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Destination: Las Vegas

Posted by , 23 December 2010

The Strip

The Strip

Once you head to where the big money is, you’ll find yourself with some decisions on your hands. And biggest of all is: where the hell to stay? There are 38 huge hotels on the Strip itself, and don’t think that number exaggerates anything at all – 19 of the world’s 25 largest hotels in terms of room count are on the Strip.

Most of these will be a resort, in terms of having a casino and offering you their version of the full Vegas experience in one place. Shop around each of them and you’re almost guaranteed to be able to find yourself a deal or two, but if you want to be able to detach yourself from the casinos while you’re over there then places like Vdara in the new CityCenter complex are suite-only. Reasonably priced too from $149 per night.

We stayed at one of its sister resorts at CityCenter, Aria. Only a year old, and different to many of the other resorts in that it actually lets natural light in. Obviously not in to the 150,000+ ft casino though, that would be like trying to fist bump the Queen. Prices here start from $149 for the deluxe guestrooms, and $459 for the suites – putting the cost of a suite in Vdara in to perspective, but obviously supplying you with a lot more within the resort.

Something to be aware of though: you can use any casino in Vegas regardless of where you’re staying, as well as the other amenities offered by each resort. There are very few places where you’ll be asked for a room key to access any of their facilities, so if you are trying to save money where you can to burn on the casino floor, then the downtown and off-strip hotels deserve a look.

Walking around the Strip you’ll spend half of your time looking around at the extravagant resorts and their flagship designs. An excellent way to really get your bearings is to take a helicopter tour, which will take you from the airport at the South end to downtown and back again. An awesome sight at night, we did it in the day and at just under a hundred dollars it is still well worth the view to gain a sense of perspective.

Once on the Strip though, take your pick of any casino and hit the tables (or slots if they take your fancy). You’ll probably find yourself trying to make your money last as long as possible half the time – something we didn’t do in the Aria casino, doubling our money first up and then blowing it all with the following two bets.

If you do find yourself in a bit of a slump, there are plenty of places to go to get away from your losing streak. The Wynn has its own 18-hole golf course on the site of the old Desert Inn Golf Club, and you can book a tee-time up to 30 days ahead as a non-guest. Perfect for releasing some tension from the desperate urge to corrupt your bank account, or just to imagine that the ball is actually the face of some smug dance choreographer – we sat through the premiere of a new Sinatra show at the neighbouring Encore, unbeknown to us it was contemporary dance and left us suicidal after the woman behind it stood on stage after the finale to take the glory and thank her ‘darlings’ for the show. We headed to a trendy wine bar called Le Cave afterwards, and started spouting all sort of expletives for our understanding of what had just happened, only to turn round and find said choreographer sat no more than four feet behind us. She probably couldn’t understand our accent anyway.

For something at the other end of the spectrum to Le Cave, there’s an English pub in the CityCenter complex named after a guy called Todd English. Convenient. It calls itself a P.U.B (a Public Urban Bar) and offers a bunch of home favourites in terms of food and beer. They were showing Championship footy on our visit, which made us happy, and they also allow you to have your pint for free if you down it before a certain timer runs out – it happened at least five times during our stay – which made us even happier.

If you head away from CityCenter to start your night, check out Margaritaville in Flamingo. With views of Caesars Palace and the Strip it’s a real party atmosphere from the get-go, to the extent that a barmaid will slide down a wooden channel in to a massive jug of margarita above the bar. If you’ve got a big win to celebrate or want to drown some sorrows, there’s a lively club in the Hard Rock called Vanity. McGarr and French don’t remember being in it, so hardly surprising they both blew £5k, but we found the DJ on a Friday played some great intros without really setting the place alight. The smaller Tabu lounge in the MGM Grand had a better soundtrack, actually playing full songs, and both venues had hot dancing girls on platforms so there’s always something to look at. Almost every resort boasts a club though, most playing top 40 tunes, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a niche scene.

For a quieter night you can find hundreds of shows going on all over Vegas, from the aforementioned Sinatra disaster to the pretty mental Cirque de Soleil offerings, which is like looking inside the mind of a drug addict on his favourite ever trip. Wherever you see the word ‘Showgirls’ though, you’re in pretty safe territory for a visual treat.

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