Today was my day to explore the Vegas Strip. Until now, I hadn’t really gone far from my hotel and there were plenty of places I wanted to check out. I had breakfast at the second cafe, where I got a coffee and a massive breakfast bagel filled with bacon, egg and cheese. I was wanting to buy tickets to a Vegas show that night, and there is a cheap ticket place just down the road from Planet Hollywood, so I started off that way and figured I’d stop in at the casinos on the way to check them out.
First stop along the way was Paris. A half size scale replica of the Eiffel Tower stands at out the front of the casino, with one of its legs going through the ceiling and down to the gaming floor. It’s an impressive structure, and there’s a lift that you can ride to the top to take in the views. It was really hot outside, and a I thought it was a bit pricey for what it was. I was quite content enjoying Vegas from the ground. Inside the casino, the ceiling was painted with a blue, cloudy sky and there were fountains and statues scattered throughout. One corner was decorated as a Parisian street at night with a cabaret stage, and as a clever play on words an area of pokies was named Seine City.
As I left the casino and continued down the strip, to the left was a replica of the Arc de Triomphe. It was strange to see these iconic Paris sights out in the hot Nevada desert. Next stop was Planet Hollywood which is just across the street from Paris. The vibe here was much more slick and modern, but it didn’t really have the same charm and character as Paris. Although, later in the day when I went further in I found it was actually quite interesting.
To cross the next street I had to go up the escalator and across the footbridge. On the way back down, on the corner was a cafe with a massive motor bike shooting out the front – the Harley Davidson Cafe.
Just past there I came to the Hawaiian Marketplace, an open area with a couple of small food stalls, some bars and a stage. There wasn’t any entertainment on while I was there, but there were still a lot of people around, enjoying a break from the sun.
The cheap ticket place, Tix4Tonight, was there so I went to check out prices for that night. There was a Cirque De Soleil show I was keen to see, but it wasn’t discounted – the ticket price was $180! There was no way I wanted to spend that much money, so I had a look at what else was on offer. I’d read about a David Copperfield show, but some of the reviews said that he was getting too old and his tricks were out dated so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk it. After reading lots of reviews about various shows I was getting confused, so I went back to the discounts board to and decided to see what was on sale and just do it. There was a show called Vegas, The Show for $50 and it sounded like fun (potentially tacky, but fun) so I went with it. They gave me a voucher, and explained I had to take it to the ticket booth before the show to exchange it for a ticket. The show was at Planet Hollywood, so that was on my way back to the hotel later in the day.
With my ticket safely stashed in my back pack I continued on my way. I was surprised to find a strip of very ordinary looking shops, with a Maccas on the corner. In amongst all the impressive, shiny buildings it was strange to see something so plain and simple.
Just past those shops were some other smaller shops, except they were more touristy. There was an M&M world (this one was 4 stories tall!) and a Coca Cola store. I skipped M&M world since I’d already visited the one in New York, but I took a little look at the Coca Cola store. It was filled with all sorts of Coke merchandise, from caps and backpacks, to mugs, cups, glasses and mini Coca Cola fridges. There were glass bottles with various patterns and designs, and a cafe upstairs serving Coke, frozen Coke and snacks. I’m quite amazed that they’re able to make an entire store out of something as simple as Coke or M&Ms.
I was starting to warm up outside, and was getting a bit hungry, so stopped in at MGM International next, where I had chicken strips at the Rainforest Cafe. The cafe was really cool, set in a fake rainforest. There were monkeys and birds in the trees (pretend of course…), and a mist was creeping out of the bushes. The base of the bar was a wall of water filled with bubbles, and just after I got there there was a thunder storm with lightning. It was a great place to stop for lunch, because there was so much to take in!
After I’d finished lunch, I went up the escalator and crossed of the Strip to New York New York. Out the front is a big Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, and the hotel building itself is shaped like the New York skyline featuring landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Chrysler Centre. The whole complex is surrounded by a roller coaster.
Inside, the building is decorated with New York styled buildings, with fire escape stairs zig-zagging down the front of them. There are streets lined with actual cafes and an area called Times Square. Parts of it actually felt like little pieces of New York squashed into a casino.
I went to check out the pool there, but couldn’t go in without paying. I walked past the lifts and they had an outline of the Empire State Building engraved on them. It reminded me a lot of the pattern on the lifts in the actual Empire State Building.
After that I went back outside into the hot sun and crossed over to Excalibur. This casino is themed like a massive castle. It looked huge from the outside, but I only saw a small section on the inside. I think a lot of it is probably hotel because the gaming area didn’t seem too big.
I walked in down a dark, stoney passageway which opened into an entrance hall with artificial stained glass windows. It felt like an older casino, but it was still a pretty cool theme, looking just how I’d expect a medieval castle to look. I didn’t spend much time at Excalibur because apart from the gaming area there wasn’t a lot else to see, but I was glad to have checked it out.
Next door to Excalibur is the Luxor which is Egyptian themed. It’s a very impressive building! There’s a big, tinted glass pyramid and the entrance is through a huge sphinx. In front of that is an obelisk. Apart from the pyramid, I think most of it is purely decorative, but it was one of the more impressive themed casinos.
I walked around the inside as well where there are stone dog statues, carvings of mummies and a small moat. The gaming area was pretty standard, but the rest of the building was really cool.
After the Luxor I decided to start making my way back to my hotel. It was getting really hot, and my legs were getting tired. I considered catching the monorail back, but I didn’t want to miss out on seeing anything else on the way so I decided to walk. I went back past New York New York, and popped in briefly at Monte Carlo. They were don’t works out the front, so it was a bit tricky to find the entrance. Inside it seemed a lot like any other casino.
I wanted to go to Planet Hollywood to collect my ticket for the show, so went past the Cosmopolitan which I’d stopped in at the night before, then crossed over to Planet Hollywood. Planet Hollywood is massive, and I got a bit lost. There’s a big theatre in the centre of the complex and I thought that was where I had to collect my ticket. When I got there it was closed, so I went to buy a smoothie and figured I’d just have to come back a bit earlier than planned to get my tickets.
Then, as I was trying to find my way out I came across a smaller theatre and another ticket box (which was actually at the back of the complex and obviously not the way out…). It turned out that’s where I had to get my ticket, and that was where the show would be later on. The lady at the counter explained that my ticket was general admission, which was the back section of the theatre, and offered me an upgraded to set seating in the front section for an extra $25. I decided to just get there early and take my chances with general admission.
Ticket in hand, I made my way back to the hotel to cool off in the pool before going back out. It was 4pm so I had a bit of time. This time I decided to just stick with the family pool cos it was a bit quieter and I just wanted to relax and read a book in between dips in the pool. Just after 5pm I went back upstairs, showered and got dressed. Despite the heat, I decided on jeans and a shirt so I’d feel a bit less touristy. Initially I was regretting it, but later in the night once the sun had gone down it was ok.
The show didn’t start until 7pm, but I arrived at 6pm because the lady said the queue normally starts about an hour beforehand. There was a sign saying that only drinks purchased at a particular bar could be taken in to the theatre, so I went to ask where the bar was and how that worked. It turned out that I was able to sit at the bar, and then at 7pm they give bar patrons priority access over the normal queue! So I settled down at the bar, and waited in comfort for 7pm.
When it was time to go in we all gathered at the door and they showed us to our seats. It turned out that the theatre was only about half full, so rather than sitting us in the general admission area they used us to fill the spaces in the set seating section. Being by myself they were able to fit me in the fourth row from the front, right in the middle! I was really glad I hadn’t gone with the upgrade.
The show was great. It started off in a dusty room with old Vegas memorabilia covered in sheets. A cleaner walked across the stage, then said hello and told us he could take us on a journey through the history of Vegas. All the dusty signs lit up and the show was off. It featured a little bit of everything from Vegas, including an Elvis impersonator, showgirls wearing billowing feathered outfits, Broadway songs, tap dancers and random entertainment between acts, including an amazing pair of roller skaters spinning round and round on a small platform and swinging each other as they spun, a clumsy guy on a trampoline and a magician. It was a lot of fun, and very entertaining but I felt a bit sad towards the end because they played real footage of previous hotels being demolished to make way for newer hotels and casinos. I felt like the newer ones didn’t quite have the same charm as the older ones. Still, it was a great show, going for almost two hours and well worth seeing!
After that I had a plan that took me up the strip, in the opposite direction I’d gone during the day. A few of the casinos have special shows at night, most of them hourly, and I had taken a look at the schedule and plotted a path down the road to see them all. The first was the Fall of Atlantas at Caesars Palace. I had a bit of trouble finding it in the casino, because it’s so big. I thought I was at the right spot, because I’d read that the statues came to life for the show and I had found some big statues around a fountain. It turned out to be further inside the casino so I missed the first 5 minutes. Still, the bit I saw was impressive with two gods fighting and shooting fireballs at each other.
After that I went to Treasure Island (TI) where two pirate ships do battle every hour and a half. I was 30 minutes early, and a small crowd had started to gather.By the time the show started the area was packed. There was a special elevated area set aside for guests of Treasure Island.
Either side of the entrance to the casino is water, with a big ship on the left and a smaller pirate ship on the right. The big ship was taken over by Sirens who had kidnapped a pirate. They lured the smaller pirate ship to come closer and rescue the kidnappee. The pirates came over and fired their canon, then the Sirens fought back and sunk the pirate ship. It was really exciting, with huge fireballs shooting out of the larger ship, and the pirate ship started to spurt water and actually sank!
There was a lot of effort in the show, with actual people involved. All up I think there were about 15 performers, which is probably why this show only happens every 90 minutes rather than hourly.
The next show was the hourly volcano eruption at the Mirage. Fortunately, all these places were next door to each other so I didn’t have far to go. The problem then, though, was that I got to each one pretty early so had a bit of waiting to do. I managed to get a really good spot for the volcano eruption though.
Out the front of the hotel is a big lake with a rocky island in the centre. On the hour the volcano erupts spurting lava and fireballs into the air. I was curious to see how they did the lava. It was well done, with jets of water shooting up, coloured by red lights within the volcano. There were gas jets in the water below, so as the lava ran down the volcano the rocks and water below caught on fire. I could really feel the heat coming off the fireballs! It was very impressive.
My final stop for the night was the Lake of Dreams at Wynn. To get there I went past the Venetia where the gondolas were tied up for the night.
Wynn was a really fancy casino. Out the front was a nice looking garden, with soft lights shining on the trees. Just inside the entrance the corridor was lined with expensive shops, leading to a sparkly indoor garden before the gaming area. There were a couple of nice bars inside as well.
The Lake of Dreams was a strange lake with a smooth rock waterfall in the centre. The lake is surrounded by a forest. There’s a bar upstairs looking out over the lake, and I sat there with a lemonade to watch the show. During the show an unusual video was projected onto the waterfall, and the lake covered with fog. It was an abstract animation with soothing background music. Some monkey-like puppets came down from the trees and danced in front of the screen, and other shapes and figures rose out of the lake. It only went for about 5 minutes, but it was an interesting show to watch.
By now it was 11.30pm and I hadn’t had dinner! I was super hungry, so stopped at the first place I could find – a yummy pizza place in Wynn. It was nice to stop and sit for a while after all the walking and standing I’d done that night. It was also really good to have some food!
After dinner I started to make my way back to the Flamingo, going via the casinos along the way. It was still really hot outside, so it was way better to keep inside with the air conditioning. I stopped inside the Venetian and watched roulette for a little while before deciding to play the big wheel. I exchanged $30 for chips but didn’t have much luck. It was $5 per game, and I only won a couple but lost the rest. It was fun to play though, and a bit scary to watch how much money some other people were playing with (and losing!).
As I walked along, no matter what time of day, there were people handing out brochures and business cards for strip clubs. Amazingly, a lot of the people handing out the cards were middle aged Latin-American women, wearing tshirts printed with GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!!! They even tried giving cards to guys who were clearly holding hands with a girlfriend or wife. Some other people were giving out discount VIP entry to clubs.
There were also heaps of people with eskys selling iced water. “Waaater! Ice cold waaater!” could be heard everywhere, again generally being sold by Latin-Americans. Technically they weren’t actually selling it, but they were happy to take a donation of a dollar or two.
I stopped at Hurrahs after I left the Venetian. It looked bright and fun from the outside but was quite old and seedy on the inside. I kept moving and checked out the Flamingo one last time before heading to bed. The flamingos had their heads tucked under their wings trying to sleep, but it was really noisy so I’m not sure how they managed to.
It had been a super busy day with lots of walking, but I’d had a lot of fun exploring. I felt like I’d seen just about everything there was to see!