“Who’s up for going in THE VAULT?” excitedly screamed our leader Molly as we drove for yet another hour through Death Valley’s featureless and flat vastness.”It’s a huge stretch-Hummer-style party bus, it’s bigger than a stretch Hummer actually!”
It was a deafening round of yeses from the back of the TrekAmerica tour bus.
The drive into Vegas from San Diego was nearing six hours, and the majority of that had been on straight roads. Driving through this huge, barren landscape the sky had dominated our view. And it was on fire. White flashes of lightening, rolls of thunder and torrential downpours in the distance, it was the month of May and probably the last time Vegas would see rain for another four months. The noise was even drowning out Elvis’ rendition of ‘Viva Las Vegas’ on the sound system, which had been trying to get us in the party mood.
We hatched a plan:
First stop – booze pick up;
Second stop – The Golden Nugget for check in;
Third stop – Patrick’s room for pre-drinks and a food;
Fourth stop – THE VAULT
At 8pm we climbed into this tank of a vehicle with capacity for 30 people standing, with its two steel poles at either end for a pole dance off, should the mood so happen to take us. A couple of drinks in our American red cups and ‘Party in the USA’ by Mylie Cyrus blared out of the speakers, everyone was up on their feet dancing, and outside, Vegas was coming alive; its flashy casino’s lit up bright against the black desert sky.
We got dropped off at the old Las Vegas sign for a quick group photoshoot before doing another loop of the strip to see it in its full night-time glory.
A Night With Calvin
As the driving tour finished at The Bellagio, people disembarked in all directions; either making a b-line for the toilet, inside the casino to have a flutter, or outside to see the lights of the strip. I got temporarily lost from the others in my group but no sooner had I found a spot to watch the famous fountain show, when two girls from the tour, Sarah and Michelle, came running past in a hurry.
“WE ARE GOING TO SEE CALVIN! AT CAESAR’S!”
It took a few minutes to register…
Calvin Harris. Scottish international DJ. At Caesar’s Palace.
“WWWAAAIIITTT!” I ran over to join them.
Casino complexes here are large, and by that I mean genuinely supersized. It took us thirty minutes to jog from The Bellagio to Caesar’s and they are next door to each other! Out of breath and tipsy from the alcohol starting to kick in, we finally arrived at the ticket office our fingers and toes crossed that it wouldn’t be a sell out Saturday night.
It wasn’t! Tickets were just $40 which we considered a steal, so happily paid up before rushing into the amphitheater-styled super-club. Feeling slightly high on life and our great fortune, we headed to the bar and made our order. Presented with a bill for $180.00 for a round of six drinks and three shots… we swallowed reality like the bitter pill it is and vowed to not spend money like we were made of it… oops!
We quickly slurped our gin and tonics and moved ourselves to the entrance to the dance floor and the huge DJ booth in front of it. A huge suited, ear-pieced-up guy stood tall in our way.
“No room here” came the gruff response to our looks.
“Wait, WHAT?! We need to get down there…!” We chorused exasperatedly.
“You’ll have to try one of the others”
Like spokes of a wheel, there were bouncers at every entrance to the dance floor below us, mostly, letting in those that had paid thousands of dollars for private tables in that area. We got turned away from every single one.
Upon reaching the 12th and final entrance, Michelle took the lead. I think she played the Scottish card, and Sarah and I did our best to look like small harmless girls that had just spent an eye-watering £130.00 on not much alcohol. He gave us a nod and we were in, squealing with delight as we ran down the ramp to the sunken mosh pit below.
The only issue now was that we had had a lot of liquids over the past two hours and there were no toilets to be seen! If we left to go back up to find some, we would never be allowed back to our current great position. It was midnight and we were reliably informed that Calvin’s set was starting at 2am. We had two long hours to go…time to hope for the best!
The night, for obvious reasons, was a bit of a blur. But the swirling lights, the base, the beats, the huge room with its high ceilings – all made me feel pretty euphoric. We were front row, and barely three meters away from Calvin (seriously that close). He put on a great show and the club went wild for his most recent summer hit, ‘This is what you came for’ featuring Rihanna.
Falling into a taxi in the small hours, we finished the night right – ordering onion rings and melted mozzarella sticks to take up to the room, feeling hugely smug at seeing an internationally renowned DJ in such an iconic place, though not the hangovers that would inevitably accompany us all the next day.
Viva Las Vegas indeed!
Our hotel had a shark tank in the swimming pool – The Golden Nugget is one of the oldest hotels in Old Vegas, having opened in 1946 on Fremont Street. Although it is a taxi drive to the main strip, Old Vegas has its own attractions, light shows, casinos, restaurants and classic neon signs. This is the Vegas Elvis was singing about. A good quality hotel, reasonably priced, with lots going on.
Shopping – With casinos comes retail and Vegas has millions of ways to part you with your newly won winnings. Some shops – like Vegas M&M world, Everything Coca Cola etc are worth a look in just for the volume of merchandise and to see American consumption in full swing, particularly if you are at a loss of what to do in Vegas during the day. Of course, there are also six certified Rolex dealers on the Strip alone, but my travelling budget wouldn’t stretch quite that far!
Free shows – Vegas has transformed itself into an entertainment factory, not just the first city of gambling, so every night there are big names in music, theatre performance, acrobatics, magic – just about anything you can think of. Like everything here, though, tickets don’t always come cheap but there are free shows you can watch, The Bellagio Fountains and The Mirage Volcano show being two. I was sceptical about both but actually happy to eat my words and say they are both an entertaining way to start your evening on the Strip! The magical dancing fountains are on every half an hour, while the furious red volcano is on, on the hour from 8pm. It is easy to walk between the two – taking roughly 15 mins.
Cash – Like everywhere in the US there is an ATM charge to get your money out. In the majority of places we visited across the country, this was around $2-3 per transaction. In Vegas, we found it could be as high as $15 fee per transaction. So, budget for that or take some cash out before you get into the city!