New Years Eve in Las Vegas

As a surprise for my husband, who works entirely too hard, I arranged for us to visit Las Vegas for New Years of 2008. I bought plane tickets last minute, which provided us with a really good deal, and booked us rooms off the strip, in a little condo unit just a block away from the Rio hotel. From the Rio, we were assured free shuttle rides down to the strip. (I am a really cheap traveler, and there are always ways to save money if you look hard enough!)

My husband actually had to work on December 31st until about noon, so the moment he got home, we jumped in the car, drove to the airport, caught our flight, and were in Vegas by 8 p.m. Just in the nick of time! We checked into our room, got dressed up, and grabbed a cab to get down to the strip quickly.

Excited to be visiting the Las Vegas Strip for the first time on New Year's Eve.

What we didn't know is that on New Years, the city of Las Vegas shuts down all vehicular access to the strip, starting about four or five blocks out. The cab took us as far as he could, and then we had to walk. The atmosphere was electric, and that's not because of all the neon lights! Everyone was either intoxicated, or excited, or marveling at the spectacle that Vegas was displaying in honor of New Years. People packed the streets, and the year we went, Evel Knievel's son was doing an amazing stunt involving his motorbike and a very tall balustrade with a minuscule landing pad on the top. We made it to the heart of the strip with about half an hour to go until midnight.

Getting caught up in all the excitement!

We grabbed a drink as soon as we could - it turned out to be the only drink we could find, or even needed to find, as there were so many exciting things to see and do that we didn't want to dull our senses. At the stroke of midnight, Vegas unleashed a storm of fireworks, beautiful displays of color and light. People were standing on street signs, belting out "Auld Lang Syne" and sloshing beer onto bystanders below. I was personally pelted in the face with a random can of silly string.

Joey enjoys the Vegas fireworks

 After wandering for several more hours, in and out of various casinos, we finally collapsed in exhaustion on our hotel beds at 5 a.m.

Strolling the Strip after the fireworks - we didn't get home til 5 a.m.!

Neither my husband nor I are gamblers or hardcore partyers, but Las Vegas offers so much more than just what is typically seen in the movies. We visited every casino on the strip, just to see what each one offered. We wandered through the lion's den at the MGM Grand, saw a magic show with big cats at the Flamingo, rode the roller coaster at New York, New York, rode the rides atop the Stratosphere, viewed Vegas from the top of the Eiffel Tower, were serenaded by a gondolier at the Venetian, ate with our hands at the Tournament of the Kings at the Excalibur, saw the light show on Fremont Street, and much, much more! We did play the slots once, just to say we had, but since we are (as I stated earlier) cheap travelers, we didn't want to lose our hard-earned money in one foul swoop. Another favorite place was Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, where we took TONS of pictures!

Having fun on Fremont Street

My favorite part of Las Vegas was, by far, watching the water shows outside the Bellagio. I could have stood there watching those meticulously planned performances all day. Unfortunately, we visited in January, and it was actually quite chilly in Vegas at that time (note to travelers: pack jeans and a jacket if traveling to Vegas in December/January!). So we only watched one show at a time before moving on and into a casino to warm up.

Getting "Egyptian" outside the Luxor casino.

There is so much to do in Las Vegas - besides drinking, gambling, and getting married to strangers! For any suggestions or a more detailed list of the things we did while in Vegas, all you need to do is ask!

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