Viva Las Vegas

Louise Prance heads to the bright lights of Vegas and discovers it offers newlyweds more than just parties and poker

Las Vegas is not the first place most people would think of as a honeymoon destination, and I must confess I also had my doubts. However, I headed off to Sin City with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

The world-famous Las Vegas Strip is definitely the calling card of the city and my first glimpse from the plane didn't disappoint – where else could you spot the Eiffel Tower, Egyptian pyramids and New York skyscrapers all within a few feet of each other?

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Luckily the Strip is within spitting distance of the airport and you'll be off the plane and at your hotel within minutes, seeing the sights up close. Travelling in style is definitely an affordable luxury in Vegas and limousines, while more expensive than the average taxi, aren't break-the-bank. And if you book for the duration of your trip it will be well worth the extra money, after all, it's not often white Hummer limos are seen as cool rather than tacky.

Jumping into our own own plush transport we soon discover there is little chance of getting lost here, with the majority of hotels taking pride of place in the hub of things.

Feeling rather indulgent we were pleased to approach our accommodation for the next few nights, the world-famous Bellagio hotel, which is made all the more impressive by its fountain shows that take place every hour – definitely a must-see. Choreographed to music, the displays are impressive, loud and very 'Vegas', but I couldn't help feeling they were also slightly romantic in an over-the-top kind of way.


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The entertainment factor


Perfectly placed in the centre of the Strip, the Bellagio is not only a large yet luxurious hotel, it's a gateway to the rest of town. And couples looking for a spot of entertainment during their stay will be pleased to find Cirque du Soleil, O, housed right on their doorstep in this impressive building. And what a show it is. Having been a fan of Cirque for some time I was eager to see if Vegas did it bigger and better. Unsurprisingly it did, and then some. Awe-inspiring from the opening scene, the grand scale of the show and the ability and athleticism of the performers is inimitable. Taking lead from the pure form of water, it is a combination of divers, synchronised swimmers and acrobats, all as outstandingly excellent as the last.

And of course, that is just the tip of the entertainment iceberg in Vegas. Whether you're into music – Elton John, Cee Lo Green, The Eagles and Garth Brooks are just some of the current performers – shows, or nightclubs, it has something for everyone and isn't just targeted at college graduates and hen parties. In fact, the wide variety of people visiting Vegas surprised me. Having had preconceptions of an out-and-out party paradise, the amount of couples, families and older guests was encouraging. Newlyweds certainly won't feel out of place here and will find a wide range of pools in which to relax by at any of the impressive hotels located on the Strip.


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Gourmet delights


With such an array of visitors coming to soak up the Vegas atmosphere, there really is an establishment to satiate every taste bud. Of course it has the obligatory fast food joints, steak restaurants and coffee shops, however its gourmet offerings certainly rival anywhere else in the world.

Viva Las Vegas: Image 3 For those looking for a hearty meal to kick start the day, Serendipity at Caesars Palace is a quintessential 1950s diner complete with authentic décor and an extensive menu of gut-busting delights. However, couples after a more up-market brunch would welcome the first-class service at Jasmine restaurant at the Bellagio. The endless array of exquisite food, both Asian and English, is hard to resist and, served on Gianni Versace plates, it's clear this is not the typical Vegas-style buffet.

As the evening draws to a close newlyweds seeking an aerial view of the action would be hard pushed to beat the vantage point found at Alize in the Palm Springs hotel. Located at the end of the Strip, the top floor restaurant offers both incredible sights and a delectable menu.


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Onwards and upwards


Aside from the endless catering options, the bright lights and the huge selection of entertainment on offer, one of the best things about Vegas is its accessibility to the rest of the US, not to mention one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Yes, I'm talking about the Grand Canyon.

There are numerous ways in which to visit the canyon, with the easiest and most fun being a helicopter tour straight from the Strip – getting you there in true Vegas style. The longer but more economical alternative is by road. However, there will be few times in your life you drive through the Nevada desert, so it's not too much of a hardship despite the longer day it entails. However you travel, the canyon is most definitely worth a visit and will give some time out from the razzle dazzle of the centre.

And although Vegas is hard to leave (believe me; it's strangely intoxicating) there is so much more on its doorstep. My advice would be to make it a three-day pitstop in a tour of the West Coast and the start or end of a memorable road trip. Hire an authentic Mustang and take a leisurely drive along Route 66 where Los Angeles and a totally different vibe await. If driving isn't for you, LA is just a 30-minute flight away. From there you could visit San Francisco before jumping on a plane to round off your trip in New York and complete your honeymoon of a lifetime.


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A taste of vegas


You've heard all about it, but these are three must-do activities for any newlyweds in Las Vegas


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Gondolas at the Venetian
If it's romance you're after the Venetian hotel is the place to head. Take a gondola ride along the Venice-inspired canal overlooked by boutique shops and cute cafes. It may not be the real thing, but it's as good as you're going to get inside a hotel!


Viva Las Vegas: Image 7aCasinos
It may seem like an obvious thing to do while in Vegas, but with such a wide variety of activities on your doorstep, you could be forgiven for using the casinos as a gateway to and from your hotel room. However, schedule a few minutes to take it in – you may not even want to gamble, but people-watching is an experience in itself.

Viva Las Vegas: Image 7 Chapels
You might have already said 'I do' but you can't go to Las Vegas without checking out at least one of the wedding chapels. They're wacky, they're tacky but they're what this city is famous for. Gone are the days where you can rock up at 3am after one too many tequila shots, but most are open until 12am and they do have drive-through and walk-up windows for the ultimate in shot gun weddings. My personal favourite? The Viva Las Vegas wedding chapel complete with pink Cadillac and Elvis impersonator.


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Where to stay


The Bellagio is infamous for luxury and decadence. The impressive ceiling adorned with glass flowers sets this lobby apart, and thanks to a recent refurbishment the rooms are even more opulant. If you're lucky you'll get one overlooking the strip and your own private vantage point of the fountains.

MGM Grand
Newlyweds looking to start their married life with a party vibe will be impressed by the MGM Grand. Although the famous lions are now long gone, there is enough to keep you entertained in this huge venue. Housing a theatre, CSI Experience, food court, and numerous bars, the MGM is a less expensive option for a younger crowd.

M Resort
For those wanting to dip their toe in the heady lights of Vegas before heading back to a relaxing retreat, the M Resort, located a ten-minute taxi ride away from the Strip, will hit the spot. Albeit huge, the elegant hotel instantly sets itself apart as a classy alternative to the venues in the hub of the city, with the pool area reminiscent of a tropical paradise in the heart of the desert.


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Where to Eat


Tao Restaurant
While you might be impressed that this was the spot for Kim Kardashian's most recent hen party, your new hubby will just be agog at the huge array of mouthwatering Asian cuisine on offer. Try not to over-do it however, as the party really gets going at the top floor nightclub – keep your eyes peeled, this is a celebrity hot-spot.

Where to party


Marquee nightclub, The Cosmopolitan
One of the newer hotels, The Cosmopolitan plays host to one of the most talked about party places Vegas has to offer. Set around a pool and offering both day and night events, world-famous DJs give Ibiza a run for its money in the clubbing stakes.


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Where to shop


Forum Shops, Caesars Palace
With the pound so strong against the dollar, and the endless walkways of shop after shop, the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is a must-visit shopping experience.


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