I can’t tell you everything that happened in Vegas.
There’s at least one story that’s staying in Vegas. But of all the things that happened in Vegas, most of my weekend getaway with husband and friends was just fun, eclectic and suitable for all audiences.
Some people hate the glitz, over-indulgence, gambling and adult entertainment of Las Vegas, but those are exactly the reasons others go there as often as possible. You can find whatever kind of entertainment you want and there are some cool things to do away from the slots and tables — not that I don’t enjoy a little gambling.
So what is there in Vegas that you might not know about?
There are non-smoking, no casino, eco-friendly hotels! Our hotel, Vdara, is one of those. Of course, casinos were nearby, but it was nice not to walk through a smoke-filled casino just to get to your room. Vdara is one of the new MGM Resorts International hotels in CityCenter at the south end of the Strip.
There’s art! The canoes sculpture is at the entrance to Vdara. The Bellagio features this glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly on the lobby ceiling.
There’s romance! The fountains at the Bellagio are beautifully choreographed to diverse types of music. At night with songs such as “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic movie, it can seem quite romantic.
There are fine chocolates and pastries! Jean Phillipe Patisseries are wonderful for a sweets break. They have locations at the Bellagio and Aria hotels. The photos of the cakes, chocolate-covered strawberries and the giant chocolate flower were taken at the Aria.
There’s nature! Just about 15 miles west of the Strip is Red Rock Canyon, a beautiful conservation and recreation area with a scenic drive and miles of hiking trails. It’s a good place to work off some calories, breathe in the fresh air and get away from the happenings in Sin City for a while. (More to come about Red Rock Canyon very soon.)
There’s Afternoon Tea! While taking in the view through the floor to ceiling windows, you can have Afternoon Tea on Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s 23th floor. It is a very peaceful, Zen-like setting with sandwiches, scones, pastries and a wide selection of specialty teas.
There’s Vegas history!
What’s Vegas without Elvis impersonators and showgirls? You can find them in old downtown Las Vegas on Fremont Street. It’s crowded with tourists, but worth a stop to see some of the old hotel casinos like Binion’s Horseshoe and the Golden Nugget with their iconic neon signs glowing. You can also watch the light show on the canopy that’s been constructed over the street while people fly above on the zipline.
There are gourmet restaurants! Run by world-class chefs, there are many gourmet dining options. We had dinner at chef Shawn McClain’s Sage at Aria. It’s there that I enjoyed my first experience inhaling the fumes of recently-legalized absinthe that provided me (shown here with our friend, Kevin) with considerable fun and hours of uncontrollable laughter. The “sin” in “absinthe” seems quite appropriate.
And then, there’s the morning after.
Finally, there’s Sunday church! After playing a few slot machines at Mandalay Bay, we went to “church” at the House of Blues there. Did I go to church to redeem myself for sins untold? No, it was a gospel brunch, open to the religious and non-religious among us. There was a plentiful buffet of breakfast and lunch items, followed by an energetic bluesy “going to church” performance. The Gastons had many of us out of our seats moving our feet, clapping our hands and shouting “Hallejuah”! Then it was on to the Luxor for cocktails before heading home.
A weekend in Las Vegas is probably just the right amount of time to over-indulge, enjoy some gambling, explore off the strip and be a little bit naughty.
Additional photos by Kevin Dincher:
Canoes Sculpture, Giant Chocolate Flower, Fremont Street, Las Vegas Sign
I love vegas. No questions about it. I have an incredible time every time I go there, and have never left feeling otherwise. I do, however, love gambling, so that is probably a big part of it! The stories that can’t leave Vegas are always the best parts 🙂
It does help to enjoy gambling when you go to Vegas, but it’s nice there are a lot of other things to do, too. Otherwise, I might spend too much time in the casino!
I am one of those people you mentioned as I don’t love Vegas for the reasons you stated. However, I like chocolate and nature. Don’t forget golf as well. Not sure it’s enough to persuade me to go though. 🙂
Jeremy, I think you’d really like Red Rock Canyon and I’m sure there are plenty of golf options, too. But Vegas isn’t for everyone. I like it in small doses — a weekend every so often is just right.
Sounds like a great fun weekend. Living close enough to take in the sites, experience, and have fun is great.
Yes, Vegas is a short flight from San Francisco which is nice. Makes it an easier getaway option than it might for others.
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It sounds like you had a great weekend! I’ve been to Vegas many times but never gamble. I love lying out by the pool, window shopping, and checking out all of the hotels. I think the artist who made the canoes must be the same person who did a similar installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.
That’s cool that you go to Vegas and don’t gamble at all. I guess that just shows that there’s more to Vegas than gambling. I’ll have to find out about the canoes artist.
Great job pointing out the alternatives! I had no idea there were casino-free hotels. After I saw hotels inside the freakin Super 8, I assumed they were everywhere!
I think it’s a pretty new development that there are no casino hotels and they’re such a nice option. I enjoy gambling, but I don’t need a casino right there in my hotel.
I just love this!!..A great weekend spent in Las Vegas..not sure if I would go there myself but good to hear about the delicious food. So you had uncontrollable laughter from the inhalation of the absinthe..looks like your husband got a bit of that himself…:) Great blog and a great weekend getaway!. If I ever do go to Las Vegas, I will want to go to this church at the House of Blues!
Thanks, Senaf! There are many really good restaurants in Las Vegas. And the Jean Phillipe patisserie was so incredibly tempting! That’s actually our friend in the photo who also imbibed in the absinthe — hubby didn’t try it!
I love the new hotels that don’t allow smoking… i hate smelling like smoke after going out in Vegas!
I hear you, Jade! It seems to me that there’s less smoking than there used to be in the casinos. There’s still plenty of smoke though.
You’ve just listed all the reasons I love Vegas! Can’t wait for the next chance to visit again =)
Hey Andrea — glad I was on target for you!
Vegas! My kind of town.
Indeed it is, Charlie! You really know your way around there. Thanks for the great tips!
I have to admit Vegas just does not appeal to me. I can see how it would appeal to others. (I think my little sister would love it so much she’d never leave!)
I think I’m happy knowing that that particular piece of craziness is there, on the other side of the world, should I ever change my mind about it. 🙂
There is something about knowing we’ve got so many options for diverse places to visit around the world, isn’t it? — Just in case.
a story that will remain unpublished? im guessing it involved waking up with mike tyson’s tiger in your hotel, seems to be happening to everyone in vegas these days. and what the hell, absinthe only recently legalized? that really surprises me. wormwood? cant wait to be rich so i can truly appreciate the greatness of vegas!
You found me out —- yes, it was the tiger in the hotel thing! About absinthe — from what I understand it’s only been legal in the U.S. for a couple of years. I guess some people complain that it’s not quite the same absinthe you get in other places. All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed it. About being rich — I can’t wait either.
Now you have me wondering what else happened in Vegas… I have a few of those stories myself 🙂
I don’t suppose we can get you to tell any of them can we? 🙂
I’m not a fan of Vegas, but I love this side of Vegas you showed. It’s amazing how much nature is close by that people don’t take the time to visit.
It’s so true, Laurel. I was glad that our friends (who know Vegas very well) took us out to Red Rock Canyon. It’s a nice change of pace.
I love the fountain show at the Bellagio. I’ve been to Vegas only once and really liked our few days there. And that fountain show was hands-down my favorite thing to do there! Marco did skydiving right outside of Vegas, but i was too scared too try 🙂
I was thrilled with the fountain show. On previous trips to Vegas, I was never at the Bellagio at the right time to see it. This trip we saw it a few times – once at night and a couple of times during the day.
Vegas – haven’t been in 20 years or thereabouts. Sounds like it’s even more deliciously sinful now. So smoking is allowed in the casinos? Must be the last remaining smokers’ strongholds in the USA, no?
I like that — “deliciously sinful”! Yes, smoking is still allowed — I think some have non-smoking sections.
What a great run down of activities in Vegas. I like hearing about the non casino activities.
Thanks, Leigh. It seems when you hear about Las Vegas, it’s all about what’s going on at the casinos.
This is a great rundown of Vegas and it sounds like you had a great weekend. I prefer the Vegas of old and not on Fremont street. The Vegas I love has mostly been torn down 🙁
Las Vegas has really changed over the years. I remember staying at The Dunes back in the 90’s! That and many other of the other old icons are completely gone. It is kind of sad, isn’t it?
I haven’t been to Las Vegas, but I guess my time there will be spent mostly out of the slots. I love outdoorsy stuff, and I’ve seen there are many beautiful areas surrounding Las Vegas that can be easily enjoyed.
BTW, great meeting you this weekend! 🙂
You’d find plenty of outdoorsy things to do. I’m doing a guest post about Red Rock Canyon that will be out soon.
I enjoyed meeting you too, Norbert! 🙂
Never been to the city of sin but I would love to hear those stories of what really happened in Vegas, perhaps an anonymous entry 🙂
How did you find the Vdara as an eco-friendly hotel? Were their policies clear as to how exactly they are helping to protect our environment? I’m always interested in tips for travelers who wish to be eco-friendly.
Thanks for the post a weekend sounds like the perfect amount of time for Vegas.
Thanks for your comment. I don’t think I’ll be sharing those stories any time too soon! 🙂 I really liked Vdara. I knew about their eco-friendly policies from their website when researching where to stay. Here’s a link you might find interesting. http://vdara.com/amenities/environmental-commitment.aspx
It’s good to know there are SOME places in Vegas that are “no smoking”! That’s one of the things I hate about casinos – it can be so hard to breath.
I’m a little late reading this but it sounds like you had an awesome time! We’ve only been to Vegas once and unfortuantely it was after several days in the Grand Canyon. The lights, glitz and noise were a bit overwhelming!
Cathy, I’m shocked that there are non smoking, non casino hotels. I never knew that…I’m also surprised at afternoon tea. But, probably shouldn’t be, since Vegas has everything.
Some lovely shots there Cathy but I doný think I have to tell you the absynthe shots are the most entertaining!
I think that, like you, when I hit Vegas I will not gamble either!
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We loved the Mandarin Oriental tea time, was awesome! What a view and the food was… so good!