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st.vincent Las Vegas - A travel report by Clive
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Las Vegas,  United States - flag United States -  Nevada
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st.vincent's travel reports

Beer and Low Things in Las Vegas

  20 votes
I wanted to do a Las Vegas report but as there are already 10 others I decided that I needed something a bit different. So here is my highly personal and hopefully entertaining account of the self appointed Entertainment Capital of the World.


Watch out for that Chevy
Watch out for that Chevy
Those of you with unusual literary tastes might recognise that the title of this report is a variation on the definitive road trip book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by the late great king of gonzo journalism Hunter S Thompson. Quite appropriate given that his book is about a pair of business colleagues on an alcohol and drug infused road trip to Vegas, whilst in 2003 I also visited Vegas with a friend and business colleague. There was of course a lot of alcohol involved but I can assure you there were no drugs. We did however have a couple of suitcases full of travellers cheques and enough plastic to keep Michael Jackson in noses for a decade.

I always find it difficult to explain the Vegas experience to anyone who hasn't been so I guess the answer is to go there and find out for yourself. I always think it's a bit like being the proverbial kid in a candy store, except that your parents aren't around and you've got a whole year's worth of pocket money to spend.

Right, enough of this drivel, let's get down to some useful information, what can you expect in Vegas. Well one thing that is certain is that you'll do a lot of walking so bring some comfortable shoes. The place is deceptively big and what might seem like a short stroll along the strip to the next hotel turns out to be a route march of epic proportions.

You should also be very careful crossing the road and always use a pedestrian crossing or one of the footbridges over the strip. Many of the junctions are large and it can be a long wait, but don't be tempted to try and beat the traffic if there is a red light. Even when you get a white walk light, traffic is still allowed to turn across you and most drivers seem to see pedestrians as an inconsequential nuisance. One thing that is useful is that most of the walk lights have a countdown display so that you can see how many seconds you have left before it turns red and you get run down by a madman in a Chevy.

Favourite spots:
O Sole Mio at the Venetian
O Sole Mio at the Venetian
The Strip with its many themed hotels is obviously the star attraction and there is so much to see. One of my favourites places is the beautiful Venetian Hotel with its reproduction of St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal complete with singing gondoliers (not sure about the American accents though).

Another favourite is the dancing fountains on the lake in front of the Bellagio. Shows are every half hour from 3pm and there are plenty of viewing places. Each show is different and it is a real spectacle to watch as the thousands of jets of water are flung high in the air in perfect harmony with the accompanying soundtrack.

Caesars Palace is one of the nicer hotels to have a walk around, especially a stroll through the Forum shops. You probably won't be able to afford to buy anything but the ceiling is lit up like the sky which gives it an outdoor feel. There is a large fountain feature modelled on the Trevi Fountain in Rome and a couple of statues that come to life.

What's really great:
The
The "Big Hole"
Vegas is a very over the top city and it can all get a bit much if you are there more than a couple of days. But the good thing is that there is plenty to do outside the glitz and glamour of the Strip and the unrelenting warbling of the slot machines.

There are a number of golf courses if you want to play a round. Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire are both reasonably close and also Hoover Dam where you can take a tour. A paddle steamer cruise on Lake Mead is very peaceful or you could try out a jet ski.

But the main attraction of course is the “Big Hole” or the Grand Canyon as the locals call it. If going there by road you will pass through the Joshua Tree Forest. For chocolate lovers there is the Ethel M Chocolate factory that has an interesting cactus garden next to it.

There are many companies through whom you can book tours and a range of transport options including bus, plane, helicopter, boat or even horseback. Check out www.vegas.com for a good range of tours.

Sights:
The erupting volcano at the Mirage
The erupting volcano at the Mirage
A trip up the Stratosphere Tower is a must for the great views as there are viewing galleries that go right around the tower. Entrance tickets are about $10 and a good time to go is at dusk when all the hotels start lighting up for the night. If you are brave enough (I was) try the roller coaster at the top, if you are stupid enough (I wasn't) try one of the other thrill rides. Frankly there's not enough beer in the world that would get me on those things.

You can of course pay $100 or more for the big show tickets but you can also enjoy the Vegas experience a lot cheaper. Take an evening stroll along the strip from the Bellagio Fountains, to the pirate show at Treasure Island then the volcano at the Mirage. All these shows are free, you can see them from the strip and they are all on the same side which makes it easier. There is a free masquerade show inside the Rio, and the Tropicana has a free circus type show and an interesting gambling museum that is worth a visit.

Accommodations:
The Fremont Street lightshow
The Fremont Street lightshow
My favourite spot to stay is not on the Strip in the likes of the Bellagio or the Venetian - like I could afford those anyway - but Downtown on Fremont St. I have stayed at the Golden Nugget and Fitzgeralds, both of which I can recommend. This is where you'll find some of the original Vegas casinos and they are much closer together than on the Strip making casino hopping easier, and you can quickly pop back to your room in case you need a camera, a sweater or another pocketful of $100 bills.

The casinos tend to be less imposing and friendlier for the inexperienced gambler plus they have nickel and penny slot machines and lower minimums on the tables. But the main event is the evening lightshow when every hour, on the hour, after dusk everyone seems to decamp from the casinos, the lights go down and a wonderful sound and light show begins. It is almost like a carnival atmosphere and it's free. I was lucky enough to be here in May 2005 for the bicentennial celebrations.

Nightlife:
Caesars Palace by night
Caesars Palace by night
Nightlife is of course everywhere in Vegas with the beautiful people hanging out at clubs like RA, Studio 54, or Tabu. If you are on Fremont St. head for the Neonopolis area where among other things there is a nightclub and a cinema. There is also a bar called the Saloon, which has regular special offers and music at weekends. Allegedly this is one of Mayor Oscar Goodman's favourite haunts and he even has his own glass behind the bar.

Service is friendly and efficient although watching an American barman trying to pour a Guinness is normally enough to make me want to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. What is it about these guys, ask them for any ridiculously named cocktail, medium tending towards dry, on the rocks, over easy, lightly shaken with a double twist and backward pike, and they'll set to work with the type of flowing efficient artistry not seen since Torvill & Dean performed Bolero in the 1984 Olympics. So why does pouring a Guinness confuse the hell out of them?

Hangouts:
If you're fed up drinking Bud Light and want a decent beer just head for the Freakin' Frog (see tip) with hours proudly proclaimed as 11am until the freakin' fun is done. The bar is mercifully free of video poker machines with the only semblance of gaming being an old Ms Pacman machine. They claim to have the largest selection of beers in Nevada and beer is really what they are all about. Out back there is a room full of 300+ beers that are listed in folders on the bar. The food menu is functional rather than flashy and complements the drinking experience rather than interfering with it.

Although I suspect people travel some way to visit this bar, much of the clientele comes from the nearby University and I had a great time with the three criminal law students who adopted me for the afternoon. It's possibly not a place for the typical Vegas tourist but if you want a break from all the hype & neon, and staying sober is not high on your agenda, pay a visit, you won’t be disappointed

Restaurants:
The famous Bellagio Hotel has more than 20 different places to eat
The famous Bellagio Hotel has more than 20 different places to eat
The American’s legendary liking for food means that it is one of the few places where I can almost feel normal sized. As you would expect in Vegas they do everything big and food is no different. You’ll be spoilt for choice with multiple restaurants at all the big hotels including of course the ubiquitous all-you-can-eat buffets. I found that a late breakfast or early lunch buffet was usually enough for the day.

For seafood lovers try the famous 99c shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate, the Village seafood buffet at the Rio or the sushi bar at Main Street Station. For pure decadence go to Red Square at the Mandalay Bay for caviar and vodka.

If you want English fare go to the Crown & Anchor pub. During my visit they had a special offer on which meant that as I was playing the video poker machines both my drinks and meal was free. OK, so I lost about $30 on the VP machines but as any desperate gambler will tell you, I could have won!!

Other recommendations:
Vegas really is one of those love it or hate it places, but the fact that you have read this report means that you were at least mildly interested, either that or you wanted to find out what that beer loving Englishman was writing about this time.

But all good things come to an end and you’ll soon find yourself back at the airport. I have a theory that you can tell first time visitors when they arrive. The walkway from the plane takes you past the departure lounge and the first time visitor will look to the right for a first sight of the hotels & the strip, whilst those who have been before will look left and shoot sympathetic glances at those waiting to replace them on the plane. They know they’ll be sitting there soon, maybe a bit richer but more likely a bit poorer, and the last thing they’ll want to see is the smiling faces of those who have the Vegas experience in front of them. So, please remember that if you go to Vegas, it could be me sitting on the other side of the glass!!

Published on Tuesday April 18th, 2006


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Sun, Jan 14 2007 - 04:17 PM rating by mrscanada

I love going to Las Vegas and your review was perfect.

Tue, Apr 25 2006 - 01:58 AM rating by mamielle

Thanks for your reports, interesting with very good pics

Wed, Apr 19 2006 - 03:57 PM rating by christianj.

Hi Clive,

that's a nearly perfect report about an extreme city. Right away I remember how fascinated I was entering Las Vegas twice - and how relaxed when dropping. Now I would like to go for a third time....

Regards, Chrisitan

Wed, Apr 19 2006 - 12:26 PM rating by wojtekd

Great report. But, coming down to earth: is this true that they offer hotel rooms for 20 USD expecting you to gamble in their cassino? This could be the trick: stay on a cheap, do not gamble, rent a car and go to the canyons!

Wed, Apr 19 2006 - 10:22 AM rating by bear495

I really appreciate the entertaining report. The human experiences of our travels are often overlooked. Well done!
Russ

Wed, Apr 19 2006 - 09:17 AM rating by marianne

Clive,
You almost make me want to visit. Almost because I think, or rather know, that this is not a place for me. I like the way you blend personal detail with solid information.
Marianne

Wed, Apr 19 2006 - 07:04 AM rating by frenchfrog

Very interesting report, very pleasant to read. good infos provided, wish i was there!. Well done!

Wed, Apr 19 2006 - 06:30 AM rating by davidx

Amusing and interesting - thanks.

Tue, Apr 18 2006 - 06:24 PM rating by mistybleu

Clive,

Another great report, I enjoy reading your personal accounts.

Amanda

Tue, Apr 18 2006 - 05:18 PM rating by geri

thank you, Clive. i have been looking both sides - left and right....i know this feeling perfectly..... your report is very personal but in same time you didn't miss any important information.... you reminded me my experience in this flamboyant, sultry, full of life place which doesn't leave anyone indifferent.

geri

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