In August 2010, we arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada as newlyweds with Rian’s family. We held a small secret wedding in our yard that morning with both families in attendance. After exchanging vows, we joined Rian’s family on their planned trip to the neon city. Vegas Honeymoon!…with Rian’s little brother sleeping in the same room. We didn’t know it then, but this wouldn’t be our last trip to the Vegas strip.
That night our flight arrived late, but you wouldn’t have known because of all the traffic driving down the boulevard. We were blinded by the marquee lights, listening to the sounds coming out of the casinos, and of course people watching. We arrived at our hotel desperately tired and hungry around 2 AM. Rian, her sister, and mother all remembered seeing a McDonald’s a couple of blocks from where we stayed and decided to be the food runners. They learned a valuable lesson on their one-hour walk for fast-food. A Las Vegas city block is roughly four New York city blocks. If you have not been to either city, just know that it was a long distance that they somehow underestimated. At one point, Rian’s mom told the girls to go ahead without her, as if she were mortally-wounded and didn’t want to slow her daughters down through the Vegas desert to reach food. Except, in the off chance she survived her wounds, she wanted her daughters to bring back a double cheeseburger and fries. They did not leave her by the lonely light post, and were rewarded with an Elvis sighting. So remember, street blocks in Vegas are much bigger than you’d expect.
We learned quickly that most casinos offer free parking in their parking decks. Attractions and casinos are jammed together, so parking at a casino and walking to others is a great way to explore without too much driving. Try to divide your time checking out the strip in sections. Vegas can feel overwhelming with excitement and it’s best if you take breaks/naps when you can, especially if you plan to go out at night.
We knew that going to Las Vegas meant gambling, but we were two college newlyweds, looking for cheap or free things to do as well. Many casinos will offer free entertainment to draw people to their gaming floors. The Fountains at the Bellagio perform a show for passersby every 30 minutes. It choreographs the firing of the fountains to music selections, some of the water sprays reach 460 feet in the air. The Treasure Island casino provides a free show on an outdoor pirate ship, called “Sirens of TI”. Watching pirates sword-fight, sing, and walk the plank while you stand in the middle of the desert is a bit surreal, but the show is a great place to stop and rest your legs.
Casinos lower their minimum bets on table games during the daytime. This is great if you are new to a game and don’t want to lose a fortune as you learn the rules. Most daytime dealers will assist you if need help or make a mistake, but the best way to learn a new game is by observing and talking to the people around you. If you want a fun and interactive atmosphere, go to the Craps table. Most players are rooting for or against the same things and you get a team-like environment where high-fives and “Oh-yeahs” are common. Bonus tip: As long as you are playing games on the casino floor, drinks are free. Just don’t forget to tip with cash or a chip.
If you rented a car, a short half-hour drive will get you to Red Rock Canyon. This is a great sight to see for everyone in the family. There is a 13-mile scenic drive that takes you throughout the canyon. There are many areas to pull off for photos or to hike the canyon. The layers in the red sandstone are captivating to look at and tell the story about the geological history of the area. This is one of our favorite spots around Las Vegas, and we would visit it again on our other trips to Vegas.
No visit to Sin City is complete without seeing a vegas-show or eating a giant portion of food. We were able to combine both as we went to see Tournament of Kings at Excalibur casino. We were encouraged to yell at the brave knights, while devouring a whole game-hen with our hands. Rian’s brother, who was 12, and her father both got into the spirit of the festivities and fit right in with rowdy crowd. Somehow this became a highlight of our Vegas vacation, good ole’ fashion family fun.
Aria’s new buffet, at the time, was getting amazing reviews and the advertised photos of Jumbo Crab legs were too enticing to pass up. Gluttony found the whole family that night at the buffet. After the 4th or 5th plate, we all slouched in our chairs looking miserable. Instead of going out as we planned, we laid on the couches in our room and watched movies. That would be the last time that we went to a buffet and planned on attempting an activity afterwards.
There is no way you can see all of Las Vegas in one trip. You aren’t even able to see all of the Vegas Strip. On this trip we were glossing over the surface. We spent five days enjoying Las Vegas Boulevard, Fremont Street, and natural landscapes, and still hadn’t seen 1/10th of what the city had to offer. We were not sure at the time if we would ever be back, but vowed that if we returned, we would try to see things that we hadn’t before.