Las Vegas: Ferrari’s, Guns and Bikini Clad Girls
Published: June 2012
If the Mayans claimed that the end of the world as we know it will take place in 2012, then no-one told anyone in Las Vegas. This is the city that relies on re-invention after all, the one place in the world where a good implosion is as good of an excuse for a big party as any. After all, it not only celebrates the end of one existence, but symbolises genesis of another. With that spirit in mind, my recent trip to Las Vegas burned the candle at both ends, exploring the new, bold and exciting whilst re-visiting some desert classics to see how they evolve to compete with the big buck debutants. I wasn’t disappointed. Racing Ferrari’s, firing machine guns, zip-lining downtown, clubbing and eating my way around the entertainment capital of the world…
Accommodation in Las Vegas abound, I stayed at the Grand Dame of the Strip for the start of my trip and a casino-free luxury high riser for some R&R at the end. The MGM Grand is a Vegas icon. For years it was the largest hotel in the world, and it still sits at the top of the list of the USA’s largest resort complexes. It will be its 20th anniversary in 2013 and to ensure that it still pulls in punters is undergoing extensive refurbishment to the Grand Rooms at MGM. Mine was spacious, modern and equipped with all the mod cons needed for connectivity and convenience. A newer feature to have hit many of the hotels on the strip is the introduction of resort fees, a daily cost that’s added to the room rate and offers a selection of inclusive benefits. At MGM it included complimentary wireless internet access, the connection was good and knowing you could be online at any time is a real added bonus, especially for international travellers wanting to make phone calls using it.
From the vast lobby to the largest casino floor in Las Vegas, guests at MGM Grand as privy to an enormous selection of shops, bars and restaurants but its location is one its best assets. A stones throw from the airport you can be off the plane and at the table in half an hour. Plus it’s well placed for heading out of resort and onto the strip.
The Las Vegas Strip is more than four miles long and classed as an All-American highway. For those who don’t know, it’s an exclusive club of just thirty one roads that are unique within the US and are tourist destinations in their own right. There’s no doubting the qualification of Las Vegas Boulevard to elite of attractive thoroughfares. Driving or strolling along it is a heady experience as music, fountains and performers jostle for your attention. It can be argued that it’s the puppeteer of Las Vegas, the stick from which dangles the caricatures of society - the resorts. There are the destination themed ones such as the Paris, New York New York or the Venetian. There are luxurious offerings of the likes of Bellagio, Aria and Wynn and nostalgic venues bursting with character like Harrah’s and Flamingo. Escapists are drawn to the fantasy resorts like Treasure Island, the Excalibur or Luxor which draw guests with imposing monuments to their respective themes. Choosing where to stay may be as complex a decision as you’ll make on a trip to Las Vegas, but regardless of where you lie, wandering in and out of several if not all of the major landmark resorts is the quintessential experience of this city.
Las Vegas may be the only city in the USA where foot is the easiest way to get around, but that’s not to say that it isn’t car friendly. Dream Racing is a new attraction based at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway offering tourists the chance to race Ferrari’s inside the landmark stadium. This isn’t something I have done before and it must be said that on first glance of the cars, the nerves do set in. For the petrol heads, the cars are non street legal F430 GT’s. They boast a whopping 512 horsepower which can get you from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and then onto a maximum speed of 200 mph. This is exactly the sort of experience that draws visitors to Las Vegas, within a half hour of arriving we are watching an instructional video before jumping in the simulator. With expert guidance and the 3D glasses on, guests can practise driving round the track which is laid out in precision detail. It didn’t go well, I had a couple of track deviations shall we say, but none-the-less after plenty more practise laps under my belt it was on to the dressing room to get kitted out. Donning a racing suit and helmet I felt every part the pro driver, and the pre-race nerves racked up.
One of the hardest manoeuvres was squeezing into the car, fully kitted out with race seats and roll bars. My instructor sat across from me and offered guidance through our helmet communication system. With the ignition button fired we were off. The power of this vehicle was insane! At first trepidations tempered my speed and the calls of ‘stay on the power’ went largely ignored as I questioned the down force grip of my red steed. I needn’t have worried, this thing cornered on rails. Turning into the straight was a fierce test of nerves, pedal to the metal to what felt like far too close to the turn only to press the brakes with full force and hey presto, the car obliged with an extraordinary deceleration that ground the car to a pedestrian pace and we glided around the bend. I’d like to say that over the next five laps I vastly improved my times, but I doubt it. Putting trust in the car is the hardest part, and by the end of my five laps I was exhilarated and exhausted. Racing drivers are fit.
But there was more. Before finishing up I had two ‘hot laps’. This basically involves jumping back in the car but from the passenger seat whilst the instructor unleashes the true power of the car. It was unlike any thrill rides I’ve encountered before, it’s a far more visceral experience and totally engaging. I was happy to step out of the car after a couple of laps though, my neck was starting to feel the extra G’s of the turns. As I walked away from the car, fighter jets from the adjacent Nellis Air Force Base powered overhead and swept down to land and I felt rather like I was in a movie. This isn’t an experience for everyone, but if the sound of racing Ferraris appeals then it is utterly irresistible and it doesn’t disappoint.
If high speed car chases whet the appetite for higher jinx then next on the list is even deadlier. International visitors in particular find the opportunity to fire off weapons very high on the holiday wish list and consequently there have long been a raft of ranges offering high powered kick backs in Vegas. One of the newest is Machine Guns Vegas. With a handy shuttle to whisk you from the strip to their door in a few minutes, you quickly realise that this is no ordinary gun range. For a start the hostesses and range masters are more what you’d expect to find in the clubs than teaching gunplay, these staffers are fully qualified, expert gun-wielding hot chicks.
There are a range of packages that you can choose from like James Bond, Seal Team Six or the SAS, these options are all talked through using the latest tablet devices to show off the relevant weapons included. When in Rome? Well, when in the States anyway it had to be the Seal Team Six package. I loosened off my arms with some .22 pistol shots before taking up the semi automatics. Armed with a fully loaded Heckler & Koch semi automatic and a target with an impression of Osama Bin Laden to aim at all I had to do was squeeze. I’ve fired guns before but not for a while, the rush when the first rounds squeeze out and ‘that gun smell’ starts lingering in the air is intoxicating. With ear mufflers on, expert supervision and a VIP firing range to yourself, handling weapons like this is still a sharp reminder of how deadly these weapons are. And then we got out the big guns. First up was the M60, a monster of a weapon that kicked a hefty punch into your shoulder. Firing off the first bursts of shots was easy, with a signalling tap on the shoulder that the ammo belt was wearing down I pulled and held the trigger releasing a volley of automatic fire that Rambo would have been proud of. Well perhaps until he’d seen my target, but at least it felt like I was in the movie. Finally we headed into the main range to fire off the piece de resistance. This is a gun which as we approached turned every envious head in the range. Firing it was much easier than the others as it was floor mounted, but the noise and power it produced was every bit as impressive. Fun with guns? Yes it is, so much so. But only if you’re sober, so get there early as Machine Guns Vegas is a daytime activity.
Las Vegas can reach shoe-melting temperatures so to escape from or wallow in the scorching sun you’re never far from a swanky pool and bar. Most resorts have private ones for guests, but there are several that offer general admission for a price. If ultra lounges were the evolution of the cool bars in Vegas, then the pool clubs are an extension of that. There are several on and off the strip, you wont have to travel far to see one of the many billboards advertising when and where to find them. I tried out Tao Beach at the Venetian. A swimming pool with a giant cabana behind it forms the centre point of the lush Asian themed space. Spread out in front are rows of plush comfy day beds and flanking are luxury cabanas which come complete with private giant screens and airy set back lounge areas. The association of a big name DJ’s with the pool clubs is all the rage in Vegas, a welcome move for us dance music loving European’s. At Tao Beach you can expect banging tunes from the Funktion One sound system as revellers dance poolside. The table service waitresses are bikini clad stunners, offering thirst quenching Mojitos by the jug-full. The menu here features lots of small Asian plates; I opted for a Spicy Shrimp Caesar Salad which was superbly fresh in the beaming sun. The main draw here though is the ambience, high spirited people looking for fun, a few laughs and a lot of looking around at who’s who. It not something you’d do every day, but it’s a fantastic alternative to dressing up for the nightclubs.
As the evening draws in, neon gradually shines through the Vegas frontages. Nowhere is it more impressive than Fremont Street, Downtown. The impressive light show is now a firm part of the Vegas landscape, but a newer addition to the Fremont experience is Flightlinez. This quirky idea offers visitors the chance to zip line down the legendary street. At under twenty bucks a go, it has to be one of the best value experiences in Las Vegas at the moment. You begin by signing up and then heading up an elevator in a car park. It sounds rather unlikely, but then so is zip lining down a major road. At the top, you venture out onto the steel structure that acts as a launching point. Under supervision, I stepped into my harness and clamped on to the safety line tightly. From there you align under a wire as the staff hook you up, sit back and then you are released. It is an incredible idea, and a wonderful sensation. Gliding down with the neon flashing all around and unsuspecting tourists looking up in bemusement as the swarm descends is a thrill. It’s all over rather quickly, but it stays with you long after you’re unhooked and strolling off to look at the photo booth with jelly legs. A good half hour later, beer in hand myself and my photographer were still grinning at the thought of it, and enjoying the show as more and more people took the descent.
Coming up in part 2, I’m going to talking about dining, drinking and dancing. Plus I’ll be checking in to Trump Las Vegas for some much needed R&R and discovering an altogether more peaceful way to stay in Vegas.
Las Vegas: Ferrari’s, Guns and Bikini Clad Girls
Ged Cleugh is one of our most experienced producers. Ever the adventure traveller, he takes on the projects in the farthest reaches of the planet. From the Amazon to the Nile to the Mekong by boat, train and chopper if there’s action to be had then he’s there. Ged’s worked in temperatures from +50°C to -121°C and loves pushing technological boundaries to bring the exotic and remote back on film. His scariest moment? Sleeping in a tent surrounded by lions, crocs and hippos in Mozambique.
For more information on Las Vegas:
For more information on MGM Grand:
For more information on Dream Racing:
For more information on Machine Guns Vegas:
For more information on Tao Beach:
For more information on Flightlinez visit: