If you find Vegas unbearably loud and vulgar that’s your problem, because the city remains one of the most famous places on the planet. Thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with it, Vegas is on everyone’s wish-list, everyone exposed to American entertainment media. It is where the bachelors from The Hangover (2009) lose their wits; the mobsters from The Godfather Saga (1977) intend to exploit; and the casino owner from Casino (1995) gives in to greed and deception. Las Vegas is Hollywood’s favourite backdrop. But the city is a lot more or a lot less, depending on where you are looking from.
Like any great invention, Vegas started as an idea. Although the city itself is as old as 1905, the Vegas as we know it today was the brainchild of a group of mobsters who invested in casinos to legitimise their black money, most notably the notorious mobster Moe Sedway through his associate Bugsy Siegel. In its early years, and until recently, Vegas was solely seen as a hub of gambling and clubs, a centre of adult entertainment. In recent years, however, the city’s notoriety of being a sin city has changed with more hotels investing towards a family-oriented approach.
Your first visit to Vegas could also be a myth-buster in terms of any preconceived notions about the city. First, it is not just casinos and adult entertainment. Although round-the-clock gambling remains its primary attraction, Vegas hosts some of the biggest American artists. Current performers include Celine Dion, Britney Spears and Michael Bubble. Vegas is also known for stage shows (like Chris Angel) and theatre performances (Phantom of the Opera). Second, Vegas is not a whole city filled with casinos and clubs. Rather, it is a strip a little over four miles with hotels on adjacent sides. Besides that, Vegas could be just another American metropolitan in the middle of desert. Third, Vegas is not only for adults looking for grown-up fun; it is a surprisingly family-oriented place with something for almost any age group. There’s probably no other place where The Eiffel Tower, Egyptian Pyramids, and New York skyscrapers are within walking distance.
The best part of the city? You can buy fun at any price.
A truly something-for-everyone approach. There is no entry fee for any of the hotels despite the pricey rooms. Anyone can experience a poker game or slot machine at the Bellagio or eat at Ceasar’s Palace food court. Close to Gordon Ramsay’s fine dining restaurant is a Mc Donald’s and Pizza-by-the-slice. Where you have $150 a seat for Phantom of the Opera, you also have the option to enjoy the Beatles for less than hundred bucks. If you don’t gamble, you can enjoy a thrilling roller coaster above the crowded strip.
For every high-end experience, Vegas offers an alternative. That is probably why the city remains a favourite. It can be what you want it to be — from fancy and lavish to luxury on a budget.
A personal favourite hotel is The Venetian, one of the largest hotels on the strip. Their extended lobby is a two-story atrium with shops, restaurants and food court and a Grand Canal offering gondola rides. Yes, inside the hotel. The ceiling of the shops at atrium and the canal is a constant evening or early morning sky. Some of the bigger hotels include Bellagio, Ceaser’s Palace, New York New York or Mandalay Bay. Despite their size, if you are in the city for the weekend, you can visit almost all of them. It is not just the casinos or rooms that attract tourist on the strip, but the shows and performances in these hotels, their buffets and fine dining, all of which the city is known for. And if you want to explore the Vegas away from the strip, your first option should be the old town, about three miles from the strip.
The drive to Las Vegas is another story. A narrow two-way I-15 across the Mohave desert. Unlike the cities it connects, the drive to Vegas is surreally quiet as you cross small towns on either sides reminiscent of the Old Western. If you are lucky, or late, evenings along the route are even more surreal and beautiful, as if preparing for the madness of Vegas. The only attraction on the way is the famous Mad Greek restaurant. Located along the freeway, it’s a small establishment with a limited space and menu, but considered a must-stop for Vegas voyagers.
If you’re not lucky at the Roulette table, however, worry not. Vegas has a couple of side-trip options if things don’t turn out the way you hope. There is the Hoover Dam, on the border of Nevada and Arizona. The dam was also the location for a fight sequel between Decepticons and Autobots in the movie Transformers. If Vegas’ madness drives you out of the city, you can always head to the calm of the Valley of Fire, Nevada’s biggest national park. Then there is the lesser-known Red Rock Canyon. If Vegas’ mega Fashion Mall isn’t your deal, you can say your goodbye by dropping at the outlet mall just outside the city.
Vegas fulfills almost all the things it promises — from its loud casinos to over-the-top hotels to lavish buffets and extravagant shows. If you think Vegas is loud and excessive, that’s where the fun is.