Remember that epic scene in Hangover when Zach Galifianakis walks up to the receptionist at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and asks her with a dead straight face – “This isn’t the real Caesar’s Palace is it?” That’s probably the craziest thing I did on my last trip to Vegas.
Yes, Vegas’ reputation as a wild and excessive destination where crazy stuff happens might precede it – but a slew of cool, new attractions have seen a WHOLE new side of Vegas emerge.
Leave the wolfpack behind and head to Vegas with your kids or family; seriously!
Head to the New (Old) Downtown
The ‘Strip’ – Vegas’ most famous boulevard – stole the limelight from the original downtown over two decades ago.
But there’s some cool buzz building in the old centre of town again – thanks to the Container Park. This is a retail and dining destination with almost all tenants housed in large containers that were originally designed for transportation!
The neighbourhood – now Vegas’ art district – around the Container Park has been transformed with quirky murals crafted by artists from all over the world.
Also? Just in case you’d like to discover why America is one of the best places for a value shopper, head straight to the 540,000 sq ft Premium Mall in the area.
Walk Back in Time
Remember the legendary neon signs that you always saw lighting up Las Vegas, on TV? They’ve long been replaced by modern LED displays. However, over 130 of these old signs (dating back to the 1930s!) can be seen in the outdoor Neon Museum. Join one of the well-informed local guides as they stitch up a fascinating history of the city with these neons.
Mafia flicks your scene? Then head to my favourite museum in America – the Mob museum, that’s housed in a historic building that was once a federal courthouse. It was here that the high-profile Kefauver Committee hearings were held in the 1950s as part of a concerted effort to tackle organised crime. You’ll love the immersive exhibits and rare artefacts (including parts of the brick wall from Chicago’s infamous 1929 Valentine’s Day massacre) here.
Wake up at the Crack of Dawn for the Ride of Your Life
Wake up early in Vegas? I must be joking. But that’s the only way to hop on a chopper and see the Grand Canyon from a whole new high.
Visitors on a tight schedule often choose one rim of the canyon over the other for the best views. However, Vegas’ choices of chartered helicopter flights like Papillion have taken all that decision making out of the equation. A typical 30-minute flight doesn’t just offer breathtaking, aerial views of the Canyon but also flies over Hoover Dam and Lake Mead en route.
The flights make a stop over the canyon – enough time to put your cam into overdrive and grab breakfast with a view!
Everything’s Bigger in Vegas
Las Vegans (no, they’re not all Vegan) never tire of this now famous adage.
The cunningly named High Roller is officially the world’s largest observation wheel. It rises 550 feet from the ground (over 100 feet taller than the London Eye) with 28 pods (each with room for 40 passengers). Head there at dusk for 360-degree panoramas and watch Vegas’ bright lights take over the city.
Of Epic Shows and Buffet Spreads
It’s always show time in Las Vegas and you’ll be spoiled for choice. I made time for two shows – Showstoppers at the Wynn where Broadway meets Vegas and Zarkana by the legendary Cirque du Soleil at the Aria resort (currently one of Vegas’ most highly rated shows).
It’s not just the shows that live up to the city’s larger than life image. Each of Vegas’ hotels is a universe in itself and you can lounge all morning at one of the city’s never ending buffets that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace (you can pull the Zach Galifianakis stunt too; the staff are immune to it now) is my favourite. 500 items spread over 25,000 sq ft – buffets don’t get bigger than that.
And after all that family time, there’s always the strip in case you still want to let your hair down.
Getting There and Around
There are frequent flights from all major US airports and daily flights from major European hubs like London. Cabs are the easiest way to get around.
With 17 of America’s 20 largest hotels there’s room for everyone at Vegas. The Wynn (wynnlasvegas.com) on the Strip is one of the city’s most chic addresses.
(Ashwin Rajagopalan enjoys communicating across boundaries in his three distinct roles as a widely published lifestyle writer, one of India’s only cross cultural trainers and a consultant for a global brand services firm. Ashwin writes extensively on travel, food, technology and trends.)