Las Vegas has repeatedly popped up on our travels over the years. The very first time was completely unintentional, as we had been evacuated from Anguilla following a hurricane (on our honeymoon). Following what felt like a scene from a movie at San Juan Airport, Puerto Rico, where we literally looked up at the flight departure board and chose a destination, we flew to Phoenix, Arizona and proceeded to wing it on a road trip which took in Sedona, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and finally Vegas.
We had an adventurous honeymoon to say the least, but didn't really enjoy the Vegas part. Caesar's Palace was fine, but it was still a little too seedy out on the streets back then, and despite my career involving some risky investment decisions, neither of us are gamblers, so the casinos were somewhat wasted on us.
We've been drawn back though many times over the years and as Vegas modernized and cleaned up a lot of its act, we've learned what works for us, and that means we understand the sometimes subtle differences between hotels, the shows and all that's possible in Vegas. Here's our perfect Vegas long weekend.
What does your Vegas look like?
Vegas Our Way Top 5
1. Aria (above)
Aria simply matched our own style more than any previous Vegas hotel we've stayed at, and we've covered a lot of them now. 5-star laid-back, modern luxury, a smaller casino than most and not too noisy, great restaurants, and the piped music playing everywhere seemed to be the soundtrack to my life. Just to compare with a couple of near neighbors, which may well be your perfect fit, the Cosmopolitan next door is also gorgeous, but it attracts a much younger crowd and is therefore noisier. Then you come to the Bellagio which is more classic, old school luxury, and for us a little too fussy, though I'd stay there in a heartbeat if I had to. I love that Vegas has these differences between even their top hotels, so make sure you find your fit next time you visit.
2. Robbie (above)
This entire long weekend came about thanks to Robbie Williams. The American audience is mostly unaware of the British singer, but he is hugely popular in 4 other continents and is famous for selling 1.7 million tickets to a European tour in 30 minutes. He's also a cheeky lad, has had is problems, and is remarkably honest about them. My wife has been in love with him for longer than with me, so we had to go when he announced his first ever Vegas residency at the Wynn. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic must be very pleased with him as probably 90% of the audience were British and had flown transatlantic just to see him.
Vegas is one of the foodie capitals of the world. Whilst I'm not a massive fan of the proliferation of celebrity chef restaurants, mainly because I like to know that the chef with his name on the door is actually in the kitchen, there is no doubt that the city has incredibly varied and exciting dining options.
Just in the Aria, Sage (above), has James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain curating a fresh, ever-changing menu of contemporary American cuisine, and we ourselves dined at Julian Serrano Tapas.
We finished with a sublime dish, that our server intentionally brought last because of its sweetness, so that it would act like dessert - Stuffed Medjool dates with goat cheese, bacon and apple puree.
They had doused these in a sauce that tasted like the elixir of life.
4. Valley of Fire State Park (above and below)
The Hoover Dam and various Grand Canyon tour options from Vegas should really be on anyone's list for a Vegas visit, but we have experienced those before, and instead this time we decided to try a hike. We chose a private guided option and made the effort for a sunrise hike in Valley of Fire State Park which is about 45 minutes north of the Strip. This may well be my favorite hike ever. We didn't encounter a single other human. The weather and sunrise were perfect and therefore the colors were spectacular. Our guide Jacob, explained the extraordinary Anasazi petroglyphs, and the amazing plant life diversity in the desert landscape, which included creosote plants, cacti, wild rhubarb, nettles, desert marigold and even mistletoe. If you enjoy a hike and find yourself in Vegas, don't miss this, unless it's the peak of summer when it's too hot.
5. Neon Museum (below)
This place is really worth the visit, especially for the evening tour when the restored signs are fully lit. Vegas's huge, neon signs come to rest here, many donated by the hotels and restaurants that are retiring them. The huge 85ft Hard Rock guitar below had only been on display for 3 weeks, and is of great historical importance because it was the flagship – the very first Hard Rock Café guitar sign in the world. It graced the corner of Paradise Road and Harmon Avenue from 1990 to 2017. Because of our name J5Travel, I am drawn to the number 5, so also loved this rusty, old numeral below.
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