Viva Las Vegas

Surely you weren’t expecting a more original title. Rum punch does not inspire creativity. Silliness? Yes. Creativity? No. This really is a crazy place. We spent the first day wandering around, wide-eyed and slightly lost. Enjoying ourselves, but fairly convinced that we wouldn’t ever need to return. Then we found a map. And the tram. And finally the rum punch. The place was growing on us.

The morning of day two found us highly anticipating the Elvis show and, very importantly, attending a craps lesson. Highly informative. Apparently, d#2’s statistics professors taught her about Vegas odds, without actually explaining how the games are played.

We spent a lot of time walking and exploring and window shopping. It was all a bit more laid back and casual than we were expecting, which suited the two of us just fine. Once upon a time, I was under the delusion that Vegas could be a cheap vacation, as long as you didn’t gamble. Maybe once upon a time that was true. I wouldn’t say it was over-priced, but if you wanted to enjoy the nice side of Vegas, it was going to cost you.

Here are some of my Vegas bests:

Best Free Show – The Bellagio Fountains are lovely, day or night. It all looks like an elegant dance, perfectly matched to the music. And when they shoot up to their maximum heights with water cannon booms you can’t help but give a little  gasp which turns to a huge grin. There are about 8 different performances, I think we ended up seeing it three times, each different. A close second – The volcano eruption at the Mirage. This one is spectacular after dark, especially when the temperature drops and the jets of fire warm you up. Almost not worth the walk  – The pirate show at Treasure Island.

Best Casino– Paris. We didn’t get to all the casinos. We didn’t spend (too) much time in any of the casinos. Paris was the first one we saw that made us feel like we were walking into another place. They have the whole theme concept down. But the real winning feature was that the casino was nestled around the footings of the Eiffel Tower in a park-like setting with trees. D#2 took a picture of the Cafe St. Louis. I got a picture of the WC.

If I had to picture a french sink, it might look like this.

Best Bar/Drink – We REALLY didn’t get to enough bars to do a ranking here, but two experiences stand out. First, the $5 Rum Punch special at the Rhumbar (?) at the Mirage. We decided we needed a rum drink before seeing the pirate show. We decided to share one. It was fabulous. Sadly, to actually enjoy the pirate show we probably each should have had one…or two. Second, there was a bar/lounge at Aria between the check-in desk and the casino. It was peaceful and comfortable.  They put out bowls of mixed nuts and wasabi peas. Nice arrangements of nice music by the piano player. And a drink called the Diva which was divine. Don’t bother – I never expected Las Vegas to be a beer town, but I had to try some local brews. We were both suitably unimpressed.

Best Unfree Show – I’m glad that we decided before we got here what show we wanted to go to, because the choices could be overwhelming. Not only are there traditional shows, but there are also zoos and aquariums and museum-quality exhibits. The Cirque Elvis show was fabulous. It was a cross between a big musical of Elvis songs and an acrobatic/stunt show. This was also the best shopping since it was the only place we actually bought anything. The three Elvis CDs purchased here would help entertain us during the 10 hours of driving to come. The show wouldn’t be for everybody, but it was perfect for us – including when they showed his boyhood house in Tupelo and we simultaneously whispered, “We’ve been there!”

Best Unexpected Find – A few years back, Daughter#1 introduced me to Dale Chihuly’s glass art work. So now I always notice it when I run across it, which happens more often than I would expect. Like at the Bellagio.

The ceiling of the lobby

Best Way to Lose Money – Not a gambler. Never have been. That being said…. When in Rome…. You only live once…. A fool and his money are soon parted…. Any other cliche’s you’d like me to insert here? Although I love cards and card games, poker has never appealed to me. I think it is the bluffing aspect that turns me off even more than the betting aspect. The slot machines are basically boring. We stuck a buck in a few, but you just push a button to spin and then either win or not. I guess some of them have games within the games, for added odds or bonus payouts, but I’d rather scratch off a lottery ticket because then at least I’m doing something and slowly revealing if I’m a winner, not just waiting for a video of spinning wheels to stop spinning. Roulette has always interested me, I still have a mini roulette set up from when I was a kid. But I wasn’t sure of roulette table etiquette and I wasn’t into plunking down $10 on one spin at the live tables, so I found happiness at the video roulette slot machines where you could bet $1. My only success was when I cashed out up $11 at one session, but it did  have legitimate entertainment value for me.
Best Way to Win Money – It is nice to travel to Vegas with a lucky one. Ever since she demonstrated her prowess in picking the right lines at Disney World, we’ve always considered d#2 to be the lucky one in the family.  So when she wanted to play craps, who was I to dissuade her? Armed with an outside investment and a free lesson, she confidently and literally threw her $50 down on the table. I watched. And she won. Not big, but she had her little system of small bets with low payouts and it definitely worked for her. And once you understand what’s going on, it is actually very entertaining to watch. According to the lucky one, it’s actually very exciting to play. Although you can lose a lot of money in a hurry, generally it all develops over a series of rolls and bets, which, along with no bluffing fulfills my desire to feel like I’m playing a game and not just betting. D#2 actually had two winning sessions at the craps tables. I may have created a monster.
Best Time to Go – We picked it. We were in Vegas during their slowest time of the year and on a Tuesday/Wednesday. Then we left and returned on a Friday night. It was a whole different place. It felt a lot sleezier, there were a lot more drunks staggering around, and it was a lot more crowded. I can’t imagine being there on a weekend during the busy months.
So, a maternal promise has been fulfilled. We’ve been mulling this trip for about four years now and I think I can even safely speak for d#2 and say that we had a great time on the Vegas leg of our trip. The original impetus for the trip was to see Elvis impersonators and, sadly, outside of the Cirque show, we only saw one. And he was about 4 ft tall and not singing. Maybe we need to head to Branson?

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