One of many free shows in Las Vegas. Photo by King of Hearts.
The US has some fascinating cities but is slightly hampered by lack of genuinely ancient buildings and street ‘furniture’. We enjoyed New York City enormously but found it a little cavernous, raucous and lacking in odd little sights to be a recommended place for lengthy, stimulating walks and excitable photo-snapping.
Santa Barbara (California) city center on the other hand is an adobe delight, but on the small side, while our San Francisco experience had potential but it kept being interrupted by sudden cold fogs while the hills are not exactly foot-friendly, though you can hop a tram on many of the streets of course.
So it’s down to Las Vegas Nevada, to fly the World’s best cities flag for the US, which it does in a completely over-the-top style, with mega-fantasies along The Strip, which is 4 miles long so that’s a day’s walk if you take time off for sights. Much of the year Vegas is quite hot so long-distance walks don’t work too well, but the sights are extraordinary as are the entrances and lobbies of some of the casinos so it’s well worth diving into the most spectacular places. For example take a stroll through the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, it’s like wandering the pathways of Venice with gondolas floating by.
There’s an increasing amount of wild contemporary architecture in Las Vegas these days in addition to the mega-casino impersonations of world-famous attractions (Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramid, Venice gondolas at work etc) and just plain fantasies (Mirage, Treasure Island).
At night dramatic shows (free) take place in front of many casinos, ranging from almost life-size pirate ships in action (Treasure Island) to exploding volcanoes (Mirage) while Fremont Street puts on a long and mesmerising light show ‘Experience’.
If that isn’t enough Las Vegas is also home to brilliant arena shows and concerts featuring some of America’s top stars (albeit often past their sell-by date). Sadly these are not free, nor even cheap.
Finally, when it all gets too crazy it’s a doddle to rent a car and head over to the canyon country. The Grand Canyon is 4 hours away (275. 3 mi), Zion Canyon 2 hours 35 min (159. 7 mi), Death Valley 2 h 18 min (149. 4 mi) and Red Rock Canyon only 27 min (20. 5 mi) away. Las Vegas Pictures
Las Vegas gets hot in summertime so walks outdoors become overheated endurance tests. Avoid June, July, August, when temperatures frequently go into the mid 90’s F (30C+).
Vegas is big on bling but lacks charm, authenticity and respect for the real world so although service personal are generally delightful (and well trained) there are many stupid drunks and drunk drivers (visitors and locals) in this 24 hour drinking town. Nice bars or modest restaurants with style and without video poker games are very thin on the ground. And on the subject of style, Vegas visitors and residents are usually sorely lacking in refinement, bling and skin being primary items of dress for women. Class acts are rare.