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What Happened in Vegas

August 27, 2017

Getting to Vegas a full day early not only gave us some time to take things a bit slower, but also to enjoy the city more thoroughly than we had originally planned. We drove up and down the Strip (including going out of our way to see the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign), we wandered around inside the over-the-top lobbies of a few hotels, we took the monorail, we showed Sam how to play the slots (and, in the process, got him kicked out of the casino for being underage), we rode in the world’s tallest Ferris wheel (the High Roller, of course) for great views of the city during the day, we rode to the top of the observation tower at the Stratosphere (it’s the tallest observation tower West of the Mississippi) for great views of the city at night, we went to a minor league ballgame (the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets’ Triple-A team), we  lounged at the hotel pool, we saw Floyd Mayweather’s entourage at the MGM Grand, and we took in a show (Cirque Du Soleil).

Photos of all these things are below, but first, a few thoughts on my first trip to Las Vegas:

  1. I can’t believe it took me 42 years to get here. Airfare is relatively cheap and the weather is pretty reliable. Why didn’t I come here sooner?
  2. There’s a ton of stuff to do here. I mean even beyond the gambling, drinking, clubbing, and various activities that are illegal in most other states. You like magic? There are 10 different magic shows at major hotels (David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, Criss Angel, and a bunch of guys you and I never heard of). You like dead musicians? There are concerts by tribute bands and impersonators of the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, the Rat Pack, and about a dozen others. You like the 90s? Richard Marx is here, as are Boyz II Men. You like Cirque du Soleil? They have five shows here at five different hotels. You like rides? New York New York has a rollercoaster, Circus Circus has a full amusement park inside the hotel, and the top of the Stratosphere tower has four terror-inducing rides 110 stories above the Strip, including one where you literally just jump off the tower wearing a harness that slows you down as you get near the bottom. You like cheesy, fake tourist traps? The Venetian has gondola rides on a fake river and Paris has rides to the top of their fake Eiffel Tower. There’s quirkier stuff outside the strip, too. On Friday we went to a playable pinball museum where, for $20 in quarters, all three of us played dozens of old pinball machines and a handful of classic arcade games. (Sarah and I even made it onto the high score board on Tetris!)
  3. Everything here is a casino. The supermarket is a casino, the baseball stadium is a casino … there are slot machines and video poker machines in almost every store and business.
  4. Driving down the strip is exactly like it is in movies and TV shows. Palm trees line the divider, massive casino hotels line both sides, and there’s so much going on that it’s hard to decide where to look.
  5. The Strip makes Las Vegas look like a bustling city, but once you get a few blocks away from the Strip Las Vegas is not so much a city as it is one giant, soulless suburb. Strip malls and one-story houses for miles and miles in every direction, with almost no highways, office buildings, apartment buildings, or even discernible neighborhoods. For the past couple of decades Las Vegas has been one of America’s fastest-growing cities, but that’s because it’s surrounded by desert, so they just keep expanding the city’s border by building the same exact ranch house with light-brown stucco a million times until they hit the mountains. Driving around to the kosher restaurants and supermarkets, we kept thinking that we were lost because everything looks exactly the same. And looking down on the city from the High Roller or the Stratosphere, it’s easy to see that everything outside the Strip is uniformly flat until the light brown buildings end and the light brown desert starts.
  6. For a city that is literally built around vice, Las Vegas has a shockingly large Jewish population. The number of kosher restaurants here is impressive for any city that’s not New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. There’s not much variety (every restaurant is Israeli, whether meat or dairy), but the sheer number rivals Philly and DC. There are even two nonkosher supermarkets that have robust kosher sections with fresh meat, baked goods, prepared foods, and more. All in a city known for gambling and prostitution.
  7. Vegas is not nearly as family friendly as the city’s marketing leads you to believe. Yes, there’s lots for kids to do, but to get to kid-friendly shows you have to walk through casinos and bars. There are ads for strip clubs and burlesque shows everywhere you turn. Even the innocent-looking candy shop we went into had a whole section of penis-shaped candies.
  8. I know it’s the City of Sin, but I was nonetheless surprised by how drunk everyone is, and not just an nighttime. Las Vegas rivals New Orleans for the number of tourists who are staggeringly drunk by 10 a.m.
  9. So many bros. So. Many. Bros.
  10. Even with all the negatives, we had a great two-and-a-half days here, and I would totally come back again. But probably without the kids.

Without further ado, here’s some visual evidence of our adventures:

IMG_20170824_141545

If you don’t have time to visit the casino AND buy groceries, just visit the casino that’s inside the supermarket

Cashman Stadium

The Las Vegas 51s have one of the coolest logos in baseball, but by far the ugliest ballpark.

Las Vegas 51s

The streak continues! We only stayed for three innings because we had tickets to Cirque, but Sam still managed to convince the home bullpen to toss him a ball.

Cirque du Soleil

At Cirque, the ceiling of the theater was extremely cool, but it was nothing compared to the stage, which was sometimes a floor and sometimes a swimming pool of changing depths.

Las Vegas pinball museum

Concentrating at the pinball museum

Tetris high score

That’s our initials at spots 7 and 8

High Roller

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel

Floyd Mayweather TMT

Mayweather arrives at the MGM Grand

LV Monorail

View from the monorail

IMG_1542

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

Which is better: the Las Vegas sign itself, or the sign that tells people where to find the sign?

Las Vegas Strip

The Strip at night, as seen from the top of the Stratosphere

Las Vegas

See how flat it is? And how the lights just suddenly stop? That’s not the horizon, it’s just where the city ends and becomes desert.

Stratosphere

The lady in the doorway is about to jump off the 108th floor. She paid $119 for the privilege.

 

 

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