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Published: February 16th 2016
Everybody we spoke to loved Vegas. We've seen it on films and TV, so we were excited ourselves to see it for real. It's like a huge theme park for adults, with its humongous casinos, big bright lights and cheap alcohol.
The place makes its visitors feel rich, making it easy for people to part with their hard earned cash. Even us 'budget' backpackers can get pulled into the same thinking and it's already proving difficult to 'do' the US on the cheap - food is our weak spot. Speaking of food, Vegas is known for its all you can eat buffets with a huge array of foods to choose from. But we'll get on to that later.
Due to the distance from Austin, we caught an internal flight here which was reasonably priced. From the airport we caught a public bus into Vegas to our hostel. Our hostel was based in the 'artsy downtown' part of Vegas on the strip (near a drive through wedding chapel opposite a strip joint). We had the option of either staying at a hostel or one of the cheaper hotels here.
Cheap accommodation is relatively easy to find in Vegas. We opted for the hostel due to its social aspect...and the free all you can eat pancakes for breakfast. To be honest our itinerary for 2 days here was pretty packed so socialising became secondary.
Walking the strip in the early evening with our jaws wide open as we gawped at the towering casinos one after the other. The famous Bellagio, the extravagant Caesars palace, the glitzy Paris hotel and the impressive skyline effect of New York New York complete with the statue of liberty and roller coaster on top. The grand Venetian hotel and its canals with actual gondolas was impressive to say the least. And these hotels were not just hotels; they were casinos, food courts, shopping centres and big venues. All them had at least one big production/live music every evening.
We walked by some street impersonators including Michael Jackson, Tupac, various comic book heroes and a guy dressed like Zak Galfinakis from the Hangover film with a baby doll strapped to his chest whilst sat on a tiger (not a real one). All this made walking along the strip a fascinating experience. We
also found Vegas to be more "wow" in the evening than during the day as that’s when the whole strip is lit up in bright colours making it more magical...if that’s possible in "sin city". The ‘Sin City’ side of Vegas is in your face but at the same time well hidden. Men would line the streets with cards with naked girls throwing them in your hand before you realise what they were trying to give you. It became very avoiding these men who would thrust these cards upon you like they were giving us free ice cream or free cake. We wish.
Another gripe about Vegas for us non driving tourists was the lack of a bus lane. Public transport was in place here, with bus number 2 (the deuce) going up and down the strip 24hrs a day, but due to the congested road it made a short journey to the main strip a lot longer than it should have been. But as the US has a large driving culture we don't see this changing anytime soon.
Whilst here we went to see a Cirque du
Soleil show at Treasure Island casino. It was called Mystere and was the first ever show from the production company to come to Vegas over 20 years ago. Out of the many Cirque du soleil shows currently performing in Vegas we chose this one as it was more focussed on the the death defying acrobatics and amazing human feats.
We really enjoyed the performances and found it very entertaining. It left us both with a 'feel good' feeling as we left the show. We bought our tickets from one of the many "Tickets for Less" stands that sell show ticket for a fraction of the actual ticket price. Apparently these tickets are only available on the day or the day before. We're not sure if anyone ever pays the inflated 'full price' they quote for any day.
In addition to watching a show, one thing we were recommended to try here was the all you can eat buffets. These are practically everywhere all varying in price and selection. We chose to eat at the buffet based in the casino Circus Circus - apparently this has the biggest selection and was only $20 each. After getting to
the front of a very long queue to pay, we were let loose on the food. There was so much to choose from: fresh pasta, chinese food, mexican food, soul food, carvery, all kinds of salads & veg and even more desserts. We both chose wisely on our first plates trying not to overfill them. On our second plate however, all sensibility was lost as Chris crammed everything he missed out on his first plate plus a large cut of beef from the carvery whilst P got more of the same which included shrimp, tacos and mac & cheese.
We were both bloated to say the least, how on earth could we fit dessert in now? After pondering for a few minutes we both got ourselves a modest piece of cake each (cheesecake for P an brownie for Chris). We were well and truly done.
During our 2nd day here it actually rained! We couldn't believe it, not only that...it was cold too really cold. How was it possible to have an extremely hot day next to a cold one. Nothing like a wet, miserable day to spoil your fun in the sun. We'd heard about
a restaurant called Serendipity 3 which serves frozen hot chocolate ice cream. Yes, hot chocolate ice cream. Of course we had to go investigate.
Joining a very long queue whilst at the same time trying to stay dry, we waited for maybe 45mins outside in the cold before realising we could just go into the restaurant and order at the bar. By this point Chris just wanted an actual hot chocolate to get warm and so ordered one with marshmallows, biscuits and cream floating in it. P undeterred, ordered the Frozen hot chocolate. It came in a large ice cream bowl with guilt inducing overflowing chocolate 'milkshake' with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on top.
We both enjoyed our choices respectively. We noticed on the menu there was an option for hot choc ice cream for $1000! Now this was frivolity at its finest, it contained edible 23k gold leaves and some expensive and rare chocolate. This sundae is in the Guinness world records as the most expensive sunday in the world. It’s crazy what some people have the disposable income to splurge on.
Just at the beginning of downtown Vegas is the Stratosphere,
a tall thin building overlooking the whole of Vegas with a 360 bar and restaurant on the 107th floor. Attached to the stratosphere is a hotel and casino on the lower levels and 2 theme park rides and a vertical zipwire line on the roof. We opted to just treat ourselves to a drink in the bar, plus there was a thunderstorm going on so the outside viewing deck was closed. Usually to get into the inside viewing deck it costs around $25 each but we learned that if we went to the bar during happy hour and bought a 2-4-1 drink ($15 for both) you are allowed access to the 360 viewing floor for no extra cost. Despite the rain and wind outside, the view was amazing as we got almost a birds eye view of the city and all its colours. The drinks great too.
Another popular place in Vegas is the Fremont experience, which is actually a street filled with more casinos, a zipline stretching the length of the street (3/4 blocks), bars, stalls and the largest tv screen covering the whole ceiling of the 4 block street. Every hour the tv screen comes alive
and features a 10min cgi animation with loud music. On a busy day the street is packed with people and there's about 3 stages in each section, each with a rock band playing. There's also many entertainers vying for tourists attention and money; from a young talented rapper vowing never to curse on his songs, to a half naked woman dressed in leather armed with a night stick posing for 'rude' photos with budding tourists, to her counterpart - an elderly lady dressed in a very similar way awaiting someone willing to pose for a photo.
There was so was much going on here, it was like a compressed vegas on a small street. One place we passed that really caught our attention was the 'Heart Attack Grill' a controversial restaurant that takes no shame in its unhealthy menu. The menu contains options like the 'triple heart bypass burger' and 'flat liner fries whilst the hostesses dress in nurses uniforms and diners put on hospital gowns. The shop also had a weight scale outside with a sign stating if you weighed over 350lbs your meals free! We couldn't believe this type of place existed. Only in Vegas.
In between our busy schedule we also made a quick visit (via the bus) to the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign for a photo, taking advantage to walk past the Egyptian themed Luxor casino on our way back into the centre.
So much to do and so much to see. 2 days just isn't enough. It may come as a shock to most, but one thing we did not do in Vegas was gamble! Who goes to Vegas and doesn't gamble???
I guess we just didn't have the time. Maybe next time.
Accommodation: Hostel Cat
Travel: Flight - Austin to Las Vegas total $116
October 4th 2015
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