December 8th to 12th, 2011
Las Vegas, Nevada
I have just returned from a trip to Las Vegas with one of my best friends Scotty who was visiting from Australia. This was my first visit to Vegas since 1998; new casinos and shopping centres have been built, some old places were gone but overall it was still pretty much the same busy place, with that seedy side still lingering just under the surface….the age old adage of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” may well be necessary for many people! For us it was just a place of crazy non stop fun!
It is a city that has something for everyone and we made the most of it, so here goes a brief summary of our experience in no particular order: bright lights, casinos, gambling, food, music, crazy people, late nights, bars, night clubs, dancers, showgirls and zombie hunter assault rifles!
Day one was a road trip to Zion National Park in Utah, we returned in the evening and the madness began! Our visit coincided with the Las Vegas Rodeo finals so there were big celebrations at the MGM Grand in the Gold Buckle Zone with a number of country rock bands playing (including Annabelle Road and Western Justice) and an abundance of cowboys and cowgirls partying hard. Something very different for a couple of Aussies and it turned out to be a wild and late night! Alas we missed out on winning the horse saddle that was being raffled….not sure what we would have done with it if we had won though???
Other days and nights were spent exploring along the Las Vegas Boulevard visiting the various casinos and stores along “the strip” taking in the impressive light displays, free shows, people watching and the grandness of the many casinos. Who would have thought that there could be so much merchandise for M&M’s and Coca Cola (I tried a Coke Zero with an added chocolate flavouring – not too bad)! The only place I really won any money was at the Hooters Casino on the roulette table, but gambling was not really our main focus, it was more to enjoy the entertainment of just being in Vegas. Seeing Vegas at night it truly shines, by day its not so flashy!
Opulence was abundant in casino resorts like Wynn Encore and Bellagio. Bellagio has also has a massive water fountain and lights show each night.
The Forum shopping centre of Caesars Casino has impressive Roman inspired statues towering above the shops and is also very opulent in its decoration and design. It is a huge place!
We stayed in the Monte Carlo resort casino. A nice place in a great location right on “The Strip”.
For me the most visually impressive casino’s from outside were Paris (has a half scale Eiffel Tower as its centrepiece), The Venetian (these were only being built on my last visit in 1998) and New York New York with its recreation of the city skyline, especially when they were all lit up at night. The Venetian has their Winter In Venice celebration going with lots of christmas lights, street performers and even an ice skating rink!
A night down town was an interesting diversion to say the least. This is where the old casinos like the Golden Nugget are, but also there is the Fremont Street Experience which is a huge arched roof covering the street that is basically a giant screen above your head and has a sound and light show. On our visit we saw a tribute to Jim Morrison and The Doors. Beneath it are numerous casinos, bars, shops etc along with free bands and street performers. We even saw the TV show crew from Cops following a policeman around down there! This is a great place to people watch as you see all walks of life down town, it is also somewhere you can eat at cheap casino buffets and even see a real cash stack of one million dollars at Binions Casino!
Our journey to down town was on a local bus, the ticket machine didn’t work so we were riding without one, the bus driver was nasty piece of work and she was totally unapproachable so we decided to try our luck. Of course a ticket inspector got on the bus, but she was the total opposite of the bus driver and was really nice, she asked us and others to leave the bus and get a ticket at the next stop. She went with us, made sure we all got tickets then got us in the next bus. No hassles, no fines. We all had money ready, we just couldn’t get a ticket, so she was really cool about it. TAKE NOTE ticket inspectors of the world, that’s how these things should be handled!
Our full last day and night was a busy one – started with a big breakfast, then onto shopping at the massive factory outlet centre on the outskirts of town. From here it was time for some gun ho action at the The Gun Store, a famous destination in Las Vegas as they have a big shooting range where you can shoot a vast array of weaponry from pistols and assault rifles to machine guns (even Ozzy Osbourne has been there)! Being horror fans we got zombie themed targets and picked the “Zombie Hunter” AR-15 assault rifle (a modified civilian version of the M-16). In Australia guns are strictly controlled and access to such weapons is mostly illegal so this experience was a lot of fun.
The firearms instructors at The Gun Store are experts and also very funny. Lots of great stories and jokes were told as the shells fly! I am pleased to say we were pretty accurate and the heads of the Zombie targets were successfully removed (anyone who watches Zombie movies will understand why this is important)!
That night it was time to see a topless review called Raack N Roll at Hooters Casino which was great: beautiful girls dancing to classic rock music (like AC/DC and Alice Cooper) combined into one show with good comedy by Robert Nash (one memorable impression was Al Pacino as Scarface singing with Kermit the Frog!). “More than just a topless show…who’s ready to Raack“?!
The crowd at the show was mostly couples who were a bit quiet to start with, but once we did a few cheers etc they soon followed our lead and everyone had a fun night. I even made one of the dancers giggle when I cheered as she strutted past! We got to meet the performers after the show for a photo which was great and they were all really nice! The evening pretty much stayed on track with partying in the bars and clubs of New York New York including Coyote Ugly into the early hours of the morning.
The last day was spent in Excalibur (great Round Table buffet lunch for $16), Luxor (the inside of the Pyramid building is quite impressive) and the massive Mandalay Bay! We also went to Fry’s Electronics which is a massive box like store much like a Bunnings in Australia or Home Depot in the US but for electronics.
We rolled back into the airport with only 13 miles of fuel left in the rental car (we prepaid for fuel), and probably about as much energy left in our bodies! We were totally Vegas’d but we had a blast! My mate Scotty set off for his long return back to Australia and I flew to Seattle for a well-earned rest! Viva Las Vegas!