Words by Richard Jones
Not only is it the undisputed entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas is now a mecca for sports fans.
This weekend alone (October 8-10), visitors can experience an NHL fixture as the Vegas Golden Knights host Arizona Coyotes on the Friday, the WBC world heavyweight boxing title bout between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder on the Saturday, and Las Vegas Raiders’ clash with NFL rivals the Chicago Bears on the Sunday.
Every inch of Vegas, from the clubs and rooms, to the restaurants and attractions, is being influenced by the city’s booming sports scene, with the world-famous resorts building specific venues and experiences.
With Brits now finally allowed to travel to the States again, we take a look at the top 10 sports thrills in Las Vegas, whether you are watching a game live, on the big screen, or fancy having a go yourself.
1. Knights on the town
The Vegas Golden Knights was the first major professional sports franchise to call Sin City home and caught the public’s imagination with their stunning march to the Stanley Cup final during their inaugural season in 2017/18.
Medieval knights brandishing swords and pounding on drums, exuberant cheerleaders, and copious amounts of dry ice create a glitzy atmosphere for the 18,000-plus hockey fans at the T-Mobile Arena. On game day, Knights supporters flood The Park – the dining and entertainment boulevard that leads up to the Arena, and revellers can also party in the Toshiba Plaza and in the Miami-style Hyde Lounge.
2. Boxing clever
Las Vegas boasts a long history of high-profile boxing bouts, including Fury’s heavyweight rematch with Wilder at the T-Mobile Arena, as well as those involving legends such as Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard. Venues like MGM Grand Garden Arena play home to some of the most famous fights, with Allegiant Stadium also hosting world-class bouts. Today, UFC features even more prominently on the calendar in Sin City. The UFC Performance Institute isn’t open to the public, but you can watch elite martial artists at the UFC Apex.
3. Raiding the desert
The $1.9billion, 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium is the home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. The football franchise has taken the city by storm – you may even spot a Raiders patch on the sphinx at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, while the Patisserie teams at ARIA Resort and Casino have made replicas of Allegiant Stadium and the Vegas skyline, as well as life-sized statues of quarterback Derek Carr and tight end Darren Waller. Handcrafted over four weeks, the display required 40 pounds of fondant, 100 pounds of sugar and 200 pounds of chocolate.
4. Touch base with the Aviators
There are rumours that an MLB franchise could soon be heading to Nevada. In the meantime, you can watch the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, the Las Vegas Aviators at the Las Vegas Ballpark, a half-hour drive from the Strip in Summerlin. The venue, which attracted the most fans in minor-league baseball last year, is pure fun and relaxation. Spectators can stay cool with big fans or rent the 3.5-foot-deep, 14-seat swimming pool past the centre-field wall. The mascots Spruce and Aviator, provide endless fun and photo-ops.
5. Ace in the pack
Las Vegas is also hungry for NBA and there are rumours of a franchise making the move into the desert. In the meantime, women’s basketball is thriving, and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, coached by two-time NBA champ Bill Laimbeer, have received rave reviews for their spectacular hosting of the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game. Catch the Aces, featuring stars like A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage, during their home games at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
6. Life in the fast lane
Dream Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the only driving experience in Sin City where you can get behind the wheel of a Porsche GT2 RS, Ferrari 488 Pista, the Lamborghini Aventador S and the McLaren 570S. Among the once-in-a-lifetime experiences is Full Throttle in which motorsports enthusiasts can follow in the tyre tracks of a pro race car driver during an adrenaline-packed, half-day programme.
7. Pool your resources
A multi-tiered pool experience that overlooks Downtown Las Vegas and the Strip, Stadium Swim houses a massive 14-million-pixel, 143-foot diagonal screen for sports fans and sunseekers to catch games and entertainment. The venue at the shiny new Circa Resort also features six pools that heat up and cool down depending on the weather. Additionally, the space boasts two swim-up bars, 337 chaise lounge chairs, 30 cabanas and 38 day beds.
8. Get your game face on
Steps away from Allegiant Stadium, MGM Resorts has built a 130,000-square-foot tailgating venue that supersizes all of the typical pre-game festivities on a Vegas scale for the Raider Nation. Situated between Mandalay Bay and Luxor, the Bud Light Beer Garden features pop-up stands from some of the city’s top chefs serving food, as well as jumbotrons, live DJ entertainment and interactive games. The Stadium View Suites at Mandalay Bay and Delano have the best views of the stadium.
9. Tee party
Not only is he among the best-loved sports commentators, Butch Harmon is rated by his peers as the No.1 golf instructor in the world. He’s taught the best, including Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, and also helped aspiring golfers up their games to heights they never thought possible. The challenging 18-hole Rio Secco golf course, which features incredible Strip views and a restaurant-bar, is home to the prestigious Butch Harmon School of Golf.
10. Be a gamer
HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas, located at Luxor Hotel and Casino, is the first dedicated Esports arena on the Strip. Whether you’re a professional streamer broadcasting your gameplay to the world, a professional esport athlete preparing for a major tournament, or a traveller who just loves gaming, the state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot arena is the place to be. There are PC and console gaming stations, a vintage video game cocktail bar and a 50-foot LED video wall with telescopic seating.
Virgin Holidays offers four nights in Las Vegas, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow direct to Las Vegas and room-only accommodation at Park MGM Las Vegas from £614 per person. The price is based on two adults travelling on November 14, 2021, and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. To book visit virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.