Before I visited Las Vegas, let's just say I was... sceptical. It had never made an appearance on my travel bucket list and, even though it almost feels like a rite of passage, I'd never had any desire to visit Vegas.
But you can't really do a Grand Canyon road trip and bypass Vegas, can you?
Vegas was one of the places I didn't want to miss on the first part of our US South West road trip this month, but not because I've always wanted to go; it was high on my road trip spot list because I never really wanted to go - and I thought this might be my only chance. If I didn't see the Vegas strip on this trip, would I ever see it at all? Probably not. And for that reason, I was excited to make a quick stop.
As it turned out, a weekend in Vegas isn't nearly enough. I expected this whistle-stop tour of the Las Vegas to be my one and only visit to Sin City, but my first time in Vegas has only made me want to go back because I LOVED it there.
Before I went, I thought Vegas was a land of lost souls, gambling obsessives and obnoxious stag do's. And boy was I wrong. Sure, you'll see a little bit of the above, but there are so many other things to do in Vegas. There are endless shows to visit, themed hotels to explore and did I mention how much food there is to try? The Vegas strip was built purely to entertain and that's what it does.
In my Vegas vlog, I describe the city as like a Disneyland for adults and I stand by that: the Vegas strip is a city of its own, a feast for the senses that was built purely for its visitors' entertainment. And it would be hard not to have a good time.
I'll admit it: After just 48 hours in Vegas, I was hooked.
The sights, the sounds, the lights - there was so much to take in and a weekend simply isn't long enough. Sure, it's all a little bit crazy and kind of on the tacky side. But if you take it for what it is, it's a whole lot of fun. And if you don't believe, here are some of the things you might see in Las Vegas:
1 - The Casinos
It's far from the only thing to do in Vegas, but it's the most obvious - so let's get it out of the way. Yes, there are a LOT of casinos in Vegas, which is great news if you're into gambling. But even if you're not an avid gambler, the casinos can still be a lot of fun; there's nothing more entertaining than watching a group of businessmen stake huge sums of money on black or red, or observing a few rounds of Blackjack at one of the many tables.
And if you do fancy trying your hand at a game or two, you won't spend a penny on drinks because they'll be brought to you for free.
2 - Hidden Surprises
Every hotel on the Las Vegas strip has a theme. Everything inside - and outside! - the hotel is based on this theme, so expect to see hotels in the shape of castles, pyramids and even the Eiffel Tower. I guess it all adds to the "Disney" feel of the place and definitely makes an after-dinner walk a little more interesting!
If you want a good way to spend a day in Vegas, a tour of the Vegas strip hotels will easily pass the hours. There's the castle-themed Excalibur, which will take you back in time with its medieval jousting show. There's the pyramid-shaped Luxor hotel, with a Titanic exhibition inside. And there's the Venetian hotel, which you can ride a gondola through (although I sadly didn't have time to, so it's top of the list for my next visit to Vegas!). And you don't always have to go into a hotel for some free entertainment; the Bellagio puts on an impressive musical fountain display every 30 minutes, surprising unknowing passers-by.
3 - The Cars
Walk down the Vegas strip at any time of day, and it won't take more than a few minutes for you to be entertained. Walk down the strip at night, and it will only take a few seconds.
Vegas is a city of extravagance and is just as tacky, flashy and over-the-top as you'd imagine. That's true for the people you'll see in the street but, come nighttime, that's true on the roads as well. Stand on the street for a few minutes and you'll see a crazy collection of cars go by: vintage wheels, bright hummers and crazily expensive sports cars all rev for your attention, and you won't be able to miss them.
4 - The Souvenirs
If you want to take a souvenir home from a trip to the States, you won't have trouble finding one in Vegas. I'm normally the kind of person who avoid souvenir shops and dreads looking for gifts, but I lost a good 45 minutes exploring the souvenirs on the Vegas strip. Oops.
As you'd expect, the gifts are just as loud as the strip itself. Some are completely crazy and others are actually kind of nice (especially the coffee mugs!). There are slot machine pens, chip chocolate coins, the tackiest t-shirts on Earth and all the glitz you could want. You can also buy glittery postcards to send a piece of the Vegas magic home to your loved ones.
5 - The Outlet Mall
Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you? At the southern end of the strip, however, is a huge outlet mall. As I only had one weekend in Vegas, I didn't have time to visit, but a quick drive by told me it would be a good one.
6 - The Food
Vegas was once a city of extremes and excess, but in recent years it's become a bit of a foodie hotspot too. You can still get all the excess you go to Vegas for thanks to many all-you-can-eat buffets and bottomless margaritas, but you'll find a great selection of fine dining and Michelin rated restaurants as well. The strip is also home to a massive Planet Hollywood and all the usual chain restaurants, so you definitely won't go hungry!
So it's pretty safe to say I loved Vegas. I definitely underestimated it and it took me completely by surprise.
What surprised me more than how much I loved Vegas, however, was just how accessible it is. As long as you don't gamble all your money away(!), Vegas is a surprisingly affordable destination. Food is reasonably priced, an all-you-can-eat Champagne(!) breakfast won't set you back much more than the average restaurant dinner and there's plenty of free entertainment for everyone. I expected to be surrounded by unruly stag do's and groups of tipsy women on girls' getaways, but instead I saw families having fun exploring the crazy hotels, young couples soaking up the sights and sounds, and older groups of travellers enjoying an easy holiday where everything is within easy reach.
Would I recommend Vegas? Absolutely! (And there's something I didn't expect to hear myself saying.) Will I be going back? As soon as I possibly can.