Welcome back to Part 7 of our six week road trip across the United States! In this article, I’ll cover the week we spent in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A brief recap: we set out from our home in Raleigh in early June and made it back home toward the end of July. In total we spent over six weeks (46 nights!!) on the road and drove 8,200 miles.
Along the way, we visited 14 national parks and a ton of other interesting places. It was quite a busy trip, since we stayed in 25 different airbnbs or hotels and spent more than 100 hours traveling in the van.
To cover the whole trip, I am breaking up the trip summary into thirteen separate blog posts.
Here is a table of contents for our whole trip if you want to check out other parts of our journey:
- North Carolina to Kansas via West Virginia and St. Louis
- Colorado: Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Frisco
- Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde National Parks plus Ouray
- Utah: Arches National Park and Capitol Reef National Park
- Utah: Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park
- Arizona: Glen Canyon Dam, the Grand Canyon, and Hoover Dam
- A Week in Las Vegas, Nevada
- California: Los Angeles and Long Beach
- California: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks
- Crossing the Desert in Nevada and Utah: Hawthorne and Bonneville Salt Flats
- Salt Lake City, Utah and Idaho Falls, Idaho
- Yellowstone National Park
- Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and National Museum of the US Air Force
Join me for part 7 of our trip across the country as we explore Las Vegas, Nevada.
On every long summer vacation, we always plan some down time where we can kick back and relax for a while. Las Vegas was that relaxation spot this summer.
We booked a comfy three bedroom house in a neighborhood just a few miles West from the Strip (where all the Las Vegas excitement happens). The plan for the week was to spend a few days visiting various places on or near the Strip and take care of some car maintenance items.
We visited Las Vegas over ten years ago without the kids. This time around, we wanted to show them the highlights of Vegas as we made our way through the Western United States.
But the first task of the week was taking care of our road trip vehicle.
After driving more than 3,000 miles, the minivan was due for an oil change and a tire rotation.
I set up appointments at Meineke for the oil change and Discount Tire for the tire rotation and balance. These chores were going to take most of one morning.
But when I arrived at the Meineke, they didn’t have any record of my appointment and were booked up for the next several hours. So I jumped ahead on my schedule and continued on to Discount Tire. I got there about an hour early but they quickly worked me into the schedule.
I set up another oil change appointment at a different Meineke for the next day. Good thing we had a whole week in Vegas to handle all these chores!
The next day when I got to the Meineke, they realized they had double booked my 11:00 am appointment slot so I had to wait a full hour until they changed my oil. Fortunately I had a good book downloaded on my phone so I people-watched in the waiting room and read my book when the excitement of Vegas-craziness people-watching died down.
The Las Vegas Strip
Once the car-related chores were taken care of, we could focus on the main purpose of our stay in Las Vegas. The casinos!
Las Vegas Boulevard is lined with casinos for an almost-five mile stretch from the airport in the south to the Strat Hotel and Casino on the northern end. This is the Strip. Flashy neon lights, crowds, and luxury cars zipping by faux facades from Paris, New York, medieval England, and ancient Rome plus more modern architecture as well.
On our first day of sightseeing we visited the Venetian and its sister property, the Palazzo, for the Venice-styled architecture and decor. The Venetian has indoor canals with gondolas but it’s lacking in the authentic canal-stink and hordes of tourists found in the real Venice! We visited Venice a few years ago but The Venetian casino is pretty cool, too.
Just across the street from The Venetian is The Mirage casino that boasts a man-made volcano complete with elaborate pyrotechnics. I’d like to thank all the dedicated charitable gamblers for making their donations inside all of these casinos so that we can enjoy all these free shows and neat interior spaces!
The next day we visited Excalibur and New York New York casinos. We found free parking at The Flamingo across the street and got a great nighttime view along the Strip from the elevated crosswalk traversing Las Vegas Boulevard.
One thing we noticed is that all of the casinos got rid of all their interior seating due to the pandemic. There was nowhere to sit and rest inside the casinos unless you were eating at a restaurant, drinking in a bar, or gambling at a table or slot machine!
On the following day, we started our morning of Vegas sightseeing at Circus Circus Casino. It’s an older hotel with a circus tent theme. Apparently this is where EVERYONE with kids goes in Vegas. They present free ten minute long circus shows once per hour. The performance was short but good. However, the remainder of the Circus Circus hotel/casino is mostly lackluster. We didn’t visit Circus Circus on previous visits to Vegas, so I figured I’d check it out at least once.
After Circus Circus, we headed a couple blocks down the strip to the Wynn and Encore casinos (which are connected internally). They had a free water show but we were there at the wrong time so we missed it.
We enjoyed the stroll through the inside of each hotel/casino since they were elaborately decorated. The shopping mall between the Wynn and Encore casinos had tons of designer boutiques.
I got a kick out of watching a line form outside of the Hermes store since they only admitted one person or one couple at a time. Imagine waiting in line for 30 minutes only to find out the store is full of things like $400 scarves and $1,800 men’s hoodies!
After the Wynn/Encore visit, we went to the Bellagio. The inside of that casino/hotel is amazing in itself. But the real attraction is the dancing water cannons in the huge fountain in front of the casino. In the evening, the fountain shows occur every fifteen minutes. We ended up watching three of the shows since they run so often.
On the next day, we visited the Silverton Casino just south of the Las Vegas Strip. Silverton has a huge aquarium with a stingray feeding show and a live “mermaid” show. The stingray feeding was cool but the mermaid show was a little underwhelming. Very young children would probably like the mermaid show a bit more than we did.
Free Parking on the Strip
We last visited Las Vegas about 10 years ago. At that time, parking was free at most of the casinos up and down the strip. Fast forward to 2021 and the situation has changed. Most of the Strip casinos charge for parking, at least if you stay longer than one hour.
We looked online at the various casinos and took advantage of the free parking options each day that we visited the Strip. The situation changes from year to year based on my research, so you just have to make sure you’re looking at updated parking costs if you’re looking for free parking in Vegas.
The casinos with free parking where we parked:
- Circus Circus
- Planet Hollywood
From those free parking spots, you’re never more than about a quarter of a mile (measured along The Strip) from everything on the Strip. Of course the parking is generally in the rear of the properties so add an extra quarter of a mile walk to get from your parking space to the Strip! Wear comfy shoes and you’ll be fine.
Vegas Beyond the Strip
When we were in Vegas, we visited a ton of casinos but also did some shopping and dining since we had a whole week in town. We visited the “largest K-Pop shop in the world” near Chinatown, which was probably hyperbole since it wasn’t that huge. The selection and prices were good by US standards (my daughter is interested in K-pop, not me!).
While in Chinatown, we visited the “99 Ranch Market” – a regional chain of Asian grocery stores. I’ve seen tons of folks saying good stuff about 99 Ranch online, so I had to visit it while we were on the west coast. We tried a bunch of different stuff we haven’t seen at our local Asian stores plus some staples we were familiar with.
For dinner one day, we grabbed a huge 24″ pizza for free using some Groupon credits I got a while ago.
We also visited two Mexican restaurants while in Vegas. The first was “Taquito Street”, a hole in the wall place on the second story of a strip mall. They had a “4 for $5” taco special so we got a sampler of 20 tacos with various fillings. The taste of the steak was good but the chicken tasted like it was steamed instead of grilled. 4 stars overall.
The other amazing taco joint we visited was called “Del Taco”. They served up some really good authentic tacos for incredibly low prices. For those not from the west coast, this is a joke. Del Taco is basically Taco Bell with a slightly different menu. The food was pretty good and I think I like it better than Taco Bell overall. My kids gave it mixed reviews and said Taco Bell was better. The Mexican-ish fast food wars continue.
Overall, we had an enjoyable and relaxing time in Las Vegas. It was a nice spot to take a break from the road trip for a week. We worked in a couple of “do nothing” days where I played video games, read a book, and caught up on my online chores and internet surfing.
After a busy three weeks on the road, we enjoyed a leisurely one week stopover in Las Vegas, Nevada. While we were there, we visited a dozen casinos and watched many free shows and performances presented by the casinos.
None of us gambled at the casinos, but we did spend a little cash at some of the shops in Las Vegas. We also visited several restaurants since we had plenty of downtime during our one week stay.
And after over three thousand miles of driving, I needed to take the minivan van in for an oil change and tire rotation.
Overall, our stay in Las Vegas was great. We relaxed, took in the glitzy experience of the Las Vegas Strip, and got some good food!
Viva, Las Vegas! What’s your favorite part of Vegas?
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We used to go to Las Vegas every year for Christmas week when we had off from work. Seems like an odd choice but we loved it. Like yourselves we don’t gamble; we just loved the buffets and the light shows. Glad everyone had a good time. Funny but we stopped at our first Del Taco location when in Orlando a couple of weeks ago. We’re with you; better than Taco Bell which we can’t stomach, literally.
Yeah Vegas is a fun place, even if you don’t gamble. Always some excitement going on and it’s fun to watch the crowds and people.
Del Taco really surprised me on the upside. Always fun to try new (to us) versions of fast food across the country and world.
We stopped by Las Vegas a few years ago on the way to Los Angeles. It was January so not hot.
We also do not gamble, but we enjoyed seeing the fountains and some of the decorations.
Not my kind of place, but it was interesting to see at least once.
We’ve been in January and it’s much nicer weather then. A little chilly at times! We even got into a snow storm in the nearby Red Rock Canyons while there in January once. I totally wasn’t expecting to freeze my butt off while in Vegas, but I did!
My sole trip was a week in late ’04 for an industry convention; I spent six hours each day at our booth talking to bicycle industry folks and dinners with our company’s contingent. My favorite part was getting shuttled out to Bootleg Canyon, southeast of town, to demo fancy expensive mountain bikes. Guess I’ve got a bit of a warped perspective on Sin City.
My wife and I have been meaning to get out there for shows and food and relaxation. I haven’t worn a suit in a few years, and she rarely has occasion to put on a fancy dress, so we figure we’ll bring the nice stuff and play up the part. Someday.
I went to Vegas a few years ago with a friend. I have to admit that I thought everything seemed overdone and artificial. I wasn’t super impressed with the half-dressed street performers and trucks advertising hotel visits from women either. I was amazed at how massive all the buildings were though.
It was one of those experiences for which I’m glad I got to see what all the fuss is about but don’t really want to go back — kinda like Disney World!
I’m a bit ambivalent about Vegas too. It’s nice to see it, but not a ton pulling me back there again. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll go to see what’s changed.
Oops — that was meant to be its own comment, not a reply to you, Adam. Sorry about that!
There’s a lot of non-gambling and non-casino fun in Vegas. The canyons just outside the city are great. We went to Red Rock Canyon last time we were there (not this time though, as we saw a bunch of similar scenery elsewhere on this summer’s trip)
I found that one the best values in Las Vegas is at the Ellis Island casino. When we were there 10 years ago, you could get a $7 steak (and sides) that would rival a $25 steak elsewhere. If you are gambling, they bring you 20 ounce beers which is bigger than the norm, but you can pay $1.50 for them if you are not gambling. These were all prices back then, it looks like the steak is up to $10. I bet the beers are a couple of bucks now.
Going to Vegas would be weird with the kids. I’m sure we could make it work and find great things to do, but I do need my time at the craps table.
Yes – we hit up that $7 steak special many times on previous visits to Vegas! I looked into it this time but we didn’t end up going there for some reason.
Hi I just found your blog and started reading from the beginning. I am commenting on this post because I’m not sure if you’d see my comment on a more relevant (but 5 year old) post. I apologize for being very off topic from your ( extremely fun sounding ) road trip.
My question is about the salaries you and your wife received during your working career. I acknowledge it was a decade ago and I am not overly familiar with the respective industries but the numbers seemed very low to me? Especially given that you both seem quite clever and are disciplined ( as evidenced by your path to fi).
I feel like you both deserved to be making 6 figures at the end ?
I think we both ended around $83k in today’s 2022 dollars. We were in the middle part of our careers where I think the trajectory was clear. Maybe 2-5 more years and we would have been at six figures pretty easy.
But one thing I think we both did was work at relatively easy-paced jobs. I focused on finding something that only required 40 hrs/wk and my wife had a nice flexible arrangement with her employer as well. More time was worth WAY more than a little more money back when we were working full time. With 3 kids it was a non-stop juggling act!