What I Liked and Didn't Like about Las Vegas

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Do you like Vegas? Well, I've wanted to go to Vegas since I was seven when my mum went there on a business trip, leaving me at home with Grandma. Mum came back with tales of bright lights, roller-coasters and toys that hadn't been invented in Europe yet. I had an impression of glamour and excitement that was only reinforced by the TV show Friends and other Hollywood depictions of Las Vegas. So when I was invited on a press trip to San Francisco I knew I'd have to take the 'quick' (7 hour) bus ride over to Vegas and check it out! And, knowing how easy it is to get married in Vegas my then-fiance and I figured we'd do that there too! [This post was last updated on the 18th of January, 2024]

What is Las Vegas Like?

However, once we got there I was severely disappointed. Maybe it was glamorous in the 90s but by the late tweenies (2010-2020 is apparently called the tweenies), the vibe in Las Vegas had become trashy and overrated in my eyes. I just really didn't like it. No doubt once grand, brand new casinos had become in desperate need of a revamp. Once young clientele had become washed up alcoholic gambling addicts. In retrospect though, there were actually things I did like about it, and I would have realised this at the time if only I had let go of the disappointment earlier and allowed myself to enjoy what there was for me to enjoy. Further, there were many things I could have done to like it more (e.g. go with a different, more fun-loving fiance). So, is Las Vegas worth it? Allow me to elaborate on what Las Vegas is like -  the vibe, why I hated Vegas and what I liked about it, what I would have done differently in order to really explore why do people go to Las Vegas and whether or not you should too.

The Las Vegas Vibe AKA Why People Go to Vegas... I Guess?

Like most cities, all the 'bad stuff' of humanity can be found in Vegas: gambling, alcoholism, hard-drugs, strippers, inequality, animal abuse... I don't know the actual statistics, but I suspect this is even more true in Las Vegas - it is affectionately known as Sin City and is literally the place where people go to 'sin' (meaning gambling of course, that being illegal in most places in the USA.) As a budget traveller, I found everything super expensive in a 'not really worth it' kind of way and just one massive advert for consumerism.

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There are two parts to Las Vegas 'Old Vegas' (Downtown) and 'New Vegas' (the Strip). I didn't know this and found myself in Old Vegas wondering if I should be in New Vegas. I took the bus over to New Vegas (almost cried at the price of the $8 ticket) and found that I didn't really like New Vegas either.

Why I hated Vegas

You have to understand that I was a very different person from the party loving animal I am today (I say, sat inside, on a Friday night writing a blog post, colour me wild). But back then, I was the kind of person who was stressed out about money, liked to go to bed early, and, despite travelling full-time, wasn't very adventurous. And I was travelling with someone who was even less so. My ex didn't like to drink and wasn't interested in gambling and these aren't the kind of people that like Vegas (generally). We clutched our pearls at the sight of someone injecting themselves with something (possibly something illicit, possibly just insulin, I'm not a doctor) in broad daylight on the main street. We snootily poo-pooed the casinos because they, unlike the rest of the west, hadn't got the note about banning smoking indoors. And we were annoyed our hotel room didn't have free movies or free wi-fi. I was really expecting something fun and wild to happen to us, just because we were in Las Vegas, but it didn't.

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Nowadays, if I were to go back - which I probably would! - , I would no doubt be going back with my Sagittarius-rising, wild, new fiance, and we'd go out 'just for ice cream' and come back three days later having had some wild and weird Las Vegas adventure. My point being: don't go to Vegas expecting something adventurous and fun to happen just because you're there - go there and make an effort to find the fun and adventure! By the way, you can rent a 7-seater car for the whole family in Las Vegas from $20 per day and enjoy the trip without limiting yourself in choosing attractions.

Thing to Do in Las Vegas or: the Things I Liked

Despite not doing anything wild, there were still some things that I really liked in Vegas:

#1. Exploring the cool art scene in Downtown Vegas

Downtown Vegas is actually also old Vegas and it's where Las Vegas was born. This is where I stayed. I found it older than the main part of Vegas (duh), but interesting in its own right. There are more casinos there (of course) including some of the oldest, most famous ones that you'll spot in movies afterwards.

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The main reason I liked Downtown Vegas was because of the crazy outside art scene. Just next to all of the casino is the desert and in the desert are all these wacky art pieces:

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The meerkats were my favourite because, and I quote old me 'if you squint your eyes slightly they look like weasels'. There's also a small section of boutique shops, vegan cafes and quirky stores.

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It's easy to find - there's a massive praying mantis hanging around outside, shooting fire from its antennae in time to Queen.

#2. Have some free whisky!

One of the things that disappointed me about Las Vegas was for some reason I thought that alcohol was cheap, if not free, there (naive old me). Maybe it is if you're sat at a big wig table and you're dropping lots of money.

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But I didn't sit at a big wig table. I didn't sit at any table. I didn't gamble once and I regret it. Anyway, for guaranteed free alcohol go to the Venetian between 6pm and 7pm and you can try out some whisky for free.

#3. Take a look at a million dollars

The casino and hotel Binion's (in Downtown) reminded me of Butlin's (an unclassy all-in-one holiday experience in the UK, popular in the 90s). Thus at the time I found it not great.

reasons i hate vegas

To quote I said "it's old fashioned and the air is horrible". But I went in there for two reasons: to try out the free slot machine (which I'm not sure counts as gambling seeing as I put zero money into it) and to see one million dollars up close. It was smaller than I expected (ey-oh)

#4. Ride around in a limo

I recommend taking a ride in a limo - this is super 'Vegas-y' and was one of my favourite things that I did.

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why do people go to las vegas

For me, the ride was free because I worked with Presidential Limo Las Vegas. I asked them to pick me up from a bus station (lmao) and drop me off at my hotel. My bus was really late and because I was a cheap-o traveller I had no way of contacting them. Still, they were very professional and treated me nicely. As to whether it's worth riding with them for the price, I have no idea, I can only tell you it was definitely worth it for free, lol.

#5. Vegan Food Las Vegas

The best vegan food in Las Vegas? In my opinion it is Vegenation for sure. As old me puts it 'They are an oasis in a sea of crazy. The staff were so lovely and polite there and the food is beyond delicious.' (What's beyond delicious?)

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The burger wasn't bad - not the best I've ever had because it was kind of dry, but by no means the worst.

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The sushi on the other hand was truly the best sushi I've ever had (which includes 'real' sushi with fish). I honestly think about this sushi all the time. It was delicious.

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I actually liked it so much at Vegenation that I went back the next day for breakfast, which was also delicious - and there was so much that I took the rest of it away for lunch. Praise U.S. American portions.

Where to Stay in Las Vegas

I stayed for three nights at the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas, as their guest in return for some instagram shout outs and this little nugget (lol) of my experience:

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My room was massive and had a big, comfy bed, which I slept really well in.

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There was also a massive TV at the end of the bed, the selection of channels was limited (you have to pay for movies). I remember being really annoyed about this at the time, having been used to South East Asian hotels where the film selection is delectable. On a similar note, you had to pay for wi-fi in the room, which seemed like such a 2000s throwback and is not something I've encountered anywhere else in the world. Hopefully they've updated it by now.

The bathroom had nice toiletries but I felt like it too was in need of a bit of a modernisation. The hotel itself is also massive with everything under one roof: cafes, restaurants, bars etc. I didn't go into any of these but I was aware of their existence lol.

I wrote at the time that 'The staff were mostly lovely - when we checked in there was some confusion about how long we were staying, but it was sorted in the end.' Translated that means that I felt like they were rude to us and I felt uncomfortable and freaked out that we'd have nowhere to go, but it got sorted out in the end. It's worth noting, that whilst I might have felt like they were rude to us, it doesn't mean that they necessarily were - Brits and Americans have different ideas of what rude is, and I'm more sensitive than most. It's even more worth noting that almost all people that work behind the desks in hotels are wage labourers and don't owe you their faux politeness, anyway, moving on, here's what I wrote next:

'When we needed a copy of our passports, the staff went above and beyond: not only did they get the copy for us, they also brought us water and chocolate - and did it all with a smile on their faces!' - translation: bring me water and chocolate and I will feel like you've gone 'above and beyond'. Further, I like my wage labourers to 'have a smile on their faces'. Eek, old me.

'As the Golden Nugget is such a big hotel, it would be easy to lose that staff/guest connection, but they didn't.' Ah yes, that good ol' staff/guest connection, how can you tell I was entitled without me telling you? I love how I wasn't even paying for this service and still expected to be treated like the Queen. In other news, there is a pool at the Golden Nugget which has a tank with massive fish and sharks. There's even a slide through the tank. And it was featured in CSI:

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I personally think this is animal abuse (as I think all aquariums are). But of course this is literally a drop in the ocean when it comes to Las Vegas. Still, do better Golden Nugget. The location of the Golden Nugget is good if you want to stay in Downtown. Everyone knows where it is as it's one of the oldest and most famous casinos. So if you ever get lost (drunk) just ask and people will point you there. It's easy to get to the Strip or 'New Vegas' with a limo or an Uber, or with that $8 bus ticket (which to be fair to it is good for 24 hours). All in all though, I think I would just stay on the Strip next time, and maybe you'd prefer that too - Downtown is worth a look, but you can do that in a few hours, there's no need to stay there. Unless of course that's your thing.

How to Get to Las Vegas

I always use Kiwi to find the cheapest and most convenient flights. I like the app and I like how clear it is. You can search for the flights in price order of course, or by convenience order. For example, the cheapest flight from New York to Las Vegas might be a lot of hassle - it might stop in three different places and take 24 hours. So Kiwi will also find you a flight that stops just once or maybe even a direct flight, that's not that much difference in price and is a lot less hassle. I used Kiwi to find the best flights out of the US. But to get to Las Vegas I took the bus: the Megabus took me from Los Angeles to Vegas for a sweet $5. Sure it wasn't the nicest bus I've ever been on, but for $5 I can't complain. I've taken lots of Megabuses in Europe and always found them to be clean, practically empty and the passengers it did have on them were young travelling type people like myself.

Megabus in USAmerica is a different. I took three (San Francisco - LA, LA - Las Vegas and Las Vegas - LA). All three were PACKED and some of the people were crazy! Like cats on a bus crazy. As in some of them literally brought their cats on the bus kind of crazy. It shocked me that these American buses would be so dirty compared to European or even Asian buses, but now I think about it it makes sense. The USA doesn't seem to have a public transport (bus/coach/train) culture and infrastructure like we do in Europe and Asia. Even many poor people in the USA have cars, so it's only the super poor who take the bus. Still, saying all this, I talked to some fun people and I would definitely take the bus again.

Top Tip: Take a TEP Wireless with you. Or something like that. It really helped having a portable internet dongle with me - particularly as there was no free wi-fi in my hotel. I worked with the internet dongle company TEP, you can read my full TEP review here.

Wrap Up: What I Liked and Didn't Like about Las Vegas

So there you have it, my Las Vegas trip in a nutshell. Hopefully this has given you more of an idea of the vibe of Vegas, and, even more hopefully, has given you some things to do and not do so you don't make my mistakes. I hope this has been helpful for your Vegas trip! If you've been to Vegas, let me know in the comments below what you thought!

P.S.: If you're interested in a way of travelling and getting accommodation cheaply, you might wanna check out house sitting. Trustedhousesitters.com was kind enough to provide us and our readers with a 10% discount, feel free to click on the link to use it :)

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We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


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