“Photos taken by the International Space Station reveal that Las Vegas is the brightest city in the world as seen from space. If all the neon lights along the three mile strip were lined up, it would create a train of lights over 15,000 miles long.”
What happens when a small town is created and used basically as a stop for wagons and railroads? It ends up becoming one of the craziest cities on earth of course! Yes, Las Vegas for the longest time was a pit stop for people on their way to Los Angeles. Illegal casinos were erected, then some Mormon financers and crime lords took over the casinos and showgirl clubs to entertain the male population that had moved there to get jobs working on the Hoover Dam.
Landing at LAS
Anyway…. Enough about the history, everyone already knows that Las Vegas is unique, that’s no secret, but I have to admit that my expectations of Las Vegas were very different before going. I watched special after special about Las Vegas on the Travel Channel back when the advertisement “What Happens In Las Vegas, Stays In Las Vegas” started and the city got massive media coverage. I knew it would be big and bright and insane there, but what I experienced and what I originally expected, is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.
Stepping out of the jet bridge into LAS, the first thing you see are slot machines. Yes, there are slot machines inside the airport (what else are you going to do while you wait for your flight?). I had already read that the airport has the worst odds, besides, I came here wanting to see ancient Egypt, a medieval castle, New York City, Paris, Rome, and neon lights! I grabbed a taxi and told him to take me to Circus Circus. The beautiful thing about catching a taxi in Las Vegas is that you don’t need an address. You can say things like “the pyramid”, or “New York”, or “the big tall tower thing” and the drivers know where you’re going, even if you’re not sure the actual name. Though if you’ve already done any research, it’s hard not to know the majority of the resorts names.
I arrived around the back of the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino; the entrance in the back isn’t quite as grand as the front entrance, which attacks you with more light bulbs than you’ve ever seen in your life. I hadn’t slept on the plane and was starting to get a sore throat, which I later attributed to traveling from Ohio with 76% humidity to the Nevada desert with 12% humidity. Little side note here: Drink a lot of water!!
I got to my room and dropped off my luggage which I managed to fit all into a laptop case (I flew Spirit which only allows 1 free personal item and I’m on a budget). I head out and immediately don’t feel well, so I head across the street on the strip and go south about block and reach a Denny’s. I was in one of the most spectacular cities in the world and here I was settling for Denny’s. Tired, thirsty, and not feeling well, I go in and sit down and order up a hamburger and a water with no ice. I downed the water immediately and asked for a refill (again without ice), this is something I recommend as you get nothing but drinkable water this way which is what your body needs, ice doesn’t actually cool your body down, it just causes you to drink water slower. I finish the burger and a 6th glass of water and head out, at this point it’s around midnight (or 4AM my time) and I slump back to my hotel room and get some rest.
After doing a bit of research online upon waking up, I headed out for the day. I purchased a 24-hour bus pass (it’s $6 for a 2 hour pass, or $8 for a 24 hour pass……. seriously?) and rode down the strip. Every stop I wanted to get off, there’s so much to see and do and it all looks extremely appealing, but I stayed on and stuck to my plan of hitting Caesars Palace first. I didn’t know this at first, but Caesars Palace is probably the biggest place on the strip as far as land coverage goes. The fountains and decor out front, the casino, the hotel, the Forum Shoppes, the pool area, the ball rooms, the coliseum, this place is enormous!
Lunch at Bellagio
I spent several hours exploring Caesars Palace alone, and the granola breakfast I had packed and ate while getting ready that morning had worn off much earlier than I had hoped. I hopped on the Deuce and headed to Bellagio for lunch. One of the many things that Las Vegas is known for is it’s culinary arts. The Bellagio is no exception, as it’s often considered one of the best places to eat in all of Las Vegas. I take a quick tour of the Bellagio while trying to find The Buffet, it took over a half-hour to find it, not only did I pass by a sign indicating where it was, but I went in the opposite direction and walked through the entire mall area. Doh!
I got in line at the buffet which moved faster than I expected. While you may think it’s a bit steep if you’re on a budget, the $25 buffet with a limit of only 2 hours is worth it! The amount of options is staggering, and the number of plate combinations must be astronomically high. I’ve never seen so many different types of food in one place, it was like Willy Wonka’s factory, only instead of just candy it’s everything!
First plate consisted of salmon, which was excellent, same level as an above average seafood restaurant. A pasta salad, the name of which escapes me, and some tender, which is also covered in various other things (yea, I’m drawing blanks on most these food names). The left you can see sushi, wasabi sauce, and a mini pecan pie with some chocolate on top. There’s also rice with dried shredded pork on top.
Despite the fact that I can’t remember most the food items names, it was all delicious. A problem I have with blogging and food, is that when I see something that looks tasty, I eat first and ask questions later. But most of the time I forget about asking and just do the eating…
During the 1950s, the U.S. military tested nuclear weapons so close to Las Vegas, that
you could clearly see the mushroom clouds from downtown Hotels. This became a
temporary tourist attraction and for a time Vegas was marketed as ‘Atomic City’.
Paris and The Linq
The city of love and the Eiffel Tower and delicious pastries and amazing coffee…. Except this is Paris, Las Vegas, which means you get the Eiffel tower, but not so much the cafe’s or romantic feeling. Instead, you get to see Las Vegas from a sudo-Eiffel Tower, which I didn’t have the chance to do unfortunately. When I return though I will, because it sits just across the street from the Fountains at Bellagio which I named as the #1 free activity in Vegas in my previous post. The inside of Paris, Las Vegas tries to replicate the real thing, but doesn’t pull off the artificial environment nearly as well as Caesars Palace or The Venetian.
The Linq however is a very nice place, though it isn’t really themed in any special way, it’s the newest place on the Strip and therefore is one of the loudest. It draws in a very young crowd (aka. the “barely legal to gamble” crowd) and is pretty flashy. Outside you’ll see a giant screen displaying a reverse volcano/waterfall/other random flowing movements in reverse. While the outside is a mostly a solid slate gray, the inside is pretty colorful. Though, I’m not sure anything is as colorful as the outside of Harrah’s. Approaching Harrah’s, you will see very colorful outfits on jesters dancing around the entrance (this is all in the building design though, for actual dancing jesters, you’ll want to make it to Fremont St.).
“In sobering contrast with the bright lights and bustle of the famous strip up above, dispossessed people inhabit the storm drains that run below, venturing up into the casinos to make ends meet scouring the slot machines for coins or credits left by drunken gamblers.”
The south end of the Strip offers 3 of the nicest places along the entire strip. Mandalay Bay, which gets my vote for greatest outdoor display, it really makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Hawaii. On the long path to the front door, you’ll walk past waterfalls and through a beach-like jungle. The best time to see this is during the day, it doesn’t have quite the same effect at night in my opinion. The inside is very nice too, heading up the front stairs upon entering will take you through a smaller indoor plant area with a flowing stream and much smaller waterfall.
Right next to the Mandalay Bay is the awesome and famous Luxor, which gets my vote for best building design. I mean; it’s a black pyramid…. is there anything more awesome than that? This is where I stayed my last night in Vegas and it really made me rethink my decision of not spending the money staying here the whole week! If you’re already at Mandalay Bay or Excalibur and want to rest your legs, you can take the tram that services these 3 resorts by a monorail.
“15 of the world’s top 25 hotels are located in Las Vegas.”
So, as I said, Luxor is a black pyramid, which means that the elevators must be oddly positioned in the center right? No, the elevators travel diagonally up the corners! This gives you a very odd sensation, I stayed on the 9th floor and every time I rode it, I got a thrill through my body. Some people like it, some people don’t, there was one woman who was freaking out and braced on to the wall that she was being pulled towards to try and prevent the sensation. I honestly don’t really like elevators due to being confined high up (I have a bad fear of heights), but this honestly didn’t bother me, I found it really fun!
and can hold nine Boeing 747s stacked on top of each other.”
When you first enter the Luxor, you’ll be stumped by the fact that the inside is completely open, you can see right to the top as the rooms run along the 4 sides of the structure, leaving a completely open area. Once you go up a few floors, looking down can be dizzy as you realize that there’s nothing underneath you. Despite all the amazing places in Vegas, the Luxor is truly a unique experience. If you love ancient Egyptian art and sculptures, you’ll love it as well, as it’s guarded by a giant Sphinx and many smaller Egyptian gods. Luckily enough, my room was directly straight behind the head of the Sphinx, I could see the strip and at the same time none of it was blocked because, the Sphinx’s head is far ahead enough on the body. The pool area is pretty cool as well! Pool pictures will be in next post!
The other great feature at the south end is New York – New York. Want to read more about it? Click here for Part 2 of my adventure through Las Vegas!