My first encounter with Las Vegas was the classic Mafia novel “The Godfather” when I was 15 . I fell in love with the book , the characters and the places that were depicted in the book ,wandering through the villages of Sicily ,the streets of Brooklyn and Long Island and lastly but certainly not least Las Vegas . Las Vegas is probably the only place on earth which revels in its appetite for sin so much so that its nick name is Sin City and is proudly displayed everywhere . I have never taken a census but I imagine it has more casinos , restaurants and options for entertainments than anywhere else that I have seen or read about. This last trip to Vegas was several firsts for me , first time that I had come to Vegas on a work trip , it was also the first time that I came to Vegas being single . What on earth would a married couple want to do in Vegas ? in Sin city? Well interestingly Vegas has tons of entertainment options for normal married couples who are not gamblers . Every celebrity chef has a restaurant in Las Vegas , we saw restaurants owned by Bobby Flay , Wolfgang Puck , Emeril , Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay , Thomas Keller’s Bouchon … there are only 3 other locations for the Bouchon, one across from Central Park in New York, one in Beverly Hills and one in Napa but luckily for tourists in Las Vegas there was one in the basement at the Venetian . The macaroons at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon are literally to die for . On Paradise Rd is a Japanese restaurant called Musasashi Japanese Steakhouse presumably named after the author of the “Book of 5 rings” . The food is Hibachi style or Teppanyaki depending on your choice . But the draw for me was that he actually serves Japanese Kobe . It is hideously expensive but it is the most delicious piece of meat that I have ever tasted.
And every casino has multiple shows , rich in variety; stand up comedies, Cirque , Magic , you name it . The Cirque du soleil probably had a different show at each casino , some I was astounded to see were still playing since my last trip in 2011. David Copperfield is a regular at the MGM and every time that I have tried to see it, the tickets are sold out , and if you have a strong stomach then the duo of Penn and Teller is a must watch .Jerry Seinfeld is a regular at Caesar’s palace .
The Casinos have themes that they stay faithful to throughout the casino. The Luxor is filled with Egyptian memorabilia , New York New York has miniatures of the Chrysler building , 30 Rock and so on . Paris has the Eiffel tower . Bellagio has italian artifacts . The Venetian has a mini canal inside and sculptures of Machiavelli and other notables from Venice .
These are the world famous musical fountains at the Bellagio
Also at the Bellagio is this magnificent ceiling sculpture of over 2,000 hand-blown flowers by glass artist Dale Chihuly
At the end of the strip is the Stratosphere which probably has the scariest roller coasters in the world . Scary because they are mounted on top of the building and the rides consists of going off the side of the building and coming to a sudden stop 30+ feet from the edge of the building looking 300m straight down
The top shot shown above is the tallest thrill ride in the world
This is the view of old Vegas from the top of the Stratosphere
The stories that I have always heard is that at the casinos , drinks are cheap and so is the food . I don’t gamble so I have never experienced it but I have checked out the buffet sections at every casino and they are extremely reasonably priced and yet the selection is mind boggling and will cater to every possible taste and needs.
Las Vegas is one of the last places in the US where smoking is allowed indoors . So walking into a casino , one is hit with the smell of cheap air fresheners that the casinos use to get rid of the stench of stale cigarette smoke . It always looks like night time inside a casino , they are carefully engineered to keep all daylight out , presumably to help people drink more alcohol so that they can make judgement impaired decisions , the pretty cocktail waitresses with skimpy dresses exaggerate the above mentioned effect.
We then move on to Fremont St in the old downtown
Fremont St is the old downtown in Vegas before they decided to create the “strip” . This is where Bugsy Siegel came in and helped create a city in the desert . The old downtown looks rundown in places or perhaps that is an effect that they try hard to maintain . Accentuate the disparity between the old and the new . But Fremont St does have some really cool attractions such as the world’s largest video screen and open air bars and bands playing out in the open , various entertainers performing strange acts on the streets.
Vegas is one of the few cities that has Machine Gun ranges and the variety of guns is mind boggling . They also had some amazing handguns most notably the Desert Eagle which apparently is familiar to gamers . I saw a reference to it in one of my favorite movies “Snatch”, it is amazingly loud for a hand gun and packs a punch. One can even fire the M249 (The Saw) here .With the exception of the Uzi , all the other guns were American , Russian and German. The range that I tried out was called the Gun Garage and they had awesome Groupon deals.
On this last trip , I stayed at the Luxor which has the permanent exhibition of Bodies and Titanic . Bodies was a magnificent experience . It has real cadavers that are sliced and displayed in several different views . The human circulatory system was a delight to see , they had actually used chemicals to harden the arteries , veins and capillaries in a cadaver and then chemically removed the muscles and skins . Viewing the whole body as a web of intricate interconnected parts was an eye opener and I could not help but think that something like this in school might have sparked a greater interest in Biology but that might just be an elaborate excuse for my laziness. Some of the exhibits does require some caution especially the fetuses in various stages of development and they have clearly marked the path so that if one was to be offended then they could skip it. If Bodies happens to be in your neck of the woods , then I highly recommend that you do pay a visit.
The Titanic was interesting as well , I gained a new appreciation for the research that James Cameron would have done researching the Titanic to come up with the details that he did in the movie . I was sorely disappointed when I came to the main deck and could not find Rose and Jack!!!
The folks in Vegas have a sense of humor , I was eating lunch at a small Mexican restaurant on Paradise Ave and I caught sight of this mural and had to take a snap
The food was exceptionally delicious and I did feel some religion coming onto me after the meal
Long time ago, I read the Geek Atlas which is 128 places for a geek to visit , one of those is the Atomic testing museum in Las Vegas . Nevada was the testing site for thermonuclear weapons and the museums lists pictures , some interesting memorabilia . It is a must visit for every geek.
Not too far from Vegas is Lake Havasu city which houses the famous London Bridge from the beloved nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”
The story goes that a Real Estate developer imported the London Bridge that was going to be demolished . Every brick was labelled and the bridge restored in Lake Havasu city. The road system was designed by the designer who designed Disneyland . Take it from me that it is not nearly as much fun as Disneyland
This is the entrance to the London Bridge
And the surface
Also close to Vegas is the famous Hoover Dam on the Colorado river
and the enormous man made Mead Lake
One can also see the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that allows people to bypass the Hoover dam .
We all have the rubber necking desire to stare out at the Hoover dam but nobody wants to stop , the net effect is that everybody is slowed down . The government wisely decided to put up the bridge that US-93 now runs on. It is proudly displayed on the bridge that the pitons that were used to drive the foundation of the bridge utilized the same technologies that were utilized while building the Hoover dam in the 30s. A testament to physics that has stood the test of time.
The western rim of the Grand Canyon is a close drive . You can see the skywalk in the picture , it is called the skywalk because the floor is glass and we can see straight down a mile or so. The glass is tempered to hold the weight of 10 elephants and since Elephants are not allowed on the skywalk , it are safe for us to venture out . They do not allow cameras on the skywalk , not for safety reasons but so that they can charge $40 for a picture but it is well worth it .
One can also see the Colorado from the rim
So next time you suggest Las Vegas to somebody and they retort with a scornful “Lost Wages!!! Never” , you can remind them of the zillion other things that are available for the rest of us.