Ah, Las Vegas…
They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
And that may be true, or it may just be a somewhat devilish advertising slogan.
But these photos of Vegas, or more specifically, the famed Vegas Strip of hotel casinos and their alluring attractions, didn’t stay there. I brought these home to share with you.
For what that’s worth. Some photos and some pithy commentary may not substitute for experiencing the real thing. Think of this as a tease then. A Las Vegas Strip Tease…
We’ll start with some day time wide shots of the Vegas Strip. We’ll get to the night later. And we will get inside many of the more famous hotel and casinos too, past the outer facades, so to speak, to examine the inner facades …
No, that’s not the real Paris Eiffel tower, of course (just as that’s not the real Venice Plaza de San Marco tower below). It’s part of the Paris hotel and casino, only one of many hotel casinos that are constructed like theme parks, including actual rides, as I’ll show later when we visit them one by one…
Ed and I actually slid down that particular water slide below, twice. But I must say it’s a rather brutal thump in the groin as you take that final splash at the bottom.
Behind is the Stratosphere Tower, which boasts sky high thrill rides dangling from the tower. I however only seldom saw these rides in action whenever I glanced at it from afar.
Ed and I are not into gambling, or malls, or booze, or let’s face it most of the attractions Las Vegas offers its approximately 33 million visitors annually. So why did we visit? Well, it was actually our fly-into point to embark on a grand tour of many of the great National Parks of the American Southwest. I’ve already posted a few introductory posts along those lines, and I’ll be sharing much more of that exhilarating beauty in many blog posts to come.
Yet this blog post is all about Vegas, baby!
Regarding Las Vegas, I have always wanted to see some of the Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas ensconced there. We enjoyed Zumanity, Ka, and O. The latter two, with their especially designed theaters and elaborate productions, are unique live shows that can only be experienced in their specific venues. Those shows quite literally, logistically, will stay in Vegas, only to be enjoyed there.
As a friend of mine told me, some people spend their money on gambling, some on theatre. Different kicks for different tricks. Fair enough.
But I haven’t yet heard of one’s theater addiction resulting in bankruptcy, destroyed relationships, rehab and theatergoers anonymous. Just saying.
Above, the Shrine Of Four-Faced Brahma. Below, the Vegas strip monorail.
Not only is there a Coca Cola store on the Strip, but it’s in the shape of a coke bottle. Naturally.
First glimpses of the Strip at night:
The New York New York hotel, built to look like the NY cityscape, with a roller coaster for good measure. We will see more of it, and go onside many of the other hotels soon…
The pedestrian bridges that cross the roads have protective, reflective glass:
These next three night shots are taken up north, where Vegas gets less “family friendly”.
Some vertical vistas call for the full stretch view:
Inferior cell phone camera pixelation gives this one an impressionistic feel (or maybe it’s just inferior):
Alright, as promised, let’s start taking a closer look at the Vegas hotel casinos, starting with the one of the patriarchs:
A lot of decorative elements are straight out of Ancient Rome.
Or at least the set of “Quo Vadis”.
Let’s go inside…
But they’re tasteful, classical showgirls … right? … right?
And amidst the columns and statues, the slot machines…
Supposedly an exact replica…
Even the bathrooms are in line with the theme.
In every casino of Las Vegas it is permitted to smoke.
Which means a certain acrid smell pervades them all…
That acrid smell reinforced my notion that Vegas occupies one of the circles of hell. The one where poor souls are enticed onto a grand fairground like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, only to lose themselves horribly …
Next to the slot machines and gaming tables is the Caeser’s Forum, a great enclosed mall in Ancient Rome garb. If they don’t get your cash at the slots, they will wangle it out of you at the stores.
Many hotel casinos house this infrastructure of gambling, mall, restaurants, performance venue and even amusement park within their walls. So you never need leave, see another hotel, or the light of day…
Caesar’s Palace was not my favorite of the hotels, but all in all, especially at the Forum, it surely was the most photo friendly.
Inspired by a slightly more modern era in Italy’s history and architecture, the Venetian entices you into its casinos and shops with a canal featuring actual gondolier’s, all mostly indoors.
I think my favorite of the hotel casinos is The Bellagio.
Maybe it’s the opulent Chihuly that graces the foyer…
Or its pretty Conservatory Garden…
… with the animatronic jockeys and swans (for now; I’m told they change out the decorations in the garden every three months)…
Maybe it’s the brighter, better lit decor (many of the hotel casinos are more darkly lit – perhaps to keep you more drawn and chained to the light addled slot machines)
Maybe it’s the oversized chocolate fountain…
Actually, it’s the oversized actual fountain in front of the Bellagio, that displays a new water ballet show to another song every 15 minutes. That’s what makes the Bellagio my favorite hotel casino (if I had to choose one – it still reeks of cigarette smoke in its casinos, just like all the others).
I tried to video one of its fountain displays from the far right side of the lake one day:
The night we went to see “O” at the Bellagio, we first spent an hour by the fountain, watching four of the water ballets, each differently but always spectacularly choreographed to a variety of music from classical to jazz standard to current pop.
The Fountain is so large and wide, if you watch facing from the center, even at the distance of the wide lake between you and the fountain, the displays still surpass your peripheral vision on both left and right sides.
Yes, that’s one of the few heavenly parts of Vegas to me. A fabulous series of ingenious fountain displays, for free to anyone on the street, no need to pass by the slot machines.
The Mirage also boasts a street-side attraction. Not a balletic fountain spray, but a volcanic eruption.
OK, let’s take a little break from all this prettiness, and enjoy some very Vegas T-shirts:
This is as good a time as ever to talk about the people walking the Vegas strip. I saw this theme-dressed group (see photo further below) early on and expected to see more such colorful cliques or individuals. But mostly one sees regular looking tourists, from all over the world, but regular folks all. As night falls it becomes a thickly teaming mass of regular tourists (a few getting rather drunk) filling the Strip. The further north toward the Fremont Experience you get, the seedier – less “family friendly” – the Strip feels, and the more derelict characters mingle in the crowd.
The truly colorfully photogenic people are the pairs of dressed up showgirls, dominatrixes, sexy cowboys, stormtroopers etc. who walk up and down the Strip commanding $$ for the privilege to photograph them or be photographed with them. I don’t have pics of any of these duos because I didn’t want to pay for the photo and sneaking a pic, even from afar, just seemed in violation of their stated means of livelihood.
Others I would only photograph from afar are people gambling. The casinos are very sensitive about dealers and gamblers being photographed, so I kept my distance there too. Not really interested in being roughed up by hotel security.
New York New York
The New York New York hotel casino is one building complex designed to look like the NY Cityscape. If New York had a rollercoaster careening through it.
Inside you are supposed to feel like you’re in Greenwich Village, while you shop in the hotel mall. Although the real Greenwich Village doesn’t quite have lights like this:
Going for a nighttime NYC aura makes this gambling hall one of the more ominously dark ones (and they all already feel like places to lose one’s soul to me).
More enjoyable is the outside with the faux Brooklyn Bridge and the faux old-timey advertising mural.
Plus the occasional loop-de-loop of the roller coaster cars, which more often than not had few actual passengers.
Like the seemingly oft-dormant Stratosphere thrill rides…
Come to think of it, even with the very many tourists milling about, only a small percentage of the ubiquitous slot machines were ever in use, wherever I went…
The Cirque shows on the other hand were all very well visited.
In a plaza just in back of the New York New York hotel is this monumental steel mesh sculpture called Bliss Dance by Marco Cochrane
She sure makes an impression by day…
… and by night.
The Paris hotel casino is right next to Planet Hollywood.
New York New York’s evocation of strolling in the West Village is somewhat more effective than the Paris’ attempt to evoke walking by the Seine inside its premises. Both kinda creeped me out.
The Excalibur’s facade evokes a castle more out of Disney than the Rhein valley. Its entertainment spectacle features jousting knights. (We stuck with Cirque du Soleil.)
Inside the decor is less medieval and more technicolor dreamcoat.
The Excalibur’s wedding chapel.
Somewhere on the left side of the building is where the Las Vegas shooter ensconced himself…
On the outside the Luxor is a black pyramid which gets a little lost next to the larger Mandalay and Excalibur hotels. But the pyramidal atrium inside, with the hallway/balconies sloping upward, is quite impressive and the most unique hotel architecture I saw aside from the facades.
We ambled into the Luxor at a time there were very long lines at the check-in desks.
At night the Luxor sends a beam of light into the sky that can be seen for hundreds of miles all around the Las Vegas valley (as we ourselves saw from afar when we returned from our day trip to Death Valley). For us New Yorkers it was a disquieting single beam reminder of the 9/11 memorial beams of light.
The MGM Grand
We stayed at an inexpensive Howard Johnson just down the road from the Strip. The MGM Grand is so big, it allowed us to walk half our way from motel to the Strip through its air-conditioned halls. Sure beat the 100 degree heat outside.
Along the way through the MGM Grand one passes the David Copperfield theater, flanked by a huge elaborate bust in the magician’s honor (including an oddly placed detail of an airplane just below the name plate, doubling as an alien chest burster – or something more unmentionable, depending on your perspective.)
Just across the side street from the MGM Grand is the decidedly more discount Hooters hotel and casino. It may be less … grand … but hey, you can place your black jack bets for only $1. The beer is cheaper too. I couldn’t bring myself to take a close-up of the Hooter girls declaring “Play with us”. Instead I put the pretty flowers in the photo’s foreground.
is just like the drink, pink and (glass pearl) fizzy.
I didn’t see the Aria’s casino, just its elegantly upscale suburban mall.
The Fremont Street Experience
Further north more of the more gritty, old school Las Vegas reigns. And in the middle of that, the “Fremont Street Experience”, a pedestrian zone with a light show roof covering all over several blocks.
The Slotzilla zipline sends riders across two city blocks above head. It didn’t seem to want for takers.
Like I said, this part of Las Vegas is a little scruffier than the “family friendly” South Strip.
This hyper-dimensional Praying Mantis, which spits fire, was purportedly someone’s wedding gift to his wife.
Some hotels up north are nearly as stylish and “family-oriented” as those further south, like the Golden Nugget:
More Chihuly glass.
The indoor courtyard swimming pool features a massive aquarium through which a water slide makes its way.
Of course the Golden Nugget would feature the largest single golden nugget (on public display) …
Main Street Station
The Main Street Station Casino and Brewery (as opposed to hotel and casino) features a slab of the actual Berlin Wall … in the men’s urinal:
Finally, the last hotel I will feature is the one we stayed in on our overnight return to Las Vegas before taking our flight back home. It is located a little apart from most of the action, north of the main Strip but south of Fremont, which may explain why we were able to get a pretty good deal for our room:
You guessed it, this hotel’s gimmick is the circus / fairground motif that pervades their casino and mall – again enough stores and restaurants and attractions that you never really need to leave the hotel premises to have your Vegas experience.
That merry-go-round with slot machines really turns.
And below is the circus stage with a new act every hour.
Each act may only perform for 5 minutes, but the next one is only 55 minutes away. In the mean time, spend some more money at the slots, why don’t you?
I wonder what is being built here…
Maybe a hospital?