Alright, time to hit the town for some sightseeing. Which in Vegas means looking at Hotels. Yup, it’s a town you stay at in order to look at the places other people stay at. Which makes more sense than it sounds like, because those Hotel/Casinos are really something.
I have a soft spot for weird buildings, that make no sense, but just exist because someone thought it would be cool if that existed. Does not matter if it’s a fairytale castle, a truly unique church, or an architect’s city planning fantasy. And all of the big Vegas hotels fit that bill very nicely.
An egyptian pyramid temple? Here you go.
Although the inside of the famous black pyramid of the Luxor looks more like a 70s concrete building. Oh really, things in Vegas being fake, you don’t say? It’s a theme we’ll come back to.
A carribean treasure island, complete with exploding volcano? Here you go.
Roman palace? Sure.
Don’t recall romans being big on playing hockey, but some local patriotis is a must in the US. (Yes, Las Vegas, a city situated in the middle of the desert, has an ice hockey team.)
Speaking of Cesar’s palace: the only spiral escalator I know.
The fall of Atlantis show, inside the shopping mall of Cesar’s palace. Because I guess “Atlantis” equals “old stuff” equals “Rome”… Quintessential Vegas – lots of sound and fury, fire and explosions, in a very well done, but also incredibly fake and corny way.
In contrast, some New York skyscrapers, complete with a rollercoater around it (which, according to the online reviews, is not very well maintained, so I did not spend the 25 dollars for a ride on it).
Traffic here is unusually light – the strip, along which all the big casinos are situated, is usually choked with car traffic, and somehow Vegas has managed not to have any useful public transport (except for a bus along the strip that is infrequent enough to be annoying, and a monorail that requires you to walk through a casino to get to almost every stop, which usually means getting lost in the maze for 10 minutes), so I was really happy to have picked a hotel in the middle of the strip, so most attractions were within walking distance.
I spent way more time than I thought watching the fountains at the Bellagio – they have lots of different shows throughout the evening.
Fake Paris is surprisingly convincing, with the inside looking like a themepark version of an imaginary ideal of romantic Paris, including fake plastic cobblestoned floors.
Of course, the slot machines do not quite fit the Paris theme.
Speaking of slot machines: yes, they truly are everywhere. And very disappointing.
There are a million different themes of slot machines, ranging from asian (as above) to themes of TV shows like the simpsons, or rodeo machines where you sit on a vibrating bull, to various sports themes…and they are all exactly the same in how they play. They all feature a million different modes and games, but as far as I could be bothered to figure out, every single game comes down to “push a button, and you will win or lose money at random”.
Further disappointments about the one-armed bandits: They aren’t even one-armed bandits – no levers to pull any more, just buttons to push, or even just a touch screen. And they do not spill out coins if you win – you just see a number on screen increase, and to collect your winnings you have to push a button to print a receipt, which a cashier will then convert into cash.
They also look the same everywhere – despite the huge efforts in giving each Casino a unique look and theme, most of the interior is inevitably filled with huge amounts of slot machines.
Most of which are empty and ignored, and some are occupied by people who seem hooked and spend their whole day there. Me, I quickly lost 10 bucks, was bored, and checked “lose money gambling in Vegas” off my list.
If you are so inclined, you do not have to stop gambling when ordering a drink in the bar, since the bar is made up of slot machines.
Of course, there’s also classic casino games like blackjack and roulette – but the dealers for those seemed incredibly bored, since nobody bothers to play them. By far the liveliest part of the Casinos are the sports betting bars, where you can be blasted with games and news from all the sports channels at once.
So gamling is definitely not my thing. Some of the sights are really nice, though. Like a replica of Venice, with real water, real fake gondolieri offering rides, a sky that is painted always blue, and of course the whole thing is basically a high-end shopping mall.
Or the new style of casinos, like the Wynn, which does not have a real theme, but focuses on looking as luxurious as possible, where “luxurious” is defined as a mix between a european rennaissance palace, disneyland, and a shopping mall.
Peoplewatching in Vegas is definitely a thing. You see everything from people dressed to the nines for a night out on the town, to bachelor parties of all kinds, to prototypical American tourists, often all on the same street corner.
Vegas feels like the most commercial place I’ve ever been to – from the way every second vehicle on the strip seems to be a mobile billboard, to the giant billboard all over the facades of the hotel towers, to the number of times you are approached by someone selling you all kinds of entertainment.
It’s also an unapologetically fake place. By which I mean not just the hotel themes, but every little detail seems to have an overpriced, dressed-up, lipstick-on-a-pig quality. Like the lady playing a fancy grand piano in the piano bar above?
If you look closer, you see that it’s just an empty shell, containing a keyboard playing pre-recorded music.
The fancy, faux luxury veneer is also quite thin. Walk just a few blocks away from the glittering strip, and you come to a quite seedy underbelly.
The tower is the “Encore”, one of the newest, shiniest and most expensive hotels. Seen from the parking lot of a strip mall next to it, where I walked by on the way to a car rental place, along a street that made me happy to leave.
Hmm, that turned unexpectedly negative…I did enjoy seeing Vegas, it’s a unique place and experience, and it does have its fun sides.
Of course, have to have a picture of the “fabulous las vegas” sign. Which is actually outside the city limits, in between the two lanes of a highway. And of course, in the age of instagram there’s a long line for everybody to take his mandatory unique picture of standing under the sign.