It's one city that has a reputation larger than life and everyone seems to be on the exact same page in agreement regarding said reputation.
Living in LA, I knew I had to make the trek eventually. It's so close! I thought.
My friend Isabelle and I had both never been, and decided to make a weekend out of it.
I say, "it's close," because that's how every southern Californian makes it out to be.
"Oh, you'll be there in 3 and a half hours!"
"Maybe 4 with traffic, MAX"
"I've made it in two!"
YEAH RIGHT. I am here to tell you that is NOT true.
We left late around 9 PM, in order to minimize some of the inevitable traffic. It worked! We were so pumped. We were slightly deterred by the 2 AM arrival time into Vegas, however decided it must be the time change.
There is no time change, it just flat out takes 5 hours. At midnight we had a moment.
WE'RE NOT THERE??? We were tired and sick of being in the car. When you have your hopes up and instantly they are crushed by the realization that those lights you were seeing for miles were a series of gas stations and not the strip, those two extra hours can make you bitter, real quick.
However, we had some laughs because we're so close that we can face the fact that we are both in terrible moods and be cool about it. We also learned that we get stuck on things, for instance every 10 minutes or so one of us would say "I can't believe this" and we'd dwell on it some more.
Though I wouldn't have believed it at the time, we did finally make it to Vegas.
And was it worth it or what. We were both flipping out as we drove in, the lights are as bright as they say and the city was definitely still awake at 2 AM. Of course.
We decided to Airbnb it, simply for budgeting reasons. It was a cozy little house with some mega security that would keep even the guests at bay, but it worked. Only 2 miles from the strip.
Saturday morning we were both exhausted. The drive obviously did us no favors, and neither did sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Again, we laughed as we dwelled on our dead bodies all day. The motivator was "you're only in Vegas so many times" so we sucked it up and walked it out.
We saw so many hotels. And they were so worth seeing. Caesar's Palace, The Palazzo, The Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, MGM Grand... Absolutely intricate and top notch.
Essentially the most confusing and large hotel I have ever experienced. This can be said for most hotels in Vegas, but I can personally attest in that Isabelle and I physically got lost for 45 minutes and could not get out. Leave a breadcrumb trail or something or else good luck.
The Palazzo/The Venetian
These are connected. One tip about Vegas, everything is connected. At first we were a little bit irritated (partially spurred by exhaustion but anyway) because we couldn't get anywhere we wanted! It was a literal struggle to get from place to place. Sure, you can see the towering buildings, but can you get there? Again, good luck. There are limited sidewalks. And after putting some thought into it that makes sense. The city is known for people not being able to use their full brain, so limiting street access? Pretty smart actually. But for daytime activities it's a little bit of a bummer. Flip side, when it's cold at night in the desert it's nice to not have to step outside to get from place to place. Plus, you'll never get bored with one location.
My favorite part about these hotels was the river that floated through with a sky scenery displayed above. Very realistic.
When I think of Mandalay Bay, I think of gold. Mostly because the outside is a beautiful golden mirror finish, but also because of the class and quality. It felt less touristy than some of the others, if that's possible. My favorite moment happened here as well, technically in the Delano connected but since I loved the exterior so much of Mandalay Bay I'm going to link the two.
There's a view at the top of the Delano that is to unparalleled. The entire day we had been searching and failing for a rooftop bar or something that we could get a good view. Just when I had given up hope, we happened upon the Sky Lounge. Just check it out. These hotels are positioned at the very front of the Strip, so it makes for an encompassing view.
This hotel is beautiful, sure. But the coolest part was the free parking...No questions asked. For two LA citizens, that's a huge deal.
Back to the beautiful part, there's a seriously decadent display of glass in the lobby. I was a little afraid it was going to fall on my head I have to admit, but luckily it didn't and just looked super pretty.
MGM Grand (it is as green as you've heard)
Our Vegas club experience, The Hakkasan. It was glamorous, no doubt. There were about 5 different lines and we were extremely lucky by happening upon someone with free tickets. We skipped the lines and the $40 cover and waltzed right in and had a great time taking in all three out of seven levels. For the future...not sure how to plan this out but one thing I learned - a plan is not optional.
Other than the zillion hotels, my favorite experience was lunch in the Eiffel Tower. It was a cool view, the food was extremely good and they kept bringing out a bunch of free add-ons like some sort of celery concoction and to-die-for authentic French bread, and it was just a beautiful environment.
I think if I had any advice after the weekend, it would be this -
1. Stay on the Strip. It's worth it and that's 100% of the experience.
2. Leave EARLY on Sunday (if you're driving back to LA). Sometimes the rush back to LA can make it not a five hour (Yes FIVE. No less) trip but seven. Terrible.
3. Be rested. It's key.
4. Plan shows and just have a game plan in general. It worked for our trip because it was meant to be laid back, but if I was to ever make the effort again I would have a mapped out road map.
5. HAVE FUN of course (and take lots of pictures).