Theme Park of the Day: Disney's Animal Kingdom

Trip Report: Las Vegas

It might not seem like the kind of place you would find on a theme park website, but Las Vegas is like Orlando after it’s had one-too-many drinks.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 13, 2009 at 9:50 PM
Some years back, our family decided that we never knew what to get each other for Christmas. Instead, we decided that we would take a small vacation every year with the money we would have spent on gifts. This year’s gift was Las Vegas.

The parallels you draw between Las Vegas and Orlando are numerous. Probably the most notable of these parallels is that in both locations, every patron is looking for a cheap thrill. Add to this major production shows of every variety (from artistic and intellectually stimulating to sleaze not worth the gum on your shoe), themed resorts, restaurants (at both locations, dining has seriously improved over the years), and diverse crowds (young to old, rich to … not so rich, domestic to foreign, business to casual, hipster to yuppie, redneck to ivy league, and everything in between). To boot, both are expensive, and both follow the TPI philosophy: less is more. In Orlando, you must choose the amount of TIME you’re willing to allot to each park on each day. In Vegas, you must choose the amount of MONEY you’re willing to allot to gambling (if you take that route). If you expect to leave Vegas with a small fortune, go there with a large one.

Both locations also smash their stereotypical boundaries. Orlando is not just for children, and Vegas is not just for the 21+ crowd. Both cater to many tastes, although Orlando does a better job of it. Character meet-n-greets might not interest an adult, but they certainly won’t harm them. Kids, on the other hand, might be thrown off by Minnie in a studded thong.

We always make sure to plan a significant portion of our trips before we leave. To find the best in dining, accommodations, and entertainment, we always purchase the Unofficial Guide series. It’s our personal favorite travel book. We also purchased the Frommer’s and Fodor’s guides. Post-New Year’s travel is light in Vegas, so we only made one dinner reservation for a Saturday night and booked tickets to Cirque du Soleil: Mystere, one of the six blow-your-mind-and-wallet Cirque shows to grace Las Vegas’ cesspool.

Day 1

For the past four years, we have departed for our vacation destination on New Years Day. For the past four years, I have been so hungover I’ve considered skipping the trip. The airport is the last place I want to be when I smell like grappa and stale pizza. Nevertheless, we flew with Delta from Syracuse (it’s cheaper for us to drive to Syracuse and fly from there rather than flying straight from Ottawa) at 12:30p to Atlanta (may I recommend “Pascal’s” for all your southern comfort dining needs, like collard greens and fried chicken), where we flew at 5:30p to arrive in Vegas for 7:00p or so.

… Wait a tick … Something’s wrong …

They … didn’t lose our luggage? They … didn’t delay our flights? No … it can’t be … Did we experience … a hassle-free trip?

HA! Praise be to Elvis, The Rat Pack, and all the Vegas saints! We NEVER have a perfect flight. EVER.

We were staying at The Signature at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. The Signature is a new breed of Vegas hotel that is pissing off the other contenders in town. First off, they have big, well-appointed rooms, whereas most of the Vegas fare is small and lacking. Second, most rooms have balconies. In Vegas, this is a no-no in case Uncle Charlie loses his kids’ college funds and decides that the quickest way to get to the lobby is via gravity. Third, there is no casino. That’s right. No casino in the lobby. Although they’re attached to the MGM Grand by a tunnel (approximate 15-minute walk from our rooms), the Signature towers have no gambling. They are mostly quiet with few children, but this also means no late night snacks/drinks are nearby. There is also a required $15/day charge for newspaper, bottled water, and other amenities.

From Las Vegas 2009

Well, sure enough, we couldn’t possibly have a perfect traveling experience. We were supposed to have adjacent junior and one-bedroom suites, but somebody screwed up and they were on different floors. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the concierge staff was unhelpful and indifferent. They laughed, saying things like, “It was probably that ditz Janine who booked it.” Very professional. They managed to get us adjacent suites for the last two nights of the visit, and the other staff were very pleasant the rest of the trip.

The rooms were beautiful. My brother and I stayed in the junior suite.

From Las Vegas 2009

It was big, beautiful, and had some nice touches, like bathrobes, LCD television, Jacuzzi, a huge bathroom with two sinks and a TV, and a telephone next to your toilet (just in case you wanna chat while you scat). The larger one-room suite had an even larger bathroom, and also included a balcony and kitchenette.

From Las Vegas 2009

From Las Vegas 2009

My brother and I grabbed some late night grub at McDonald’s by walking to the “MGM Walk”, which was similar to CitiWalk at Universal: shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. And despite the economy, the place was packed. It took 25 minutes just to get a chicken club sandwich.

By this time, I was ready to head back and watch Twilight Zone episodes until I passed out.

God Bless American T.V.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 14, 2009 at 1:14 PM
Man, I want to go back.

From Don Neal
Posted January 14, 2009 at 1:31 PM
Will there be updates for Day 2 and beyond? :)

From James Rao
Posted January 14, 2009 at 1:56 PM
Friend of mine just got back from Vegas, said he stayed in the same hotel as you, Josh. Also said the theming at many of the hotels/casinos was off the charts. I have never been to Vegas myself, but then I am not much into gambling. As Gary Shandling once said, "I am so bad at gambling that I just pull the gear shift on my car and throw my money out the window." I get the same fun of playing slots - with the same results! ;)

Anyway, what else happened on your trip....or does what happens in Vegas truly stay in Vegas?

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 14, 2009 at 2:16 PM
Days 2, 3, and 4 are to follow.

Vegas, like Orlando, is really over the top with its theming. The New York, New York Hotel has enormous, colorful remakes of famous landmarks and buildings from the Empire State. Circus Circus has trapeze artists performing over the casino while you gamble. TI: Treasure Island has an enormous pirate battle (well, it used to - now it's just a dance show), The Bellagio does a synchronized music and fountain show, and every casino/hotel has something unnecessarily lavish and spectacularly tacky. It's like a theme park on acid.

The gambling in Vegas is too serious for my liking, so I mostly avoided it and stuck only to tables with few patrons. More to come later.

Thanks for reading.

From David Morgan
Posted July 17, 2010 at 3:50 PM
Pretty much the whole place is like a theme park, in my experience.

From David Morgan
Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:20 PM
In a positive way, I mean. :)

Mandalay Bay Hotel Las VegasThe Palazzo at the Venetian

From lance riter
Posted February 17, 2011 at 5:44 PM
We recently stayed at the Wynn for our 25th anniversary. Every second of our stay was a dream, from the valet to the cleaning staff. We have never stayed in a place so luxurious and probably never will again. We planned ahead and bought snacks and drinks to have in our room. We even bought 2 styrofoam coolers, one for the room and one for the car. Every where we went, there were people willing to help or answer questions. Fabulous dinner buffet and great perks on the players card. If you stay in a 5 star hotel, plan on paying for extras or avoid them. This trip will forever be in our memories as the best place on earth. The pool area felt like you were no where near Vegas or the desert. Low room rates for Wynn Hotel Las Vegas and Mirage Hotel Las Vegas, either way you cant go wrong.


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