Five nights in Las Vegas, my first time visiting the Sin City. We arrived at Las Vegas international airport late on Wednesday evening after a full day traveling see here for how we got to Vegas on a tier run. First job on arrival was to locate the pre-booked hotel transfer. The luggage collection area in Las Vegas airport is an unsecured area with no customs or barriers to non-travellers out. Perhaps it is only like that for domestic travellers and not the international ones, it just seemed a little odd. We walked down to the hall looking at the descending exit door numbers to the one we were looking for. I took a step outside and my first impression of Las Vegas was how hot it was.
I was expecting it to be hot what with how Las Vegas is in a desert but this was a lot hotter than I was expecting add to that it was local night time and was getting dark so should have been colder than daytime. The instructions I had given for hotel transfer was to find the Bell booth outside and speak to them. They scanned my pre-paid voucher and gave me some physical tickets for the trip to my hotel as well as the return one.
The bus was already waiting there so a small hop across the road and into its lovely cool air-conditioning. It did take a while for the bus to fill up with other passengers before it would leave, but sitting in the nice cool air was fine with me as that was happening. Soon enough we were on our way by which time it was fully dark so we could enjoy the famous Vegas lights on the way. The road systems in America do seem a little confusing we seemed to loop about quite a lot dropping people off then going back down a road we had already been down once.
We arrived at our hotel, The Bellagio soon enough. The Bellagio is a most impressive hotel as you drive up to it. They drop you off in an underground bus/taxi area, which is also where you are picked up for any excursions you are doing while in Vegas. Time to step back into the heat. We walked up and out of the drop off area and into the front entrance of the hotel. The lobby was packed with people, my first thought was wow there must be a lot of rooms in this hotel, but then I thought that perhaps most of them are visitors from other hotels. The lobby is quite an impressive room and you can see the conservatory at the far end of it.
Hopped into the check-in queue at what seemed quite a good time as we managed to get seen within five minutes. Check-in is pretty straightforward they didn’t have any room upgrades that we were supposed to get at check-in so that was a bit of a disappointment. But the other bonus items were nice. We got $60 a day to spend on breakfasts, $100 to spend where we wanted in hotel as long as it was not in merchandise shops, and free high speed Wi-Fi for the duration of our stay. As the last time I was in America I had to pay for these this was a very welcome bonus to have.
The route to our hotel room seemed a little complex but we were given a map and managed to find it without too much hassle. The rooms are very nice in the Bellagio with lots of space, although the in room snacks and drinks looked like they would bankrupt a small country with their prices so they were left well alone. As it had been a very long day of travel took a shower and went straight to bed.
We had planned to take a day trip over to Zion national park on the day after our arrival. But what with the large amount of travel and lack of sleep it was decided that getting back up after five hours was not going to be happening so we cancelled that trip. I did loose a little bit of money because it was pre-booked but it was better to rest up than be exhausted for the rest of our stay in Vegas.
So instead we had a little lay in and then went looking for a place to grab breakfast. Hotels in Vegas are in a league of their own. I thought that I had been in some big hotels but they would be dwarfed here they are simply massive in Las Vegas. Luckily they have signs pointing to main locations on the main pedestrian routes inside them. There were a couple of options where we could use our $60 breakfast credit we decided on a place call Buffet.
This is another thing that is so well done in Vegas fast efficient and amazingly nice staff. The amount and selection of food on offer boggles the mind so so much on offer. If you come out of there and you are not full until evening you are doing something wrong. It is a help your self as much as you can eat buffet, with the drinks supplied by waiting staff. Drinks were never empty they are always on you with refills as soon as it started looking you was going to run out. Most types of drinks are free, but if you want anything alcoholic those are extra.
I had been given a list of items that friends wanted me to get for them while I was over in Las Vegas so thought it would be a good idea to use this now free day to try to get those sorted out rather than worry and rush about them on my last day.
Just opposite the Bellagio is a place called Miracle Mile Shops. I thought that this would be a good place to start looking the items I needed. This is a deceptive building as it looks quite normal and small on the outside but it is massive on the inside.
After an hour or so going round the shops we stumbled upon a Starbucks at near the read next to the Hilton so stopped there for a coffee. I was able to use my UK Starbucks card there with its gold benefits so that was a nice plus. Time to get back to the shopping, the last few items on my list friend from Sephora which of course I was not able to find so had to get one of the nice store assistants to find it for me.
The following day we had our helicopter trip planned as the main activity of the day. There are a couple of companies you can choose from that operate tours out of Las Vegas. I decided the use Sundance Helicopters for my trip, as they seem to be the ones with the most positive reviews on the various sites I looked at. They do a few different tour options from just a quick tour round the Grand Canyon up on ones that include white water rafting on the Colorado River. I picked one in the middle sort of price range, their helicopter ride that stops for a champagne picnic inside the Grand Canyon.
Sundance send a stretch limousine to pick you up from your hotel. This was the first time that I had ever been in one it was quite a fun experience. The limo drops you off at Sundance’s terminal next to main airport where you get checked in and get weighed. You are given badges to wear that have you name, helicopter number and your pilot’s name on them. They get you to watch a safety video on one of the biggest TV screens I have seen in a room of that size. After the safety video is done pilots call out the groups they will be taking in their helicopters.
Unfortunately for us the helicopter we were scheduled to go out on had developed a fault on its previous flight so was grounded for repairs and testing. The manager was a great lady that offered us a free upgrade to a more expensive trip if we came back later. As we were not terribly rushed for time we took her up on the offer. So back in another limo and back the Bellagio only to get back in another one a few hours later to Sundance. The trip they had upgraded us to was to be their sunset one with a picnic stop in the floor of the Grand Canyon.
This is only the second time I have been in a helicopter, the other time being in New York. This helicopter seemed to have a lot more room inside you would not squished in at least. I am not sure if the manager had told the pilot that we were to have the front seats on the flight out or that it was done for weight reasons. But front row seats are amazing as you fly over the Hoover dam and then into the Grand Canyon itself. We got to see the new Skywalk the glass walkway that hangs over the edge of the canyon. It did not look all that big as we flew under and past it. Landing on the floor of the Grand Canyon in a helicopter feels like such a special experience.
After landing we were given some time to wander about take pictures watch other helicopters come and go. The helicopter pilot set out a champagne picnic which while simple was actually quite nice, especially the ice flannels to help with cooling you down from the heat on the canyon floor. For the flight back we swapped seats a little bit so other people could get some nice views. We stated flying back just as the sun was setting behind Las Vegas as we flew towards it. We got some truly amazing views with the sun setting and the strip lights coming on. If you are short of time in Vegas and only have time for one thing I recommend this being it. The helicopter trips cannot be beaten for fun and experience.
The following day was Hover Dam visit and a Lake Mead cruise. This pair of activites was booked through GrayLines. We got picked up by coach from our hotel at around 8am this bus does do other hotel pickups but we seemed to be near the end of the pickup route as we were soon on our way to the Graylines terminal. We did make a stop at the famous Las Vegas sign so people could get out and take pictures with it. This sign actually is like a small park with its own little car park with the highway running on either side of it.
There was quite a queue of people waiting to get a picture taken in font of it. At the Graylines terminal you are sorted into groups based on what tour you are booked on you are then given a coloured wristband to wear. I did buy a hop of hop off bus ticket while I was in the terminal this actually works out a little cheaper than buying it online. Buying this way also saves you the hassle of finding a stop where your online voucher could be activated by one of there employees as the staff on the bus are unable to do it. By chance when we were sorted out into our groups we had the same bus that picked us up form our hotel.
The driver who was called Tony was a great tour guide funny and interesting, he was forever pointing out lots of interesting facts and stories as we drove over to the Hoover Dam. You are given entrance tickets to the Hoover Dam exhibit and a time to meet back at the bus.
The Hoover Dam is quite an impressive structure and the visitor complex itself seems to be carved into the side of the cliff. The tour starts with you going through security checks and into a small auditorium to watch a short film about the construction of the Hoover Dam. Its then onwards to the lifts which are big enough to hold quite a lot of people and they do cram them in before they close the doors and press the button.
You go down quite a long way and emerge into a dark tunnel complex as you walk there are some dripping rocks you walk to a room that has one of the ‘small’ pipes through it. Inside the room there is a short talk about the room and the function of the pipe you can see outside its windows. It is then back into the lift and down further deeper into the Dam to the generator room. This room is one of two the Hoover Dam has, one on each side of the river. They each hold the turbines and generators and are enormous spaces. There is another small talk in this room about its function and some fun facts. Then it is back on the elevator, which this time takes you all the way to the top of dam where the guided tour ends.
We had enough time to walk along the road on the top of the dam and to cross the boarder into Arizona, which happens to also be a time zone boarder. Then back onto the bus and onwards to Lake Mead. As you approach the pier when the boat moors to you can see how much the water level of the lake has dropped over recent years. We were each given a boarding ticket and a ticket for lunch. The tour of the lake is on an old paddle steamer boat, with the big paddle wheel at the back of the boat.
There was a small selection you could choose from for lunch I just went with a sandwich, fruit, crisps and something to drink. The boat takes you round the edge of the lake to the Lake Meade side of the Hoover Dam and back again. It was a nice little cruise sitting a relaxing while speeding jet skis and boats flew past. There was a little bit of drama at the end of the trip the boat had quite a bit of trouble getting parallel with the dock long enough for a rope to be tied. It would come in then get blown out before ropes could be attached. We must have spent a good thirty minutes backwards and forwards before they finally managed to get a rope secured.
For our last full day in Las Vegas we decided to do some sightseeing of Las Vegas itself. This is where we used our Hop on Hop off Red bus ticket we purchased yesterday at the Graylines bus terminal. As the red bus does not stop at the Bellagio so we needed to hop over the road to Bally’s hotel and use the stop that they have there. The red bus is a nice way to see Las Vegas its route takes it past all the major sights and the tour guide gives some nice information as you travel. It stops at all the major sights where you can hop off and hop back on a later one.
You will see the difference between the north old area of Las Vegas and the newer south where the more modern hotels are located. The bus stops quite often, so we got to see quite a lot of the famous sights. Sights such as; The little white chapel, The pawnshop, Freemont street, The Golden Nugget, The Mob Museum. Freemont Street didn’t look that appealing in the daytime so we didn’t get off and instead carried on to the shopping outlet centre where we go out to have a look round.
All too soon our time there was up and it was time to go home. My parting thoughts on Vegas are that it is tailored very well for people on holidays. The service and staff were some of the best I have had the pleasure of meeting. There are plenty of things there to do other than betting. Which with the $10 minimums it could soon get quite expensive.
But as I was in Vegas it would have been criminal if I had not partaken in at least one bet, here is the results of that one bet.