Our First Full Day in Vegas

Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Saturday, May 15, 2010

Here are some pics we snapped strolling along The Strip in Vegas, and some from our crazy hotel. Text updates to come when I have more time to write!

The next day, we got up and decided to head to the infamous Strip, South Las Vegas Boulevard (check length) For some reason, we were under the impression that the Strip was maybe a fifteen minute stroll away, but as we trudged on and on in the burning heat we began to realize it was further than we first thought. We passed by wedding chapel after wedding chapel, cheap liquor stores, tattoo parlours and pawn shops with block-long lineups out front. As the late morning heat was burning us up, we made a pit stop at a hotel café to get out of the sun, re-fuel and re-plan. Looking at maps over breakfast, we found out that we could take a monorail from where we were to the other end of the Strip, and then walk back checking out the sights along the way.

The monorail was a great way to get a clear view of the whole city area surrounding the Strip. It also provided some comforting distance so we could attempt to absorb what we were about to jump into. As we approached the Strip, we saw a full golf course complete with a spectacular mini-waterfall, bizarrely tucked between asphalt highways and hotel clusters. Iconic architecture juts unnaturally out of the Strip skyline – the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, medieval castle turrets.

We got off at the MGM Grand Hotel on the Strip and began our walk. One of the first sights we encountered was a condensed New York City (check buildings in it) with one key improvement over the original: a candy red roller coaster twisting its way through the city skyline. We stopped to admire the Statue of Liberty and took a stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge – both features surrounded by water, of course.

 We stopped to pick up an ice cold Bud Light Lime since drinking in the street was clearly de rigueur here, and we wanted to fit in. As we came to main intersections, we gained greater understanding of just how congested this place can get. Las Vegas proper has a permanent population of about 500,000 but hosts almost 40 million tourists tourists a year. The massive influx of humans simply cannot co-exist with the city's many cars without some help from urban planning. So, at main intersections on the particularly congested Strip, you take an escalator up to a pedestrian overpass. In fact, near these corners the sidewalks are fenced in and designed to veer completely away from the street curb and you are essentially herded onto the escalators, there is no other option. A side effect of the sidewalk design is that you are also funneled into crowds of muttering men (and women, too) at each corner, who try to force their lewdly decorated 'business cards' into your palms, that promise any girl you choose in 20 minutes. In New Orleans, the nearly-nude girls called right to you from tawdry doorways, but here the evidence of what is clearly a booming trade is more apparent through the countless glossy flyers and cards that litter the sidewalks and overflow from newsstand boxes. The whole scene was rendered even more unsettling when a quick look around reveals how many people bring their children here – happy moms and pops were everywhere, pushing strollers, cradling babies, chasing toddlers and ten year olds. Bizarre.

We crisscrossed our way down the Strip, pausing on the pedestrian bridges to look at the glittering monstrosity below. We glided through the ornate sprawl of the legendary Bellagio Hotel on their seemingly endless moving carpet sidewalks, and caught a bit of the famous (size?) water fountain show at four o’clock. Next stop was Paris in all its replicated glory. The Eiffel Tower, l’Arche de Triomphe (others?) loomed large. Caesar’s Palace is close by, with more elaborate water fountains, towering Greek pillars and classical statues (check!). Perhaps the most excessive water fountain, amongst many, was the Mirage’s. The faux lagoon stretched several blocks with resplendent waterfalls, dense palm tree forests, curvy dolphin statues and a volcano that apparently erupts every hour, on the hour, each night. To close our tour, we strolled down the docks by Treasure Island, dwarfed by the soaring cliffs and outrageous pirate ships that battle each other nightly.

Considering that just beyond the outskirts of Vegas’ lights the desert spreads for hundreds of miles, we had a hard time wrapping our minds around all of the excess, but especially the gluttonous use of water. The Strip is grotesquely fascinating, but it seems impossible that such a place exists all day, every day, year in, year out. While I marveled at the kitschy creativity and attention to detail that borders on obsessive compulsive, I think I would be depressed to visit on a regular basis, as many people around here seem to do. I think I have convinced myself that this energy-guzzling behemoth shuts right down and rests in quiet abandonment 51 weeks a year, and we just happened to stumble across it when the switch was flicked on. It’s just too disconcerting to think otherwise.

When we made our way back to the hotel, we decided that no visit to the Golden Nugget would be complete without a dip in the Shark Tank. Matt tried the waterslide first, if you watch the video below you can see a blur streak by about 15 seconds in. I got in the water a bit more conventionally but was soon tempted into the slide as well. You actually get up to pretty breakneck speeds very quickly in that thing, and really feel the force as you rocket around a couple of harsh turns. After the thrill of high-speed, shark-infested slide rides we checked out the H2O pool/bar upstairs, which offers a bit of a more secluded dip with an infinity pool, deck lined with oversized chaise-longue couches and of course a poolside bar. The edges of the deck had shmancy little cabanas around the periphery, velvet-curtained off from plebs like ourselves each complete with plush couches, mini-bar, flat screen TV. After a quick test of the lower deck’s hot tub waters, we finished off our luxurious evening with a spicy meal at Lillie’s, one of the two Asian restaurants in the Nugget.
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