Original Sins in Vegas
The Flamingo Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada, once nothing more than a dried up desert with a few natural springs eventually became the "Entertainment Capital of the World." It was dubbed Sin City due to it's notoriety for being run by the mafia. Contrary to popular belief, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel did not invent Las Vegas but he saw the potential it had to become the spectacular city that evolved.
Siegel, nick named "Bugsy" for his impetuous personality, used money from his mob connections to build The Flamingo Hotel that opened on December 26, 1946. Siegel's fervid on again, off again romance with Virginia Hill a/k/a The Flamingo was the most flagrant affair in the history of the mafia.
Siegel was caught skimming cash from the mob and when his associates in New York discovered he was 5 million dollars over budget on The Flamingo a hit was ordered on the hit man. Siegel was murdered on June 20, 1947 while he read the LA Times at the home of Virginia Hill. Hill was found dead in a snow drift of an apparent drug overdose in Austria on March 24, 1966. Siegel's murder remains unsolved and Hill's death, suspicious.
It is rumoured that the spirit of Siegel still haunts the gardens at The Flamingo as it is the place that he loved best.
I had dinner at the buffet and it was mediocre at best. The Flamingo once was the most glamorous hotel on the strip but it is now lost in the shadows of the newer more fabulous hotels. In 1993 major renovations were done on The Flamingo and Siegal's poolside suite was demolished as the hotel wanted to distance itself from the former gangster's activities. The Flamingo may not be inhabited by Siegel but his memory will forever be an intangible essence of the hotel. After all - it was Seigel's imagination that created all that original sin in Vegas!
Las Vegas - 1950's
Home of The Death Ray!
Death Ray Melts Tourists - Fryline
I researched the popular hotels of Las Vegas and when I found out about a particular phenomena at the Vdara called "The Death Ray" I had to stay there. The Vdara is built in a semi-circle and apparently the earths rotation causes the sun to bounce off the shiny hotel and reflects into the pool. The subsequent heat has caused plastic bags and cups to melt. It also burns the hell out of the people that happen to be in the area. Hair has reportedly been singed as well as the occasional guest who feels as if their skin is on fire.
The pool employees call it The Death Ray though hotel management prefers the term "solar convergence" or "hot spot." Plastic bags melt at a temperature of 120*F and plastic cups melt at approximately 160*F so I would say that does qualify at a hot spot. Don't forget to bring your fire extinguisher in case your date bursts into flames.
Despite this architechtural problem, my stay at the Vdara was spectacular. From the minute you drive up to the hotel the star treatment begins with complimentary valet parking. However, if you tip the valets well, your car will be waiting in front of the hotel first thing in the morning.
Each room is a mini suite with a kitchenette, luxurious bathtub and glass shower and a comfortable bed. The curtains are electrified and with the push of a button - the city of lights is illuminated when darkness falls. If you desire glassware or utensils, a quick call to the front desk and they will send up whatever you wish.
This hotel is located just a bit off the strip and within walking distance of Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan and The Fashion Show Mall. It is completely smoke free and there is no casino in the hotel. I viewed both of these factors a plus. No parking on the dance floor and no sleeping where you party!
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is part of the Mojave Desert that reaches into California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. We drove through the scenic 13 mile loop and explored the canyon on a perfect day with the temperature in the low 70's (F). There are 19 hiking trails of various lengths and some are more difficult than others. Horseback riding is offered as well as rock climbing.
A variety of mammals (approximately 200) live in this part of the desert such as burros, rabbits, red tailed hawks, mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, deer, bighorn sheep, hummingbirds, and a few wild horses. We spotted a few rabbits and deer while we drove through the park.
The park is open to the public all year. The visitor center is amazing and there are learning activities for children. They can learn about the animals that inhabit the desert as well as the different types of plant life such as cactus, wildflowers, desert marigolds and coyote tobacco.
Cruising the Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is pulsing with lights and excitement no matter what the time of day. People dressed up in various forms of costume can be found pan handling up and down the strip. Trucks that advertise women for delivery like a pizza pie are ubiquitous. I found Elvis, Tonto, a very drunk Sylvester the Cat was rolling around in Bud Light outside The Flamingo.
I also notice that many of the homeless people who have signs requesting money, are accompanied by pets, on leashes. One panhandler had a gigantic foo foo drink in a plastic container that was a foot tall and he was chain smoking. In St. Louis that would never fly. This is a right to work state - our homeless people work for food they don't own pets. St. Louisians are savvy enough to hide their cigarettes and booze before begging for cash.
There are signs down the strip that warn of strictly enforced curfew laws though I am pretty sure some of those costumed characters were children. I caught Minnie Mouse smoking a cigarette with his costume head off - what would little children think of that? It could scar them for life and make them extremely fearful of Disney characters. I definitely would not take my children for a walk down this street until they are 21.
Teller of The Penn & Teller Show
The Penn & Teller Show
Penn & Teller have been performing at The Rio for the last 10 years. Their act is a combination of magic and comedy. They often do a magic trick and then explain how it was done. Penn does all the talking while Teller distracts and entertains the audience.
Penn & Teller are my kind of guys - they absolutely keep things real. They demonstrate how our perceptions can be easily manipulated by slight of hand or the simple diversion of our attention. The pair explain and debunk fallacies that have been created by the likes of Criss Angel, John Edwards or others who attempt to profit from illusions they create in your mind.
My husband and I were lucky enough to get floor seats in the 5th row so I was able to see everything very clearly. The show was phenomenal and ended way too soon. I had done my research and I knew that the two are famous for appearing in the lobby following the show for autographs and pictures. They did not disappoint and both were extremely personable and joked and answered questions for the crowds. It was my husbands favorite event of the the trip - if you get to Vegas do not miss the show, it is worth more than the ticket price.
Penn & Teller also have a series of shows available for your viewing pleasure and education on the Discovery channel which can be viewed online free of charge. In each show they tell a truthful story and then several stories that are made up - you guess which one is the true story and they unravel the mystery in the end.
Food & Dining
Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill
I went to Wolfgang Puck's and it was divine. I ordered the Bruschetta for an appetizer and it was the perfect beginning of a perfect meal. The Salmon with Cauliflower Puree and Caper Butter was a sin! I couldn't finish the entire meal but I did feast on it later in the hotel. My husband had the Eggplant Parmesan and it was the very best eggplant I have ever eaten. The texture was crunchy with layers of cheese - he had no trouble devouring every bite. The service was great and the prices were very reasonable. The menu offered anything from wood oven pizza to steamed black muscles with everything in between.
The Bellagio is a magnificent hotel. The ceilings are decorated with huge flowers that look like glass in the lobby area. The fountains outside are timed to entertain the crowds with a musical water show when the darkness cloaks the strip. Hundreds of water spouts appear to dance and explode a hundred feet in the air as the crowds gather around to watch. It's free, it's magical and fun for all ages.
The Bellagio is also famous for it's lavish buffet. My husband and I went there and the line was extreme but well worth the wait. The buffet was about $45.00 per person and I heard from my family that it was not an outrageous price for the food that was prepared. They had everything on their buffet - crab legs that were cleanly sawed in half for easy eating, sushi, various meats and sides that were all marvelous. The desert bar was unbelievable and not to be ignored. If you want a buffet that is sure to please Bellagio is a great choice.
Pink's Hot Dogs
I did not know that there was a Pink's in Las Vegas. I had already eaten when I found it outside the Miracle Mile shops. If I had known - I would have made a point of going. Pink's has the most world renowned hot dogs and everyone who has had one raves about them - hot dog liker or not! Los Angeles also has a Pink's and when I was there the line was wrapped around the building and there was shopping to be done so I missed out then also. Having a Pink's hot dog is on my "to do before I die" list so I have to go back to LV or LA just for a hot dog - missing out twice is just another sin.
There are endless restaurants and eating can be a simple quick drive through at a fancy McDonald's or you can visit the local Denny's, IHOP, Carl Jr's (which is Hardee's in Missouri) or you can choose from a multitude of buffets as many of the hotels offer them. I have heard that Rio has a fantastic seafood buffet but I didn't get a chance to get there myself.
Miracle Mile Shops
Las Vegas is one of the shopping capitals in the world. The strip is dotted with shops and malls. The Fashion Show Mall is a popular upscale spot with stores such as Dillard's, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom.
The Miracle Mile is my favorite. The shops are a mixture of well known stores such as Guess, Lucky Brand, Aldo and some newer trendier shops like Chinese Laundry and Arm Candy. The mall is made to look as if you are outside with the ceilings painted blue with clouds and illuminated with soft lighting that does give it a real look. We stopped for a quick lunch at Ocean One Bar and Grille - I had the fried calamari for an entree and it was delicious and perfectly cooked. Dave ordered a boring old chicken sandwich - that is also a sin because I didn't even want to try it but he said it was awesome.
What Happens in Vegas
While Las Vegas has always been a city of sin and secrets it is trying to conform to a mafia free stigma. In 1974 according to the L.A. Times the mob generation run by Tony "The Ant" Spilotro there were more deaths attributed to gang activity than there had been in the previous 25 years combined.
In the '90's the strip bounced back and once again became less notorious for it's mob connections. Most recently a pool was closed down at the Rio due to rumour and an investigation into questionable activity and the pool was shut down immediately following the conclusion. 11 people were arrested in connection with prostitution and drug activity according to an article in the Las Vegas Sun on November 29, 2011.
While the city that never sleeps tries to curtail the image associated with crime and illegal activity it is still a mecca for corruption. It is perfectly safe and fun to travel to Las Vegas but it's a BYOB kind of party. Bring your own Bible because this is one town that doesn't have a Bible in the city. It is full of sun, fun, alcohol and sin! It's okay in Vegas though - it is the home of original sin and everyone knows what happens in Vegas - stays in Vegas.
Las Vegas Hotels
- Vdara Las Vegas
Visit the Vdara Las Vegas resort hotel and spa.
- Flamingo Las Vegas Casino & Hotel - Where the Las Vegas Strip Began
To experience the best of the Las Vegas Strip, stay at the Flamingo Las Vegas, where the Strip began. Check room rates and make an online reservation at the Flamingo right now!
"Sin is geographical." ~ Bertrand Russel