Before my first visit there last August, whenever I heard the name Las Vegas (often abbreviated as Vegas) Gambling always came to mind. And why not? Las Vegas, Nevada has always been billed as the Entertainment Capital of the World.’
Vegas also has an infamous side though — Sin City as it is oftentimes referred to evidenced by the insistent peddling of ‘porno’ type information on ‘The Strip’ from dusk to dawn. I Do not think it is any more of a Sin City, though, than Bangkok, (Thailand), Ho Chi Ming City (Viet Nam) or New Delhi (India), to name a few. In any event, I have no interest in this shady side of the City. I was staggered, however, by the tremendous focus the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority there have placed on the promotion of family visitation to Las Vegas. For awhile I thought I was at Disney World.
Depending on how you see it, however, Las Vegas is quite a town with some very interesting features.
Since our maiden voyage to The Meadows (English name for Las Vegas) five months ago, my wife and I have visited a second time (three months later) and have already booked a return trip for this coming April. Three trips in ten months? Yeah! Guess you can say we really like the place.
I enjoy having money in my pocket so I am not at all big on gambling whether it is in Vegas or elsewhere. Moreover, while I enjoy seeing a first class Broadway style show every so often, I am certainly not a groupie. As if to say, if I never get to see Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Wayne Newton or Comedian George Wallace, chances are I will still live. As for eating good food and drinking a couple glasses of a full-bodied Merlot…Whoa Nelly! Now that is another story.
In Vegas, you have it all. Casinos are like flies after smelly fish … they are all over the place and yes, you really can gamble 24 hours day. In addition, the entertainment is the best. Nevertheless, for me it is all about Food, Drinking and People Watching.
I will talk about food and drinking in just a moment, but when walking The Strip, the people are the biggest attraction for me. I am an avid people watcher. Still think that Washington DC is the most cosmopolitan city in the U. S. of A? Think again! If Vegas has not taken the lead yet, the city must be a very close second.
Walking the Vegas Strip (always with camera in hand), you really feel the wonderment of the international flavor of this wilderness city. If you stand at any intersection on The Strip for about 20 – 30 minutes, chances are you would have heard some German, Japanese, Spanish, British, Aussie, Chinese, or any number of other languages (or dialects) that you don’t know or may have never heard before.
Being the inquisitive person I am known to be (at times), I walked up to this guy when my wife and I were visiting last August because I was very curious about his accent which I could not place. Needles to say, it got the better part of me.
“What country are you from? I asked.” “I speak Malagasy. I am from Madagascar, “he said. After that brief encounter, I said to myself…” Madagascar? What the hell is the fascination in Las Vegas for this national of Madagascar which, incidentally, is the fourth largest Island in the world? Certainly could not be for tourism because if you are from Madagascar, South Africa is probably the first place you would want to go as a tourist or if you were job hunting.
It did not take me long to figure it out though. It is all about EMPLOYMENT. Given the hospitality industry of this fast-paced city which attracts 40-million tourists annually, you are likely to find Nationals from literally every country in the world here in the work force. Thus, the international flavor I alluded to earlier in the article. This is (perhaps) why Jennifer and I heard so much foreign music piping from novelty stores along The Strip and on the back streets as well. [Wherever goes I, I take me culture … so to speak.] In fifty years, I guarantee you will not recognize Las Vegas.
We have a saying in The Bahamas that goes something like this: Me ‘Belly full and Bottom glad’ which literally translates into: Good Food! The same could be said about Vegas: Best food in the world.
Over the years both, my wife and I have been fortunate to travel very extensively…especially my wife and, as always, the success of our visit abroad is almost always about ‘The Food Experience’ we had at this place or at that place. Also, as we are both wine drinkers, cannot forget how important that is also. (Some of the best I have had were Chilean wines. I am certainly not a connoisseur – maybe a drunk – but that is my take.)
The Food in Las Vegas is to die for and do not be surprised to find restaurants there being operated (or owned) by some of the biggest names in culinary history. Names like Paul Bartolotta (Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare); Bradley Ogden; Daniel Boulud (Daniel Boulud Brasserie); David Burke; Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House); Joel Robuchon; Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu); Rick Moonen (RM Seafood) or Wolfgang Puck (Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill) to name a few. Furthermore, nowhere else can travelers dine as well for so little as in Las Vegas. In addition, whatever you do while you are in Vegas, chump down on a buffet at ANY of the fine hotels on The Strip. Again, the food is to die for.
As an aside, I am a sucker for a nice juicy Pastrami sandwich and whenever I travel to New York there is small not so popular Deli in mid-town Manhattan that, until my Vegas experience, made the best Pastrami sandwich on the planet. Not any more! If you want the experience of a lifetime, go to the Backstage Deli at the Luxor Hotel and order their Pastrami sandwich. You will enjoy it better with a glass of Merlot after 2 am. Trust me!
I purposely left this feature for the last. Vegas is also a photographer’s Paradise and a smorgasbord of photo ops you are unlikely to find at most other tourist destinations. For example, each of these mega resort hotels on Vegas’ famous Strip is theme-based and is a story waiting to be told as a photographic essay. Moreover, do not think you can do it all on one trip….No way jose. My wife and I tried that in August, but after visiting the third hotel (after some 4 – 5 hours later), we gave up. Furthermore, to really appreciate what a hotel like the Luxor has to offer photographically, for example, you have to literally stay there for a couple of days.
Then, of course, there are the mountains that surround this desert metropolis. What a prime target for a sunrise or sunset shot. All you need to do is set your camera on a tripod, compose and take random shots of 10 minutes intervals (of the same scene) from 5:30 pm to about 7pm in the evening, or from 5am – 6:30 am in the morning and you would be surprise of the variations you’ll get of just that one scene. Truly Spectacular.
Finally, it is not all about walking The Strip. If you’re there for 4 – 5 days, you’d want to rent a car (just for a day) and take a ride to North Vegas which is quite different from South Vegas. We particularly liked the suburb of Henderson which is right off Interstate 215 and is Southeast of McCarran International Airport. When we were driving around Vegas, one thing was very apparent… the city is very well planned and the highways immaculately kept. Overall, the city is very clean.
Jennifer and I love it there and, just in case you are wondering, I am not working for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, neither am I being paid to write this article. We just fell in love with the place. If you visited Las Vegas and had a different experience, as the French say … C’est la vie’ (Such is life.)
Generally speaking though, it all depends on how you see it… Vegas, that is.