- The lads' version: Ben Groundwater's hangover in Vegas
- Bigger than Vegas: James Packer's Asian paradise
Girls gone wild in Vegas: Louise Goldsbury, Kristie Kellahan and Julie Miller discover the true meaning of "the hangover".
Day 1 - Wild Vegas
Three women with three days and three nights in Vegas can only lead to triple trouble, so in a bid for survival, my friends and I agree to commit no sins in Sin City. No gambling, no men and no Celine Dion. Instead, we launch into a long weekend of the wild and the weird, interspersed with dollops of indulgence.
To start off in style, we book a stretch limo to pick us up from the airport and drive the whole 10 minutes to the Tropicana hotel. After a quick check-in and costume change, we cross the street to the most decadent daytime venue on "The Strip": Wet Republic.
A playground for plastic wearing elastic, this is a pool party taken to the extreme. Our bags are searched upon entry and an innocent packet of Nurofen is confiscated, which does not bode well for our anticipated hangovers tomorrow. But we laugh it off as part of the experience and walk into a scene of half-naked, broad-daylight revelry.
The centrepiece is a catwalk of wannabe models competing in the Hot 100 bikini contest, their tiny tops seemingly held in place by sticky layers of spray tan. The rest of the clientele look as if they should be up on stage with them, leaving me and my gal pals feeling old and overdressed.
Finding our reserved daybed, we shed our clothing along with our inhibitions and order cocktails - by the jug. For the next couple of hours we relish the spectacle of twentysomethings dancing in pools, spas and cabanas. But there is one wild thing we do that the beautiful girls don't dare - we get our hair wet.
Not yet satisfied by the display of flesh, we move on to STK steakhouse. This darkened restaurant has more of a nightclub vibe, with a DJ, two bars and sexy waiters. But the food is sublime, from the complimentary blue-cheese bread to the meat and seafood mains. Even the list of side dishes is delectable: sweet corn pudding, mushroom pot pie, parmesan truffle fries and lobster mac'n'cheese.
Fuelled up, we are now ready for the next course at the Thunder From Down Under male revue. Our cultural cringe turns to national pride when AC/DC's Thunderstuck rocks the room, triggering screams from tables of hen parties. These bronzed Aussies do look much better than most male strippers, they can dance, and they do it with humour. We're laughing more than lusting, but that's the kind of night we wanted.
Next stop is the Hyde Bellagio, where we are keen to try "frozen nitrogen" cocktails.
With the famous fountains as a backdrop, this terrace bar is one of the hottest spots in town.
A mixologist in a skin-tight, buttock-skimming gold dress wheels over a cart and prepares our drinks at the table. She whisks together fresh fruit, juice and liquors and then adds the magic ingredient of liquid nitrogen, which creates a thick fog that appears to turn her mixing bowl into a cauldron. It freezes the concoction into a sorbet-like drink, served with a spoon, making it easy to forget it's alcoholic.
Our final destination is Pure, described on its website as the world's most beautiful nightclub. Perhaps to prove our worthiness, we encounter tighter security here than at the White House (it takes close to an hour). However, all is forgotten when we're rewarded with a table overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard and the city's famous "bottle service" - a few hundred dollars for 750 millilitres of vodka, a couple of mixers and a waitress to pour it for you.
At some blurry point we hit the dance floor, a heaving mass of messiness. Unsurprisingly after 10 hours of partying, we fit right in. We may have danced till dawn or for one song, but I do remember feeling grateful that we'd designated the next day to recover.
- Louise Goldsbury
Day 2 - Mild Vegas
Last night's 11 o'clock start, bottle service and Kanye West lookalikes (don't ask) have left us feeling less than pure this morning. I'd say the look is more Lindsay Lohan than Audrey Hepburn as we shuffle in from The Strip for our special tour of Tiffany & Co.'s flagship Vegas store.
Miraculously, even overtired, overhung party princesses look refreshed when decked out in $400,000 diamond engagement sparklers. We're taken on a store tour by the charming GM and make a wish-list of the things we'd buy if we won big at the poker tables. Top of the list is a 2.5-carat diamond pendant, a Vegas bargain at a cool $50K.
A private, luxe lounge room is hidden away beyond the main sales floor. Password: bling? We learn that with an advance phone call, this space can be set up for engagement ring shopping, surprise proposals and celebrities who wish to escape TMZ snappers. One lucky gal celebrating her 21st was brought here to choose 21 trinkets.
Shopping may be one of the tamer Vegas vices, but it is nonetheless still on the orgiastic scale. At Las Vegas Premium Outlets - North, discounts of up to 80 per cent off retail prices lead to a frenzy of buying by tourists and locals. They clutch shopping bags from Coach, Armani Exchange, Burberry and DKNY as if they were high-stakes loot.
With sore heads and even sorer feet, we happily surrender to the soothing atmosphere of QUA Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace.
Designed to resemble the grand bathing spaces associated with ancient Rome, QUA Baths is a great spot for "social spa-ing", gathering with girlfriends to steam, dip and chill out in the pools. An ultra-heated steam room and an ice room with "snow" falling from above do wonders for our sluggish circulation.
A "tea sommelier" prepares a relaxing brew as we sit, wrapped in fluffy white robes, waiting to be called in for the grand prize of pampering, the Signature Hourglass Treatment. In a nod to the American penchant for "wanting it how you want it", we each have a spa therapist for two hours to mix and match treatments as we please. We opt for combinations of facials, hot-stone massage, scalp massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and energy work. Bliss. Three different, radiant, fresh-faced women greet each other, beaming, in the changing room afterwards.
Relaxed and ready for something new, we decide to get our make-up done for tonight's dinner and show at Caesars. The former lead singer of Bros, Matt Goss, has remade himself as a jazz crooner with a big-band show. He's hailed as the new Sinatra, and we're told his show is classy, sophisticated, polished.
At COLOR - a Salon by Michael Boychuck, the "make-up and mimosas" treatment is a fresh take on happy hour. With chilled mimosas in hand, we meet our maker-uppers.
One look at the Lady Gaga-esque make-up artist should have been the first clue that this exercise could go horribly wrong. We must have said something really ambiguous and open to interpretation, such as: "Please DO NOT do heavy or dramatic make-up", because the artists misunderstand and liberally slap on the warpaint, Vegas showgirl-style. Well, my two friends walk out looking like Vegas showgirls. I resemble Ozzy Osbourne's sister. His older sister. What better moment for a celebrity encounter? The man himself, Matt Goss, object of our 1980s schoolgirl crushes, glides out of the manicure room with his mum as we're settling the bill. He's tall, handsome and a complete gentleman, introducing us to Mrs Goss and telling us our make-up looks beautiful. OK, so his eyesight isn't what it was in 1988, but he's looking dishier than ever.
A few hours later, we're settled in The Gossy Room at Caesars - full house, no less - to sing along to Fly Me to the Moon and a sexy, slow rendition of When Will I Be Famous? The lights are low (phew!) and the mood is mellow. Sin City has turned on another decadent day of delights.
- Kristie Kellahan
Day 3 - Weird Vegas
Let me preface this by saying I abhor violence. But when offered the opportunity to fire machineguns in a shooting gallery, it was difficult to resist - especially when informed it's an increasingly popular activity for hen parties. When in Vegas ...
We enter the Guns & Ammo Garage via its shop, agog at flak jackets, camouflage suits and a staggering armoury. Then it's ladies, select your weapons. Clueless, I choose familiar names from history to test my mettle: AK-47 and Uzi, Dirty Harry's revolver and the smallest gun.
The small pistol is surprisingly weighty and with a tendency to drop my wrists, I keep locking the barrel. My partner in crime, Louise, makes light work of the paper target, scoring multiple bull's-eyes.
But now it's time for the big guns - the semi-automatics.
The AK-47 is cumbersome but its power, speed and accuracy are terrifying, even with a novice such as me in control. And despite warnings, I am shocked by the force of the recoil, the gun's weight bouncing back into my shoulder. I stiffen, fire again; this time it bounds back into my face, bruising my cheek.
Despite the adrenalin coursing through my veins, I wimpishly hand the weapon back to my instructor, complaining that it hurts.
My redemption comes several hours later at another popular girls' weekend activity. Forget pole-dancing lessons - the cool chicks have all donned hard hats and headed for the construction site! At Dig This, you get to play with big boys' toys, tearing up two hectares of prime Las Vegas real estate with heavy machinery.
Dig This panders to two primal instincts - the thrill of controlling something enormous, and making a mess in a giant sandbox. And with more than 40 per cent female clientele, this has clearly struck a chord with tomboys and Village People wannabes alike.
Guests have the choice of operating an excavator or a bulldozer. With the latter, you build your own dirt roller coaster, pushing the dusty desert soil into a mound before teetering on the precipice and toppling over in perfect safety.
I'm behind the controls of an excavator. Push a lever and the giant clawed shovel greedily gouges the earth. Press another button and Tyrannosaurus jaws open wide, creating a dirty big sandcastle.
My final task is to pick up 680-kilogram tyres, carry them to the other side of the site and stack them again - a job requiring enormous concentration and surprising dexterity.
While Dig This and Guns & Ammo have become an essential part of hen party tomfoolery, it's the actual business of weddings that Las Vegas is famed for. Last year, Nevada was home to 90,000 weddings, not including vow renewals or same-sex marriages; and in Vegas, the wackier the better.
Wedding planner Joni Moss picks us up in her purple convertible for a guided tour of Vegas wedding hot spots. She points out the courthouse, where paperwork must be registered; the Little White Wedding Chapel, where Britney celebrated her first, 55-hour marriage; a drive-through chapel for nuptials "in the fast lane"; before heading to another classic, Viva Las Vegas.
Here, we sit giggling in pews as British couple Amanda and Michael, dressed in bordello fancy dress, burst through the chapel's double doors in a pink Cadillac, driven by no other than Elvis himself. Elvis then takes the stage for a rendition of That's All Right, before asking the happy couple to say "uh-huh" instead of "I do".
"Do you promise to always give a hunka-hunka-Burning Love?" Big E finally says as the happy couple walk down the aisle, their fate sealed in about 15 minutes of madness.
This "Pink Caddy Package"- including car, Elvis, the ceremony, three songs, photographs and video streaming - costs just $777 all up, on the upper end of Vegas weddings, which start at $199. And considering the fun Michael and Amanda had, it's a lifetime souvenir.
After a mind-blowingly bizarre day, we head back down The Strip to New York-New York, the location of our Vegas swansong - a Cirque du Soleil show. But Zumanity is not your standard Cirque extravaganza - it's raunchy, erotic and bold, an adults-only performance with plenty of nudity and some eye-popping simulated foreplay.
Subtitled "the Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil", Zumanity is part cabaret, part burlesque: cheeky, naughty and deliciously sexy, with references to orgies, S&M and kinky sex. But the acts are mind-boggling in their athleticism and freakishness, from intimate balancing acts to the ultimate pole dance, contortion water play in a transparent tub to high-flying silk-rope performances.
It's a blistering - dare I say orgasmic - experience, and a fitting end to a girls' weekend of extraordinary excess. Bring on the Berocca, our heads hurt.
- Julie Miller
The writers were guests of United Airlines and Tropicana.
- The lads' version: Ben Groundwater's hangover in Vegas
- Bigger than Vegas: James Packer's Asian paradise
United Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles, with domestic transfers to Las Vegas. united.com.
The New Tropicana Las Vegas, fresh from a $US180 million transformation, has 1375 spacious rooms redesigned with king beds, plantation shutters, wireless internet and city views. The massive site comprises a casino, several new restaurants and bars, and the Glow Mandara Spa and gym. For a night out in your own hotel, the Trop's first-class entertainment includes Dancing with the Stars: Live in Las Vegas (tickets from $US40 ($32)), the Laugh Factory ($US29) and Bagatelle Beach & Nightclub (afternoon pool parties). Rooms start at $US99 a night. Book 90 days in advance to save 20 per cent. +1 702 739 2222, troplv.com, .
Chris Limousines, chrislimousa.com
Wet Republic, wetrepublic.com
Hyde Bellagio, hydebellagio.com
Thunder From Down Under, thunderfromdownunder.com
Pure Nightclub, caesarspalace.com
Tiffany & Co, tiffany.com
Las Vegas Premium Outlets - North, premiumoutlets.com
QUA Baths & Spa, harrahs.com/qua/
COLOR - A Salon by Michael Boychuck, caesars.com/color/
Matt Goss performs at The Gossy Room at Caesars Palace, caesarspalace.com
Guns & Ammo Garage, gunsandammogarage.com
Dig This, digthisvegas.com
Nevada weddings, nevadaweddings.org or lvweddingconnection.com