Las Vegas is Amazing
Monday June 16th 2008, 7:59 pm

My daughter and I are back from our trip to Las Vegas the first of week of June, and I can see why it is one of the top vacation destinations. The pictures I saw of it before I left didn’t do it justice, it was amazing, excessive and flashy. We stayed at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel on Las Vegas Blvd. It is an older hotel and the area we stayed on the fifteenth floor was dated, but it is kept very clean. The most important thing is it’s central location on the Las Vegas strip. We were in Las Vegas for seven days and we spent most of our time walking, so being central was very important.

We left Nova Scotia on Saturday May 31 in the early morning, stopped in Toronto, where we went through customs, and arrived in Las Vegas about 3:00 pm. We gained four hours due to the time change. Surprisingly the US Customs person was more civil than I was expecting based on previous experiences. I think he even smiled at us. We were tired from travelling for more than ten hours, so after unpacking, we decided to stay at our hotel for the rest of the day. We had dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant, toured the Flamingo casino, the wildlife sanctuary and the pool area. The wildlife means the flamingos, exotic fish and birds, and not the people, although I am sure there is a lot of that too. There are four pools at this hotel which are separated by lush palm trees, fountains and ponds for the exotic fish and turtles. This pool area is one of the best in Las Vegas, and is a very peaceful place to relax after a long day of sightseeing.

In Nova Scotia we had been having a spring of cool damp weather this year of about 15 to 20C, so what a change to have such heat. It was in the mid 30’s C every day of our trip and not a cloud in the sky. It isn’t even summer yet. When you leave your air conditioned hotel and go outside, it is like walking into a furnace. The good thing is that it is very dry, so it is a comfortable heat and very easy to get used to.

We were still on Nova Scotia time for the first few days, so I went to bed at 9:00 pm and got up at 4:00 am the first day. Even though we were on the fifteenth floor, I could hear the music from the first floor pub until 4:30 am every day. After the first day, I didn’t even notice it. Because we got up so early on our first day in Las Vegas, we left the hotel at 7:00 am and went to the Caesars Palace Forum shops mall, which is located across the street from our hotel. It isn’t as easy as just crossing the street. There are several pedways for pedestrians to travel from hotel to hotel but you usually have to go outside to the sidewalk to get to the pedways.

The stores at the mall don’t open until 9:00 am, so we had a lot of time to take pictures in the mall before the crowds started. There was just us and the security people for the first hour. The Caesars Palace Forum shops mall is as beautiful as a mall can get, with statues of Caesar and other Roman characters which move and talk, beautiful fountains, an aquarium and Italian cityscapes. The roof in the mall is painted to resemble the blue sky with a few clouds floating by. It felt like you were in another time and place. Many of the malls and all of the hotels are over the top overwhelming on the strip.

We had breakfast at the Stage Deli which opens in the mall at 8:00 am. This was one of the few restaurants which were reasonably priced on the Las Vegas strip. As soon as the stores opened, we shopped for hours. Many of the stores were high end and were out of our price range but we managed to buy quite a lot at the Gap, Banana Republic, MAC and Planet Hollywood. After unloading our purchases in our hotel room, we had dinner at the Ming chinese restaurant in the Imperial Palace hotel.

In the evening we joined the Players Club at the Mirage hotel and the Rewards Program at the Harrahs Casino. I was surprised, although maybe I shouldn’t have been, when the lady who was registering me at the Rewards Program at Harrahs thought that Nova Scotia was located in Europe next to Sweden. She must have been confusing Nova Scotia with Norway. Thankfully a co-worker straightened her out. The Rewards Program gave us several gifts and I won $82.00 at the slots at Caesars Palace. I decided to spend only $20.00 daily on the slot machines while on this trip and by the end of the trip, I had won just a little more than I lost during the week. I am not a gambler so after a few days of playing the slot machines for a few minutes each day, I got tired of it. I can see how people can get drawn into playing them too much. They are essentially just a computer chip with flashing lights, bells and whistles which are geared to encourage you to spend all your money. All the casinos give gamblers free drinks of alcohol, tea, coffee, water or whatever you want, as long as you are sitting at the slot machines or playing the games.

By the second day, I got up at a more reasonable time of 6:00 am. Restaurants, as most things on the Las Vegas strip, are expensive so the most reasonable place to eat is at one of the numerous hotel buffets. Buffets used to be cheap because the hotels used them as a come on to get people to stay at their hotels. Now that large corporations own all the hotels, the prices have been raised and the quality has gone up. We had several buffet breakfasts at the Paradise Garden Buffet at the Flamingo, and the food was good but not great. The best buffets are at the Bellagio and the Wynn hotels but we didn’t get to either of those. We received several coupons for the Flamingo buffet when we checked in so I imagine most hotels give their guests coupons to their buffets. Breakfasts at the buffets range from $12.00 to $18.00 per person and dinner buffets range from $18.00 to $35.00 per person. After breakfast we walked to the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Mall where we bought many souvenirs. This mall isn’t as fancy as many of the malls in the area, with few high end stores. We went to the Walgreens, which is the drug store up the street from the mall, and found that the prices were very expensive compared to the prices we are used to paying in our drugstores. I think it is expensive because it caters to tourists. We had dinner at a little Mexican restaurant in the Planet Hollywood mall.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Paris, Bally’s and the Bellagio hotel casinos. We watched the fountains at the Bellagio, which is one of the best free things to see on the strip, and toured the Bellagio conservatory. We don’t have a Sephora store in Nova Scotia so we both enjoyed shopping there. My daughter and I both bought some Bare Escentuals mineral make up, which is one of the best mineral make ups.

The first three days we walked everywhere and our feet became sore with blisters. On the fourth day, I changed from sandals to sneakers and we started taking the monorail more often. The monorail costs $9.00 a day and is definitely the best way to travel between the hotels. In Las Vegas the hotels are the tourist attractions, so you want to see as many of them as possible. We took the monorail from our hotel, which is located in the centre of the strip, as far as it would go north to the Sahara hotel, and we walked from there to the Stratosphere casino. The Stratosphere is the tallest building west of the Mississippi at 1,149 feet tall. The 108th floor is glassed in to the floor so you can see the entire city of Las Vegas, the dessert, the mountains and the Las Vegas strip. It is a great place to take birdseye photos. I took 310 photos on my trip to Las Vegas and printed about 85 of them for my photo album.

The next day which was June 4 we started the day with another breakfast buffet and a trip to the Treasure Island hotel to pick up our tickets for that evening’s Cirque du Soleil Mystere show. After picking up the tickets, we visited the Treasure Island casino and the hotel, which has a pirate theme but isn’t as elaborate as some of the newer hotels. We shopped for hours at the Fashion Show Mall, which is huge, but we were so tired from all the walking that we didn’t get to many of the 240 shops before going to the Venetian hotel. The Venetian actually feels like you are in Venice, even down to the gondoliers on the canals, St. Marks Square and a palace. It also has a Madame Tussaud’s wax museum which we enjoyed visiting and taking pictures of us with the celebrities. The funniest one was of me posing for a picture in a wedding dress, which didn’t fit, standing in a chapel getting married to George Clooney. There was a lady there who was laughing in hysterics at me. In the evening we had front row seats at the Mystere show and it was wonderful.

On Thursday June 5 we went to the Mac King show in the afternoon at Harrahs. He is a magician and comedian and is good. We got a two for one coupon, so it was quite reasonable. We took the monorail again to the far south end to the MGM Grand which is the largest hotel in the United States. We had lunch at New York, New York, sitting in a streetscape, which looked like you were actually in New York. We visited the M & M World and returned to the Flamingo in the evening to watch The Second City comedy show, which was very good.

Our last full day was spent on a six hour tour of Red Rock Canyon. The tour bus picked us up at our hotel at 8:00 am and after picking up the other tourists at various hotels, we headed out of the city into the desert. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the area and had lived in Las Vegas since 1980. He told us about the history of the city and that it is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Despite the problem they are having now with house foreclosures, there is still billions of dollars of builidng going on, due to the construction of the new casinos. There is building going on everywhere on the Las Vegas strip. They are tearing down the older hotels and building new more impressive ones to replace them.

Red Rock Canyon is about 20 miles from Las Vegas and is a conservation area which covers 197,000 acres of desert, hiking trails, cacti and rock climbing. The red sand coloured canyons, cliffs and rocks are pleasantly cooler than Las Vegas. It was the first time I have seen a desert and it was impressive. The tour included a 13 mile scenic loop drive in the Mohave Desert with stops at the sandstone Calico Hills and the limestone Indian roasting pits which were last used over 800 years ago. We saw petroglyphs and pictographs left by Indians more than 1000 years ago. The Indian tribes spent their summers in Red Rock Canyon because the Las Vegas valley was too hot for them. We also visited a ranch which had been owned by Howard Hughes. The original ranch house was built over 200 years ago, but the main house which was built about 70 years ago, is now the Spring Mountain State Park run by the state of Nevada. It was a very pleasant day enjoying the breeze and scenery while having lunch on the grounds of the ranch. This ranch is like an oasis in the desert because it is fed by four springs of water which form a small lake on the property.

We had a great vacation in Las Vegas and although I doubt I would return, it was a place I always wanted to see once, and I am glad I did.

Anne