Las Vegas – The California Road Trip Finale

Las Vegas – The California Road Trip Finale

"Save the best for last" is a popular saying I grew up with and as we left behind the glitz and glamour of LA last year on the final leg of our California road trip and headed towards Las Vegas I wondered if it would be the case this time.

The drive from LA to Las Vegas is breathtaking and I know if you have read my earlier pieces on this trip I have said that before, but this was on a different level.  In place of the dramatic sea views along the Pacific Coast Highway are miles of open desert, blue skies and wild, rugged scenery.  How can that be breathtaking?  Well it just is.  You really do feel that it is just you and the elements and for a woman of my age it was a bit reminiscent of Thelma & Louise, but in place of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird and my best mate was a Nissan 4x4, air-conditioning, my husband and teens.

My husband last visited Las Vegas on a road trip with his own parents as a teenager, but for me and our teens it was our first experience. Regardless of how often you may have seen it on TV or in a movie, nothing prepares you for your first sighting.  The Vegas skyline looms out of the hazy heat of  the desert and is made up of the most incongruous collection of familiar landmarks from other renowned cities' skylines. The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye all sit alongside each other.

America does everything on a big scale but Las Vegas epitomises that more than anywhere else that we visited and that applies to the hotels too.   Ask anyone who has been and everyone will have a different opinion on where is best to stay and why.  All the hotels are landmarks in their own right and are big and brash. The Excalibur looks like a Disney castle, The Luxor constitutes a Sphinx and a Pyramid and Caesar's Palace needs little introduction.  Then there is the Mandalay Bay with its very own Shark Reef.  We opted for the more sedate Cosmopolitan, less theatrical but equally as grand and dramatic as the others, with a jaw-dropping chandelier and bedroom views to match.

By day everything looks a bit tawdry and sad in Las Vegas, but by night the city comes alive.  Lights flash on every external wall, in fact it is so bright it is easy to become disoriented; fountains erupt into life and jets of water are synchronised with music.  Walking along the strip at night is an absolute must to appreciate the full Vegas experience.  It is a complete sensory overload but one not to be avoided.

Vegas is synonymous with hedonism, great entertainment and excess.  Gambling is what made the city what it is.  When banned in California, Nevada made it legal in 1931.  So did we gamble?  Well yes we did. It is hard to resist.  The atmosphere is addictive and particularly after you have had a fabulous meal, a few cocktails and the teens are out of sight!  I would love to say we won but as with all things addictive it is difficult to stop and of course probably like many others we got over-excited and lost!

However, although every hotel foyer is filled from morning until night with shouts from tables, the crash of coins or the annoying simulation of a computer slot machine there is alot more on offer.

Las Vegas houses some of the best restaurants and bars with an atmosphere to match.  It is home to some of the finest boutiques, they may all be empty by day but by night, the five storey shopping emporiums come alive. Vegas also stages some great shows, some of which have literally been showing for years, including my childhood favourites Donny & Marie Osmond!

The Blue Man Group was our show of choice whilst in town and we were not disappointed.  The show combines many different categories of music and art, both popular and obscure and what they can do with some steel drums and paint or a box of cereal needs to be seen to be believed.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but safe to say it was like nothing I had experienced before.  It is comedy, theatre, rock concert and dance party all rolled into one.  One thing it is not, is logical.  Cast aside your inhibitions. It is a time to go nuts and I say that as someone who generally prefers not to do that, well with strangers at least.  There is nowhere to hide in this show and audience participation is a necessity but it is not on quite the level you expect.  Well worth a visit if you want something that will appeal to the whole family.

Entertainment aside, there is another side to Las Vegas and that is its accessibility to the many natural and man-made wonders of the area and fabulous tourist hotspots, not least the Hoover Dam and of course the fantastic Grand Canyon both of which are within easy reach, which means the madness of the city can be easily balanced by the peace and wide open spaces in the desert beyond.  More fabulous views!

Las Vegas is cheesy, sleazy, artificial and excessive beyond all boundaries of excess you may have encountered before.  It is completely unique, wonderfully awful and awfully wonderful and that takes some doing.  It wasn't the best but for the 36 hours we were there before flying home it provided a fabulous and unforgettable finale to our trip.


This post is the final part in a series on our California Road Trip with Teens.  If you missed the previous posts you can view them via the links below.

A California Road Trip with Teens - Part One

Whale Watching in Monterey - California Part Two

The Big Sur - A California Road Trip - Part Three

Los Angeles - A California Road Trip - Part Four









  1. September 17, 2017 / 11:39 am

    Thanks for sharing, this brought back many happy memories of family holidays and road trips. We took the 4 boys in 2007 our last family holiday before the eldest boy left home that year for 3 weeks staying in Vegas and visiting family in Oregan. Hubby and I last made the trip to Vegas in 2010 and we’re hoping to go back next next #tweensteensbeyond
    chickenruby recently posted…My Sunday Photo – Week 142 – C is for CaveMy Profile

    • September 18, 2017 / 8:49 am

      Oh you are welcome Suzanne. Happy memories are what keep us all going. I hope you and your husband get to go back and relive some of them. Thanks for your comment. #TweensTeensBeyond

  2. September 16, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    Oh wow I so want to do this. I have loved this series Jo and it is a perfect example of a trip to take with teens. You have made some fantastic family memories and i’m glad you shared them with us. xx #TweensTeensBeyond

    • September 18, 2017 / 8:50 am

      Thanks Sharon, glad to hear you might be inspired. It is hard to believe that it was almost a year ago now, it is still like it was only yesterday. #TweensTeensBeyond

  3. September 14, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    What a trip! The natural wonders just look amazing and are on my lust list to visit one day and, oh my word, at night, Las Vegas seems like Instagram heaven! What a trip. I’m so envious bit i’ll be coming to you for tips when we plan to go #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • September 18, 2017 / 8:52 am

      The natural wonders next to the bling of Vegas are quite extraordinary. Hope you get to do it with your teens one day. #TweensTeensBeyond

  4. September 13, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    love Vegas, there is so much to do and see there, even beyond the gambling. last time I went was my wife’s first so we took a whole week. That was a bit too much but I’d love to do another long weekend soon #TTB

    • September 18, 2017 / 8:54 am

      I agree you are completely spoilt for choice on entertainment and the access to the natural wonders nearby makes it a must visit but a long weekend is enough – financially too! #TweensTeensBeyond

  5. September 13, 2017 / 2:54 pm

    I was looking forward to this this Jo! We went for our first anniversary and stayed at the Luxor. That was 14 years ago and I imagine it has really changed. It is the plan to go back with Lily, well for my 50th too – was planning to go next year. We are now thinking of delaying a year or so. I just loved everything about it and really speaking you don’t have to step foot inside the Casino if you don’t want to as there is so much wall to wall entertainment isn’t there. We did, of course, but obviously wouldn’t if we have little lady with us. We particularly loved the old part and the contrast. Saw ‘O’ which was stunning. I’ve always had my eye on the Blue Man Show but never quite made it. You have certainly whet my appetite further! A great finale to your series #tweensteensbeyond

    • September 18, 2017 / 9:02 am

      The Luxor was where we went for the Blue Man Group show, an amazing hotel. The choice of entertainment is vast and it would be interesting to go back and just do it with my husband too. I loved having access to the expanse of the desert as well and the natural wonders. You will have a fab time with Lily for sure. #TweensTeensBeyond

  6. September 12, 2017 / 4:30 pm

    This is a brilliant review and your pictures are gorgeous. It’s not somewhere I’ve ever fancied visiting, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it 🙂 #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • September 12, 2017 / 5:32 pm

      I am with you on that, I wasn’t very keen either at the beginning but having said that, in hindsight I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. You just have to throw yourself into the whole madness and suck it up! #TweensTeensBeyond

  7. September 12, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    I’m glad you got to appreciate the desert’s beauty. My folks live in Vegas, between the strip and Hoover dam. This reminds me I have to take my kids out there again soon so they can appreciate both the scenery and the craziness of Vegas. It’s certainly worlds apart from our life in Michigan.

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    • September 12, 2017 / 5:33 pm

      Oh Katy did you grow up there? It must have been crazy. I hope I did it justice in my review. It has a little bit of everything but certainly the scenery and surrounding attractions are a big draw. Thanks for your comment. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • September 12, 2017 / 6:57 pm

      Indeed it was Mary. I appreciate your comment. #TweensTeensBeyond

  8. September 12, 2017 / 9:52 am

    I always love hearing what Brits think of Vegas. My husband absolutely hated it but then he is really introverted and all the stimulation wasn’t up his street at all. I love Vegas and have been there a handful of times. I think you’ve summed it up incredibly well with your desription of it as being ‘cheesy, sleazy, artificial and excessive beyond all boundaries of excess you may have encountered before’. Sounds like your road trip was amazing! Thanks for sharing it! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • September 12, 2017 / 6:59 pm

      It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and I think 48 hours would be the most I could stomach to be honest. Glad you liked my description, it means alot to have the approval of someone who has more experience of the city than me. Thanks so much Alisa. #TweensTeensBeyond

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