36 Hours in Las Vegas

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 22, 2003, 8:31 PM | comments: 0

Stephanie and I went to Vegas for about 36 hours in part to attend her cousin's wedding. We arrived around 7 p.m. Thursday night and caught a shuttle to the Imperial Palace, right at the center of the strip.

IP is a functional hotel. It's not real pretty or new, the beds kind of suck, but if you just need a place on The Strip to sleep, this place will do the job. The odd thing about it is that it doesn't have a terribly nice or plush casino either, but we were shocked to find it operating nearly at capacity 3 to 5 a.m.

After checking-in, we made plans to go see X at Aladdin and ride Manhattan Express. We stopped in to get our tickets for the 10:30 show and then set out for New York, New York. Aladdin has a nice themed shopping area that surrounds the theater and casino floor. The casino was moderately busy, but not nearly what IP was doing.

We went the next few blocks to NY and really liked what we saw. The crowds are younger, the theme pretty well executed and the only serious drawback being all of the kids. During our time there we noticed how Vegas appears to be having an identity crisis, not sure if it wants to be Disney World or naughty.

We passed by Coyote Ugly, noted the extreme party vibe coming from within (not to mention the incredibly hot bartender on the outside with the black hair, pierced lip and only a bra on top), and noted that perhaps this might be a place to come back to. Back across the floor, we bought tickets for Manhattan Express.

Well, the reviews might have been mixed among other people, but I will certify that Manhattan Express is the biggest piece of crap I've ever been on. Seriously, I think the worst Vekoma hang-n-bang is a better ride. The restraints are uncomfortable, and the transitions appear to designed by a crack addict. Perhaps it's the restraints, I don't know, but $12 isn't worth one ride. It's absolutely that terrible.

On the way out we saw some twit of a kid on a DDR machine freestyling to some three-step light song, but refrained from playing ourselves because we were only an hour away from going to see boobies.

Leaving NY, which aside from the coaster was a pretty neat place, we crossed the bridge to MGM and looked around there. The main casino floor is impressive, and a cover band was playing on the stage there. It seems like the thing on the Travel Channel we saw about the larger, more open casinos having fewer players is true, and explains why nice places like this were dead compared to the IP.

Back to Aladdin and their small theater, we ordered drinks and took our seats for X. The show is billed as "an erotic adventure," and reviews generally give it some credit as being more artistic than most topless shows. It wasn't bad, actually. These are real dancers and they're built like it. Some of the scenes did creatively ooze sex (the bathtub and vertical bed scenes in particular), while much of it was kind of PG-13. They had a comedian who did the "intermission" who wasn't bad, but the crowd wasn't really into him. What nearly ruined the show was this stupid talentless fake-n-bake Playboy Barbie with fake boobs they had come out and prance around twice. I guess she was there to "sell" the show, but she was terrible. Kind of an insult to the dancers who were actual performers.

The crowd was weird. There were the young couples, where the dudes weren't sure if they were allowed to get into it, the old retired couples, who ran out of Viagra and of course a handful of single perverts. This combination made for one stiff (and not in a good way) group of people who were too worried about society's take on sex to really have a good time, which was a real bummer I'm sure for the performers and especially the comedian.

After the show we walked back to IP, about midnight. At this point we were still pretty amazed at the sheer number of people out and about. As we passed the Bellagio, where the fountains were winding down for the night, there were thousands watching.

Still on Eastern time and dying, we went up to the "Tea Room" which apparently does serve tea, but more to the point is like a Denny's. Nothing special there, but like the hotel, was functional. We turned in for the night at 1:30 a.m.

We got up the next morning around 8 a.m., and after getting ready decided to see what we could find for a breakfast snack before the wedding at 11. One of Steph's friends suggested a little pastry shop in Paris. It wasn't bad, but more fancy than functional, so we bypassed it. The casino itself is, again, very nice, well themed, and totally empty compared to the IP. We walked through Paris, left, and stopped at a doughtnut shop in the front of the Flamingo.

The wedding was outside in the middle of the Flamingo, only two down from our hotel. Flamingo is kind of old school as far as casinos go, opting more for the classic neon instead of a theme. There was a small reception for the 20 of us inside the hotel, and it was top notch food.

Back to IP for a nap, and that afternoon we jumped in a cab headed for the Stratosphere. Shadows were also getting long at this point. The view up there is amazing. The city is this weird green space surrounded by mountains. You start to wonder how any of this came to be, since the desert is otherwise uninhabitable if you ask me.

Big Shot is amazing. Wow. It's hardly a long Space Shot, but the air at the top is insane, especially when you consider you're already a thousand feet in the air. Absolutely breathtaking.

High Roller is fairly uninteresting, but hey, it's still something that you're so high up there. I sat on the inside seat, which wasn't really that interesting.

After returning to the ground (which I was anxious to do because the rumble of High Roller up there is not a comfortable feeling in the building), we stopped in an arcade for a little 6th mix DDR action. The machine was a stomper and not very sensitive, but at least we can say we played in Vegas.

On to Sahara a couple of blocks down the street. Speed: The Ride is a nifty little contraption, and at $10 to ride until you puke, a good value by Vegas standards. The ride operators would have rather been pretty much anywhere else, but clearly our group of 20 people who got several laps were really into the ride.

Despite not having the Premier lapbar retrofit, the ride is very smooth and the padding obnoxiously large and soft. The immediate turn out of the launch is the only quick direction change, and it's not fast enough to really bang your head around. The loop is huge. The turn around the valet/cab drop off is neat, and the climb up the tower very sweet. Like all shuttles, going backward is always a little weird the first time. It was strange to feel the slow-down before the loop, but obviously had to be there. We did three cycles, and declare this the best amusement ride in Vegas.

Since we were there and didn't want to hunt for food (we were meeting people later), we decided to give Sahara's buffet a try. I have to say, it was pretty good stuff. At $7 each, it wasn't the cheapest buffet on The Strip, but it was yummy. They had some better stuff on there in the way of meat and seafood. No complaints there!

Back to IP, we got dressed up to go to Ra at Luxor. The reviews said it was the mother of all dance clubs, so we thought we'd give it a try. We met up with Aries from SG and her posse, who were also staying in IP. The seven of us got this bad-ass stretch SUV limo and headed up to Luxor.

Arriving in a giant limo and being with a very tattooed woman who has purple hair is fun because people are pretty sure you're famous. Granted, we probably looked like Republicans next to this group, but it was still kind of fun. Aries is a serious cutie and her and her friends were pretty cool to hook up with strangers they'd only met on the Internet.

Luxor is architecturally the most impressive thing I had seen in Vegas. The giant Sphinx is kind of goofy, but the huge pyramid is impressive inside and out. The casino has a lower ceiling, which might attribute to its busier floor.

Ra was described by one review as "a trendy dance club/meat market with 20-somethings looking for someone to makeout with." That might be true, but among the many thonged asses showing skin, nearly everyone was with someone. Singletons were in short supply, and despite a $20-$10 cover ratio, was slightly more of a sausage party (figures not adjusted for gay males, mind you).

The club is 19,000 square feet of Egyptian-themed club. The bar is lit only by oil lamps, the light show is better than most concerts and the sound is crystal clear despite being loud. You would think some place this trendy would feel forced, but surprisingly it did not. The DJ on when we got there was playing lame top 40-ghetto music ("It's getting hot in here..."), but he soon left for a real house/techno jock who started to mix it up. We had a great time just being there.

At about 1 a.m. we left and walked around Luxor some more. Of all the places we had been to that point, it had the best vibe, in my opinion. That could be because I was drunk, but who knows. Looks like a place I'd like to stay on my next visit.

We rolled back into IP around 2 a.m., and, not surprisingly, the casino floor was the busiest we had seen it yet. Back to the Tea Room for mediocre Denny's food, we reviewed our trip and tried to decide if we should just stay up or nap before we had to leave for the airport at 5. Around 3, we retired to the room (casino was still jumping) and went for a short nap.

At 5 a.m. we got up and got a cab to the airport. The little club in front of the hotel was still going full swing. I was in awe, but part of that is the guy turning 30 in a couple of weeks and part of it is just someone who never adjusted to Pacific time!

The cabby was a moron. Our fare was $9.90 and I gave him a $20. He gave me two fives in return. There was no way in hell I was going to tip the guy five bucks on my last bill. If he would've given me singles I might have given him at least three, but his loss. He was pissed, but I wasn't someone who cared much at that point.

Overall, our experience in Vegas was brief, but we caught one show, hit one club and surveyed the joint overall. Next time we go I think it'll be easier to form a game plan and have a better idea about what we'd like to do. If you plan to go, we found lots of good info at www.cheapovegas.com, which pretty much fell inline with our opinions.

Oh, and we rode a couple of roller coasters.


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