Rows of slot machines filled every available space, flashing, beeping and vying for attention. People were indulging, staring at the screens and feeding the machines a continuous stream of coins, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Dozens of giant screens displayed glitzy adverts for shows, restaurants and even a mobile hangover curing service, available for call out, offering an intravenous drip to aid rehydration. This was just the baggage reclaim area but already were beginning to get a taste of what Las Vegas had to offer.
The Las Vegas Strip
The strip itself, actually just outside the city limits, is seven kilometres of entertainment, lights and world famous monuments dedicated entirely to hedonistic pursuits. Just walking along that one street, you'll pass an Eiffel Tower, a Statue of Liberty and even a Sphinx. The famous Bellagio fountains give a carefully choreographed dancing display at regular intervals, perfectly in time with the accompanying music. At Treasure Island you can see pirate galleons battling it out on the high seas and perhaps even more impressive is the volcano at the Mirage, which erupts every evening in an extravaganza of pyrotechnic glory.
Volcano Show at the Mirage
Then there are the hotels themselves. Each labyrinthine complex is well equipped with casinos, restaurants, shops, clubs, bars and shows. It can be very easy to get lost inside and you're unlikely to see a sign for the exit. Of course the casinos are big business but even if you're not feeling lucky, there is still plenty to do.
At Circus Circus they have free circus acts every day from 11am. Take your seat and watch Argentinian trapeze artists, the Flying Angels, rolling and spinning through the air, their sequined lycra suits sparkling in the spotlight as they engage in death defying acrobatics. Check out the clowns, balancing acts or jugglers and let them wow you with their expertise. They even have vendors selling popcorn to munch while you enjoy the show.
The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace are a full on Roman experience with cobbled streets centred around a fountain with life sized winged horses and Neptune rising from the water. The sky-like ceiling, painted with clouds, gives the impression of being outside with the light changing according to the time of day. Watch animatronic figures and an iridescent dragon combine with smoke, water jets and fireballs to illustrate the Fall of Atlantis at the fountain show every hour.
Fans of The Big Bang Theory will be familiar with The Cheesecake Factory. They have an enormous menu that includes huge slabs of incredibly rich and creamy cheesecake in over thirty varieties. Whilst delicious, you may struggle to finish one portion, which seems very much the norm for desserts in Las Vegas.
The Forum Shops, Caesars Palace
The Venetian goes one step further with a canal running through the centre of the aptly named, Grand Canal Shoppes. A constant procession of gondolas ply the indoor waterways as the gondoliers, in striped t-shirts and straw hats, thrill their passengers with impressive operatic performances. The canal passes the main piazza, surrounded by ornate European style facades, where people enjoy coffee and cake in the pavement cafes under the artificial sky.
The 250m tall tower of the Stratosphere is topped with America's highest thrill rides, which generally involve dangling precariously over the edge. Enjoy panoramic views while you relax with a cocktail at the 107 SkyLounge. From here the strip, with its colour, neon and strobes, curves away into the distance, in stark contrast to the bland street lights of the rest of the city. Pick out many of the great landmarks, the giant pyramid of the Luxor, the shiny green cross that is the MGM Grand and the shimmering gold Trump International Hotel.
107 SkyLounge, Stratosphere
Seeing a body hurtling past the window, accompanied by a blood curdling scream, can be somewhat alarming. It turns out the SkyJump, starting 108 floors up, is just another of the many rooftop entertainments.
Las Vegas has a reputation for being a party town. Everything is geared towards gambling, drinking, spending and indulging. Walk the length of the strip and you'll feel like you're walking through a museum collection of world famous landmarks, not to mention the bewildering array of entertainment, shopping and dining options. Whether it's an American football or a fishnet clad leg, everyone seems to be drinking frozen cocktails from souvenir cups, popular for their half price refills. You'll also see superheroes and other celebrity lookalikes happy to pose for a photo in exchange for some of your hard won cash.
New York, New York
Despite being a tacky, gaudy den of iniquity, Las Vegas is delightfully over the top and gives a fascinating insight into modern American culture. Justifiably known as Sin City, it is a fun place to spend a few days, even for those determined not to enjoy it.
Las Vegas Travel Tips
In summer it can be very hot outside but the casinos will still be uncomfortably cool. It's a good idea to take an extra layer to put on when you go inside.
Watch out for timeshare salespeople who will appear particularly friendly. They are extremely persistent in encouraging you to visit their properties and will likely try to sweeten the deal with a voucher for a free meal. If you don't want to waste your holiday, do not engage.
Las Vegas is a good starting point for trips to the Grand Canyon. Hire a car and drive, or choose one of the many tour options available.