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krisek Las Vegas - A travel report by Krys
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Las Vegas,  United States - flag United States -  Nevada
6122 readers

krisek's travel reports

Things are getting better in Las Vegas!

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Las Vegas in Nevada has been getting better and better. In the past, this desert city did not look very pretty in daylight. Apart from gambling and getting married at night, there was nothing to do there. Things have changed dramatically.


The Strip
The Strip
When I arrived in Las Vegas, NV, in 1997, I was not impressed. It was tacky, plastic fantastic, and empty. The city looked pretty at night, but during the day, there was absolutely nothing to do there. There were no nice restaurants or cafes and the few and poor shopping centres sold items of doubtful origin and quality. Surely, the cheap all you can eat dinners and extremely good value hotels were excellent, but that was not enough. And yet the city's reputation even inside the United States was phenomenal. It was based on the 'dreams comes true' myth and other similar fantasies. When I was sharing my plans with some of my colleagues from the US, who had never been to Las Vegas, they were almost green with envy. But at the same begged me to take plenty of pictures and made me promise that I would tell them how it was. This must have definitely hiked up my expectations, and ultimately turned my overall impression to a great disappointment. I'm saying my overall impression, because my first impression wasn't too bad at all. I arrived at night and the lights and the whole bustle dazzled me! The prices razzled me, and the casinos and the over-the-top dining rooms offering all-you-can-eat dinners all day, all night long for less than $5!

Ten years later things have changed diametrically. Las Vegas has become a nice place to live in. And that's despite the fact that the population doubled during that time. Actually, the speakers on the new monorail public train, kept saying that if the trend continued, the population of Las Vegas would rise 1 billion in 2100 and 2.6 trillion in 2200. First of all, the authorities invested in nice public places, pavements, and the monorail, and an entire range of cafes, bars, restaurants and very pleasant shopping centres selling quality items sprang up. One can now go for a walk, sit on a bench, watch fountains dancing, and relax between gambling and getting married. Or a concert, be it Celine Dion, Tony Braxton or Elton John.

Favourite spots:
MGM Hotel and Casino
MGM Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas is still growing. New casinos are being built and new residential areas expend a few blocks away from the Strip. The city main avenue, the Las Vegas Boulevard is the lifeline of place. It flanked by flamboyant casinos copying architectural styles from world's most famous landmarks, including Paris, Venice, Lake Como, New York, Cairo, and even from fairly-tales, like the Treasure Island. My favourite spot was the lake-like pool in front of the Bellagio (mocking Lake Como) and the Ancient Rome-like Caesar Palace's shopping centre. The shopping centre really looked like an ancient Roman city, and even the sky was painted on the ceiling. The squares and fountains inside made it a very pleasant place. The fact that the temperature inside the mall was regulated was a clear advantage. One could sit at a table at one of the piazzas with a central fountain, order very authentic pasta or pizza and relax, as if being teleported back to 250 BC.

What's really great:
The Bellagio and the Caesars Palace
The Bellagio and the Caesars Palace
For some strange reason Las Vegas has a massively positive vibe. Everything seems to be moving forward with a feeling of hope and... ever higher earnings, I guess. Perhaps it is a little for show, or maybe a lot for show, but it feels good. With so many weddings every day, that is hard to hide. There is so much fun everywhere. The many concerts and world's weirdest shows add even more excitement into the air. And since there is so much competition between the casinos, it is relatively easy to get a good value for extraordinary and unique productions polished to absolute perfection.

It is really great to see the city grow, develop and change, as it was constantly reinventing itself. From a pure gambling and sin city, through the country's wedding centre, to a place of glamour and fashion shopping to centre of top quality entertainment.

Sights:
The Venetian
The Venetian
To be completely honest, Las Vegas has little to offer to travellers. Apart from relatively cheap accommodation and really good food for near to nothing, of course. However, nearby there a few nice spots that are worth checking out. One of them is Lake Mead, whose Echo Bay and South Cove developed own reputation for a places to admire the landscape and chill. There are even beaches, complete with beach bars et al, but the sun can really be oppressive and the water is so warm, that one feels as if bathing in a soup. The other spot is the Hoover Dam. The legendary wall of concrete that stopped the Colorado River and created a massive flow of current to illuminate all the countless colourful neons of Las Vegas. It was built in 1935 and was then the world's largest concrete structure and the largest hydro-power station. It is 221 meters tall and 379 meters long (it has an arch shape) and surely looks incredible.

Accommodations:
The Excalibur Hotel & Casino
The Excalibur Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas is made almost exclusively by hotels! Well hotels that are casinos or casinos that are hotels... That's no secret, of course. Many of the casinos often have excellent offers. The Excalibur, where I stayed offered large en-suite and comfortable rooms with two king size beds for less than $60 a night, and the more night you stayed you paid less per night. As almost anywhere in the world, the hotels have better and worse rooms, which translate to more expensive and cheaper, respectively. The best way is check their website, as they appear to have best deals there. Alternatively, some of the travel agents and car rental companies give away booklets full of discount coupons, which often get you over 60% deduction from the official rates.

A few years back, the hotels in the Downtown, the historical centre of Las Vegas, where the first casinos opened, had slightly better value for money rooms. There is less competition and situation changes, but worth investigating before arrival.

Nightlife:
Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino
Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino
Well, what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas! It is a bit funny to be reporting about nightlife in the sin city. Back in 1997, it seemed that the only nighttime activity was gambling and some cheap and tacky shows, which were for a lack of a better word... overpriced. Nowadays, the shows got real serious and their reputation extends onto the entire United States and beyond. Elton John's Red Piano or Celine Dion had been in the buzz also in the circles of the entertainment world in Europe and Asia. However, if one is not into gambling (why would one come to Las Vegas then, ha?!), then the city finally rose to the occasion to provide something for its permanent residents and opened really pleasant bars and clubs. The real atmospheric and glamourous spots, according to my taste, were around Downtown. One of the great places were at New York New York (the inner street downstairs), and the MGM, although the latter had really strict dress code.

Hangouts:
Fremont Street
Fremont Street
Hanging out in the capital of gambling is no longer a problem. There are now plenty of great cafes squeezed between boutiques and funky restaurants. Some of the casinos decided to build large squares for people to enjoy, including the Venetian, which even includes an artificial lake with gondolas for hire! How cool is that?

In the evening, uh - I know this might be a cliche, the fountain at the front on the Bellagio performs a show, complete with colourful lights and great music, which pulls crowds. It is an interesting show, similar to the one offered by the fountains on the main square in Yerevan, Armenia. By the way, the stretch of the pavement in front of the hotel (featured in the film Ocean's Thirteen) is probably one of the nicer parts of the Strip. There are a few benches and trees provide shade.

The Fremont street Downtown is perhaps my favourite place to kill time. The roof above the street is a vast screen on which in the evenings was used for a show with music and pictures.

Restaurants:
Inside the Caesars Shopping Centre complex
Inside the Caesars Shopping Centre complex
From the myriad of restaurants around the city, those in the view from the Strip and Downtown, and those hidden inside the casinos, I would recommend one of the steak restaurants in the Luxor. They really made their steak perfect! And their Ravenswood wine was smooth and delicious. It is recommended to make reservations, but if you show up just like that they will put you on the waiting list. I waited about an hour, and it was just before the restaurant was closing its kitchen. Perhaps due to the fact that it was almost over, the waiting staff got really friendly and ... erm too close, too friendly. At least it was funny and my friends and I got a little extra fun.

Inside the Caesar Shopping Centre (pictured above) there was a little cafe on the round piazza, which cooked great food, too and their coffee was superb.

Other recommendations:
The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam
It makes sense to shop around for accommodation. Checking the internet for special offers, even at the more upmarket hotel-casinos, and travel and car rental offices for discount coupons, often pays back!

The Zion National Park and the Bryce Canyon National Park, north-east of Las Vegas, are both within few hours driving distance away. Zion is the closest and its spectacular scenery makes a great escape from the city of gambling. I went for a day trip to the Bryce Canyon (you have to pass through the Zion National Park and pay the fee) but that was pushing it and it did not give me too much time for hanging out in the park.

The Grand Canyon National Park south-east of the city is another day trip option, but as with the Bryce Canyon, it involves a lot of driving and only a few hours at the canyon for viewing and admiring. It all depends how early you going to get up in the morning, and whether you are in the hurry to catch a show in Las Vegas at night and need to be back on time.

Published on Wednesday March 25th, 2009


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Tue, Mar 31 2009 - 07:05 PM rating by robynallen

Good to hear LV is getting better. I was disappointed at the shabby daylight view in 2000. May have to take another trip but will have to save lots of coins!! Great report.

Sun, Mar 29 2009 - 11:10 AM rating by bineba

I like Las Vegas - for a couple of days at a time - that's enough, as I don't gamble. I've been a few times since 1993 and at the rate they are building new casinos, there is always something new to look at. Another option to go to the Grand Canyon from LV is by a small plane, which we did one year. Saved a lot of driving time and we got to see the canyon from above. Lunch and a bus tour to the rim were included.

Thu, Mar 26 2009 - 07:47 PM rating by aufgehts

Hey Krys,

A great report...brings back a lot of very recent memories of our trip out there in Sept 08. I had not been to LV since I was 20 and it is a completely different city that it was then. We had so much fun there...for a day. You're right, if you don't gamble or see a show, there's not much there for the traveler. But how much fun was it for just a few days? Disneyland for adults!

Thu, Mar 26 2009 - 10:51 AM rating by jacko1

A very informative and detailed report Krys with excellent pics, well compiled.

Thu, Mar 26 2009 - 04:31 AM rating by pesu

Krys, your muse seems to be back again... ;-)

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