Fortieth birthday party, celebration and gift ideas. Happy 40th Birthday!

Fortieth Birthday in Las Vegas

by Simon Hobbs

In my opinion, Las Vegas is the ideal place to celebrate a 40th birthday. Staying on the Strip, you could be forgiven for thinking the whole town is one big party: the hotels are all in fancy dress, everyone is in holiday mood, and the shows and entertainments laid on are among the very best in the world.

40th birthday in Las Vegas: Venetian Hotel & CasinoIf you thought Las Vegas was just about gambling, think again: it's Disneyland for adults. There for 10 days, my wife and I had two brief casino sessions and the rest of the time we spent seeing shows and exhibitions, travelling the globe as we wandered from one hotel to another, and relaxing and/or being pampered in style. Oh, and we flew over the Hoover Dam and into the Grand Canyon in an eight-seater Cessna aeroplane - what an experience that was!

Hotels in Las Vegas

Spread along the Strip is a collection of the most amazing hotels I could ever imagine. Each one is a mini theme park, a world unto itself, with its own attractions, entertainments and unique atmosphere.

We stayed at the Luxor, which (as you might guess) has an Egyptian theme. It's a huge, black-glass pyramid, graced with an enormous sphinx, umpteen palm trees and scale-model camels that move but thankfully don't spit. The decor of both the public areas and the bedrooms is Egyptian-feeling and, even though everything is on such a large scale, the effect is calming and gracious. I've never been to Luxor and can't speak for its Vegas namesake's accuracy, but what I can say is, it made Lexi and me feel like Antony and Cleopatra!

Other cities represented in Las Vegas are New York, Paris and Venice, the latter complete with canals and gondolas (see picture). Other hotels include the Roman-style Caesar's Palace, the movie-themed Planet Hollywood, the tropical-feeling Mirage and Mandalay Bay, the Tex-Mexy Treasure Island, the elegant Bellagio. Dozens of hotels, all different, all with extraordinary attention to detail and great fun to explore.

It is absolutely phenomenal what they have created in Las Vegas and it's all clean, well kept and thoughtfully designed.

Shows and exhibitions in Las Vegas

The shows and exhibitions in Las Vegas are of the toppest quality. It's by no means all striptease and burlesque (though there's plenty of that if you like it). What I'm talking about is shows like the Cirque du Soleil: breathtaking stuff you'll never forget.

There's also musical theatre and concerts - if you're lucky, you can catch a superstar such as Celine Dion, Elton John or Rod Stewart. There's comedy, there's great magic (see below) and there are quirky shows such as the Blue Man Group.

One of the best exhibitions of impressionist art I've seen anywhere in the world we saw at the Bellagio. And the lion habitat at the MGM Grand is well worth a visit.

Magic in Las Vegas

For many magicians, having a regular show in Las Vegas is the pinnacle of their career. Consequently, for magic fans, Las Vegas is the place to see more outstanding magic per square mile than you can probably anywhere else.

To see some of the best stage illusions ever, make sure you get to the shows by Rick Thomas, David Copperfield and Penn & Teller.

To enjoy some still excellent but more laid-back magic, I recommend the very likeable Mac King.

For something a bit different, check out the resident magician at King Ink in the Mirage hotel. If tattoos are not your thing, don't be put off; it's an adventure and the magician (Paul Vigil, pronounced Veehill - a Spanish name, I suppose) is amazing. This is close-up magic, more intimate than the stage variety and definitely not to be missed.

Day out in the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a sight to behold, an overwhelming wonder of nature. It's not far from Vegas and makes a nice day trip out into the real world - although it didn't feel that real to us. It was so beautiful and so big, we felt as if we were in a film. We flew in a little Cessna plane over the Hoover dam (a phenomenon in itself) and into the Canyon. We saw the mighty Colorado river and met some Native Americans who live in that part of Arizona. This meeting was arranged for tourists and somewhat contrived but it was still interesting. The place is incredible - you've got to see it!

Food and drink in Las Vegas

Apart from our day at the Grand Canyon, we didn't leave the Strip the whole time we were in Las Vegas. There is just so much to see and do, in 10 days we had no chance of experiencing a more than a fraction of what the Strip has to offer, let alone finding time to venture off it, so I can only tell you about the food and drink in the resort hotels. I gather that, away from the Strip, you can find all sorts of decent, low-budget diners, but you can eat quite cheaply (and cheerfully) on the Strip too. Many of the hotels have buffets, where you buy a ticket and then consume as much as you want to. There are also mid-range restaurants within the hotels and some very posh ones too.

For a special occasion (such as a 40th birthday), you might want to push the boat out. With a bit of research, I'm sure you'll find the perfect eatery for you: basically, there's every kind of food on offer in Vegas and we found almost all of it to be of good quality.

As far as drink is concerned, we particularly liked the pink lemonade and drank gallons of the stuff. Unusually for us, we had practically no alcohol - we just didn't think about it - although on my birthday, we each had a yard of margarita. It was delicious but it also had great novelty value and we kept the (plastic) glasses/narrow buckets as souvenirs.

Something for (almost) everyone in Las Vegas

40th birthday in Las Vegas: the Strip at nightIf you don't like the artificiality of theme-park living, Vegas is not for you. I can understand this point of view but, for me, spending 10 days in luxurious surroundings of endless variety, with things to see and do of such exceptional quality, was a marvellous way to celebrate my 40th birthday. It's glitzy, it's glamorous, it's somewhat decadent... and why not?

As long as you're happy with a degree of unreality, Vegas has got something for everyone. There are many adventures to be had (if you want to try white water rafting or extreme driving, it's all there), the shopping is good, the food is good, the shows are fantastic, and you can also just relax and, if you want to, be pampered. Lexi loved the spa and we each had a massage too.

We had, to use the vernacular, a totally awesome time in Vegas. It was an experience unlike anything else and we both loved every minute of it. Luxury escapism... exactly what I wanted for my 40th birthday!

Inspired to celebrate your fortieth birthday in Las Vegas?

Make it happen! Have the 40th birthday YOU want!

Useful links to help you plan your trip

Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas

Trip Advisor for reviews to help you choose your hotel in Las Vegas

La Salsa Cantina for your yard of margarita

Recommended books for the journeys and for chilling out by the pool

I read James Swain's Mr Lucky, about a man who wins big in Vegas against all odds. This book is part of a series but it doesn't matter if you haven't read the others, as I hadn't - this is generally acknowledged to be the best of them. Racy story, a few little nuggets of magic trickery revealed... it's an entertaining read ideal for long flights.

Lexi read Divas Las Vegas by Belinda Jones and described it as "absorbing, funny and uplifting".

It's also useful to take a Las Vegas guide book with you.

And either before you go or when you come back, you might enjoy watching these DVDs. We did.

21 (based on the book of a true story, Bringing Down the House: How Six Students Took Vegas for Millions)

Las Vegas - series 1

Back to 40th Birthday Articles or read about 40th birthdays elsewhere: New York City, Paris, London