When most people hear Las Vegas, they immediately think of gambling, impromptu weddings, prostitution, strip clubs, wild parties, and a host of other vices. No wonder there is the famous quote “What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas!“. However, as a 3 time
repeat offender visitor of Vegas, who did not engage in these stereotypical vices, I thought I should create a post to offer an alternative perspective, a more positive one. Maybe at the end of this post, you will decide to make Vegas an annual family vacation destination, who knows? 😉 .
The first time I went to Vegas, I was in undergrad, for a National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) conference. It was a fun experience and I remember just being awed by the amazing architecture, the energy of the city- it literally never slept, and how very different things were out west. The most exciting thing I did on that trip was see Cirque du Soleil.
The second time, it was for a friend’s 25th birthday. When she picked Vegas as the destination, I was excited because I was now getting a second chance to visit without being on a ‘school trip’- this was going to be an official girls’ trip! Vegas can be a nice place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, anything really. There are lots of fun activities- even just walking up and down the strip is enough entertainment- and it’s free! On this trip, we saw Boys II Men in concert- and that was phenomenal. I am not even a fan of theirs per se, but it was an amazing experience.
This most recent time, I went for a friend’s 30th birthday. Literally just for 48 hours; landed at 7pm on Friday night, left on Sunday at 7pm. The first night was spent exploring our hotel- the Venetian. The Vegas hotels are so large, it could take half an hour, if not more, just to get from your room to the shops. And yes the shops! It was like every hotel had a full blown mall in it, plus at least one signature restaurant, other regular restaurants, casinos, food court, botanical garden, you name it. Some even had pharmacies. You literally don’t have to leave your hotel if you don’t want to. The Venetian actually has a canal in it where you can go on a Gondola ride with the attendant singing to you- just like you’re in Venice!
The next morning was a combination of exploring the strip and looking for a breakfast spot. Restaurants are expensive in Vegas and there are a lot of them. I mean, there’s McDonald’s, and Denny’s and the likes but we wanted something a little more classy. In between being distracted by people watching and exploring hotel lobbies and admiring the architecture on display on the strip and taking pictures, it was about noon when we finally decided we couldn’t make any more stops till we ate. Time flies when you are exploring the strip!
On the strip, it’s like each hotel is trying to do it’s best to outdo the other. For example, the Venetian is an Italian theme with it’s gondola rides popular in Venice, there is the Paris hotel with a literal Eiffel Tower which you can go up in and there is a restaurant at the top. And of course, the Bellagio with it’s amazing water fountain that has shows every 15 minutes (I highly recommend because it is phenomenal and free) and the conservatory and botanical garden (which was highly decked out to celebrate year of the pig) also free. Then there’s the Flamingo hotel that has actual flamingos in it.
There are also actual malls- apart from the shops in the hotels. So if shopping is your jam, especially designer/brand name shopping- you’d be in paradise. Now, whether the deals are great or not, I don’t know.
Something to look out for is people approaching you to offer you “deals”. For example, they may offer you tickets to see a show in exchange for listening to a timeshare presentation. Mind you, they don’t present this to you in such a direct manner. My advice is just know what you are getting into and if you have that time to spare, it could be a good way to get free tickets to something. Just don’t buy the timeshare or whatever they will try to sell to you- at least not there and then.
You’ll likely also meet “club promoters”. So if part of your plans include going to a club, you may score free entry and maybe drink tickets, in exchange for nothing it seems. I’m still not sure how these club promoters benefit from this or how you as a visitor benefit (apart from the drink tickets) but I don’t argue with free :).
On our agenda that day was a helicopter ride over the Vegas strip. I was really excited for this as I had never been in a helicopter and I thought it would be fun to see the strip from up above but not as high as an airplane. And if you’re wondering, it was not scary at all, if you’ve ridden rollercoasters, this is nothing compared to that.
Budget tip: Check groupon for deals on the helicopter ride. Also, it works well if you have a party of 3 as it was a 4 seater helicopter.
After this, we went to dinner at the Herringbone Restaurant, which is a seafood restaurant in the Aria hotel. The food was good, but expensive. However, it was a 30th birthday celebration after all, so perfect occasion to splurge.
The next day, we decided since we were spending so much money to stay at that hotel, we were going to utilize the hot tub. It was a nice hot tub and it was so so relaxing, I felt like I should follow it up with a nap! However, time was limited. So we had brunch and then took a little road trip to Hoover Dam. I was excited about this because the previous times I had been to Vegas, I didn’t get a chance to visit. I even planned on visiting when I went to the Grand Canyon, but I ran out of time. So when a friend who lived in Vegas offered to drive us there, we took the opportunity!
On the way, we stopped at the Lake Mead Overlook to take some pictures. At Hoover Dam, we first walked over the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge to view the dam, then went to the dam itself to take a closer look. They offer tours there but we didn’t take any of the tours. The rest of the time, we just hung out before heading to the airport.
Somewhere else I would have liked to visit was the Red Rock Canyon. And if hiking isn’t your thing, there is a scenic drive with stops to view the scenery and take some insta worthy shots ;). It is really close to the strip (20 minutes drive?) so I would say this is worth visiting. Also, gives you a break from the busyness of the strip.
Another place I didn’t get to visit that was recommended by a friend was Fremont street. There’s also the Seven Magic Mountains– spoiler alert- not really mountains. And my favorite thing to do- walking tours! Yes, Vegas has them too. And I heard that one of the stops is the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign. Needless to say, it looks like I will be going back to Vegas!
So in summary, why is Vegas a good idea? Great weather! (this last trip was in February and while it wasn’t summer weather, it was beautiful, sunny, cloudless, and not the freezing tundra that is Michigan- although just the week before, it snowed in Vegas. A complete rarity but the whole country was messed up weather wise around that time anyway), great shows, nice shops, entertainingly beautiful hotels, rollercoasters and rides, top rated restaurants, helicopter rides, hiking, educational activities, great people watching, and much more. And good news- plane tickets to Vegas aren’t that expensive in general. Let OTPSG Travels help you find a great deal!
So yes, Vegas has earned it’s reputation as sin city but it is entirely possible to go there, not partake in any of those things and still have an awesome time! I think everyone should go to Vegas at least once- even if it’s just to experience the glitz and glamour of it all.
Have you ever been to Vegas? What was your favorite thing?