We travelled from Manchester onboard Virgin’s direct service to Las Vegas with a flying time of just over 9 hours. The onboard service was excellent, good food, ice-creams served and excellent entertainment.
On arrival in Vegas we jumped a luxury sedan as the taxi queue was horrendous and after a long flight you just want to get there! The strip is only 15 minutes away and the sedan cost $64, a regular taxi would be 35 $, arriving in style was worth the additional cost!
Our first impression of Las Vegas was wow, everything is huge, the buildings, the casino’s, the food portions, prepared to be amazed by this 24/7 non stop city of fun.
Outstanding in every way – The Four Seasons Las Vegas truly stands out in a city with many luxury hotel options. Although the hotel is located on the top five floors of the Mandalay Bay Resort, on the south end of the Strip, the Four Seasons entrance, pool, service and vibe are distinctly different. The Four Seasons offers the best of both worlds. The casino and pool scene at Mandalay Bay are literally next door, and available to Four Seasons guests free if charge. However, for those guests who seek peace and quiet, the Four Seasons is a friendly and luxurious oasis in the dessert melee that is Las Vegas, with only 424 rooms! And that’s small for Vegas!
The service at the Four Seasons was very impressive with complimentary frozen blueberries and iced cold mocha served around its’ own pool are certainly a welcome escape from the Vegas way of life everything you would expect from a Four Seasons property.
It’s also worth mentioning that’s kids are very well looked after at Four Seasons with mini bathrobes, their own toiletries and a minibar filled with suitable treats. While playing in the casino’s all drinks are complimentary and yes you will see the same people playing when you go off to bed and when you come back down for breakfast!
Those of you know me are well aware of my addiction to spas, so on arrival I took myself off to the spa for a Four Seasons Signature massage, I have to say it was absolutely outstanding and although pricey at US$ 180 it did the trick in reviving me for the night ahead.
The following morning we were picked up early (8am) by Mark from Adventure Photo Tours for a tour covering the Hoover dam! Grand Canyan, Joshua Tree National Forest. The tour cost $199pp for the whole day and the bus was extremely comfortable with reclining seats, pillows, blankets and complimentary refreshments on board.
A common misconception is that the canyon is close by- it’s a 3 hour drive away so if you short on time then my advice would be to take the flying option by either helicopter or small plane although you would miss out on some sights and interesting facts which only a guide can provide. Mark was very informative and told us the history of Vegas, which started out as a railroad town in the 1900′s, gambling was not legalised until 1931 to bring in revenue for the mobs. Mining also played an important part of the economy excavating, gold, silver, magnesium and gypsum, 80% of the gold in USA comes from Nevada.
We reached The Hoover Dam in 90minutes, this engineering feat tames the river Colorado to create Lake Mead which houses water for Vegas and produces hydroelectric power for all of Vegas and much of California. Ninety eight men died during the construction of the Hoover Dam which opened on 30th September 1935 by Franklin Roosevelt. Lake Mead is 100 miles long and the water level has dropped in the last 15 years by 140ft, it is also popular for water sports, swimming, fishing and even diving! There is also river rafting available which looked great fun. On the way you pass through Boulder City which was built to house the 5000 men needed to build the dam and was built as a modern town with recreation facilities, schools and churches.
We also passed through vast barren deserts and Mark made the journey really interesting by pointing out various things ….where Tom Hanks ran down the road in Forest Gump and where Planet of the Apes was filmed and we now know what a Joshua Tree looks like!
On entry into the Grand Canyon national park there are 3 defined ‘stops’ included in the ticket as well as lunch which is from a limited menu and not very appetising- we paid extra and went a la carte. One of the stops is a ranch owned by native Americans and promises an authentic cowboy experience with horse rides, horse shoe throwing and lassoing. However it really did not live up to expectations and was very poor- not to be recommended. The next stop took us to the skywalk and the actual Grand Canyon. It is $30 pp to experience the skywalk, we found you could get better pictures and get really close as there are no barriers without having to pay for the skywalk. Also in the skywalk you are not permitted to take your own camera but have to pay for photos from the official photographer.
Vast and majestic, colorful and beautiful, the Grand Canyon is one of this country’s – and the world’s – most recognizable landmarks. It stretches 277 miles from end to end. Red, rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, where a majestic Colorado River carves out a raging southwest course. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it.
There’s so much to do in Las Vegas besides gaming and I think this is what surprised us all, but if this is your first time in town, you almost have to play a little. Many hotels offer free lessons for novices – the Golden Nugget among them. While you’re downtown, check out the assortment of restaurants and bars that make up the Fremont East District and the new Container Park, made entirely of shipping containers. Must see’s and do’s include the fountain display outside the Bellagio, the Eiffel Tower Ride at Paris Resort, a Gondola ride at The Venetian and also be sure to take in a show – the choice is outstanding from Cirque du Soleil to magicians, and from world class singers to comedy shows – there is simply something for everyone!
Las Vegas used to only be famous for buffets. Nowadays, you can also enjoy the culinary creations of any number of celebrity chefs; but as a first-timer, a buffet is in order. The Bistro Buffet at the Palms will satisfy your palate with international selections, while the Bayside Buffet at Mandalay Bay features a diverse selection of tastes, with sweeping views of a tropical water garden. Celebrated for its expansive selection of gourmet offerings, the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace will leave everyone at the table wanting more.
Vegas is the home of the infamous Little White Wedding Chapel and we decided to renew our vows whilst there with Elvis! It was fun and good value, only £299 and with that you get the service, Elvis singing, limo to and from your hotel and a CD of over 50 photos. I am not sure I would recommend it for a wedding as it is a bit tacky with plastic flowers and we couldn’t help giggling but it really is very popular!
The three days spent in Vegas past very soon and we hired a car to drive to LA which is only 4 hours away and a straight road so no chance of getting lost.
LA comprises of many neighbourhoods, Beveley Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica, Long Beach,Venice, West Hollywood. Whether you are after a beach fix or an urban fix Santa Monica has it covered with 3.5 miles of sandy beach including the action packed Pier where the infamous Route 66 finishes. Enjoy upscale shopping and dining on Third Street Promenade and Montana Avenue.
Santa Monica is casual and comfortable but beware the ocean breezes can be cooling after sunset. Further in land the temperatures can soar and reached 100 degrees farenheit at Universal when we visited.
We stayed at the Loews Santa Monica housing 342 rooms and offering ocean views, an outdoor pool and a fire pit dining terrace. Jess had one of the best facials ever at their Spa and this hotel has one of the best locations, right on the beach.
The hotel is extremely child friendly with a fit for fun family fitness programme including surfing andbeach bike rides. For something more suited to adults try the Cape Cod inspired design Shutters On The Beach or the elegant Hotel Casa Del Mar. For Art Deco fans the Hotel Shangrila retrains original glamour with an impeccable ocean avenue location.
Santa Monica Pier is a true Southern Californian icon, this historic area is a great place to get exercise whether along the beachfront bike trail or jogging paths, and nothing beats the vintage amusement park and summer concerts. People watching is a great pastime and we enjoyed watching the ‘gymnasts’ performing amazing acrobatics on Muscle Beach and hired bikes cycling to the hip, bohemian Venice Beach.
I am not alone in feeling that LA is one of the best cities in the world, often described as the “entertainment capital of the world” this place certainly lives up to its reputation. There are many attractions…….Universal Studios Hollywood which immently unveils a new thrill ride “Dispicable Me” is a must, it takes a day to get round and the behind the scenes tour is amazing- point worth noting that buying the “jump the queue pass” really is worth the money as waiting times even out of season can be upto 1 hour.
Another must do is the Hollywood Celebrity movie tour which takes you through the leafy hills of Beverley Hills with a guide pointing out who lives where- great fun and jaw dropping, finish on Sunset Boulevard and the avenue of stars, try spotting your favourite celebrity handprint outside the Infamous Chinese theatre.
Dining is a wonderful experience and eating fast food can easily be avoided, the concierge at the Loews secured us great reservations and recommended some wonderful restaurants. The best steaks are at BOA Steakhouse and Watergrill Serves the best seafood, Gordon Ramsay was there the night before us.
My only regret was 7 days is not enough