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Out There: My Vegas Vacation

unusual things to do in las vegas

We know because we’ve been: “Out There” is a series of inspiring travel spotlights from AAA Travel advisors and employees.

Most people know the old saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” This cheeky little adage isn’t exactly true. In fact, for the past few years, Visit Las Vegas has flipped the script with their motto: “What happens here, only happens here.”

The Vegas experience is something unique and one that should absolutely be shared! When AAA travel advisor Michael Collins returned from his recent trip to the strip, we connected to hear about his experiences.

What do you think draws so many to the Vegas strip?

First off, Vegas is so much more than just the strip. Yes, most people think of the giant hotels, casinos and all the neon, but the city offers many unique experiences in such close proximity. One moment you find yourself at an award-winning musical and the next day you’re flying in a helicopter over the canyons or out to the Hoover Dam.

Very true! It is located close to quite a few other destinations, correct?

It sure is, making it a perfect place to stay, start or end a trip. Las Vegas is only a six-hour drive from Arches National Park and is only a two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon West Rim. For people looking to experience the canyon, including a stay in Vegas may make the trip even more memorable. The city is under four hours from Joshua Tree National Park, so don’t overlook Las Vegas if you’re thinking of a National Park trip.

There are so many hotels and resorts, and on this recent trip you popped in at more than one property, including New York, New York. From the street, this resort looks amazing as it mimics the monuments and skylines found in NYC. Is it just as fun on the inside?

You bet it is! At one time it was labeled as the first boutique hotel in the city, and since opening in 1997, the resort has had some of the most fun activities on the strip. Home to a rollercoaster that runs indoors as well along the rooftop edge, the resort has surprises around every corner. There is a piano bar, several restaurants, and a family-friendly arcade. Las Vegas has often been associated with weddings, and New York, New York offers a bridal package where couples can take their vows on the rollercoaster. Now there is a wedding photo opportunity! I will say this, though: the rollercoaster runs until midnight, so if you have a room with a “coaster view,” be aware.

What a fun property! What other hotels did you visit?

As a travel advisor, I like to make the most of my trips so that I can take back first-hand experiences to share with my clients. After my visit to New York, New York I spent a few nights at the Park MGM Las Vegas. This resort was once the Monte Carlo, but boy has it been refreshed and updated.

The Monte Carlo was a popular stay for decades. How has MGM revitalized the location?

Architecturally, the resort has been modernized. My room was a standard king, with very comfortable bedding. The room had a casual seating area, but right away I noticed there was no desk. MGM removed all office furniture from these rooms when they renovated and decided to make the Park MGM more like a “home away from home.” Even the art in each room is unique. No two pieces throughout the nearly 3,000 rooms are the same.

I think the best part of the Park MGM was the culinary scene! The resort is home to Eataly, Best Friend by Roy Choi and Bavette’s steak house. I couldn’t tell you which place was best, as I enjoyed myself at all three.

Good food and good stays! Speaking of which, are there any AAA 5 Five Diamond hotels in Vegas?

Bellagio and Aria are both Five Diamond locations! With over 4,000 guest rooms, 16 restaurants, 10 bars and nightclubs, and 150,000 square feet of gaming space, Aria has quickly become a landmark since opening in 2009 and has been featured frequently in movies and television, too!

I think one of the most fun parts of Aria is the main lobby. Aria features installations by artists from all over the world. The installations change frequently and add to the unique luxury atmosphere of the property. When I visited, there was this very cute display of brightly colored polar bears by multimedia artist Paola Pivi.

And let’s not forget the Aria sky suites. These suites include transportation to and from McCarron International Airport. Guests get a private check-in area with key-controlled access from the valet area and main Aria lobby.

The Bellagio fountain is one of the most famous attractions on the strip. Did you view the water show?

Yes I did, and if you want a great view of the fountain, visit the Paris Hotel and Casino across the street and make a reservation for the patio seats overlooking Las Vegas Blvd at Beer Park and you can get a great picture.

I also recommend heading inside the resort. Bellagio boasts some very unique features in addition to its famous fountain. Fiori di Como is an art installation by Dale Chihuly. It is comprised of over 2,000 pieces of hand-blown glass. Art critics from around the world have attempted to appraise the piece and have determined it to be priceless. Bellagio is home to the world’s largest chocolate fountain, too. There is also a botanical garden that changes five times a year for each season and for the Lunar New Year celebrated by East Asian cultures throughout the world.

There seems to be an art scene in Vegas!

Not only is there this new approach to art, but also wellness. Resorts are taking a healthy approach to stays, with features like the Stay Well rooms at MGM Resorts. These rooms include air purification, aromatherapy, specialized lighting, and enhanced cleaning protocols.

Another trend is touchless experiences. All MGM Resorts in Las Vegas offer free mobile check-in. This is also your digital key in most resorts. Simply open the app and touch your smartphone to your key panel and operate the elevator. This option is completely contactless and is super convenient. I checked in the night before I left home and when I opened the app at the airport the next morning I had my room assigned. I walked into the resort and went straight to my room.

From the lights and sights to the food and art, what happens in Vegas should definitely be shared!

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