Thursday, March 30, 2006

Vegas, Baby!

Originally uploaded by erink.

Spent 5 days in Vegas last week, it was my first time there. Though I have gobs and gobs of things to talk about, that doesn't make a good blog post, so you'll get (I hope) the witty highlights.

So shiny!

We thought about staying at the Flamingo, but ended up at Caesar's Palace, which is just across the street. This worked out great, because Caesar's was a bit more ridiculous inside, and we got to look at Flamingo's signage all the time. I took a bunch of pictures of signs, which I'm slowly uploading to Flickr. Check out my Vegas set, which I hope will be growing!

Among the many amenities of our hotel rooms (we moved once) were ergonomic toilets. Seriously, the seats are designed with these leg grooves that wedge your butt down and your legs apart. I guess Caesar's just wants to make everything a little easier for their guests.


As I expected, casinos are designed to disorient. Caesar's is gigantic, we spent the first evening just wandering around inside. There's a mall, a couple nightclubs, a bunch of restaurants, a main casino, and several mini-casinos. You get a map when you check in that tells you which tower to find to get to your room. There are no windows, no clocks, and no exits! If you follow an exit sign you'll probably find an emergency-only exit. In fact, the entrance that was closest to our room is actually an entrance only - you can't go out the same doors.

Also, there's this weird pervasive slot machine sound. Kind of a gurgling little tune. You just have to hear it.

I didn't expect the casinos to be so stinky. Smoking is allowed just about everywhere in Las Vegas. I hadn't realized how much I'd become used to smoke-free living.

Crossing the Street

There's a special way to do this on the Strip. There are pedestrian overpasses at most of the major intersections, though getting onto them is sometimes confusing. Also, a lot of the casino complexes are connected to each other by walkways, so you don't even have to go outside. This was kind of convenient for us, because we had crummy weather the whole time - it's normally in the 70s this time of year, but we maxed out at 60 about once, plus it rained twice.(If this was payback for our freakishly rain-free visit to Hilo, Hawaii a few years ago, I'll take it!)

The Vegas "Experience"

"Experience" is the special Vegas word for things that are fake. "The Eiffel Tower Experience" is what you get when you ride up to the observation deck at the fake Eiffel tower at Paris Las Vegas. "Star Trek - The Experience" is what you pay $40 to see at the Hilton. "The Fremont Street Experience" is the sky-lighting show they dreamt up to get people to visit the original downtown. Oh, yes, you're on Fremont Street, but did you have the Experience?

My favorite was the Penn & Teller "Box Viewing and Envelope Signing Experience," which takes place in the hour before the Penn & Teller show. Penn Jillette (on bass) and pianist Mike Jones (who has ram horns tatooed on his bald head!) play jazz, and the audience is invited on stage to inspect two props that are used in the show.

To Boldly Go

"Star Trek - The Experience," which is an attraction at the Hilton near the convention center, was pretty cool. There are two "rides" and I don't even think you can buy them separately. Do the Borg first, because it's got a better beginning (lots of human interaction) but a mediocre end (the main action is a 3-D movie). I kept wanting to try pushing buttons on the wall displays in the "briefing rooms" where you start out the ride. The Klingon ride is in a motion simulator and there's lots of aggressive space flight that I found a bit nauseating, but it's pretty cool. It's got much better effects and better pacing, though the Borg ride probably wins on plot.

The Star Trek Hilton also provided prime shopping fodder. Too bad we couldn't think of anyone appropriate to buy the "I'm With Illogical --> " t-shirt. I got a spiff classic Trek toy/replica phaser. It has a "type 1" (black, cell phone shape) phaser that you can detatch from the "type 2" (gray, gun-shaped) phaser. It has dials and lights and even had a sound effect for "overload". It was totally worth having to check luggage on the way home.

The Experience Continues

Speaking of airport security - at the Vegas airport they run these cute informative videos while you're waiting in line at security. They have various Vegas archetypes illustrating airline regulations - there was one with a magician removing "loose change" from his ears, one with medieval type warriors dropping off maces and swords and chain mail before going through, one with Wolfgang Puck about taking open food through security, and one with a Klingon who wouldn't remove his headphones. You can see them on - though I don't see the Puck video here just now.

Unintentional Exercise

Walking - so much walking. We were center strip, so we tried walking to a lot of things, but the whole "strip" is like 4 miles. The longest we walked was to the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, which is on the highway south of Luxor. That was way too long, but we did get to check out the fabulous arcade in the Luxor on the way back.

Intentional Entertainment

So we also saw shows. We saw Follies Bergere, a somewhat dated showgirl show. We had crummy seats at a back table, I had to lean way out to see half the stage, but it was worth doing if not for full price.

We saw two Cirque du Soleil shows (of the 5 resident shows in Vegas!): O and Zumanity. O is still the most amazing, it's staged in this custom built pool stage, and people can enter and exit via the pool. There are trapeze artists flying into the pool, clowns sailing in the pool, and then in the next moment someone will be walking across the surface of the water. Pretty sweet. Some other shows have started doing similar tricks, so don't go see any of those unless you've already done O. At one point in the show, the stage floor platform comes up and beaches these 6 or 8 SCUBA divers in full gear - these are actual support staff for the show!

Zumanity is unlike other Cirque shows, it's adults only and has only about 30% amazing feats and 70% titillation - but very high grade titillation. It was awesome. I mean, who wouldn't like to see scantily clad twin contortionists cavorting in a giant fishbowl?

I think the show I liked best was Penn & Teller. Even though I'd seen some of the bits before, it was just cool to see them in person. Maybe I was starstruck, I have always thought they were awesome. Plus after the show they hung out in the lobby and signed autographs and took pictures with everyone, which was majorly cool. We also enjoyed their ads wherever we saw them. ("Evil, as it turns out, has two names.")

Some show strangeness: There are no intermissions, and no program books. Also, you can take your drink in (you pretty much can take a drink anywhere on the Strip, you see abandoned glassware everywhere), but you have to use a plastic cup.

Atypical Tourism

We even left the city once and went mountain biking. Boulder City Outfitters
( will pick you up from your hotel and take you to Bootleg Canyon. The rental bikes weren't the best, but it was fun. I'm a relatively timid mountain biker, and we're both out of shape, so we stuck to some of the tamer trails - there was a lot of variety, but a little too much climbing. I was glad to see some of the local terrain, since it was my first desert oasis (you can sometimes see mountains behind the casinos, if you look). They also run kayaking and some other kind of nature tours.

Winning Big as a Low Roller

What else - gambling? We were too intimidated to try any of the table games, but I did put a dollar in the Star Wars themed "penny slots". I was down to about $0.40 when I hit something good - so I left! I won $10.70.

Everything Else

There was enough stuff we didn't get to that I'll have to go back in a few years. We never did manage to see the exploding volcano at Mirage, or the smarmy "Sirens of TI" show. We didn't make it off strip to the Liberace Museum, the Atomic Testing Museum, or Hoover Dam. But maybe I'll wait until I get through posting all the good pictures before planning the next trip!

1 comment:

Cathy said...

I hear the TI show is horrible. I missed it too.

Overall, you had a much more excitingly varied Vegas experience than I did! I'm jealous of all the show-going. I, however, did far more gambling. The table games are the cool part, you can't let them scare you... Well, actually, you can let blackjack scare you. That's like a money sinkhole.