I absolutely and positively would not be caught dead in a night club, a bar, or in the wild and loud parties in my own hometown, much less in the super-hyped version of these for which Las Vegas is so well-known. Yet I often seem to be clarifying silent assumptions for those who find Las Vegas such an odd place for my regular visits. My main interests in traveling are in having fun in style, high class and in excellent taste and Las Vegas – or in literal translation, The Meadows – offers all that in abundance.
Even though I stay away from alcohol and the bar scene, I more than enjoy good gambling and only the gambling in Las Vegas (I would also not be caught dead or alive in an Indian Reservation “Casino”!) but I digress. In defense of Sin City, I want to give you my 11 top reasons Las Vegas rocks even for the complete non-gambler, teetotaler and health-conscious among you. And believe me, creating a Vegas list which excludes playing an exciting game of craps as a highlight was no easy task but superstitious as I am about the dice game, I listed only eleven reasons to bring you good luck at the tables if you should wish to gamble.
1. Best Variety of Luxury Hotels
We have been visiting Las Vegas since 2001 and in the course of those dozen plus visits, we have experienced stays at hotels all across the scale. Vegas doesn’t just have exquisite hotels with the best amenities, but depending on the season and your search and preparation, you can easily find rates which beat a similar hotel in a different city hands down. Every hotel has a theme, various names derived from famous locales in the world such as Luxor, Mirage, Venetian, Paris and so on. So well chosen these names are that I used them at my wedding as names for the guest tables. The decor, design, colors and furnishing of these hotels are a stunning feast for the eyes. Our favorites are the true classics and most comfortable among them: Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, and Wynn.
2. State of the Art Spa Facilities
The spa experience is one of the best parts of Vegas. I have spent hours relaxing, reading and rejuvenating at the most luxury spas without even a treatment. The best spas all have several large jacuzzi tubs, cool dips, sauna, stream room, relaxation lounge with the most plush couches and softest music, complimentary bowls of fruit and nuts, beverages cool or hot, showers equipped with gel, shampoo, conditioner, razor, robes, plenty of towels and a get-ready room with hair products, brushes, toiletries, and lotions of all kind. Usually you can get a day pass for $25 or less whether you be guest at the hotel or not and if you get a treatment, you only pay for that. You get a locker and slippers and can return many times. Spas usually open at 5am and stay open until 8 or 9 or some til 10pm.
3. World-class Dining experience
The dining in Vegas is exquisite, even for the most selective and demanding diner out there. The authentic Chinese and Japanese restaurants have to cater to the high-end Asian clientele, and you will be hard pressed to find better Asian food anywhere- I have had heaps of Asian food in all of Northern California, Hong Kong and Sydney, and the Noodle Shops in Las Vegas are unmatched so far. Japanese food in Tokyo is divine of course and impossible to match but Vegas comes close with the best Sushi chefs around the country. French cuisine which is my recent favorite will not disappoint you either. The buffet dining may be over-rated in Vegas and you need to exercise self-discipline in portions but selections are very good especially at the Bellagio and Planet Hollywood (formerly known as, sniff, the Aladdin). For dessert afterward, it’s a devilishly good idea to stop at Jean-Pierre Patisserie, either at the Bellagio and the new Aria Hotel.
4. Sunny and Warm Desert climate
Yes, as my husband pointed out cleverly, it gets very chilly from late December to February time-frame and snow has dared make an appearance in Vegas in the past but the warmth and the heat triumph and rule most year long and for that, I am grateful. The Vegas heat in the summer can be a bit much but the dry heat is the best kind. Because every hotel has at least a couple of nice swimming pools, the sunny days are ideal for sunbathing. If you are not a fan of the sun and the heat, visit in the middle of January and rest assured you can have a happy vacation completely indoors. But for those of you, who like me, cannot stand the cold and love to wear the fewest layers of clothing on vacation (light packing, baby!), Vegas is for you. The hotels are notoriously air conditioned so a small pull-over can be handy.
5. Selection of Superior Entertainment
Vegas caters to worldly clientele in everything and the entertainment is no exception. In the largest venues for the performing arts, you can get tickets to the best entertainment in musicals, shows, stand-up comedy, magic, The talent is bold and brilliant. From acrobats, singers, dancers to magicians, ventriloquists, impressionists and comedians, top-class performers entertain you with exceptional show of skill and creativity. My personal favorites are Mamma Mia, “O” from Cirque du Soleil, and my favorite singers, Celine Dion and the one and only Elton John.
Traveling changes your mind and expands your horizons! If you like to see the other travel stories here, check the index of On The Road.
6. Free Unique Attractions
The free unique attractions are all over the Las Vegas strip and some are inside the hotels but I think they are definitely worth at least one visit. The Bellagio Fountain show with music on the hour is an old favorite, and while there, you must go into the hotel and walk through the Conservatory. This giant room with ridiculously tall ceilings is decked out completely for every single occasion all year long. The flowers and the food used are fresh and changed daily. The cost that goes into maintaining this best-smelling conservatory with its high-tech water fountains and unique decor must be outrageous. Before you leave Bellagio, gaze at the most amazing collection of Italian blown glass at the lobby ceiling. The Venetian deserves an indoor and outdoor walk-through for its impressive architecture and design and the Wynn for its exclusive furnishings and the hanging umbrellas from the ceiling make for a gorgeous colorful display for the senses. And my most recent favorite is the gorgeous art statues displayed outside of Cirque du Soleil box office, all done by a creative sculptor whose video you can watch as you gaze at his art work. The statues are poetry in motion, and my favorite is the tango dancers from Argentina and the one of Romeo and Juliet, with Romeo on his knees pulling at Juliet’s skirt with agony. So much emotion captured in stone and clay.
7. Affordable Fun Attractions
Vegas offers a variety of paid attractions besides the free ones. One of my all-time favorites, Madame Tussaud‘s, boasts the incredible wax figures of celebrities, located right in the Venetian; it is forever updating the collection with more statues of the rich and famous frozen in time. The resemblance is uncanny in some of these statues and one is usually displayed outside the entrance for tease. The dolphin and wild life habitat at the Mirage is small but a great change from the usual scene. While not entirely cheap, and things I have yet to do, people rave about the helicopter rides around the desert and the Stratosphere and all the insane bungee jumping from either the Stratosphere or other spots in Vegas. This is all just to name a few.
8. Superlative Shopping Experience
This is probably my area of expertise! I love the shopping in Vegas. While I window-shop mostly at the countless Chanel, Tiffany, Dior, and Armani stores, I do love the variety afforded to me just in case I win the lottery or the mood strikes me. Every, and I mean every, major designer has a main store in Vegas and most high-end brand-names have at least 2 or 3 within the Las Vegas strip. The Caesar Palace shops take a lot of energy so go when rested. My all-time favorite is Anthropologie, hip clothing just for women. The Fashion Show Mall is one of my favorite malls, and I am not by any measure a frequenter of malls in general. This of course you may find ironic after I just admitted to being an expert shopper! Suffice it to say, the shopping rocks in Vegas, and the service is very nice everywhere, quite possibly the main reason I enjoy the shops and goods.
9. Best Location and Staff at McCarren Airport
When you arrive in most large metropolitan cities in the world, leaving the airport and arriving at the city is usually a long trip and quite expensive. McCarren happens to be ideally situated with only a $10 easy taxi ride into the heart of Las Vegas strip. I have always enjoyed the funny videos featuring celebrities going through security. The staff at McCarren is pretty nice, and in general, I find that residents of Vegas happen to be generally happy people since most choose to move and live in Vegas – they are not usually stuck there by some misfortune of circumstance. The airport is pretty high-tech and efficient, and while it does not have an airline lounge, I enjoy the open air and bright terminals.
10. Quick Escapes from the Neon Lights
When we were in Hong Kong, I couldn’t find an escape from the city for the life of me. Even parks did not tune out the loudness and madness of the traffic and the crowd. While Vegas is hardly as packed or as loud, I thoroughly enjoy the escape to the Red Rock Canyon, a short 30 minute drive out of the city into the desert silence. The change of scenery is almost shocking, and a welcoming change for the body and mind. If you need to sweat it out by climbing one of those red rocks, or just meditate and re-think your gambling or your dining strategy, or if you just want to explore, I highly recommend the red rock canyon.
11. The City that Never Sleeps – For Early Risers or Night Owls
This has been said of other cities, but I find it to be really true for Vegas. The gambling is 24 by 7 and 365 days a year, and that certainly has an impact on the non-sleeping crowd, but the spas open bright and early, there is at least one 24 hour cafe in every hotel, and it has been said that you can even get a haircut at 4am if you needed one badly enough! It is also nice to be able to dine at European hours, and still find a packed restaurant at 11pm any night of the week.
Vegas is excitement, entertainment, and luxury, and a place that you are never quite finished with, and yet you are just as happy to return to as you are to leave from. In the right dosage and mix of things, it can be a perfect getaway any time of the year!