My husband has been wanting to visit Vegas for years, so finally, I caved. Now anyone who knows me well knows that I would normally stay far, far away from somewhere packed with people, bright lights, and alcohol… my ideal vacations involve nature—the beach or somewhere to hike. So here it is, my list of rants and raves about my trip to Las Vegas.
I’ll get the rants out of the way first because it’s always best to end on a positive note.
Along the strip and in the casinos, there is nowhere to sit down… that doesn’t cost money. There are plenty of seats at bars, at slot machines, at gaming tables. But if you aren’t paying for it, you can’t sit there. Being on one’s feet all day, one becomes tempted to sit down at a slot machine or a pricey restaurant just for the sake of sitting down. It’s almost like it’s intentional… The other thing is, having spent some late nights in casinos, I’m pretty sure they pump oxygen into those rooms to keep people unnaturally awake. With the combination of that plus jet lag, I was sleep deprived almost the whole vacation.
- Rat Maze
Navigating the casinos is like navigating a rat maze where the cheese is drugged and is placed every two inches. Trying to get from point A to point B is nearly impossible. None of the sidewalks or walkways or paths inside or outside the casinos are linear, meaning in order to try to find one’s way from Point A to Point B, one must navigate a maze of tempting casino games, restaurants, bars, and stores. I did not fall prey to such manipulation because of how angry I was just based on the sheer number of people surrounding me, but I saw many people who did. Trying to get around really brought out the New Yorker in me.
I am claustrophobic and afraid of heights. I become extremely distrustful of anywhere where I cannot self-sufficiently and quickly exit or enter a building without navigating a series of elevators and waiting to be able to get out….i.e, all of Vegas. The worst offender in this instance was actually our tour of the Hoover Dam, where 80 people were crammed, cattle-style, into an elevator that took us down to the bowels of the power plant. Yikes!
- Gas Station Credit Card Payment
I guess living where I do, I’ve been spoiled into believing that every gas station has a credit card reader at the pump. Or that the same price applies to the per-gallon cost of gas whether paying by cash or credit… or that people have a clue about how to park a car at a pump without taking up twelve lanes.
Walking the strip after 11 a.m. is like being a herded cow. It has all the crowds of New York City with none of the locals to show people how it’s done. Tourists walking while texting (even tourists with a beer in one hand and a phone in the other), tourists stopping mid-step to take pictures of man-made gaud, tourists not understanding that a red hand on a crosswalk means stop and a white person icon means go… Being surrounded by so many people just zaps my mental and creative energy and leaves me tired in a way sleep just can’t fix.
- Sin City (a.k.a. Bread and Circuses)
As a teacher, I noticed that most of the establishments and the atmosphere in general encourage everything that is wrong with student behavior and attention today. Cell phone use is rampant, with entire families sitting around not talking to one another but all on individual cell phones, even kids I would think would be too young to text. Nude cards are handed out on street corners with people collecting them humorously and seedy peddlers pushing them in tourists’ faces. Walking around with mind-numbing liquor is accepted and encouraged, as is leaving your empty glass or bottle wherever you are when you happen to finish it. With flashing lights and constant ADD all around, people are encouraged to part with their money without even realizing it, and the whole place is designed to discourage any kind of critical thinking, with booze being offered to anyone willing to open their wallet to the casino and flashy lights and sounds constantly going off a la Harrison Bergeron to interrupt any kind of coherent thought one might have. If anyone ever wants to take over the world, one need not be evil and induce fear like Big Brother; one needs only to provide bread and circuses, and the people will willingly surrender their souls and their minds.
The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
If you’ve been to any place that has a semi-decent aquarium, like San Diego, Baltimore, Virginia Beach, etc., don’t waste your $18 on this tiny display. If you’ve never seen an aquarium before, it might be worth your time/money.
Okay, it wasn’t all bad—but mostly because I had a rental car.
- Red Rock Canyon
It was too hot to hike the whole canyon, but we did the scenic drive and took some beautiful photos. Most of the people taking photos were friendly and kind, and no one was drunk. Some of the rocks reminded me of Sedona, AZ, one of my favorite places to hike. Being out in nature and away from nutty drunks recharged my creative batteries. I could have stayed there all day, even in the heat.
- The Hoover Dam (sort of)
Going on a brief tour of the Hoover Dam (sort of) restored my faith in humanity—albeit the humanity that existed during the Great Depression when the dam was constructed. The Hoover Dam represents everything that once made this country great, and that can make this country great once again. A problem was presented, and a solution was created using ingenuity and hard work—everything America was founded on. The project was engineered so that it has paid for itself (through a water-powered power plant) and continues to pay for its own maintenance. It was also completed ahead of schedule. Compare that to government waste and whining going on by most of today’s workers and Metro escalators that don’t work even weeks after their last repair, and it grounds you in what this country’s work ethic once was and should become again.
- Blue Man Group
It’s mind candy, but it was time well spent. You can’t help but laugh at this show.
- The Phantom of the Opera
The show only runs through September, and it was something my husband had never seen (I saw it on Broadway twice when I was younger). It was a good show–my husband really liked it. But compared to Broadway, it seemed like it lacked a soul. Like everything else in Vegas.
- Air conditioning
The temperature each day was 105 degrees. Now it is a “dry heat,” as they say, and hiking in Arizona for the past few summers has made me acclimate to it (I prefer it to the humid but “cooler” temperatures of Virginia’s summers), but it was nice to have air conditioning everywhere.
- Goodsprings, Nevada
My husband decided to go on a tour of the locations that exist in the game Fallout: New Vegas, which takes place in the general area (but in a post-nuclear landscape). Most of the places are just desert, though a few are renamed. (Buffalo Bill’s is “Bison Steve’s”in the game; The Pioneer Saloon is called “The Prospector Saloon”).I was sort of horrified in an amused way at how he was able to navigate the locations outside of Vegas solely with knowledge he gained from playing his video game. In one instance, we drove to Goodsprings, NV, to a tiny little bar (The Pioneer Saloon) and general store. He went in to take pictures while I stayed in the car, and he came running out, yelling, “There’s a character from the game inside, and he said I could take a picture with him!”
At this point, I thought the heat had gotten to him, but indeed it was true. There is an actual human being who inspired the character of Chet, a clerk at the Goodsprings store in the game Fallout. The actual human being, whose name is Noel, was quite friendly and knowledgeable about the game, saying that it has made his store famous, with people coming from as far as Japan just to see the landscape that inspired the game. When the game developers (who he described as “looking like teenagers doing a high-school project”) asked him for permission to use his store and likeness in the game, he had no idea what he was getting in to. The general store and saloon will celebrate its 100thanniversary next year, and my husband donated money to the plaque which will commemorate the occasion. His name will appear on the plaque in bronze, immortalizing his connection to the location.We then stopped at the bar next door, the oldest working bar in Nevada, to see the bullet holes where miner Joe Armstrong was shot years and years ago over a gambling brawl. The bar had an old feel, with old energy lingering around. It was a cool stop, and—I must admit—somewhere we would not have gone if it weren’t for my husband’s obsession with video games.
- It’s a Small World
I found out just a week before going to Vegas that one of my best friends from high school would be there at the same time as me. We got to hang out during our vacation, so despite the craziness of Vegas, I enjoyed the reunion! Crazy that two people from along the East Coast find it easier to meet in Vegas!
- The Atomic Testing Museum with Area 51 Exhibit
I enjoyed the prospect of a serious museum in the midst of all the glamour of Vegas. The museum has information and artifacts about the country’s atomic testing history. And again, the patrons were not obnoxious or drunk. Going to the museum was especially interesting after seeing the Enola Gay a week earlier in Dulles, Virginia. What made the trip extra special was on the elevator from our hotel to our car on the way to the museum, we met an older couple who both worked in the atomic industry (we didn’t ask for details!). They had all kinds of stories to tell and stayed with us for part of the tour, giving us all kinds of personal information about some of the exhibits. What interested me the most in the museum were some of the propaganda videos meant to allay people’s fears (during the 1950s and 1960s) about standing in the desert watching a nuclear explosion, as well as the paradox of having to build nukes to keep up with other nations (and therefore having to test them)but not wanting to use them. It just shows that there are no easy answers in life.
- The Zombie Apocalypse Store
It’s a store to help you prepare for the zombie apocalypse. The store notes that zombies can be seen as a metaphor for whatever will one day cause a breakdown of society. But zombies!! Need I say more?The good news is, if zombies ever do decide to plague Vegas, they will probably starve to death for lack of brains to eat.
- The Gun Store
This one is more for my husband. It’s a place where, with just a driver’s license, you can shoot basically whatever kind of gun you want. It’s a little pricey, which is why I didn’t shoot, but my husband really enjoyed shooting a 303 sniper rifle, an AR-15, and an M-4 automatic machine gun. Oh, and they have zombie targets.
- People selling $1 Water on The Strip
It’s easier to get casinos to give you dozens of dollars’ worth of booze than to find a water fountain. And bottles of water are pricey in the casinos. I wouldn’t mind paying $4 a bottle if it would only quench my thirst, but in the desert, more water is needed, and that’s money I would rather spend on anything else. So a big shout-out to those illegal water sellers sticking it to The Man and to regulation by selling water from coolers in seedy corners of The Strip for only a buck.
- Off-the-Beaten-Path Eats
On the recommendation of our hotel, we checked out Bahama Breeze, an island-themed eatery that made me feel like I was in the Caribbean; Ellis Island Casino and Restaurant, which had decent food for decent prices, and the Stratosphere, which is all the way at the other end of the strip, so it wasn’t that crowded. It’s that famous tower that overlooks Vegas. We got to eat in the top of the tower, which rotates very slowly so that every 90 minutes or so, diners see a full 360 degrees around Vegas. We were even treated to SkyJumpers jumping (with safety brakes, of course) from the top of the tower!