Travel guide: Las Vegas (Part I)

I can’t believe it’s already two weeks since I have returned from Las Vegas. By now I have told many people how normal the city is. One American colleague then explained to me that Las Vegas used to be very different. It was the city where everbody dressed up, men wore suits, women gowns, and some people were just crazy. But Las Vegas eventually changed its tourism concept and appealed to the average family. Another friend told me though that some people ran around wearing crazy clothes when he was there a few years ago. So I might have been there at a wrong or rather boring time. But the craziest thing I saw were rather square shaped kids carrying a liter of coke and two burgers. Nevertheless I enjoyed my trip immensely and therefore have decided to write a travel guide. Since I also want to show you some more photos, I have divided the guide into several parts.

My leopard coat was the craziest piece of clothes there … and I had thought it would be totally perfect for Las Vegas.

How to get to Las Vegas

Las Vegas is far west even from Boston. I discovered a special travel deal on TravelPirates in November and paid only $ 188 for the return flight. Spirit Airlines is a budget airline and baggage costs extra, but this was still very cheap for a six hour long flight. I believe they have those special offers every now and then. Just bring your own entertainment, blankets, pillows, food, etc. because Spirit Airlines skimps on those things. Their coffee isn’t bad though and not much. McCarran International Airport is very close to the Strip in Las Vegas. It took me quite a long time to walk to the baggage conveyor belt and then the exit because the airport building is huge. Just outside you can buy a ticket for $ 9 for a shuttle service to any hotel on the strip. I took one at around 11 p.m. and it took me quickly to my hotel.

I hadn’t really cared about how to get back to the airport when I wanted to go home. You need to order a shuttle service at the concierge desk at least half a day before they pick you up from the hotel. Since I was too late for that, I took a taxi, which cost me $ 20.

The Strip has 8 to 10 lanes. As a pedestrian you are only allowed to cross it via bridges or at very few traffic lights.

Where I stayed

After looking at all the hotels, I decided to stay at the Excalibur because it is comparably cheap and friends of mine had stayed there before. Las Vegas hotels are already cheap in comparison to Boston or New York City, but since I traveled alone (no lower rates for singles), I wanted to save a little here. I liked how the Excalibur looks like a Medieval castle and from my room I could see all the little towers. My room was actually huge, almost as big as my whole apartment in Boston. In the hotel lobby you cannot only find the casino, but there are also coffeeshops, bars, restaurants, and shops. On my first morning I was starving and therefore indulged at the Excalibur breakfast buffet. There is also a spa, which I visited afterwards. As a hotel guest you can use the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi for $ 10. I especially liked that they provide you with styling products and a proper hairdryer afterwards (far better than the mini standard one in the hotel room).

Getting around

From the Excalibur there is a free monorail to the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor (the pyramid). Into the other direction you can walk to the New York New York and get from their to all the big hotels on the Strip. Basically, I could have walked from one hotel to the next without hardly ever being outside. But since the hotels are huge, distances are bigger than you might expect. I ended taking the monorail from the MGM Grand Hotel several times. I only realized later on that this monorail is the rather expensive option. A 24 hour pass is $ 12. It is much cheaper to take the bus, the Deuce, for $ 8 for 24 hours. Also there are way more bus stops there.

I even saw Santa on the Deuce

I still walked much because I wanted to see as many things as possible. I also got lost many times. The worst hotel for me is actually the MGM where I got totally lost at least three times. There weren’t any helpful signposts and even with help I hardly found the exit.

The monorail runs behind all the famous hotels. But to get to a stop you must usually walk through these hotels – and in there, there are almost no signposts.

The hotels obviously want you to stay and spend much of your money. Each one has a casino, and to me all those casinos looked quite similar.

The shows I went to

Wow, there is so much to choose from in Las Vegas. When I was there, there wasn’t any concert by a famous star, but people like David Copperfield perform almost every night. I went to Cirque du Soleil. Twice. I had never been before, but found the description for “O” intriguing. It was fascinating – a circus performance including water and aquatic ballet as well as high-wire acts. If you can only see one, go to “O”! It is in a beautiful theater in the Ballagio. The day after I went to see “KÀ” in the MGM, which I also loved. This involves martial art fights and pyrotechnics. The third show I went to was the “Tournament of Kings” at the Excalibur. This is a dinner show, i.e. you eat a three course meal while watching. Since the Excalibur tries to be medieval, you eat with your hands and a tale about King Arthur and his Noble Knights is performed. That was actually much fun because the actors communicate with the audience a lot. There is dancing, singing, cheering, fighting. And what I found incredible were the real horses in the performance. The food was quite good and more than enough: tomato soup, a Cornish game hen with potatoes and brokkoli, and a sugared cookie for dessert.

As a matter of fact it is quite expensive going to many shows, esp. since I prefer sitting in the front. But I also think that it is totally worth it, and I will have to save money elsewhere. All the shows and many sights cost money in Las Vegas, but then again you also get many things for free. It is kind of a show that all the hotels follow a different theme. I walked around and visited most of them, like the Venetian where you find replicas of St. Mark’s Square and the Canals. The gondoliers even sing while paddling.

Have you ever been to Las Vegas? Let me know if you have any travel advice, or questions if you haven’t gone there.

© janavar


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