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23 February 2009 @ 12:20 pm
the ups and downs of Las Vegas  
The kids were off from school last week (winter break, they say), so we decided to take a small family vacation. We enjoyed Vegas the last time we went, so we decided to head there again.

Ups:

- The Shows. We're not gamblers, nor are we late night club-goers. So the main draw for us is the shows, especially after we discovered the joy of the Tickets 4 Less booth. You can get that night's shows for a discount around 40%. We saw "Ka" (Cirque du Soliel), Blue Man Group, and Penn and Teller. All were really enjoyable. The stage pieces of "Ka", giant chunks of stage that were on a control mechanism and could be rotated and moved and tilted, were astounding.

- The Spectacle. Vegas is a spectacle: lights, buildings, people, events. It wasn't as OMG as it was the first time, but it was still impressive. Mini NY, Mini Paris, massive mirrored buildings, fake pyramids, fake gardens. The place is constantly evolving and constantly under construction and it's mind-boggling to think how they manage to pull it all off. Is there really *that* much gambling/shopping/show/tourist money? Apparently so.

- The Variety of People. Walk down the street and you can hear a dozen different accents and languages. Marvelous. I liked talking to the folks who keep the town running: cab drivers, cleaning people, etc. All of them are from somewhere else and have a story to tell.

- The Scenery. It was crystal clear and cool at night. Our room had a view of the mountains, sprinkled with snow. Couldn't see any stars (see Spectacle above), but still impressive when you were outside.

Downs:

- Injury. I sprained my left index finger taking off my socks one night. Totally lame, that was.

- The Mass of People. People everywhere, all the time. We were constantly working our way through masses of people to get anywhere. Yeah, I know, it's a tourist town.

- Smoke. Specifically, cigarette smoke. Yeah, it's Vegas, but after a while we just got tired of it especially if you're anywhere inside. I forget how spoiled I am to live in California where a small minority (10-15%) smokes. Now I remember.

- Cost. Everything is expensive. Much more expensive. $10 for latte and scone at Starbucks. $15 for a burrito. $3 for a soda. The cheapest meal we ate all week was at the AM-PM mini mart. $5 for a soda and two hot dogs. Now I know how Vegas affords all the Spectacle.

- Twisting, Winding Paths. It's impossible to go between two places in a straight line. Anywhere you want to go you have to wind through things, especially in the casinos. I understand why, but it gets really really irritating after a while, because between the twisting paths and the mass of people it takes forever to get anywhere.

- The Sense of Rushed Desperation. I got the sense that everyone was walking around feeling desperate, desperate to have a good time, desperate that there would be an experience to remember, desperate that their lives might just change forever in the casino, in the club, on the street. Everyone is in a hurry for this to happen, so there's a lot of casual rudeness. Just try using a crosswalk when the cars don't have to stop. You get many dirty looks, if people even look at you instead of nearly running you over.

Overall, I think I'm done with Vegas for a while. Next vacation, perhaps we'll head out to the country. Or, if we want to do shows and see a city, San Francisco. Not much cheaper, but no flight involved!

This time, Vegas left me feeling a little depressed. And that's not exactly what you want out of a vacation.

But I will say, again, that the shows were fun and the set piece work in "Ka" was awesome. Even if I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

Some pictures to follow, in another post.
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(Deleted comment)
jeffsoesbe: yeff southparkjeffsoesbe on February 24th, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
Agreed. The casinos and hotels were very quiet at 9:30 in the morning, as I wandered down to the mall Starbucks and prepared to hock away some possessions so I could get a latte and muffin.

I had no idea what was happening in the story of Ka, but the stage stuff was great. Especially when they did the climbing scene (with it at the angle) and the mountain scene. Wild.
SCBinitialdescent on February 23rd, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the Vegas review! I'm planning on going sometime soon-ish, so it was good to hear about a few of the ins and outs from someone who's been there recently.

I was surprised that you mentioned it was so crowded. Mike (my husband) was telling me that the city is deserted--but I think that has more to do with the residents, due to all the foreclosures in the area, than the tourists.

I also love living in a smoke-free state. I still had to deal with "Smoking or non-smoking?" for a few years after moving back from California, but Minnesota is now smoke-free everywhere but in bars.

I have never been to Vegas proper. The closest I've been is the airport, probably on my way from CA to Lubbock, TX, for one of the basketball away games (I was with the band). But I can remember seeing the mini-Eiffel from the terminal. And the slot machines in the airport. We don't gamble, either; we'll generally be there for the Spectacle, and maybe for a show or two.

The cost makes it sound like going to Disneyland. :-P I'll be sure to research some cheap(er) eats beforehand.

Again, thanks for the post!
jeffsoesbe: yeff southparkjeffsoesbe on February 24th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
I was probably a little harsh on Vegas, but I remember the previous time as being a lot more fun.

We realized that staying in South Strip might have been a mistake as it meant that anywhere we wanted to go was a distance away. Especially once the tram between Mandalay Bay and Excalibur went down (on the second day). That immediately added 0.8 to 1 mile of walking to any outing.

The smoking thing is tough, though California isn't as far below everywhere else as I thought according to the latest stats I found (2006, http://www.tobaccofreedelawarecounty.org/documents/Smokingratesbystate2006.pdf). Minn is at about 18%, below national aveerage!

I bet that on this first visit you have fun, as the whole place is just so over-whelming it's a real treat for the senses.

Have a blast!