Last summer, my kid sister moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. After several months of not seeing her, I decided to schedule a trip, along with another family member, to visit her in LA. As we planned the visit, we decided that we also wanted to see the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and part of Route 66 so our trip expanded into something even bigger which I think of as the “wild west” excursion. We began and ended our adventure in Las Vegas since Vegas is centrally located between the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles.
Although Las Vegas was more of a connector city for us on this trip, we still had a little time to explore it. We flew into Vegas and stayed there our first evening before heading to the Hoover Dam the following day. After a little research, we booked a room at Planet Hollywood and couldn’t have been happier. For approximately $100 which we split (depending on the night, you can pay even less), we stayed in a super spacious room with two queen sized beds and a large bathroom containing two sinks, a large tub and a separate shower. Planet Hollywood offers both valet parking and free parking at the Miracle Mile shopping center which connects to the hotel. In order to save money for the rest of our trip we parked ourselves, but be aware that the hike to the hotel can be long when you self-park since you have to carry your bags through Miracle Mile to reach the hotel. The hotel contains a casino and several restaurants in addition to 2,567 rooms (!) and the Zappos theater which has hosted the likes of J-Lo, the Backstreet Boys, Lionel Richie and more.
After hiking to the hotel and oohing and ahhing over our room, we headed downstairs to grab a bite to eat at the Earl of Sandwich restaurant. It was pretty good except that Earl of Sandwich has this weird combination beverage of earl grey tea and lemonade, in keeping with the theme I’m sure. I like tea and lemonade but earl grey tea with it’s unique taste has no place near lemonade in my humble opinion. No big deal. I just poured it out and got something else. If we had wanted to make more of an evening out of our meal, Gordon Ramsay also has a couple of restaurants in and around the hotel.
Afterwards, we hit the Vegas strip (Planet Hollywood is right in the middle of things) and walked down to the Mirage hotel to see their free show of a simulated erupting volcano which happens three times a night at 7, 8 and 9 pm. Click here for a Youtube video. After the erupting volcano, we walked to the the Bellagio for their free water fountain show, a personal favorite of mine. Here is a video of the fountain show to the tune of “Luck be a Lady” by Frank Sinatra. The fountains perform every half-hour from 3-8 pm and every 15 minutes from 8pm-midnight.
A little history of Las Vegas:
Las Vegas acquired its name in 1821 from Rafael Rivera who was a member of a trading party that was stopping for water on the way to Los Angeles (guess we were not the only ones to use Las Vegas as a connector city). At that time, the area contained several artesian wells and was surrounded by green areas, believe it or not. The name Las Vegas actually means “meadows” in Spanish. Urbanization began in Las Vegas in 1902. In 1931, when construction began on the Boulder Dam (now the Hoover Dam), the Mafia built the casinos and showgirl theatres to entertain young males who were drawn to the city when they moved in to work on the Hoover Dam. Electricity from the dam allowed for the building of additional hotels. In 1966, American businessman Howard Hughes arrived in Vegas. His presence tempered the effect of the Mafia as he worked to change the image of Vegas to make it more glamorous. He is credited with turning it into a more touristy area. The 1960’s was also the heyday for one version of the famed “Rat Pack”, a group of entertainers (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammie Davis Jr. and more) who were centered around the casinos. By the 1980s, the effect of the Mafia died out, in part to the aging population of the World War II generation and in part to a drop in organized crime. Beginning around 1989, Vegas became more of a mega-resort area and today most of the hotels are owned by mega-corporations. For more information, see this article on the history of Las Vegas.
We enjoyed our brief time in Vegas, but after after strolling around for a while, we retired to our room to rest up for an early start to our next destination, the Hoover Dam.