Love it or loath it, there is something about Las Vegas that keeps sucking you into it's empty rotten core. A place so fake and over the top, so bright and shiny, it is everything we strive not to be, capitalism on steroids, and yet we found ourselves here not once but seven*, yes seven times! Like beams of light unable to escape a black hole, we were trapped in the Vegas Vortex for 4 months. And that my friends is how we came to know the very best and worst of Viva Las Vegas.
There have been countless movies filmed in Vegas, famous for it's themed casinos, the strip has everything you could need and more. 24 hour gambling, budget to high end shopping, food, alcohol, shotgun weddings (and shotguns), showgirls, drugs, homeless, crime, and whatever else you might be looking for. I can understand the attraction of course but for someone who has travelled a lot and seen the real Venice and Egyptian pyramids, the strip loses a little of it's shine. Having said that, at night, all lit up like a Xmas tree in the middle of the Mojave desert it really is a sight to behold. Just don't think about all the those carbon emissions!
I'll always remember Oceans 13 when I see the Bellagio. The Fountains of Bellagio is a free daily show, every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm Monday through Friday and every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight. On Sundays the show starts at 11am every 30 minutes until 7pm when the show goes on every 15 minutes until midnight. How can you miss it?
Every hour on the hour from 6-11pm, the Mirage Volcano Show goes off with a bang, its fun, free and family friendly.
What a trip! Whether you're doing some shopping, going to see a show or just seeing the sights, Planet Hollywood is a must. Like a latent acid trip, I was both bemused and confused in equal measure but I'm not going to spoil the surprise, you will have to see it for yourself.
We were lucky enough to see two shows while in Vegas, Zumanity a cabaret style Cirque de Soleil & Zombie Burlesque, both were excellent but the latter was our favourite of the two. There are so many shows to chose from for every budget and they change every season so you will never run out of options really.
Downtown Vegas is the original and the best in my opinion. Home to the old casinos, wedding chapels & The Fremont Street Experience. With free live music, light shows, zip lining, plenty of food and street performers. It's a vibrant alternative to the Strip and definitely worth the effort. Do yourself a favour, a grab a slice of pizza from Evil Pie
Just outside Vegas lies the hidden gem of Red Rock Canyon. It's a geological wonder just waiting to be explored, featuring a one-way 13-mile scenic drive, 26 hiking trails, plants, wildlife, geology, camping, cultural resources, interpretive centre and gift store. It's only 30 minutes drive from the Strip and a wonderful day trip when you get sick of the bright lights, hustle & bustle, this is the perfect antidote.
World-renowned for its 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in grey and tan limestone, Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years. With 11 unique hiking trails, a scenic drive, camping and a visitors centre, the entry fee is only $10 and makes another great day trip just an hours drive from the Strip.
Just two hours drive from Vegas and you will be across the border in California. Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes & striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow, the basin an arid desert salt flat with everything in between. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers and lush oases harbour tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley but be sure to plan your visit around the seasonal opening times and check the weather conditions carefully to avoid extreme heat and cold.
GnTonefortheroad Super Savvy Saver Tips:
1. Free Parking for cars and RVs
There's plenty of free parking options at the casinos on the Strip but if you need high clearance like we did or have a camper in tow then suddenly your options are drastically reduced. Treasure Island offers free unlimited car parking and has a high clearance level. For RVs & campers it gets a bit more tricky. We found open air parking facilities at the Golden Nugget (free for guests staying at the hotel) and also at Harrah's for a fee.
2. Free Dinner & Show
So if like me you love a freebie and you have a bit of time up your sleeve, then head on over to Circus Circus. Once inside you will be approached by staff who will try to sign you up for a time share presentation. It takes about 3 hours and they will take you to a resort. Just play along, eat and drink all the free stuff, listen to the salesman and have a nosy around the resort but when it comes to the end, DO NOT BUY TIMESHARE. Take your free gifts and say thank you and you're on your way. Hello free steak dinner and free vegas show of your choice! #winning #frinning see what I did there :)
3. Free Live Music
Head on over to Fremont street for live music and performance art. It's a riot!
4. Free Drinks
Sit down and put some coins in the pokies or sit at a table and have a gamble at any of the casinos and you will get free drinks served to you by a friendly waitress. The more you tip her, the more the drinks will flow. So maybe not free exactly but cheaper than the $20/drink going rate at the clubs and you never know you might win some money.
Logandale Trails - close to Valley of Fire & our favourite but can be windy & frequented by ATVs so avoid on weekends
BLM land - Free Gun range Pahrump (1 hour to Vegas, 1 hour to Death Valley), close to services in Pahrump and great views, hardly saw another soul
Lake Mead National Recreational Area, plenty of free camping options
*In case you were wondering how/why we made it to Vegas 7 times...... Twice to have some fun with friends, 4 times to go the airport (Canada & South America (SA) trips to renew visas), and once to pick up an amazon delivery. I did all my physiotherapy appointments there after breaking my arm and we stored our car and camper there when we went to Central/South America. So in a weird way, Vegas became a temporary home for us. We even got locked out of our 24/7 storage locker at midnight when we returned from SA. Only by some trick of the sly hand did I somehow manage to open the gate and let us in. Stranded in the backwater backstreets of Vegas at midnight is not where you want to be. The guardian angels were once again looking down on us.