Las Vegas is a fascinating, exhausting city. Kevin and I returned Sunday night after driving from LV to Denver. My conference there was week long- an intensive week in an intense city. It is no wonder I am tired.
The Strip at night.
I arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday morning in time to do Lunch with the Cooksister. I was not impressed with the Las Vegas airport. I thought it was a dump. I am prejudiced as Denver's airport is new and I think quite beautiful (as airports go.) I also experienced a culture shock as I fought my way through the sheep to get to my shuttle ride. In among the sheep were rows of slot machines. Culture shock. I found a cheap shuttle ride to the Flamingo Hotel for $5 cash. No problem. The shuttle ride also gave me a chance to catch my first views of the strip in daylight.
I really did not want to be impressed by this city. But I was.
I met up with Jeanne and Nick and had a wonderful afternoon catching up on about a decade of news, and eating at the Planet Hollywood in Caesar's Palace. I have blogged below about Jeanne and Nick's Las Vegas Ceremony. I had a surreal afternoon thinking that Kevin had arrived and was looking for me, when in fact he had not. This is a city where anything can happen. After the ceremony (see below) we ate at the Flamingo's buffet and waddled around the city and gawked at the musical fountains outside the Bellagio.
I eventually found Kevin who was happily playing in the casino (winning) and then we all ended up in Jeanne and Nick's hotel room for the night.
The next morning Jeanne, Nick and Bronwyn exited Las Vegas to continue their roadtrip to the Grand Canyon. Kevin and I put our baggage in Lizzie and decided to wander around. Our mission? To find free stuff to do in Las Vegas.
The Bellagio fountains are free and well worth the watch. Be careful during the day. They do take the fountains through their paces to clear the pipes (we think) and if you happen to be in the wrong place with the wind in a certain direction you will get wet. This happened to us.
We then spent about an hour trying to get dry before diving back into the air conditioned caves.
Everything in Las Vegas costs something. That is why it is so satisfying to actually find something that is good value for money. Most tourist books tout the buffets. But I found standing around in lines with people annoying. Dollar per tonnage of food - the buffets succeed in that respect, but if you are looking for a different atmosphere there are a few other places where you can try... But be warned: paying for peace and quiet along with your meal comes with a hefty price tag. Instead try Maggiano's, an Italian (chain) restaurant just opposite the Wynn hotel. Kevin and I had 2 very pleasant evening meals including drinks for $30 per meal. Not bad, and one night we had live entertainment. The portions are enormous - so you definitely feel that you are getting value for money plus the interior decor is pleasant enough so that you can pretend you are in a really fancy restaurant. After two visits I recommend Maggiano's in Las Vegas for excellent value, when compared with everything else.
If you are able to get off strip and like Indian food, try the Indian Palace lunch buffet (approx $8.50). The selection was reasonable and not too spicy.
No one can charge for the spectator value of people watching. In Las Vegas there is no shortage of that. Window Shopping is another activity that the Las Vegas Wolves haven't figured out how to charge. We spent a very pleasant quarter of an hour chatting to man who worked in the fabulous Mikimoto shop in the Venetian. He was kind enough to explain how large cultured pearls are dying out due to the polluted seas. I recommend a tour of the Bellagio, The Venetian and The Paris.
For cheap snacks watch out for pastry shops in the Paris.
Bellagio musical fountains at night.
If you happen to be out and about during the morning walk to the Caesar's Palace gardens, and pools. Beautiful! For great window shopping go to the Forum Shops (opposite Harrah's). You have to browse the Peter Max Art Gallery in the Forum. The decor is magnificant and the ride up and down the circular escalators is great fun. You must check out the Chihuly display (hat tip: look up) at the Bellagio check in area.
Kevin took this beautiful photograph of the Chihuly display which covered the ceiling. The glass pieces looked organic as though they were growing. Go here for more about the Bellagio installation, and here about Dale Chihuly.
Caesar's Palace also has some free entertainment - singing statues. I think the Bellagio fountains are the best free shows. Try the Volcano at the Mirage, and the Pirate display at Treasure Island. There is quite a crush of people at the TI display, so get there early. Also watch out for pick pockets.
My most favorite hotel is the Wynn. This hotel is elegant, classy and understated, which in Las Vegas is a diffcult thing to accomplish. The class of clientele is far superior to the cap n sneaker brigade found in other hotels. These people are serious about spending money on comfort. I thought that the Wynn was better than the Bellagio. Be careful about walking there if you are located central strip. There are some spots that I would not like to walk alone. Once inside you can just wander around and soak in the luxury. There is also a free light show at the Parasols Up bar. The casino is quite unobtrusive. The Ferrari dealership allows visitors. This is for free, and requires a little time waiting in line before being told you could go in. What beautiful cars in such a beautiful environment.
Here is a write up about Steve Wynn.
Kevin and I wanted to take in a show or two without spending a fortune. We found a half price, same day ticket booth (they are up and down the strip) where you can buy very reasonably priced tickets for some long running shows. We went to see Legends at the Imperial Palace. This was an enjoyable entertainment of singers impersonating famous singers. Elvis was by far the best impersonator. Our tickets also included a free drink. We also managed to get tickets to see Splash, a long running variety show at the Riveira.
The maximum amount of time anyone can survive is 3 nights. No more. By the end of the conference I was screaming to get out.
We drove back to Denver up through Utah. The highlight for me of the entire trip was an enjoyable couple of hours photographing the wonderful changing light inside Antelope Canyon (Lower).
Since the tragic drownings of tourists in the canyon in 1997 the Navajo have constructed steel ladders to make the canyon more accessible. Escape rope ladders are around, Kevin assures me, although I did not see any evidence of them.
You will need a good 4 hours in the slot canyon to explore and take photographs. The light changes constantly, and it is easy to become lost in the rhythms and swirls of each rocky contour. The guide books recommend the lower Antelope canyon. Tours to the Upper Antelope canyon are available. On our next trip to Page, Arizona we wll definitely spend more time there.