Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vegas Dreamin'

I have to admit that I was very reluctant to love Las Vegas. I'm not much for gambling. I don't eat enough to bother with $25+ buffets. I love a good Broadway musical, but the clips I saw of Vegas shows didn't catch my attention. Therefore, for the first 24 years, 11 months of my life, I had no biting desire to see Sin City. In fact, the only reason I ended up going at all--about a month before my 25th birthday--was thanks to a close friend. He wanted to celebrate his birthday out there, and after a lot of emails, and learning that my flights and hotel would cost next to nothing...I simply couldn't say no.

Unfortunately, to take the direct flights from Greenville (which no longer exist), I had to fly out at the crack of dawn on a Friday morning and take a red-eye back Sunday night. This left me pretty much exhausted the entire weekend--and although my not-quite-25-year-old self handled it okay, I'm not sure my 27-year-old self could. Still, despite the fact that I had only about two and a half days in Vegas (not arriving at the hotel until after lunch on Friday, and having to be back at the airport around 8 PM on Sunday night), I was able to experience just enough to know that I had to go back.

And I did go back--twice--but those are other stories for another time. For right now, I felt like writing about Vegas because there is a chance that my big-girl job will be sending me out there for a conference this summer, and I've suddenly realized how much I want to go back. Again. For what will be the fourth time.

Of course, the thought that I may get to go to Vegas in just a few months has led me to reminisce about my first trip out to Sin City. It may have been short, but like I said--that gave me enough of a taste to want to go back. And I really did get a little taste of everything, thanks to my good friend Andy and his vast knowledge of all things Vegas.

That's the thing about Vegas--it's one of those places that, in my opinion, is best to see with someone who has been before. Especially if you are only going for two or three days.

On this, my first trip to Las Vegas, I learned the following:
  • Stay on the Strip, or, if you must stay off it, pick a hotel that is closer to the center of the Strip. You're going to be spending most of your time here anyway, right? That money that you are "saving" by staying in downtown Vegas or way out at Mandalay Bay on one end or the Stratosphere at the other, you'll end up spending in cab fees.
  • If you can, catch a champagne brunch. So far I've only experienced the one at Mandalay Bay, but it was more than worth the $23 per person, in my opinion. The food was delicious (best Eggs Benedict I've ever had!) and the champagne was flowing...can't beat that!
  • Avoid the thrill rides/roller coasters. I am well aware that some people will disagree with me on this, but my experience was that I paid $14 to ride the New York New York coaster and spent the entire time freaking out because it simply did not feel safe (at one point, I swear it went off the track). I love thrill rides, especially roller coasters, but there are simply better things to do in Vegas...especially with $14 ;o)
  • Unless you can eat your weight in food, the buffets simply aren't worth it (or at least, the $25+ per person ones aren't). There are so many other amazing restaurants in Vegas that if you only eat at buffets, you are totally missing out.
  • If you're going to gamble--especially card games like Blackjack--do it off-Strip. I prefer the $5 Blackjack at Binion's in downtown Vegas, but there are many other places with low buy-ins (versus the $15 min--or more--buy-ins at the tables in major Strip casinos).
  • Don't miss seeing the Bellagio fountains! I always try to catch them at least twice when I'm out there, once during the day and once at night. It's a different experience in the sunlight and in the dark, but always amazing.
  • Know that nightclubs are expensive. If you are a girl traveling with other girls, you will likely be able to skip lines and get in for free, but if you have guys with you, I can only say "good luck". Try to go online to the websites of whatever clubs you are thinking about visiting before you go out there, and sign up for the VIP lists. This won't guarantee you no waiting at all, or no admission, but it may help a little bit. Also, while you're out there keep an eye out for booklets and business cards in cabs. We got friendly with a cabbie one evening and got free admission to Pure at Caesar's!
As for me, I've learned something new on each of my Vegas trips--so this is only the surface of my Vegas knowledge, and you'll have to stay tuned for more. I'll say this much--I already know the one must-do on my list for my inevitable next trip to Vegas (whether it ends up being for this conference, or another time)--seeing the inside of the Luxor pyramid. Tacky, I know ::sigh:: But for whatever's the one thing I've always missed, and I simply need to see it for myself.
My first trip to Vegas, all thanks to my good bud Andy (he's on the far right)!

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