Sunday, July 8, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

Jill's Journal: We have been having such fun wandering the Strip and meandering through the themed mega-hotels/casinos. We even took an organized double-decker bus tour of both old and new Las Vegas, which the girls really enjoyed and so did Rob and I. It was great to be reminded of so many of the old casino hotels that no longer exist (Stardust, Dunes, Desert Inn, and so many more), while seeing some of the mob spots (seriously, how many bodies must be buried out there in the desert?) and reminisce about past visits (anyone remember the water park that used to be on the Strip?).

Supposedly, as per the tour guide, if you wait 10 years or so between trips to Vegas, you won’t recognize the place because it changes so often. How true that is. Rob and I used to come here a lot, way back when. While he’s been back multiple times for everything from bachelor parties to poker tournaments, I haven’t been here since a decade ago with my Dad and sister. How it has changed. Mega-hotels I remember have been imploded and replaced by luxurious properties like the Wynn. Properties that have remained, like Caesars Palace, have completely reinvented themselves with new towers and a new entrance and are almost unrecognizable from the original. Even little things struck me; for instance, there’s no longer a “Nile River” cruise at Luxor.

The fun thing is that it’s all new to the girls and we have gotten a kick out of them taking in all the supersized glitz and spectacle that is Vegas. And while, yes, Las Vegas is really an adult playground and not so much for kids, it’s a heck of a lot easier to be here with little ones than it is to be in Atlantic City, where you’re barely even allowed to check into your hotel if you have a child in tow (we learned the very hard way several years ago that AC has got to be the least-child-friendly place in the whole U.S.).

I don’t even know how to explain to the kids about this make-believe, over-the-top, surreal, glittery city with pretend pyramids and volcanoes and pirate ships…so I just tell them we can’t take anything seriously in Vegas. There really is no rational explanation for anything here, but it sure is fun to see. Viva Las Vegas!

There’s an Elvis (or two) on seemingly every corner.

The MGM Grand lion is the largest bronze statue in the U.S. at 45 feet tall and 50 tons.

The girls, in their love of Ancient Egypt, thought the faux sphinx and pyramid at Luxor were ah-ma-zing.

I get a kick out of all the wedding chapels. Vegas is the “Marriage Capital of the World” while Reno is the “Divorce Capital of the World.” Oh, Nevada.

Drive-thru weddings…only in Vegas (surely only in Vegas?). There was a couple tying the knot at the drive-up window at this place!

There’s something about this random building in the Arts District that is really cool.

The Stratosphere is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the U.S. at 1,149 feet.

There’s almost as many pawn shops in Vegas as there are Elvis impersonators. This is the one featured on the reality show “Pawn Stars.” Look at that line of people waiting to get inside (in 110 degree heat, no less!).

The canopy-covered four blocks of the Fremont Street Experience is classic old-school Las Vegas. Situated downtown, quite a ways from the Strip, this is what Vegas used to be. Once known as the Glitter Gulch because of all the neon signs, this was the site of first paved street in Vegas, the first hotel, the first gaming license, the first casino designed from the ground up, the first high-rise, the first telephone, etc. Now it’s part pedestrian mall and part old-style casino fun. And yes, those are zipliners! Up to four are whizzing by every couple of minutes.

The Golden Gate was the first hotel in Vegas. Built in 1906 as Hotel Nevada, this is sort of where it all began.

A million dollars on display at Binion’s, where the World Series of Poker began in 1970. Although no longer held at Binion’s, the WSOP’s Main Event has come to be the most coveted prize in poker. Rob and Gary, the guy from Lexington whom I jokingly call Rob’s poker BFF, have attended as spectators two of the last three years. This year, Gary is living his dream and coughed up the $10,000 entry fee to actually play in the Main Event. Rob is here as support and the two have been preparing since Gary arrived yesterday. Play starts tomorrow. Go Gary!

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