It has been called, “Disneyland for adults,” which is quite an interesting statement once one asks the question: What constitutes an adult?
Somewhere, between McCarran International Airport and the Las Vegas strip, otherwise quiet, stoic, Midwestern grown-ups become wide-eyed children-in-adults bodies, looking for a quick win at the poker table and a weekend-long series of alcoholic beverages and high-calorie buffets.
Make no mistake, for many people the adage is true: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. This is, after all, America’s Party Central, with more slot machines than rocks in the desert and as many pretty young women as Hollywood can boast. However, it’s a place where a weekend can slip past in a heartbeat and the temptations of youth can jump up and bite you without warning.
Still, for those of us who won’t be spending a lot of the early morning hours at Jet, Tryst, Heat and Ice nightclubs, Las Vegas can be a lot more than slot machines and hotel bars. In fact, if you feel like walking, working out, people-watching and allowing a city to entertain you all by itself, Las Vegas can be the best weekend you’ll ever spend – even without placing a bet or waking up on the floor of your (or somebody else’s) hotel room.
Now, for many Western Canadians, Vegas has become the weekend of choice. There have long been charter flights to the Nevada desert and many people from all across Western Canada have become regulars here in Sin City. With West Jet’s direct flights from Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, more and more folks from the cold, white north have found Las Vegas to be a great winter getaway and many come down two or three times a year. It’s easy to get to, easy to return home and the reality is, lodging here is quite economical. Especially now.
Las Vegas is hurting. All over the United States and Canada there are now local indigenous casinos that provide the gambler with the rush he/she seeks. No need to go to Vegas to gamble when you can push the VLT buttons anywhere and everywhere these days. That’s why the room prices in Vegas have never been more economical.
We just spent a tremendous weekend in Sin City (which it really isn’t anymore) visiting the Silver and Gold Pawn Shop (from the History TV series Pawn Stars), watching a UFC fight card at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Events Centre (what a remarkable spectacle that was), and wandering the strip almost aimlessly, looking at an array of crazies that you’ll only find in a place like Las Vegas. In fact, when you bump into Bumble Bee from Transformers, Super Man, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Yoda and Woody from Toy Story all on the same street corner, you know you aren’t in Kansas anymore.
However, for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to look at Las Vegas from a neophyte’s perspective. In other words, if you are thinking of going to Vegas for the first time or if you haven’t been since the 70s or 80s and you’re ready to do it again, then here are some tips to make the trip go smoothly. For these folks, nothing is “old hat,” so here are eight ways to make the mundane go by quickly, so the fun can start without a hitch.
1) Plan ahead. Don’t decide on Thursday that you want to go on Friday. It’s too expensive and there are no flights left anyway. Give yourself a month to plan the trip properly, get the best hotel at the best rates (we love the Mirage, Caesar’s or the Bellagio because of its location, sports book, great rooms and great rates, but the Wynn, the Encore, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and the new hotels at the City Centre – the Cosmopolitan, the Aria and the Vdara – are all gorgeous) and get a direct flight for a good price. I’m addicted to the sports book so that’s another reason why I love The Mirage and Ceasar’s – great sportsbooks, great TVs and all the sports you can handle in one weekend.
2) When we go to Vegas, we want to be on “The Strip.” That’s where the fun is (that’s why we love the Mirage or Caesar’s or the Bellagio) and that’s where you’ll probably end up running into people you know. So before you leave, sign up for as many hotel deals as you can. Go to Google and ask it for a list of all the hotels on the strip. Go to the hotel websites and sign up for regular e-mail reports. You’ll start getting great offers that will allow you to stay in a higher-end Strip resort for not a lot of money. We just stayed at the beautiful Mirage, right in the middle of The Strip on a very busy four-day Super Bowl weekend for just a little more than $400. You can stay cheaper off The Strip, but you won’t have as much fun.
3) Shop around for airline deals and the best possible schedules.
4) As you land at McCarran International Airport, listen for the flight attendant’s baggage claim announcement. Then when you de-plane just follow the signs right to your bags. You can take a shuttle to many hotels but we always just grab a taxi. It’s quick, easy, takes you right to the front door of any Strip resort without delay.
5) Everybody who visits Las Vegas for the first time always seems to hear about the great buffet tables. Just about every hotel has one and, at the big hotels on the strip, the food is generally very good. However, not all prices and not all service times are the same, so when you check out your hotels on Google, make sure you check out the buffet prices and schedules, as well. There is an excellent buffet at the brand new Aria at City Center that starts at 9 a.m. and is just $23.95. The buffet at the Bellagio doesn’t start until 11, is $29.95 and it isn’t that much better. Fresh crab legs at the Aria are just as good as fresh crab legs at the Bellagio. And don’t forget, there is always a deal. For instance, recently Caesar’s will sell you a 24-hour buffet ticket at all of their resorts for $50.
6) Be ready to walk. There is nothing more fun than walking the Strip at night, so pack good, comfortable walking shoes.
7) All of the resort swimming pools are great fun (although if you go in the winter, it will be cold here and there is often upgrading and renovations being done at the pools). Still, if it’s fall, spring or summer, pack a bathing suit, sunscreen and a good book. Man (or woman) cannot exist on slot machines and poker tables alone.
8) The shows in Vegas are tremendous. From Jerry Seinfeld to Celine Dion to Cher and all the Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas, you will never be short of entertainment. But most of the shows can be expensive if you don’t look around for deals. And there are deals. Some shows are cheaper on Monday or Tuesday nights, others have great two-for-one offers. If you’re set on seeing one particular entertainer on your only weekend in Vegas, you will likely be stuck paying retail, but if you’re just looking for a show and it doesn’t matter which night you go, ask the concierge at your resort if there are any deals out there. And if you do want to go to a late-night club (or early-morning club), most venues feature the best DJs and electro-pop stars on the planet.
A weekend in Las Vegas can be a lot of fun, but it can be more fun if you have a smooth arrival and you get settled in quickly.
And sure, there is probably a slot machine with your name on it or a poker table awaiting your arrival, but remember, you can always gamble at a local casino or racetrack. It’s the other stuff that makes a Vegas vacation more fun than any adult should be allowed to have.