At the end of November Jon and I took a three day trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. We stayed at the Excalibur on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. The whole point of the trip really was to just be complete tourists and just walk in and out of all the hotels, seeing all the crazy things they have, and seeing all the free stuff that they do (such as fountain shows, etc).
To make this report easier to follow, I am going to group hotels and themes together, even if we didn't do some things in the order they are presented, rather than jumping back and forth.
Let's start with our arrival into Las Vegas.
I find it really funny that they have slot machines in the airport terminal!
We took a shuttle bus from the airport to the Excalibur, and while it wasn't a bad price (I don't recall how much exactly now, sadly), and while the shuttle itself was relatively expedient, the wait for
the bus was longer than I really had hoped. In fact, we waited so long that some people decided to take taxis instead, and several people complained at the ticket booth. I'm not sure that next time I would use the same service, knowing how close the Strip is - a taxi probably wouldn't have been much more expensive to be honest.
Arriving at the Excalibur the check-in line was pretty long, but we made it through with relative ease. Our room was ready (thankfully, since it was fairly early in the day still), and so we went upstairs to drop our stuff. I was pretty impressed with the over all size of the room. It was clean and had all that we needed for a short stay. The view was a little unusual, but I wasn't bothered by it.
By the time we had freshened ourselves up and thought about our plan for the day, it was virtually lunchtime, and so we decided to check out one of the famous Las Vegas buffets we had heard so much about. The buffet in our hotel was literally called The Buffet, and the price was incredibly reasonable. If I recall correctly, it was somewhere around $40 per person for all day
- including alcohol! We couldn't believe it! Needless to say, we ended up coming back here for dinner and then lunch and dinner again the following day, too! A piece of advice: while we were exploring the other hotels, especially the ones toward the more "central core" area of the Strip, the buffets got increasingly expensive and a lot more busier. I remember looking at the line (and the price) for the buffet at the Parisian, and being thankful that we had utilised the one at the Excalibur.
The Excalibur had some fun themed areas, such as the Sherwood Forest Bar, and the Sword in the Stone Bar. Whilst we were there Santa was also paying a visit - on his motorcycle no less.
Across the street from the Excalibur is the MGM Grand. I honestly wasn't too impressed with the inside of the MGM Grand, and so I only have these couple of photos from the outside. I felt that the hotel was too much like a "normal" hotel - I love all the themed hotels for their wackiness and uniqueness.
Next door to the Excalibur, on the south side, is the Luxor. It's a fairly impressive hotel over all. The way that the levels go up at an incline inside is pretty neat.
On the north side of the Excalibur is the New York New York. I actually really liked this hotel inside. The roller coaster that goes around the outside of the building is pretty wild. We didn't try it on this trip, but perhaps in the future! We got food one day at the crepe place on the main level (which was one of those faux "outdoor" settings), which was pretty good.
Although accessible from the outside too, the Hershey store is part of the New York New York. While visiting the store we managed to meet two of the Hershey product characters - Hershey and Reese!
One of the things I really wanted to take photos of was the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, which is far down on the south end of the Strip. It was a fairly long walk, but it was fun to take photos at.
For reasons of time and space, I'm going to lump together a few hotels in this next section. We didn't spend too much time at any of the following simply because we didn't feel they had much to offer us. While they are very nice hotels, they didn't have the fun tourist things we were wanting to see and do. So, below, you'll find some photos of Planet Hollywood, Aria, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay, and the Flamingo (we literally went to look at the flamingos. Along with the Tropicana, the Flamingo was probably the weakest hotel we walked through).
Other places along the strip we went into include the Hard Rock Cafe store and the Crystals mall. We saw some "characters" walking the streets, and also visited the Disney Outlet store at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North.
The Coca-Cola Store was quite an experience, and something that I would recommend. We met the Coca-Cola Bear there, and tried their 'Tastes of the World' drinks sampler. I won't spoil the experience for you, but let's just say that some of them are better than others, and some are best left well alone!
We also visited the M&M's Store and met two of their product characters - Red and Yellow, who were wearing special Christmas attire.
The Bellagio had a lot to offer us. We saw the botanical garden display, the chocolate fountain, and the outdoor nighttime fountain show. I have to admit, I was very impressed by the Bellagio fountain show. It is well thought out and beautifully presented. There are different versions throughout the evening, so be sure to catch them all, if you have time.
Caesars Palace (yup, they don't make it possessive, which bugs me!) was probably one of the most impressive hotels we visited. Caesars Palace also includes The Forum shopping mall, which features an audio-animatronic show. While it isn't quite the standards you expect from Disney or Universal, it's a fun show - and most importantly, it's free!
One evening we made it out to the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, which is a couple of miles outside of Las Vegas, near Henderson, NV. It is open to the public, and has a store, and viewing windows into the factory itself. For the Christmas season however, they also add Christmas lights to all the cacti around their grounds, which is the reason we wanted to go. It was really pretty, and worth the drive out to see.
Fashion Show Mall is a huge mall situated on the Las Vegas Strip. They have a Disney Store and a LEGO Store, so of course we had to pay them a visit! The Disney Store here actually has some artwork around the top of the store, above the main shelves, which depict various Las Vegas scenes and the skyline, making it a little more interesting than a standard Disney Store.
By some major feat, we walked all the way up to the Circus Circus which is really at the far northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. With exception to the Stratosphere, it's about as far as you can go that has anything even worth considering. Even with that said, I can't honestly say the Circus Circus is "worth seeing" - at least, it wasn't worth the epically long walk we made to go visit it. The hotel is extremely dated, and the only thing really that makes it quirky is the fact that it has an amusement park inside it that is covered by a giant red glass dome.
One place that is
worth the hassle to get to, though, is Fremont Street. Fremont Street is in the heart of the actual "downtown" of the city of Las Vegas, and by night is home to the Fremont Street Experience. We didn't get to spend nearly as much time there as I would have liked, but I'm glad we at least saw it, because it really is incredible. The lights are pretty cool, and the whole place in general is alive and buzzing with music, entertainment, people, casinos and more.
The Wynn was another one of those "posh" hotels that didn't have theming as much as it did just an expensive look to it. It did however have a pretty neat fountain display outside, which seemed to play almost constantly, day and night.
The Treasure Island didn't have much to offer. Sadly the famous pirate shows out front don't run any more, but they did have some new Avengers attraction. It seemed super expensive for what it apparently offered, so we didn't try it. We did go in the store though.
We spent a decent amount of time at the Mirage. They have a volcano out front which erupts periodically on select evenings, which was quite cool to see. Also on the outside there is a statue that celebrates the long running Siegfried and Roy act that used to be at the Mirage, and inside the Mirage there is a garden, that while we were there, had a Christmas display. There is a statue to the Little Mermaid, and the hotel is also home to the Cirque du Soleil show, Love. Whenever we get chance to return to Las Vegas, seeing Love is at the top of my priority list.
The Parisian hotel was amongst my favourites that we visited. The Eiffel Tower outside looks great, and the interior has that faux outdoors look, with quaint little "streets".
The final hotel that I can share my pictures and thoughts on is the Venetian. The Venetian is grandeur almost beyond compare. Lavish and no expense spared, it is a stunning hotel that is practically a city in itself. The Venetian Gondolas that traverse the waterways inside and outside the hotel really add to the ambience, and the interior once again has one of those faux outdoor effects.
A lot of people have asked us why we chose to visit Las Vegas, and my answer is always, "Why not?" I went there knowing it is a commercial, tourist trap. I went there knowing that it is about gambling, buffets and ridiculous buildings that stick out in the desert like a sore thumb. If you go there expecting to find that then you won't be disappointed - and I certainly wasn't. I don't always want commercialism in my everyday life, but I chose to go to Las Vegas, and I knew what to expect.
Have a great day everyone,