USA: Wake up to Vegas

Whether it's a romantic weekend, a family vacation or outdoor adventures, Sin City has it all.

Las Vegas is becoming a destination for all kinds of celebrations. Photo / Thinkstock
Las Vegas is becoming a destination for all kinds of celebrations. Photo / Thinkstock

Who says Las Vegas is only good for drinking and gambling? Whether it's a romantic weekend, a family vacation or outdoor adventures, Sin City has it all.

Tying the knot

Voted Best Wedding Chapel by the Las Vegas Review Journal, Chapel of the Flowers will have you pronounced husband and wife for anywhere between US$195 (NZ$264) to US$20,000. With both indoor and outdoor settings, the location has its own photo lab, florist and on-call Elvis impersonators. And if you get last-minute guilt for not inviting your mum, she can tune in via Skype.

Not your style? For fancier nuptials, head to The Chapel at Mandalay Bay, where you can say your vows against a beach backdrop.

Or: Say your I do's while belted into New York-New York's 108 km/hr rollercoaster.

Honeymoons and anniversaries

If opening your eyes to the luxurious surrounds of Bellagio's arc-shaped Cypress Suite isn't romantic enough, glance down as the famous fountain show plays through floor-to-ceiling windows at the foot of your bed. Soak up the sun poolside before heading to Spa Bellagio for a couple's massage.

Later, join the ranks of Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio with a dusk helicopter flight over the Strip with Maverick Tours, complete with pre-flight bubbly, then enjoy French and Spanish-inspired fare at Bellagio's Picasso restaurant.

Not your style? Pretend you're in romantic Venice by checking into The Venetian, where gondola rides for two can be followed by wine and wood-fired pizza on the deck of Lavo.

Music lovers

Elvis by Cirque du Soleil is a must-see whether you're a fan of the King or not. An impressive trampolining superhero sequence will have you hypnotised, while a slideshow of movie stills set to Can't Help Falling in Love showing the legend kissing countless leading ladies, will have couples making out in their seats (and singles ready to hit the town afterwards to find their pashing partner).

Not your style? In summer, catch acts such as Bush at the Hard Rock Hotel's poolside concert series, or dip your feet into the Mandalay Bay Beach while checking out everyone from the Beach Boys to the Backstreet Boys.

Or: Head to Caesars Palace for Elton John, or from December next year, Shania Twain.


Start at the airport with one of many terminal slot machines, then head to the MGM Grand which has the largest casino floor in Sin City, featuring everything from blackjack, craps and poker to a sports-book and 1-cent slot machines.

Not your style? Visit Garden of the Gods at Caesars Palace where the Fortuna pool offers swim-up blackjack tables.


Celebrate the Hollywood way by heading to the latest club hotspot, Marquee Nightclub, where Kim Kardashian recently blew out her candles. Cabanas are nothing new in Vegas, but at Marquee a select few sit raised above a shallow, waterfall-bordered pool, offering the perfect base for birthday celebrations at the 5600sq m seven-bar club.

Not your style? For more subdued celebrations, ride the glass elevator to Mix Restaurant on the 64th floor of Mandalay Bay's THEhotel, then head next door to dance on Mix Lounge's patio while the Strip glitters below.

Or: Go all out like Air New Zealand did for Grabaseat's recent birthday by booking out Tropicana's Nikki Beach for a wild pool party.

Family vacations

Kids will love Mandalay Bay's Lazy River, man-made beach and wave pool. After a swim take them to the hotel's Shark Reef to meet a 3.7m nurse shark, pat a stingray and become mesmerised by aquariums of giant jellyfish.

For affordable family meals many hotels offer buffets (some with all-day-passes), like The Buffet at Aria, which features everything from Thai to Mexican. And after gorging on lobster or kebabs, there's an unbelievable dessert bar.

Before the littlies fall asleep, head to the Mirage Hotel's nightly musical volcano show.


If your idea of going wild in Las Vegas means maxing every credit card you own, Crystals at City Centre is home to top labels, including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci plus the jewel paradise that is Tiffany.

When your Visa needs a reprieve you can swing by one-of-a-kind art galleries, then when your feet need a break head to Eva Longoria's Beso Steakhouse.

Not your style? The Las Vegas Premium Outlets offer impressive cheap finds from American Apparel, Guess and Nike.


As the clock strikes midnight at XS, dip your feet into a sprawling, palm-tree bordered pool, glow-stick in one hand and cocktail in the other, while the world's top DJs transform every inch of floorspace into the hottest dancefloor in the world. Or step indoors where happiness rains on the crowd in the form of colourful confetti.

Fend off your Sunday morning hangover by heading to the Hard Rock Hotel's pool for day-drinking, then visit Haze at Aria for another crazy Vegas night.


If the four-storey wine tower, complete with "wine angels" floating to the top to retrieve your chosen label, isn't enough to make Aureole worthy of a splash-out dinner, then there's the food, courtesy of culinary icon Charlie Palmer. After savouring mouth-watering seafood, head next door to Fleur, where the waiter will have young and old captivated as he whips up Baileys ice cream at your table, then drowns it in espresso to make a dreamy Affogato.

Not your style? Border Grill's champagne brunch offers bottomless mimosas and unlimited Mexican-themed brunch tapas for US$30.

Bachelor parties / Guys' weekend

Hire a cabana at the Hard Rock Hotel's pool by day, then head to Jean George's Steakhouse at Aria for dinner before getting the party re-started at The Playboy Club on the 52nd floor of the Palms Hotel.

Continue celebrations at the hotel's Ghostbar, where glass-panelled floors on the outdoor deck offer views of the Strip below. Of course, chances are you and your buddies will be too busy ogling the scantily clad girls.

Bachelorette party / Girls' weekend

Start the morning with a visit to the Cosmopolitan's Sahra Spa where the masseuse encourages "ridding those toxins" from your body - perfect after a big night out.

In summer, reserve a cabana at the hotel's Marquee Dayclub for a fun day of poolside cocktails, or in winter book a Fountain View Terrace room where you can sip champagne while watching the Bellagio fountains below.

In the evening, don your fanciest threads and head to the spectacular three-storey Chandelier Bar for more bubbly, before hitting the clubs.


Tee off at Desert Pines Golf Club, ranked one of the top 50 courses in the US and located just 10 minutes from the Strip. The course features a Beat the Pro challenge where golfers can go up against club staffers on a Par 3 closest-to-the-hole competition - with credit at the golf store up for grabs.

Not your style? Book into The Wynn and wake up to enjoy a round on a stunning 6400m, par 70 golf course in your backyard.


Hike across the Grand Canyon via the South Kaibab Trail, a 34km journey that crosses the Colorado River on a narrow footbridge. The overnight trek has campgrounds along the way and mule trips are also on offer (but book ahead).

Not your style? Enter a playground of bulldozers and excavators at Dig This, a theme park founded by New Zealander Ed Mumm. Take the reins of a selection of heavy equipment to dig holes and move mountains. It sounds like every guy's dream, but Ed says it's the girls who get the biggest buzz.


A bunch of well-known Kiwis went on an Air New Zealand Grabaseat trip to Las Vegas, and share their highlights, tips and must-sees:

Jonny Love, Singer/songwriter

"Firstly, plan on not going to bed. During the day, take in the Strip. Have dinner and drinks at Bellagio while watching the fountains, head to XS nightclub, carry on until the morning then rent a cabana at the Hard Rock Hotel. Rock and, in fact, roll."

Kimberley Crossman, Actress

"I loved the journey to Grand Canyon by car because you can stop at Hoover Dam and the restaurants along Route 66. Time your trip to see sunrise or sunset."

Jason Kerrison, OpShop front-man

"I loved the collision of remote desert and entertainment culture. I had a huge pyramid across the road from my hotel, and David Copperfield was playing on the opposite corner. It was like Disneyland on 'roids."

Dominic Harvey, Radio host

"There are convenience stores all along the Strip that sell individual cans of beer right next to Pepsi. You can drink these on the street and walk in and out of bars and casinos with them. Yet I didn't notice problems like people being sick."

Steve Price, Rugby league player

"The stand-out was visiting Old Vegas and seeing the neon lights so famous in old movies, and learning the history of Vegas."


Flight Centre's Melissa Irvine has experienced Las Vegas and shares her top five must-do's:

1. Feel the rush on the New York-New York Hotel & Casino roller-coaster.

2. Planet Hollywood is a great place to stay and in a central location. If you request a fountain view room, you can lie in your bed and watch the fountain show across the road at the Bellagio Hotel.

3. Buy a 48/72 hour Power Pass, this will give you entry into exciting Las Vegas tours and attractions without the queues.

4. Thrillseekers should head to Stratosphere Tower and take on the Claw ride which hangs off the side of the tower - not for the faint-hearted.

5. For another kind of thrill, hire a convertible and drive to the Grand Canyon. It will take your breath away.

For more information on Las Vegas, contact Melissa Irvine at Flight Centre on 0800 427 555.

- Herald on Sunday

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