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Las Vegas: the most ridiculous place on Earth cured my jaded gay soul

Las Vegas: the most ridiculous place on Earth cured my jaded gay soul

visit las vegas gay travel

Existing in a city like London can force you into a rut. Coming as a tourist, it’s a big city of a thousand attractions, bars, restaurants and buses. Living here is like being run over by a bus made of smog and being dragged through a crowd of constantly disapproving people in suits, who are also made of smog. I needed something to pull me out of the haze.

I needed a jolt. I needed a place so ridiculous, so perfect in its absurdity; a place literally made of electricity. Las Vegas.

The city could provide the shock to the system my jaded gay brain sorely needed. Las Vegas is like a city made on a dare. Las Vegas was where I needed to be.

Las Vegas is a city of cities

I spent the entire taxi ride from the airport to the hotel with my face pressed against the window. Severely jet-lagged – my body thought it was midnight when the blazing Nevada sun was telling me something different – the upcoming towers looked like a mirage.

In Vegas, you need to throw away all your hang ups about inauthenticity. I don’t care if you’re the type to sip the finest Colombian fine grain coffee in your favorite artisan coffee shop, that’s not what the City of Lights is about. It’s pure showmanship. It’s brash in the most extreme possible way. You’ll only enjoy it if, like Ripley at the end of Alien 3, you dive straight into this boiling hot nonsense.

Las Vegas gay travel
The streets only give you one view of the city’s on-brand wonder | Photo: Las Vegas CVB

Weaving through the highways, the Eiffel Tower and glass pyramid in the distance were not even the most absurd thing to pass us by. The hotels are basically towns, filled with shops, spas, restaurants and, of course, casinos. I stared up to burning-white Ceasar’s Palace with the awe of a very pale mouse at the foot of a blinged-out mountain. Overbearing London felt like a hamlet.

Another thing to note is that walking in Vegas is impossible. Taxis, Ubers, or Lyfts will get you from the Strip to Downtown in 20 or so minutes. Just don’t expect a silent Taxi ride. They love a chat, even when you think you can feel the strained hands of your internal body clock tick inside the bags of your eyes.

Eventually we parked up at Palms Casino Resort, just ten minutes from the Strip. While most of the destinations could charge council tax, Palms is more compact – and this works in its favor. Don’t get me wrong: it still boasts a concert hall, food court, several restaurants, cinema and a decent casino, but I would let my mum walk around there without worrying she’d be lost in the roulette table borough.

The resort has undergone a massive renovation, with $620 million being pumped into its re-imagining. It’s technically one of the older resorts, but the place felt fresh. The Unknown bar sitting in the casino’s center is an example of this.

Las Vegas gay travel-2
I also wasted no time ascending to my true, basic form | Photo: Tom Capon

The sleek interior, metallic bar, and modern furnishings gave it a contemporary New York vibe. The cocktail menu boasted mainly updated classics, while a deconstructed taxidermy shark hung above the bar gave a bit of Las Vegas quirkiness to an otherwise stripped-back experience.

Yet after making my way through the cacophony of flashing lights in the casino, I was one elevator ride up to my room. Ahh, those beautiful rooms. Decadence transformed into a place to sleep: this is a tonic to London flatshare life; no drunken arguments from people in the pub down the road, just silent bliss.

The bathroom was majestic, with the kind of shower you can recreate romcoms in. But, of course, it all comes down to the beds. Why does no other nation on Earth know how to create beds like America? To say it felt like a cloud is a cliche, but I literally sunk into it. 

I passed out and readied myself for what the city had in store.

Las Vegas is a performance

It feels like there are more people performing in Las Vegas than there are performers in the world. Even Alanis Morissette was singing at my hotel. Unfortunately, my homosexuality only affords me the knowledge of Ironic, and that song, despite being a straight bop, isn’t enough to buy a ticket. Instead, I visited the Vegas-mainstay, Cirque Du Soleil.

Las Vegas Gay travel -- Cirque du Soilel Beatles
A masterful use of set design kept me stunned even after severe jet lag | Photo: Cirque du Soleil, Facebook

Their Love show at The Mirage was dedicated to the Beatles, so I was interested to see how they transformed their solid list of melodic bangers into the heart-stopping spectacle Cirque du Soleil are known for.

The result was a predictably psychedelic show, which seemed a tad light in the oh-my-god-I-hope-they’re-okay moments. The cast all performed admirably, and the master of ceremonies was enigmatic. I was rarely shocked by the stunts; perhaps my jadedness still clung to me with my jet-lag.

But it really is a show of set-design: creative use of shadows, shifting landscapes pulled from the Beatles’ drug-fueled imaginations, and a genuinely spectacular, dream-like climax. Definitely worth a visit.

That’s a show made for tourists, but this is a town unashamedly for tourists. You won’t find any slam poetry nights here. Instead, the next day, I headed to Vegas-style culture: the Mob Museum.

The former courthouse provides an incredibly in-depth exploration of the city’s gangster past.  Unlike a lot of British museums, Vegas treats this as a cinematic experience. Expect flashing lights, dramatic movies, and games to frame the factual information. They’ve weaponized their gangster past into a flashy, cultural moment, and you have to admire that.

There’s also a really cool hidden speakeasy in the basement. If you know the password you can get in for free. All you have to do is sweet talk a bartender – an easy job with a novelty British accent. 

Seven magic mountains las vegas visit usa
Just a short drive out the city are the Seven Magic Mountains, stunning against the desert backdrop | Photo: Tom Capon

Las Vegas is also… Downtown!

The flashing lights were having their intended effect. My brain was flooded by photons and gold. I was excited about walking down the street again because to walk down to the street is to be dazzled all over again.

I was giddy with preposterousness. But like all good cities, the flashiest parts aren’t even the most interesting. As London has Shoreditch – a town of mustaches, baffling trousers, and a bar with a ballpit – Las Vegas has Downtown.

Oh, Downtown has a special place in my heart. It has all the spirit of the Strip with none of the grandiosity. This gives the area the kind of life and energy those craving ‘authenticity’ would love, without losing Vegas’ soul.

Street performers litter the paths, ranging from a woman naked (baring the stringiest of string bikinis) offering money for photos, to a man with a sign literally saying ‘Kick me in the balls and if I flinch you get your money back.’

They ‘perform’ to the backdrop of ludicrous establishments, like the Heart Attack Grill, where you are served by women dressed as nurses and, if you are over 350 pounds, you get the meal for free. Where else in the world would you get away with that?

Las Vegas gay travel-3
You know, a lot of places your Dad would laugh at | Photo: Tom Capon

I witnessed these scenes walking down the street, then again flying above it on the Slotzilla zipline experience. Basically, you soar down Freemont Street, 77 feet up, and 850 feet across. Peak tourist and the first non-roulette activity to get my heart pumping. But take it from me, wear a cup. 

But Downtown hosted something truly special during that September visit: the Life is Beautiful Music and Art Festival.

Woven into the streets, it appropriates the walls and brings formerly rundown buildings to life with the most phenomenal murals only minds trapped in the desert heat could produce. Trash is reformed into grand statues. Attractive young people laugh and love down the streets.

It was a festival experience I have never faced before. It felt jarring, as a man who spends most of his summers in English fields avoiding teenagers on ketamine so he can see a low-grade Indie band in peace.

I felt the great American spirit most keenly here: the ludicrousness of Vegas-proper replaced with genuine kindness and a love of music. It radiated from the crowd and I was intoxicated. Read my full experience here.

Life is Beautiful Fesrtival gay travel Las Vegas
Seeing young people have carefree fun would normally be enough to send me into Miss Haversham spiral, but Vegas is my safety net | Photo: ALIVE Coverage for Life is Beautiful

Jump into the city

When I flew back to London from Las Vegas I felt like a new man. Cynicism and routine began to shackle me in London and that pure, silly joy in life started to dim. A trip to this city isn’t going to change your life. You won’t find your soul. But that’s not what it’s here for.

At a party, Vegas is not the one you have your deep meaningful conversation at 3am with, it’s the person storming the dance floor and howling with laughter. From the beaming lights of its resorts to the cartoon characters populating Downtown, Las Vegas is a testament to the ridiculousness of human beings. And it might just make you love this whole life thing again.

Netflights.com is offering three nights in Las Vegas staying at the 5* Palms Casino Resort on a  room only board basis. Prices start at £479pp including flights from London Heathrow with British Airways & American Airlines. Based on selected dates between 15th January 2019 -31st January 2019, book by 15th December 2018. (0207 001 4377, www.netflights.com).

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