There are basically two types of people that go to Vegas. There are those that want to gamble and experience what it feels like to be a ‘high roller’, hitting up the clubs, partying until dawn and waking up in the evening with a hangover to do it all over again. Then there are those who go to enjoy the shows, feast on the bright lights and decadent food, and soak in the ‘atmosphere’ of Vegas. We would fall into the latter category.
You won’t meet many locals in Vegas (which in most people’s minds is technically just ‘the Strip’. You have to leave Las Vegas Boulevard to really get a full perspective of the city, where traffic is minimal, streets are wide and houses surrounded by mountains and dessert. But on the Strip, it’s like a grown-up version of Disneyland but weirder and possibly on drugs.
Forget driving–you move an inch per minute. Although walking can be faster at times, it takes ages to get anywhere on foot because the carpark is a mile from the actual hotel lobby and you are forced to navigate hotel casino after hotel casino to get to your destination. That said, you do get your exercise in and it helps keep off the rich food you’ll no doubt have stuffed yourself with.
We thought we were going to be lucky and avoid the crowds at Christmas but even though we got a massive deal on the hotel, we were surprised to see 1/3 of China everywhere we went, making the queues for everything impossible. I have nothing against tour groups being herded around on massive tour buses with guides waving bright coloured flags, but they do make it a 4.5 hour wait for Christmas buffet brunch at any of the top hotels (we know this because we actually toured the top 5 hotels to see if we could get lucky–that’s dedication).
Apparently, you can pay a little extra for the VIP munching club but even then you have to queue another hour before you can be seated, and then you still have to work your away through the swarm of diners to get to the bloody food. But even the pretty (or gaudy, depending on your tastes) decor couldn’t make up for the long wait.
Don’t worry, we didn’t queue for hours. The moment we found out that arriving at 15:00 for dinner meant we wouldn’t eat until closer to 21:00, we said sod it and went to Wolfgang Puck’s Pizzeria & Cucina for lunch and Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern instead for Christmas dinner (both of which I highly recommended–basically any place with their name on it is going to be delish). I’m generally wary of ‘celebrity chef’ restaurants as they are often overpriced, stuffy and not that impressive but I have been to several establishments owned by them and they are worth the extra expense.
Why the obsession with Vegas buffets? Because you can’t find such a huge concentration of anything on such a grand scale anywhere else in the world–and buffets seem to be very American, so when in Rome… We also didn’t really have much else to do until seeing KA on Christmas. We gave up on the top 5 on Christmas Eve and ended up at Rio’s Seafood Buffet, which was about a 1.5 hour wait. If you love seafood, don’t go there. It’s a huge disappointment and I still can’t undertand how it could be ranked no.8. We did finally manage to experience the extravagance of Wynn’s buffet breakfast on Boxing Day by getting up insanely early to be the first in the queue for breakfast. And only a 45 minute wait!
The food was nicely laid out and the buffet of food was about a mile long with enough to feed all of Britain for breakfast. Even if you’re not a big eater, it’s actually quite fun to be surrounded by such pretty and decadent food and gawk at all the fatties with slabs of prime rib and mounds of bacon on their plates, while we enjoyed our own breakfast of champions (pictured below).
To be fair, we skipped all the usual starchy American breakfast foods and stuck to the special Christmassy savoury verrines and roasted vegetables and bites of seafood. The dessert verrines are tiny–about three bites-full.
If you think about it, the entire Strip is designed to get people to stop and gamble in as many casinos as possible and spend money they haven’t got. Evil, really. But I can see how people could easily get sucked in. Vegas screams decadence, which is often gaudy and over the top, but somehow it’s also kind of fun. We could only handle so much of this over-sized adult playground and quickly longed for the quiet comforts of home after only three nights there.