Less than one hour into my first morning in Las Vegas, I was a bridesmaid at a stranger’s wedding in front of an Elvis impersonator who was crooning Can’t Help Falling in Love.
As I stood in the Graceland Wedding Chapel, dumbstruck, general manager Brandon Reed – a man who has definitely seen it all – grinned knowingly.
“Welcome to Las Vegas – this is just the start,” he told me.
And he wasn’t wrong!
I could’ve easily spent the entire holiday getting lost in my hotel, the Mandalay Bay. It’s one of the most famous casinos on the Strip, towering over a myriad of its very own pools, nightclubs and restaurants.
But if you can tear yourself away, there’s plenty more hidden delights to explore.
I began my Vegas odyssey by fuelling up on the most American of breakfasts – fried chicken and waffles doused in maple syrup – just across from the Mandalay at the Delano hotel’s Della’s Kitchen. Not quite ready to start on the cocktails yet, I opted for their fresh organic juice concoctions.
Freshly energised, it was time to explore the Strip. I made straight for the Bellagio’s iconic fountain, before heading inside the casino to escape the rapidly rising desert heat.
The last thing I expected to find in Las Vegas is fine art, but the Bellagio was hosting a Picasso exhibition – which was an amazing hit of culture.
After a busy day of sightseeing, I met a friend for dinner at the Giada restaurant at The Cromwell casino, where we opt for the tasting menu before topping it off with treats from a dessert trolley.
After all that delicious food, despite being in the middle of the party capital of the world, my bed back at the Mandalay was definitely calling my name!
The next day I visited the Aladdin-themed Miracle Mile Shops to invest in some new threads to wear to the Aria casino, where I had dinner at French restaurant Bardot (try the oysters – they’re unreal!) before catching the spectacular Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil.
On day three, I jumped in a cab to the downtown district, home to historic Fremont Street.
The Downtown Container Park is home to a bunch of quirky boutiques and restaurants fashioned out of old shipping containers – it’s perfect for picking up some off-beat souvenirs.
Across the road, Glutton restaurant is a must-visit. Here, I had what is officially “The Greatest Burger I’ve Ever Had” followed by caramel popcorn profiteroles. There are no words!
Diving back into the Strip, I stopped in at the Wynn casino for some much-needed primping at the Claude Baruk Salon. Dinner was sushi at Andrea’s restaurant before I caught another show, the award-winning water-based spectacular La Reve.
On my way back to the hotel, I had a nightcap at the PBR Rock Bar & Grill, watching punters try – and fail – to ride the mechanical bull. No, I wasn’t brave enough to have a go myself!
Waking to my final morning, the biggest adventure yet awaited at [Maverick Helicopters] http://www.maverickhelicopter.com/) for a chopper ride over the Grand Canyon.
Given that I was pretty wobbly when I was on the huge Linq precinct Ferris Wheel just days before (despite the incredible panoramic views), I knew this would challenge my fear of heights.
Eventually, the phobia made way for pure awe – especially when our pilot landed in the canyon for photo opportunities and a celebratory glass of bubbly!
Far too soon, it was time to take another flight – but this one was a big jet-plane ride back to Australia.
It was only while I was wandering through the Vegas airport, marvelling that you could even play slot machines as you wait to board, that I remembered I was in the gambling capital of the world for four non-stop days, and had been so busy enjoying the other side of Vegas that I hadn’t even touched a poker chip.