Saturday 6 January 2018

Las Vegas: where to stay, where to eat, what to do

On our recent holiday to America, we stopped off in Las Vegas for three days in between our time in Mexico and Canada. Before our first visit to Vegas in 2013, we thought it would be the sort of place you would only want to visit once, however we were pleasantly surprised after that first trip, hence why this was our third trip there in five years. The highlights for us (as people who aren't exactly into gambling) are definitely the value you get from the amazing hotel rooms, the incredible restaurants and bars, the shopping (for me), the shooting ranges (for Dave), and the variety of amazing shows on offer. I thought I'd put together a bit of a summary of our three days in Vegas, as well as some other highlights we've come across on previous trips.

Where to stay

On our previous two trips to Vegas, we stayed in the Vdara Hotel, which is a wonderful, relatively quiet hotel (there is no casino within the hotel) in a central location on the strip. While we loved this hotel and couldn't fault it, we did want to try somewhere different, so decided to book in three nights at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which is only a couple of hotels away from the Vdara.

As we were staying mid-week, we managed to get an incredible deal on this hotel, and stayed in the wrap-around terrace suite (located on the 63rd floor) for just over $200/night. The suite has incredible views over the strip, and is essentially a very fancy apartment, complete with a bedroom, two large bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room.

The Cosmopolitan has a number of incredible restaurants in it, along with one of Vegas' most popular nightclubs, Marquee. The restaurants include the Chandelier Bar, Eggslut, Beauty & Essex, Momofuku and Holsteins, just to name a few.

After staying in the Cosmopolitan on this trip, there is nowhere else I would want to stay if we visited Vegas again.

Where to eat

As mentioned above, if you are staying in the Cosmopolitan, you don't have to go far if you want a delicious meal. On our first afternoon in Vegas, we grabbed a milkshake from Holsteins, which was one of the most elaborate shakes I've ever had (I went for the frozen grasshopper, which was a choc mint shake with dark and white choc crunchies, peppermint meringue, mini peppermint patties, wintergreen candy stick, vanilla frosting and mint choc chips). You can choose to make your shake a bam-boozled shake with alcohol for a few extra dollars. The shakes were so good that the next day, we decided to come back and each grab a classic cheeseburger with sweet potato fries as a late lunch.

On our first night in Vegas, we went to Yellowtail for dinner, an excellent Japanese restaurant located in the Bellagio Hotel. We ordered a mixture of dishes, including the pork pot sticker gyoza, a spicy tuna sushi roll, a mile high specialty roll (with crab, avocado, asparagus, mixed sashimi and spicy ponzu aioli), and the braised kobe beef short ribs, all of which were extremely fresh and delicious. The beef ribs in particular were so crispy, tasty and tender. For dessert, I decided to get a famous cereal milk icecream from Momofuku, located inside the Cosmopolitan.

The next morning, as guests of the Cosmopolitan, we were entitled to a complimentary breakfast at the Wicked Spoon Buffet. It seemed that every other guest decided to have their breakfast on the same day, as we had to queue for about 45 minutes, however the buffet had an incredible selection, ranging from your standard cereal, toast, eggs and bacon, to spicy mac and cheese, sashimi, roast pork, gyoza, a gelato bar, and all the pastries and cakes you could want. You don't have to be a guest of the Cosmopolitan to dine here (it ranges between $28-$36 for a standard buffet breakfast) so it is definitely worth checking out if in Vegas, however I'd recommend getting there early.

The next morning for breakfast we wanted to try Eggslut, having heard so many rave reviews. Again, there was quite a queue, but it moved very quickly, and it was probably only about 15 minutes between joining the queue and munching into our bacon, egg and cheese rolls. We also grabbed a cold drip coffee each, which washed down the meal well and gave us energy for our day ahead.

On our previous trip to Vegas, we stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant called Javier's in the Aria Hotel, so we wanted to head back here for their amazing fajitas. After a morning of shopping at the outlets, we headed here for a late lunch, and ordered the chicken and beef fajitas. While not quite as good as our previous visit (we seem to remember there being a lot more accompaniments and condiments last time) it was still a delicious meal.

That evening, we had made a booking at Jean Georges Steakhouse before heading off to see the Blue Man Group (more on that below). Unfortunately, as we had a late lunch at Javier's, we weren't all that hungry, so just had the one course - we each chose one of their amazingly tender steaks, along with some truffled potato puree. While a very pricey steak, it was incredibly juicy and tender, the potato puree was so creamy and tasty, and the accompanying mustards and sauces each paired so well with the steak. We were also brought some fresh, warm brioche bread to start, with some herb butter, which was a perfect start to the meal.


On the way home from seeing the Blue Man Group, we stopped off at Shake Shack in the New York New York Hotel, where I had to get a concrete - one of my all time favourite desserts (which I discovered in New York City about 7 years ago). It is a mixture of their frozen custard (which is essentially a soft serve ice cream) with pieces of chocolate, brownie, caramel and whatever else you like stirred throughout.

 What to do

One of the things I love to do most in Vegas is make the most of the shopping outlets. There are two main outlets in Vegas - the premium north outlets and the premium south outlets, each about a 10-15 minute drive from the strip. On our first full day in Vegas, I hopped in an Uber to the north outlets (where I had been on our previous trips to Vegas) while Dave went to a shooting range for the day. On our second day, Dave wanted to pick up a few new things, so we decided to check out the south outlets together. While there is plenty of variety at the south outlets, I definitely prefer the north outlets, and would recommend these to anyone wanting to do a bit of shopping in Vegas.

Another must see in Vegas are the shows. This time around, we decided to book some tickets in advance to the Michael Jackson One Cirque du Soleil, as well as to the Blue Man Group. The Blue Man Group was a hilarious, entertaining couple of hours, however my favourite was definitely the Cirque do Soleil show - the combination of the music, the incredibly talented acrobats and the dancing made it one of the highlights of our trip to Vegas. On past trips, we have also seen the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show and the Mystere Cirque du Soleil, but the Michael Jackson show was definitely my favourite.

If you have never been to Vegas before, looking around all the major hotels is a must. My favourites are the Bellagio (especially the fountain show outside, and their conservatory display inside), Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood and the New York New York hotels.

Also, if you have the time, a day trip out to the Grand Canyon is an incredible experience. We went there on our first visit to Vegas with the Pink Jeep Tours, and while it is a very long day, it is definitely worth it.

All in all, despite its reputation, I think Vegas is a fantastic holiday spot for anyone that enjoys fine dining, entertaining shows, a spot of shopping, and incredible natural landscapes such as the Grand Canyon. Even if just passing through for a couple of days, I would definitely recommend a stay in Vegas, a city that is completely different from any other that I've visited.

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