Why hello there!
I hope you’re all well. As promised following our recent trip to the states I thought I’d give you my two-cents on these popular cities and try and answer as many of your questions as possible!
So on Feb 6th we headed to Dublin airport for the first leg of our trip. I love flying to the US from Dublin airport as you can go through customs before you leave making arrival at the other side much easier and speedier.
Now I won’t lie, personally I found doing both Las Vegas and New York in the one week tough going. Not only are they both big exciting cities with lots to see and do and ALOT of ground to cover but the amount of travelling and 3 changes of time-zones in just seven days was a hit to the system. Don’t get me wrong, it was an AMAZING trip but the travelling and length of your trip is something to take into consideration if like me you need your sleep and don’t operate well as a walking zombie.
We flew from Dublin to Newark and after a layover flew straight on to Vegas. On this occasion we flew with United Airlines and if I’m honest I wasn’t overally enamoured by the airline. I’ve previously flown with Aer Lingus and Virgin and they definitely rate miles above in terms of service and comfort. Having said that there was nothing wrong with the flights per se and we arrived in Vegas excited to explore.
At Vegas McCarran airport we just jumped into a taxi outside as the strip is only about a 15min drive away. We had booked to stay at the MGM grand and boy did it not disappoint. From the moment we pulled up, to checking in at one of the grandest hotel lobby’s I’ve ever seen and then opening the door to our fabulous room, the MGM is a stunning hotel with everything you could want or need for your trip to Vegas.
As with most of the hotels in Vegas you are pretty much forced to walk through the MGMs enormous casino in order to get to your room, or anywhere else in the hotel. It is a site to behold though and we had good fun doing a little low-key gambling. Since I don’t really understand any card games bar snap and jack changes I stuck to the roulette wheel and a few spins on the slots. I was totally enthralled though with the live dealers, the constant buzz and the sheer scale of the casino floor. What I didn’t appreciate was the smoke. It’s still very much legal for people to smoke inside casinos in Vegas and my poor lungs were not a fan. Though it did ensure we didn’t stay to long so maybe not a bad thing….
Biggest tips for Vegas is to make sure you go an see as many of the other hotels as possible. You are more than welcome to go explore, eat, drink and gamble in all the hotels that line the famous Las Vegas strip and they are definitely worth a mosey. The New York New York has a very cool film set style interior with ots of food and drinks options plus for the thrill seekers a roller coaster on the roof (I wasn’t brave enough but Pete’s face was white getting off bless him). The Bellagio, Caesars Palace and the Cosmopolitian are all other big names worth having a look inside as is the MGM if you’re not staying there!!
Also if like us you’re a massive CSI fan the MGM has its own CSI experience where you get your own murder case to solve!
The deuce bus runs up and down the strip stopping often so that’s a great way to visit the hotels and other places if you don’t fancy the walk.
The other bus available is an express bus called the X1. It misses out many of the smaller stops on the strip but is great for heading out to the shopping outlets which are a bit further from town. Honestly if you like shopping or your brands this is a must-visit in my opinion plus they have a cheesecake factory out there … another must on a US trip! The outlet village is the very last stop o the X1 bus so super easy to get to. Buses are very reasonable at $8 a day or a 3day pass for $20 and you can ride them as often as you like during your ticket period.
Show wise I ticked a massive one of my bucket list by seeing the Backstreet Boys live at Planet Hollywood. They were AMAZING and that’s just not a fan talking everyone enjoyed it. So if you get a chance I would certainly recommend.
If you don’t mind some crudeness mixed with some phenomenal circus style stunts then you should definitely get tickets to see the show Absinthe. It is held in a big-top style tent on the grounds of Caesars palace and was absolutely fab! Also since it’s at Caesars if you don’t mind waiting around a little after you should be able to catch one of the infamous fountain shows at the Bellagio afterwards which happen approximately every half hr and is right next door.
Finally a must-do when visiting Vegas is a trip to the Fremont Street experience in Downtown Las Vegas. Known as Old Vegas this is a really fun way to pass a night. There is a light show every hour which is pretty cool and with lots of street performers, stalls, bars and food places there is a really fun, carnival vibe. For the dare-devils among you there are also two ziplines that run down the street. One runs the length of the street and is definitely for the more adventurous and the second is more geared to younger thrill seekers or those a little nervous and stops around half way down the street and appears to go a good bit slower and is a little lower down also.
Next stop New York City.
So after 4 unforgettable nights at the MGM in Las Vegas (we will 100% be back please God). We headed back to the airport for our flight back to Newark. At the airport we met an Uber guy who offered to take us into the city… I blame the tiredness and flight for our compete lack of judgement here. Anyways, needless to say we learnt a very expensive lesson and got totally ripped off by the guy. We did manage to negotiate a bit off but in hindsight we definitely should have threatened ringing the police. Anyways, make sure you always have your Uber’s pre-booked and agreed and if you’re just jumping in a taxi at the airport agree on a fare in advance. There is also a great train and bus system that runs from Newark airport into the city so that’s probably worth exploring if you haven’t too much luggage.
We arrived at our hotel Row NYC at Times Square and could not believe our luck with the location. It was in the perfect spot for a short visit with all the main tourist spots in easy walking distance and a tour bus stop a short distance away. However in my opinion the location is all this hotel has going for it. It was honestly the worst hotel I have ever stayed in anywhere in the world. The room we were allocated was a box (which to be fair isn’t uncommon in NYC) but that wasn’t the issue. It was disgusting. The cleanliness just wasn’t up to scratch. There were stains on the carpet, the bathroom was not properly cleaned and there was so much dirt and dust in the air vents/heater we were afraid to turn it on. All in all I just wanted to cry. In fact I did. Pete, who isn’t in anyway fussy when it comes to where we stay said it made him feel physically sick. We looked at moving but the the prices given the fact it was the weekend and such short notice were colossal, though we both agreed that if we couldn’t at least get a better room here then we would just have to stump up the funds because staying wasn’t really an option. After speaking to reception and PAYING for an upgrade (though in my opinion you shouldn’t have to pay for a clean room) we were told we could move to a much nicer room but not until tomorrow. We agreed and just abandoned the hotel for the rest of the day/evening and went exploring. The room we got the next day was admittedly much nicer and acceptable but after the initial experience I would find it very hard to ever recommend the Row Hotel to anyone.
Whilst in the city that never sleeps I ticked off yest another bucket list item by going to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Simply breathtaking. The following night we decided to head back to see another musical and this time opted for Kinky Boots. I had’t heard of Kinky Boots previously but it seemed to be getting rave reviews throughout the city. OMG it was absolutely brilliant, honestly you need to see this musical! Funny, uplifting and you hang on every word – just fab!
Other tips for New York. Do the bus tour(s). Typically you book one tour and there are three or four different routes available so it usually takes two to three days to cover them all and maybe longer if you wish to get out and spend a good amount of time at some of the most popular stops. However all in all it is the best way to cover the main sites of the city and the tour guides are usually pretty great full of stories and info that is particularly great if you get stuck in a lot of traffic.
Experiencing a basketball game at Madison Square Garden is a great option for all the family as is trying a traditional hot dog from one of the countless street vendors. If anyone is a big American football fan there is an NFL experience on Times Square where you can try on the equipment and really immerse into the different aspects of the game.
Personally I loved visiting Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Natural History Museum both fascinating.
If you are after a nice fresh sandwich or wrap (I got soooo sick of burgers and fries) we loved a great little deli called Crave which is right beside the Mean Fiddler, a great little Irish bar on 47th street, 8th avenue. Finally a trip to New York isn’t complete without a visit to Juniors (the most amazing cheesecake) and if you’re a fan of the tv show ‘Cake Boss’ a trip to Carlo’s famous Bakery.
Everyone says you NEED to visit Ellen’s Stardust Diner when in New York where the waiters regularly burst into song as you eat. My thoughts…. while it was cool to see and experience and we enjoyed our visit it’s probably a little overrated (sorry) a total tourist trap in my opinion and the food wasn’t great.
230 Fifth is New York’s most talked about rooftop bar. Unfortunately Pete and I never managed to fit a visit in during our trip but my sister and brother in law went for an evening and loved it so I would say it’s probably one for the list.
What a trip. Two amazing cities with so much to do and a ridiculous weight gain in the process. If you are heading to either for the first time you will not be disappointed. Just have your itineraries planned in advance because it can be a little overwhelming and you’ll end up forgetting or missing out things you really wanted to do. Prepare to be tired, suck it up, enjoy every second and make sure you’ve a couple of days booked off work when you return home to bring yourself back to life 😉