How to see the Grand Canyon without the expensive helicopter ride – and 3 other mind-boggling Las Vegas experiences
FEW sites are more striking than a sweeping aerial view of Nevada’s sandy Grand Canyon.
Swerving this way and that through one of the world’s great wonders, I soared over stunning cliff faces, before diving so low to ground that I felt the spray of water on my face from the massive lakes below.
What if I told you, you can do all that without leaving the Las Vegas strip?
FlyOver, the city’s newest attraction, is probably as close as you can get to the real thing without forking out for a helicopter ride.
Strapped tightly into seats, with feet dangling below, we were taken on a truly immersive experience through ten US states.
And with a 52.5ft wraparound screen, the ride really lets you escape reality as you rise over forests, dip towards salt flats and twist around mountaintops.
Once back on steady ground, adults can counteract all that adrenaline at the Flyover’s own Lost Cactus bar with Wild West-inspired cocktails such as a prickly pear margarita.
Flyover isn’t the only huge screen attraction here either.
Circa, the adult-only hotel in the Downtown region, features the massive Stadium Swim.
A cross between a water park and sports bar, it is spread across two levels with six pools and two swim-up bars, surrounded by cushioned daybeds and cabanas where you can watch day-long sporting events from a massive screen.
The new-ish hotel also boasts Nevada’s longest indoor bar at 165ft and proudly suspends the original Vegas Vickie from its ceiling.
And, importantly, it completely assaults your senses with booming, 24-hour-a-day music and luminous neon lights all over the place.
Of course, if it’s bright lights you are after, then step outside as Downton Vegas is as glitzy as it gets and the Fremont Street Experience, a huge mall which sits a five-minute walk from the hotel, has 49.5million lights.
Now, I had expected Vegas to be loud and brash.
But one thing I had not anticipated was just how good the food would be. Not least in the locally owned restaurants in Downtown.
Tom, our enthusiastic guide from Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, took us to three different lunch spots to sample their signature dishes that were so moreish I instantly regretted filling myself up with a burger and chips the night before.
Our first stop was the the highlight. Carson Kitchen is tucked down a side alley behind the main boulevard and serves killer shrimp, smothered in a spicy pepper and cream sauce, to die for.
Then it was on to Irishman Liam Dwyer’s award-winning 7th & Carson which offers proper Southern-fried chicken, before finishing at Therapy, where the food is good but the night-time partying is the real reason to come.
From rocket salad to Rocket Man, once diners have finished gorging on tacos, burgers and lobster grilled cheese sandwiches, staff push the tables aside and the restaurant transforms into a thumping club.
But why wait until night-time to go clubbing?
At the Tao Beach Dayclub, we elbowed our way to the stage wearing little more than sunscreen and went full Vegas pool party — so much so that for a little while, I forgot I was a 40-something dad of two.
Besides, the kids were 5,000 miles away and, well, you never lose it.
It’s true that most people come to Vegas for the never-ending party scene, but it’s not all about blaring music and booze.
And over at the Venetian hotel, it was hard to believe we were still in America.
The stunning complex took my breath away with intricate decorations, sculptures and restaurants that transport you right to Italy — even the car port has a painted ceiling to rival that of Michelangelo’s at the Sistine Chapel.
Inside is where the real magic happens, though.
A man-made canal runs right through the centre of the hotel, complete with gondolas steered by singing gondoliers dressed in traditional striped T-shirts and hats.
In front of the canal is a vast space modelled after Venice’s St Mark’s Square and above the roof is decorated to look like the bluest sky with clouds that are so convincing you’ll forget you’re even inside.
You will want to have your camera ready at all times because there’s photo ops aplenty here.
But make sure you put it away for dinner at The Wynn’s Delilah restaurant.
It won’t be the cheapest place you’ll find but it may well be the classiest.
And they’d prefer it if you changed out of your budgie smugglers, too.
You’ll soon forgive its no-photos policy as you relax into the old-school supper club vibe — and certainly once the food and wine come out.
It opened just a few months ago, but Delilah harks back to 1950s elegance where caviar doughnuts and Wagyu steak tartare is accompanied by performances from a jazz trio.
And looking around, people were grinning from ear to ear. Which is not something that could be said for the countless zombies traipsing aimlessly past the slot machines.
They had perhaps learnt the hard way that hope costs more than they thought.
And to think they could have been enjoying the Georgia O’Keeffe 100 Flowers exhibition at the Illuminarium, a constantly moving display plunging you into a sweet-scented escape.
Or heading out on the short drive into the Nevada desert to join Rail Explorers, where you pedal down a railway track before being carried back in a huge Union Pacific train.
Or indulging in one of the many magnificent shows along the strip.
If only those weary, not-so-high rollers had taken a gamble and seen all the other amazing things Vegas has to offer.
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