Not our wedding anniversary. It’s our 15th Vegas anniversary!
It’s been 15 years since our first trip to Vegas in October 1994. Vegas was not our destination then; it was just a convenient jump off for three weeks of hiking in the many state and federal parks of southern Utah, with a foray to Mesa Verde and northern Arizona.
But we so enjoyed the two days we spent in Vegas at the beginning and end of that trip that we’ve returned every year since then. For a few years, we visited twice a year.
So last week we returned to southern Utah and we’re enjoying Vegas this week. We got a great deal at the Flamingo – $30 a night! It has one of the nicest pools on the Strip and it is one of the casinos at the Fabulous Four Corners of the dead center Strip. (The others are Caesar’s Palace, Bellagio and Bally’s / Paris.)
We’ve seen Vegas at every season. My favorite is Fall, especially Thanksgiving when it’s relatively slow. Early winter (January) is my second favorite time to visit. The weather is very mild and it’s still relatively slow as long as you avoid the week when a major convention (Consumer Electronics Show) is in town.
Although we do spend some time “gaming” (to use the industry’s vernacular), that’s not the main reason we visit. For gaming, the Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos are much closer. Simply put, Vegas is the adult Disney World. Whatever your interest, if it’s not in Vegas then it may not exist in the U.S.
Shopping? A number of the casinos have malls much larger than the ones in my hometown. Easily the top Strip casino mall is the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. It has so much visual appeal that your eyes need a rest from the stimulation afterwards. It was the first mall to simulate a sunrise to sunset effect, complete with a “starry night.”
Also very nice is the Miracle Mile mall at what was the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood). Following Aladdin‘s “Mideast” theme, the mall’s architecture is based on the candy cane striped arches of Cordoba’s Mezquita, which we visited while in Spain.
The Venetian’s mall is also themed, with a narrow canal complete with arched bridges and gondolas you can ride for a fee. The Venetian is also very heavy on visual appeal. The exterior is easily the top one in Vegas and reproduces the top sights in Venice. Then there are the stand alone malls.
At the end of the center Strip is the Fashion Show mall with two floors of shops and a third floor food court. Fashion Show mall is home of stripburger restaurant, which serves unusual burgers. Past the end of the south Strip is a Belz outlet mall.
Dining? Although every casino, with a few exceptions, has a buffet that is often a topic when first timers return home, Vegas now also has a reputation for top chefs and world class restaurants. I can’t elaborate on this since I believe the buffets have lost value, I’ve little interest in haute cuisine, and we keep it simple when dining in Vegas. Other than a favorite Philippine restaurant and various prime rib / steak specials, we follow the deals.
Entertainment? Vegas has whatever you want and at a broad price range. From under $10 comedy shows to top name entertainers at $150+. From elaborate productions with dozens of performers, such as any of the Cirque shows, to David Copperfield. From hypnotists and illusionists to drag queens.
And let’s not forget the very top Vegas performer – Elvis. From “Big” Elvis, free at Bill’s, to top Elvis tribute performers such as Trent Carlini, who ends each show by giving out a scarf to any women who comes to the stage for one. If Elvis is not your interest, there are tribute shows to the Beatles, Rat Pack and more.
Thanks to the half-price “day of show” ticket outlets, you can catch the top production shows, such as Phantom, at a good price if you’re there during a slow week. We’ve seen Mama Mia! (just $37.50 each for front balcony) and Phantom (a relative bargain at $75 each for third row orchestra) that way. (Music of the Night is my favorite Phantom scene.)
Summer is slow and with Vegas traffic down I’m sure we can catch half-price tickets to Jersey Boys, the docu-musical about Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (who had 29 Top 40 hits). (Yes, I’m old enough to remember Sherry, Dawn, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and Walk Like a Man!)
People watching? Vegas can’t be beat. There’s numerous sitting spots all along the Strip when the weather‘s mild. Or, you can do it indoors at any of the casino malls. You’ll see everyone wearing everything, from casually dressed Americans in T-shirts and the ubiquitous athletic shoes to gorgeous Japanese women decked out in the finest fashions complete with hats, hose and high heels.
After over 20 trips to Vegas, Susie and I still love it. I doubt we’ll ever be bored visiting Vegas because there’s usually always something new. Last year, it was the Palazzo (Venetian II). We also saw the new City Centre shopping / entertainment complex under construction where the Boardwalk used to be. (Thank goodness that eyesore is making way for new bling!)
We’ve not even completed this trip and we’ve already planned a return trip in January. MGM Grand had an offer we couldn’t refuse. Just $59 per night Sunday through Thursday. Although that’s a decent value for that level of hotel, it’s still about twice the $30 for Flamingo and lacks Flamingo’s central location. So from a “cost” perspective, the rate is not that great.
What makes that rate a “deal” is this: three free buffets daily for each of us! Paying for those buffets would be $80 for the two of us if we just had breakfast and dinner. It’s like a free room and $21 a day for pocket change!
Thank goodness I expect to lose five pounds hiking in southern Utah since I suspect that when we return I’ll have “won” a few pounds from all those buffets! I’m not sure I’m up to eating prime rib, pre-split crab legs, peeled jumbo shrimp and multiple desserts five nights in a row… And I’m fairly sure four or more ounces of smoked salmon on bagels with cream cheese and onion each day for breakfast is very healthy since I’ll be getting my Omega-3 whatever. 😉
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1969 “Summer of Love”, Fremont Street is hosting a number of “60’s concerts. Remember, what happens in Vegas, goes on YouTube! (Check out what happens about the middle of the clip.)
Viva Las Vegas! (Walk with Elvis down the Strip from north to south!)