Perfect Weekend: 48-Hours in Las Vegas, America
Las Vegas. The name conjures up images of bright neon lights, Leicester Square on crack, ladies of the night, gambling; it can’t possibly be a place that a solo traveller could go on their own, especially a woman, can it?
Las Vegas: The Lowdown
The history of Vegas is fascinating and denotes everything virtuous (or not) about the American Dream. Vegas’s birth date is supposedly 1905, which makes it only 121 years years old. It began its life as a small town where folk would go to holiday. In 1931, work on the nearby Hoover Dam started bringing thousands more to the nearby vicinity and quickly an industrial and profitable area of America emerged, with gambling legalised in the same year, and the creation of the first hotel casino too. It soon became a haven for thrill-seekers to throw care to the desert wind.
Now, the Strip of Las Vegas brings in over $6 billion gaming revenue to the state of Nevada each year. What is all the fuss about? Can these bright lights really bring sense and fulfilment to travellers coming for a few days of fun. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas is the old adage. Can a solo traveller make stories worthy of the Hunter S. Thompson book?
Las Vegas: Where to Stay
The Strip is lined with hotels owned by a majority of two hospitality giants – MGM Resorts and Caesar’s Entertainment, who also occupy most of all the entertainment spaces. A new kid hit the block six years ago in the shape of The Cosmopolitan, that is unmissable at night with its blue Tetris-like lights flashing against the night sky. Whereas the other hotel giants (Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace) are predictably ostentatious and lavish, The Cosmopolitan came on the scene like a cool cousin with some sort of exotic heritage, bringing a fresh new breath of life to Vegas. Its bedrooms are lined with stylish prints and trendy Phaidon coffee books (my bedside book on Japanese erotic art made for very interesting nighttime reading), with many having terraces looking over the Bellagio Fountains, which are well worth checking out at night time.
Las Vegas: Getting There
So what can you see in Las Vegas in 48 hours? Rather a lot, it seems. Arrive as early as you can on day one, and as late as possible on day three, to squeeze in a few extra hours. The airport is only 15 minutes away from the Strip which means you can pack in a lot, without having to worry about allowing for a lot of travel time to and from the airport.
When asked how Vegas fares in our current AirBnb world, the CEO of MGM answered “it makes no difference to Vegas.” He’s right – you don’t go to Vegas to check out the ‘culture’, you go to Vegas to check out the lights, the casinos, the shows, and the Vegas culture. The hotel you stay at makes all the difference, so pick carefully, as the right hotel to fit your needs over 48 hours can save a lot of time moving from place to place. The Cosmopolitan ticked off everything on the list I needed for Vegas – great rooms, a casino (I spent $10 on a slot machine with a handle to fulfil a personal dream – swiftly lost it and felt no need to gamble again, but hey it’s Vegas, stay in a hotel with a casino), a variety of restaurants and bars and access to a pool party (more of which later).
Las Vegas: Where to Eat
Check in and check out your hotel and if it has more than one pool, work out how you’re going to do a rotation of all of them in the time you’re there (Vegas is a city in the desert, so make most of some pool time to catch the pretty much constant heat and sunshine). On the day I arrived, all I craved was a slice of pizza that the Americans do so well (why don’t we have a proper pizza slice joint in London yet?), so while checking out the sprawling shopping mall that is part of the resort, I asked a member of staff where I could find a decent slice of pizza, thinking she was going to suggest a 20 minute schlep somewhere on the Strip. “You need to check out the secret pizza place,” she said. This sounded promising.
On the third floor, tucked down a corridor lined with with risqué LP covers, is an absolute gem simply called The Pizzeria that serves some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. The ricotta and meatball pizza comes highly recommended. For the evening, Rose. Rabbit. Lie at The Cosmopolitan is a dark, moody spot that serves grown-up dishes and cocktails with a side helping of some great live performance acts. Skye DeeMiles, known affectionately as ‘Black Sunshine’ had my hairs on end with her powerful singing voice, that I enjoyed over caviar tacos and duck confit pasta. After dinner, shimmy across to The Chandelier, a three floored bar that is enveloped in a giant, sparkly chandelier that serves up delicious cocktail combinations – try the Lost in Translation.
To keep hunger pangs at bay, try one of the Cheffini’s hot dogs inside Downtown Container Park, complete with pineapple sauce, you can’t miss it as there is giant fire breathing grasshopper at the entrance.
For something more substantial, line your stomach at Glutton, a relatively new restaurant that is creating innovative dishes simply with the freshest produce of the season and the flavours that the kitchen team like. Their burger has won the ‘best burger in Vegas’ a few times which goes down tremendously with the Las Vegas craft beer Glutton has on tap.
For an all-encompassing bar tour, start at the bottom of Fremont Street to an (apparently) old boozer of the Rat Pack, Atomic Liquors that is down and dirty with a fantastic cocktail list. To twerk with the locals, head up the road to Commonwealth, which has a chilled out bar vibe downstairs and full-on rooftop party as you ascend the stairs. Filled with a bit of Vegas fire and fearlessness, try out the zip wire over the Fremont Street Experience, 30 seconds of pure unadulterated joy, enjoyed especially at 12.30am when the lights are out and twinkling.
Eggslut is a breakfast institution that opened its doors first in Los Angeles 2011 by Chef Alvin Cailan and in June 2016, it welcomed another branch in Vegas, much to the joys of its hungover revellers. An eatery that praises the egg, its dishes are equal amounts filthy, fabulous and delicious. Try one of the signature dishes, the Slut, a poached egg on top of a smooth potato puree, cooked in a glass jar, topped with grey salt and chives, served with slices of crispy, fresh baguette.
Las Vegas: What to Do
Some of the world’s best entertainment acts come to Vegas to dazzle audiences so make sure to see a show while you’re there, whether it be one of the dare-defying Cirque de Soleil shows (there are seven Cirque shows currently running in Vegas) or one of headline music acts – Britney, J.Lo, Celine and Mariah all headlining this year. As is Rod Stewart if you’re into the oldies (he is great, if you’re wondering). If adrenaline is still pumping after one of the shows and you feel like letting off a bit of energy and busting some serious dance moves, Omnia nightclub is a mammoth venue that often has superstar DJs on the decks. Calvin Harris currently has a Friday night residency there.
On day two, join the hordes of bachelorette parties, corporate sales teams, and overexcited Europeans at one of Vegas’ (in)famous pool parties. The Cosmopolitan houses Marquee, one of the city’s most popular day clubs, also becomes a nightclub in the evenings, if you fancy braving both. It is everything you could hope for in a Vegas pool party – skimpy outfits, pool shenanigans amongst amorous holiday makers making the most of jiggling along to the beat of the booming dance music and never ending pina coladas. Seeing is believing but go with an open mind and leave your judgements at the front door, and you will probably enjoy it and laugh a lot. Needless to say, the poolside ravers are very friendly to solo travellers.
If you haven’t lived it up too large at the pool party, Downtown Vegas is well worth jumping on the bus for to check out a completely different side of life – walk through the touristy Fremont Street Experience towards the local hangouts with certain blocks heaving with bars and restaurants that lifelong residents recommend (anywhere but the Strip, they say). The Neon Museum is found Downtown. Also called the Neon Boneyard, it houses a fascinating collection of some of Vegas’ most iconic neon signs and lights. For a touch of nostalgia and to hear more Sin City stories from over the years, book onto one of the volunteer-led tours here. They sell out quickly so make sure to do in advance.
Although an early morning will be the last thing on your mind after a mad day and night, chances are the time difference (Vegas is 9 hours behind GMT) will have you up at 6am on your final morning any way – the perfect time for a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon. Maverick Tours operate hotel pick ups on the hour at 7am, 8am and 9am so you can be up in the air in one of their choppers an hour later.
Photo Credit: Chris Neill
Prepare to be absolutely whisked off your feet (literally) as you fly past the Hoover Dam and into the world’s largest canyon. The views are tear-inducingly beautiful as you witness Mother Nature at her absolute best. The Wind Dancer Tour that Maverick run drops into the canyon for half an hour, enough time for a glass of champagne and a blueberry muffin and some epic selfies, before heading back to the strip again and back to the hotel in time for a serious brunch.
To end a perfectly hedonistic and decadent 48+ hours in Vegas, indulge in a relaxing spa treatment at the Sahra Spa & Hammam. Its treatments and design have been inspired by the surrounding desert so that spa goers (hopefully) leave feeling with senses awakened and at peace. The Sahra Desert Aromatherapy Massage soothed my muscles sore from walking and dancing and put my soul at rest for the long slog home. The stories and memories…well, they stayed in Vegas.
Virgin Atlantic flies to Las Vegas from London Gatwick Airport from £638. The Cosmopolitan is our hottest pick of hotels on the Strip which also houses The Pizzeria, Rose.Rabbit.Lie, Eggslut, Marquee and the Sahra Spa & Hamman. Maverick Tours offers the Wind Dancer Tour, which goes to the Grand Canyon from $544. Neon Museum – tickets are from $18
Cheffini’s Hot Dogs – 707 Fremont St, Suite 1050, Las Vegas, NV 89101
Glutton – 616 E Carson Ave #110, Las Vegas, NV 89101, United States
Atomic Liquors – 917 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101, United States
Communion – 525 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101, United States
SlotZilla Zipline at Fremont Street Experience – starts from $20
For more information, visit www.lasvegas.com