All good things must come to an end, and this amazing trip was no different, but before heading back to reality we had one last place to explore: Las Vegas, Nevada. World renowned for its 4.2-mile-long strip of casinos, hotels and copycat world landmarks, as well as its constant party atmosphere. As Michaela was beginning her long journey back home to Seattle, James, Glenn, and I were catching a flight to our final destination of the trip. The night before we left we prepared by watching some classic movies about Vegas. The two we chose were ‘The Hangover’ and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. They proved to be highly informative, as no one ended up on the roof of Caesar’s Palace and we managed to avoid seeing any lizard people. Although considering our win/loss ratio throughout the week perhaps we would have been better off watching ‘21’ or ‘Rain Man’.
As soon as we arrived in Vegas we made our way straight to our Airbnb. It was located near to the Downtown area, in an older area of Vegas and which is still a major hit with tourists and locals alike. Every time we walked in to our home for the next 6 days we were hit with a massive gust of cold air from the A/C unit, which was a major relief as the outside temperature was 42°C (107°F for our American readers). Once we were all settled in, our money began to burn a hole in our pockets, so believing luck was on our side we went straight to Caesar’s Palace. What we weren’t ready for was how overwhelming the whole casino experience is; everything seemed to be happening at 100mph! I volunteered to be the guinea pig and bought in $20 to play on a blackjack table. The first hand I lost, the second I tied, and the third hand I won so I got out while I still could. The game was so fast-paced we finally understood how people can go through thousands of dollars in one night.
We decided to head to the bar to regroup our thoughts and try to get our heads around what games would be best to play. We ended up settling on just exploring and happened to stumble across one of the strip’s top attractions, the spectacular water fountain display outside the Bellagio. We then found ourselves walking towards the Linq, which is an outside area filled with shops and restaurants including one of our personal favourites, In-N-Out. Therefore, we collectively decided to all get a double-double animal style and call it a night (best way to end a night).
Before the trip we had watched a couple videos about the world-famous Heart Attack Grill. We later found out that their Vegas location was a 10-minute walk from where we were staying, therefore it would have been rude not to go. But before heading to clog our arteries, we decided to explore the Downtown area. Although it was early afternoon there was still a buzz about the place, and it gave us a new perspective to Vegas since we always thought there was just the main strip and nothing much else to it.
When we went into the Heart Attack Grill they did the usual and asked how many people were in our party, but instead of just influencing where we would be seated this also let them know how many hospital gowns to dress us in. For those who may not know, the Heart Attack Grill has a hospital theme. All the staff are dressed as nurses or doctors and if you weigh over 350lbs (159kg) then you get to eat there for free. Unfortunately, this was well over two times any of our individual body weights. In preparation for our visit, James and Glenn tactically only had a small breakfast, whereas I made the rookie mistake of eating a full sandwich. I regretted this decision even more once we found out that your server gets to spank you with a wooden paddle at full force if you don’t finish all your food…
I opted for the hot dog (thinking it would be easier to finish), while Glenn and James put their asses on the line and ordered the Quadruple Bypass Burger. The Quadruple Bypass Burger contains 9,982 calories and has been identified as one of the “world’s worst junk foods”. It consists of four half-pound beef patties, twenty strips of bacon, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato and half an onion served in a bun coated with lard. If they could finish it then they would be triumphantly wheeled out on a wheelchair by our server instead of getting the paddle.
As expected, James came closest to finishing with only a few more bites remaining which he couldn’t even think of trying to eat. Glenn had a mashed mess left so it was hard to tell how much he had, and I pathetically had around a quarter of my hot dog left. As we all accepted defeat, it was time for us all to be spanked. This was quite a painful ordeal and left Glenn bruised for days afterwards, which is no surprise since our server broke her paddle in the process of beating our asses. Once the pain began to subside we further explored the downtown area and visited a couple of the casinos to spend some more of our money. Once again we didn’t win anything worth writing home about. Later that day we went back to our place and just had a chill night so we could get a good night’s sleep before exploring the strip the following day.
A trip to Vegas wouldn’t be complete without getting a classic picture with the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Therefore, we got up nice and early and took a Lyft straight there. Unsurprisingly, there was a massive queue to get a picture but we quickly worked out we could skip the queue by taking our picture slightly to the side, which bewildered us as to why no one else did the same. Although the heat was relentless, we decided to stock up on water and walk towards the strip. On our journey up the strip we stopped into almost every hotel, starting in the Mandalay Bay and continuing all the way up to the Flamingo, which had a beautiful secret garden with actual Flamingos, who’d have thought it? Not to knock how good our Airbnb was, but I think if we were to go back to Vegas we would have to stay in one of these hotels, since the majority are very grand and luxurious.
After witnessing a stunning sunset, we decided to call it a night and head back to get some dinner. Collectively we decided to go to White Castle. Our only knowledge of White Castle before the trip was what we had seen in Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies. When we discovered that there was one in Vegas we became very excited, as we could finally tuck into the fresh tasty sliders that we had craved since first watching Harold & Kumar order a mountain of them. Although our journey there was not as strenuous and didn’t involve any ‘extreme’ hang gliders it still did not take away from that first satisfying bite. I highly recommend paying a visit to White Castle if you are ever in Downtown Las Vegas as it’s cheap and it hits the spot!
Our fourth day in Sin City was a very early start since we had a long journey ahead of us to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. It was just under an hour journey to the Hoover Dam, which gave our driver plenty of time to give a detailed history and facts about the dam. Unfortunately, the dam was closed off from the public but we still managed to get an incredible vantage point from the bridge that runs parallel to it. The views were spectacular as it was a delightfully sunny clear day, and it gave you a real feel for how it was such a feat of engineering to construct, especially when it was built almost 90 years ago.
After spending around half an hour at the dam it was finally time to head back on the bus for a four-hour journey to the west rim of the Grand Canyon. To make the journey go faster there was an on-board PA system that had a pre-recorded guy sharing interesting facts about the landscape, wildlife and the Grand Canyon. The west rim was broken up into three parts. The first was an old-style town that had the look of a classic western, the second included the well-known skywalk that suspends you over the edge of the canyon with only a glass floor to keep you from falling to your death, and the third is another area of the canyon edge that allows you to get a breath-taking view with the Colorado river running along the base of the canyon in the distance.
It was extra money for the skywalk and since our funds were running dry we decided not to do it. This didn’t impact our experience at all. We were all in awe at the sheer beauty of the landscape and we struggled to fathom the immense size that seemed to continue limitlessly into the distance. Since we didn’t do the skywalk it left us with plenty of time to explore the other areas. Our second stop included more incredible views and was also the best place to get a hot cooked lunch, which we took full advantage of since it was ‘free’. I am certain that I’ll never have a better view while eating my lunch in my puff.
The third and final stop we made within the West Rim was to the old timey town which, funnily enough, had a quick-draw western stand-off attraction where you could go up against one another. Glenn and I decided to settle our differences like they did in the old west; he got the better of me and I was shot and killed there and then. After exploring a few more of the buildings, it was time to head back to the bus and begin our long journey back to Vegas. Thankfully, to make the bus journey go quicker the driver treated us to the critically acclaimed film Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
Once we arrived back into Vegas around 8pm we were all incredibly hungry and also wanted to explore Container Park in Downtown, which is guarded by a huge mechanical praying mantis that shoots fire. So we killed two birds with one stone and ate at Big Ern’s BBQ, which proved to be a brilliant choice as the food was ridiculously good. I ordered the ribs while James and Glenn opted for the pulled pork. I honestly think to this day I will never have better ribs. The meat just fell off the bone and they were rich in flavour all the way through. Another place that you should check out if you are ever in the neighbourhood. It was the perfect meal to end the perfect day, topped off by a show from the big flaming praying mantis.
The next day we headed to a local Irish themed bar called Hennessey’s for breakfast and to watch the opening game of the Premier League: Manchester United at home against Leicester. Hennessey’s is also famous for serving alcoholic root beer which Glenn and I were very eager to try. At $6 a bottle it was kind of steep and not worth it in the end but it tasted ok. We all got a large breakfast which wasn’t the best and was also disappointing, but at least we had the excitement of the premier league back… Although the match finished 2-1 to United (Cheered up Glenn a bit) it was still a boring game.
Our day may have gotten off to a dull start, but we still had the night to look forward to. We researched what would be the best nightclub nearest to where we were staying and the least damaging to our funds. We stumbled upon a nightclub called Oddfellows which looked pretty quirky and were hosting an 80’s night that same night. So we hit up the shop and got plenty of drinks and pre-gamed back at the Airbnb in anticipation of our first proper night out in Vegas. From what I remember Oddfellows was a cool place and the drinks weren’t too expensive which meant we couldn’t complain. After a few hours of topping up on drinks and attempting to dance we decided to retire back to our quarters.
For our final night, we thought our trip wouldn’t be the proper Las Vegas experience without going to see a big extravagant show. We settled on going to see The Beatles LOVE show at the Mirage. LOVE is a theatrical production by Cirque Du Soleil which combines the re-produced and re-imagined music of the Beatles with an interpretive, circus-based artistic and athletic stage performance. The show was an amazing experience and I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did. James even said it was his favourite part of the whole trip and I’d go as far to agree with him that it was a high point for me too. Glenn being the biggest Beatles fan out of us was in his element the whole show. The unbelievable performers combined with the psychedelic backdrop made for an amazing show that will entertain even the least likely of fans.
After the show, we came out to notifications on our phones issuing an emergency alert for flash floods and sandstorms which we had been caught up in a little earlier before the show. Whilst heading back to the Airbnb we noticed a couple of uprooted trees and one almost blocked our route on the road, indicating that the weather must have picked up a bit while we were in the safe confines of The Mirage. We were welcomed back to our place by the surprise of a power outage, which meant no A/C! It was impossible to get to sleep in the stifling heat, but thankfully around 3am the power came back on and we all managed to get the head down, which was good since the next day we had to be out by noon and head to the airport. It was certainly a memorable last night on what had been an insane trip, spanning 3 countries and 5 different US States. I would love to do it all over again tomorrow.