One of the most famous sign posts in the world, The Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
One of the most famous sign posts in the world, The Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Dennis Flaherty

Take in the bright lights of this cool city

I HAVE to admit, I wasn't keen on going to Las Vegas.

The bright lights, the swarms of people, the gambling... it just didn't seem like my kind of place.

But as it happens, Las Vegas turned out to be one of my favourite legs of our Californian trip.

We drove from LA to Vegas; a journey we had been warned would be dull, and it was.

Far better, I think, to hop a flight from LAX and save yourself five hours of nothingness.

But what a thrill to see the bright lights of Vegas appear seemingly out of nowhere as we drove into the famous Nevada city.

 

Places to stay

We stayed at the beautiful Aria Resort and Casino (arialasvegas.com) which offered spectacular views over Vegas, lots of shopping and dining, and a relaxed, fun Casino.

There are plenty of other accommodation options such as the divine Bellagio (bellagio.com) and the MGM Grand (mgmgrand.com).

Most of the big resorts, even at the pointy end of the budget, offer great rates and deals, and to my mind it's a far better option than staying somewhere cheaper and having to trek all over town to get to the Casinos and shows.

 

Spa city

The deluxe pedicre rooms at Spa Bellagio.
The deluxe pedicre rooms at Spa Bellagio.

Las Vegas is becoming known for its "destination spas," with more than 45 luxury spas.

Ranging from open-to-the-public spas, to those available to resort guests only, spa services offered in Las Vegas include Shiatsu and Swedish massages; body treatments such as herbal baths, wraps, aromatherapy and reflexology; relaxing amenities such as steam rooms, saunas and whirlpools; and full-service salons offering manicures, pedicures and facials.

The Sahra Spa & Hammam at The Cosmopolitan is the newest spa on the Las Vegas Strip.

A heated stone, or mother stone, is the centrepiece of Sahra Hammam, combining body detoxification, steam treatments and a cooling bath in a warm atmosphere.

Other services include massage, skin care, body scrubs and baths.

In Aria's 80,000-square-foot spa, we tried the Thai Poultice Massage.

Not for the faint of heart, this massage feels like you are going through a tumble dryer, but the payoff is at the end, when every inch of you feels relaxed and unwound.

The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, is a 1930s Shanghai-inspired spa that gives all the glamour of the era.

Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace is a favourite. Based on the concept of "social spa-ing," Qua offers communal areas such as the Laconium Room (with ultra-heat therapy), the Arctic Ice Room (complete with snow falling from above), and a tea room staffed by a sommelier skilled at pairing teas with treatments offered.

Or there is the total decadence of Spa Bellagio at the Bellagio, with exotic offerings such as the Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, aquatic Watsu Massage, Indian Head Massage and Thai Yoga Massage.

We stopped in for a manicure and pedicure which comes with champagne, seafood lunch, private rooms and a goodie bag.

 

Wining and dining

I somehow had it in my head that dining in Las Vegas would consist of huge all-you-can-eat buffets and giant plates of deep fried foods, but our experience was quite different.

From a divine and entertaining dinner at Tetsu in Aria, to a long and luxurious lunch at the famous Todd English's Olives at the Bellagio, or dinner at the multi-award winning contemporary eatery L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand, our food experiences in Vegas were as good as anywhere in California.

 

Catch a show

The amazing Cirque du Solei show O.
The amazing Cirque du Solei show O.

While we were in Vegas we saw the amazing Cirque du Solei at Bellagio, which was a highlight of the trip.

There are plenty of other shows on offer from huge productions to smaller, quirkier shows.

 

Take a chance

I'm no gambler, but when in Rome... I tried the poker machines, but they weren't much fun, so I moved on to roulette, and - what do you know - I was a natural.

But it wasn't the winnings that I made that had me back at the table night after night; it was the fun spirit of the place.

Almost everyone there wanted to have a good time and the atmosphere was electric. I loved it.

For someone who didn't want to go to Vegas, I found it hard to leave.

 

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