Let me preface this post by saying Matt and I are not “Vegas” people. That being said, Vegas is strategically placed near three other places we wanted to see and, let’s face it, is a pretty iconic travel destination in itself. So we went to Vegas.
It turns out there’s a decent amount of non-Vegasey things to do in Vegas. While our entire vacation lasted 4 days, the Vegas portion of it was only about 1.5 days total.
We flew into Vegas on a Monday, and immediately went to go see the Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam is about a 30-40 minute drive from the Strip. There are a ton of tours that go there, but Matt and I chose to rent a car from the airport and drive ourselves there so we could be on our own schedule.
There were quite a few other people visiting the Hoover Dam as well. I’m not sure if we went during Spring Break? In Texas, spring break is in mid-March and we were visiting in April, but perhaps other states have other spring break times.
There are tours of the dam and the power plant, but due to travel woes (we missed our flight and got to town 2 hours later than planned), we didn’t have time for those. That’s okay, though, because you can still walk across the top of the dam and see a lot of stuff without paying for a tour. In fact, the only thing we paid for was parking, and it was cheap ($10).
The dam itself is of course impressive, but it’s not the only thing to see there. There’s also a great view of the Memorial Bridge. This bridge is amazing. When you’re driving on the winding roads to the dam you can only see mountains and then you come around a turn and BAM! Suddenly, a bridge. An amazing bridge. Seriously, it’s huge.
Additionally, the Nevada/Arizona state border runs through the dam, and is marked with a plaque that you can stand in front of.
Hoover Dam stats:
- Ease of access: Easy
- Price: Cheap, but can pay more for additional tours
- Clothes: Any
- Crowds: Crowded
- Recommend?: Yes
Back in Vegas, we stayed at the Excalibur hotel. This hotel is on the Strip but is not as expensive as some of the other hotels. It was recommended to us by a friend because of the price. It was a solid 3-star hotel. Not great, not bad. There were lots of little kids there (not something Matt and I particularly care for), but again I’m thinking we maybe traveled during spring break.
Being from Texas, it was bizarre to me how large the casino was and how it was open all the time. The entire downstairs of the hotel is a casino, and people will gamble at any time of day or night. It’s crazy. We had never gambled before but we played a couple penny slots, and it was alright.
Before I went to Vegas, people kept telling me to look forward to the food. They clearly did not mean at this hotel. There’s quite a bit of food in the hotel but it’s all generic cheap fast food brands you’d get in the food court of a mid-level mall. We did not eat meals in the hotel other than breakfast. There’s two Starbucks in the hotel and all the fast food restaurants serve breakfast.
On our first night in Vegas we went to see the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show. This show was very cool and I highly recommend it.
On Wednesday of our vacation, we had an entire day just in Vegas. Since, as I mentioned, we aren’t “vegas” people, I wasn’t sure what we would do to fill up the whole day. But in the end it turned out that it takes almost a whole day just to walk up and down the Strip to see all the hotels.
The Strip is much longer than you think it is. Even if google maps says it’s 1.5 miles from your hotel to your destination, it’s likely much more than that, since you have to weave in and out of other hotels. In fact, the day we walked the Strip, my iPhone said I walked 7 miles. I highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes, such as tennis shoes. Literally everyone on the Strip was wearing jeans/shorts and tennis shoes, so it’s not like you need to dress up for the daytime.
People had warned me that the walk would be unbearable because of the desert heat. Maybe it’s cause I’m from Texas, but it really wasn’t all that bad. We walked from our hotel, the Excalibur, up the Strip through all of the hotels and stopped at Mirage. We then crossed the street, went to the Venetian (my favorite!), and walked back down the strip through all the hotels and stopped at MGM Grand, then went back to our hotel.
A few things to do during your excursion up and down the Strip if you’re, like me, not into gambling:
- Just look at all the hotels
- If you’ve never been to Vegas, this sounds lame. It’s not. These hotels are insane. Some of them literally look like entire outdoor cities on the inside.
- Fountains at the Bellagio
- They don’t start until 3pm. They run every 30 minutes from 3pm – 8pm, and then every 15 minutes after that. Best seen at night. You will be fighting a crowd to see them.
- Bellagio Gardens
- Located inside the Bellagio is a literal garden. They apparently change the decor with the season. It was decorated as a Japanese garden when we visited. Very cool, also very crowded (have I mentioned I don’t like crowds?)
- The Venetian
- I mentioned this was my favorite of all the hotels we looked at. It is the coolest thing ever. It literally looks like Venice inside. There are two gondola rides, one inside and one outside. They don’t connect to each other, and they both cost like $30+ per person. We did the one inside and I recommend it. We also got macaroons from a little shop called Le Macaron. They were quite delicious.
- They actually have live flamingos out back, as well as other animals. It’s a miniature zoo and is pretty cool to see. Also, this hotel was the first resort to open on the Strip.
- Another hotel that looks like a city inside. Very cool.
On Wednesday night we ate at the Eiffel Tower restaurant inside Paris for our wedding anniversary. It was NOT cheap, but was well worth it if you are looking for a fancy date night! It has a great view of the fountains at the Bellagio. They serve very delicious dessert souffles (we tried pistachio).
One thing to note: after you do your walk around the Strip, don’t try to walk to the far away hotels. When we stayed at Excalibur and had to go to Mirage or Paris, we took Uber. As I mentioned before, it’s way further than you think it is, so just pay for the Uber and thank me later 🙂
Another thing I didn’t know before I went to Vegas – many of the hotels are connected by elevated walkways that go above ground. This can save you time to avoid crossing the street, and can allow you to walk down long lengths of Las Vegas Boulevard without actually leaving hotels.
After this day, I was pretty done with Vegas, not going to lie. The crowds are pretty insufferable. The food is either bland, expensive, or far away. The noise level is too much. I was not kidding about not being a Vegas person. But all in all it was good to see for a 1.5 day trip. Any more than that would be pushing it for me, but I could see how it would be very enjoyable for people who like to gamble.
- Ease of access: Easy – the airport is like a block from the Strip and there are tons of taxis and rideshares available
- Price: Expensive – hotels, shows, food, taxis… it all adds up quickly
- Clothes: Daytime: casual with walking shoes. Nighttime: For dinner or shows, dresses or nice clothes. For just nighttime walking, casual will do.
- Crowds: EXTREMELY crowded
- Recommend?: Only in small doses
You might be wondering what else we did on our 4 day trip if we were only in Vegas for 1.5 days. Stay tuned for more posts about those adventures soon! (Hint: It involves not one, but TWO national parks!)
I hope this has been helpful if you’re planning a trip to Vegas! Comment below if you have any questions!