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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Travel
  
  
  
 
LAS VEGAS by Lounge Trekker on 6 April 2012 2:05am
 
LAS VEGAS

Las Vegas is all about a lot of fun, any kind of fun, in a short time. High-turnover fun; lineups were short and fast moving. The more convenient or close to Las Vegas Boulevard (the strip), the more it will cost. Virtually all the people here are happy, some very happy. The service staff everywhere I went were always helpful and happy to be there. And it was all 100% genuine. More sun = more smiles. THE PEOPLE HERE ARE SOOOO NICE! Even the guys begging for money were polite.

Our first four days were quite windy and we used the time to walk a few of the casinos. Yesterday we went to a lovely tennis facility on Sunset Avenue about 2-3 kms from our hotel. Eight courts, in pairs, sharing a shady bench with a four foot fence between them to minimize your ball bouncing a long walk from your court. They have a painted asphalt surface that is easy on the legs. It's called...Rebound Ace. All courts have a warm up board. If all the courts are busy, you register in the office for the next available court...very nice for free courts.

For help with tennis information (partners, courts, coaches, events) in Las Vegas, I was given this web address: http://www.tennishabitat.net/ There is a Walmart and grocery close by so you can do a combo trip.

If you want to explore the strip...who doesn't? if only briefly. Plan your day appropriately. List potential attractions and group them by proximity to one another and to your room. Get an early start...numbers of people are lower early in the day and the casinos aren't as smoky. There are few places to just sit and rest unless you are buying food and drink. The earlier you get tired of the strip, the earlier you can get under the sun at poolside.

The strip is double the cost of nearly anywhere else in Las Vegas, so if your budget is small, keep that in mind; eat before you go to the strip and carry your water. Every casino has a theme, making for some entertaining locations, and they are huge. You should be prepared to do a lot of walking to see more than one casino in a day. Driving between them would make no sense; it would take a lot of time and you might get frustrated because you can see where you want to be but Vegas just isn't designed for that kind of park-in-front driving experience.

My favourite is the Bellagio, whose theme must be luxury. The merchants inside were of a higher quality than in the other casino-shopping malls we saw. And there are a few benches to relax on...right beneath a Dale Chihoully blown glass exhibit.

Freemont Street (downtown) is the 'old Vegas' and a lot of fun. The scale is that of an older city built closer to the ground and the street has been terrazo finished. The Freemont experience is a video show on a barrel-shaped dome above your head. The 'dome-screen' is a few hundred yards long and all the street life happens beneath it. It's like watching a '80's rock video on TV complete with commercials. It's pretty cool, especially when you remember it was built in 1995 before LED strips (think around a football pitch) became the norm.

If you want souvenirs, you can get quite a range for $1 and up on Freemont St. Beers are $2 if you take them to go...the law allows you to walk around with your beverage but many establishments prohibit outside food and drink. If you are a drinker, a go-cup, or even a BIG go-cup is handy.

Freemont Street is a great place for entertainers, buskers and musicians to do personalized performances for tips. Buskers are not required to have a licence unless selling goods, so I'll practice my talents and see if I can get paid while on holiday next time I come to Las Vegas! If you get a picture taken with one of these guys, give them a dollar. If you see ME, give me ten!

To catch a taxi, you must go to a taxi stand at one of the casinos. Keep together because things can move quickly. The city bus service will provide transportation for $2 per trip, 7$ for 24 hrs. An express bus will take you between downtown (Freemont Street) and the strip every 12 - 20 minutes. http://www.rtcsouthernnevada.com/transit/route/ . We didn't use the bus system, but it would be a way to see the strip without as much unecessary walking. A logical approach to maximizing your Vegas experience would be to rent a car for a few days. We rented a car for the week. About $220 and $24 fuel. It was nice to drive our bags from the airport and driving back to the airport saved us a little time and offered some convenience at the end of our stay.

They have a shuttle between the airport terminals and the car rental area. A cart is available for $5 rental as it is a bit of a walk from the terminal to the shuttle bus.

A car makes a visit to the desert easy. We visited beautiful Red Rock Canyon and had a picnic lunch a short climb off the main trail. The red rock vista is a geological formation caused by sand dunes and water. In a geological blink in time, pressure and groundwater formed a rock mass with distinct striations following the contours of the ancient sand piles. The rock shapes, and the great traction, make casual walking, serious rock climbing or even free-climbing fun and easy. We went over and down to a secluded depression, relaxed and were uninterrupted by other people while we dined. We took surface roads (Charleston Blvd) and used about an hour to get there driving through town. The return trip was halved as we drove the freeway.

There are some marvellous metal sculptures that beautify your southern entrance to the city while driving at highway speed. Life-size horses were sculpted with sheet metal which rusted to a reddish brown hue giving them a timeless appearance compatible with the interface of the desert with the city. The positions symbolize the sight of wild horses as you cross the desert. Very nice, but these can only be seen if you are driving west on highway 160 returning from Red Rock Canyon.

You could take a bus tour if you have no need to walk over the pink-orange rock, but you would miss a little of the desert experience. We found a few blossoms, whose vibrant colours made them appear lit from within in contrast with the subdued desert tones. Touring by car will give you many good views. You could also take a bus tour to the Hoover Dam, or drive to it in a little over an hour. We didn't get out to it. And we thought the Grand Canyon is just too far to drive, over 6 hours one way. About $400 each would get a helicopter tour of both. I think I could buy the video and $380 of beer, watch the video ten times and make money on the empties!

Food,dining etc.

There are eating opportunities everywhere you look. We enjoyed a Paris-style lunch out on the 'sidewalk' at Mon Ami Gabi beneath the Eiffel Tower. $85 for a seafood crepe, warm olive salad, three tiny but tasty oysters and a lamb burger stuffed with Roquefort. There is something relaxing about the bustle of a busy restaurant.

Wolfgang Puck in the MGM was great. A wonderful chopped vegetable salad with a hummus dressing, a fabulous creamed spinach, light as air and so buttery it was like candy. Their pizzas are on a very thin crust and offer some very good combinations of toppings.

If you like to eat a lot, many of the casinos have a buffet dining establishment. We enjoyed the seafood buffet at the Rio.

For a good value, consider Ellis Island, a block off Las Vegas Boulevard. This is where one can get a delicious 10 ounce top sirloin and a 20 ounce beer for $7.99. The rib restaurant is a separate entity, but I met the cook at his babrbecue and his work looked and smelled just great!

For a convenient quick lunch we walked from Vegas Indoor Skydiving to the Denny's on Las Vegas Blvd north of the strip. The plate of nachos was better than any other. The large pile of chips were loaded with cheddar cheese, jalapenos, nacho meat, pico de gallo, sour cream and avacado. I scooped toppings onto every chip yet still had two scoops of toppings when the chips were gone. Simple, but such quality in a generous serving for $7.99. Our server was so cheerful he would have made a bowl of dog food fun.

We all had a craving for Indian but had no time to go out before a show we went to. We called Roadrunner food to run to the restaurant and deliver it to our room. I think it cost 15% of the food bill. The food was milder than I like make it, but very high quality. The restaurant name is Gandhi's. We were pressed for time, so while the girls got dressed, I called up the menus from three Indian restaurants all at the same time, and it took us about 15 seconds to agree on what to order.

Because we have a fridge in the suite, we ordered a lot. We had nice flavours to work with in the kitchen without the variety of ingredients to do it ourselves. Nice trick getting take-out brought to our room!

Budget

If I go there again, I'll stay off the strip for a fraction of the cost, select a few shows or events, and try to be efficient getting through the circus-shopping mall that is the strip. If your accomodation has a kitchen, money can be saved buying food and alcohol in grocery stores. Vegas can be done on a budget, just plan your 'strip' time and be disciplined about where you eat. Always buy your food a block or two over from the strip and pack snacks with you.

Everyone's heard that you get free drinks while gambling. I think it's true, but I don't gamble, so have no proof. If you're losing $50 an hour...do you drink enough to make it pay? False economy. All the stores have basic beer, wine, and liquor but the price is much lower off the strip. Cheapest is a full-size grocery store. If you have no car, I'm told it is an easy city bus ride away. That'll be at least $20 cheaper than a cab.

I talked to a guy staying at Super 8 one long block off the strip. He says it's a bit of a '70's style dive, for 24$. If you're doing a 3-day Vegas-drinking-gambling power holiday, you won't be there much and that kind of accomodation might be just what you need.

Cabs are $15-20 wherever you go...one-way. A Vegas transit bus is $2 for a single ride, $7 for 24 hours, and longer duration passes are available.

Doing Las Vegas on the cheap is possible, but will entail more effort and less convenience. The casinos are huge and seeing more than one in a day is more walking than most of us middle-aged people want. A good strategy might be to walk from your accomodation, assuming you are close to the strip, see what you want each day and return by cab. You could see a casino or two, be disciplined, and take the bus to Freemont Street where you can eat and drink for a few bucks, then cab back to the hotel. A 24 hour bus pass may be useful if you're a night-hawk or want to tramp all over town.

The biggest tip for budget visitors is to avoid eating and drinking on the strip. Pack snacks and liquor and time your days so you can eat elsewhere.
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by johnnyBgood! on 6 April 2012 3:01am
 
Very succinct Pete.
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by Loretto on 6 April 2012 1:15pm
 
How many words was that? :-) I have to write an essay today, Pete I need your help!

Sounds like you had a great time and that post will help plan the next visit! I don't know if that fast paced holiday is for me. When I turned 21 my mother's fist cousin and his wife took me to Atlantic City and gave me fifty dollars to gamble away. I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I wished I could have bought music, books or something with the fifty bucks instead of feeding it into machines. The flying looked like a LOT of fun though. I wouldn't mind trying that, before I would do a sky dive. Thanks for the detailed description of Los Vegas, and if we do go and I see you playing the guitar I will give you $20. How about that!
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by Loretto on 6 April 2012 1:17pm
 
How many words was that? :-) I have to write an essay today, Pete I need your help!

Sounds like you had a great time and that post will help plan the next visit! I don't know if that fast paced holiday is for me. When I turned 21 my mother's first cousin, Frank, and his wife took me to Atlantic City and gave me fifty dollars to gamble away. I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I wished I could have bought music, books or something with the fifty bucks instead of feeding it into machines.

The flying looked like a LOT of fun though. I wouldn't mind trying that, before I would do a sky dive.

Thanks for the detailed description of Las Vegas, and if we do go and I see you playing the guitar I will give you $20. How about that!
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by johnnyBgood! on 6 April 2012 1:29pm
 
Have you heard Pete reciting poetry ? I'd give him $30 to shut up. ;)

Gambling is one vice I've never had but I'd like to visit a casino and maybe be prepared to lose £100 or so just for the experience. I'd be scared to win though and become addicted !

I think that must be the longest post in the history of Palin's Travels Pete.
Apart of course, from Anne's dream yawns. :)
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by Spursfan2 on 6 April 2012 3:03pm
 
"Anne's dream YARNS.." if you DON'T mind, John!!!!

:D
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by johnnyBgood! on 6 April 2012 5:53pm
 
How long is a piece of yarn ?
 
Re: LAS VEGAS by Spursfan2 on 6 April 2012 6:51pm
 
As long as you can spin it, John!

:D
 



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