It’s a sunny afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada. As I work the controls of a CAT 305.5E mini excavator it crosses my mind that I may have been tricked into paying to help construct the new NFL stadium for the Raiders. In fact, it’s not the case but no matter the cost I am having fun digging holes and being taught the finer points of this complicated piece of machinery.
A stop at Dig This!, a firm where you rent and get to play on all manners of heavy equipment (70 minutes, $189) may not be for everyone but it’s another example of the fun you can dig up in Las Vegas. Literally, in this case.
Too often travellers (or those wanting to be) push this desert locale into a confined box. They consider Vegas as a spot for gambling, entertainment, and the like, but fail to look deeper. When they do, they find out that it is much more. It’s a golf destination, a sport lover’s dream, a shopper’s delight, and maybe just one of the best places in the world to watch and connect with people.
Every time I return I discover another layer and my most recent stop was no different. The offerings keep building, making the largest city by area in the United States a place you can return again and again and not have the same experience twice, if you so choose.
On my latest foray I uncovered yet a few more places to swing the wrenches, heartily consumed all manners of food and beverage, and found new ways to get my heart racing (more on that in a bit).
The prime factor to start with on a Vegas trip is to choose a home base. Many shimmering towers exist along the famed strip, but the iconic MGM Grand is always a safe bet.
On a recent trip I used the MGM Grand as my refuge, an iconic stop with rooms of all kinds, all the entertainment you want, and, if you prefer, enough restaurants that you don’t even need to leave the confines of the massive complex. That said, you’ll need to find some fairways unless you decide to get your swings in at the TopGolf at their back door.
Being a reader of a golf publication, you’ll understand that the golf courses are paramount to any Vegas excursion; building a trip around good ones should be the core of any golf trip. Golf is available near the Strip, but intriguing options and better value propositions can be had if you are willing to tack on a few miles and explore the outer reaches of the region.
In Mesquite, Nevada, about 70 miles from Las Vegas, you’ll find a bevy of golf courses to choose from. The extra travel is worth it just to experience the otherworldly landscape with dramatic cliffs and elevation changes that lend themselves well to a unique golf experience.
Often overlooked is the CasaBlanca Resort and Casino, the annual home to the Nevada Open.
If you can pull yourself away from the 800 slots, video poker machines, and gaming tables, the two 18-hole golf courses can also occupy you.
We played the CasaBlanca Course during the latest trip, slightly flatter than the sister Palms Course, but no less interesting. The Cal Olson design intersperses the Virgin River basin and blends wide driving areas (in some places) with greens challenged by sand and water.
Our games needed to be a little sharper at Bear’s Best, a compilation of Jack Nicklaus designed holes located in Summerlin, in the west end of Las Vegas.
This was my second attempt to play the course. A few years back cold rain and winds, an anomaly for this region, drove us off the property after 13 holes.
I was happy to finish this time and make the full tour which takes you high up on the hillside then works its way back down to the clubhouse. In between you are afforded with exceptional views of the valley and the city below.
Encompassing some of the best Nicklaus crafted holes from his various courses, the layout may seem a little disjointed at times, with the use of different sands in the bunkers and tree types on some holes, but it is a lot of fun.
Out at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, one golf course remains at Reflection Bay Golf Club. There is still hope that part of the closed second course might be revived as an expanded practice facility but until then the 21-year-old Jack Nicklaus course is plenty of fun.
The 320-acre man-made Lake Las Vegas sits some twenty minutes from the city but feels like an oasis. The course tumbles up and down the property and forces the players to make thoughtful shot selections. At the same time, turf conditions are impeccable, and the 32,000 square foot clubhouse has all the amenities you’d ever need. A fun course to play a match on with lots of risk-reward situations.
One thing you are never short on in Vegas is entertainment. Whether you choose to take in a show or just people watch, there is a lot to capture your attention.
As mentioned, TopGolf can be found here just outside the MGM and this location is the largest one in the world with four levels, 107 hitting bays, a pool, and five bars to keep you occupied. The food is next level and you can enjoy the space until 2 a.m. every day.
If you want a slightly tamer version of TopGolf, the TopGolf Swing Suite at the M Resort Casino and Spa might be more your speed. These simulators allow users to play multiple sports in an indoor environment with table service for food and drinks easily at hand. For a treat try their world-class milkshakes but be sure to have someone to share them with, they are huge! If shakes are not your style, slip upstairs to A Handcrafted Experience. The dining is superb and you can even choose a table surrounded by self-serve wine and liquor machines that you operate with a pre-loaded card.
One of the latest additions to the Strip is the FLY LINQ Zipline. We managed to get a preview of this exhilarating ride that carries you 12 stories above the LINQ promenade below. Choose seated or superhero style for your flight. If it is all too much for you the High Roller observation wheel is a great nearby option for even more eye-popping views.
Bites & Beverages
Las Vegas literally has thousands of restaurants featuring some of the best chefs in the world. The choices range from family-friendly places where you can grab a quick bite to the most outlandish culinary experiences.
For a buffet hit the A.Y.C.E. Buffet at The Palms Resort Casino. Breakfast overwhelmed with options while dinner includes everything from Mongolian barbeque to unlimited beer and wine.
After a round at Bear’s Best drop into to the Public School 702 in Summerlin and enjoy their second-floor outdoor patio as you get an education in food and beer. The gastro pub serves up great craft bars, eclectic fare, and is becoming one the hottest concepts in the U.S.
If you like the beer selection at PS702 then Beerhaus in The Park at MGM Grand will be right up your alley. Match up one of their many, many beer choices with some tasty ribs for lunch and you may need to retire back to your room for an afternoon nap.
Have a craving for Italian? Old school fans should make their way off-strip to Ferarro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Beer where Gino Ferraro and staff serve up the best home-made recipes. Let them pair your dishes with their extensive wine list for an ultimate treat.
For authentic Italian with a modern twist, Buddy V’s Ristorante at The Venetian Las Vegas will overwhelm you with favour. Their Chicken Parmigiana accompanied by ziti pasta in Bolognese sauce is the stuff of dreams.
For those a little more adventurous in their flavour profiles Momofuku at the Cosmopolitan is exquisite. Don’t missed the spicy cucumbers with togarashi and toasted almond or their world-famous 5-spiced Roasted Duck (best for 3-4 people). It’s a whole rotisserie duck served with leg confit, crispy rice, bibb lettuce, chive pancakes, kimchi, hoisin, ssäm sauce, ginger scallion sauce, and fresh herbs. It’s a sensory overload.
To wrap up a night or two slip into the Park MGM and let the wizards at the new Juniper Cocktail Lounge whip up a brilliant concoction. They are home to the largest Gin collection in Las Vegas.
Just A Taste
So, there you have it, just a short agenda of Las Vegas experiences for you to enjoy. It’s just a taste and with many daily flights into Canada makes for easy planning. Don’t sell city short, there is more fun to dig up there than you can imagine.
Enough that you always have an excuse to go back to see what you missed on the last trip.
MGM Grand Resort & Casino
CasaBlanca Resort & Casino
Reflection Bay Golf Club
Food & Beverages
Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
Public School 702
Juniper Cocktail Lounge Park MGM
Buddy V’s Ristorante at The Venetian Las Vegas