State Fifteen Revisited: Nevada

The backdrop to Swingers, The Hangover, Casino and scores of other glitzy and/or debauched movies, we started our 2017 roadtrip in Sin City. After a heart-stopping moment at McCarran International Airport, when we thought we saw a couple wheeling our suitcases out of the reclamation area (turns out they weren’t nicking our stuff but had identical green and yellow suitcases, seriously what are the chances?!) we had nothing but fun in Las Vegas. After a visit to Vegas in 2012 as part of our honeymoon we were curious to know whether we’d enjoy it this time round – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, after all – but we had a blast!

Whether it’s night or day there’s always plenty to see walking the strip. One minute you’re in Paris, the next Venice, and now New York. Kinda. It’s opulent, gaudy, silly and a lot of fun. Take in the Bellagio Fountains, buy a cupcake via an ATM at Sprinkles, play beer pong. Las Vegas has been described as Disneyland for adults and there really is something for everyone!

Another fun place to walk around is Fremont Street. North of the strip, Fremont Street is the wilder, scuzzier Vegas, that reminded us a bit of New Orlean’s Bourbon Street. Anything goes! Amongst the neon, and flashing lightbulbs are countless alcoholic slushie machines and we saw the Heart Attack Grill where the waitresses dress like nurses, customers wear hospital gowns and those who weigh over 350 lb eat for free. Oh and the menu includes an 19,900 calorie “octuple bypass” burger. We saw women wearing thongs and heart-shaped nipple pasties with “Sin City” written on their bottoms asking men to spank them for a few dollars, a grown man dressed as a baby, topless “Nuns”, a Slot machine–inspired zipline… it was so weird and so devil-may-care! The rest of downtown Vegas is very hip and artistic – there are great dive bars, places to eat and public art everywhere.

This time round we managed to swing by the Mob Museum, after running out of time on the last trip. It’s absolutely fascinating. With unique exhibits, the Mob Museum provides an interactive journey from the birth of the Mob, to today’s headlines. It was an eye-opening, authentic view of organised crime’s impact on the world and the ongoing battle between the Mob and the law, as well as great introduction to the history of Vegas.

If you have time it’s always good to drop by the iconic ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas‘ neon sign, which you can find just south of Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. When we visited it had become a shrine to the 58 people who died and 546 who were injured in the recent, heartbreaking attack. We also highly recommend the Neon Boneyard, which we talked about visiting on our last Nevada blogpost.

Whenever we think of Vegas we think of taking in a show and this time round we finally did. We saw Britney Spears during her residency at Planet Hollywood, and we absolutely loved it. Although we’re pretty sure she didn’t sing live, she danced for hours and the staging was incredible. So much fun. We’d certainly want to save up for another show the next time we’re in Vegas.

It’s just outside of Vegas, but we adored seeing Seven Magic Mountains: public art consisting of seven towers of colourful, stacked boulders standing more than 25ft high. Free to visit and just a twenty minute drive from the strip. Very instagram-able.

We’ve never gambled or had enough time to hang out pool-side whilst we’ve been in Vegas, but of course if that floats your boat you can. You can also visit Hoover Dam easily in one day or visit the really sweet Atomic Testing Museum for more fascinating local history. We talked about experiences at both of these attractions on our last Nevada blogpost.

We ate so well in Vegas. Whether it’s Michelin starred restaurants, all-u-can-eat buffets or anything in between; the food in Vegas is just brilliant. We had burgers: Josh at In-N-Out, Hannah at Vegeway (a vegan drive-thru), very expensive but delicious smoothies at Juice Standard, the most exquisite and good value curries at Le Thai in Downtown Vegas, stonkingly good donuts at Donut Bar and margaritas and stacks of perfect nachos at Nacho Daddy.

It was also lots of fun drinking in Vegas. Although, as non-smokers, we’re kind of bummed as the casinos and bars are very smoke-friendly and some of the places with poor air-conditioning are a bit gross. We adored stopping by Frankie’s Tiki Room checking out their banging neon and drinking dangerously strong rum cocktails. Beer Park had fun craft beer flights, baseball on the telly and fantastic views of the Strip. The very opulent and fancy Chandelier Lounge in the Cosmopolitan hotel served incredible cocktails: a “Soylent Green” for Josh which had passion fruit pearls and marshmallow fluff, and a “Sacrificial Virgin” for Hannah because she just cannot quit Tiki cocktails. Our favourite place to drink was probably Atomic Liquor, in Downtown Vegas. It’s Vegas’s oldest freestanding bar and features a great music, Space Age decor and a rotating selection of craft beer.

During this visit to Vegas we stayed in two hotels. The first, on the Strip, was The Cosmopolitan and WOW. We don’t think we’d want to stay anywhere else. It was a bit pricey (£260 for a regular room per night) and you had to pay extra for parking but we had an amazing view of the strip and the Bellagio fountains, two beds in our room and the shower had a glass wall so you could see into the bedroom and onto the strip whilst you were in the shower. It’s a really hip, glamorous hotel, with loads of bars, places to eat and a couple of roof-top pools. It has a futuristic-feeling lobby and is way less chintzy than some other hotels on the Strip. Seriously, if we lived in Vegas we’d set up a tumblr dedicated to the awful and very loud carpets of Vegas hotels and casinos.

The second hotel we spent a night at, was the cheap and cheerful – but very noisy Main Street Station hotel and brewery near Fremont Street. This hotel comes with free parking and is only around £90 a night, but was extraordinarily noisy and the decor is pretty basic in the rooms. If you’re after a bargain and are not a light sleeper it’s worth considering.

We had so much fun in Vegas. Yes it’s tacky, yes it’s busy and noisy, yes the carpets are mostly dreadful. Somehow though Vegas works. It’s a jumble of contradictions, high-end and tawdry, cheap and pricey, the sublime and the ridiculous; but mostly Vegas is where people go to have fun. And we’re already looking forward to another weekend in Vegas!

Rate the state:

Good for: gambling, duh. Every kind of imaginable cuisine, partying, kitsch attractions, sunshine and Britney, bitch!

Bad for: families and people with overly-addictive personalities.

Overall: 9/10.

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