Not too long ago, this writer went to Vegas. Though I’ve never been particularly attracted to this destination, I decided to check out some of the most popular activities and top attractions while I was there and see if I could leave with a few souvenirs and a little experience in my over-stuffed night bag. I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not much of a gambler, and cigarette smoke gives me migraines, but even someone as skeptical as me had a good time in Sin City.
The Stratosphere Tower
My first stop was my hotel. I stayed at the ever-luxurious Stratosphere, which features the 1,000 foot Stratosphere Tower. I highly suggest getting a room with a view. From my perch on the 15th floor, I could see the entirety of Vegas stretched out before me. At night, the place lights up with every color of the rainbow—blue, red, gold, every light combines into one glistening mass that perceivably masks the natural darkness. Past the flashing neons, you can see the black, uninhabited expanse of the desert and the slightly-blue silhouette of the mountains rising at its edges. As an added bonus, the Stratosphere Tower is just about the best place in Vegas (to my knowledge).
If you like heights like I do, the extra cash to ride the rides at the top of the Stratosphere is definitely worth it. Though I didn’t try the X-Scream or the Sky Jump, I have to say that I was perfectly satisfied with the Big Shot and the Insanity. Both two of the highest rides in the world, they’re good for both a thrill and unmatched views of the city.
The Insanity was the most feared ride atop the tower. At first, Insanity seems to be your basic, spinning ride. It’s comprised of a few arms projecting from a central point and is meant to lift and spin in the air in a circular pattern. I wasn’t worried when the ride began to move. I wasn’t even worried when the mechanical arm began to slowly project us out over the edge of the tower, but I’ll confess, I double checked my seatbelt the second the ride began to spin at around 40 miles per hour, all 900 feet above the world. I won’t go into detail, but I think I heard a few expletives from the group of marines orbiting across from us.
The Big Shot ride at the top of the tower was by far my favorite. The ride is a gravity-drop tower, carefully positioned at the very tippy-top of the Stratosphere. Though not as thrilling as the Insanity, the Big Shot is perhaps the most exhilarating ride that I’ve ever been on. In true, gravity-tower style, the ride jets you up to the top of the tower, where you sort of hang for a few minutes before crashing back to earth. There’s a moment when gravity hasn’t quite caught up with you yet and you achieve something akin to weightlessness. It was this weightlessness, at 1,081 feet in the air that gave me that one, pure moment of utter exhilaration. It’s that moment on the right coaster at the right time where you look around you and think “I could fly off the edge of this thing and plummet to my death,” but at that same moment, you see the buildings and walkways put together like a data chip below, the wind rushes then pauses and is silent as you reach the summit and you realize that it doesn’t much matter because this is the coolest view on the planet.
On my first day, I dropped by Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. It’s worth mentioning that the museum is at The Venetian, one of the most ornately-decorated and architecturally beautiful buildings ever, so be sure to take a look around when you head over to the museum. You enter the museum in near-darkness, with twinkling, fiber-optic stars dangling from an invisible ceiling. To me, this seemed like the entrance into the “Twilight Zone.” In my head, I heard the tell-tale theme song and began glancing around for the wormhole, alternate dimension, or pig-faced aliens that were sure to greet me from the shadows. Instead, I stepped out into a lobby full of celebrities. Over in the corner, Jodie Foster posed in a suit straight out of the 90s, Matthew Mcconaughey flexed temptingly across the room, and the Rat Pack was putting on a noiseless show next door. Yes, I had entered the dimension of the rich and famous (cue theme music).
There was never a better attraction for picture-taking opportunities than Madame Tussaud’s, and the staff is extremely nice. I thought perhaps I had crossed the line when I got a little fresh with an in-his-prime George Clooney, but this is one museum where touching is allowed. Each area is loosely themed, so you can visit musical stars like Elton John and Michael Jackson in one room and sports stars like Michael Jordan and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in another. Several exhibits have nameplates that describe that person’s contribution to whichever area.
The best part of the whole museum is that many of the exhibits have props. I may or may not have taken the faux bunny ears and champagne bottle props, climbed up on a circular love bed and posed with an uncanny rendering of a be-robed Hugh Hefner. Hey, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
The next night, I had the pleasure of visiting V Theater. First, I should mention that the V is in the Miracle Mile Mall, the most fascinating mall I’ve ever been to. Much like at Madame Tussaud’s, you enter into another world. This world has interconnected buildings that rise up on either side of the walking area, reaching close to the blue-painted sky. Just as Shakespeare’s masterpieces featured a “play within a play,” this mall is full of buildings within buildings, with each building housing one of the mall’s 155 stores and restaurants. If you decide to see the show, come early so you can check out the shops and décor.
The Variety Show at V Theater is extremely entertaining, to say the least. Each of the performers is very talented and has a natural, likeable stage presence. The host of the show had an extraordinary gift for juggling. He juggled ping-pong balls using only his mouth to shoot them in the air then catch them; he got up on a stool and juggled in such a way that each stray ball hit the key of a large piano, easily playing a complex, classic tune. There were also two aerial acrobats who flew across the ceiling above our heads, and a very talented magician who produced yellow birds from seemingly nothing. The Crazy Gauchos, a pair of comedians from Argentina, were by far the stars of the show. They not only did whip tricks, but also stimulated the crowd with humor and participation. Suffice it to say that the show is hilarious and whether you’re with family or out with your friends, be sure to see the variety show. The show is never the same twice and often features different performers, but I think it’s a safe bet that the show will always be a good time.
Recommendations For a Las Vegas Vacation:
- Walk the strip. You can see some of the coolest buildings for free if you just walk around a bit. Be sure to see the fountains perform in front of the Bellagio, it’s not to be missed.
- Get VIP tickets at the V Theater. Vegas is a main vacation destination and it gets pretty packed. I didn’t get VIP tickets to one show I went to and it was less than memorable.
- Even if you don’t stay at the Stratosphere, visit the tower and get the two-ride pass. Grab a drink at the top-side bar and take a moment to soak in the view from the panoramic windows.
Madame Tussaud’s, a ride at the Stratosphere Tower and a special discount at one V Theater show are available with the Las Vegas Power Pass, as well as several additional Vegas attractions. A stay at the Stratosphere Tower Hotel, tickets to The Ultimate Variety Shows or tickets to Madame Tussaud’s are available for separate purchase, or you can create your own package on the Vacations Made Easy website.