If you want to see the most wonderful scenery in America, then I suggest you take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. The feeling you get from hovering above the canyon is quite amazing.
During a holiday to Las Vegas with my husband we were able to witness a storm which passed across the canyon. To stand there and watch the forks of lightning crossing the sky was quite magical, especially when you're standing in hot sunshine on the other side.
For the more romantic of you, there is an option to actually land in the canyon and have lunch over looking the truly wonderful scenery.
During the flight back you fly over the strip which is lit up in all its glory. All I can say is "wow". This has to be one of those trips you certainly have to make in your lifetime.
You can get a trip to the canyon from most tourist shops along the strip, or your hotel will have information.
What could be more pleasant than wandering by the side of a canal on a cool but bright summer’s day watching the gondolas go past and doing a bit of window-shopping? Well, at the Venetian you can do all that – okay the coolness is provided by air conditioning and the bright summer’s day by the painted ceiling of blue sky and clouds but, hey, who cares, it’s still lovely.
The Grand Canal shopping arcade at the Venetian is, like many of the other large hotel arcades, worth visiting even if you aren’t in the mood for retail therapy. It’s a really nice place to have a stroll. Now I have never been to Venice so I can’t comment on whether the buildings are authentic but the European style architecture, the walkways, bridges, streetlights and canal make a very pleasant backdrop. If your wallet is itchy then there a shops selling laces, masks and glass as well as shoes, fashion, jewellery etc..
You can also, if you wish, take a gondola ride. Or sit down, sup a cappuccino and get into that Italian style vibe. Bella.
3355 Las Vegas Boulevard
In the Venetian Hotel
To call the Forum shops at Caesar’s a “Shopping Mall” is a bit of an understatement – indeed the same could also be said of Desert Passage at Aladdin and the Canal Shoppes at the Venetian.
As well as approximately 150 shops and restaurants there are also street entertainers, fountains and the “Lost City of Atlantis” animatronics presentation, making it as much an attraction as a mall.
As for the shops, well for fashion devotees there is Gucci, Versace, Armani and Christian Dior (as well as Banana Republic and Gap for the slightly less well-heeled shopper) for children and the child within us there is FAO Schwartz. For foodies, stop at the Cheesecake Factory or Planet Hollywood. And for those who simply like to window-shop and people-watch, well, the Forum is a great place to do both.
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Next to The Mirage and Ceasar's Palace
If your legs are aching with walking in, out and through casinos, you’ve got time to spare and you wouldn’t mind a cheap sightseeing tour of The Strip then I’d suggest hopping on the Las Vegas Strip Trolley.
A replica of an old-style trolley bus the Strip Trolley runs up and down the Strip from the Mandalay Bay in the south to the Stratosphere in the north stopping at various hotels/attractions in between. There is a set fare (exact fare only, no change is given) or extra for for an all day pass. Depending on traffic the Trolleys run every 15 to 20 minutes, weaving in and out of hotel driveways and, if you are lucky enough, with drivers who will give you a running commentary – not about the hotels but rather their feelings about the other drivers on the road.
It’s not the fastest way to travel the Strip but it’s cheap, convenient and, if not too busy, rather pleasant.
Up and down the Strip
Glass flowers in the lobby of the Bellagio lead to real flowers in the Conservatory; a glass domed botanical garden that contains a butterfly cage, trees and floral displays, which are changed seasonally.
When we visited there were a number of flower sculptures in the shape of snails and ladybirds.
It is free to visit, a good place to re-charge your batteries before heading back to the casino or Strip and even if you are no gardener (like me) you’ll still appreciate the colour, variety and beauty of the plants.
Bellagio Hotel, 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Accordion music, fountains and a cheery greeting of “Bonjour” from the hotel staff and you have to be in Paris. Or do you?! Well, you could also be in the Paris Hotel Las Vegas and, of course, you can’t have Paris without the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas is not quite as tall as the original, in fact it is exactly half the size, however it has been reproduced with a superb eye for detail. An elevator whisks you to the observation deck, 460 feet above the Strip. The lift attendant was extremely friendly and informative. I can’t remember exactly how much he told us it cost to build the tower but it was in the millions of dollars range. However he also told us that they had recouped all the building costs in about six months of opening.
The views across Las Vegas are fantastic, taking in a 360 degree panorama that includes the Strip, the city and the mountains in the distance. In the evening it also allows wonderful views across to the Bellagio fountain display.
The observation deck is quite small (holding about 30 to 40 people at a time) so you may have to queue to get in and, needless to say, it is not for those at all nervous of heights.
Paris, Las Vegas, 3655 S. Las Vegas Blvd
Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay is a walkthrough aquarium where you get the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of fish and sea creatures including, of course, sharks.
You walk through various themed areas – Jungle, Temple and Shipwreck – guided by both your “passport”, which includes some handy photographs for identifying various species, and an extremely informative audio guide.
Along the way you will see some of what must be some of the most beautiful and bizarre creatures on the planet. Spots, stripes, bright reds, vivacious blues and poster paint yellow catch your eye, as does the range of shapes and sizes from dainty angelfish to huge tarpons and gracefully sleek stingrays. Try and look out for the lookdown, whose flat face makes it seems as if it has just run into a wall, and the magnificent lionfish, a blend of stripes, fans and tendrils that looks like it should be fantasy rather than reality.
Rays swim in a small pool where you're encouraged – under supervision – to touch them. It’s a strange sensation. I thought they would be soft and squashy but instead they felt rather hard and leathery. A nearby display of jellyfish again look like creations of an imagination run wild.
The culmination of the tour is the shipwreck where, in a huge tank, sharks and fish swim round, under and above you. The sharks are amazing creatures, inspiring an almost primeval sense of both fear and respect. Wait for one to swim over your head so you can see its rows of teeth and feel that slight tremor go up your spine.
Education and conservation are two of the aims of the aquarium - it has links to various organisations that promote research and conservation – and I liked the last page of the passport guide that gives some small tips about how people can try and help conserve the environment.
At the Mandalay Bay Hotel, 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
I had read that this place could be rude and unwelcoming. Glad I ignored other people’s bad experiences. The menu was bit daunting, it's got so many things to choose from. We just made something up and hoped they did it. They did, almost. You can’t knock somewhere that has a cupboard full of sauces and pickles to splash on your “fluffernutter sandwiches”.
54 Carmine Street, off Bleaker Street
Going bowling, how American can you get? Take the lift to the 4th floor and you could be anywhere in the US, well anywhere where they dim the lights on the lanes and have fluorescent pins.
110 University Place @ East 13th
I liked it. It’s just a dark bar with a pool table and a half decent jukebox. Nothing more, nothing less. The private booths are showing their age but a lick of paint and a spruce up wouldn’t do it any favours.
79 East 7th between Avenue A and 1st Avenue
First opened in 1887 and now due to reopen on its 120 year anniversary after many years of restoration. The outside is complete but to bring the interior back to glory they may have a long way to go. That said it’s a great opportunity to see restoration in progress and get to chat to the helpful and informative couple who are on hand to show you around. You’ll find it in the middle of Chinatown and is a reminder of a previous wave of immigrants who expectantly set up home, business and faith in the Lower East Side.
There are so many hidden treasures that are a world apart from the big casinos on the strip. The Doubledown is one of them. A dive bar with live music that is always filled with a huge mix of people from local Bukowski type drinkers to LA hipsters. Last time I was there I asked the owner what time they closed. His reply was they had never ever closed, and he meant it. Try the Ass Juice.
4640 Paradise Rd
Las Vegas (5mins walk from Hard Rock Hotel)
Look beyond the casino area of the hotel and head for the SteakHouse. Its how an old school steakhouse should be: all dark wood pannelling and glass meat lockers. Excellent value for money. Try the porterhouse. Cooked just the way you want it.
2280 Las Vegas Blvd. 1-887-434-9175.
For Vegas virgins you can't beat the drama of walking into the vast pyramid atrium on arrival. It's remarkably good value, on the strip and the tower suites are spacious with a fridge and wet bar (rare and great if you're with a group and want to start the night off cheaply). The Pharoah's Feast Breakfast Buffet is of a much higher quality than those in other hotels and sets you up nicely for the day.
3900 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Whether you choose to simply have a drink in the bar or enjoy dinner, this is an absolutely breathtaking option. The highest structure in the US, west of the Rockies, you will never tire of the view as the restaurant revolves 360 degrees during your dinner. Don't be put off by the location of the Statosphere at the end of the Strip - get a cab - don't walk as it looks deceptively close. The Stratosphere itself is a low budget hotel and you may feel dubious on your way to the restaurant, but don't be put off - the ambience in the restaurant does not reflect the rest of the establishment.
Stratosphere Las Vegas
2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89104
A visit to the neon bone yard is an opportunity to get access to a Las Vegas rarity - physical history. In a city where everything new is held sacred, and anything old is disposed of, the neon bone yard is the equivilent of the Louvre. Wander around and marvel at the art of neon -and appreciate the size and scale of these masterpieces. An ecclectic mix of the giant silver slipper and Denny's restaurant signs nestle together in the Nevada desert sand.
Tours are private and by appointment only. Its a charitable organisation running the bone yard. Costs are: For 10 people or more its $5 each.
For 10 people and less its a minmum fee of $50 for the group.
Further information and online booking is available at www.neonmuseum.org
The cheapest accommodation on the strip, only a short bus ride or walk away from downtown. Friendly people, perfect for those on a tight budget.
1208 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89104
Tel: 702 868 0222
This has to be one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas. Ate there in May of 2005 and the steaks were absolutely amazing. The service was fab, the restaurant decor and layout really stunning. Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to dinner there!
MGM Grand Las Vegas
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
This book (by Hunter S Thompson) is essential reading if you are planning a trip to Vegas.
Everything that's bad about the American Dream/ Nightmare can be found on this city's streets. Grossly overloaded all-you-can-eat buffets, pornography vending machines, hotels that use more electricty than a small thrid world country in one night, drive through marriage kiosks, unbearable daytime heat, no trees, a threatening atmosphere in the downtown area etc etc, it's quite a spectacle. For best results get high on something mind-altering and go and check out the revolving restaurant at the Circus Circus.
Your nearest bookshop.
We were recently married in Las Vegas and chose to stay at the Golden Nugget as we wanted to be away from the strip, and also its advertised rates were very reasonable.
This downtown hotel is off strip in 'old' Vegas, it was built in the 1940s and was an old hang out of the Rat Pack. Unlike many of the glitzy hotels on the strip it is fabulous inside as well as out - gold and glass everywhere, murano glass in the bar. And since a recent refit it also boasts a huge shark tank in the centre of its swimming pool.
Handily for us, it is also the closest inhabitable structure to Clark County's Marriage Bureau and License Office...
For some 'old' Vegas glamour, you can't really go wrong at the Golden Nugget.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com