Even though we’ve been back from holidays for four days now I’m only just getting around to writing about the places we’ve visited. This was partly due to my being zonked out by jet lag but also because no sooner had we got home then we were off away again, this time to spend the weekend looking at universities for Elliot (next year entry).
What can I say about Las Vegas that hasn’t already been said, sung, or written about? All I can do I guess is give you my own personal impressions of the five days that we were there.
Las Vegas deserves every bit of its reputation. It’s an adult’s playground, it’s Sin City, where every vice is not only catered for but actively encouraged — as long as your money is flowing out of your wallet and into someone else’s that is. You can gamble 24/7, right from the 2 cent slot machines up to very high-limit table games where thousands of dollars can be won or lost on the spin of a wheel. You can drink for free in the casinos, as long as you keep playing. You can even smoke in there. The casinos will indulge your every vice right up until the moment you cash your chips in. As you walk down the strip there are dozens of Mexican immigrants pushing little cards into your hand. Each card bears a phone number which will get you a girl in your hotel room within twenty minutes of your text message.
The best-known part of Las Vegas is The Strip: a long road that runs pretty much North to South and along which stand dozens of mega hotel/casino complexes. Each hotel has the theme or gimmick, with some taking them to tacky yet spectacular extremes. We stayed at The Luxor: an Egyptian-themed hotel in the shape of the pyramid, with a lifesize model of The Sphinx guarding it’s main entrance. The elevators here are called “Inclinators”, because they go diagonally up the sides of the pyramid instead of plain old boring up ‘n’ down.
Next door is Excalibur, which looks like a medieval castle. Then there’s New York New York, with it’s very own statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline. The MGM Grand has a live lion enclosure, The Venetian has a scale model of the Ponte Vecchio and an indoor canal complete with singing gondoliers. Paris has a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, and the Bellagio has its famous dancing fountains which shoot majestically from the lake on front of the hotel in time to music, every fifteen minutes.
If you ever visit Las Vegas make sure you bring your most comfortable walking shoes, because you’ll be doing A LOT of walking. Every hotel has its own casino, which often occupies the entire ground floor. The MGM Grand’s casino will take you ten minutes just to walk from one end of it to the other.
As I hiked through hotel after hotel I was simultaneously scoffing at how tacky it all was and impressed by the sheer feat of engineering and design. These gimmicks may be the epitome of crass but you have to concede that they are very well done.
So what does Las Vegas have to offer a family holidaying there together? Well, there are plenty of spectacular shows on offer from Cirque Du Soleil and others, but our two were mostly interested in the theme park rides. They went on the Manhattan Express — a rollercoaster that goes around the outside of the New York New York hotel, and then braved the highest rides we’ve ever seen at the top of the Stratosphere tower.
Our main indulgence — which we chose instead of going to shows — was a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. We were collected from our hotel by stretch limo in the late afternoon and driven to the airfield where, after a safety briefing (and being weighed!) we were led out to our aircraft. The four of us had a helicopter to ourselves (plus pilot), since the other couple who were assigned to our group cancelled at the last minute. I’m not sure if this was fear of flying or fear of weighing scales, but in any case it gave us some much-needed extra room. After a 45 minute flight East of Las Vegas past the Hoover Dam and the Colorado River we set down in the base of the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon. Simply jaw-dropping scenery was marred only by the hazy, turning showery, weather. We had a quick picnic and a glass of bubbly and then took off again early, so as to catch the sunset from the air. We arrived back in Vegas just as dusk fell, and got some great shots of the Strip from the air, all lit up like a row of Christmas Trees.
Las Vegas is a fantasy town that has to be experienced at least once, but it’s a place more suited to adult couples (or single males!) than families.
Here are the pics:
Right, that’s the first part of the holiday done. Next, to Key West! (when I get around to it.)