Las Vegas, Nevada
Have you ever been to Vegas? If not, maybe you’re missing out.
It’s more than simply a city of casinos, dancing girls and wild nightlife. It
is, in a way, a city-sized version of the whole world.
Visit Vegas and you get to tour Venice, Rio, the pyramids, Caesar’s
OK, OK – so they’re all hotels and casinos. Plastic and steel
reconstructions of the wonders of the world. A lot of people might call them
kitsch and tacky. Others might say they’re beautiful.
A really great way to see Vegas is with a package vacation: a
vacation company can offer you the sort of all-in-one deal that takes the
stress out of a hedonistic few days in the city of lights. There certainly
isn’t a shortage of places to stay – and they vary from the exotic to the
downright wild. Most of them are all-in-one pleasure solutions, combining
hotel, restaurant, pool, relaxation and leisure facilities all on one site –
usually along with a casino, without which any Vegas establishment isn’t really
Take, for example, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Like most of the great
Vegas hotel casinos it’s a miniature theme park. The Mandalay’s theme is an
exotic taste of the Indian east. Of course, it makes no attempt to be anything
like the real India, with its crowds and ancient monuments. This, like the rest
of Vegas, is a Hollywoodized version of the outside world – exotic and strange
enough to make for an exciting and stimulating vacation, but at the same time
comfortingly like home. The Mandalay is set in leafy tropical gardens, and a
real river runs through the grounds. Look at the place from certain angles and
you really could be staring at a lost temple in the jungle. Except that lost
temples tend not to have waitresses serving cocktails to poolside guests.
Rooms at the Mandalay are much like what you can expect to get at most mid- to
high-level Vegas hotels. The thing about the city is that because it’s
surrounded by desert developers have been able to build big: so individual
rooms, like the vast hotel complexes in which they’re set, tend to be large,
with plenty of room to spread out in. Book a weekend vacation in a Mandalay
‘Executive Suite’ and you get a wonderfully elegant oversized room with a
king-size bed and substantial living area. You get a fully stocked wet bar, a
fridge, an Italian marble bath and a glass-enclosed shower and spa tub. If
that’s not enough you get all the dining and relaxation facilities of the hotel
at your disposal – and a seemingly endless supply of crisply efficient and
polite flunkies to make sure you have a great time.
And herein lies one of the great problems of a Vegas vacation: because you can
have a whale of a time within a couple of hundred yards of your room, there’s a
temptation never to leave your own hotel complex. In that sense, a vacation in
a Vegas hotel is a bit like a luxury cruise: everything you could possibly want
is within easy reach.
But that would be to miss some of the other delights of the
city. Although it’s not a great place to walk around during the day – this is a
town devoted to giving people a great time, not midday sightseeing – at night
it wakes up, stirs, and bursts into wild, brightly-lit life.
Vegas has essentially been built in the last eight years – it first became a
boom town in the years following the 1922 relaxation of the Nevada State
gambling laws. Because most of the city has been built in the age of the
automobile, and built very much with automobiles in mind, it’s a terrible town
to walk around. There’s no center as such. The main life of the city rotates
around the Strip – a two mile long boulevard running through the heart of the
city. All the great casinos and hotels are in this area. The best time to
explore is at night, and the best way to do it is the way the city’s architects
intended you to – in a car.
Well, not quite the best way. Probably the very best way of all is by
helicopter. Day and nighttime chopper rides can be booked at surprisingly
competitive rates, even if you’re hiring a small craft for just one or two
people. And a bird’s-eye view of Vegas at night is certainly stunning.
Vegas, not New York, is the city that never sleeps. Only
hardened gamblers can really cope with more than a week under the neon glare.
But it’s a city that’s always alive – and always ready to take you on a