A holiday in Las Vegas is not a gamble. You can be pretty certain of fine weather, the entertainment will be unparalleled, the food good and the hotels excellent. Difficult to get to? Not any longer.
Eighteen months ago Virgin Atlantic introduced a twice weekly non-stop service from Gatwick to the desert city, the casino capital of the world. You can also reach Vegas via one change at any of the US gateway airports and Air New Zealand, American Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines fly direct to Los Angeles, less than one hour by air or 250 miles away by road. Another alternative is to take the BA service to Phoenix (now from Heathrow), stay at one of the world's finest hotels, the Phoenician in nearby Scottsdale, then get on the road. Take in Sedona for a night stop (and here the Enchantment Resort is thoroughly recommended), where many of the great cowboy films were made, and then on to the Grand Canyon, one of the outstanding natural wonders of the world.
What to do once you are at Las Vegas? As far as hotels are concerned the choice is immense, the city now having no less than 126,000 rooms with more being added all the time. The eye-catching Venetian, themed like most of the Las Vegas properties, and having an actual waterway complete with gondoliers on the first floor, is adding one thousand rooms, due to the opened in May next year. If you are not into gambling the Four Seasons has no casino or one armed bandits and actually sits on the top five floors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel (which does). Despite a downturn in the tourism industry following the events of 11 September, Las Vegas welcomed more than 35m visitors in 2001, according to figures released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), a 2.3% decrease from 2000. Shop around for the best prices. Los Vegas typifies the American attitude to business. There are bargains to be had, and upgrades too! Hotel occupancy is around the 90% mark but if you want a motel the figure drops to 70%. Americans (or perhaps one should say visitors) are gambling mad, the average spend over $600. 12% of the Las Vegas business comes from abroad.
If you really want to see all of Las Vegas take a helicopter trip, preferably on the day after your arrival. That way you can gain a true impression of what the place is all about and the scale of the city. Heli USA, run by Nigel Turner, ex-Army Air Corp and John Power, a pair of Brits, offers a first rate service that has survived the battering taken since last September. Business is now steady. They operate a fleet of 10 six-passenger AS350 Eurostar helicopters. Heli USA will pick you up at your hotel and offers a variety of trips from a 15 minute flight up and down the dazzling strip (best at night costing $75), to a Grand Canyon extravaganza, taking in the Hoover Dam and Heli USA's own ranch where you can night stop in a native American wigwam and go on a guided horseback ride. Prices range from $104 for the amazing Grand Canyon helicopter descent from Canyon West Ranch, to $417 for the full overnight tour including a wild west show. They also have a base at Princeville Airport, Hawaii.
The shows at Vegas are spectacular with ”O”, hosted by the Bellagio hotel, original and unique. Beyond circus, beyond theatre, Cirque du Soleil has created an entirely original form of water based live entertainment. ”O” tells the tale of theatre through the ages with an international cast of 81 artists, performing in, on and above a 1.5m gallon swimming pool. If you love magic, if you love being completely mystified, an alternative (and once again in the region of $100 per seat in a luxury theatre) are the world-famous illusionists Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage. This ”Show of the Century” (Time Magazine) is directed by John Napier, the Tony award-winning artist responsible for such theatrical triumphs as ”Cats”, ”Starlight Express”, ”Les Miserables” and ”Phantom of the Opera”. The show features 88 cast members - plus the Royal White Tigers of Nevada and the magical White Lions. More than five million people have attended Siegfried and Roy to date.
Las Vegas is a leisure resort city with just about everything anyone could ask for. You can play golf, dine to your heart's content and shop. It's not for everyone but it is not just gambling. Clearly there are other alternatives for perhaps a week's holiday in the English winter but if you are not into culture or the seaside it is an attractive alternative and an experience to be undertaken even just once. You can get married too (12,000 contracts were exchanged last year)!
Weather-wise the average temperature never drops below 55F even in December and January, but in the height of the summer it can be very hot, 104F average last July. You don't need a mac as there was less than five inches of rain in 2001 and whether hot or cold most people stay indoors. The whole place is very much air conditioned.