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Viva Las Vegas Vacation

Updated on October 12, 2019
dohn121 profile image

Dohn121 is a freelance writer who currently resides at the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains of New York's famed Hudson Valley.

My Flight to Sin City

Embarrassing as it may be, my flight to Vegas in October of 2005 was the first time I flew on an airplane since the age of four. The only thing I remember from my flight then was that I had to use one of those bags—you know which ones. Upon getting on board, I was afraid that it my past might “come up” again. Thank sweet baby Jesus it didn’t. I was surprised to find that I wasn’t at all nervous to be on the plane. I was more excited than anything. I waited my whole life for this trip. I wrestled my brother-in-law for the window and was glad I did, because where once there was darkness, the world lit up all around me. I could’ve sworn I heard angels singing. The entire fuselage of the plane brightened as the world outside and underneath us lit up like a Christmas tree city! It was simply spectacular. I was happy that we got there in the evening, otherwise I would not have been able to enjoy that moment as there really is nothing in the world quite like Vegas at night.

The Fabulous Vegas Strip
The Fabulous Vegas Strip

McCarran International Airport

Inside the terminal of McCarran International Airport
Inside the terminal of McCarran International Airport
The Luxor as seen from McCarran International Airport
The Luxor as seen from McCarran International Airport
Cafeteria inside McCarran International Airport
Cafeteria inside McCarran International Airport
Tram at McCarran International Airport
Tram at McCarran International Airport

McCarran International Airport

Before arriving at McCarran, I didn’t know that it could be so overwhelming to take in. Although I haven’t been to many places in my life, not before had I ever been to such a state-of-the-art terminal. Everything just looked so squeaky clean and modern. Architecturally speaking, McCarran is a perfect blend of steel and glass with tons of sunlight pouring in during the day that while walking through, you'd think you were outdoors.  Everywhere you looked, there were rows of slot machines—I swear they call to you. Before going to Vegas, I heard that such was the fact and that there really were slot machines EVERYWHERE including supermarkets believe it or not. Escalators took us down into the lower level, which was absolutely HUGE. Sculptures and murals decorated the walls. Its immense size rivaled that of New York City’s Grand Central Station. From there, we walked onto a brightly lit platform and waited for our tram that whisked us away to our destination at bullet-speed. Just some advice: When the sexy-lady-operator voice comes on and tells you to hang on, HANG ON! Just thought I share that with you. Don't kid yourself.  Those robots know what they’re talking about.

The Famous Water Show at The Bellagio
The Famous Water Show at The Bellagio
Mandalay Bay on the Vegas Strip
Mandalay Bay on the Vegas Strip
Excalibur on the Vegas Strip
Excalibur on the Vegas Strip
Luxor on the Vegas Strip
Luxor on the Vegas Strip
Paris on the Vegas Strip
Paris on the Vegas Strip
MGM Grand on the Vegas Strip
MGM Grand on the Vegas Strip
The Venetian on the Vegas Strip
The Venetian on the Vegas Strip

The Hotels on the Vegas Strip

Now, if you've ever seen Vegas Vacation, the remake of Ocean's Eleven (2001), Lucky You, or any of the dozens of other movies that showcase the Vegas Strip (Las Vegas Blvd), then these pictures should certainly be familiar to you. I'll start from the top:

  • The Bellagio: Inspired by the Lake Como resort of the same name, The Bellagio is world reknown for its exquisite elegance. In 1993, the original construction cost of the hotel was 1.6 Billion Dollars. It sits looking over a 105,000 square foot lake that separates the hotel and the strip. The lake performs a "Water Show" that is synchronized with classical music. The show takes place every 30 minutes in the afternoons and early evenings, and every 15 minutes from 8 p.m. to midnight. The Bellagio also features Cirque de Soleil's production of "O."
  • Mandalay Bay: A 39-story hotel, Mandalay Bay has 3,309 rooms and its casino is 135,00 square feet. The top five floors are used for the four-star Four Seasons Hotel. It also features the free Mandalay Bay Tram which connects to its sister hotels, Luxor and Excalibur.
  • Excalibur: Named after the Arthurian legendary sword, Excalibur is highly based on the Carcassone castle in France. As of 2007, the hotel went on a major overhaul, renovating 2,000 rooms to include contemporary furniture and plasma screen TVs. Like Mandalay Bay and Luxor, Excalibur is owned and operated by MGM Mirage.
  • The Luxor: Inspired by its Egyptian city namesake, the Luxor hosts 4,407 rooms lining the interior walls of the hollow pyramid. A high emitting beam of light shoots out of its summit which can be seen miles up.
  • Paris: As its French namesake suggests, Paris hotel and casino features a 5/8th scale of the world famous Eiffel Tower; the 540 foot-scale replica and the front facade of its building suggests the Paris Opera House and the Louvre.
  • MGM Grand: Vegas' MGM Grand is the second largest hotel in the world behind the Venetian, having a eye-popping 6,852 rooms; 5,044 of its rooms are located within its main building, which features Cirque du Soleil's production of "Ka."
  • The Venetian: The Venetian is by far the world's largest hotel, having an unbelievable 8,108 rooms, 4,049 of which are suites. At the time of construction, it cost $1.5 Billion to build, making it one of the most expensive resorts of its time. The Venetian features two permanent shows--Blue Man Group and Phantom, The Las Vegas Spectacular.

The King of Las Vegas

Okay, so let me give it to you straight...NO Vegas Vacation is complete without the King! On our way back from seeing West Canyon, the bus driver played us Viva Las Vegas! and got us amped to go and blow our 401K checks pronto! So turn up the dial and click that PLAY arrow!

Aerial view of the Vegas Strip
Aerial view of the Vegas Strip
The World Famous Water Show at the Bellagio at night
The World Famous Water Show at the Bellagio at night

Some General Advice on Gambling

Okay, pop quiz: What is the MAIN reason why people go to Vegas? All right, if that question was too tough, I'll ask another question that has the SAME ANSWER: Where did all these plutocrats get the money to build these billion-dollar erect-cities within a city? That's right, GAMBLING!!! I'm sure you've heard it before, but the house in the end, rest assured, always wins. The way I look at gambling is this:

Picture a burning mansion. Inside this burning mansion, there are treasures beyond your wildest dreams...You are granted free access into this mansion and at your leisure and are free to take as much you like. The downside? The rafters can come crashing down at any second...So you better hurry!

It is my belief that sooner or later when gambling, you will win. Sure it won't be much, maybe you'll simply get your money back, but it's better than nothing. I believe that everyone does win at casino games, but not everyone knows when to get the hell out of that burning mansion when the going is good. People who gamble only need to say "when." I hope this helped!

Recommended Shows and Attractions

Although I've only been to about a fraction of what Vegas does have to offer, I believe that I've been to some of the better ones. Here are just a few I highly recommend:

  • Blue Man Group: These guys were awesome. We sat at the second row from the stage and so were required to wear these see-through ponchos because of the paint that just happens to fly everywhere. It wasn't that bad. I was almost disappointed that only a few specks got on me. They perform at the Venetian.
  • Toni Braxton: Thank goodness I got to the Flamingo early for her show. My numbers were coming out at the roulette table. And just around the time I began missing my numbers, it was time to go see Toni. We got front row tickets which was opportunistic for me. Her and I joked around and somehow I talked her into letting me touch her ankle (I'm not making this up, by the way). She can really sing!
  • Penn and Teller: I really liked these guys. Some of the tricks they do were real head-scratchers as I could not at all figure them out for the life of me (which is good). The dynamic duo is one-half magician and one-half comedian.
  • "Ka" and "O" (Cirque du Soleil): Although both shows are amazing, "O" is the better of the two. These shows simply blew me away. When it ended, I totally forgot where i was because I was so enraptured with the story. You too will be amazed at what the human body is capable of. There's a good reason why Cirque du Soleil is famous throughout the world. "Mystere,""Zumanity," and "The Beatles" are some of the other productions of Cirque du Soleil in Vegas.
  • Disney's The Lion King: Playing at Mandalay Bay, "The Lion King" is more than just a musical, it's an experience. The music and performances are unbelievable and unforgettable.

If you do go to Vegas, you don't necessarily have to splurge to have a good time. There are so many things to do and see, as Vegas is a treat for the eyes and ears and you don't have to keep on reaching for your wallet to have a great time. Here are just some of the many things in Vegas that are free!

Free Attractions in Las Vegas

The Aquarium at the Silverton
Located within the cozy Silverton Hotel, a 117,000-gallon saltwater aquarium provides entertainment on a scale one can enjoy only in Las Vegas.

CBS Television City Research Center
Ever thought you could do the job of a network executive, deciding which shows are put on the air and which ones end up in the waste bin? The network jobs are hard to come by, but you can weigh in on the decision-making process by letting your opinions be known at the CBS Television City Research Center at MGM Grand.

Conservatory at Bellagio

Crafted by a team of 100 horticulturalists, the Bellagio's conservatory features elegant, elaborate arrangements of plants and flowers in its bright, airy atrium.

Ethel M Chocolate Factory
Ethel M Chocolates panders to the sweet tooth in all of us. Located seven miles from the Strip, its free admission entices us to the factory, through which many a visitor goes for a behind-the-scenes look at the candy-making (and tasting) process.

The Fountain at Bellagio
Every evening, the spectacular water show awaits you. This attraction literally stops traffic as passersby can't help but to watch this absolutely free show.

Fountain shows at Caesars
No civilization put on a greater spectacle than ancient Rome, and now you have a chance to witness the glory for yourself at Caesars Palace's fountain shows.

Fremont Street Experience
The Fremont Street Experience will have you dancing in the street with its $70 million light canopy and 540,000-watt sound system.

Marjorie Barrick Museum
With displays of Western culture, desert life and the history of ancient Mexico, the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History is both educational and vibrant.

Show in the Sky at the Rio
This sensual, yet upbeat production takes visitors on a journey through the world's greatest celebrations with energetic dancers, exotic costumes and plenty of fun.

M&M's World
M&M's World may be the most delicious attraction in Vegas. And judging by its scores of visitors, M&M's World must be doing something right.

Neon Museum

The open-air museum was created by the city of Las Vegas to preserve these vital pieces of Vegas history.

The Sirens of TI
Part muse, part temptress, part pirate, watch as the Sirens of TI battle a band of pirates in Sirens' Cove, located at the front entrance of the popular hotel and casino.

The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian adds a little 'Streetmosphere' to the shopping experience, providing fun and entertainment for all that visit.

Sunset Stampede
Take a symphonic journey through the Wild West at Sam's Town.

Volcano at the Mirage
Every hour after dusk, the Mirage volcano explodes forth for crowds of curious Strip onlookers.

Welcome to Las Vegas sign
Guests can park their cars right next to Las Vegas' 50-year-old iconic sign and take plenty of memorable photos.

Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo

The Flamingo's brilliant neon sign is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable on the Strip. And visitors can take a closer look at the creatures who inspired the bright display at the hotel-casino's very own wildlife habitat.

The last thing that I want to mention is that the people who work and live in Las Vegas, including every employee at every restaurant, show, attraction, casino, resort, who drive a cab, bus, shuttle and such are all vying for your business and that is exactly why everyone will be nice to you! 75% of what these people earn is through gratuity so tip often and tip well! They will thank you for it!

Another important thing I didn't mention is the food, as everything there is fresh (planes from all around the world go to Vegas every minute! So that means lobster from Maine, cattle from Montana, etc. As far as buffets go, I highly recommend the Rio World Buffet. It has EVERYTHING hence its name. The Bellagio Buffet is incredible too. Thank you for reading! I hope you liked it.

© 2009 dohn121


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