As some of you might know, for the last eight years I’ve been on a quest to visit each and every one of the 50 United States of America. I’ve just come back from my latest roadtrip – you can read more about it here – where I visited my 45th state: Hawaii. It was utterly magical and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but before I reached the Aloha State I had some fun, and some seriously tasty food, in Las Vegas.
The week before I arrived in Vegas, there had been the despicable and heartbreaking shooting, which left 58 people dead and 546 injured. This lent Vegas a both sombre and defiant mood whilst I was there: with more armed security visible compared to the last time I visited Vegas, but with hotel and bar staff wearing ‘Vegas Strong’ tee-shirts.
Vegas is like nowhere else. I’ve heard it described as being like Disneyland for adults, a 24 hour non-stop party town, and it’s loud, silly, brash, elegant, cheap, expensive, swanky, skuzzy, shiny, tawdry, tacky, and glitzy. It’s a jumble of contradictions. It is fun. It’s also hot. My advice is to go there for not too long (I could probably take no more than 3 or 4 nights at a time) and with an open mind. And maybe some painkillers. And suncream, lots of suncream.
Here’s where I went and what I ate:
Location: 7790 S Jones Blvd (a short drive from the strip)
Price: About $15 for a meal
Good for: Friendly staff, fun and tasty food, delicious shakes
Bad for: A little out of the way
Vegeway is a really cute drive-thru and sit-in, casual restaurant with fast and informal service. Expect burgers, fries, shakes and sodas, with popcorn chicken, fried zucchini and curly frickin’ fries. Oh yes. Nothing fancy, not too healthy but it’s great to be able to have an all-American experience that is vegan-friendly. My Vanilla milkshake was something to write home about!
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Location: 523 Fremont Street
Price: $9.95 lunch special includes your meal and a non-booze drink
Good for: that incredible value lunch deal, very tasty food, friendly bartender
Bad for: There can be a bit of a wait for a table
I absolutely loved Le Thai. I was pretty hungry by the time lunch rolled around (all I’d had for breakfast was a smoothie I’d bought at Juice Standard which somehow set me back $15! Still not over that…) and after about a twenty minute wait had a seat at the bar and ordered my Vegan Massaman Curry with tofu, which I got for under ten dollars including an ice tea (which they refilled) and let me tell you, it was delicious. It was the perfect sized portion – as in there wasn’t too much so I felt perfectly sated but not groaningly full afterwards, very unlike most meals I eat in America – and the flavours and spiciness was spot on. Amazing value and somewhere I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to.
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Location: I went to the Downtown location: 113 N 4th St, but there’s one on the strip too
Price: $55 for two meals and two booze drinks, including tip
Good for: A really fun, and very tasty experience – a great dinner spot if you’re in a party of vegans and non-vegans
Bad for: Literally the only downside is that the light was too poor for instagramming
Nacho Daddy has a brilliant name and great food to match. I ordered a ‘rita which came in a glass so large and heavy I could barely lift it and then very happily munched my way through nearly an entire mountain of Chick’n Nachos. This comprised of: marinated chick’n, vegan queso, black beans, red and green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, fire roasted corn, avocado lime salsita, pico de gallo all on their house-made spinach chips. It was so good. Their slogan is “Never a dry chip” and I can tell you they were true to their word. My nachos were delicious and one of loads of vegan options on the menu. I would rush back here, honestly.
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Location: 124 6th Street
Price: donuts start at about $3 each
Good for: The most perfect, delicious donuts and vegan-friendly coffees
Bad for: I can imagine there being long queues here
Holymoly! Donut Bar is amazing. We arrived before it opened and there was already a line snaking by the door, and if that’s not a good sign then I don’t know what is. There were several vegan-friendly donuts to choose from, including matcha and apple strudel flavours, but I opted for the Creme Brulee and I do not regret a thing: soft fluffy dough, luscious vanilla cream filling and a crisp caramel shell. I did that thing where I shout “YUM” after I eat something really fantastic after eating this donut. Oh yes. Yum!
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Other places I’d have liked to eat, if I’d had more time include: Wazuzu at Wynn for the Drunken Noodles, Sprinkles ATM for a Red Velvet Cupcake, Ronald’s Donuts and VegeNation: purveyors of global plant-based street foods.
Where we stayed: On this trip I stayed in two hotels, one on the strip and one near Fremont Street. I’ve previously stayed elsewhere on the Strip so I can happily tell you about all three.
Cosmopolitan: our hotel for the first night of this trip and I don’t think I’d want to stay anywhere else. It was a bit pricey (£260 for a regular room) and you had to pay extra for parking but we had an amazing view of the strip and the Bellagio fountains, two beds in our room and the shower had a glass wall so you could see into the bedroom and onto the strip whilst you were in the shower. It’s a really hip, glamorous hotel, with loads of bars, places to eat and a couple of roof-top pools. It’s also way less chintzy than some other hotels on the Strip.
Main Street Station: A cheap and cheerful – but very noisy hotel and brewery near Fremont Street. This hotel comes with free parking and is only around £90 a night, but was extraordinarily noisy and the decor is pretty basic in the rooms.
New York New York: We stayed here when we first visited Vegas in 2012, so it might have had a refresh since then, but I remember it having an OK location – slightly down one end of the strip, and reasonable if slightly bland rooms. The casinos, like most casinos in Vegas, here were weirdly drab I thought, but it was a decent enough place to stay and cheaper than the Cosmopolitan. It also has a rollercoaster!
Places we liked to drink:
Frankie’s Tiki Lounge I love love love a Tiki Bar and was very excited about visiting Frankie’s. One thing I always forget about bars and casinos in Vegas is that you’re allowed to smoke in them, so walking into Frankie’s, my first bar of the trip and it being hella smokey was a bit, well, grim. But it was still everything I love in a Tiki lounge: dimly lit, knockout cocktails, tropical decor and because it was vegas there were neon slot machines on the bar. So much fun, and the neon outside is *kisses fingers* fabulous!
Chandelier Lounge The super glitzy and sparkly Chandelier is a bar inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel that spills over three floors and always seems to be busy. Josh and I enjoyed a nightcap here on our first night: he had a “Soylent Green” which had passion fruit pearls and marshmallow fluff, I went for the “Sacrificial Virgin” because I need to drink all the Tiki cocktails I can whilst in America.
Atomic Liquor We adore a dive bar and Atomic Liqour, in Downtown Vegas, is a joy. It’s Vegas’s oldest freestanding bar and features a great soundtrack, Space Age decor and fine craft beer. It’s the kind of place you could while away your whole afternoon, very happily.
Places we liked to visit:
Neon Boneyard – a great way to explore the history of Vegas is through the 150 or more old neon signs which make up the boneyard. Reserve your spot on the tour in advance and discover stories about the city and the neon signs themselves.
Take in a show – we had never been to a Show before in Vegas, and this time we decided to rectify that and to see Britney Spears during her residency at Planet Hollywood. We didn’t know if it would be ridiculous or fantastic but my oh my Britney has still got it! Her show was incredible – the lights and dancing (let’s gloss over whether or not there was any live singing) made for the most entertaining night! It seems tantamount to criminal to admit this, but I’d forgotten just how many Britney songs I know and love.
Welcome to Las Vegas sign – the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Vegas sign is at the bottom of the Strip and great day or night.
The Mob Museum tells the story of organized crime and law enforcement as well it’s impact on the history of the city. A genuinely fascinating and well-curated museum.
Seven Magic Mountains – after a short drive outside the city and into the desert you come across seven towers of colourful, stacked boulders standing more than 25ft high: a surprising burst of colour and fun and a reminder of how public art can stir the soul.
The Hoover Dam is about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas and attracts over a million visitors a year. Here you can learn more about the construction of the most expensive engineering project at the time of it’s construction and take in the awe-inspiring views of the Colorado River.
Wander along the Strip or around Fremont Street – taking in the audacious hotels of the strip: “look it’s Paris!”, “look it’s Venice!”, “look it’s the world’s crummiest castle!” is so much fun and although it can be a bit hectic and sleazy in places it’s no match for the weirdness of Fremont Street. Downtown Vegas is really hip, with great places to eat and drink, but at night Fremont Street is wonderfully debauched. We saw women wearing only nipple tassles and the words Sin City painted on their butt cheeks letting dudes spank them for a few bucks, more alcohol slushy machines than you could shake a stick at and an old man in a dirty bunny rabbit suit smoking whilst flipping people the bird and swearing at anyone who came close to him. There is neon and lightbulbs flashing in every direction and it feels thoroughly sleazy.
As well as all this activity, you might want to gamble, enjoy a pool party, play beer pong, take a gondola at the Venetian, go on a longer trip to the Grand Canyon or just sleep off your hangover. Vegas is a place to indulge your desires and have fun. It also has surprisingly delicious vegan food so you can eat guilt-free in Sin City.