Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

‘Las Vegas is the boiling pot of entertainment’ – Don Rickles

I’m lucky that throughout my travels in my adult life I’ve been able to visit Las Vegas 4 times now so by all accounts you could safely say I’ve ‘done’ Vegas. However when Meagan and I found out the lifelong childhood heroes The Backstreet Boys were doing a residency there, I knew I’d be heading over to the strip indulge in the craziness once again.

In previous trips I’ve stayed at the (now defunct) Sahara and the Stratosphere, both at the north end of the strip, which you usually find is the cheaper end. We almost booked into Circus Circus which always comes up the cheapest of all the big hotels in the strip, however the Trip Advisor reviews were putting me off and as lady luck would have it, Booking.com had a 40% discount on some better options so we plumped for the Excalibur.

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Visually, Excalibur has always been my second favourite hotel on the strip after New York New York; cheesy and tacky and built to look like a Disney ye olde English castle and the red and blue turrets stick out a mile off, but it’s Vegas, and unless you’re a millionnaire or won big and can afford to stay in somewhere a little more classy like the Bellagio, then you need to embrace the tacky.

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We booked a queen room, which came with two free buffets, for 4 nights which came out at about Β£250 each. The day we arrived I was sent an email with the option to check in remotely, this helped a ton as we ended up getting slightly delayed getting there so when we eventually did arrive, we were all checked in and all we needed to do was collect our keys.

 

The room (26126); which faced south so you could see the majority of the strip, was a decent size with two large queen beds, a TV and separate bathroom with toiletries. It was basic (no fridge for one) however spotlessly clean and in all honesty, for the amount of time you’re going to stay there, what more do you really need? The room was serviced and cleaned every day and once you’re up in your room and away from the chaos of the casino and strip downstairs it’s like a different world – so quiet and peaceful!

Throughout our stay we visited some of the newer hotels like The Cosmopolitan and Planet Hollywood, whilst in comparison they did make Excalibur look a little old and tired, they were all a bit too shiny, glitzy and trendy for me. I loved Excalibur’s old school feel, with it’s 1970s carpets and brighter lighting. Let’s be honest, we’re not in out 20s anymore and weren’t going to be strutting around in skimpy dresses and heels. The Excalibur was exactly the kind of vibe we were going for.

 

The entrance level is the extensive casino as you might expect along with a couple of bars, the front desk, guest services, Dicks Last Resort restaurant and Johnny Rockets burger joint (top tip: Johnny Rockets serves wine and beer which is a good couple of dollars cheaper tan the bars so if you want a drink to walk around with this might save you a few $$). Up one level is a food court which is where the buffet is as well and lots of other fast food type places, an Italian restaurant, Starbucks, Cinnabon etc. The level below the entrance level is where the Medieval tournament is held (this level is referred to as The Fun Dungeon – which just founds like a euphemism for something if you ask me!) and there’s also a Dairy Queen down there, just in case you haven’t have enough calories already!

 

Facilities wise, there’s everything you would expect. We were lucky with the weather and despite it being March, managed to spend an afternoon by the pool, which has plenty of facilitates for all; a kids pool with a water slide, and an adult only pool area (for an extra cost). Towels are free or you can use towels from your room. There’s a couple of pool bars where you can get wine, beer, spirits or cocktails in plastic cups (if you keep your cocktail cup you can get a refill for half price). There’s also a gym, which we did’t visit because you know we were on holiday but it looked a decent size and well equipped!

 

Location wise we couldn’t fault it, you’re right next door to some of the biggest hotels on the strip; New York New York is connected by a walk way and across the road is the MGM Grand which has a monorail station in if you wanted to go down to the other end of the strip without walking the 4 miles. To get to Planet Hollywood, where the concert was, it was about a 15 minute walk, but there’s so much going on along the way it really doesn’t feel like it. This means you’re an only 20 minute walk away from the fountain show at the Bellagio, which really is worth a watch!

I’m really struggling to find fault with anything about our stay, it was exactly what we needed for the perfect girls trip away, and I’d definitely go back, once I’ve paid off my massive Kate Spade credit card bill!

 

Backstreet Boys – Larger than Life in Las Vegas!

‘Bacstreet’s back, alright and this time they’re appealing to everyone’ – Meagan Morris

Back in the late 90s and early 00s the internet was a scary place, so imagine my parents shock when I tell them I’m taking a train to London to meet someone I met in a chat room so we can hang out and talk about boybands for the day? I’m amazed still to this day they let me go! I’m so pleased they did though because that day marked the beginning of an amazing friendship.

For years Meagan and I have wanted to see the group that made us so close together but for whatever reason could never make it work logistically. When The Backstreet Boys announced they were doing a trial residency in Las Vegas we knew we had to make it happen. Those boys aren’t getting any younger and we didn’t know when we would get the chance again.

It’s hard to review a concert of your all time favourite band with one of your all time favourite people objectively but i’m going to try….

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It was fucking amazing! They were seriously, seriously good. Between the two fo us we’ve seen them live about 11 times and we both agreed that their Vegas show was one of the most professional, polished show they’ve done.

Before I run out of adjectives to describe how amazing they were i’ll give you a run down of what actually happened. They took to the stage just after 9pm after a really cool remix of all their singles/music videos on the large screens, you forget how many songs they’ve released really! And kicked everything off looking dapper in white with Larger than Life. I won’t run through everything song by song (check out the set list at the bottom if you’re interested) but needless to say they got the crowd’s energy up as they went from one up tempo pop hit to the next.

Show highlights for me were As Long As You Love me, which was never my favourite single but they nailed the chair routine all these years later, We’ve Got it Goin On (which is one of my faves) which they updated and mashed up excellently with Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison and the fact that they included 2 of my favourite album tracks Undone and Get Another Boyfriend.

ALAYLM #chairdance #bsbvegas

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Meagan’s show highlighters were – the montage in the beginning which sounds weird but it got everyone amped for the show. Their version of We’ve Got it On was probably her favourite performance of the night because of the dancing and Shape of my Heart of course which is her all time favourite BSB song. They also came out into the audience and Howie was right in front of us, like touching distance from us, so it doesn’t get much better than that.

QPG #bsbvegas

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Fans will be aware of the recent voice issues that Brian has been struggling but they all killed it, singing completely live through the whole 2 hour show and Brian in particular sounded better than he ever has. They dancing was also super tight and the 10 dancers that joined them on stage were fantastic. The staging worked brilliantly in Planet Hollywood and there appeared to be no real bad seat in the house. We were sitting at the front of the first ‘normal priced’ seating, directly behind the ‘pit’ and VIP seating (we paid about Β£140 a ticket if you were wondering) and the view was amazing. It also helped that there were catwalks and walkways coming out into the audience so people further back had a better change of getting a good view

When I was bored in Heathrow waiting for my super delayed flight I did what I swore I wouldn’t do and I looked up the set list ahead of time. I was a little disappointed to be honest. I’ve said from the beginning of time that they never release the best songs off their albums (there’s a blog post in there somewhere) and with only 3 of the 20 strong set list being album tracks, they weren’t singing hardly any of my faves. HOWEVER (and this a big however, I wrote it in caps and everything) Whilst their singles may not be my favourites, there’s no denying their singalongability and their gravitational pull to get everyone in the room joining in and having an amazing time. Which made me have an amazing time, so no set list complaints for me any more!

Rocking our bodies right! #bsbvegas

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If i were to pick any holes (because the cynic in me jut has to find fault in everything) the second costume change (of which there were 4) bordered into boring territory where they sang too many ballads back to back in my opinion, although I’m  pleased my obligatory I’ll Never Break Your Heart toilet break came early in the show as my $24 Margarita was starting to work it’s way through. It also felt that they were racing through the set list a little bit and didn’t talk or interact with the audience very much. I get it though, they need to cater for everyone, not just fans like us who’d moved mountains to be there, but also for people who were in Vegas anyway and just fancied seeing them on a whim.

They’re just really minor points though and didn’t detract from the show at all. I’ll admit we were both dubious when we found out they were doing a Vegas residency. It felt like it was pretty ambitious for a group for the majority of common folk are only really known for one or two songs. However never under estimate the power of the Backstreet army as by all accounts it’s been a roaring success. Time will tell whether they lose momentum by the end of their run in July and whether it will be extended further, here’s hoping they do, although I’m not entirely sure my credit card could take it!

I really wanted to avoid using this chiche but Backstreet aren’t back, for us, and the majority of the people in the Axis theatre, they never left. Alright!

Set list:

Larger than Life
The One
Get Down
Drowning
Incomplete
Quit Playing Games
Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely
I’ll Never Break Your Heart
Anywhere For You
Darlin
Undone
As Long as You Love Me
The Call
We’ve Got it Goin’ On
Get Another Boyfriend
More than That
All I Have to Give
Shape of My Heart
I Want It That Way
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)