Las Vegas, Nevada
I’ve been fortunate to explore North America, and each visit to the USA has been a blast. From Texas to New York, road-tripping across diverse landscapes, I’ve embraced the adventures. Yet, the western charm of the original sin city, Las Vegas, is still on my travel radar.
There has never really been much of an appeal for me as I am not one for casinos or the artificial glitz. I certainly have never fancied a shotgun or an Elvis wedding or getting down to my last dollar on the strip. I kind of wish I had a whole lotta money that was ready to burn as that always makes one hell of a story.
To be fair Las Vegas is a place I would like to see, especially as it is not far from the end of Route 66… the king of all road trips. Or maybe it’s the King himself, Elvis Presley that has kept my interest in this neon flashing, one-arm bandits crashing town.
To me, Las Vegas is a place I would 100% take a detour to but I would not travel across the world specifically to see it. One person who thinks very differently is Gill Matthews from the travel agency “Not Just Travel” and here she tells us why:
Married In The Air
It’s a well-known fact that I love Las Vegas! Our first visit was for just 5 nights – we thought that would be enough time to see and do everything on our list (I always make a list for our trips). How wrong we were! We stayed at Hotel New York New York – an excellent hotel with the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. I got married in a Maverick helicopter while flying down the strip, went to the Grand Canyon, explored all the amazing resort hotels and casinos and shopped til we dropped (literally). We packed an awful lot into our holiday but we left wanting more.
Downtown Las Vegas wasn’t on my list – apart from a quick visit to pick up a marriage license. But when we got there, we realised it was a destination in itself so we booked another holiday for the following year, this time staying downtown at Main Street Station for 11 nights. We flew premium economy with the much-missed Thomas Cook in May 2018, when the weather was beautifully hot – but not too hot, like the extreme temperatures that they get in the height of summer.
Downtown Las Vegas
Think of Vegas and no doubt you’ll conjure up an image of the bright lights of Las Vegas Boulevard (aka the strip). But actually, that’s in a town called Paradise. Take a short bus ride from the strip and you’ll arrive at Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas – this is where it all began in 1905 when casinos and bars opened to entertain the Hoover Dam construction workers.
The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino is the oldest in Las Vegas – go in and grab a seat at Bar Prohibition, where cocktails are discreetly served in coffee mugs, just like back in the day when booze was illegal. At The Golden Nugget, see The Hand of Faith – the largest gold nugget on public display in the world, weighing in at 61 lb 11 oz, then go and jump in their swimming pool and ride a three-storey water slide through a tank of sharks!
At Binion’s, have your photograph taken with a cool $1,000,000 (for free) and fans of Back to the Future will recognise The Plaza Hotel which featured in Part 2 as “Biff’s Pleasure Paradise”.
TOP TIP: Resort fees at downtown hotels are usually cheaper than strip hotels
Evel Knievel Pizzas
Hungry? Try Maine lobster rolls, burritos or BBQ from a street truck or a slice of pizza from Evel Pie (owned by Evel Knieval’s son). For the best steak visit Triple George Grill. As well as the food, I loved the wood-panelled booths here. Or how about Oscar’s Steakhouse at The Plaza for the best view of Fremont? Buffets are good value – Main Street Station’s dinner buffet is just $14.99 and it’s fantastic.
Visit the men’s restroom here to see a huge slab of the Berlin Wall. Women can ask to be escorted in by security to see it too. For something truly unique (and calorific), visit the Heart Attack Grill for a quadruple bypass burger and flat liner fries (cooked in lard) but be warned – you’ll be spanked if you don’t clear your plate!
TOP TIP: Register for a player card in hotels for discounts at restaurants
For drinks, head to Atomic Liquors, the oldest free-standing bar in Vegas. In the fifties, customers would sit on its roof to watch the mushroom clouds rise from atomic bomb testing while sipping “atomic cocktails”. Hogs ‘n’ Heifers Saloon is a lively bar with sassy girls who serve drinks, dance on the bar and shout at customers through megaphones – sounds like Coyote Ugly? This is the bar the film was based on.
For the best people-watching spot, go to Whiskey Licker Up. The drinks are strong and are served from a rotating bar and it’s right next to one of the live music stages on Fremont.
TOP TIP: Drink for the price of tips while gambling
Visit The Mob Museum to learn the history of organised crime then finish off with a shot of moonshine in the basement speakeasy. You could just visit the speakeasy, get the password, find the hidden door and you are in. Fly Superman-style down Fremont Street on the Slotzilla zipline. Watch the Viva Vision light and music show that runs nightly every hour. Spot all the neon signs including Vegas Vic.
Then you could see a fantastic Elvis tribute ‘Spirit of the King’ at The Four Queens. Fans of Pawn Stars can visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop and have a beer next door at Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ & Tavern (he may be behind the bar). Head down Main Street for some vintage shopping and you’ll find where a scene from The Hangover was filmed.
Hire a segway and explore. Take a ride in a driverless car. Watch a fire-breathing praying mantis at the Container Park. Get a tattoo. Get married in a drive-through wedding chapel! There’s so much to see and do!
TOP TIP: Venture off Fremont Street to experience downtown.
Viva Las Vegas
I highly recommend you explore downtown Las Vegas when you next visit. With so much to do and see, it’s perfect for families, groups of friends and couples. We felt perfectly safe and met lots of friendly people – many of whom were visiting for a long weekend.
Downtown has a different vibe to the strip – more authentic. There’s history around every corner, the gambling odds are more favourable than the strip casinos and there’s free entertainment everywhere you look. The people are friendly, the choice of quality restaurants is amazing and the entertainment is fabulous.
Contact me and I will arrange your trip so you can experience Las Vegas for yourself.
Gill Matthews is a Personal Travel Consultant for Not Just Travel and can be contacted for holidays to Las Vegas, the United States of America, North America and the rest of the world as follows:
T: 0784 993 0430