Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where's my free buffet? (Myths about Vegas by Steve)

Hey everyone! This is Steve. I'm hijacking Tree's blog since I don't have one of my own. We just got back from Las Vegas where I was attending the Cisco convention. Overall the Cisco convention was great, but I wanted to reflect on Vegas since this was my first trip to Sin City. To be honest, I didn't exactly have high hopes as I'm neither a gambler nor a drinker, but I expected some level of...sophistication?
  • Myth: Vegas is glamorous. Reality: Vegas is a vacation destination filled with people on vacation. People on vacation do not dress in tuxedos and evening gowns. Most of the people wandering (usually aimlessly) around the hotels were wearing bathing suits, tank tops, and cut-offs. The other end of the spectrum were women in outfits that obviously took some effort to get into, but didn't exactly exude sophistication and elegance; believe it or not, I'm not talking about prostitutes, just girls on dates who wanted to get really tarted up. In my mind, Vegas was something closer to the movie 'Oceans Eleven.'
  • Myth: All the hotels on the strip are new and luxurious. Reality: The Mandalay Bay seemed nice, as did Paris, but I was staying in the MGM Grand, which was something of a dump. A very worn, tired, and dingy hotel. The layout was awful, the check-in/out painful, and of course they nickel-and-dime you to death. I would have preferred a nice, clean Marriott Courtyard. I heard that Circus Circus was so run-down they were now offering rooms for $30 a night.
  • Myth: Vegas has gambling, so everything else is cheap. Reality: The hotels on the strip have figured out you're not going to wander too far, so they've jacked up the price on just about everything except the rooms. Low room prices rope you in and then they soak you on everything else, whether you gamble or not. There is at least one Starbucks in every hotel and they actually have the gall to charge more than the Starbucks in airports. Cheap buffets? Not any more. Our breakfast buffet (which was excellent) was $17 per person. They also sell an all-day buffet pass for $35 to keep you coming back to the same hotel, and thus their casino. (When we walked into Paris at 8 pm, the line to get a table at the dinner buffet looked like a 30 minute wait.) Bottom line: the Strip is an expensive tourist trap.
  • Myth: It's fun to walk up and down the strip. Reality: Las Vegas Blvd, which bisects the strip, is more-or-less an eight lane highway driven by insane cabbies and mobile billboards. At most intersections you have to cross via a pedestrian overpass. It was nice of them to build these, but it certainly slows you down, as if the hordes of tourists doing the lookee see weren't slowing you down enough already. Don't even get me started on the hundreds of guys (and women, and their mothers and fathers) that deliberately get in your way handing out very risque leaflets for local strip clubs. Ironically, the relatively narrow sidewalks were far busier than the street, which led me to wonder why they don't annex the outer lanes of the street to expand the pedestrian traffic, which is very valuable to the casinos. One positive note: the fountains at the Bellagio were wonderful.
  • Myth: Vegas is fun for the whole family. Reality: The strip is a frat party with the intensity knob turned down from 11 to about 9. That is to say, there are stupid drunk people everywhere, yelling and drinking and being annoying. Unlike a frat party however, people on the strip aren't throwing beer bottles at each other, and I think that's only because the margaritas are served in plastic containers that everyone wants to take back home as proof of how much they drank. Among the throngs of obnoxious drinkers were children. Lots of them, usually looking awestruck and sometimes horrified if they weren't passed out asleep in a stroller due to the heat or the late hour. I wondered what these kids were doing in Vegas other than swimming in the pool (hopefully after a liberal dousing with SPF 100 sunblock) and watching TV. I also wondered what their parents were doing at night, since most pre-schoolers aren't going to sit through Penn and Teller, and as far as I know Cirque du Soleil isn't doing a Dora the Explorer show (yet). Did I mention the cigarette smoke? Casinos and the Strip are filled with seniors who never kicked the habit. Thankfully I had a non-smoking room. My whole floor was non-smoking actually, but as soon as the elevator door opened up, the smoke would hit me in the face like an iron skillet. Everything (and I mean everything) in a hotel is connected to the casinos, so there is no escaping the smoke. After three nights in the MGM, my sinuses were just short of a full-blown nose-bleed. I shudder at the thought of these small kids dealing with it.
Despite all this I can see why a lot of people want to come to Las Vegas. Many people like to drink a bit and I'm sure they love the idea that you can take your drink with you while "casino-hopping." If I were younger I'm sure I'd have had a little more appreciation for what Vegas has to offer. Unfortunately we weren't able to see any shows, other than the Cisco party on Wednesday, which was not a "Vegas" show per se, but rather a piecemeal entertainment showcase. I would love to see Penn & Teller and one of the dozen or so Cirque du Soleil shows if I ever go back, which will probably be next year since Cisco doubled-down at Mandalay Bay for next year's convention. However it will take more than a good show alone to bring me back. Bryce and Zion are more entertaining and cheaper by far.


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