Saturday, February 23, 2013

Las Vegas Travel Guide

Las Vegas is popular for its night clubs, flashy shows and celebrity performances but if you decide to do more tourist type sightseeing on the strip this post will list some things you can do.

Even if you decide to go to Vegas and you don’t plan on sitting in a smokey casino there are still a lot of things to see and do if you are travelling with family. 

Here are some of the photos I took and some of the things that I did while I was in Las Vegas recently. 

The Bellagio Hotel:
The Bellagio hotel is one of my favorite hotels on the strip. The Lobby of the hotel is colorful and beautiful. Like many hotels there is a vast array of shops, hotels and casinos for your enjoyment and entertainment. I would recommend taking the time to stroll around the grounds and enjoy the sights.

The Bellagio Fountain:
The Bellagio fountain is a spectacular show that is a must see if you are in Vegas. Fountain show times can be found online.

The Bellagio Conservatory:
The Bellagio Conservatory  is another must see stop in Vegas. The conservatory is open 24 hours a day and boasts a beautiful array of lights and flowers which coincide with certain festivals throughout the year. We were there during the Chinese New Year display which was aromatic and colorful.

The Bellagio Lobby:
Caesars Palace:
This hotel seems like the largest on the strip. The hotel has many restaurants, lounges, clubs and casinos. The decor and the grounds on the property are beautiful so I would recommend visiting.

The Forum Shops Caesar's Palace:
If you want to do some shopping while in Vegas then the Forum Shops are a nice way to do it. This mall has high end as well as more conventional and affordable shops and the decor is designed to make you feel like you are walking through an outdoor city.

The Venetian Hotel:
In terms or architecture this hotel was one of my favorites because it made me feel like I was walking down beautiful Italian streets. 

The Venetian not only looks like a portion of Italy along the strip but you can actually take a gondola ride through the faux rivers around the hotel. The ride cost about $19 dollars per person for a 10-15 min ride.

Treasure Island hotel:
If you want to check out some free shows while in Vegas then check out the treasure Island hotel. The Sirens of TI show is free and right on the street. It includes a fire display, dancing, fireworks and a sinking ship!
Senior Frogs restaurant is also located in the Treasure Island hotel and they frequently hand out drink coupons and play good music so check that out while you are there. The restaurant is also equipped with a pretty lively dance floor.

Paris in Vegas:
If you are like me and you haven't yet been to the "city of love" then you have a chance to visit a smaller version of Paris. 
New York New York Hotel:
Vegas' miniature version of New York is a another great place to visit.
The Luxor Hotel:
Since there is Paris and New York in Vegas why not Egypt as well. The Luxor hotel is designed in an Egyptian theme that is unique to the strip.

The Mirage Hotel and Volcano:
The Mirage is yet another beautiful hotel to explore. The volcano that erupts in front of the hotel is an exciting display of fire and water.

The famous welcome to Las Vegas Sign.
You've seen this sign in countless movies and videos so why not stop by and take a photo in front of the sign while in the city. The sign is located on the very far South end of the strip right before you get to Mandalay Bay and all the other major hotels.

The Fashion outlets of Las Vegas:
This mall is a great place to shop if you are looking for a wide range of fashion.

Mandalay Bay Hotel:
This hotel is one of the first hotels you will see on the South end of the strip. This hotel is massive so if you want to see it be prepared to walk a lot. The hotel also has an aquarium attraction and shark tank which costs about $40 dollars per person.

Transportation and how to get around Vegas:
The way we chose to get around Vegas was by renting a car. We actually drove from Phoenix into Nevada through the desert which was a very scenic drive that I would recommend if you have the time and if you are flying into Phoenix, if not here are some other modes of transportation. 

On Foot:
The best way to see the strip is to stay centrally located and walk but keep in mind that there is a lot of walking if you decide to do the entire strip by foot. The strip is aprox one mile not including the long walks through each of the massively impressive hotels, so be prepared to give your legs a workout and wear comfortable shoes.

FREE trams:
There are three free trams that run along the strip and will help cut down on your walking time.

1. One tram connects Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Excalibur hotel that are located at the South end of the strip.

2. The other tram connects Bellagio, City Center and Monte Carlo in the Middle of the strip.

3.The third tram connects the Mirage Hotel to Treasure Island which is also in the middle of the strip. 

The Monorail:
The monorail costs $12 per person for a one day pass and longer passes are also available for an additional cost. This rail will take you from MGM Grand at the South end of the strip all the way to Sahara at the North end of the strip. With this option you can stop off at all the hotels along the way.

The Duce bus:
The Duce is a shuttle bus that runs along the strip and goes from one end to the other. The daily rate is $8 per person per day or $16 dollars for a two day pass. The stops are located at the corner of almost all hotels along the strip and the buses are almost always jam packed with travelers so don`t expect a comfortable seat  to be available very often.

The Wax:
The Wax which is the West Airport Xress bus will take you from the side of the Tropicana Hotel to the airport. You can use the Duce pass card to also take the WAX bus. If your hotel does not have a free shuttle and you do not have a car then taxis can be costly. .

NOTE: (using the Duce and WAX to get to the airport) the bus and shuttle drivers may not give you the most reliable and cost effective methods to get to the airport if you don`t have a car so here is one way.
-You can take the Duce from your hotel (if your hotel is on the strip) then get off at New York New York Hotel and cross the street to the Tropicanna hotel. At the side of the hotel there will be a bus stop for the WAX which you can then take to the airport using one pass card.

There are an abundance of cabs located on the strip always ready to take you where you need to go. Cab costs can add up if you are travelling a lot.

Car Rentals:
There is a car rental terminal that is located  7 minutes drive from the airport. If you book ahead of time car rentals can be quite affordable and will allow you to travel further than the strip. Make sure you find out about parking costs at your hotel. There is also a parking lot by the Fashion Show Mall located by Treasure Island where you are able to park for free and walk. There is also a lot in front of the Four Season Hotel on the South side of the strip located behind the fast food restaurants where you can park for free and then walk.

when booking your hotel make sure to check and see if there is a charge for a resort fee which some hotels do charge.

While in Vegas we didn't try many different restaurants but one of my favorite and which we ate at 3 times was Serendipity. Serendipity is located in front of Caesars Palace and is a famous restaurant that originated in New York City. The food was affordable and I liked the variety especially for lunch and dinner. The desserts were wonderful and the portions are large. The restaurant is famous for their frozen hot chocolate which comes in a variety of flavors. I would recommend the onion rings with parmesan cheese, the pizza and the sandwiches

Frozen hot chocolate
Onion rings and pizza

 Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville:
We also went to Margaritaville located in the Flamingo hotel. The atmosphere in this restaurant is very casual and there are performances while you dine. The food is good and they have a pretty good variety. I enjoyed the pasta and if you go with a large group I would definitely recommend trying the volcano nachos and the brownie dessert with ice cream for sharing.

Things to do off the strip:

The Hoover Dam:
The Hoover Dam is located close to the border of Nevada and Arizona. The terrain around the dam is beautiful and mountainous with rolling desert hills. It is definitely worth the short trip to go see the dam and take some photos.

Red Rock Canyon:
We had planned on taking a day trip to the Grand Canyon which is 4.5 hours away from Las Vegas but we ran into some snow squalls that made the drive at a 5,000 feet elevation almost impossible. Instead we decided to go to Red Rock Canyon which is about a 30 min drive from the strip and it was incredible! If you are going to Vegas and you have time for some sightseeing this Canyon is a must see. The landscape is breathtaking and each turn on the road that is cut through the canyon just gets better and better.

Fermont Street:
Fermont street is located in Downtown Las Vegas and the street boasts a beautiful light show. There are bars and restaurants that are as affordable as they come and portions of the street are canopied by a huge screen which projects a colorful music display every few minutes. I would recommend strolling down this street and having some dessert or a drink while you sit and watch the lights light up the entire block.

Weather report
Since we chose to visit Vegas in February the weather was a bit chilly. The average temperature in the day was about 12-15 degrees Celsius and in the night it was about 3-8 degrees Celsius. There was also a snow storm in the desert and on the way to the Grand Canyon so we didn't make it there. I would recommend taking a warm jacket if you are going to visit during the cooler months and even equip yourself with a scarf and gloves for extra warmth. The good thing about travelling to Vegas at this time of the year is that there is less traffic both pedestrian and vehicle. 

If you don't like the cooler weather then I would recommend traveling in the summer months when the temperature can get up to 25-38 degrees Celsius.    

 Be aware of your surroundings and stick to the well lit and well populated tourist areas. I would also recommend that if you are planning on going downtown and to other areas not to carry important documentation such as passports and valuable items on you.

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