Popularly known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas is one of the most epic cities I’ve been to and has definitely made for some of my most entertaining memories in travel. Countless TV shows and movies set along the Vegas Strip painted a visualization of what the city had to offer for years before I went, but nothing compared to touching down in Sin City and experiencing its glitz live and in color for myself.
Its aesthetic aspect alone was enough to blow me away,
from the hotel structures that perfectly replicate some of my favorite European havens, to the protruding mountains that surround the city’s outskirts so picturesquely. It amazes me that in the middle of a barren desert, a wonder such as the Fabulous Las Vegas could be spawned to take over the world.
You've got options
You can gamble your life savings away hoping the casino gods grant you an enormous cash out, or you can party until your legs hurt and your voice is nothing but a rasp. You can witness breathtaking performances in any genre you fancy, or you can jump off of towers (or catapult 1000 feet in the air on top of one) just for the thrills. I don't care what anyone says about Vegas, there's a good time to be had for anyone!
My first visit was during my 21st birthday, and what a perfect place to turn 21 it is (my golden birthday if that counts for anything!). My second time around was for New Year’s Eve the following year -- and again -- what a perfect place to bring in the New Year. The city gets even more turned up on holidays. Dri and I definitely recommend a friends’ holiday trip to Vegas if you’re seeking an epic celebration.
If you decide to take a friends’ trip, chances are you want it be fun and relaxing -- you might want to go with the flow as opposed to sticking to a strict schedule. However, you also want to make the most out of your trip. It can be easy to party all night and sleep your whole afternoon away camped up recovering in your hotel room, but why travel to another state to pass up on all the adventuring you can do!?
Your best bet would be to plan an itinerary that takes advantage of fun attractions throughout the city, but keep it loose enough to accommodate for alternative options that present themselves after your arrival.
These activities and adventures go in no particular order, but the following is a list of notable things I recommend based on what I did and saw during my vacations to Vegas.
1. Tour the strip. (FREE!)
I could spend days letting the lavish architecture and elaborate decor of Vegas’s mega-hotels lay their charm amidst my sight. Words couldn’t even begin to describe the beauty of the grandiose themed lobbies, lighting fixtures, fountains, structured ceilings, and marvelous multi-colored flower arrangements -- but they are all enrapturing. I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of browsing through the hotels by day, photographing the glam interior and exterior landscapes, having pictures taken with elaborate backdrops behind us, and appreciating the highly detailed design that is literally everywhere. The hotels I’d recommend as a must-see are:
The Venetian & Palazzo
Wynn & Encore
New York, New York
I have yet to visit either the Cosmopolitan or the Aria, but I hear these are also must-sees, especially for the younger crowd.
2. View Vegas by Night.
Unashamedly, I’m a bit obsessed with sunsets, scenic views, and splendors of light to brighten up a night sky. Luckily, Vegas provides a few spots to take in its incredible aerial views that only get more jaw-dropping at dusk.
a) Eiffel Tower Experience
In the heart of the strip is the magnifique Paris Las Vegas, complete with a two-thirds scale Arc de Triomphe and of course it’s beautifully commanding half-scale Eiffel Tower. This hotel and casino will likely do one of two things: temporarily satisfy your desire to visit the City of Love live and in the flesh, or just make you want to visit it even more. The Eiffel Tower Experience allows you a 460-foot, 50 story high view of the entire strip, and one of the best opportunities to see Bellagio’s beautiful water show from above. Although going during the daytime is a few bucks cheaper, the view at night is 10x better. If you go on your birthday, you’re in luck, and can enjoy the experience for free!
b) The High Roller
Not too far from the Paris Hotel is the brand new High Roller - a record breaking ferris wheel, or to put it in more exact terms, the world’s largest observation wheel. This 550-foot high wheel is comprised of enclosed, air conditioned pods that hold up to 40 people each. The High Roller wasn’t around the first two times I visited, but I did get to see it in person when I went for a quick weekend trip last month. I didn’t get to ride, but it’s on my to do list for my girl’s birthday trip this August. Stand (with your drink in hand, if you please) as the wheel slowly turns, socializing and taking in the panoramic views of the strip, the valley, and everything in between. I’m the type that would simply swoon over the scenery, snapping as many photos as possible.
3. Get your adrenaline pumping.
The 109-story high Stratosphere tower - I love this place.
It’s a little ways north from the Strip, and an extremely overpriced 5 minute taxi ride. The tower attraction itself is kinda pricey too (Vegas is just crazy expensive all around) but it’s absolutely worth the visit. The allure I find in this tower speaks on my aforementioned fascination with views from above, and I can also quench my thrill seeking desires here. You don’t get the close aerial view of the strip like you would in the High Roller or Eiffel Tower Experience, but this provides the most riveting view simply because of how much higher and more exposed you are. You’re not enclosed by a glass pod or caged in in -- the openness allows you to just be one with the world below and around you. Every time I’m physically elevated, there's a level of mental elevation that ensues. I feel pensive, mesmerized, on top of the world. My appreciation rises for both the natural wonders placed on Earth and the man made structures that have been designed so intricately -- I can internalize just how amazing of a world I live in better when I’m up high, and I can never get enough.
Take advantage of the great photo ops from the obseration tower, and the best part: the 3 heart-attack inducing thrill rides.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to suspend off the side of a 900-foot high tower while spinning around and enjoying the view? Or you can hop on the X-Scream, a mini rollercoaster that shoots you 27 feet off the edge of the building, reels you back in, and shoots you out again. You feel like you’re going to shoot into the skyline and fly right down to your doom, but that never happens of course. My friend Brittani and I took a nighttime ride and were brave enough to ride in the very front -- it was the single most terrifying thing I’d ever chosen to do in life. I learned how fearless I am especially at that moment, and riding it gave me the ultimate sense of conquering fears.
My favorite of the three rides is the Big Shot,
which shoots riders up from the 921-foot platform to an astounding height of 1,081 feet at 45 mph, bouncing up and down in the sky a couple of times before returning to the platform. The four G’s of force on your way up and negative G’s on your way down will have your stomach doing numbers - but in a good way, if you’re like me. I’ve always loved the tower rides at amusement parks that either shoot up quickly or raise slowly and hold at the top for a second before free falling, but the Big Shot is something else; unlike any other ride that you can find in the world.
As I got slingshotted into the air at unreal speeds, the only thing going through my mind was “WTF AM I DOING ON HERE! WHY IS THIS THING SO HIGH, THIS MAKES NO SENSE! MY STOMACH IS IN MY CHEST, OMGGGG” which in real life came out as a Scary-movie style b*tch scream. But then at the pinnacle of its ascent, in the split second of time before it fell, I saw the entire Las Vegas, and how majestic it looked. I realized how insanely awesome it was to be on this ride, getting this rare experience that you can get nowhere else. For a second, you are the skyline. It felt excellent, enormous. Thrilling beyond measure. The type of feeling I live for.
If any of your friends aren’t built for this life, have them take pictures for you so you can prove to everyone how much of a G/insane you are for braving the planet’s scariest rides.
New York Rollercoaster
A lot less terrifying is the Strip’s impossible-to-miss roller coaster that protrudes around the lovely New York, New York hotel. I’ve heard mixed reviews: some say it’s too jerky, gave them a headache, and not worth the 14 bucks, but others say it’s a really fun coaster with adrenaline-pumping inversions and great views of the strip. It broke down right before I was about to get on it (lol my apologies if this scares anyone away), so I can’t speak to how fun it is in my opinion. I wouldn’t cross it off my list, though, and perhaps I’ll give it a go during my next visit.
If you’re still easing your way into the whole adventure thing and you’d prefer not to be flipped upside down, shot into the air, or hung off the edge of a building, downtown Vegas’s ziplining experience offers a fun time at a lower and slower pace. Make your way to Fremont Street, where the old Vegas strip lives, decked with classic hotels and casinos. It takes you back in time and gives you a feel for what Vegas was like back in its early days. The zipline is about 12 stories high and zips 1700 feet long through the length of the Fremont Street Canopy (and they’ve just built a second, higher zip line above the canopy). My best friend Erin was too afraid to conquer the Stratosphere with Brittani and me, but she did dare to zip. We had a good time voyaging to this side of town, and I was happy she enjoyed it despite her fear of heights.
5. Cirque du Soleil Shows
If the infusion of exotic theatrics, intricate choreography, eccentric props and costumes, and whimsical storytelling catches your attention, you will be impressed by any of the 8 Cirque du Soleil performances that you can only find in Las Vegas. Cirque du Soleil is far from your average show and certainly nothing like the typical circus. They’re catered toward the upscale audience interested in a well polished, but still lively and captivating, production. Themes vary from aquatics to acrobatics and Michael Jackson to the Beatles adaptations. Catch a magic show with Criss Angel or something sensual and risque at Zumanity.
Erin and I went to O at the Bellagio, “an aquatic masterpiece of surrealism and theatrical romance,” which some people say is Vegas’s most sophisticated Cirque show. I really enjoyed it, and all of the synchronized swimming choreo was FANTASTIC, but I think one of the more high-energy shows would have suited us better. Next time, I’d like to see Zarkana, Michael Jackson ONE, or Zumanity (I think). There are many choices though, and I don’t think any of them will be a disappointment! Check out their full Vegas line-up for descriptions and preview videos, and look out for discount tickets both online and on the strip once you arrive.
Vegas is full of gems; consequently it is not a trip that'll be easy on your budget. Save up, choose which activities sound the most fun, and make it the best trip possible! Traveling all the way from Washington, DC, I knew I couldn't go to the other side of the country without getting in some fun activities. Again, a strict schedule isn't necessary, but if you don't put anything on the agenda, you may just end up lounging around and wasting your day away. This is a vacation no no!
This Vegas mini-series of posts will include a few recollections of our crazy nights, as well as our club recommendations, hotel reviews, and travel tips. Stay tuned for the next posts!
Have you already visited Vegas? Did you and your girls find any fun things to do besides partying? Do share!