Las Vegas has a tendency to divide people. If I were to ask my Australian friends about the city, they would describe it as a dream trip, a city that can offer anything the imagination can conceive of, or they would enviously admit that it was at the top of their bucket list. On the other hand, when I told my friends in Canada that I was going, they’re faces just expressed blank with a polite comment that it might be nice. What I’ve realized, is that you really need to determine whether you’re the kind of person who would take to the flavor of Vegas before you decide it’s a must-visit destination. And that can be very much determined by time and circumstance. Would I have loved it when I was 21, visiting with a group of girlfriends for a winter-escape/bachelorette weekend? Probably. Did I love it at 30, while pregnant, on a trip with my husband at the end of June when it was 45C every day? Not really.
The booking of the trip
To give you some context, this two-day trip was part of a week-long road trip from L.A. which was itself a prequel to our longer holiday in Canada. I should also say, for those wondering, that I was not pregnant when we booked the trip.
So at the time, it was really more a matter of, what the hell, Vegas is practically right next to L.A. and cheap as anything so why not? The beauty of the planning process was the realization that you can actually get a very nice room at one of the big hotel-casinos on the strip for around $100/night – and we were staying mid-week so the deals were even better. So, we monitored hotel prices for a couple months, then decided to book at Paris on the recommendation of a friend. This friend explained that you spend so little time in your room that there isn’t much point in paying for the top-end, and Paris is centrally located right in front of the Bellagio, so his suggestion included dining Paris’ restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi, to get a perfect view of the hourly fountain show. Our room at Paris, although a bit old-school, definitely met all expectation and we also got bumped up to a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower and pool. The casino downstairs was a bit gross though. The sky-painted ceiling is not as impressive as the Venetian, the lighting is pretty dark, there isn’t much shopping and the whole place was a bit smoky.
Dining on hype
It’s pretty well known now that many of the most famous chefs and restaurants in the world have opened locations in Vegas (Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, Nobu, Hakkasan etc.) We didn’t eat at any of these (and I personally feel that if you can eat at the original locations, you will probably have a better experience). In any case, there is no doubt that you can dine well if you’re willing to pay top dollar. The mid-range is where things get a bit dismal. Restaurants, like Mon Ami Gabi, are dressed up to feel very grand, and the servers are very friendly as they tend to be in America, but the actual food is kind of ordinary. While at one of the most recommended burger places, I was expecting some kind of sublime beef patty enclosed in a perfect brioche bun, but ended up with a burger that I felt like I could get at any ordinary steakhouse or pub. So beware the hype. Into healthy eating, outdoor dining, or places with natural light? You’re going to have to search hard. Like rich food, large portions, buffets, and a hint of a theme park ambiance? You’re in paradise.
Everyone said to us, pack your walking shoes, the blocks are longer than you think, and walking is the best way to get around the strip. And this is true, except I’m not sure about whether walking is the best way to get around. Nothing has been built on a human scale. It’s impossible to look down the street to see what’s around. Restaurants, fast food joints, pharmacies, coffee shops, and the normal services you’d expect tend to be set back or hidden within casinos/hotels. And because each casino/hotel is so huge, you might have to walk pretty far before you find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately for pregnant people, there is NO public seating anywhere (something I noticed pretty quickly). I mean I don’t think there is a single bench in the whole strip. Even the hotel lobbies did not seem to have seating – other than stools at the slot machines and black jack tables. The message is pretty clear –if you want a break from all that walking, you better put down some money or move along. Again, had it not been 45C everyday and had I not been pregnant, this might not have seemed like such a problem.
Entertainment for two
Unless you are a dedicated gambler (we’re not), a bar/club rat (neither that), going to a show in Vegas is a pretty obvious thing to do. The main categories seemed to be musicals, comedy, magic, and acrobatics. We also noticed that Vegas is a bit of a (profitable) retirement camp for singers who have entered their ‘twilight years’. Britney Spears, for example, has joined the ranks of singers like Celine Dion who are on a continuous roster. We found a deal on Cirque’s show ‘Ka’ which was on at the MGM grand. It felt like going into a giant movie theatre, with the concession stand offering giant boxes of popcorn, candy, booze and soft drinks. The spend on production is something ridiculous, it boggles the mind – waterfalls, fire works, smoke, things flying through the air… there is some serious engineering involved in each show I would think. Many people asked us if we were going to see Cirque’s top rated show ‘O’, and although it was a bit more expensive, I kind of wish I had so I could give a better judgment of Cirque. I suppose it’s the same lesson as with the restaurant scene – sometimes you just have to go all in, or go home.