The wonderful thing about "Vegas" are all the things you can see or do for little or no money. For instance the BELLAGIO has the Bellagio Conservatory which is an elaborate display of horticulture and art, with more than 7,500 plants, trees and flowers to view. Open 24 hours and it's FREE. Bellagio also has its "Fountains". Serpentine streams of water are projected from 1,000 synchronized fountains that reach haights of 245 feet. Monday to Friday shows every half-hour between 3 & 8 p.m., shows every 15 minutes between 8:00 p.m. & midnight.Sat. & Sun. same schedule, but shows begin at noon and it's FREE.
FLAMINGO HILTON - Wildlife Habitat. Chilean flamingos and other exotic creatures take up residence on the original Flamingo hotel site. Open 24 hours and it's FREE.
FREEMONT STREET EXPERIENCE - Spectacular light and sound shows on the world's largest LED screen, covering six blocks of downtown Las Vegas. Shows begin nightly at dusk and continue on the hour until midnight. Fremont Street & Las Vegas Blvd. FREE.
IMPERIAL PALACE - The Auto Collection. It is the world's largest classic car showroom with $100million worth of inventory on display, including antique, muscle, famous and historically significant vehicles. Daily 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. $6.95 Entrance fee.
MGM GRAND - Lion Habitat -Behind 35 foot tall glass walls, the eight African lions eat, sleep and play above and around you. Daily 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. FREE
THE MIRAGE - Volcano - Flames shoot into the night sky some 100 feet above the waters below. Located in front of the Mirage along the "Strip". Nightly at the top of each hour from dusk to midnight. FREE
CIRCUS CIRCUSFeatures the world's largest permanent circus tent with ongoing circus acts. FREE
Finally - walking along the "Strip" in the evening is simply awesome, with Vegas lit up in all its glory. You've never seen so much glitter in all your life and - it's FREE
The hotels have become the town's true calling card. What's great is you don't have to stay in one of the big fancy hotels to enjoy them. Since they are casinos they are happy to have you come in and possibly gamble, eat, or shop. Paris is one star attraction but the Bellagio is particularly amazing and you can spend quite a bit of time there and not spend a penny, or you could spend your life's savings. That's your call.
Fondest memory: Huddled up due to cold is a common camping experience and after spending the last sixty nights in a tent, it would be understandable that I was having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that what I clutched to me for warmth was not a sleeping bag but sheets and covers. Yes, I was in a bed.
My wife slept soundly beside me and seemed to have no such problems, just pure content. Not that she hadn't loved most of the last sixty days, camping around the US Southwest. She knew well that in years to come, it would prove to be perhaps the greatest summer of her life. But sometimes, you just need some creature comfort and even if that comes in the form of a Motel 6 rather than the Bellagio, it is no less satisfying. In fact, I would chance to say that after camping in a tent for sixty days, our room felt even more luxurious to us than those spending the night in one of Vegas' more renowned hotels, assuming they had not been doing the same.
The two previous nights had found us first waking up in a frozen tent and then falling asleep in sweltering heat. Such are the extremes of the desert, especially when altitude becomes a factor. Driving into Vegas was like a dream. Not that either my wife or I gamble, or particularly ever wanted to come to Sin City, but after all the incredible natural sights we had spent the last two months experiencing, only a city so lavish and outrageous as Las Vegas could compare. It is an extreme city, befitting the extremes of its desert surrounding. But the dream was of a room as much as anything else. Oh, and maybe a few huge meals to help put on a couple of the pounds we had lost hiking, backpacking, and generally running ourselves into the ground trying to capture as much as possible in the best photographic light. There were a lot of all too early mornings when even staying in a sleeping bag would have been a luxury so Las Vegas was going to be a reward of sorts. We were going to get a room! (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
The toughest thing about not having a room for so long was getting out of the room once we got in there. Showers without sandals, walking around barefoot, laying in bed with the remote in hand: these were simple pleasures that you can only truly appreciate after not having them for some time. The funny thing is, we don't even watch TV when home but now it seemed like the greatest invention of all time.
But there was a great big city out there to see and luckily we had arranged to meet a good VT friend at the Vegas version of the famed Hofbrau Haus. My wife is German, I love German food and beer, and coincidentally we had met this very person at the real one in Munich a few years earlier. Perfect comes to mind. After a few big beers, some equally big meals, and some excited talk about the National Parks that the three of us love, it was time for Ernst to head back to California. He had been in the southwest for a shorter trip showing his parents around but he had to get back to work.
We walked around town on our own for maybe 45 minutes but as nice as it all looked, we knew where we wanted to be: back in that motel room, in that bed. The remote? We weren't figuring to need that. It had been 60 long nights without a room and watching TV was just not part of our plan.
Here's a tip. When you are driving to Las Vegas, make sure to use the valet parking. It is much easier than looking for a parking space at a parking lot. Most of the parking lots are located too far away and the walk is such a waste of time if you didn't have a lot of days spent in Las Vegas. If you valet park, all you have to do is to give your keys to the attendants and they park your car for you. And when you needed your car, they go get your car for you. And, the best part, it only cost you - maybe $5.00 for a tip!
This tip was given to us by my father-in-law who lives in Henderson. He told us that it is best to use the valet parking and save us a lot of pain...
Fondest memory: Watching the Cirque de Soleil with my family
With just a couple of days to explore Las Vegas, we had more than enough to see in the Strip area. But deciding to go and see the Rat Pack show one evening at the Plaza Hotel & Casino meant a trip downtown.
This visit to the heart of downtown Vegas became one of the highlights of the trip. This is where it all began, over a century ago. I don't think I have ever seen so many bright, flashing lights and neon signs in such a small area.
You can't miss the amazing Fremont Street Experience (see Things to do tip) with its sound and light shows. And you will see some of the famous old casinos, like the Golden Nugget and Binion's, the later home to a 'zero-limit' betting policy.
Fondest memory: I also really loved all the giant neon signs, especially the one at the entrance to Fremont Street East of a giant martini glass. Along Fremont Street you will also see the famous Vegas Vic neon cowboy outside the Pioneer Casino, and the neon Glitter Gulch cowgirl advertising a girlie-show.
The Strip, aka Las Vegas Boulevard, is what modern-day Vegas is all about. Lined with glitzy, themed hotels, casinos and mega-resorts, this is a bustling place by day and night.
Fondest memory: Try to experience the Strip at various times of day - the almost serene scenes early morning as the sun rises over the Eiffel Tower; the traffic jams and tourists sweating under the baking dessert sun in the middle of the day.
Late afternoon brings respite from that sun, so stop by the Bellagio and watch the fountains dance, before freshening up and hitting the street at night to see the Strip all lit up and sparkling, and do some casino hopping or catch a show. It's all good.
We spent a lot of time during our stay in Las Vegas just visiting the various themed hotels and casinos along the Strip. These places are massive! A visit to the Bellagio and its dancing fountains is a must. Then there is the Venetian, a (not so small) taste of Venice.
Or imagine the best of the New York skyline transplanted to the desert. Want to see the largest hotel in the world, then stop by the MGM Grand. Never been to Paris, well who needs to when you can see a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower instead.
Fondest memory: Although I'm not really a gambler, I also enjoyed walking through the various casinos, soaking up the atmosphere and hearing the cries of joy from those on a winning streak that day.
There is such an array of places to eat and drink inside the hotels, from fast food to celebrity chef restaurants, and lots of stylish bars and nightclubs for a post gamble cocktail or boogie.
From the Las Vegas Strip, you are able to see The "Arc de Triomphe" for free twenty four hours a day, This replica is a 2/3 scale of the original monument in Paris, France, that was dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Austerlitz. The names and dates of Napaleon's victories are inscribed on this Vegas replica.
It's located in an unusual spot: the check-in circle for the Paris Las Vegas Hotel/Casino. I even ran over to the monument to see it up close to inspect the details. They are amazing.
I was impressed with the authenticity of this monument and enjoyed seeing it as much as I enjoyed going into the hotel and casino with all its understated elegance.
There are these very cool kiosks in all the casinos - ok, maybe they are common place in your lives, but I had never seen anything quite like them before. They have 3 uses - an ATM, Ticket Redemption and Bill Breaking.
The ticket redemption option is used to cash in any winnings you may have on the slot machines - when you press the take your winnings button a ticket spits out from the slot machine and you can convert it to cash at this magic money machine.
Fondest memory: The ATM part means you can withdraw lots of money to gamble away, but when the machine gives you a couple of large notes you are in luck - this is where the bill breaking function comes in. You can put a large note into the machine and it will give you smaller notes. And you can tell it what combination of notes you would like. You can even put smaller notes in there (say a $5) and it will give you 5 x $1, which are perfect for a quick flutter on the slot machines or the endless tipping.
In a couple of the large hotels we visited we noticed some handy internet kiosks whose main purpose seemed to be as a flight check-in and boarding pass printing facility. What a great idea.
You can use cash (min $5) or your credit card to access the internet via the kiosk, choosing up front how much time you want (and this can be increased during your session). Once you have paid, the machine opens up to a page with a list of airlines and links to their check-in pages.
Be aware that if you do want to print off your boarding passes this will cost you an additional $1 per page, so is not included in the basic internet charge.
Fondest memory: We used the kiosk to check-in for two separate flights and found it easy to use (apart from an unusual mouse) and the speed was fast. You can also use the kiosk for regular internet browsing.
There is so much free entertainment around Las Vegas, that you really don't have to spend a cent on a show if you don't want to.
Desert Passage, which is in the Aladdin, has hourly entertainment starting at about 1:30 pm, and includes all sorts of very good acts that are of the Cirque du Soliel genre. At the other end of the mall is this duelling piano act that is quite entertaining. There is also a thunderstorm in the centre area, but I didn't happen to catch it.
Also, the Forum Shops at Caeser's Palace has free entertainment as well.
Just looking at the hotels and people watching also makes the time go by very quickly.
I am very fond of cactus and cannot help taking picture of this one. It must be common to some but to me every piece of this plant is unique. I always wanted to have collection of cactus especially those that are flowery with bright, very bright colours.
I just did not have the chance to collect too many varieties but I am happy enough to see cactus of different types in a once a desert Las Vegas. I guess on my next visit, I have to find out if I can do find some more of it.
Taken outside my hotel at Best Western McCarran Inn Hotel in Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nevada.
I will highlight here some of the Casinos and what they offer in CASINO GAMINGBALLY'S - 739-4111
Over 1,900 slot and vedeo machines, 90 gaming tables
BELLAGIO - 693-7444
Over 2,700 slot machines, a poker room and 173 table games
CAESARS PALACE - 731-7100
2,000 video and slot machines and a wide variety of gaming tables
CIRCUS CIRCUS -734-1410
Over 2,700 slot machines and 85 gaming tables
EXCALIBER - 597-7777
Over 2,500 slot machines and 83 gaming tables
HARRAH'S - 369-5000
Over 2,300 slot and video machines and 67 gaming tables
IMPERIAL PALACE - 731-3311
1,000 slot/video machines and 52 gaming tables
MIRAGE - 791-7111
Over 2,200 slot and video poker machines and 126 tables games. high limit table lounge and baccarat lounge
PARIS - 946-7000
Over 100 gaming tables and 2,000 slot machines
PLANET HOLLYWOOD - 785-5555
Offers 2,800 slot and video poker machines and 87 gaming tables
TREASURE ISLAND- 734-5110
Over 1,800 slot and video poker machines and 82 gaming tables
2,500 slot and video machines and 37 gaming tables
WYNN - 770-7000
111,000 square feet of casino gambling space
Of course, you must walk up and down Las Vegas Boulevard at night, when all the lights are on, it's quite beautiful.
What you can also do besides going up the Stratosphere at night to see the lights is going up the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas and viewing the Bellagio fountains at night as well, giving you a different perspective.
Fondest memory: The last time I went to Las Vegas I was 12, and all I remembered was the Flamingo sign where we stayed, and Circus Circus.
I had to look at the Flamingo again, and it was exactly the same as I remember it.
Definitely pay the $7 for 24 hours.
The Deuce is the bus which runs along the Strip.
From one end to the other - The Luxor down to Old Vegas!
Many stops along the way!
Buy tickets at the stops or when you board!
Double deckers buses (enclosed) - take pictures through the big windows up front on top ;)
More seating up top!
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