From Manchester to: (Mostly) Eating & Drinking in Las Vegas

Vegas Baby! What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and all of that rubbish.

Image: Thomas Wolf/CC3

It’s likely that you’ll either arrive in Vegas at McCarran Airport in which case you’re right in the thick of everything, or you’ll arrive on some form of wheeled vehicle in which case you’re right in the thick of everything.

That’s the thing about Vegas – it’s basically a big long road, covered in neon in the middle of a huge fucking dessert. Unless you let it truly destroy you there’s no way you can ever really get lost here – with a half-decent bus network running until all hours and endless Uber drivers around every corner.

I could sit here and write about all of the thousands of things that there are to do in Vegas but I’m not going to. I don’t have the time or the motivation. I’ve also not done nearly enough in Vegas to warrant such a huge list – even though I’ve been 5 times – I’ve still only just scratched the surface.

But here’s what I recommend for you to check out if you’re there…

The Strip

Probably one of the world’s most recognisable tourist attractions, the casinos of Las Vegas hug Las Vegas Blvd – a long (almost) straight bit of road that’s typically rammed with people 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.

To say that The Strip is like Blackpool on steroids is an easy way of undermining the power of steroids – it’s more like Blackpool on a cocktail of bath salts and Spice.

Find a Hotel
First and foremost, as with any holiday – you’ll need to find somewhere to sleep. Unless you’re in Tenerife of course, where the humble beach or a hidden roundabout will suffice. There’s an abundance of hotel rooms available at all times in Las Vegas, ranging from the bog-standard massive to the outstandingly luxurious suites and penthouses.

To be fair, you can probably get a hotel room for next to nothing in Vegas, many of them are pretty cheap coming in at around £35 – £70 a night. Some of the bigger and more well-known hotels can book up quickly but if you give it enough time and book direct with them – you can get some MEGA savings on the rooms.

One point to remember is that there is usually a long list of hidden charges that are associated with a room, including a daily Tourist Tax, City Tax, Breathing Tax and loads more which can all add up. It’s also not uncommon for hotels to request a big chunk of your money upon check-in to act as a deposit – not good if you’re a bit skint.

Out of the many, many hotels on The Strip I’ve only stayed at a couple – The Flamingo, The Sahara and Caesar’s Palace – of which only two remain. You can’t really go wrong with any of them though really – it’s only going to act as a locker anyway.

 

You MUST visit The Peppermill
No visit to Las Vegas is complete without a trip to The Peppermill – quite possibly the greatest American diner in the world. Opened way back in 1972, the Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge has been packed ever since and has even featured in every 13-year old boys favourite film – Showgirls.

They serve up a massive range of diner classics, all of which are going to be too big for you to finish in one sitting. Last time I went I tucked into a HUGE Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($14.50) but you can expect a menu full of breakfast classics, omelettes, burgers, steaks and everything else you can ever think of.

The Fireside Lounge is also bloody brilliant – you could spend a whole day and night in here and never get bored. It’s tacky as shit and it’s brilliant.

www.peppermilllasvegas.com

 

Shoot some guns
For fear of sounding like a Texan Flat Earther – shooting a gun seems to fulfil some sort of primal urge inside us (mostly boys) and so the people of Las Vegas have banded together to provide a tonne of shooting range opportunities for you.

From firing a little lady pistol from your garter belt to strapping yourself to a huge Browning Gatling Gun and going hell for leather for 30 seconds – these places have something for everyone. When I went I shot a Beretta 9mm and an Uzi and managed to feel like Billy Big Bollocks for the rest of the day.

On the way out a bloke came up to me and gave me a little warning. He said my shooting was SO good that I should probably go down to the local police station to register myself as a lethal weapon. That didn’t actually happen, sorry.

stripgunclub.com

 

Have a Burger at Holsteins
With such a wealth of All-You-Can-Eat buffets knocking about you wouldn’t expect much in the way of proper restaurants in Vegas but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Pretty much every casino features a host of famous or well-known restaurants from pretty much every chef imaginable.

Want to go to Flavour Town with Guy Fieri? Tick. Fancy getting shouted at for asking for some ketchup in a Gordon Ramsey joint? Check. Want to tuck into a Gary Rhodes Spaghetti Bolognaise? Errr…

It’s not all big name chefs though and Holsteins in The Cosmopolitan is definitely worth a visit. They offer some of the best burgers known to man – basically putting must burgers you’ve ever had to shame. If you’re feeling particularly extravagant you should give their Billionaire Burger ($32) a try; it comes with stuffed with a Wagyu Beer patty, foie gras and a mega truffle mayo.

holsteinsburgers.com

 

The Greatest Thrift Stores Ever?
You probably wouldn’t think this but Las Vegas is absolutely fantastic for cheap clothes and thrift stores. There’s a cheeky little area just off the top of the strip where you can pick up a whole myriad of vintage clothes, trainers, antique furniture, old casino memorabilia and pretty much anything else you can think of. This area is sort of like a small Northern Quarter of Vegas and is certainly gaining a bit of a cult following as it grows.

Just after The Stratosphere at the top of the strip you’ll find a street called Main Street – walk up that for around 15 minutes and you’ll find a really cool little strip of vintage and thrift stores (and bars) which are all absolutely brilliant. There’s the HUGE Buffalo Exchange, the Antique Alley Mall and the excellent Retro Vegas – all of which are well worth a few hours of your time.

I must also heap a whole pile of praise on the excellent Martin’s Mart Thrift Shop which I argue is the best charity shop in the world. Not only is it super, super cheap it’s also packed full of some always excellent finds. If you manage to get there when it’s actually open – you’re going to love it.

 

Eat too much in a buffet
Anyone who likes eating themselves into a food coma will be in heaven in Las Vegas as there’s more All-You-Can-Eat places than you’ll find in Homer Simpson’s wildest dreams and most of them are fantastic. Sure, there’s the odd terrible one where you get served up tins of chilli and cheese that needs to be chewed for 10 minutes but as a rule all of the big casinos put on excellent offerings.

At the moment the King of Buffets™ is the Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan – which is truly out of this world. You’ll find pretty much every single cuisine ever and it’s all cooked proper fresh by a dedicated bunch of chefs who have the patience of saints.

Other notable choices are the ones at The Wynn, The Bellagio and the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace. You should expect to queue a while to get in but once you’re in – go mental and make sure you get your money’s worth.

 

Blondies Happy Hour
Certainly the best Happy Hour in Vegas, Blondies is located within the Planet Hollywood shopping mall and is one of them annoying sports bars where they have more tellies than Dixons and everyone wears baseball caps and oversized football shirts.

All this is forgotten though when you turn up between 3pm-6pm or 10pm-1am because if you give the person behind the bar $20 you can then get All-You-Can-Drink draft beer and spirits. Just give your server an extra $10 and they’ll be the most attentive person ever and never let you go dry.

www.blondieslasvegas.com

 

Image: Moyan Brenn/CC2

Of course there’s plenty that I’ve missed out including spaffing all your money on the slots, eating a meal up the fake Eiffel Tower, going on a rollercoaster through the New York skyline, watching one of the many, many shows, bungee jumping off The Stratosphere, watching the Bellagio fountains, drinking tequila in the street until you vomit, going to a seedy strip bar, go to a pool party, spend $2k on a bottle of vodka in a club and much, much more.

 

The Freemont Experience

Site of the old Las Vegas ‘strip’, The Freemont Experience was re-badged a few years back and went from being a proper rough shit-hole to become a slightly less rough part of the city that is much cheaper than the ‘new’ strip and also offers a lot more charm.

A large proportion of the street is covered by a huge LCD screen which periodically plays annoying little stories with terrible CGI every hour and there’s also a zip-line that transcends the whole length of the area if you feel like doing that. There’s some half decent things to do around here – which I will outline below…

Play the best game in the whole of Vegas
Tucked away upstairs of the rather innocuous looking D Las Vegas is the greatest bit of gambling you can do in the whole of Vegas. Not only is it mega fun it’s also super easy and a great way to socialise with some fellow racing aficionados. Ladies and Gentlemen I’m talking about the legendary Sigma Derby.

This is the last remaining machine in the whole of the city and it’s basically a super-old horseracing machine where you put a quarter in and guess on the winners of the race. Everyone is sat around in a circle, with the race in the middle and it’s SO good that you can probably spend a whole afternoon here without breaking a sweat. No visit to Vegas is complete without going on it I promise.

 

The Heart Attack Grill
Now I must admit that I’ve never actually eaten here – it just looks way too grotesque from the outside. It’s basically a place which aims to clog up your arteries and give you diabetes in just one meal. The message? They get burgers and keep piling them full of grease and meat until it can no longer be classed as a legitimate foodstuff.

It is home to a burger that comes in at 20,000 calories (!) and comes packed with 4lbs of beef, 40 pieces of bacon, cheese, chilli and probably loads more that will make your heart skip a few beats. Oh and if you weigh over 350lbs (25 stone) using the scales outside then you can eat for FREE.

www.heartattackgrill.com

 

Have a ‘proper’ night out
Right at the end of the Freemont Experience you’ll find a little strip of probably the city’s best bars, clubs and live music venues which are nothing like what you’ll experience anywhere else in Las Vegas.

You can tuck into a few slices of pizza while drinking from a massive selection of beers at the Evel Knievel themed Evel Pie, drink cocktails and dance in an old hair salon (complete with huge hair dryers) at Beauty Bar and you can play Boozy Bingo and listen to Live Music at Corduroy.

I should also mention the bar in El Cortez too because it’s a great little dive that has some top tunes and is actually pretty cheap. Oh and Atomic Liquors just down the road. You should certainly dedicate a night out to this little strip at some point during your visit.

 

Neon Museum
I wonder what happens to all of the old neon signs from all of the old casinos that have been demolished over the years? Well, wonder no more – they all go here – the Neon Museum, which could be more accurately described as the Neon graveyard.

It’ll take you through the history of many of the city’s most famous casinos and hotels and so you’ll see signs from the likes of The Riviera, The Sahara and that Stardust one that’s in Mars Attacks! You’ll need to book it before you go but it’s well worth the trip.

www.neonmuseum.org

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Flights to Las Vegas from Manchester Airport start at £460 with Thomas Cook Airlines

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