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Vegas Baby !

November 19, 2011

After spending the last few weeks in the wide open spaces of Utah, Vegas came as a real shock. Loads of traffic and people everywhere.

We managed to negotiate our way to the MGM Grand where we had booked a room for a couple of nights. They were the only casino that we could find that actually mentions oversized parking on their website. Whilst there we did find that there were other casinos with decent outdoor parking as well but hindsight is always 20:20.

Once at the MGM though we were stuck as there were no signs for the oversized parking and lots of roads with height restrictions that we were too big for. I parked up in a fire lane and stayed in the Beast while Sarah ran off to try and find where the oversized parking was. After wandering the vast casino for about 20 minutes she reappeared to let me know that security would shortly arrive to take us to the parking lot.  After waiting for a couple of minutes a red pickup turned up and a security guy told us to follow him to the parking lot. We had to go back outside the Casino grounds and then into a lot next to the swimming pool which was a big walled lot – mostly empty.

After getting our stuff together the security guy gave us a lift to the main entrance and told us that if we needed to visit the Beast we would need to call security.

Check in was quick and easy at one of about 50 check in desks  in the huge lobby. We went up to our 10th floor room and marvelled at the luxury of a king size bed and a separate sofa. The footprint of the room was about 10 times the size of the Beast. Luxury! The view out of the window was of a pretty nasty flat roof but in the distance you could still see the casinos New York, New York and Excalibur.

After revelling in the comforts of our room we headed off down the strip to check out some sights. It was pretty hot so we only made it as far as the Bellagio. We were both amazed at how much Vegas had changed since we were last here in 2004. Big new casinos have opened and new skyscrapers dominate. It seems a shame though that the big theme casinos like Paris, New York and Luxor are no longer in vogue and the new ones are much less interesting.

The pavements were so crowded that it took us an hour to walk the ½ mile up to the Bellagio and back.

We headed back to our room and got ready for a night out. We had booked the Cirque de Soleil show called “O” at the Bellagio so decided to try out their buffet for dinner.  When we got to the Bellagio we found an enormous queue for the buffet but fortunately after queuing for under a minute one of the waiters came along the line asking if anyone wanted to eat at the bar. We quickly volunteered and were taken straight past the massive queue to be seated at the bar right in the centre of the action. Result !

The buffet was great – unlimited quantites of good food including snow crab legs and some great prime rib. We’d soon stuffed our faces though. The whole experience isn’t that cheap though as with a couple of drinks each it came to $100.

It was soon time for the show to start. I’ve got pretty mixed feelings about “O”. There is no doubt that it was spectacular. The stage consists of a large circular pool of water – at any time any part of this pool can be water of any depth. One second someone walks across the water and the next someone high dives into the same spot.  Only in Vegas could you get a stage show this elaborate which clearly costs an enormous amount to put on. However there was no discernible plot to the show which meant it just consisted of set piece dance after set piece dance some of which were incredibly spectacular but without a narrative to hang it on it felt ultimately hollow and even a bit weird.

In all I’m glad we went to “O” but I wouldn’t hurry back – certainly not at the prices they charged. We had the cheapest seats in the house, at a discount, and still paid $100 per seat.

The next day we didn’t get up so early after what had been a late night for us and we headed off to the pool complex at the MGM. Because it was considered winter, half of the pool complex was shut however there were still three big pools to choose from. We sat by the pool until we got hungry and soaked up some sun.

Around lunchtime we went across the road to New York, New York. This is my favourite casino because it is good value and they’ve made a real effort to carry the theme throughout the casino. Inside is a little replica of New York too. We went to the “America” diner for lunch which had a massive 3D relief map of the USA on the wall – according to the menu it cost $0.5 million to make – nothing is cheap in Vegas. Sarah ordered Nachos and got served the biggest plate of food I’ve ever seen – needless to say she didn’t finish it.

After lunch we went for a wander and checked out Excalibur and the Luxor. Neither of these casinos have really got anything to recommend them. Luxor particularly seems to have stripped out most of its theme in an attempt to modernise and has pretty much lost most of its charm in doing so.

In the evening we went out for a long walk up the strip. Much easier in the cool of the evening. It was Halloween so every other person was dressed up. We noted though that all the women who were dressed up had all picked a costume and then decided on the slutty version of it. I’ve never seen so many slutty witches, pirates and cheerleaders.

We headed up the strip and checked out the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace and Paris for our evening stroll. Just walking round these three casinos was a major exercise. The gondolas in the Venetian are a blast and a little bit surreal being inside and not even on the ground floor.

To be honest this visit to Vegas has been fairly low key – we haven’t got drunk, gambled too much or stayed up all night. However its still been fairly culture shocking coming from the emptiness of Utah into Sodom & Gomorrah.

We managed to leave Vegas without to much incident but didn’t get too far and ended up only really getting to the Nevada border before nightfall. We saw a sign for a truck stop which turned out to be in a little town called Primm. Primm seems to exist solely to be the last casinos before California and has three casinos right next to the highway. We stayed in the car park at Whiskey Pete’s – a bizarre casino which is styled like a castle complete with crenulations but has a cowboy theme. This is the other side of gaming in Nevada and a nice contrast to Vegas.

Strangely in the casino was a bunch of Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia including the car they died in – riddled with bullet holes – and Clyde’s shirt – also full of holes.

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