Two weeks ago, I was waking up at 7am to sunshine, bright lights and the buzzing city of Las Vegas. Better yet, I was waking up in America, something I was experiencing for the first time. This trip to Vegas was my 21st birthday present, and where else better to celebrate being 21 than in Sin City?
The holiday didn’t get off to a great start with my face freaking out from 24 hours of traveling which you can read about here. There may not be as many photos of myself being in Las Vegas, but I have plenty of everything around me. I fell in love with America and can’t wait to go back to explore so much more of it.
Last November I spent a week in Lanzarote, Spain and one year later I was off chasing the sun once again in Nevada. Every year I say ‘I can’t wait to not have to spend another winter in the UK’ and realistically, this could be my last winter in the UK for a while. Who knows where I’ll be next year? I’d love it to be somewhere warm because I really can’t deal with the constant darkness, coldness and rain. No thank you.
If you’ve never been to Las Vegas let me give you a run-through of what I got up to, things to do and not to do, and places and things not to miss.
Y’all know how much I love my breakfasts, right? I’m not kidding when I say we ate at the same restaurant every morning for breakfast. I did order something different each time, so no hate. We were staying at the Excalibur Hotel which looks like a giant castle, it’s quite a spectacle! The Excalibur was on the south side of the strip and Denny’s Diner was only a ten minute walk away.
One thing I can say from being in America is that they like their huge portions. And most of the breakfasts on the menu came with a side of pancakes. Yes, a side of pancakes. And most of the breakfasts were around $8 (even with the side of pancakes). The coffee was refillable and I must say, it was very good coffee.
Each morning, we had to give our name to the concierge and wait for a free table as it was constantly packed, no matter what time of the morning you went. The early mornings in Vegas were my favourite. The sky was always so blue, the streets quiet and it was a great time to get a proper look at the place. Waking up to sunshine and clear blue skies instantly puts me in a good mood, and to top it off there were two Starbucks in our hotel so my dad would go down and get me a mocha to have while I was getting ready. God bless America.
Show me the money
All of the hotels and casinos are amazing to see on the strip. I especially loved the New York, New York Hotel as it was built to look like the Empire State Building with other skyscrapers around, the Statue of Liberty and even a mini version of Brooklyn Bridge. Our hotel room faced the New York, New York so I would go to sleep and wake up to flashing signs saying ‘New York, New York’ and if that isn’t a sign for me to book New York as my next trip, I don’t know what is.
Other casinos and hotels worth seeing were Bellagio, The Venetian and Caesars Palace. The Venetian was incredible with mini-rivers running through the hotel where you could even hop on a gondola inside or outside the hotel for half an hour. It was actually just like being in Venice. Bellagio is incredibly grand and somewhere I’d love to stay if I ever get to go back to Vegas.
The fountain show at Bellagio is something to see and the best way to see it is to grab a table outside the french restaurant Mon Ami Gabi across the street from Bellagio (part of the Paris Hotel), order a fancy cocktail (it’s pricey) and watch the fountain show every half hour while the sun goes down. It’s also a great spot to people watch.
It’s interesting to stand around and watch the roulette tables and craps tables, especially when walking through casinos at 8am and there are people that have been playing all night… I have absolutely no clue when it comes to gambling but it’s fun to watch. We put a few dollars into the slot machines the night before we left but that’s as far as my gambling went in Vegas. Rubbish, I know.
Get in loser, we’re going shopping
There’s two outlet malls in Vegas – one on the north end of the strip, and the other on the south side. Both are very similar, but I found the north side mall to be the best. There’s huge Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Michael Kors and Under Armour stores selling everything at a reduced rate. I got a lot of new gym wear as well as a Tommy Hilfiger backpack that had been reduced to $35 from $160 – I mean?! I had seen the bag in the north side outlet but it was only reduced by $20, then I found it in the south side outlet for the above price. It helps to shop around!
On the way back from the north side outlet, stop off at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign for the most cliché photo ever. Be prepared to queue though, but there is an organised system in place and a guy is there to take group photos for you. There was even a bride and groom there when we queued for the optimal photo.
There’s tons of stores in the hotels like The Venetian and Caesars Palace but if you can’t afford the likes of Versace or Chanel, the Fashion Show Mall in the middle of the strip may be more your thing. There’s a huge Forever 21 and a Macy’s (although I felt it was just an American version of Debenhams).
Where to eat?
As I mentioned earlier, we ate in Denny’s every single morning for breakfast. When you paid, your receipt contained a voucher for 20% off your next food bill so our breakfasts only came to around $35 every day. We varied our evening meals, and ate at Dick’s Last Resort which was a restaurant in our hotel and not for anyone that takes life too seriously or is easily embarrassed. We also ate in Gordon Ramsays Burger in Planet Hollywood which was one of the best meals we had.
One night we headed to see the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas and looked for somewhere to eat, although it was dark and didn’t seem to be that many great places around. We swiftly avoided the Heart Attack Grill which lets anyone over 350lbs eat for free which I couldn’t have been more against, I mean have you heard of the American obesity crisis?! Instead we ate in a diner in Binion’s Casino which was the most American diner I’ve ever been in. The portions were huge and tables around us held hands and said Grace before eating which was nice.
What to do?
One of my highlights was visiting the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop – aka the pawn shop from the TV show Pawn Stars. Unfortunately we didn’t see anyone from the show, but it was so cool to be in the actual shop where they film. We didn’t find out until later that Chumlee actually owns a sweet store down the road from the pawn store and he’s usually working in it, so if you’re in the area, make sure to check out the sweet shop!
The Fremont Street Experience is definitely an… experience. Take the bus and there’s four different drop off points around Fremont to get off at. If you feel like it, zipline across the top of the ceiling and fly over everyone walking below. There’s light shows, music blasting from everywhere, people dancing, drinking, eating all around. It’s a bit mad but something worth seeing when you’re in Vegas.
I enjoyed being on the bus and driving through residential areas of Las Vegas. I couldn’t imagine living there myself but it was interesting to see what the houses and streets were like. Driving in Las Vegas looked quite easy and I think I could easily master driving on the opposite side of the road. Like any city, we did see a lot of homeless people, especially at night, all lined up in sleeping bags in the outside areas.
I would have liked to stop off in the Arts District where there’s tons of graffiti and really cool street art, but we were told it wasn’t very safe and each time we drove through it, there weren’t many people about.
Would I go back?
If I was with a group of girls for a birthday or hen party, then yes. But otherwise I wouldn’t rush back as I think I saw almost everything there was to see. We had five full days in Vegas (one was spent sleeping due to my face catastrophe) and the others were spent traveling. I would love to see much more of America and definitely want to see the more rural parts, not just the big cities.
Vegas is somewhere I think everyone should see as it’s incredible what they’ve built. I’d definitely recommend it as every American we met was so friendly and I’ve never received as many compliments before in my life. Even though they can be quite dramatic and hyper compared to us Western Europeans they’re great people.
One thing I was weirded out by was the smoking indoors. It’s weird to walk into a public indoor space and see someone lighting a cigarette or just sitting at a bar puffing away. As it’s not illegal in America, it was weird to get used to and I’m really glad we have that law here in the UK. Have I used the word ‘weird’ enough?
I’d love to live in America some day, so who knows? I could be back to Vegas in the very near future… If I move to California… One can dream!