Las Vegas

One thing for sure, Las Vegas is one town that really knows how to reinvent itself. It’s gone from gambling and showgirls, to conventions, to a place for families, to “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” to “Hey, let’s buy a condo.” You know, Vegas is still all those things. It’s great for business people, singles and families. And you know the center of it all has always been the road named Las Vegas Boulevard, known to most of us as, simply, The Strip.

Once a dusty trail, the “Strip” has come a long way since the Spanish explorers found an oasis in the desert and established the original settlement.

But it wasn’t until the 1930’s that Vegas grew by leaps and bounds, with the construction of Hoover Dam. Its real claim to fame was the influx of Mafia gangsters like Bugsy Siegel, who opened up lavish hotels and casinos. Huge resorts and theme parks followed, and today these bring in more than 29 million visitors a year.

It seems like half those people arrive at the airport when you do, and getting around Las Vegas gets harder and more crowded every year.

No matter what car rental company you rent from, everybody gets on a big white bus at baggage claims and comes to the McCarran Rent-a-Car center. Now, it works great if you don’t have any luggage. However, if you do have luggage, you’ve got a few problems. You have three choices. You can (1): load your luggage on the bus. Ugh! (2): leave your companions at the airport, then you have to rent the car, then drive all the way back to baggage claims and pick them all up. Ugh. Or (3): you can just UPS or FEDEX your bags ahead of time, and then you’re back to square one, where you just walk in and out, so it’s very easy again.

Las Vegas is generally referred to in two parts, downtown or Glitter Gulch, is home to the old time hotels like the Golden Nugget and the Freemont. This area’s been revitalized with the Fremont Street Experience, a covered arcade walkway with all kinds of action including an overhead projection of the Stealth bomber whizzing by overhead.

The most popular area is called the Strip, a 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard lined with resorts and casinos, each one trying to outdo the next in order to draw the crowds, ultimately, to the tables. The themes themselves range in concept, but “fantasy destinations” have been a long time favorite. Today, the there are as many hotel destination themes as there are flavors of jelly beans…and you can travel the globe by crossing the street! Wherever you look, there is something different going on. You’ll recognize Lady Liberty standing proud at New York, New York where the outside roller coaster draws thrill seekers. It zooms nightly past the familiar façade of the empire state and Chrysler building, where the theme is strictly Manhattan! At the Luxor, you’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you enter the black pyramid, with a very believable Sphinx guarding the entrance…it’s Egypt in all its glory.

For the chivalrous, there is a medieval castle sans dragon at the Excalibur…where families come for real life jousting tournaments. Ride gondolas in the Grand Canal of Venice and stroll the piazzas at the Venetian. Sip coffee under the Eiffel Tower at the Paris, where it’s April all year round and romance is the name of the game. Extravagance and luxury is the draw at lavish hotels like the Wynn. Where high-end shopping is a means to an end…if you’re a winner. Some hotels have taken the show outdoors, like the Bellagio, where fountains are set to music and water dances day and night.

With all the fantasy on the strip, it’s easy to lose your heart as well as your wallet! But some people also lose their heads in the excitement, making Vegas notorious for whirlwind weddings. It’s the number one place in America to tie the knot! Whether it’s to reaffirm your vows or jump in from scratch. There are a wide variety of chapels here, all with one thing in common: instant ceremonies. But which one to choose, hmm… eeny meeny miney moe, one with Elvis or drive through to go.

So, what’s the procedure at 3 in the morning? Basically, you call ahead for a reservation… or just take your chances. While you’re waiting, check out accessories! Spur of the moment grooms can get anything they need including the perfect tuxedo! Take it retro and go for patent leather lace-ups! You can be anything you like, even a dead ringer for Bugsy Siegel! The bride can choose from dozens of wedding gowns, anything is possible at any time—sequins or pearls, you’ll find it all here!

Then it’s off to the chapel for vows. To have and to hold…did you know they can do an internet feed so you can do a wedding e-vite and long distance guests can witness the ceremony in front of their computer monitor? And they’ll also cater to specific religious rituals. Here’s Mazel Tov! Couples light candles together in some ceremonies. Often, they start of a family tradition. The chapels ask them to light their candle(s) every year on their anniversary and renew their vows to each other. They also do a lot of renewal of vows. People that have gotten married, then their children have gotten married, now the grandchildren are coming here to have their ceremonies in a family tradition.

Las Vegas had the very first drive through wedding chapel. Couples used to come through who had trouble getting in and out of their cars. When asked if they wanted to get hitched in their jalopy, they were quick to answer: “I do!” Now, all you do is choose from the menu, place your order and go to the drive up window for the service. How’s that for convenience?

People come to Las Vegas for a little excitement. That’s why there are so many hotel themes, wedding chapels and games of chance- some people just want to take a walk on the wild side! I one of those types, well sometime. I have always wanted to jump out of a plane and try skydiving. It sounds so fantastic. The problem is I’m chicken. In Las Vegas, there’s a place where they say it’s the closest thing to actually doing it. Can’t wait to give it a try.

The place to go is Flyaway Indoor Skydiving. Before you do anything, you have an orientation to know what you are going to do and just how to do it. As a novice, you need to know a little more! Like how to get into the suit, how to get into the air, what you do when you are in the air. Don’t forget ear plugs!

Indoor skydiving is a simulation of the freefall aspect of skydiving. What they have is a 22-foot tall, 12-foot wide vertical wind tunnel. It produces up to a 120 mi/hr wind. Just like any other sport you’ve got to spend a lot of time at it before you get good, but learning to do it is just as much fun as beginning good at it. Of course kids take to this easily. In fact they’re pros in no time!

Now, aside from all the different activities they have here, Las Vegas is also known for being a great place to shop for fashion and not just Elvis jumpsuits. What’s more, you can find some great prices under this very hot sun! Do you know that there are people who come to Vegas and never go in a casino or never see a show? They come for the shopping. I have friends who plan all their Christmas and back-to-school shopping around a trip to Las Vegas.

You’ll be in heaven, as you easily can stumble across a premium outlet mall with famous-label name-designers at both ends of the Strip! An outlet mall is a place where you can go and get designer and brand name items for 25% to 65% off every day. Outlet shopping has become quite upscale and it’s mostly overrun items, last season items, sometimes specific items produced for the outlets, so have no fears! It’s very nice, good quality merchandise.

The mall at the south end of the Strip, is the Las Vegas Outlet Center. It’s close. It’s near the airport and it’s got over 130 stores. It’s for your family-oriented, price-conscious shopper. There are a lot of great shops and a giant carousel for the kids. At the other end are the premium outlets, this is an open air mall, with sort of a village feel. You have some high-end brand names here, like Polo and Ellie Tahari and St. John Knits.

Now, there is a way to save a little bit more money and it’s a secret. I just love secrets for saving, especially in clothing stores. What is it?

There is a V.I.P. Shopper Club online, which will give you extra savings. You can print out your own coupons and become a member of the Chelsea Group Club. What is more, it’s not just for Las Vegas. It’s for all their centers across the United States. So, wherever you’re traveling, vacationing, or just going for the weekend, just log on and print out your savings coupons. There are also coupon books available which give you discounts at many of our stores, just go to the information booth at any of shopping centers and pick them up. Don’t forget the credit cards! You can do some major damage here!

If the Spanish thought Las Vegas was an oasis, they should see it now! You might want to take a little side excursion to Lake Mead. This could be the oasis they were dreaming about! There’s a lot of water out there, to think, boats out in the desert? You know, a lot of people get ready to leave Las Vegas and they go, “Oh wow, I could have gone to Lake Mead. Everybody forgets you can go boating, jet skiing, water skiing, fishing, right in the middle of the desert.

Lake Mead national recreational area encompasses Lake Mead and Lake Mojave and has over a million acres of land to explore. They also have 40 pound striped bass that like to tease the end of your fishing pole! Families love it here! They bring in campers and tents, they even rent houseboats right on the water! In fact, water sports are the name of the game!

Who knew all this beauty was less than an hour from the strip! But if camping isn’t your thing, and the strip hotels are a little too wild, then there is a happy medium, and it’s all in the same location! To get your bearings – the big flashy hotels are on or around the Strip. The luxury resorts are a short drive just outside Las Vegas. And trust me, it’s a whole world away. One of the newer resorts is just stone’s throw from the Strip, the Green Valley Ranch Resort. They have everything in the way of relaxation, including a full spa, different pools, including one with a real sand beach where the kids can build sandcastles all day long! You’ll just have to see it to see what I’m raving about. There are so many restaurants, you don’t have to go anywhere, and most people stick around for the chance to win big in one of 7 casinos right on the grounds!

After a good night’s sleep, I’m sure the younger members of your group will be anxious to have some fun, too. Fear not, I found a place that was made for kids, located under the big top of Circus Circus in their Adventuredome amusement center! ‘Neath a 5 and half acre ceiling of glass, you’ll find an indoor theme park filled with thrills, spills, splashes, swings and screams of excitement. Roller coasters? They got em! There’s a spinning coaster called the Disc-O. The Inverter goes up 50 feet off the ground as it flips 360 degrees. The Chaos spins upside-down, backward and counterclockwise.

If that’s not excitement enough, try the Canyon Blaster. Far from traditional, this high-speed coaster is the only 90-foot double-loop, double-corkscrew track in America! To cool down, don’t miss the Rim Runner, that plunges down 60 feet, making sure riders are totally drenched in water and spray. If you need to slow it down a bit for the younger kids, there more tame rides to choose from. It’ll save you money if you buy an all day wristband. It’s based on height, the taller you are, well, the price increases accordingly. No one can resist just one more ride on the roller coaster. I love that ride!

If you don’t have a dinner reservation at the major hotels, then make fast food your friend, because those lines are really long at the buffets and cafés. In fact, some buffets are even taking reservations now. So, do yourself a favor. It’s much easier to cancel a reservation than it is to get one at the last minute. And in Vegas, when it’s crowded, nothing’s quick.

When the sun sets across the desert in Las Vegas, the lights come on to signal that its famous night life is about to begin! But not all the entertainment is in the showrooms. The Strip, itself, has lots to see, and a lot of it is free! From dancing fountains at the Bellagio to a spectacular volcano that erupts on schedule at the La Mirage, complete with flames and smoke alongside a glistening waterfall. Or, don your eye-patch and heave-ho at Treasure Island, where pirate ships battle it out in a spectacular live production. You can spend the whole night outside, walking along the Strip taking in the displays.

The indoor entertainment ranges from top names to cabaret, and the choices range from “adults only” to ”families welcome.” Each hotel tries to draw in the gamblers with fabulous entertainment and, these days, tickets are sold in advance. You’ll see storefronts all over town with signs saying “half price show tickets.” So, you think, “I’m gonna go in and save some money.” You’ll go in and say, “I wanna see one of the shows tonight.” And they say, “Okay, which one do you want to see?” The answer is usually now for the popular shows if you want half price. What they really have are show tickets that are two-for-one price. So, two people have to go, then they have a hundred or more shows in Vegas available. Magic and illusion shows are still popular here, and magicians come to Vegas from all over the world. If you go to early or dinner performances, the kids are allowed in to family oriented shows. The magic is loads of fun for everyone, so you won’t be disappointed.

Magic, cabaret, rock concerts, all the entertainment you can imagine is within a few blocks of each other. Themed hotels, lots of water amusements, great restaurants—they are all to be found here in this desert oasis. So whether you come on your own or with the whole family, you won’t want for lack of things to do and see. Las Vegas is an attraction everyone has to visit at least once in a lifetime!