My intrigue with Vegas came from the film Casino, ever since I’ve held a fascination with the city in its hey day and its story. Created from nothing, built on sand, run by the Mafia, visited by movie stars and entertained by the heavy hitters of the day (think Rat Pack). And to top it off Howard Hughes helped bring about corporate ownership of casino’s which ushered out the Mafia’s illegal shenanigans and brought us the shiny corporatised Vegas of today. What a story, and what stories Vegas must hold in its ‘what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ Vault.
Intuitively I knew it wasn’t going to be my bag, but I still wanted to check it out, and on days 3, 4, 5 and 6 of my 30 days in America I did just that. For a gallery of photos capturing the craziness and bright lights click here.
Sin city, as Vegas is affectionately called is smack bang in the middle of the desert. I know this intimately because I drove in and out of it and trust me there’s a lot of desert (think 5-6 hour hauls each way). Hot, hot desert.
A taxi driver scooting us to Downtown one night said that until air conditioning came along in the 40’s or 50’s Vegas didn’t take off as a holiday destination because people in their finery melted. I visited early October and it was HOT, a nice dry heat morning, day and night.
Imagine you’re in the middle of the desert (think cowboy and western films) and you stumble upon a steroid induced sparkle of a city like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Designed from scratch for pure hedonistic pleasure and entertainment it’s architectural and graphic imprint shouts ‘look at me’. Drinking is permitted 24 hours and establishments offer take out cups so you can wander and sip. Smokers enjoy a puff on the casino floors. Gambling is everywhere – at the pool it was there, built into bar tops it is there, and the casino floors crammed with black jack tables, croupiers and slot machines operating 24/7 is a site to behold. The number of bars, clubs and restaurants is utterly phenomenal. And there is luxury shopping crammed at every corner.
I found the city scape confounding and slightly garish, it’s crazy, loud and over the top and an environmentalists nightmare. Your sense of time becomes lost as everything is open 24/7 365 days of the year……you start your day late and head out late. It is truly unique and for good reason, one gargantuan adult playground where everything is at your beckon call is enough. In my opinion.
I do enjoy a spot of five star living and this place delivers in droves, a mate was in Vegas for work and was holed up at the Palazzo so I got to luxury couch surf for three days in a suite the size of a small apartment with views of the strip and a pool area to die for (yes I was lucky). I know this is going to sound snobbish (but who cares), if your going to do Vegas save up and go five star. There are plenty of hotel options to fit every budget, but the city is SO full on that retreating to a nice pad is medicinal. Believe me.
The two key areas to check out are the Strip and Downtown. Las Vegas Boulevard aka the Strip is where all the top casino’s/hotels live inches from one another shining and putting on a spectacle to draw crowds as you walk its length. My preference was definitely Downtown which is where Vegas started, its old school and the scale is more digestable……more me.
If you knew me, you’d understand I’m an authentic minimalist at heart. Reproductions of classic architectural wonders plopped into foreign landscapes have zero appeal (Vegas brings you the Eiffel Tower, Venice Canal with operating Gondola’s, a Pyramid etc). I also have no interest in ‘as much as you can eat and drink’ specials, luxury shopping and I have strong feelings on gambling and its insidious hold over many lives and the governments limited intervention.
So Vegas wasn’t really my thing but I’m definitely pleased I checked it out and I LOVED the neon signs.