I’ve been off travellin’ again – on a bit of a US road trip which took in Las Vegas, Yosemite, Carmel and Los Angeles. Vegas was the first stop and in something of a shock to me, I LOVED it and the three days we scheduled to stop there was not enough time to see all it had to offer!
It’s just a truly interesting place to walk around, people-watch and take it all in, day and especially night when it really comes alive. Plus it’s spotlessly clean and feels very safe wherever you are.
People say you can spend days just wandering around all the hotels on the strip, and it’s true – they are just as ridiculous, ostentatious and over-the-top as you’d expect. My highlights were the Bellagio’s Fall Festival displays, The Aria’s cool wall of shiny playing cards, and New York New York’s recreation of a Little Italy street. We actually stayed in a non-gambling business hotel called The Vdara, which was nice because it was quiet yet still well-connected, but next time (hmm yes, there’ll be a next time) it’d be fun to go all out – I think I’d choose to stay in NYNY or the Aria. We cut through the Aria and Bellagio to walk to the Strip, which took a good fifteen minutes – the scale of the indoor spaces is just crazy.
In terms of other stuff to do besides gawping and gambling, we loved the video game arcade in NYNY and also rode the rooftop rollercoaster which was awesome (I say this as a previous rollerskeptic!).
There’s some excellent food around, both on and off strip (off-strip is much cheaper). We had an excellent breakfast at The Egg and I and amazing tacos and beers at, um, Tacos and Beer. The pizza place, Five Fifty, in the Aria was great too and just $5.50 per slice.
In downtown Vegas there’s the excellent Neon Boneyard museum which I was really looking forward to. It was a treat to see all these hulking, rusting old signs up close and hear about their history and the museum’s important and passionate restoration work. Be aware that booking a tour is required and they do fill up (especially the night time ones, when many of the signs are lit up), so book in advance. It was really hot during the daytime tour so take an umbrella for shade.
The museum has placed several iconic restored signs around the downtown area as public art pieces, so it’s well worth a drive around after dark to spot them. At the same time, drive down Fremont Street, the original strip, for old-school neon wonderment.
Finally, of course, Vegas is close enough to the Grand Canyon for a day trip. We did the trip by tiny tin-can aeroplane with Maverick Tours who were great – excellent aerial views on the way to the south rim then plenty of time to wander round the trails we stopped at down there. What surprised me most, rather than the scale, were all the layers of stunning colours, plus the weirdly rhythmical patterns to the ripples and crevasses that gave the effect of a man-made city of rock.
All too soon, we were packing up for a long drive to our next stop, Yosemite…