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Wednesday 13 April 2016

Spring Break 2016: Las Vegas

Spring Break in Las Vegas baby!

Ok, so if you're traveling to Las Vegas with kids, or if you're not into drunken gambling in tacky, cigarette smoke filled casinos, it's probably not quite as exciting as that opening sentence would suggest! And it probably doesn't warrant a fabulous jump shot like the ones above either! But, if you're wanting to see some spectacular natural landscapes in Nevada, Utah or Arizona, then Las Vegas is a fantastic starting point. Or, at least, it's the closest airport!

Ok, so I've made it clear before that I'm not a huge fan of Las Vegas. I just don't get see the appeal. Kim and I visited back in 2005, and while it was kind of fun to see such a spectacle, I found it to be a rather sad place. Sure, it was filled with people celebrating and enjoying a weekend away with friends, but the desperate gambling addicts that we saw day after day at the same poker machine were what stood out to me. That and the fact that everywhere smelled like an ashtray! This time around it was no different. The girls were excited to see Las Vegas as they had heard about it from TV shows and knew that there would be some pretty crazy buildings, but they found it quite overwhelming. And they were definitely not keen on that ashtray smell!

Originally we had planned to just use Las Vegas as a base for a day trip to Death Valley to see the wild flowers. But after it took hours to leave the airport and check into our hotel (which you can read about here), we really needed a lazy day with a sleep in and no travel. So we spent the first day of our Spring Break trip checking out Las Vegas.

We spent our time in Las Vegas staying at the Flamingo Hotel. Our room had a view over the nearby High Roller observation wheel and the lush resort gardens and pools below. Ava couldn't wait to get down to the pool. Lola couldn't wait to find out if there really were flamingos at the resort. Mathilde was just keen to freak everyone out by leaning against the floor to ceiling window in our 23rd floor room! While the view from our room was pretty great, the girls were more excited about the fact that there was a tv built into the bathroom mirror! It's not every day you get to take a bath and watch Spongebob Squarepants at the same time!

After a much needed sleep in we headed out for a late breakfast. We settled on a nearby Italian restaurant where the girls were excited to have pizza and pasta for breakfast. Hey, we were on vacation after all! The food was pretty tasty, but Kim and I couldn't help but laugh at the luke warm lattes we were served. When we brought it up with the "barista" she explained that it's impossible to make a latte hot because the milk froths too much before it can be heated properly. Ha! Someone needs to learn how to use their coffee machine properly! Luckily there was a Starbucks a few stores away where (by some miracle!) we were able to buy lattes at an appropriate temperature. How did they do it?!

We headed back to the hotel to drop our left overs off in our fridge (food serves are HUGE in Las Vegas) and then headed to the flamingo enclosure in the resort garden. Yes, there really are real flamingos at the Flamingo hotel. And unlike the lions that used to be on display at the MGM Grand, they're actually outside in nature - or something closer to nature than a glass enclosure. (On a side note, I was pleased to read that the MGM Grand no longer has real lions on display in the gaming room.) The girls were excited to see the flamingos, ducks, swans and giant goldfish. Those goldfish were bigger than the ducks!

The gardens are quite lovely with paths meandering through lush tropical plants. Lola and Mathilde were excited to find a waterfall. It was pretty windy so we were getting sprayed by the waterfall when we stopped to have a look at it. The girls didn't seem to mind though. Mathilde was in no hurry to move off the rock that she had plonked down on. In fact, she sat there for quite some time pulling funny faces for the camera. Seriously, that's her new photo face. The second she sees the camera her hands go to her mouth to stretch it out as wide as possible. I think I miss her duck face stage!

We checked out the swimming pool area but decided to come back later in the day after seeing a little more of the Strip. Spoiler alert... later in the day the wind was really strong and it started to rain a little. The pool area was closed early for safety reasons due to the weather. We literally arrived at the pool area gate just as the staff were locking it. This is the part of the story where we insert a massive Ava tantrum along with a lot of "I told you we should have gone swimming earlier" being yelled.

Anyway... we headed out to explore a little of the Strip. The sidewalks seemed extra congested and slow moving than our last visit to Las Vegas. There also seemed to be an awful lot of roadwork going on causing pedestrians to take detours all over the place. It took forever to walk anywhere which was really frustrating.

We headed to the Venetian for a little taste of Italy. Lola has been wanting to take us all to Italy after our quick visit in 2012, so this was right up her alley. The girls were excited to see the gondolas bobbing along in the "canals" and enjoyed seeing the painted facades and ceiling inside. Lola couldn't believe that the sky inside wasn't real! We had hoped to take the girls on a gondola ride, but the line was quite long and we were eager to get out and see more so we gave it a miss this time. Also, as the gondolas only seat four people we were going to have to split up and take two boats which meant an extra cost.

From the Venetian we started making our way towards the Paris Hotel with its half size Eiffel Tower. We stopped by the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM on the way. The girls love Sprinkles cupcakes and even more so when they come out of an ATM. Of course, they taste exactly the same as the cupcakes inside the store, but they're a little more fun to buy!

There was a fun cupcake mural next to Sprinkles so we went a little silly taking action shots in front of it.

And then Kim almost got squished by a giant flamingo! Or maybe not.

Filled with cupcakey goodness, we made our way to Paris - via lots of pedestrian detours. We had hoped to take the elevator to the top to take in the views over Las Vegas, however due to the windy weather, the Eiffel Tower was closed. It was still pretty to look at though.

We then crossed the Strip to go see the floral displays in the Bellagio hotel. We had hoped to watch the amazing fountain show at Bellagio, but that too was not running due to the wind. Oh well. The flowers in the hotel lobby and conservatory made up for it though. The glass flowers on the ceiling are always amazing to see, but it was the floral show in the conservatory that we were in awe of. The theme of the current show is "Spring" and with the masses of tulips and hyacinths covering the ground, and the blossoms hanging above, it certainly felt very much like Spring.

When we left Bellagio, the sun was getting low in the sky and the lights of Las Vegas were staring to twinkle. The Eiffel Tower looked particularly pretty. If you ignore the bottom half of the photo below, you can pretend we were at the real thing!

The girls weren't keen to head back out in the evening so we grabbed dinner in the hotel and had an early night.

The next day we headed out of Las Vegas and off to see some amazing natural wonders, but first we needed to take that dip in the hotel pool that we'd promised the kids. Now, Las Vegas is usually a pretty warm place so their outdoor pools don't generally need heating. Well, it wasn't all that warm when we visited, so swimming in the unheated, outdoor pool was not quite as pleasant as we had all hoped! Even Ava didn't last in the water for very long and she's used to swimming in the unheated pool at the YMCA. The girls were happy that they got to swim though, even if it wasn't for very long and wasn't particularly comfortable!

After our swim we packed up, checked out, hopped in the car, and drove out into the desert.

Bye, bye Las Vegas. We won't miss you! Well, maybe a little bit.

Stay tuned for the next stop on our Spring Break trip: Valley of Fire State Park.

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