Friday, April 3, 2009

Hit and Miss.....Vegas Revisited

My parents are...well...they're unique. When I was 1-ish they decided to sell their house in suburban NJ, buy a motor-home, and live in it while traveling around the country....for a year. Can you imagine? Voluntarily going from living in a 2,000 square foot house to a box so small that you could shower while you were flipping pancakes or where one minute you're eating dinner on your kitchen table....and the next you're sleeping on it. I guess when the world is your back yard it makes the transition a bit easier. But they did it. And they traveled clear across the US and Canada. Hearing this story makes it almost unbelievable that they have never been to Las Vegas, BUT they're planning a trip as we speak. So in honor of their inaugural visit I'm going to re-visit Vegas one more time and give a "hit and miss" account of a few things I left out on my first post.

Red Rock Canyon - HIT:
Most people I know who have gone to Vegas say they’ve never considered renting a car, and I understand why. You’re either drunk half the time and SHOULDN’T be driving or you’re strolling along the strip, popping in and out of casinos and don’t WANT to be driving. Plus, if you have ever actually rented a car and got caught in traffic on the strip for an hour(trying to go 3 blocks) you’d be once bitten twice shy. But all that being said I recommend renting a car…for 1 day…to visit Red Rock Canyon . We rented a car for one full day just to get off the strip and experience a bit of the dessert, and it was worth it. Most people never see a landscape like the kind you’ll find just minutes outside the Las Vegas border. It’s breathtaking. Red Rock Canyon is only about a half hour’s drive from Las Vegas but it seems like it’s worlds away. You can go on a hike or just drive the loop around the nature reserve. Either way you’ll be happy you took the trip.

Hoover Dam – MISS:
My father is the kind of person that jumps at the opportunity to see how things work behind the scenes. He’s the kind of guy that would rather hang out in the HVAC room of a casino than lay by the pool. After growing up in his house I certainly have a fine appreciation for the Hoover Dam. It’s an engineering marvel. A true testament to what man can do if he puts his mind to something. However, it’s also a rip-off in my mind. The Smithsonian is free to the public. National and State parks have a very reasonably priced entrance fee which I’m MORE than happy to pay in order to help support our beautiful National Parks(I’ll post some camping articles soon). But the Hoover Dam(part of the US Dept. of the Interior) is really taking visitors for a ride with this one. First you pay $8 just to walk into the Visitor Center . Then if you want to take the abridged tour(you basically take an elevator ride with 30 other people) you pay an extra $11/person. THEN if you want the full tour. The tour you see pictures of. The only one you really want to go on. It costs a whopping $30/person! So here’s my recommendation. While you have the rental car and you’re driving around, swing by and drive over the dam. Maybe get out and take a walk, take some pictures, even have a little snack while admiring the view. But don’t even bother with the tour unless you’re willing to shell out $30 for the real deal. The other $19 would be better spent in a slot machine.

The Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand - HIT:
How can this not be a hit? the middle of a casino....walking(and sleeping) right above your head(see picture). My husband had to drag me out of there kicking and screaming. I would have sat in that little glass tube and watched their antics all day. And no, they weren't particularly active, but they're jumbo sized kitty cats...fluffy and cute...AND BIG...and right there for your viewing(free viewing) pleasure.

The Gondola Ride at The Venetian - MISS:
I know you're thinking, "how can this be a miss...a gondola ride through a casino...a singing gondolier...yes please!". But it lasts for 14 mins(the outdoor ride only lasts for 12) and it costs a whopping $16/person if you don't mind sharing the gondola with strangers....or $64!!! if you want a private ride. For $64 that gondolier better do more than just serenade me. I'm looking for some real personalized attention. Maybe he can help me with my taxes or at the very least rub my feet. And the worst part for me isn't just the price, but it's the idea that you're paying to see the exact same parts of the casino that you can see just by strolling ALONG SIDE the canal. made me laugh out loud when they described it as an opportunity to get a "unique view" of the shops and restaurants. Tell ya what. You can pay me $16 and I'll let you sit on my shoulders for another opportunity to get a "unique view" of the shops and restaurants. BUT after all is said and done you really do have to see The Venetian. It's absolutely beautiful. We had dinner here(pic)......And it was really yummy AND not too pricey. I can't remember the name, sorry, just print out this picture and take it with you when you go....then stop at the place that looks just like it ;) And yes, the canal is awesome. But admire it from the sidewalk....a whopping 3 feet away ;)

The Bellagio Fountain Show - HIT:
I have a friend named Beth that thinks it's hilarious that people actually stand around waiting for this show to start, and I can understand her reasoning. You want to think that you have better things to do than stand around waiting to watch water. BUT I liked it. No, I loved it. And so do a lot of people, so it's a hit in my book. It's free. It's beautiful. It's set to a snazzy tune(One, Singular Sensation when we saw it..but it changes) and colorful. And being my father's daughter, I can't get over what kind of engineering went into making it happen. The sound alone that the water cannons, or jets, or whatever, make when they're shooting a perfect tube of water 460 feet in the air, is awesome. So grab a beer off a street vendor and find yourself a good spot to watch it. It's definitely worth looking like you don't have anything better to do ;)

The Fremont Street Light Show - 1/2MISS:
Who likes commercials? Not I my good friend, not I. My husband and I don't even watch live tv anymore. We just record EVERYTHING on our DVR so we can fast forward through every single commercial. I love my DVR. But if you like commercials you'll like the Fremont Street Light Show(actually, I think they call it the "Experience"). Ok, it was kind of cool, but it was also one big advertisement for LG. I found myself wanting to upgrade to a brand new LG phone moments after watching it. I gave it a half miss for the actual content of the show, but the 1/2HIT side of it goes to the fact that they just recently upgraded it to LED lights and it's pretty cool to see the "sky" come alive over your head. So go ahead and see it but don't go in with high hopes.

The Deuce - Public Bus HIT & MISS all rolled into one
I have a love-hate relationship with The Deuce. It's the public bus that runs the length of the strip...the WHOLE strip. It's relatively cheap: $7 for a 24 hour pass. $15 for a 3 day pass. It's pretty clean. It's air conditioned(yes please). But it's painfully slow in many ways. First of all, it's always slow going on the strip. The day my husband and I rented a car to see the sights we got caught in traffic for almost an hour.....trying to go 3 blocks. So it's not The Deuce's fault that it takes forever and a day to get anywhere on the strip, but that doesn't change the fact that you could probably walk faster. Also, it's more packed than the subway at 5:15pm on a Friday. You will never ever be confused about where the nearest stop is. Just look for a line of about 30 people standing at a random section of the sidewalk, and you have found it. Sometimes you'll wait as bus after bus pass you by because they're too full to let anyone on. But after saying all of'll find yourself riding it a few times. You'll get on it to go down to Fremont Street. You'll get on it when it's 105 degrees in the shade and walking another inch towards your destination sounds like a death sentence. And at least you won't pay too much to do so.

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