Viva Las Vegas!

Las Vegas sits like a shiny star in the middle of the desert. Unless you flew into the city at night or took a night helicopter city trip, you might not appreciate the immensity of the bright lights that the city glistens with as we drove back into the city – “civilization” as it is, after road tripping across the canyons that spanned Colorado, Arizona and Nevada. Story here.

Map of North Las Vegas Nevada_19.jpg
Everyone should know where Vegas is!

From afar as we drove on the interstate in the mountains leading to Las Vegas, we could see the shimmering yellow lights of a city amidst the darkness of the desert all around!Beginnings humble as a mining town, Las Vegas rode on the boom of construction in the post depression years (Hoover dam). Gaming only took off in the early 1950s, and by the late 1960s had grown into a corporate business. Las Vegas really took off in the 1980s, when mega-casino resorts were built. By the time the city celebrated its centenary, it was already a world class gaming and convention city.

Where to stay

While most folks would stay along ‘the strip’ as they call it here, we spent a week with our timeshare apartment exchanged and the condominium complex is to the south of the city centre.

While hotels in the centre offer convenience, apartments a little further from the hustle and bustle offer peace and quiet after long days at the casino venues. Each day, it was a pleasure to drive to one of the many casino hotels that line South Las Vegas boulevard since most of the casino hotels are linked via walkways or bridges and it can be a breeze to park at one of them and walk all the way from the Luxor till Treasure Island just as an example.

Of course the hotels run perpendicular to this main thoroughfare too (such as hooters’ hotel along Tropicana avenue). Pity we don’t always stop where we want to…sigh (you can tell this was written by Mel right?). Choose your bucket list item wisely when traveling with your partner…or you might kick it.

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However if one were not driving or intent on doing so, it is still best to stay close to the action. And you don’t need to walk all the way as buses ply the boulevard too though walking gives you all the flavors of the city. The monorail which runs (now) all the way from MGM to the Sahara used to be free during the time of our visit. And it is a convenient way to get up and down town in a jiffy.

Make sure that you make full use of all kinds of offers on hand that provide you with great discounts on sumptuous buffets and drinks! Be careful though as some of these may come with condition that you sit through timeshare sales sessions. Heheh, these sales agents were fondly called “body snatchers” because they’d literally sweep you off the street!

Because we are likely not to return very frequently to this ‘city of sin’, we made sure that we stopped at most of the iconic casino-hotels. Photos are a little blurry for the night time but it was definitely one for the money heheh…

Enjoy the shows!

Can’t miss this fountain show!

That’s definitely one of the must do and some of them are for free. One of the best (if not the best) open-air show must be the fountains of the Bellagio. Every night, two shows are staged where Elvis’s song “viva Las Vegas” is played while the fountain comes roaring to life! We might have to add this is a must do.

It was free for us! LOL

Then there are the theatres. From regular concert shows to standup comedy, there seems no end to what one can choose from. Which means one have to focus. Then there is the famed Cirque Du Soleil. “Zumanity” played at New York-New York, “O” at the Bellagio, “Ka” at MGM Grand and a quite few more…and we saw all 3 of these with free tickets…heheh. Some of the shows cater to adult themes though.

Some are adult themed…

Of course when you are till late painting the town red, it may be somewhat of a challenge to get back especially if you are not staying along the strip. Now in our time of visit parking in the casinos were free and it was well worth to drive on your own as the shows end late. Besides, we wanted to walk along the strip to enjoy the free shows too right? Public transport and taxis can be had, and now with Uber there is no reason not to stay out late! The city literally never sleeps.

Guys, we can’t stop them shopping

So, what’s a girl going to do with all that free time in Las Vegas? Why shopping of course!

Masks for Carnival?

The city is home to malls in every shape and size. Each of the casinos has large areas to cater to the shopping desires of everyone. And we mean everyone!

For example the Venetian has the famed canals reminiscent of Venice, right along the upscale boutiques connected to the Palazzo shoppes and the forum at Caesar’s palace. Yeah, the forum – not so much for traders to meet but big spenders to splurge or mortals like us to look at the windows… High rollers, come here after you’ve had your fill of winnings! The shops are mostly upscale boutiques offering high end clothing, jewelry and accessories. Again we say unfortunately not for mere mortals such as we!

If you do not find the shopping in the casino malls appealing, you are in luck. Located within a short driving distance of the city centre are a couple of “Outlet Malls”. Two such complexes are easily accessed, being strategically located one to the north and the other to the south of the city.

Even Primm has a casino!

The discounts seem to keep rolling in as they say here. Volume discounts (if you buy more pieces), holiday discounts (they seem to dream them up) and even tourist discounts…so many ways to separate you from your money.

For the even more adventurous, you can drive just 35 miles south of Vegas to Primm, where another large fashion outlet mall sits next to a – you guessed it, a casino! It would be unusual for you not to find great bargains at the outlet malls. Off season merchandise can be discounted for up to 70% of retail! Of course the city is not all shopping and gambling. Family entertainment awaits you in many quarters! And,

You’ve gotta eat some time right?

Would not call it a trattoria!

And not just at places like hooters (Suan: eh why do you keep bringing this up?). But definitely in finer dining establishments – like Zeffirino at the Venetian. Back in the day the patriarch eagle-eyedly watched as customers had their orders fulfilled. He was waiting at the tables too! Oh man we really enjoyed that meal.

Sure there are also the Cheesecake factories of this world too if one really crave for some familiarity. But the buffets at many of the Casinos were wonderful too. You will find so many options to satisfy your palette that there is no point trying to list out more in this essay. It will probably be out-dated!

And after all that eating and watching of shows, we took advantage of the offer of discounted tickets to visit the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. Filled with all kinds of marine creatures, it is really an aquarium. The facility is said to house more than 2,000 animals and requires 1.6 million gallons of sea water to maintain. Remember we are in a desert?

They looked bored…

Yet another site to visit is the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand. Every day, the lions are transported from a ranch located 12 miles outside the city. They live in that privately sponsored sanctuary and different pairs are brought to the habitat each day to be showcased. In our opinion the lions look bored and their handlers have to play with them quite often to keep them from simply sleeping! Good for a short stop.

It is a good base to use the opportunity being in Las Vegas to get out into the surrounding national parks for which this Southwestern part of the US is known for. Within hours you can see spectacular scenery while coming back to the comforts of the city in no time. We did our road trip out to the national Parks. Story here.

It was almost Halloween when we got to Vegas

We were here when the city was preparing for the Halloween celebrations. So much of the décor was themed as such, so you will see something new each time you are there. This city is also home to so many conventions, some erotic, others a little more serious (techie stuff…). Whatever the time of year probably aside from high summer, is a good time to go.

We were in ‘Sin city’ in October 2008

PS: incredible as it sounds, even the airport has slot machines!

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