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Viva Las Vegas!

After just returning from my three day mini Escape to this vibrant destination, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on Vegas.

In short bullet form first:

  • It’s easy to get too
  • It can be quite affordable to go to – but don’t be alarmed by the price of eating out!  It’s expensive.
  • There’s many, many hotels to choose from to fit your budget, lifestyle and needs
  • There is an extensive list of “Things to Do” and “Things to See”
  • It’s ALWAYS busy and there are ALWAYS lines
  • It’s not the best destination for families with young children
  • First time there?  Be prepared to be overwhelmed!

My take on Vegas

The Flights … On this occasion I flew from Prince George on WestJet.  I had a long layover in Vancouver, but it was nice to relax, enjoy a meal (Canucks Bar & Grill), charge my phone and people watch.  The departure from Vancouver was in the evening, so I had amazing views leaving the golden Vancouver sunset and the Vegas Strip all lit up on arrival.

The Vegas Airport – we arrived pretty late, so it was a bit quieter than usual.  It’s laid out pretty much the same as most airports.  Disembark from the plane, and head for the Baggage Claim area. Since we went through customs in Vancouver it’s pretty simple to navigate.  Shuttles leave from one area and taxis from another.  The line for taxis was very long, but it moves extremely quickly.  I stood in the  5-fold zigzag taxi line up and was in my taxi and on my way in less than 10 minutes.  I was headed off strip to the Hilton Grand Vacations on Paradise Road, so my cab ride was about $45.00.  Into town, it’s around $25.00.  If you book a package deal, shuttle transfers are included.  I can also, of course, book you a limousine ride or private transfer!  (I seriously thought about it for me!)  I have found that most taxi drivers are happy to share their local expertise if you ask!  Nothing like working with the locals!  Leaving Vegas is uneventful as well, although there are two terminals, so make sure you head over the correct one.  If you have any US money left there are plenty of slot machines in the airport that will be happy to use it.  Restaurant choices are limited at the airport.

The Hotels – well, there is just very much to choose from!  As I mentioned, I stayed off-strip, my first time doing this.  The Pros:  quieter, more relaxing and less expensive.  The Cons:  harder to get back to, further from the action of the Strip.  If you like to go back to your room a couple of times throughout the day, off-strip is not for you.

Choosing your perfect Vegas hotel depends on a couple of factors:  what you are there to do and what you are there to see?  Just want to gamble?  Stay off strip – way less money and getting to your favourite gambling establishment really isn’t that difficult.  There to see shows or shop?  Stay on Strip.  There to do some sightseeing – the Hoover Dam, the Rock Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire or Grand Canyon.  Stay off strip.   

 The North Strip hotels include:  Circus Circus, Courtyard, SLS, Westgate, Marriott Las Vegas, Stratosphere, Wynn/Encore, Royal Resort and Trump (off-strip).

Center Strip hotels include:  Aria, Ballys, Bellagio, Caesars, Cosmopolitan, Flamingo, Harrahs, The  LINQ, Mandarin, MGM Grand, Mirage, Monte Carlo, Nobu, New York, New York, Planet Hollywood, Paris, Elara, The Signature, Skylofts, The Cromwell, Treasure Island, Vdara, Venetian/Palazzo and the Rio (off-strip).

South Strip hotels include:  Excalibur, Four Seasons, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, and New York, New York.

If you are going to sight see through Vegas, break the strip down into these three areas and tackle one per day – wear runners!  Ladies – ditch the high heels – you’ll be grateful you did.

There is something to see and do (besides gambling) in almost every hotel.  Some really stand out as must dos.  These include:  Ziplining at the Rio Suites,  Walking or gliding through “Venice” at the Venetian, solving crimes at the MGM Grand, Riding the Roller Coaster at New York New York, dropping 160 feet straight down at the Stratosphere, examining the human anatomy at the Luxor, get your thrills at the theme park in Circus Circus, witness the volcano and fire show in front of the Mirage, get amazing views from the High Roller Ferris wheel, relive the Titanic at the Luxor, walk through the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace and of course, watch the water dance at the Bellagio.  These are just a few of the many highlights of Vegas.  There is so much more to experience that I have  not listed here.  Get in touch with me and I’ll share more insights!

The Strip – I like to break the Vegas Strip into three zones:  North Strip, Center Strip and South Strip.  What’s important to remember is that the Vegas Strip is almost seven kilometers (four miles long)!  When your standing there looking at everything, they all look so close!  But they are not – they are just very, very large! Trust me, from personal experience, what you think will be about a 10 minute walk, will turn into about a 1 hour walk!

Fremont Street – Ahhh…the lights!  Located in Downtown Las Vegas nightly shows featuring 12.5 million lights and 550,000 watts of amazing sound will have you looking up!  Free concerts and special events run throughout the year every hour after 6:00 pm.  The Neon Museum hosts some of the old hotel’s neon signs.  Talk a walk back in time!  Head over after the sun sets, find a fantastic restaurant tucked away in a corner and enjoy an evening out!

The Shows – from the risque to magic to comics, to concerts, to high flyers, there is absolutely something for everyone here!   IF you have a special someone you want to see, watch the calendar.  They do take time off!  Don’t be disappointed – book ahead.  If you are looking for that “last minute” deal and you are not set on seeing something particular, then Tix4Tonight is perfect for you!  You can pick up discounted tickets for some shows at any one of their 10 locations!

Getting Around Vegas – Airport Shuttles, Limousine, taxis, private cars, RTC bus, RTC Bike sharing, Vegas Monorail, and the free shuttles that run from Rio to Ballys or Harrahs, from Ballys to Paris and from Palms to the Forum shops.  Watch for the free shuttles, some are for hotel guests only and the always fill up very quickly.  I can provide you with schedules for your next trip to Vegas!  Of course, you can always rent a car as well.

Shopping – is everywhere!  There are premium outlet malls north and south, the Fashion Show and the LINQ.  There is also shops in many hotels that cater to the very wealthy to people like me and you looking for that perfect keepsake.  Forum Shops at Ceasars, Grand Bazaar at Ballys, Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood are just a few.  Just remember to watch your limits for crossing the Canadian border and claim anything that goes over your allotted exemption limits.  I saw the most beautiful Venetian masks!

Getting Away from the Vegas Lights – Is there anything to do that doesn’t involve staying in Vegas and gambling?  You bet there is!

Red Rock Canyon – 15 miles west of Vegas.  Drive the beautiful, ever changing 13 mile scenic route for amazing coloured rocks and animal viewing.  Horseback riding is also welcome here.

Valley of Fire – oldest natural striking fiery red rock formations known to mankind and it’s only about 1 hour north of Vegas with petroglyphs.  Many rock formation have been weathered have amazing features.   The area’s inhabitants include rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats, kit foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep and white tailed antelope ground squirrels.

Lake Mead – one of the largest man-made lakes in the world and a fun escape less than an hours’s drive southeast.  You can swim, boat, water-ski, fish or kayak in the waters of Lake Mead or even hike around in the surrounding area. Lake cruises are available as well.

Hoover Dam – 30 miles southeast of Vegas  is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Nevada and Arizona.  Several levels of dam tours are offered.  Be prepared by heading “underground”.  It’s a great way to spend a few hours.

Grand Canyon – One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is about a 4-5  hour drive from Las Vegas, while a helicopter or airplane ride is less than an hour. The popular South Rim is the deepest, widest, most accessible and most visited part of the Grand Canyon. You can rent a car or take a guided tour. The north rim offers beautiful views and is for those who enjoy the road less traveled, but watch for closure dates due to winter weather conditions.

Mount Charleston –  35 mile drive northwest and enjoy towering pine trees, cool mountain breezes and desert animals.  Wonderful to visit anytime of the year.

Spring Mountain Ranch – offers amazing hikes and gorgeous views. You can also find musical theater in the summer and a night time flashlight hike or explore historical sites including a ranch  and watch for plenty of animal life.

Floyd Lamb Park –  20 miles from the Strip, Floyd Lamb Park is a Pleistocene paleontologic site with thousands of years of history. Head here for a picnic and family get a way experiences including fishing!

Zion National Park – 2.5 hours from Vegas it features hiking, colourful sandstone and towering sandstone cliffs.  It ranks as one of the most beautiful parks in the world.

Bryce Canyon National Park – 4 hours northeast of Las Vegas, it offers towering rock spires and arches.  Hiking and cross countries skiing are very popular here.

Death Valley – Only 2 hours from Las Vegas, Death Valley is like a museum for geological history  and a great day trip.   The park’s headquarters in Furnace Creek include a visitor’s center and plenty of lodging if you want to stay more than a day.  Rent a car or take a guided bus tour.  A sight not to be missed.

My take:  Everyone should go to Disneyland at least once and everyone should go to Las Vegas  more than once!  I’ve been three times and yes, I’m going back!

Contact me and I’ll be happy to plan the perfect Escape to the Entertainment Capital of the World!

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