Yeah, I admit, I've been lousy with my writing/blogging schedule lately. I just finished an intense train-the-trainer course in Las Vegas. I dare YOU to try to stay on top of your writing schedule when you have to travel to Las Vegas for 4 days of work. After 8 hours on the computer in a stuffy hotel conference room, I had to get outside!
Now, I am not a gambler, and I am on a tight budget ($150 to see Cher in concert was not an option), so this is my CHEAP tour of the Las Vegas strip - also known as Disney World for adults.
Imagine small-town Wyoming girl on Las Vegas Boulevard with eight lanes of traffic, surrounded by huge crowds and flashing lights and billboards in every direction. It was an adventure just going for a walk. I stayed at the Flamingo hotel which is notable for its courtyard full of palm tree and pools with giant koi fish and, of course, live flamingos.
Directly across the street (except you don't actually cross the street, there are massive stone pedestrian bridges at every intersection), is the Bellagio hotel and casino, with a lake in front of it to mimic Lake Como in Italy. Every fifteen minutes, hundreds of fountains in the lake are synchronized with music and lights to create a mesmerizing ballet of moving water. Inside, the Bellagio also has beautiful colored glass sculptures, and a very surrealistic conservatory with giant insects all made out of flowers. And I can't even begin to describe the chocolate fountain that was, um, like 15 feet tall.
Next door to the Bellagio is Caesar's Palace, which is actually four or five different palaces/towers, hundreds of massive Romanesque statues, gardens, fountains, and probably more marble than the actual city of Rome. I was even more impressed by the Forum, Caesar's Palace version of a mall. Again, think acres of marble, gigantic fountains and statues, a simulated sky to make it feel like an outdoor mall, and shops like Tiffany's, Gucci, Versace... you get the idea.
To avoid temptation, I stayed out of those shops and visited the art galleries instead. If you've never seen artwork by Vladimir Kush, by all means check out the link. His paintings are like a cross between Salvador Dali and Thomas Kinkade - my favorite was the tall-masted ship with butterfly wings for sails.
I also adore nature photography, and Peter Lik's glowing photographs are absolutely stunning. His website simply can't do them justice - get yourself to a gallery as soon as possible.
Next door to Caesar's Palace is the Mirage, and after the graceful and cool dancing beauty of Bellagio's fountain show, the Mirage's volcano show is a perfect opposite: all power and fire. The volcano mountain is not very impressive (looks freakishly fake) until the show starts. I imagined that the volcano eruption would be just light and sound effects, but while there are plenty of those, there was also a serious amount of real fire - enough that ambient temperature went up by at least twenty degrees, and the gas fumes made you want to hold your breath. In addition to all the fire exploding out of the fake mountain, the pool surrounding the volcano also sprouts multiple gas jets that go off in synchronized patterns.
My last stop was at Treasure Island for the famous Pirates of the Caribbean show, which was recently replaced by the new Sirens show. Again, the special effects were pretty cool - simulated canon shots and a ship that completely sinks - but the singing and dancing were pure Vegas: loud, flashy, corny, and lots of bare skin. I happened to be standing near a security guard who told us that each Sirens show (which is free for anyone to view) costs $30,000 to put on, and Treasure Island has three shows a night, every night, all year long. More than the show, I loved the contrast between the glossy marble grandeur of Caesar's and the intricate woodwork and frontier feel of Treasure Island.
Even if there weren't these free shows (and I only mentioned three), the sidewalks themselves are pure entertainment, between the people-watching (the fashion! the outfits! the giant margarita glasses!) and the sidewalk performers. The casinos also send out people in costumes (Jack Sparrows, storm troopers, show girls) for photo ops and people with macaws perched on their heads, or pythons curled around their shoulders.
Bottom line: you can enjoy Las Vegas without spending a penny, except for your lodging and food, of course... which don't come cheap. Simple necessities are outrageously priced - a simple bottle of water costs three times as much as it will at home, and there are no drinking water fountains. The other downside, at least for me, were the crowds and cigarette smoke. Still, for a two-mile walk, I'm not sure if you can find any other place with as much cram-packed free entertainment.
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