Two years ago i went on holiday to Las Vegas and it was one of the best holidays I have ever had! I have so much to tell you about! I stayed for 10 days and did every Casino on the strip! Why Vegas? I wanted to go to Vegas because I love tacky over the top places and I love bright lights and free entertainment!

We came across a great deal with, which included a direct flight with Virgin from Gatwick – Vegas plus 10 nights accommodation for only £635 each. Virgin is the only airline that fly’s direct to Vegas.

The Strip from Mandalay Bay to The Stratosphere

· Mandalay Bay: The Mandalay Bay is one of the more exquisite hotels on the strip. It’s golden windows glimmer in the sunlight and immediately catch your eye. Once inside it’s grand interior is breath taking, take your time to walk around the grounds if you can, unfortunately the two of the outdoor pools were closed while we were there but from distance they looked impressive. One of the attractions this hotel has to offer is its Shark Reef Experience. An indoor aquarium complete with a walk way Shark tunnels. I did not do this while I was on holiday but I can imagine that kids would love it. The cost $ 15.95 adults $ Children.

· The Luxor: The Luxor hotel is in the shape of a pyramid a beam of light shots from the top of the pyramid at night and apparently this can be seen from space, it also has a giant sphinx’s head outside. Once inside you are instantly transported into Egypt the walls are decorated in hieroglyphics and it is amazing just to stand and look up at the shape of the pyramid from the inside. The Luxor offers many attractions including an Imax theatre were you watch cinema screenings in 3-D, as well as this they also have several different 3-D simulator rides. We had a go on one called The Search for the Obelisk; the cost was $10 each. I have to say I was highly disappointed with the ride, it was good while it lasted but it only lasted 10 mins at the most and I felt slightly ripped off. The Luxor also has a replica of King Tuts Tomb that was found by Howard Carter in 1922, it is open daily from 9.00am – 11pm and costs $10. Again we did not do this on our trip I would rather see the real thing. The Luxor is also showing the Broadway hit musical Hair Spray, I was fortunate enough to see this show two yeas ago in New York and it is fantastic. If you have some money to spend I would highly recommend seeing this show. Buffet

· Excalibur: Next on the strip we have the magical palace Excalibur, this castle/palace style hotel is any little girls dreams, it feels like you are stepping into a fairytale land. This hotel is ideal for children with its Fantasy Faire Midway full of hundreds of children’s slot and arcade games were you gamble for prizes rather than money. Excalibur hosts The Tournament of Kings in its King Arthur’s Arena; this is there very adaptation of the legend of King Arthur and features jousting, wizards and dragons. This dinner show is on nightly 6pm and 8.30pm and costs around $55 a ticket. Having already seen something similar on another holiday we decided to give this one a miss but a again I’m sure it would be a big hit with kids.
(All of the above hotels are linked together with walkways and a free shuttle bus)

· Tropicana: The Tropicana is not one of the most famous hotels on the strip but we certainly had a lot of fun at this hotel. On entrance to the hotel you are greeted by a Spin the Wheel promotion, you get one free spin of the wheel for the chance to win a prize. We spun the wheel of course and were given some discount vouchers and told to go to the promotions booth. We did this and signed up for free Players Card (will talk about this in more depth later) with our player’s card we were then entered into a prize draw. At 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm 10 names are pulled out of the draw and they get a chance to spin the wheel and win up to $1000, the catch is that you only have one hour to claim your prize. Well I was very lucky and my name got called and I won two tickets to see a show called The Folies Bergere. The show was very similar to the Moulin Rouge and they do the Can Can at the end. Tickets to the how normally start from $69 so we got a good prize.

· New York New York: The New York New York is an impressive hotel with the outer design of a mini New York itself complete with mini Statue of liberty and Chrysler building. Inside the Casino it is decorated with some great pictures of the New York Sky Line. The Casino has a Coney Island Casino ideal with children with some great prizes. New York New York is of course famous for it’s Manhattan Express Roller Coaster that starts and ends inside the building but takes you outside on to the roof of the hotel for many loop the loops. I am pleased to say that I was brave enough to experience this ride and I was surprised to find that it was no where near as bad as thought it was going to be. The ride is open Sun- Thurs 11am – 11pm and Fri – Sat 10.30am- Midnight. The ride costs $12.50 if you are brave enough re-rides cost $6 and you can buy an all day scream pass for $25 which gives you unlimited rides for the day. In the evening the New York New York is a venue full of activity with piano bars and The Coyote Ugly Bar. Ever since o watched the film I have wanted to jump up on that bar and strut my staff and now I can say that I have! The Coyote Ugly Bar has a $10 entrance fee however look out for people giving out flyers we got in with some for only $5.

· MGM Grand: The MGM Grand really is suburb to look at with it’s letters in gold capitals and the enormous golden lion out front, entering the MGM you can why it’s called grand as it is beautifully laid out with old black and white photos of great stars like Judy Garland along the walls. The highlight of the MGM Grand is of course the lion habitat this gives you a chance to get up close and personal with two adult lions as well as a opportunity to meet some lion cubs. Whilst watching the Lions information is given to you, it was good to here that the lions themselves live in a safari park just outside of Vegas and that they are rotated on a daily basis so no lion spends longer a day a week at the MGM.

· Aladdin: The Aladdin hotel is quite a sight you feel like you are in far east starring in the Disney movie, all you need is a flying carpet and your away. Inside the Aladdin hotel you should take look down the dessert passage a large shopping mall that holds the wonder of an indoor rainstorm. The rainstorm is a free show that is on the hour every hour Mon – Thurs and every half an hour Fri – Sun. it is defiantly worth a look and again if you have children they will really enjoy this.

· Monte Carlo: The Monte Carlo is another grand hotel although I don’t really have very much to say about it really. Unlike the other hotels it does not have any exciting features but as I wanted to go in every hotel on the strip it was worth a gander.

· Paris: The Paris hotel cannot be mistaken for anything else with its replica of the Eiffel Tower out side and a miniature Arch de Triumph along with a massive red, yellow and blue hot air balloon with Paris written across it. You can go up the Eiffel Tower to see the strip light up before your eyes. The tower is open 10am – 1am daily and costs $10. We did not do this on our trip because we saw the view from The Stratosphere instead. * Part of a Harrah’s Chain.

· Bally’s: Bally’s hotel is pretty unexciting really but you can get across the road on a walkway to Caesars palace. * Part of a Harrah’s Chain.
· Barbary Coast: The Barbary Coast is a small fun casino with a big Wheel og fortune machine that spins around. We liked this casino because it was cheap and we kept going back to try and spin the wheel not that we have addictive personalities or anything!

· O’Sheas: This Casino has an Irish theme just in case you couldn’t tell from the name, as we were staying on the lead up to St Patrick’s day this place was always kicking and with it’s 18 hour happy hour it was no surprise. Between 8pm and 2am all draft larger was $2 and every hour on the hour they give out free shots. Outside of O’Sheas they have their very own Lepricorn who urges you inside by telling you that it’s the only casino on the strip that has strip poker! * Part of The Flamingo Hotel.

· Bellagio: The Bellagio is one of the more expensive hotels and is very impressive to look at, once inside it is very grand and posh but slightly boring, I think I preferred the more tacky side of Vegas myself. However the Bellagio fountains are something to behold, every 15 mins from 5.30pm the Bellagio fountains dance to different music. We saw two shows while we were their one to the song Viva Las Vegas and one to That’s Why The Lady is Tramp both shows were breath taking. This was one of the highlights of my trip and something that I recommend anyone going to Vegas sees.

· Flamingo: The Flamingo hotel shines pink neon just like the title suggests! The gardens of The Flamingo are home to an array of birds including of course Flamingos but also penguins. You can see the penguins being fed twice daily once at 8.30am and again t 3pm. This is fun free thing to do and very informative as through out the feeding you are told different facts about penguins and you are given the opportunity to ask questions at the end. My friend enjoyed this show so much she went back in the morning on our last day while I was packing. * Part of a Harrah’s Chain.

· Imperial Palace: This is the hotel that I was staying in whilst in Vegas (A full review to come). The Imperial Palace is home to a show called The Legends, a show full of impersonators of all your favourite stars, also in the casino it’s self you will find the deal entertainers, dealers dressed up as your favourite stars who get and sing at different times throughout the day. Buffet

· Caesar’s Palace: This is my favourite hotel on the strip, full of wonder and delight Caesars Palace certainly lives up to it’s name. The interior design is magnificent you really feel that you have stepped into another realm. With marble floors and mosaics and huge statues and water features it really is a sight to see. The swimming pools are unbelievable I say pools because their was 6 of them, you really felt like you had been transported into a roman baths. I really enjoyed wondering around this hotel and soaking in the grandeur of it. We even bumped into Caesar and Cleopatra who were walking around the casino. Caesars Palace also holds the Forum shops, a massive inside shopping centre beautifully lad out with many eating places. Buffet, Cheese Cake Factory. * Part of a Harrah’s Chain.

· Rio (Just off the strip behind Caesars): The Rio Hotel is an abundance of colour from the outside in! I am so glad we decided to give this hotel a visit, it is situated just off the strip but because it is part of the Harrah’s chain a free shuttle bus runs from the Harrah hotel over to the Rio every 15 mins from 10am – 1am. The Rio hotel hosts the Masquerade Show in the Sky, this free show on every day at 3, 4, 5, 6.30, 7.30,8.30 and 9.30pm. This show is amazing it is hard to describe in words but basically an array of carnival flats in different shapes and sizes move around the ceiling whilst on the stage before you have tropical dances beating bongos and blowing whistles, as well as assorted clowns coming through the casino floor doing tricks and giving out free beads to anyone who will wiggle their bum. This show was such good fun and lasted for about 45mins. Make sure you go if you can! Buffet * Part of a Harrah’s Chain.

· Harrah’s: Harrah’s is a good fun casino with an outside courtyard that has Live music ever day and night and a bar that has tenders as good as Tom Cruise in Cocktail! This casino is a hub of activity at every hour of the day. We spent our fist evening here and really enjoyed watching the live band and dancing. * Part of a Harrah’s Chain.
· Casino Royal: this casino is very small and has a great fun promotion, sign up for a players card and get $50 free to spend! Catch of course there is one! You have to use it all in one machine and you can only cash out if you win the jackpot, which of course you’re not going to! I have to say it was a good free fun way to have a go on the machines though!

· Venetian: This is a beautiful casino by day and by night! From the outside you can see the Gondola’s going around the moat and by night you can see the lights over the outside light up and reflect in to the water. On the inside the Venetian has a replica of St Marks Square this really is amazing to see so realistic, the sky even looks like it is moving. Take your time to wonder through the square and soak up the atmosphere of being transported into Italy. Gondola rides are also available inside as well, we did not do this on our trip but I believe it was around $15 for an inside ride and $12.50 for a ride outside. As you ride around some very talented classical singers serenade you, we heard a few and they were very good.

· Mirage: The Mirage is a wonderful sight with its waterfall volcano outside the hotel you feel like you are transported on to a deserted island. In the evening the volcano erupts every 15 mins from 8pm, unfortunately it was not working while I was there. The Mirage holds many attractions including Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat price $15 adults $10 children (Separate review to come) and the White Tiger enclosure. The tigers are really a sight to see they are so massive.

· Wynn: The Wynn hotel stands tall on the strip with its bronze glow shining in the sun. Once inside the Wynn hotel has elegance about it with fairy lit trees in the foyer giving of an air of romance. Outside the Wynn hotel you will fins The Lake of Dreams a magnificent waterfall and lake with statues of people walking on water. It really is a glorious sight, we passed by here on a day the sun was out bright and we took the chance to sit on the balcony for a refreshing drink and take in the scene before us. The Wynn hotel is also the venue for the hit Broadway musical Avenue Q (soon to be heading to the west end)

· Treasure Island: Treasure Island has the best free show on the strip, performance are every evening at 5.30pm, 7.00pm, 8.30pm and 10pm. Make sure you get their early to secure a good viewing point as massive crowds gather outside the hotel. The show consists of two pirate ships separated by a bridge (which you stand on to view) one ship has a crew of singing pirate girls and the other has a crew of strapping pirate men (Ladies they are gorgeous). The show lasts for 40mins approx during which a battle commences between the two ships including singing and dancing, cannons and fireworks. This really is a must see whilst in Vegas.

· The New Frontier: The New Frontier is the second casino to be built in Vegas so I have been informed, and I certainly has an old style about, very western. This hotel has a bar called Gilleys that has bikini mud wrestling some nights as well as bull riding. Ladies also drink for $1 a drink all night on Thursdays! If you are looking for a cheap night out head to The New Frontier. Another attraction at the Frontier is that it is the only casino on the strip that has Bingo.
· Riviera: The Riviera now looks tacky in comparison to the larger more magnificent hotels that have been built along the strip but it was still brimming with people. On entrance to the casino you get a chance to spin the wheel and get a free mug for your efforts (I have two). It is also home to Penny Town so if you don’t want to gamble a lot of money this is the place to come. They also have a raffle draw every 15 mins giving you a chance to win show tickets and other goodies (You get tickets when you get your players card).

· Star Dust: The Star Dust hotel is looking old now and as casinos go it was pretty unexciting although I am sure a one point it was a hive of activity.

· Circus Circus: Circus Circus is the ultimate hotel if you are coming on holidays with your little ones. Being the big kid that I am I loved this hotel and spent nearly a whole day here. From the outside the Circus Circus looks like a great big red and white circus tent once inside we headed straight the Adventuredome. The Aventuredome is a theme park inside the hotel with over 20 rides. For best value for money we bought an all day pass for $22.50, which let us go on unlimited rides. You can however pay for each ride individually prices range from $4 – $7 a ride. We went on the Canyon Blaster a roller coaster, this was good fun but nowhere near as good as New York New York. We also went on the Rim Runner this is water log flume and trust you get wet so make sure you have time to dry off afterwards. The Inverter was a ride I never want to go on again, you basically keep spinning upside down and at one point you are left hanging for quite some time, I do not advise that you attempt this ride after a all you can eat buffet. Also at Circus Circus check out the free circus acts performing at the Carnival Midway. We caught a trapeze act and it was amazing, standing in the middle of a casino with people flying through the air above your head, only in Vegas. Circus circus is great fun for anyone what ever your age but is defiantly aimed at children with hundreds of children’s slots and fun prize games.

· The Sahara: The Sahara hotel has a ride called Speed The Ride, I should have guessed by the title that it was going to be pretty scary but no instead I agreed to get on without even looking at it first. I paid my $10 and took my seat, like most roller coasters I was expecting a build up but not with this one, we were catapulted at 70mph into a loop the loop and then upward to a 90 degree angle up to 224ft high and back to do the whole thing in reverse. Well I had the fright of my life on that ride and have certainly learnt to check rides out before going on them. The Sahara also has a NASCAR café, NASCAR is a huge sports car phenomenon in America and we happened to be in Vegas over NASCAR weekend so it was pretty busy.

· The Stratosphere: This hotel towers over the others at one end of the strip and is very futuristic looking in comparison to the others. Once inside the hotel we headed straight for the famous tower rides, the tower stands at 1,149ft tall. I hate to admit it but this was too much for me so I just got a ticket to the observation deck 108,854ft and took in the view of the strip lit up while my crazy friends decided to go on the insanity ride. To go the observation deck costs $9.99 to go on the rides varies in price for those nutters out their you can get an ultimate scream day pass for $23.50 enabling you to go on all the rides as many times as you wish. The Big Shot ride shoots you 160ft into the air right to the very top of the tower, X Scream ride shots you 27ft over the edge of the tower dangling you 9000ft above the strip and Insanity dangles and spins riders 900ft above the strip, my friends did this ride and loved every second of it they tried to assure me that it wasn’t that bad but I saw how green their faces were! The rides are open Sun- Thurs 10am – 1am and Fri & sat 10am – 2am. I would advise going up in the evening as the view of Vegas lit up was amazing. Buffet

Downtown Vegas
For a look at the older side of Vegas head for the Freemont Street Experience, we spent two great nights in Downtown Vegas. Freemont Street is a pedestrian street with an archway above that on the hour every hour from 9pm lights up with a mind-blowing lazar lights show. The great thing is that at every hour they show a different one so you never get bored. On either side of Freemont Street you have got your casinos Fitz-Geralds, Four Queens, Golden Nugget, Golden Gate, Fremont, Binions, Las Vegas Club and the Plaza (Buffet), These casinos light up the street and the Golden Nugget stands out with its golden lights. The casinos are so much cheaper than on the strip, drinks are cheap for example I bought a ½ yard cocktail for just $8 and got refills for only $3, this was one of my drunken Vegas nights which is no surprise considering I had 5 of them. Most of the casinos had prize draws every 15 mins and you get given a slip on entrance along with some lucky coloured beads and hand it in to your waitress for chance to win a prize. Playing the tables Downtown is cheaper too and I had my first Roulette experience at the Golden Gate, as the minimum bet was $1. If you are all casinoed out then why not just stand in the street and enjoy the free live bands that play an array of different music throughout the night or take a gander at the many fun stalls along the street. Freemont Street is a lively entertaining place to visit and I’m so glad we did, one of my best nights in Vegas was on this street we started at 9pm and dragged ourselves home at 6.3am.

As well as visit casinos the other thing I seemed to do a lot of was eat. The buffets are incredible I have never seen so much food in my life! We sampled a few different buffets while we were in Vegas so I will tell you about them giving them a rating Not Bad *, Good **, You have to try it ***.

· The Luxor Lunch Time Buffet
Price $12.50, the lunch time buffet starts at 11am but we timed it just right and got seated at 10.45am, this meant we got breakfast and lunch. We quickly helped ourselves to pancakes, bacon, and eggs before it was taken away for the lunchtime food. Then came the feast, Chinese food and Mexican, a salad bar, pizza, American style food and good quality as well. Along with this we also got fresh orange juice brought to our table and refills anytime we wanted. Then of course we had a choice of desserts, cakes, crumbles and ice cream. I give this buffet a rating of ***

· The Emperors Dinner Buffet at the Imperial Palace
Price $14.99, the dinner buffet starts at 4pm, this was our first buffet and we nothing to compare it to but looking back it wasn’t very impressive at all. We had a choice of mash potatoes, BBQ ribs, vegetables, pasta and salad. Desserts consisted of cakes and ice cream and you only had the option to help your self to soda no fresh juices to be seen. I give this buffet a rating of *

· Caesars Dinner Buffet
Price $22.50, more expensive than the others but for this buffet you are paying for quality rather than quantity. The buffet restaurant itself was very posh complete with a wonderful pianist who played whilst we ate. The buffet consisted of a carved ham and turkey a variety of fresh vegetables, pasta and Chinese; the desserts were gorgeous with fruit baskets and cream cakes. This was a great dinner and one of the best we had I give this buffet a rating of ***

· Rio Lunch time World Carnival Buffet
Price $17.50, this buffet is the biggest I’ve ever seen, twice the size of all the other buffets you have a choice of 3000 dishes from around the world and over 700 deserts to chose from. You really could spend the whole day here just eating, as it was we lasted 2 and half hours! The Japanese counter was impressive with a selection of sushi and you were able to chose vegetables and have your own stir fry cooked for there and then. This buffet was by far the best value for money with a huge selection of food, something for even the most fussiest of people I give this buffet a rating of ***

· The Stratosphere Breakfast Buffet
Price $8.99, the breakfast buffets are the cheapest of the lot but by no means do you get less for your money. We had a selection of savoury foods from cereal to eggs, bacon, sausage; hash browns and freshly made omelettes as well as your sweet foods pancakes, waffles, fruit, muffins, cookies, cakes. This was a good buffet that set us up for the whole day I give it **

The buffets are great value for money and you only need one of these for the whole day. If you are not a buffet fan then every hotel has a selection of restaurants, food halls and cafes to choose from offering you a fast food alternative or a gourmet meal. If you get a chance visit The Cheesecake Factory in Caesars Forum Shops, it has gorgeous cheesecake in so many different flavours and the main meals are massive.
Travel – Getting around

· Airport
When we arrived at the airport we found out about the airport shuttle service priced at just $5.50 you tell the driver the hotel you are staying in and he will take you to the door. You can also use this service when returning to the hotel on your way home, just ask at reception and your hotel will book you on the shuttle.

· The Strip
We mostly walked the strip but it is longer than you would think and very tiresome on your feet, just walking around the casinos themselves can take hours so if you want to rest those aching legs there are two great ways to get around.

There is the Monorail that runs between the MGM Grand and the Sahara stopping at hotels on the way. This cost $5 for a single journey and can get a little pricey if using it all the time. The cheaper alternative is to use the Deuce bus $2 a single journey or $5 for a day pass, this bus runs all the way to Freemont street and bus stops can be found all along the strip. We used this bus several times and although it took a while to get from A – B it was cost effective and listening to the mad bus drivers caused us great amusement.

Free Stuff
I love freebies and Vegas is full of them, as I have previously mentioned several hotels have free spin the wheel promotions giving you the opportunity to win prizes and in some cases money. Another good way to get free stuff is to sign up for a player’s card this is free of charge. A players card is like a points card, you put in the machine and as you play you get points that you can use to claim prizes, in most casinos you get a free gift just for signing up this will range from a t-shirt to a keyring. The Harrah’s chain of hotels had their very own unique promotion called the Treasure Hunt, for this promotion you receive a card with all 6 Harrah’s hotels on it when you visit each hotel you receive a stamp, when you have 3 or 6 stamps you place your card into a barrel and at 6pm a draw happens giving you the opportunity to win a helicopter ride over the strip. Every time you get a stamp you receive a free gift, this comes in the shape of a treasure chest, inside the chest are various things watches, hats, shot glasses, t-shirts, key rings, e-bay vouchers. You can enter this promotion every day and get a new card every day to start collecting your freebies. I have come home with so much staff; they are going to make great presents. We also collected money buckets from all the hotels these are fun and each has it’s own design on it; I also collected matchbooks from all the hotels so that I can make a wall display.

As I have already mentioned a lot of the hotels put on free shows, another nice thing to is wonder around the hotel lounge bars most of them have live bands and pianists in the evenings, take a relaxing break with cocktail and soak up the atmosphere.

All of the casinos have shopping centres with a wide range of shops ranging from Gucci to tacky souvenirs. We did our shopping at Bonanza the Worlds Largest Gift Store; this is situated opposite The Sahara hotel. This shop had everything you can think of, I bought fluffy Vegas dice for my sister and a singing Elvis bear for my mum. The gifts were very reasonably priced as well much cheaper than the hotel souvenir shops.

I am personally not a big gambler and that was not the reason I chose to come to Vegas having said that I did have a little flutter here and there won some and lost but it was all good fun. You can come to Vegas and spend a fortune or nothing at all, I stuck to the 1-cent games like Wheel of Fortune and a weird Hillbillies game that I got slightly addicted too as I put in $2 and won $40. I also had a go on Roulette, but I mostly enjoyed watching people play. Most of the casinos give you free gambling lessons in the mornings these are in Craps, 21, Poker and Roulette, we didn’t do this on our stay as we couldn’t get up in time but I wish I had now. I was slightly disappointed that in most of the casinos you don’t get to see the money drop anymore and you actually receive a printed credit note that you cash in, but I suppose it is safer that way. You could easily spend a fortune though especially with al the drinks you get for playing the machines, this was another element I enjoyed, ordering free cocktails and paying $1 tip love it! Be warned though the drinks are very strong but I suppose the theory is the drunker you are the more you will spend.

In conclusion I had an amazing 10night holiday in Vegas, we were able to do everything we wanted to do and more. I wouldn’t advise a quick trip to Vegas as I feel you would miss out on what it has to offer, having said that I would say a week would be a good amount of time and 2 weeks would be too much. Either way Vegas is great fun and an experience I would recommend to anyone, be it a family holiday or a stag do. It can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make and you can get some great inclusive deals. If you are travelling in the summer bare in mind that Vegas is in the dessert so can become sweltering hot. I hope you have enjoyed my review and that I have given you lots of helpful information, I hope I have covered everything if I haven’t please let me know.

Enjoy Lizzie X

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