Gia Silvaggio and Chelsea Ryder of Caesars Entertainment
Breakfast is served at The Venetian's Bouchon
Junior made sure we played safe in Dig This Vegas sandbox
The Cosmopolitan Ice Rink
Relax after a busy day adventuring at Spa at the LINQ
Up close and person at Magic Mike Live
Located outside the Bellagio Las Vegas at the intersection of Flamingo Road and the Vegas Strip, The Fountains of Bellagion combine music, water and light to create a unique audiovisual performance.
Las Vegas is known for delivering non-stop fun to anyone looking for a good time. The city’s first theatres and casinos sprouted up in the 1920's and 30's as an entertainment outlet for the thousands of construction workers at the nearby site of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam).
Over the years, the city has gone through an ebb and flow of rough times and good, but has continued to grow at a steady pace to maintain its status as the entertainment capital of the world. With more than 40 million visitors each year, times are good these days, and now more than ever there is lots to see and do.
Step beyond the boundaries of the famous Strip with its whirling slot machines and towering resorts and there's something for everyone. Not just the girls and guys looking for a weekend getaway, but family vacationers too.
The folks at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority want everyone to know that there's more to Vegas than gaming and getting wild, so when the invitation for an "Off the Grid" experience came along, this OJ staffer and Vegas virgin was eager to take part. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Not this time, especially when the itinerary for a packed four-day visit includes a full cross-section of activity, from museum tours and desert adventure, to a big helping of glitz and glam.
Exploring Sin City’s History
Down Low -- The Techatticup Mine (est. 1861) in the Eldorado Canyon is the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada. Located just 45 minutes outside Las Vegas, a day trip to the area is like stepping back in time to the dusty old Wild West. Although closed for mining some 70 years ago, visitors can walk through the dark, cool, narrow tunnels where miners laboured. In the surrounding area, visitors can get on an ATV, ride around the incredible cactus gardens and follow trails originally travelled by mule-driven ore carts. With the structures of an old mining camp still standing and picturesque peaks jutting up against brilliant blue skies, photo taking here is fantastic.
Up High – Fast-forward several decades and the gears of productivity were in full swing. The construction of Hoover Dam began in 1931, and when completed in 1936 was a major engineering achievement proving an inexpensive source of electricity to numerous cities including Las Vegas, spurring population growth and industrial development.
Helicopter tours by Papillon offer a truly amazing aerial view of the Dam and Black Canyon. Formed over millions of years by volcanic activity, the terrain is wonderfully alien and stretches as far as the eye can see. Music piping through our headsets set the mood for an experience that was both peaceful and thrilling.
Fuggedaboutit! -- For a change of pace from the outdoor scenery, The Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas presents another facet of Vegas history. Housed in the original Post Office and Courthouse built in 1933, the real stories and actual events of the Mob's presence in the city are showcased through interactive exhibits and video. Visitors can sit in the room where the famed Kefauver hearings took place, which ultimately exposed much of the goings on of organized crime across America, and particularly in Las Vegas.
Divine Food & Wine
The cuisine scene in Vegas is truly world class and on this trip we were spoiled. From the Latin-inspired creations at Chica by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, to the elevated pub grub at Roberts Irvine's Public House, the most difficult task was deciding what to choose. Tuna tartare with wasabi crème fraiche and sesame lavash? Blue crab cakes with coriander aïoli, pickled baby carrots and lime? Roast chicken with a bacon-chive waffle, Crown maple syrup & sauce? No matter the choice you really can't go wrong.
For those looking to rub shoulders with the locals, taking part in a foodie tour is a great opportunity to mingle and sample signature dishes at neighbourhood restaurants, all devoted to farm-to-table, artisanal-crafted fare. During the Downtown Lip Smacking Tour, our guide provided an insider's view of downtown Vegas’s past, present and future, as we walked to the various venues.
If wine sampling suites your fancy, Rio's Wine Cellar and Tasting Room is home to one of the most impressive public wine collections in the U.S., showcasing 10,000 bottles valued at more than $10 million. One bottle of particular interest is an 1800 Madeira from Thomas Jefferson's cellar. Visitors are invited to sink into a cozy leather couch and choose from more than 100 wines offered by the glass.
A Place To Play In A Big Way
Nothing is small in Vegas, including the sandbox toys. Dig This Vegas lets visitors get behind the controls of full size excavators and bulldozers to steer the machines around the play yard, dig trenches and topple huge tires. It's a surprising zen experience once you get the hang of it and really not as hard as it seems. Is it different? Definitely. Was it fun? Absolutely. Why do it? Why not? Anything goes in Vegas.
For more fun and games, visitors can now head over to T-Mobile Arena to catch a Vegas Golden Knights game. In their first NHL season, the Knights are the new kids in town and off to a strong start. Meet-and-greet events allow fans to get up close for photos and autographs. This evening the event took place at the Cosmopolitan's rooftop lounge, transformed into a winter wonderland above the Strip for the holiday season.
Seeing a live show is a Vegas must-do. On this trip we headed to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to take in the newest production. Magic Mike Live, based on the Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL movies is packed with themed dances and striptease routines and was perhaps the most "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" worthy experience of the past few days. You gotta have at least one!
The People Make The Place
Before visiting Las Vegas, my vision of the city was a dazzling patchwork woven together from books, movie and TV scenes and snippets of other peoples' adventures. As expected, the city is big and bold. What I didn't expect, but was delighted to discover, is that Vegas is in many ways casual and friendly. Some of my favourite moments came while chatting with the folks from the various venues who take pride in their home town and were happy to share their stories.
There was Andrew the pilot from Florida who worked in Whitehorse before taking flight over Nevada's vast expanse. Gia from Caesars Entertainment who is a 3rd-generation employee. And Frank from the Mob Museum who said he worked as a "Specialist" for the Mob for 54 years. He wouldn't share his last name but has a book coming out soon.
I'll be sure to go back to Vegas one day to hear more stories and take part in more adventure.
High above the Hoover Dam
The alien terrain of Black Canyon
Techatticup mining town
Fine Latin fusion dining and gorgeous decor at Chica