Confessions of a Vegas virgin

Image: Emily Cathcart

Image: Emily Cathcart

We all know by now that what happens in Vegas, is meant to stay in Vegas. Instead, ALHAUS magazine tells all—with the from-the-hip impressions of a Sin City first-timer.

I had my introduction to Las Vegas on a side trip during a West Coast holiday. My travelling companion and I had many discussions in the planning stages about what to include in our proposed itinerary—and what to leave out. “How about Vegas?” he asked. “Well, yeah… I guess… maybe?” I replied, with a distinct lack of conviction. While there was a certain appeal to this fabled treasure-trove of tackiness, what about Yosemite? Death Valley? The Grand Canyon? There were choices to be made; our time was limited; and after some debate, Vegas made the cut.

Leaving Southern California, we drove the desert road rather than taking the more direct (but less interesting) Interstate 15. After skirting Palm Springs and the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, we stopped at a diner in Twentynine Palms for breakfast. Opening the car doors, the mid-morning heat that greeted us was intense. Squeaking with consternation, we sprinted across the sticky, semi-molten carpark—and were soon safely inside enjoying 9-grain pancakes and sunny-side-up eggs.

We continued onward through the High Desert, taking in the distinctive scenery of Joshua Tree’s unforgettable landscape and the otherworldly Mojave Desert Salt Flats, until we found paradise. Literally: it turns out that most of the Las Vegas Strip isn’t in Las Vegas at all—but rather in an adjacent unincorporated Nevada town called Paradise.

The 'Manhattan skyline' of New York-New York Hotel & Casino. Image: Emily Cathcart

The 'Manhattan skyline' of New York-New York Hotel & Casino. Image: Emily Cathcart

Gratefully surrendering the hire car’s keys to the valet, we checked into the MGM Grand and headed straight out (‘heading straight out’ entailing a considerable trek through the property’s humongous interior to reach Las Vegas Boulevard). Emerging blinking into the blazing sunshine, the Manhattan skyline (of New York-New York Hotel & Casino) met us in all its make-believe magnificence. Suddenly, I knew we had made the right decision—tacky, perhaps; fun, most definitely.

Across the MGM–NYNY pedestrian bridge and into the (Not-Quite-So) Big Apple we scampered—where day wore into night unnoticed, complimentary drink was taken, and many hands of poker ensued.

The next afternoon, we made a beeline to the Fountains of Bellagio for the first display of the day. Call it corny, but the carefully-choreographed show—with its dancing water jets synced to a variety of musical selections (on this occasion, the sweet strains of Elton John’s Your Song)—was genuinely delightful. Afterwards, a look at The Bellagio’s lobby was also a must: Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como, a vivid installation of two thousand handblown glass flowers, had to be seen to be appreciated—photos can’t convey its real-life impact.

To read the full version of this article, order ALHAUS magazine No. 4 today. And for our top tips on surviving Sin City, here’s our handy guide.

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