When I was in my early to mid-teens I remember thinking that I’d never like Vegas. I never liked to use lights at home as I preferred natural light and would choose candles over lamps when it got too dark to not surrender to artificial light. This wasn’t the only example of my dislike for the simplest and functional fake but as I got older and realised that to be pretentious is to be a dick, I started to embrace the idea of Vegas (in addition to lamps). I grew to love that which I once hated, the idea of a neon wonderland that really only came alive at night when the full extent of it’s falsities were apparent, had me positively bubbling with excitement. As it turns out, my actual experience of Vegas falls somewhere between my two previous stances.
I’m not going to talk about Vegas in the same chronological order that I have previously as it doesn’t really work in the same way as before. Instead I’ll talk about each ingredient separately, starting with our hotel. We were staying at the MGM Grand and what a hotel it is. The lobby is massive and stunning in it’s excess and the rooms were excellent. Unfortunately, despite being on the 17th floor, our room didn’t look over the strip but the view was still great and at £37 a night we were in no position to grumble one bit. Looking back at all of the hotels we visited, without the ability to compare the rooms and how they might be better potentially, I feel that only the Bellagio, Venetian or Paris might be nicer.
The main thing to do in Vegas is to gamble obviously but, being on the tight budget that we were, we weren’t really in a position to lose $50+ each and smile about it. This meant that we didn’t end up playing the tables but instead watched some people playing it and that was quite exciting enough. We thought that we would get our gambling fix from the slots but no such luck. For starters they are nothing like British slots and without the nudges or holds they just aren’t much fun. More importantly however is how they work money-wise. Say you approach the penny slots first (we did), you would expect to put a penny in and have one go right? Wrong! Each penny acts as a credit and most machines require at least thirty credits per spin, making it more expensive than we expected the quarter machines to be. Seeing that we were not totally sure what we were doing we were willing to spend fifty cents in pennies working that out but where fifty cents should have allowed us fifty turns, fifty turns would actually cost $15.
Needless to say we spent less than $10 between us gambling over the three days. But if you’re not gambling you are limited as to what to do instead. Almost every hotel has a mall attached to it but those malls are mainly occupied by designer boutiques and so we were also priced out of shopping. Spending time beside the hotel’s luxurious pools during the day is a common thing to do during the day but the weather was never consistently good throughout our stay and so we never even visited our pool. Drinking on the streets is another option but, whilst we did this the first day by drinking cocktails out of large plastic Eiffel Towers, it was strange boozing with no end product like a club or party or something, and we haven’t tended to drink too much on this holiday as it’s a little strange drinking when it’s just the two of us. We did however drink on the last night when we had a coach to catch at 1:20am as we got chatting to Sal, a lawyer from LA who had a humble Mexican upbringing. He bought us drinks as he wanted company before his colleague arrived into Vegas from LA and so we deemed it rude not to drink them. An hour into our six hour coach ride and I was starting to wish that my sense had outweighed my manners. But he was excellent company and it was good chatting with him.
All of this meant that we were left with few options. On the third night at the end of our second full day (Tuesday) we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Mystere’ show at Treasure Island. We got the tickets at Tix4Tonight (or something like that) who have booths dotted the entire length of the strip and offer, as the name suggests, tickets for that night or sometimes the next day at a reduced rate. This meant we got $90 tickets for $56, which was a result and the show itself was very good if not great. There were the usual jaw-dropping feats that you come to expect from Cirque but there were also moments that went nowhere and just seemed to drag on for the sake of filling time.
Other than that we were left with walking through the different hotels and malls or eating and we tended to do more walking than eating for once. The hotels are insane. Walking around them, with people drinking everywhere and with different music playing in the hotel and the grounds around it, you feel as though you’re at a music festival in a theme park. They are generally more impressive than they are tasteless, but it is still difficult to be awestruck at what you can’t help acknowledging is fake. The Bellagio was probably my favourite as it seemed to have some class, which is quite an achievement in Vegas. The Venetian is also quite pretty even if it couldn’t ever capture the essence of Venice. In all we walked around eight casinos over three days but it felt like so many more. When these casinos are also shopping malls, hotels and a whole bunch more you can understand how half an hour can pass whilst just trying to find the exit.
The food was expensive generally for what it was. We did get a free buffet each included in the offer we got for the hotel through Expedia. We decided to have that for breakfast and the abundance of bacon was well received by both Claire and I. Outside of the endurance field of dining, we had an excellent meal at Kahunaville at Treasure Island. We paid $3 for 50% off vouchers when getting our Cirque tickets and it was well worth it. I had chicken in a piña colada sauce served with jasmine rice and hibachi vegetables and it was insanely good. Claire had a chicken stir-fry done invthe hibachi fashion and it was served as with an upturned take away box on the plate and the food looking like it had spilled from it. Quite a nice touch, as was their cocktail to share which smoked and bubbled throughout the meal. The other food of note was Stripburger at the top end of the strip in the Fashion Show mall and opposite the Wynn/Encore hotels. The food was excellent but a special mention to the garlic and herb fries and the peanut butter and chocolate shakes. I’ve had such a simple shake many many times but never was it as good as they made it. Unfortunately it was a special so I can’t promise that it’ll be there if you visit some time.
Overall Vegas was good but not great and would come in last with regard to my favourite places that we’ve visited on this trip. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have any charm. I think it would be better if not on such a tight budget and both Claire and I agreed that we would have preferred to visit it with friends, but it is still an experience that I am happy to have had. I’m writing this in a rush as I’m already two days into my time in LA and am late to go meet Kat for a trip to Hollywood and the legendary In-N-Out burger so no time to spellcheck or proof read. Hopefully it makes some sense.