This year my best friend and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas for my birthday when the Houston winter storm decided to roll in on the week of my dirty thirty and crash all my plans. After having no water for days, the only thing dirty was me. Nevertheless, all things happen for a reason, and this impromptu Vegas trip ended up being the best way to ring in a new decade. Packed for an extended weekend, we masked up, caught our flights, and landed at the Cosmopolitian with little planned and a weekend of spontaneity ahead. Here are the footnotes to a perfect weekend in Las Vegas, on and off the strip.
Valley of Fire
I couldn’t recommend something more than a visit to Valley of Fire State Park. A short 1.5-hour drive outside of Vegas will bring you to this beautiful state park, cascading with vibrant red rock and insane views! It straight up looks like Mars, and several films have been shot here including Star Wars, Star Trek, that one popular movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger that I never saw, and even some of Transformers. Basically, if you have ever seen a depiction of Mars on T.V. it was most likely filmed here. We decided to book a tour through a local company called West Pearl Tours instead of driving ourselves, and it ended up being awesome. We had a private hiking tour and our guide, Denny, was super knowledgable about the area, and took us to all the best spots. He also turned out to be a decent photographer and offered to snap photos constantly, which I was not complaining about.
Food & shopping
Two things that are a must when traveling anywhere would be trying all the foods and spoiling yourself a little! After a long day of hiking, we were ready to sit and eat something delicious. Both of us are huge fans of Momofuku Ramen in NYC, and as luck would have it, there was one located right in our hotel. Granted, remember everything on the strip is about double the price so we spent $40.00 on what should have been an $18.00 bowl of ramen, but it was equally delicious! Also next door to Momofuku is one of our favorite NYC dessert spots, Milk. This place is famous for its cereal flavored ice cream and all sorts of treats from pie, to gourmet cookies, to adult milkshakes. Other noteworthy spots that we ventured to throughout the weekend in the Cosmopolitan were Secret Pizza, you’ve got to find this speakeasy pizza parlor, but heads up, they don’t have pineapple. I know everyone has a different opinion on this topic but I am pro pineapple and this was a major let down. Otherwise it was tasty. For breakfast make sure to check out Egg Slut for an awesome breakfast sandwich and truffle hash brown.
When it comes to shopping on the strip, the best place to visit in my opinion is the Forum shops at Cesars Palace. They have a range of stores, from high luxury designers like Balenciaga to a massive, and dare I say organized H&M. I copped an awesome pair of wide-leg pants from Allsaints along with a few gifts.
The Arts District
I had only been to Vegas once before this trip and knew that when I returned I wanted to venture away from the strip. I am not a big gambler, so after the restaurants and shopping I found myself in need of entertainment. Of course the shows are fun, but most are all cancelled still due to COVID. A little research before the trip clued me in on the trendy Arts District nearly ten-minutes away. This area was not only full of amazing street art, but boutique coffee shops, cool eateries, amazingly curated antique furniture stores, some awesome art galleries, and vintage consignment shops. We spent the day browsing around. A few of my favorite spots were Recycled Propaganda, Edit, and Retro Vegas.
When in vegas, Do Something Crazy…or Permanent
If you have been to Vegas you know that there is a wedding chapel on every corner, a divorce lawyer on every other corner, and sprinkled in between are bail bondsmen and tattoo parlors. A shot gun wedding with my gay best-friend was off the table, I wasn’t trying to get too wild and end up in jail, and so a tattoo it was! For years we have talked about matching tattoos so after a Michelada at Casa Don Juan, on a whim, I suggested we do it. One hour later we were walking out of Wolfpack Tattoo Shop with matching King and Queen of Hearts tats. When in Vegas!
On the hunt for something to do Saturday night, we booked a couple of tickets for Area15, and I am so glad we did. This huge space provided a number of art installations and is known for its experimental entertainment. Basically, Area15 is a space-themed building with black lights, cool art, sick bars and restaurants, an adult arcade, roller skating, and other fun activities. We spent way too much money playing arcade basketball and then bought tickets for Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart Exhibition. Without giving it away, Omega Mart is a “portal to the otherworld” and through varies doors and creative “portals” you are transported to a space-like area spanning over 52,000 square feet. This experience takes your sensory to a new level with visual and musical art.
Three days in Las Vegas is just enough time to have a great trip. Whether you are a frequent visitor or you’ve never been, Vegas has so much to offer and is way more than fancy hotels, flashing lights, and gambling on the strip. Pack your hiking boots and have an open mind next time you go, and be ready for whatever spontaneous adventures come your way! xoxo