGM Grand.
It's a friendly, easily accessible city with so much to enjoy our week turned into a week and a half that we grudgingly went home after. Some one once described Las Vegas to me as 'Disney world for adults.' But I don't really think that does it justice. The magic of surreal feel you step into there arriving at McLaren airport is something unlike anything I've experienced anywhere else on earth. The people and staff were friendly and accommodating from the moment we stepped off the plane to the taxi taking us back to the airport. Las Vegas is something that everyone should experience at some point in their lifetime.
This is a city that is incredibly easy on the traveller or tourist alike. It's an especially good stop for European travellers, unused to the US cities which are rather hard to navigate without a car. The welcoming McLaren airport makes it very easy to get to the strip. There are shuttles that take you there easily. Most places on the strip are in walking distance, though you do want to keep in mind that it is quite a hike from one end to another...you will want to break it up into days. Spend time wandering the hotels, they are in themselves quite a site.
The buffet in Excalibur is good (and massive) and the food in all the restaurants in the Stratosphere was excellent, and often came with live music. Watch the casinos on the strip often offering free drinks if you pop inside...avoid the 3/4 pound hot dogs at the Frontier.
Freemont street is good, especially at night, but I recommend you find a way there other than walking. The road there is a bit dodgy past the strip--and city buses aren't great; but an interesting experience none the less.
Even in a city where it's easy to rent a hummer or a convertible Cadillac, walking is just fine. No matter what time of night I found myself strolling down the strip, it was as wondrous and full of awe. And even at 3am, I never felt unsafe or worried. It’s far too miraculous a place for that.
And as I said before, you might want to avoid the city buses, as there was a bit of a scuffle on the one we took back from Freemont street, and the walking between the two was equally dodgy.
And do remember that you are in the desert...so keeping hydrated is important when you are wandering the length of the strip. It's quite easy in the awe of the hotels to forget you've been walking for hours. But with the bars and restaurants at every turn, it's not hard to find a place to pop in for some refreshments.
Hotel | "Excalibur Hotel and Casino"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 25, 2005
Excalibur Hotel & Casino
3850 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Hotel | "The Stratosphere"
On my stay in Las Vegas my friend and I wanted to try a variety of experiences, and as Las Vegas is all about the hotels, we thought we'd split our week stay into two separate hotels. By a happy coincidence, we found the best deals on hotels at either end of the Strip (the Excalibur at one extreme end, and the Stratosphere at the far other). This is something I would highly recommend someone visiting Las Vegas to do, as it opens up both ends of the Strip. It is, in the end, quite a hike from one end to the other and was extremely nice to have both ends to wander leisurely.
And the Stratosphere was a great place to do this from. Not only that it was a very different hotelling experience from the extravagant and themed Excalibur, but in that it did have a very relaxed air to it, and the traditionally great staff of the Las Vegas hotel. What it lacked in theme and extravagance, it made up in simple pleasures. Every restaurant in the hotel was brilliant...their breakfast bar was outstanding, a little cafe downstairs called the Crazy Armadillo had incredible food at a great price, as well as a very entertaining live band.
But far and away the biggest plus to staying in the Stratosphere was the view. Taking the massive elevator up to the top for a view of Las Vegas is something that should be done, even if you don't stay at this hotel. The restaurant itself is excellent for a meal or a drink, but even if you haven't got the time or the cash for that; step out and get a night time view of the splendor of the lights of Vegas from the tallest freestanding tower in the United States, and tallest building west of the Mississippi. (1,149 feet)
Even though it does cost ($9.95 for adults), this is something that should be done, if for nothing else but the photo opportunities. An excellent hotel to stay in while visiting Las Vegas.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 2, 2006
Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower
2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89104
Restaurant | "Top of the World Restaurant and Lounge"
In the week I spent in Las Vegas, there are a lot of experiences (dining or otherwise) that really stand out. But one of the very nicest was the meal I shared with a friend at the Top of the World. It was our last night in Las Vegas, and we wanted to round off our whirlwind week with a quiet evening.
It's a long way up to the Top of the World, but then, as with most things, it's worth the trip. I would recommend visiting this particular spot at night. For one thing, the view from the top is unbelievable, but really something extra special at night when Las Vegas lights up like a jewel in the middle of the desert. All the photos in the world can't begin to convey the effect of all those lights, and the brilliance of the place seen from above. And even though it's extremely windy up there, my gosh, what a view!
Also, the place as a great, bluesy, moody type of vibe which is excellent for sharing a drink with a friend or a lover and recounting the whirlwind of a trip you've just had in Las Vegas. The bartender was quite good, and the drinks weren't overly expensive (they make an inordinately salty margarita, though.) and an interesting selection of beers. We sat in the lounge of deeply subdued light and quiet customers and looked out the beautiful revolving view of Las Vegas at night. It was stunning, and the drinks we shared a bit different, and added to the atmosphere entirely.
There were several other people there, but everyone seemed to be enjoying the setting in kind, and we all sat mourning the trip we were about to have to make home. But in the best way that you can possibly do that. Also, even if it's not your last night, but you'd like a quiet and scenic drink with a good view, you can't really get much better than this. Go half an hour or so before the bar shuts and just sit and enjoy. It was the perfect way to end our trip.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 25, 2005
Top of the World Restaurant
2000 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89104
Attraction | "Tom Jones at the MGM Grand"
As with everything in Las Vegas, you have a wealth of choices in what you do--and unlike most cities, that choice is so drastically varied that it may be a bit overwhelming in choosing which things you are going to see and do while in Sin City.
If you come with a healthy bank roll, I would say to dive into the shows and enjoy them, because truly, no one puts on a show like Vegas. But if you are on a budget, and limited to one or maybe two of the big Vegas shows, let me make a recommendation.
Tom Jones singing live at the MGM Grand was maybe the highlight of my overwhelming Las Vegas experience, and one of my all-time best travelling moments. If you want to really get into the spirit of old-style Las Vegas, you can't get much better than this.
I didn't realize he would be playing while we were there, and though I was nearly out of cash by the end of this trip, when I saw the giant billboard lit up announcing that that night was the last he would be playing at the Grand, I did something I've never done before--I called home and had some more money wired to me. Granted, it is expensive. I believe the average ticket costs $75, but it's not a price I've ever regretted paying.
You get a little cocktail table, with about four seats to a table, in the intimate MGM Grand Hollywood Theater, which has only 740 seats. It wasn't packed, and with the amphitheater-like arrangement, you're never very far from the stage.
Tom Jones was in top form and performed all the old favourites as well as some new songs. The tables and the entire theater was dimly lit with stars sparkling in the dark blue drapes and tablecloths. It was a brilliant night, one never to forget. I wasn't even that big of a Tom Jones fan before I went. I just decided it was a Vegas experience not to be missed, and I could not have been more right.
You will have to check the MGM Grand's website to see when he will be playing. I think this year he's playing at the beginning of March at 8pm nightly. If you can, I highly recommend you make this a part of your Las Vegas trip.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 3, 2006
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, Nevada
But this is a do-not-miss part of Las Vegas. In the 10 days I was there, I found myself making time for the show on more than one occasion. People wandering the Strip start to gather as the time for the next show approaches (they show every half-hour from 3pm to 8pm, then every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight). The area gets quiet and the lights fade, and suddenly every single person is completely swept up in the amazing spectacle. I, as with any person I travelled with on that trip, cannot even mention the word Bellagio to this day without a smile. Whatever you invest into Las Vegas, this is something you get to take home with you.
Inverness, United Kingdom