Vegas – more than just a gambling mecca!

I was 47-years-old before I made my first trip to Las Vegas. My husband and I wanted to take a 3-week trip to Italy to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, but we just couldn’t make our schedule work to be gone for that long, so we settled for 3 days at the Palazzo at the Venetian in Vegas!

Check-in desk at the Palazzo at the Venetian

Check-in desk at the Palazzo at the Venetian

Having no idea what to expect other than what we had seen on TV or in movies, we tried to keep an open mind. Our anniversary is in the hottest time of the year, July, but we decided to make the 4 hour drive from Phoenix so we could feel the wind in our hair having just bought our first convertible. Unfortunately no amount of wind cooled off temps reaching 110+. So it was top up and the AC cranked high the rest of the drive.

Enroute we stopped at the Hoover Dam to witness the amazing engineering marvel of a dam built back in the 1930’s. The new bridge system spanning the dam had recently opened to traffic, but it blocks the view of the dam from the road, so we made the windy trek down to the top of the dam. Once back up on the highway it was about an hour into Vegas, which sits literally in the middle of a dirt desert. I can see why the original builders of the city were so intent on using bright lights to bring some life to this desolate area.

Hoover Dam, just outside of Las Vegas

Hoover Dam, just outside of Las Vegas

The Strip‘ or main street runs through the heart of the luxury casino hotels which grew in numbers dramatically back in the 1990’s on into the early 2000’s – with hotels like the Bellagio – think water show, Venetian – think Gondola Canal rides, Wynn – think of a $500 round of golf. Las Vegas growth came to a near standstill during the recession – but now, while Atlantic City casinos close down there is renewed life in Vegas.

Grand Canal - along the walkway between the Palazzo and the Venetian

Grand Canal – along the walkway between the Palazzo and the Venetian

Neither my husband or I are big gamblers, so Vegas has never been high on our priority list of places to visit. But at some point we figured you need to experience what Vegas is all about. We played the slots, a little black jack and my husband flirted with the idea of playing poker, but in the end it was just as entertaining to sit back and people watch. The rooms are amazing – a room like the one we stayed at in the Palazzo for about $300 would run you over $1,000 in NYC. And the restaurants are world-class. We took in a concert in a specially designed theater at Caesar’s Palace with highlights such as a hologram visit from Stevie Wonder doing a duo with Celine Dion during her live concert.

It took me 3 years to return to Vegas to experience one of the other reasons a lot of people go to Vegas – no not to get married, or to do things that married people shouldn’t be doing (“…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…”), but to attend several conventions. A friend and I attended the Design Home Show at the World Market, housed in three buildings with 10-16 stories each of vendors; then we attended the KBIS (Kitchen & Bath Industry Show) and the Builder’s Show at the Builder’s Convention which was showcased in four humongous warehouses.

With a “surfaces” – i.e. granite, tile convention and a gun show convention, there were an extra 200,000 people milling around this city with a population of roughly 2,000,000. My husband and I are in the middle of building a new home, and this trip was a great opportunity to see everything from plumbing and lighting, to hardware and furniture in one concentrated area. Although there no new ‘wow’ products that we came across, we came across a lot great leads on companies to find what we want to help make our home a house.

A unique vendor showcases their rustic and distressed barn doors and hardware

A unique vendor showcases their rustic and distressed barn doors and hardware

Traveling between the Venetian and Palazzo was like rush hour in LA – a swarm of people so thick you couldn’t pass from one side of the walkway to the other – they need stop and go lights in the casinos during major convention times. Interestingly the slots and tables at the Venetian were packed, the bells ringing, the dealers shouting, the patrons cheering – but the Palazzo was subdued. Most of the tables were empty, every other bank of slot machines would have a single soul pulling at that magic pull bar.

To get to Vegas this time I took the 55-minute flight from Phoenix to Vegas, allowing beautiful views of the western edges of the Grand Canyon and of Lake Mead. The flight was shorter than the taxi line at the Vegas airport. Luckily the city is replete with ample taxis and the line moved fairly consistently but it still took almost 45 minutes to get a taxi. I would highly recommend finding a car service. It’s a few bucks more, but beats standing in line with all your luggage.

Western edge of the Grand Canyon heading towards Las Vegas from Phoenix

Western edge of the Grand Canyon heading towards Las Vegas from Phoenix

Lake Mead just east of Las Vegas

Lake Mead just east of Las Vegas

I’ll expand more about restaurants to check out in next weeks end of the month restaurant reviews, but if you’re into bourbon, the Yardbird makes one of the best Manhattan’s I’ve ever had – and I’ve had a few. A smooth but robust flavor served over an extra-large spherical shaped ice-cube. Great appetizers too – a real true southern flare and my travel partner, a native Atlantan confirmed authenticity of these appies. She was duly impressed!

Vegas may not be everybody’s prime destination, but this little oasis in the dirt desert has something to offer every body. You can’t help get caught up in the energy that is Vegas. I left exhausted, but with a smile on my face.

Las Vegas - an oasis of vibrancy in an otherwise lackluster landscape

Las Vegas – an oasis of vibrancy in an otherwise lackluster landscape

2 thoughts on “Vegas – more than just a gambling mecca!

  1. This latest on Las Vegas provided me with a welcome break from the demands of my computer this afternoon. Thanks Lisa…and looking forward to those restaurant reviews. The three of us will be in that crazy city during Reading Week (the wish of our son because he’s 21!).

    • Hello – glad I help provide you a break from computer work, with my computer work! 🙂 Hopefully the restaurant reviews give you and option or two – but from talks with friends who are regulars in Vegas, I don’t think you can go too wrong with any place. Happy B-day to your boy!

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