Friday, May 2, 2008

The Strip

The Suncoast offers a free shuttle to the strip. After work one evening, and after a good meal at Whole Foods, I asked how it worked. I was given a card with the times on it and found that a shuttle was leaving in 2 minutes then not again for over an hour. The return times that were reasonable to go with this adventure were 9 and 11 and since I have stayed somewhat on east coast time and been waking up early, I didn't think I would last until 11. That still left about 2 hours to see what I could see. Walking quickly and getting a good workout in the process here's my tour:

1. The starting point. The shuttle drop off and pick up point is outside of Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon. An amusing place to start since I like country music. I saved going inside for the end of my tour and proceeded across the street past Bally's to look at the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. Having been up the one in Paris, I did not go up the tower here or even into either of these casinos. I was more interested in what was across the street.

2. The Bellagio. The lobby's hand-blown glass flowers are beautiful and the Conservatory and Botanical Garden is amazing and fun. The current show was titled "Spring Celebration Show” The water fountains were from over sized watering cans but the real fun was the large critters. There was a frog and a ladybug and butterflies. They were basically flower sculptures. It reminded me of Rose Bowl Parade floats where everything is made from living items. That was not the case here as some of the metal framing was obviously part of the sculptures but it still has some similarities. I skipped the Fine Art Gallery. I was looking for a quick tour and free events. Besides, while I like some American Modernism, the exhibit is organized by the Boston MFA so I have probably seen many of the items. I missed the fountains - something for a later trip I guess.

There were also a few obvious reminders that the Bellagio is the ritzy casino in town. First as I walked up there were the limos. Not just standard limos from an airport and really, even more impressive than those advertised for prom night. Fancy limos with finely dressed drivers. The bellhops and lobby are also fancy but that happens in other not so nice hotels as well. Then there were the casino tables. After searching, I did find a few with minimum bets that I might consider if I knew anything about playing the game, but as I first walked through the all I saw were minimum bets of $100. That is without even getting close the the high stakes areas. Finally, as I headed out at the other end of the casino I walked through the shopping areas with very upscale items. The less obvious ritz factor was the noise - or lack of noise. Sure, the shopping area had high ceilings and hard floors and lots of echoes, but the casino was much quieter than the others I visited. There were just as many slots but they didn't seem so loud and there were just as many people. There was more carpeting to dull the sounds. It also was quiet as bright.

3. Next stop - a walk through Caesars Palace. The buildings with all the greek columns and statues and such are interesting. I wouldn't mind seeing a show in the Colosseum just because I have never been to Greece. I looked out at one pool, and the names of the bars and nightclubs are humorous.

4. On to the Mirage where the volcano is being renovated but the aquarium and the rain forest are interesting. I should have taken the free tram to Treasure Island even though it is just next door since the walkways wind through parking and valet areas and are not the easiest to navigate. I never went all the way to TI, but rather stopped and crossed on one of the pedestrian bridges to The Venetian. The gondolas outside were mostly covered and looked closed for the night. I did walk inside past a few shops but I did not see indoor canals. There were some very nice replicas of paintings and murals on the ceilings though. I was also too late to visit the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum.

5. I was tempted to go a bit further to the Wynn since one of my students used to work there and had described some behind the scenes features of the mountain. However, I was getting tired and I really did not want to miss that 9pm shuttle back to my hotel. So I started back passing through Harrah's where I found a lot of people and a lot of noise. Outside in the carnival court it was a little more comfortable to people watch. There was one of those carnival booth type places where you dress up and get your picture taken. I know the ones with covered wagons and still photos. This looked more like you get put in a movie - riding a motorcycle. And the couple checking out the place was trying on some black leather riding gear. I would place that in the What happens in Vegas staying in Vegas category. By the way, there was a sign posted at the place - "no cameras please".

6. I finished up at Bills with a $0.99 margarita, $5 into the slots, and a 15 minute wait for my ride back to SunCoast.

One last comment: I only had 2 Elvis sightings - both were on singing on the open air top level of tour buses.


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