While in Las Vegas in March, I realized that the tales about this city are mostly a pack of lies. Here is what I discovered:
- Food is expensive. $12.95 buys a Golden Corral-class buffet dinner—if you go a few miles off the strip. The lunch buffet at the Bellagio is $17.95. Yes, good food, but very pricey. The strip has less expensive options, but they are all still considerably more expensive than the exact same foods in normal places.
- Shows are expensive. Try around $100 per ticket for bad seats at the better shows.
- Hotels are expensive. My decent but plain room in the MGM Grand would have been over $400 per night if I hadn’t booked it in advance on a conference rate. Even then, they try to nickel and dime you on everything: $1 per phone call, $11.99 per 24 hours of internet access, $4.50 for each trip to or from the airport (even though the MGM Grand is barely two miles from the airport!—I got a free shuttle in DC for a hotel much further away), $20 per access to the fitness center, etc.
- Entertainment is expensive. $12.50 just for just one ride the New York, New York rollercoaster, $10 just to go up the Stratosphere tower (much more if you do any of the rides), $15 for the Bellagio museum, $16 for the Mandalay Bay shark tank. Nearly everything on the strip is a poor value.
- (The next two items are not complaints. They are interesting observations.) Plenty of chintzy displays. From the statue shows at Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops to the volcano in front of the Mirage, you can pass plenty of time on the chintzy displays. Except for the Fountains at Bellagio, all of the shows are low brow shtick.
- Lights, lights, and more lights. The strip and downtown are brightly lit at night. Lighting adorns or lights almost every surface. Huge video screens are visible for blocks. A few blocks of downtown are covered by a massive video screen. You look up, and all you see is a gargantuan video screen that stretches for the length of a few football fields! This is not a complaint; the lights were entertaining.
- (Back in character, I am complaining again.) Hucksters are everywhere! Almost every street corner has hucksters handing out cards for whores and strippers. You’ll have a hard time finding a place that doesn’t use aggressive tactics to sell you overpriced tickets or give “invitations” to additional purchasing “opportunities,” sucking you in with lines like “when did you get married” or “you from the area”?
- The $10,000 bill display is gone! The Horseshoe Casino sold off its display of 100 $10,000 bills to a collector! Dang!
- Lots of thugs. When I was in a bathroom in Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops, a guy in the stall next to me conversed in street talk with a buddy in the ‘hood on his Nextel phone. They were celebrating that someone had just killed a cop. This was far from the only thuggish behavior I observed.
- The shopping is crap. Well, let me rephrase: if you like useless, overpriced, designer crap, or if you think money is made on trees and is just begging to be spent on trivial nothingness, then you’ll love Las Vegas shopping. The strip is crammed full of shops that cater to wasteful spending.
- The best stuff is not in Las Vegas. You have to get out of town to do the really good stuff. Death Valley is about 150 miles away. Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon are about a 45 minute drive away. There’s also Mount Charleston, Lake Mead, and other worthwhile places.
Las Vegas is a great place if you’re into expensive vacations in an environment of debauchery, gluttony, smut, and filth. I’m glad I experienced Las Vegas, but I feel fortunate that I had plenty of opportunities to get away from the strip. Las Vegas is an “interesting” place to visit, and I doubt I’ll go back anytime soon.