Las Vegas featured as a start/end point for a couple of visits to the US - it lives upto its reputation for glitz!
On our first visit to south west USA we flew into Las Vegas and started and ended our holiday there. On our second visit Las Vegas was the base for two more visits to the Grand Canyon. Las Vegas is not our thing at all but convenient to fly into and it's fun to look at for a day. Hotels on offer have changed quite a bit over the years, but the old stalwarts, such as Caesar's Palace, remain.
In 2005 we collected our car at the airport (Alamo - some hassle over insurance as we already had this arranged) stayed a night on arriving at the Luxor, attracted by the pyramid. Recommend the valet parking to avoid any more exertion in the heat after such a long journey. The Luxor is quirky, but looking a little down at heel (though most casino hotels seem to in the daylight). The most interesting thing here was the diagonal lift ascending the pyramid - a distinctly odd feeling!
Before flying back home after much travelling we enjoyed the altogether more luxurious surroundings of the Venetian for one night, where we treated ourselves to a suite. The bathroom was gorgeous and the living and sleeping areas extremely spacious and - well - luxurious! A recreated St Mark's Square, complete with gondoliers on a canal on the first floor is utterly bizarre, especially as the "sky" changes overhead from dawn to dusk! We left the casino winners!
In 2010 we were very late arriving in Vegas, but coming in from the east on I15 the city looks like a carpet of shimmering gold on a black sea.
That time we decided to stay in the downtown part of Las Vegas where it all started. The Golden Nugget had just been completely refurbished so we stayed there for a night before flying home. It has a great water slide through a shark tank (you're in an enclosed tube!) but we found we were going so fast it was all a blur!
The Golden Nugget is also right on Fremont Street so the Fremont Street Experience is right on the doorstep. The most spectacular part of this is the LED Viva Vision canopy, 90 feet up in the air and 1500 feet long. This displays light shows to music like Don McLean's "American Pie" and a tribute to Queen. It's good fun and very popular.
One thing really worth visiting in Las Vegas is the new (2010) Frank Gehry's Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. It's actually two "buildings" facing each other across a small, open courtyard. One is a receding stack of white stucco and glass boxy structures, used for office space and the clinic itself; the other a chaotic swirl of draped metal and glass used as an event space. This looks fantastic - so different to most modern architecture. Some have criticised Gehry for doing "the same old thing"; so he likes to twist and drape and squeeze planes, creating curves and slopes and interlocking spaces, but no two of his buildings are "the same old thing"! Look at the million boring blocks we have in the cities of the world - that's what you might call "the same old thing"! This is a wonderful, interesting creation, which may or may not be a metaphor for brain functions, healthy or otherwise - long may he continue.
When we visited the clinic was yet to be formally opened but we were allowed inside the event building which was virtually empty. It is a cavernous, soaring space following the contours of the exterior. The eye is led up and around the curves - it's extremely difficult not to look up!
We enjoyed staying at the Golden Nugget in our Gold Club Luxury room in the Gold Tower - just to keep the theme going! Room service was excellent and also particularly liked the TV screen in the huge bathroom wall mirror. Italian restaurant Grotto was OK - disappointing pizza but good fettucine and Caberbnet Sauvignon. Dinner at Ch was very good. The seating is set around a huge acquarium full of colourful tropical fish. Ironically we both had excellent Ceasar salad followed by seafood: Andrew a very good haddock and chips (the Americans have definitely "discovered" fish and chips - we had variations throughout our 2010 trip) and I the specialty plate of excellent coconut shrimp, tempura lobster (rather lacking in taste), excellent haddock and, unfortunately, horrible calamari. Unusual pre-dinner caiprhinas - pineapple and strawberry left us longing for the classic!
What is done exceedingly well in Las Vegas (apart from gambling, I suppose) is breakfast. Even in the Luxor this was quite something, with a vast array of food on offer including Eggs Benedict, bacon and corned beef hash, lots of wonderful fruit, freshly prepared omelets and crépes. Excellent OJ but the coffee is still as bad as it ever was! What also seems to have changed is the very cheap drinks and meals - cocktails used to be particularly good value in the casinos.