Travel Diaries – Part 1
Las Vegas, Nevada (February 2015)
Vegas According To Luke
Insane. The only word I can think of that even comes close to summarising my time in the beautiful adult playground that is Las Vegas, everything from the Central Boulevard lit up at night to the breathtaking lush green setting of Moapa Valley just gives a feeling of being in paradise. We landed in McCarren international at 20:00 local time, ready and waiting was a stretched limousine full of Grey Goose, Budweiser, Ciroc and Brut Champagne, putting on our shades we headed out in the night, four London boys ready to explore.
Our limo driver Debbie, a local with over 30 years experience navigating the jungle of roads surrounding the strip was an asset to have on our first night. She made a point to take us to the iconic ‘Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign just on the outskirts of town (see above), although this place was busy even at that time in the evening, she managed to clear the yard for us to get our first photo of the holiday.
As the night descended into chaos and far too much champagne we arrived at our colossal hotel complex, The Vdara. After speaking to the front desk and having a bit of banter with Dylan, we were upgraded to a three bedroom penthouse suite with breathtaking views of the city. With an underground passage to The Bellagio, casino’s and fine dining were just a stones throw away.
Thanks for reading along this far, I’ll be covering the city and all the things to do here in more detail below, so if you’re still with me, let’s get started on the review.
When you think of Vegas you think of casinos, packed to the rafters with punters chasing their fortune. You think of super-clubs such as SLS bouncing to the beat of anything with a heavy bass line. You think of bars and clubs, crawling from one to the next. Let me vouch firsthand that all of this lives up to the expectations and beyond. I could give a detailed account of nearly every bar and club in Las Vegas but I’ll stick with picking my top 3.
1) LiFE Nightclub: This is one of Vegas’ renowned super-club, situated on the ground floor of the SLS hotel and casino, LiFE is nothing short of a hidden jewel right at the heart of the Mohabi desert. I was invited here by chance with a really close friend of mine, a girl living in the state of Utah, Lyndi. She managed to get me and my brother express entry to watch a six piece Swedish DJ set play some of the best music I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to, everything from the deep beat you feel beating at the base of your stomach to the flashing lasers were a joy to behold. Whether you can dance or (like me)not, you can spend the night shuffling along to the world’s best – and if you’re ever passing you MUST check out the LiFE Nightclub.
2) Bank Bar & Nightclub: If you prefer a more intimate setting for your night on the town, consider looking into the Bank Bar & Nightclub, based in the middle of the Bellagio’s ground floor casino, this three tiered pyramid style venue boasts one of the best mixed JD & Coke I have ever tried. Packed to burst by 23:00 this is always a safe bet to start the night out – the dance floor at the bottom is always busy so whatever you’re looking to get from your night, Bank will be able to help.
3) Cleopatra’s Barge: This funky jazz bar is found in the Cesar’s Palace hotel and casino, looking like half of a ship with a real water source running beneath the deck side. You’d never guess it was here unless you were looking for it and I’m glad we had been tipped off earlier by a lovely bunch of American’s checking into our hotel. If you’re like us and enjoy a drink, this is the ideal place for pre-drinks, full with people between the age of 21-28 all dancing and having a good time. With our English accents fully audible, afterparties were easy to bag invites to.
This took me by complete surprise, I thought I’d be spending all my money on alcohol and gambling, however I was convinced to go on a few trips and see a few shows and damn, am I glad I did! I seem to like doing things in three’s so I won’t break that tradition, my top 3 excursions are;
1) Dune buggy riding in the Moapa Valley reservation: We never intended to do this activity, but now I’m on the other side of it I can whole heartedly say its one of the best things I’ve ever done. We got picked up by our tour guide Oscar and Brad from our hotel lobby, with two of the most typically ‘redneck’ yet hilarious guys you’ll ever meet. After a bit of racially orientated banter from the chaps we set out on the open road in their pick up truck, heading straight for Moapa Valley, a sleepy town so close to Utah you could almost smell the Salt Lake City. After getting strapped in to our buggy’s we began the 25mile round trip around the desert reservation, single file riding with Oscar heading us out into the unknown. We saw some incredible sights, snakes, lizards, all other kinds of wildlife. We even stopped for a water break that ended up with us scaling a 95+ft cliffside with no equipment just because we had the opportunity to. We were treated to a packed lunch in one of the larger gorges the wasteland had to offer before finishing our trip with a photo in front of the dull orange craters that surrounded the beautiful desert land.
2) Helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam: If you’ve never been in a helicopter before, I’d recommend taking your first steps in Las Vegas. As one of the wonder of the worlds, we landed in one of the most shallow parts of the Canyon, 2000ft high. As you can see by the above photo this is nothing short of breathtaking. We landed in a part of the Canyon still owned by the surrounding Native’s, one of the only sovereign states within the USA with their own government and rules. During our stop the pilot, Isaac, provided us with a magnificent champagne picnic with some excellent food. We then proceeded to make our way out, our tour guide giving us detailed backstories for the surrounding area. After seeing the Hoover Dam it really made me question what human’s are capable of and how much raw power and strength it must have taken to build something so magnificent back in 1936 before the introduction of modern construction tools.
3) Ammunition Firing Range: If you’re from the UK, guns aren’t easy to come by especially legally. Four lads in Vegas, shooting was inevitable and what a deal we got. Choosing the ‘Black Op’s’ package we got to shoot many of the guns styled by the popular Call of Duty game. The SAW certainly lived up to all boasts and you can see why it was the automatic weapon of choice in the range. Our guide was an ex-serviceman which added a patriotic feel to our venture into legalised weaponry.
Although you could find fine dining in any of the hotels or restaurants walking down the strip, only two establishments deserve a mention in my eyes. Taking a break from my tri-reviewing, let’s explore a couple of the culinary wonders Vegas to offer…
1) The Pepper Mill: One thing I didn’t know about breakfast in the USA is that Steak & Eggs are life. This restaurant was recommended by our taxi driver and after checking it out I can absolutely see why. We walked in to a 1970’s style American Diner with purple & electric blue neon lights surrounding the walls and booths. We obviously went for the steak and eggs and were served nothing short of a 14oz rump(served on a separate plate), bacon, four eggs, a side of potatoes and a pint of beer all for under $10. I can safely say one meal a day will more than see you through in LV.
2) Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant: If you don’t mind paying a premium for incredible food, get yourself over to Cesar’s Palace to enjoy a steak at Gordon Ramsay’s establishment. Paying around $49 you’ll get a beautifully cooked steak, drizzled in a bourbon sauce served atop a bed of aubergine. You can also pay another $7 to get a side of fresh fries with truffle dipping oil – a premium we were all happy to pay.
If you’re reading this far down I thank you absolutely for your dedication. I’ll include a few personal photos from my trip below so feel free to take a look. This is my first review so please let me know what you think. I wrote this near-1600 word behemoth in one hit so I think I’ll separate it into sessions for the next one as to keep myself and the content fresh. There’s a lot more I can write about in terms of the people, the hotels, the locals and all the incredible sights to see but maybe I’ll include that in a Travel Diary – Part II later down the road. Thanks again!
~ Luke Ryan ~