Viva Las Vegas!

| February 7, 2013 | 1 Comment

A bright, busy and extravagant adults playground in a giant sandpit…It could make you, it could break you!

Where: Las Vegas, USA

Must See: The Bellagio water show from inside the Hyde is spectacular, as is the view from the Ghost bar on top of the Palms

Must Do: A sky dive over the desert, but watch for rogue pilots flying without radio communications…Forget I mentioned it!

Must eat/drink: Away from the clubs. The drinks are very pricey. Get stamped from the club as soon as it opens, leave to get some drinks and then return later

And… Remember that the house always wins!

Skydiving in Las Vegas

Skydiving in Las Vegas was amazing

Avoid: Shaking hands with rappers selling their merchandise on the street because they will manage to get you to donate to their cause before you know it and all you’ll have to show for it is a CD of swearing that you will never listen to again

Fast Facts – What you Need to Know

Currency: US Dollars

Language: English, albeit with a few Americanisms thrown in

Transport: Taxi or car, limousines are pretty common too. Most places are too far away from one another and it’s too hot to walk in the summer

Cost: Clubs/bars are expensive, hotels are quite cheap if you search for a good deal. Food is not too bad because of how much of it you get

Wi-fi: Should be available in hotels but the Luxor doesn’t have wi-fi in the rooms…

Tipping: 15-20% for food, $1 each drink ordered at the bar, 10% for taxis

Visa: UK residents can go on the Visa Waiver Program for up to 90 days, other counties may vary so check out the embassy for details

Top Travelling Tips

- Look at hotel and flight packages online, you get some really good deals

- Factor in resort costs, which are charges to use the pool, gym and facilities in the hotel. Usually $12-$20 a day

- Consider getting a table in a club if there is a group of you. It might work out cheaper, it’s way more fun and will enhance your night like you would not believe…

viva las vegas - welcome to Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas!

When should you go?

It’s a desert so very hot in the summer. I’ve been in June, twice, which means that it’s hot but not too hot. There are enough people there around this time of the year, too. I’m pretty sure that there will be people there all year round but the summer is definitely the peak time. It’s when they have the best pool parties, so you really should plan to make sure you see a Las Vegas pool party!

Cash to Splash

Eat: TWIST in the Mandarin Oriental is an amazing, Michelin star, French restaurant on the 23rd floor. With as much attention to the experience and atmosphere being paid to the food, you really are going to have a luxury experience to remember.

Sleep: To party, stay in one of the suites at The Palms – the official playboy hotel and home to the available for rent Hugh Hefner suite, complete with indoor pool hanging outside of the hotel at 50 floors up. Or if you are a bit of a player, get the kingpin suite!

Fantasy Tower - The Palms hotel las vegas

The fantasy tower of The Palms hotel…Live your fantasy!

Drink: Table service at the major clubs on a weekend, like The Wynn, TAO, LAX or Pure. If you get a table you’ll have to buy a few bottles of alcohol so take your pick!

Because you’re tight

Eat: Get a hotel near to a food store, or if you still don’t want to cook there are good takeaway places in the hotels where the serving sizes are enough for two meals. In The Luxor, there is a small café style food place right in the back corner open 24 hours which does good toasted sandwiches, bagels and wraps which are tasty and relatively healthy.

Sleep: Most hotels offer great room deals, especially if you are happy sharing a double bed with your mate. Alternatively, stay at a motel which are dotted along the roads next to the main hotels. There are also some cheap, no frills hotels like Palace Station Hotel and Casino. An example room rate is $64 for 2 double beds on a Sat night. That’s $16 each a night, and it’s cheaper on a weekday. This was for a date in May 2013.

Drink: Look out for the happy hour drinks promotions in most of the bars inside the hotels. Just walk around inside and you’ll see promoters trying to entice you in. Have a chat with them and find out what the best way to get a good deal on drinks is. If you’re friendly and talkative with them they’ll usually tell you. Also, when you arrive at the hotel they will often give you a booklet with drinks vouchers and free club entry inside, use them up.

Travel Truths…

I boarded the plane and settled into the less than comfortable economy seat that I had been assigned for this 10 hour flight to Las Vegas. Fortunately, I had checked in online and had chosen a window seat. Unfortunately, the in-flight entertainment was far from up to the usual, and expected, standard that Virgin often provide. My thoughts were soon distracted by my friend who reminded me about the activities we had planned ahead of us while visiting the Oasis in the desert of Las Vegas. Among them was something that neither of us had done before, skydiving!

Thinking back 8 months ago it had seemed like a good idea to do something different and this was one of the top things to do in Las Vegas on our list. Back then it had been so far away that I didn’t really have to think about it, so we booked up. I was hoping that my fear of heights would subside the higher we went…

Las Vegas?! Next Stop San Fran…

3 movies, 2 meals and 1 failed sleep attempt later we landed in at LAX airport, Las Vegas. Now I knew why I hadn’t taken up the Virgin Atlantic’s staff request at Heathrow to take a different flight in return for £480 because they had over-subscribed the flight. I felt rough. I’m not overly keen on flying so there was no way that £480 would be enough for me to extend my total trip time from 10 hours to 20 hours. My friend, however, thought differently. When offered this offer deal at the departure area he jumped at the chance, even though I told him that I didn’t take it…Fortunately, there were too many people who also wanted to take advantage of it so he didn’t get to change flights.

Inside the Luxor hotel Las Vegas

View from inside the Luxor – like being inside another world

The temperature hit me like the wall of hot air when entering a sauna but unlike the sauna I knew I’d be out here longer than 5 minutes. We were in the queue for a taxi, with large suitcases and dressed for a mild day in the UK. This, however, was a desert in the middle of June. Welcome to Las Vegas weather. Perfect for pool parties and night time open air clubs, not for lugging baggage around. The next taxi to pull up here better have air conditioning or I’m going to slobber all down your shiny, faux leather seats! The next taxi did have air con, but chose not to use it and opted for the old fashioned windows down approach. I didn’t slobber, the guy seemed friendly.

Into the Luxor

The first thing we did was sleep. Well, we had a power nap for an hour and then prepared ourselves for a quick dip by the pool before we headed out for the night. The location was LAX which was located in our hotel, The Luxor. It was an easy choice for two reasons. 1) It was on our doorstep and we had free entry for the night because we were staying in the hotel (remember that little booklet I mentioned above? This is one of the benefits from it). 2) It was a Wednesday night Vegas on a Wednesday was the night to go to LAX. It was the same as 4 hours ago when I came here last.

Bars in Las Vegas

Most of the Las Vegas clubs have “the” night that you should go there. LAX on a Wednesday, TAO on a Thursday and most clubs on a Friday and Saturday as it’s so busy. If you check out the website about the ultimate Las Vegas nightclub guide you will get a lot more details.

I won’t go into any more details about what club or pool party to go to when because that information has already been covered on the above website in great detail. There are lots of things to do and see in Las Vegas and the nightclubs are one of the main attractions, so

Tryst Las Vegas Nightclub

The waterfall inside Tryst @ The Wynn. Beautiful

I’d recommend checking out the Jack Colton website because he has some great info on there. What I’m going to do is attempt to give you some tips on getting into Las Vegas nightclubs, the Do’s and the don’ts.

Las Vegas Nightclub Do’s

  • Dress smart and look good. You don’t have to wear a suit or even a shirt, but make sure you look good
  • If you don’t have girls with you, stand inside of the hotel entrance and find some girls who you can go in with. If they seem reluctant, offer to have a round of shots in the hotel bar first. This way you’ll have more credibility when you go to the club to get in and you can get to know the girls…
  • Go early and if you can’t find any girls make sure you’re early in line as it can be difficult to get in
  • Go to the hotel where the club is earlier on in the day and talk to someone about getting on the guest list. Quite often there will be people promoting the club for that evening so get chatting to them and hopefully they will be around later and recognise you.
  • Be friendly with ALL of the nightclub staff. Not overly so, but a good conversation goes a long way when you have been waiting in line and it lets them know you cool enough to get in
  • Be patient. If you are not on the guest list it can take a while to get into the busy clubs, perhaps over 1 hour
  • If you look after the doorman you might be able to get a quicker entry
Las vegas nightclub

A night in a Las Vegas club

Don’ts

  • Get frustrated and rude towards to staff, they won’t let you in. There are hundreds of other people waiting to take your place
  • Get too drunk before you go in, they will turn you away
  • If you are tempted to jump in the pool at The Wynn, be prepared to find another club shortly afterwards..

Up, up and…Awww, What’s that!?

It was time to get on the plane, but not to go home. This plane I would be jumping out of from 13,000 feet. 13, unlucky for some was my first thought. I’m a recovering pessimist so I quickly erased that thought. The usual questions were asked to our heroes for the day, the instructors, like “how many jumps have you done?”, “Has your chute ever failed?!”, “Do you have a reserve?” and “Do you pack your own parachute?”. I’m sure that after 600 jumps, 1 shoot failure, the use of the reserve parachute and thousands of chute packs later they are used to all the questions from nervous first time jumpers. We were strapped in and ready to go, but there was a problem…

Earlier in the day we had been picked up from outside The Paris Hotel – Las Vegas by a skydiving veteran lady who drove us to the small, dusty airstrip which was about 45 minute drive outside of Las Vegas. We were joined by a couple who were also jumping straight after us. En route we were briefed by the lady about what to do, what not to do and the usual signing your life away. No really, we had to sign about 10 pages of paper, initialing every paragraph to confirm that if anything should happen to us it was not their fault and it was completely our responsibility. Not so reassuring…

None of that mattered now. We were sitting in the back of the plane, strapped to our instructors and holding on to the sides of the plane as we banked hard left at a 45 degree angle. What was happening? Everything had been going find up until this point. We’d been ascending steadily for around 15 minutes, but then we change direction quickly with no warning. As the plane leveled out we first turned to our instructors for a nod of approval that everything was OK. There wasn’t one. Instead they both turned to the pilot, who pointed out of the window where we saw another plane….”What was that all about” we asked nervously. “Well, there was another plane up ahead and we needed to avoid it…” said the pilot. “Don’t you use radio and have air traffic control!?” was our response. Pulling his headphone slightly off of one ear the pilot said “Yes, I do, but some people around here just decide to fly around without it…”

I didn’t know whether it was safer to be inside of the plane or out. I immediately started to sweat! Panic set in. What happens if we jump and some is “flying around” beneath us, I thought. Hmm, better not to think about it and put my trust in the instructor was the only conclusion I could come to at the time to keep my sanity.

Gut Instinct

As I still pondered these thoughts it was time to jump. The door to the plane was opened and a blast of air rushed over my face. We slid closer to the edge. With my hands across my chest I dangled my legs out of the plane. I immediately felt the full force of the wind. Up until that point we had been completely sheltered from any sense of being exposed, now it seemed very real. I was actually going to jump out of a plane! Every part of my brain was questioning this decision. It’s just not natural to be hanging half out of a plane at that height without holding on to anything. Just being suspended there was quite unnerving. Internally I was telling myself to go with it and “let go” of any worrying thoughts, just try to soak up the experience; the sights, the sounds and the feelings. You never know, they could be your last…My pessimism isn’t cured just yet.

Freefall

And then we jumped. More of a flop to be honest, but jump sounds better. All my previous worries immediately vanished as I was experiencing a sensory overload. The sights, sounds and feelings are nothing like you have ever experienced before. Take a cocktail, for example…With a new cocktail, you see a drink which is nothing new, you experience the same feelings of a liquid in your mouth and it’s just the taste which is different. This was an all-new, high-altitude, potentially deadly cocktail, the likes of which I had never tasted before. And that can lead to unexpected outcomes.

Skydiving in Las Vegas

Skydiving in Las Vegas was amazing

I think it’s the wind which causes most of the rush of adrenaline you get, combined with free-falling  It’s difficult to put into words the feeling it gives you. I think the best word I could use is nothingness….The ground doesn’t approach nearly as quickly as you think it would, and it still looks quite close even when you are about to jump. I couldn’t help wonder if we were high enough…There is no stomach in the mouth feeling. There is no feeling, just the wind in your face and a man strapped to your back…It’s very surreal. The sense of falling doesn’t really occur throughout the freefall, I think mainly because you have no point of reference which is close by. Just the ground which seems a long way off. Kind of like you are suspended by a cord, with nothing but a large fan blowing in your face set against a blue, cloudless sky.

All of a sudden the parachute cord is pulled and you go from 120mph to what feels like a stop in a few seconds. You breathe! And then fully appreciate what you have just done. Something which goes against everything your mind tells you should be done to ensure you survive. 10 minutes later and you are back on the ground. The ride down is peaceful, but I was feeling sick the whole way down so I wasn’t really appreciating the experience fully. It happens to about 1 in 10 people my instructor said, based on his experience. He keeps some wet wipes and a change of clothes back on the ground, he later told me.

One thing that I wasn’t told about before the jump was that when the parachute has been deployed and the instructor has full control one of the first things he does is to change the position of where you are. He does this by releasing a strap to lower you in relation to him. He didn’t tell me he was going to do this so it took me by surprise! For a split second it feels like you are going to become detached from him…Quite frightening for a moment.

Back on the ground the feelings of relief, satisfaction and adrenaline are all present. It’s such an extreme sensation and an amazing feeling that I would recommend everyone try.

OK, so I’ve covered some things to do in Las Vegas, from skydiving to going out in the Las Vegas nightclubs. Now, let’s have a look at another great option you have when in Vegas; drive to the Grand Canyon.

Vegas to the Canyon

Geand Canyon to Las Vegas

Our wheels for the ride to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas

We set off from Las Vegas around midday and made our way East. There were three of us, and we had a beautiful Ford Mustang convertible to cruise around in. Living the dream! We had a couple of good activities planned for the next 3 days, including white water rafting and a mule ride into the Canyon from the South rim. We opted for a 1 day rafting experience, I think it was with these guys because it was the only one which was a single day. All the others were at least 3 days and we didn’t have time for that unfortunately.

First, though, we were going to get a glimpse of the Hoover dam. It is en route from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon so we stopped off for 30 minutes or so to take a look around. If we had more time a tour would have been good. I only realised how impressive it was when I found out that at the time of building it (1930s), the technology was unproven and the project finished 2 years ahead of schedule – got to be a first. Although 100 people did die while building it…

The first of our activities was white water rafting along the Colorado River which runs through the Grand Canyon, which included a helicopter ride out at the end of the day. This gave us our first taste of the canyon, from right down inside, on the river. We hit some rapids and had a lot of fun. On our trip to the rafting and while on-board the raft we were with an American family. They were very friendly and talkative, much more so than I have experienced from many English people. I think this is a big difference between the two cultures, and I liked it. It made you feel very welcome.

Instructions for the Mules

After a long day rafting and taking a short trip in a helicopter to take us out of the Canyon, we made our way up to the next stop on our journey which was on the South rim. We had planned to go mule riding very early the next morning. We arrived very late and we were exhausted. I hadn’t had time to read all of the do’s and don’ts for the ride…I wasn’t expecting there to be many instructions for mule riding, but  I was mistaken…We got up after only 5 hours sleep and made our way over to the check-in desk, wearing shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. We were greeted by what can only be described as a look of bemusement! When we saw everyone else in jeans, long sleeved tops and sun hats we realised that something was not quite right…

10 minutes later we were back in the room. We’d forfeited our places because we weren’t dressed appropriately and didn’t have time to get the extra clothing and equipment needed. On a positive note, we were now up nice and early and were able to go for a walk around the rim of the canyon before all the crowds arrived. Bonus.

When looking out across the Grand Canyon, early in the morning when the sun is low in the sky and there is a shimmering of heat haze

White Water Rafting in the Grand Canyon

Stopping off at a waterfall when rafting in the Grand Canyon

all around, it looks completely surreal. It’s impossible to gauge the scale of it and it looks almost fake. When taking photos with it in the background it looks as though you are on a movie set and at any moment the picturesque back drop might be taken away. I’d highly recommend you go and see this most magnificent natural place for your own eyes.

So, go have some fun in Vegas but remember that the house always wins…Then take a scenic drive over to the Grand Canyon to relax.


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