Is Las Vegas, the biggest city in the Mojave Desert, every bit as wild as movies would have you believe?
While I haven't exactly gone all Hangover, I'm pretty sure the answer is a surrounding
This is Sin City after all.
Las Vegas is the place to be for a wild bachelor party with no shortage of strip clubs to choose from.
Regrettably, I haven't been to one. If I did, I'd probably check out Sapphire, billed as the world's biggest strip club.
And while we're pretty much on this subject: even though prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, it seems prevalent with flyers for escort services being handed out on every street corner.
After ignoring/rejecting them at first, I soon found it amusing and started collecting them like they were Pokemon cards.
I can't believe how many different girls were being
advertised this way: of the 30 or so flyers I was handed, not one was a duplicate.
Note: I obviously didn't partake: it's illegal, I wouldn't trust it, and even then just wouldn't be interested in these services.
But the casinos is what Vegas is all about. Where you can gamble away your hard-earned money. And as long as you're playing (and tipping the waitress), you'll receive free drinks - you don't even have to be in a high-stakes game. I guess the casinos bet on guests getting more courageous after a few drinks and start betting more.
But there's plenty of entertainment for those without loose morals. The casino-hotel resorts on The Strip are enormous entertainment machines with numerous in-house bars, restaurants, night clubs, and even shopping malls. And they host a lot of shows. From Cirque du Soleil to musicals, comedy & magic shows, or your favorite popstar performing.
Staying on The Strip
We left San Francisco on a Friday evening for a perfect weekend getaway in Las Vegas, after a long drive of about 9 hours by car. Since most of it was at night and through the desert, it was a pretty boring drive and I would definitely consider flying the next time. If you plan ahead, flights to Vegas are often relatively cheap anyway, and that's only 1:20h. And the airport is right next to The Strip, the center of the Las Vegas gambling & entertainment scene and where the giant hotel/casino resorts are located. But this was a spur-of-the-moment decision and we hadn't planned ahead.
Did you know that over half of the world's largest hotels are on the Las Vegas Strip?
We parted ways upon arrival: my friends stayed at The Venetian - one of the largest and most luxurious resorts on The Strip - while I had booked a room across the street in Treasure Island, not quite as extravagant and pricey but still very respectable.
We were anxious to try out that $20 trick we had heard about: when checking in, you discreetly
tip the front desk clerk $20 while asking if there are complimentary upgrades available.
With a bit of luck, they'll be happy to set you up with a vacant room better than the one you had booked.
It did not disappoint: my friends got an upgrade to a very spacious suite.
I always like to find a vantage point where I can admire the city from above, so I had requested a room as high up as possible during my booking.
My $20 got me a room on the top (36th) floor! I gladly checked in to this view:
Downtown Las Vegas
Almost all casinos in downtown Las Vegas are located around the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall.
Although there are a bunch of famous casinos here (like the Golden Nugget), most of them don't even come close to the mega-resorts on The Strip in terms of size & grandeur.
The main attractions are the overhead light shows on the giant LED display canopy that stretches 4 blocks, the 3 stages where concerts are held, and the SlotZilla zip line where you can
fly the entire length of the Fremont Street Experience superman-style.
What to do?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: these casino resorts are so huge you could easily get lost. Some resorts house upwards of 20 restaurants, and there is plenty of opportunity for shopping: i.e. The Venetian has over 160 shops lining its canals. And the neon lights on The Strip & the Fremont Street Experience are certainly a feast for your eyes.
A lot of the resorts on The Strip have a specific theme that sets them apart and you could spend days going from one casino to another, marvelling at the picturesque decors. The Venetian is an ode to Venice, complete with canals & gondolas throughout the resort, hand painted frescoes and a lovely copy of St. Mark's Square. Caesar's Palace will take you back to the Roman Empire, and Paris (with Eiffel tower) & New York-New York (with roller coaster) will remind you of the cities they were named after. Luxor is a giant pyramid & Excalibur a fairytale castle. The Bellagio has their dancing fountains show every 30 minutes, and MGM Grand has a lion habitat inside the casino.
But I felt that a weekend was the perfect amount of time for us to spend here. I'm sure I could keep gambling or enjoy all sorts of shows and activities on offer, but it's going to cost a pretty penny. Seriously: it only took about 5 minutes before the casino had won my first $100 and I was playing as conservative as I could. There I stood, waiting for the waitress to come back with my complementary drink…