Not Your Usual Vegas
The best way to spend time in Las Vegas is to get as far away from the Las Vegas strip as possible.
I know, I know. It cannot be that bad. It is not that I mind the general laxity in morals, the genuine revellers “in it” for some fun with diluted consequences and judgement. I get why places like the Las Vegas strip exist. For 36 hours, the strip feels like a theme park which you have heard so much about and finally you have been allowed through Triton’s gate. It's not all bad, and I found it sort of fun, in parts. My favourite places include the palatial glamour of The Venetian, and the charming Paris, Paris with its humorous homage to Seine City. After a day or two, the novelty of flashy casinos and splashing fountains starts to wear thin as the cherry-cola conditioned air and constant indoor sunlight starts to grate your senses.
The best things about Vegas are found far, far away from the strip. We ventured out to the Valley of Fire, only an hour’s drive away from the city. But it honestly felt like we were worlds, if not planets, away. If you find yourself in the city of sin, it is well worth a pre-detox or post-detox visit. The park is filled with out-of-this-world views and tracks, each so different that it looked like it was from a different national park all together.
Favourite trails included The Rainbow Vista, The Wave and Mouse's Tank. You can even find petroglyphs a few thousand years old! You need a car to get around the park; you have to drive in between the trails and then walk for about an hour into the park to see the different ones.
We stayed overnight in the sleepy little town of Overton. Staying out Overton overnight was not necessarily needed - you could easily visit the park on a day trip. That said, Overton did have some of the yummiest ice-cream I have ever tasted, and would you look at the size of those pancakes!! And they were the short stack pancakes, I shudder at the thought of the regular order.
Downtown Las Vegas, 15 minutes drive from the strip is well worth a visit if you are looking for a distraction from the blinding neon lights. We visited Eat Cafe to fill up on scrambled eggs covered in pico de gallo (like chunky tomato salsa - probably my new favourite food). Stonkered from a large breakfast we stumbled from our diner chairs and made our way to the famous Neon Museum, the final resting place for neon signs that once dazzled in the desert. This place is far more interesting than it sounds. We had a brilliant, budding-actor type tour guide, who had us wide-eyed with his tales of the relatively short life of sin city. Buckle in for a series of did-you-knows……
1) Businesses cannot open shop on the strip without having a neon sign. 2) If there are big struts on the signs, this means that they were built back in the day of a lack of health and safety laws, so workmen used to have to scale up the signs without harnesses to change the bulbs. 3) Atomic bombs used to be tested out in the desert, and folks used to host ‘viewing parties’ from the strip with the mushroom clouds ballooning on the horizon. 4) Relaxed marriage (and divorce) laws make Nevada a haven for the wedding business, with the city of Reno home to several ‘divorce’ resorts. Any American out-of-towner only has to gain residency (which takes a matter of weeks) to where a few weeks’ stay can get you a ticket to the single life.
The entire tour was fascinating, all the way from the Sahara to Ali Baba’s Bazaar. Vegas seemed obsessed, and still is, with transporting you to all corners of the globe, mythical or other.
So that’s that. The Grand Canyon is still on my list, but the city of Las Vegas has been signed off (like the numerous boobs on the street) in my books.
With Love, Kate