My motivations for coming to Las Vegas were definitely not typical, as you may have read in my previous posts about driving an off road truck and visiting the neon sign graveyard. However, while I was there, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see some classic Vegas attractions and to attend some of its first-rate shows.
Bellagio Fountains – the fountains in front of the Bellagio hotel provide a choreographed water display up to 4 times an hour starting in the afternoon. Check the schedule here for more details. I learned that during times with high winds, the shows sometimes get cancelled.
Mirage Volcano – Starting at 5pm, the hourly eruption is a crowd pleaser, with the island music, chirping frogs, and big blasts of flames that easily capture the attention of people walking by.
Treasure Island (now TI) show – The Sirens of TI is a revamped, sexier show that’s geared more towards adults than the previous pirate show, which was one of the few remnants from the 1980s “family friendly” marketing campaign, now replaced with the “What Happens in Vegas…” theme. When I was there, the show was on hiatus until December.
Bellagio Hotel Glass Ceiling, Garden, and Chocolate Fountain: Walk into the Bellagio and try to make your way through the casino maze to the front desk/lobby area. Then look up. You will see the famous, very elaborate, and colorful glass chandelier called Fiori di Como by sculptor Dale Chihuly made of 2,000 hand-blown glass blooms.
Behind the lobby area is the garden and conservatory. The display changes seasonally, and I was able to take in the Autumn Harvest design with animatronic trees and a working waterwheel.
Right behind the garden area is Jean Phillipe Chocolates with its sculptural chocolate fountain of melted white, milk, and dark chocolate – officially the world’s largest chocolate fountain.
Making funny words out of casino signs: Finding electric and neon signs is not a hard task in Las Vegas, but I would suggest heading up to the older Freemont Street area to get some classic signs.
Old Vegas Tour: On Freemont Street you will feel like you’ve gone back in time to the seedier Vegas you know and (maybe) love. Dominated by the Golden Nugget, Golden Gate, and Binion’s casinos, you can find actual slots that pay out in coins, you are guaranteed to come out smelling like an ash tray, and you can enjoy free live music outside as part of the Freemont Experience. Also check out the iconic Vegas Vicki (neon sign at the Glitter Gulch) and her officially wedded husband across the street, Vegas Vic the cowboy. I found this nice walking tour from National Geographic, if you’re interested. For a late night snack to satisfy your sweet tooth, I heard Mermaids is the place to go, with their deep fried Oreos or Twinkies and their chocolate covered bananas.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign: Located just south of Mandalay Bay in the middle of “The Strip” (Las Vegas Boulevard), this landmark sign was designed by a popular neon sign artist, Betty Willis, in 1959.
Not Quite Free Stuff
Gambling…sort of. I got about 30 minutes of entertainment out of $1 at a slot machine. I ended up losing it and several of it’s friends, of course. The worst gambling experience I had: changed $20 at a $10 blackjack table, had to leave the table two hands later and $20 poorer. I was told that craps is the game to play if you’re a novice, but I didn’t understand what I was watching. At least with cards, there is an appearance that you are not leaving it all up to chance. Fortunately, I have no affinity for gambling, so what little I lost in the end, I gained in Vegas experience points.
New York, New York Roller Coaster ($14) – If you like thrill rides, this is a coaster for you! You start your assent up the back side of the hotel. If I had to guess, the apex was about level with the 30th floor of the hotel. You then make your first descent before traveling towards the front of the hotel via another 144 foot drop, reaching speeds up to 67 mph. A few loops and turns and a heart-pounding barrel roll right next to the strip many floors below later, and you finally get back to the station – windswept and a little rattled.
Hoover Dam – You’re going to need a car for this excursion, that’s why it’s not completely free. Just outside of Las Vegas by about 45 minutes, follow the exit signs to the visitor parking lot. You will then have to climb up a hill to reach the entrance to the pedestrian walkway on the bridge that overlooks the dam. While the planning was conducted in the 1920s, actual construction of this engineering marvel occurred in the early 1930s and provided thousands of desperately needed jobs to Americans during the depression era.
A European Vacation
Yes, you can visit three major European cities in one afternoon, on foot!
Paris – Head to the top of the Eiffel Tower for some great views of the Strip and of the Bellagio fountain display ($11.50). It’s not a bad idea to book a reservation at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant and request a table overlooking the Bellagio to enjoy several, back-to-back shows.
Venice – Where else in America can you take a romantic gondola ride, visit St. Marks Square, and eat some yummy Italian food? Did I mention the gondoliers sing very well?
Rome – Of course it’s hard to stay away from the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace with all of its classic Roman fountains. If you’re like me, you’re going to get lost.
If you’re a die-hard Beatle fan like me, you must make your way to The Mirage Hotel. There you will find the Revolution Lounge, the Beatles LOVE shop, and the “can’t miss” Cirque du Soleil show, “LOVE.” There are good odds that you will encounter Beatles tunes being pumped out of the speaker system in the elevators as well.
Shows I Saw
Cirque du Soleil “LOVE” at The Mirage – full of aerialist acts, daredevil rollerbladers and guy on a rotating swing hundreds of feet in the air, and the spectacle that is Octopus’s Garden with the floating jelly fish. Oh, and the music!!
Magic: David Copperfield at MGM – Smart people shouldn’t see illusionist shows. It is the most frustrating experience! Also, don’t sit in the front row, it’s the worst seat in the house.
Cirque du Soleil “O” at The Bellagio – this is a Vegas classic and the only way you will ever see a Cirque water show. The talent was beyond amazing – aerialists, diving, acrobatics, gymnastics, synchronized swimming…