Viva Las Vegas.

Yeah, yeah – that’s possibly one of my least inspired headings ever. But a) it sums it up quite nicely; b) I’m jet-lagged; and c) you’re not the boss of me.

Some of you may know that I never really had a desire to visit Las Vegas. It was never on my travel radar except as a possible overnight stay just to check out (and mock) what I perceived would be excessive neon tackiness.

And that is just not the case with the “new” Las Vegas. I was quite taken in with the glamour and glitz. Though, I should probalby start from the beginning:

Our flight there was delayed by 4 hours, causing us to miss our connection in Los Angeles. They switched us onto another airline, but that required two hours of waiting in lines in Los Angeles before finally arriving in Vegas at night (meaning no pool time!).

We picked up the rental car and headed toward our resort by driving up “the Strip.” Unfortunately, there is a 24/7 traffic jam on the strip and every street within a one block radius. It doesn’t help that their stop lights are the longest I’d ever witnessed. Anyway, the “resort” we stayed in we lovingly referred to as “the ghetto” for the rest of the trip. It truly was a sad complex. There were 3 blocks of clustered 2-story, peach-colored buildings. Over half of the buildings were demolished as a result of a sports complex that Harrah’s is planning to build starting next summer. Ours was across the street from two chain-link fenced lots. Then there was one building, then another mound of sand.

The buildings also resembled housing projects (I wouldn’t be surprised if that was their original intent). The buildings at the end of the block were even retro-fitted with bars on the windows. However, the inside of the unit, though not luxury, was well equipped for a week-long stay (living room with pull-out sofa, kitchen/dining area, bedroom, walk-in closet). We saw the plans for the new resort location that will open once Harrah’s finishes demolition the current buildings and they look quite elegant. Alas, we got to see the resort probably at it’s worst – empty lots and all. The one thing going for it was it’s location: one block behind the strip, connected to a monorail stop, and with back-door access to two casinos (Harrah’s and Imperial Palace).

Our friends, Chris and Pete, stayed at Caesar’s Palace. Now THAT is luxury. Nearly floor to ceiling windows, obstructed views of the Bellagio fountains, his-and-hers bathrooms (or, in their case, his-and-his) with a two-person jacuzzi bathtub AND a two person dual-headed shower.

And that is what most of tourist-oriented Vegas seemed like. Anything built/re-built since the 90’s (which is the majority since most older structures have been demolished) is built for luxury. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of neon since the bling nowadays is mostly only found at the older casino/hotels, like the Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Harrah’s, Circus Circus and the Saraha. Places like the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, Mandalay bay/TheHotel, the Venetian/Pallazo, and Paris, Paris are simply gorgeous.

I could write for hours about what we did/and what I think, but here are some bullet points to keep it short(er):

1 – One thing I never expected was for Las Vegas to be a walking city – but it truly is. My feet hurt more from this trip and from any other. It’s rather perplexing because there isn’t much to walk to and see…but the casino-hotels are so enormous that to walk around them (or even through them) is quite a long distance.

2 – You can gamble anywhere. We stepped off the plane and found slot machines in the terminals. You can play at the convenience store or gas station.

3 – Gambling is lucrative. We met up with friends of Randy’s in nearby Henderson, NV, and they said the state has no need for an income tax since the gambling brings in enough money.

4 – The elements of Las Vegas geared toward tourists are first class all the way. There’s an unprecedented level of hedonism and pampering here that I’ve never seen elsewhere. Unfortunately, along with that came classes of people (lots of Los Angeles types) that are completely detestable.

5 – Despite their claims to the contrary, Las Vegas is not a family-friendly destination. Aside from the Circus Circus Hotel/Casino, which has a mini amusement park inside and the Stratosphere, which has an observation deck and three rides, there is nothing else appropriate for a child. In every hotel the child has to walk through smoke-filled casinos just to get to the registration desk or to the elevator lobbies. People are drunk and yelling on the streets. Glaring illuminated signs show ads for scantily-clad go-go dancers or strippers. Men stand on the streets night-and-day handing out business cards for strippers (which include nude photos)…but most people just toss them on the sidewalk so you just need to look down to see titties everywhere. We saw a drug deal on the strip and were propositioned by two clueless prostitutes.

6 – The American desert is butt-ugly. Fortunately, within a few hours you can get to amazing national parks, like Zion and Bryce Canyon. The latter park was at over 8,800 feet above sea level and just stepping out of the car left us breathing heavy. But the snow and forests were absolutely stunning…almost surreal in their beauty. And the red rocks and hoodoos in Bryce were phenomenal. We were unable to explore the full park as a result of the heavy snow, but what we saw was amazing.

There is so much more we could write (like talking with Jay Mohr and his wife about tacky gifts at the Liberace Museum, and how Pete won $512.50 on a penny Wheel of Fortune game), but I think I’ve written enough.

Because, as you know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

3 Comments

  1. Comment by snarl on February 25, 2008 11:50 am

    Oh, and what you can’t see in that photo is that I’m using a Match Game slot machine! It had the faces of Brett and Charles and Fannie!!!!!!

  2. Comment by Fred on February 26, 2008 2:18 pm

    Jay Mohr?! WOOF! (grin) – I wanna hear all about that, at least, when you get back…
    Hope you’re having great fun!

  3. Comment by Zach on March 1, 2008 6:02 pm

    I’m glad your trip was so enjoyable. You actually made me feel like I should go to Vegas. That is something I’ve never even come close to thinking before.

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