This past July, my best friend and I decided to take a spontaneous summer trip together. We had both recently turned 21 and I wanted to celebrate being young, single (at the time), and having extra paid time off. Well, what better place for two 21 year olds to live it up than fabulous Las Vegas?
I won’t lie, I had never really had a huge interest in Las Vegas in the past. Like many people, I just thought it was a gambler’s paradise and not much else. However, I would never knock a place until I tried it myself and Las Vegas is truly so much more than just gambling. Don’t get me wrong, I did do a little gambling, but I had so many other experiences that made me fall in love with Sin City.
where i stayed: stratosphere hotel
Something that was very important to me about where I stayed in Vegas was that the hotel was located on the strip. I wanted to be able to walk or take an inexpensive Uber ride wherever I wanted to go, so I wasn’t settling for something located outside of the strip. The Stratosphere Hotel is a hotel, casino, and tower that’s located right on Las Vegas Boulevard. It cost about $65 a night to stay in and we stayed for 5 nights, 6 days. The Stratosphere is a large hotel that has several different bars, a pretty big casino area, two pools (one being a 21+ only rooftop pool, both complete with a bar), an observation deck, several places to eat including a 50’s themed diner, different retail shops, and even thrill rides at the top of the tower. It was so much fun to stay in, staying in the hotel was an experience in itself. There was so much to do that we didn’t even spend all day, every day venturing out. Out of everywhere I’ve stayed while traveling, the Stratosphere was my favorite!
las vegas sign
What trip to Las Vegas would be complete without getting a picture in front of the iconic Las Vegas sign? We decided to get a picture in front of the sign at night because that’s when it shines the best, of course. It’s very hard to avoid having to wait in a line to get a picture, but the crowds weren’t too crazy. Night time is the best time to capture the sign at its best, since this is when it’ll be lit up. However, it’s hard to get a good picture of yourself and the sign without either the sign showing up too dark or too bright to see yourself. For the best pictures next to the sign, I would recommend going during the day (I only went at night and would have loved to have better pictures of myself there).
criss angel: mindfreak show
It may sound weird, but seeing Criss Angel in real life was a childhood dream of mine because I loved his Mindfreak TV show. If you’re not familiar with who Criss Angel is (where were you in the early 2000s?), he’s an American magician and illusionist. He now has his own live magic show in Vegas at the Luxor Hotel and Casino. The tickets start from $62. The show gives a little history about Criss Angel and his magician career and he performs several tricks, including his famous levitation trick. It’s a compelling show and I personally thought it was really cool to actually see Criss Angel in person. As a sidenote, you’re not allowed to take any pictures during the show or you’ll be asked to leave, hence why I have no pictures of it.
drag brunch show @ senor frogs
This isn’t something that was unique to Vegas (cities like New York and Miami also have this), but I can’t think of a better city to go to a drag brunch show. The show is very interactive and entertaining, featuring a lot of singing and dancing done by talented and sometimes even famous drag queens. With general admission, you get unlimited food and bottomless mimosas. For a little extra, you can upgrade to VIP for premium seating and have access to the open bar (we did and it was so worth it). General admission was about $50 and VIP was about $70.
gondola ride @ the venetian hotel
If you’re looking for a little taste of Venice while in Vegas, The Venetian is the place to be. The hotel itself is luxurious and Italian inspired. I don’t think there’s anywhere with more unique hotels than Las Vegas. The coolest part about the Venetian is the outdoor gondola ride (there is also an inside version, but we chose the outdoor one). The gondola ride is a temporary getaway from all of the craziness of the city, taking you around the outside of the hotel and underneath bridges. It was relaxing, beautiful, and the gondolier was very friendly. The gondoliers even sing to you in Italian, adding to the experience. However, the ride was a lot shorter than expected and overpriced for the amount of time that it was. The ride is $29 per person and $116 to have a guaranteed private two passenger ride.
Another hotel! The reason that we chose to go to Caesar’s palace was because not only is it an iconic place, but there’s so much to do, like many of Vegas’ hotels. There’s a mini mall area, tons of restaurants, a nightclub, two pools, shows, and more. Caesar’s Palace was stunning all around, with its ancient Roman style architecture inside and outside. We decided to take a stroll around the mall and check out the pools. The main pool is a large, family friendly pool, open to anyone. The second pool is a 21+ European pool called Venus European Pool Lounge. Honestly, there were way more old people than I expected at a European (aka topless) pool. It was both me and my friend’s first time at this kind of pool, but we had a relaxing time tanning by the pool with our drinks and the music selection was pretty lively. Caesar’s Palace is a Vegas must-see.
soul food cafe
Located outside of the strip, Soul Food Cafe is a small restaurant specializing in Southern style soul food. You do have to wait about 20 minutes for your food (this is stated on the menu) since it’s fresh and cooked when you order it. The food was delicious and had an authentic home-cooked feel. I ordered fried catfish with a side of mac and cheese and potato salad and one of Soul Food Cafe’s signature beverages, the Sugar Daddy, which is half lemonade and half Kool Aid. Being from the South and having been around my share of Southern states, I would happily recommend this as a place to grab lunch at in Vegas.
arAwan Bistro and dessert
I never had Thai food before, so my friend and I decided to spontaneously check out a nearby Thai place, Arawan’s Bistro and Dessert. The contrast between Arawan’s outside and the inside of the restaurant is kind of shocking.The outside is pretty plain, making it look like a place where you just pick up your food and go. However, the inside is actually really pretty and has a romantic vibe to it, complete with a rose at every table. I ordered the duck palow (sooo good) with paradise tea, which is a type of green tea that is served to you with a flower inside it, blossoming right before your eyes. Dessert was the Sweet Sensation, which was a Thai pancake with sweetened condensed milk and sugar, Thai tea ice cream, Brulee banana, fresh strawberries, and oreo crumbs. The plating on the dessert was beautiful. Overall, this restaurant was on the pricey side, but the food was aesthetically pleasing and delicious.
cravings buffet @ the mirage
One of the many things that I came to know Vegas for are its cheap buffets. I love food, so this alone was super exciting for me. Located in the Mirage hotel, Cravings has 11 different dining stations, complete with pretty much any kind of food you can think of. They had sea food, ribs, burgers, pizza, pasta, Asian food, tacos, salads, desserts, and more. Plus, an “all you can drink” bar! This is pretty rare for a buffet, which makes this one unique.
grand canyon tour company
I’m not going to go too much into this one since it’s technically not in Vegas, but if you’re staying in Vegas you should definitely take advantage and plan a day to see the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made while traveling and it’s actually so easy to go see the Grand Canyon from wherever you’re staying in Vegas. Look out for a post all about seeing the Grand Canyon through Grand Canyon Tour Company very soon! 😉
Things get slightly NSFW at this point (it was a trip to Sin City after all), so if you feel uncomfortable by any drug use mention or exotic dancers, feel free to not read on! I saved those things for last, so you won’t be missing anything else in this post.
deja vu showgirls
Is a trip to Vegas complete if you didn’t do at least one thing that you wouldn’t want to tell your parents about? Well, one interesting experience I had was going to my very first strip club. I honestly wanted to go out of pure curiosity. Strip clubs are seen as such a taboo that I wanted to have the experience of going at least once. One of the cool things about Deja Vu Showgirls is that they can send a free limo to pick you up from your hotel, which made me feel super VIP. The club itself is small and cozy, nothing overwhelming which is great for a first time strip club. The drinks were decently priced and the dancers were actually very friendly. We had conversations with a few of them where they talked about what it was like to be a dancer in Vegas and how this particular club was a great choice for our first time. Lap dances (non private) were $20 and even though I was a little short on cash towards the end of the night, one of the dancers let me pay under the full price. I walked in feeling unsure about the whole thing, but honestly enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to anyone looking for a strip club that has a really chill, friendly vibe to it.
essence cannabis dispensary
Nevada is one of the few states where recreational marijuana is legal and being from a state where its not, I just had to take advantage of the opportunity. Finding a dispensary in Vegas is a lot easier than I imagined, in fact the hotel that I stayed in was just a short walk away from the Essence Cannabis Dispensary. Being my first time ever in a cannabis dispensary, I had no idea what the process of buying the marijuana would be like, but it was extremely easy. You just walk in, register at the desk as a recreational or medicinal user, and continue to the next room, which is where all of the cannabis products are sold. It’s just like waiting in line at a fast food place. There’s a huge menu displaying all of your options, from flowers to concentrates to pre-rolls to edibles of a good selection of strains. The wait wasn’t long at all and the staff are happy to answer any questions you have about the products, including what a specific strain would make you feel like. I purchased a pre-roll of Tahoe Cure for about $10 and the effects were just as relaxing as promised. The tricky part of this whole experience is actually getting to smoke what you purchased because it’s still illegal to use marijuana in public areas in Las Vegas, but if you’re able to use it in a private residence then you’ll be perfectly fine.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas (unless you’re a travel blogger).