City That Never Sleeps
What Happens in Vegas Stays In Vegas……
Well that may be what people think most when planning a trip to Las Vegas but I think of: Friends, Food, Outlet Shopping!
I lived in Las Vegas from 2005-2008. It was an interesting ride. Some great times, some hard times (thank you GFC and relationship breakup). And although I am happy to not call Vegas my home anymore, I love to go back often and see all my dear friends and experience the ever changing Vegas Strip and Suburbs. I am definitely not a party girl that likes to hit every nightclub in town. I lasted 3 days doing that when I first arrived in 2005. No need to live it again. What I do love is the amazing international chefs, the shows, the national parks and some shopping of course. I am listing some of my most recent favorite experiences. This is just the tip of the vegas experience.
Usually when I visit Vegas I stay in the burbs with my dear friends but occasionally I like to get amongst it and stay in he heart of the strip. My pick for a great hotel in the centre of it all that won’t break the bank is ARIA. In the heart of the City Centre in the centre of The Strip, The Aria is a good mix of family, restaurants, Casino and party go-ers. I prefer to stay during the week and avoid the weekend party groups. The pool is first class and I can 100% recommend Julian Serrano for a great meal.
When living in Vegas I did anything and everything to avoid being around the tourists on the strip. I can honestly say I avoided anything that was “touristic” . But now going back it’s actually fun to play the visitor. Yes there is the Bellagio Fountains. The Stratosphere and all the cities of the world you can pretend to visit all while never leaving Las Vegas Blvd. But my tips are:
The Neon Museum: The Boneyard houses more than 150 historic signs. Each sign in the collection has a unique story about who created it, what inspired it, where and when it was made, and how it fits into the development of Las Vegas and the city’s rich history. Changes and trends in design and technology are also illustrated in the pieces that range from the 1930s to the present day. You will be guided on a 1 hour tour when you can get up close to this Vegas history. Be prepared to snap quickly and choose your camera carefully. Only one camera with one lens allowed! I would like to go back for the night tour.
Freemont Street Experience: Definitely an experience. One that is a must do but one I don’t need to do again. Meander through the the crazy lights of Freemont and you may be greeted by a few bare bodies (and not great ones). Maybe not a child destination. And look overhead and see the zip liners fly through this street of sensory overload. But my pick is East Freemont street a little further down the road. The “art” district of Vegas. Here you can find some cool restaurants/bars and a quieter buzz.
Red Rock National Park: A few days on the strip has you craving for some nature. You can rent a car and head out to the Hoover Dam or if its not too hot a hike through one of the numerous Red Rock trails is a great escape. Or you can just drive around The Loop and stop at any number of vantage points. We were adventurous and drove along began up track to attempt a hike. Unfortunately we took a wrong turn and seemed to be following a dried up River Bed for quite awhile before or hot bodies realized that we went the wrong direction. Ooops. By the time we realized, it was too hot to find the entrance to the current trail. Maybe next time…..
I could go on and on about the amazing restaurants that Vegas has to offer. Please don’t waste your money on the buffets. But do some research and find the chef of your choice and wine and dine in style. On this trip my foodie friend researched and researched and somehow managed to get us a table at:
é by José Andrés: A chefs table molecular gastronomy experience located in the heart of The Cosmopolitan Hotel. Twice a night 3 chefs stand in front of 8 guests and prepare and serve the 23 courses of pure gastronomic bliss. This is more than just eating but a theatrical event that you never want to end. This once in a lifetime indulgence is a memory that I will not forget. Check out the full article and details here. I cannot even explain the taste or the fun we had.
Honestly? I was a little disappointed with the shopping in Las Vegas on this trip. I found the malls such as The Fashion Show Mall, Miracle Mile and Forum Shops a little generic in its fashion. That is, unless you have a huge credit card limit! I tend to use Vegas as my gift shopping destination. Outlet shopping is a must in Vegas and here are my tips:
Las Vegas Premium Outlets (Charleston Ave): My go to for Kate Spade, Coach, Vince, Nike and Michael Kors. Most friends and family receive a little something from either Nike or Coach on return from Vegas. The prices are impossible to match anywhere in Australia. But don’t be fooled….some stores are not actually outlet ( hello Sunglass Hut and Journey). And another trick is that many brands like J Crew, Gap and Banana republic make clothes specifically for the outlet. So in reality its not really a bargain. Plan your trip and know what you really want before you pull out your wallet.
High End Luxury Shopping: Let’s be real. We can’t all afford to shop in Chanel or Louis Vuitton ( I sure can’t). But The high end retailers are a huge presence on the strip. They rely on overseas visitors to make their profit. And it can be fun to go in and have a look. Some staff can be a little snooty but mostly I have had good experiences pretending I have money. This visit I did have a blast in Jimmy Choo at The Shops at Crystals. The ladies were so lovely and besides me having a weak moment and pulling out the credit card, we gossiped over Champagne and shoes. Pure bliss for this shoe gal.
I am not a drinker in the least but I do enjoy one glass of something sparkly if there is reason for it. My 2 top picks for a cool view and really nice atmosphere are:
MIX Lounge: Located at the top of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay this is bar with serious views of the strip. A great low key destination mid week. It gets a little more hectic during the weekend and may incur a cover charge. But I love this spot after a show (see below) and they make a seriously delicious cocktail. But the biggest draw card – head to the bathrooms before you leave for a room with a view!
Mandarin Bar: This sophisticated bar is located on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental (a stroll away from The Aria). This contemporary bar is the perfect place to unwind after a hectic day on the strip and enjoy a delicious cocktail with friends.
Who can’t go to Vegas without seeing a show or 3? I could write a whole post just on shows seeing as I worked on one of the shows in Vegas. This time I tried to not spend my nights basically at another work venue so I only took in the latest show released from my Company:
Michael Jackson ONE: The 2nd MJ show by Cirque Du Soleil, MJ One is the 2nd show released by Cirque Du Soleil that embraces the spirit of Michael Jackson (the first one is Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour). MJ One is a magical fusion of dance, acrobatics, art and the music of the King of Pop. I am quite harsh in critiquing shows but I recommend this one especially if you love the music of this man. A fun night out.
A quick list of my other must see shows: Zumanity at NYNY Hotel, La Reve at The Wynn, “O” at Bellagio, Absinthe at Caesars.
Have you been to Las Vegas? What are your tips for this crazy city? Comment Below and share your adventures.
Photos shot with iPhone 5S, Nikon d5200
Some Jose Andres photos Courtesy: Tracy