When I approached 50 my wife asked what present I would like. Without thinking I said a trip to Las Vegas with whoever would come. My wife frowned, as it wasn’t the lasting memento she had in mind, and really didn’t want to go. For some reason I stuck to my guns. Normally I would have said “whatever, another time”, but this felt different. Was this the beginning of a male midlife crisis, or just a chance to do something on the bucket list?
So I opened it up to all-comers. Over the next few months my initially enthusiastic friends fell by the wayside one by one. Cost, time, family, and lack of interest derailed many. In the end it was down to a couple of work colleagues and an old college friend to shoulder the burden. An odd mix but all with the “tick it off the list” agenda.
I spent time researching things to do online and from people who had been. Everyone I mentioned it to raised an eyebrow, or sniggered, and said “midlife crisis”. They suggested haunts and holes they’d visited, ignoring my “we’re going for the scenery” and replacing it with “you’re going for the seedy”.
Well actually it turned out it was a bit of both. Somehow we avoided the real down and dirty, but in doing so I learnt a few things about Vegas trips:
Las Vegas tips
- It’s expensive. When you’re paying $11 for a beer the costs can soon rack up. Seek out the happy hours, freebies and see if you can make some new friends to stand you a round.
- Be prepared. Vegas is more than a city. Some of the casinos are bigger than the town I live in. Unless you want to wander aimlessly, try and get some directions and activities sorted before you go.
- Croupiers can be your friend. They know you’re going to lose all your money, so they can be quite entertaining as they help you do it with pride. They’re also often attractive, but that’s because you’re probably not and have had too much to drink.
- Americans eat early. In a 24 hr city, it was surprising that most of the nice restaurants were finished by 9 pm. This is no Spain – if you want to eat late it’s going to be a burger.
- Jet lag will get you. I was playing slots at 6:30 am, not because I wanted to but because I couldn’t work out what else to do. Oh, unless I wanted a burger.
- Take the freebies. Free drinks while you’re playing are great (make sure you tip unless you want to wait forever for the next one), the free shows in the casinos aren’t bad and.. that’s about all you’re going to get for free, so make the most of them.
- Herd your cats. Las Vegas is a big place and you need to stick together if you don’t want to spend ages waiting for your buddy to return from some far flung casino. Walking down the strip alone can take a good hour.
- Keep to your budget. It’s very easy to get a Las Vegas high-roller mindset and effortlessly toss $100 on the table at 3 am for more chips. That’s fine if you can afford it. It’s a short holiday if you can’t.
- Some bars serve drinks in plastic glasses. Not something that bothers me but for some this is the difference between a good night and a tacky one. Either choose your bars or friends with care.
- There is seedy. Nuff said. Actually on the Las Vegas strip it’s pretty avoidable, but there are plenty of people willing to offer you a limo ride somewhere dark and dingy….
- A day trip is just that. The Grand Canyon for example is at least a 2 hr drive. Definitely worth it with a local guide to let you sleep, but it does wipe one day out of the short stay. The other canyons are even further away. Especially the one on the moon.
Highlights included the duelling pianos in the Paris hotel. I can’t sing, but for some reason ended up at the front serenading a random 21 year old on their birthday. There is some dodgy footage on social media, but that’s still in the USA somewhere. A bit like selfies the woman from Florida insisted on taking with us in the early hours because she liked the slot machine we were on. And on that note, another chuckle was watching my buddy celebrate a $300 win and then feed it back in to the machines almost as quickly as it had come, out because he liked the tune the ‘Hannah and Heidi’ machine played when he won.
Las Vegas is definitely a place to visit. It’s now geared more to families, shops and attractions than it ever was.
That isn’t to say you won’t end up at 3 am chucking your croupier $5 just because you think it makes you that Las Vegas high roller…