Las Vegas is a bit over five hours north of Phoenix, five hours spent on mostly straight, parched desert highways. I’ve lived in Phoenix since 1996, but have never visited Las Vegas.
Why this sad state of affairs? Because Las Vegas has little that interests me. I don’t gamble, I don’t like big glittery shows, and I yell at clouds.
It was getting ridiculous. Why not spend a couple of days so I get some idea of what the place is like? It might be great!
Here we go.
The thing I failed to grok about Las Vegas is the sheer scale of the place. It is massive. Driving in to the city from Phoenix you come through some mountains, with Las Vegas spread out before you in a bowl. According to my GPS, there were 10 miles to go to the hotel, and still I could clearly see the hotels on the strip.
They are massive.
The same thing happens when walking between hotels—they look close, but hoo boy, are you in for some walking.
If I have one tip for a Las Vegas vacation, it’s this: Comfortable shoes and be ready to walk.
The same goes if you decide to spend all your time in one hotel. They are almost comically large. They are also designed to get you lost.
The casino-slash-shopping center floors, at least in the hotels I visited on the Strip, are purposely designed to be an assault on the senses and to disorient you. They’re roach motels for humans.
This is probably not a unique observation, but it did strike me as I walked through the blaring floor of a casino how much it reminded me of a video game level. I’m guessing there’s a lot of the same psychology involved.
You have to learn how to navigate and level up in skills about how the place works.
For a complete n00b like me, the casino floors were utterly impenetrable. Where do you buy tokens? How do you join a game? Where do you even begin?
Without somebody to guide you, it’s hard to get started, but once you do get started, you’re leveling up quickly, you bigshot you!
One tension that is obvious when walking around is between new Vegas the family-friendly tourist destination and old Vegas, the Sin City.
As a boring person mostly moving about during the daytime, I saw so many tourists with children. Which I didn’t really understand—what is there to do with your children in Las Vegas you can’t do somewhere else for much less money?
But hey, it’s your money.
Sidebar: If you’re a parent with small children, you know where you should take them? Nowhere. Until they’re seven or so, they will remember nothing and you will have spent a lot of money and frustration for literally no reason except stress testing your marriage. Save the money till they’re old enough to actually remember things.
Seriously. Every time I’m at an airport or tourist destination and watch the tired, stressed-out parents blowing gobs of money to give their small children a good time, it breaks my heart.
But back to Las Vegas. Another thing about the Strip is that there’s nowhere to sit. No park benches at all.
Oh, you can sit. It’s Las Vegas—you can do whatever you want. You just need to pay somebody to get access to a place to sit. Palms need to be crossed with silver.
Las Vegas is extra odd, I think, for people who live in Phoenix, as the metropolises share climate and architecture. Apart from the Strip itself, walking around Las Vegas is like walking around Phoenix. It’s a bit weird for things to be so commonplace and mundane and then blam! a huge arcology on the horizon!
Again, the scale is the nuttiest thing.
It’ll be very interesting to see what happens with Las Vegas. Obviously any place that operates on that kind of insane scale needs a steady stream of tourists, and now that the herd of gamblers is thinning out, will family tourism be enough to replace the gamblers and wannabe high-rollers?
Can Sin City and family tourism co-exist?
Personally, I doubt it, but I would never have predicted something as odd as Las Vegas in the first place.
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