… and on Flickr… and youtube! So this past weekend was a bit of an interesting diversion from my usual yearly routine. My mom wanted to go to a class reunion out in Las Vegas so I ended up accompanying her to it. I didn’t do the usual preparations like I usual do so I kinda just winged it. Since hotel and flights were booked in advance and I actually had some time of the leash… Yeah actually about that… The funny thing about Las Vegas is it’s a lot of fun to go there but man you have to hold back a bit when travelling there with a parental.
Anyway, I may have derped my planning a bit because I didn’t schedule a recovery day so immediately after touching down Monday afternoon, and what I can only call a nap, I was on the road for 2 1/2 hours straight into work. I haven’t been home in over 4 days! Normally on a long trips like Dragon*Con I schedule a recovery day so I can recoup and get my sleep schedule back on track but this time I didn’t have that. Meh… so today’s going to be semi-productive… who the hell am I kidding, I have shit to do today :O
Flying and the Airport Experience
So I have a love and hate relationship with flying. I love flying itself. I love being in the air and stuff! Hell, if I had better eye sight and probably better physical form I would have wanted to be a pilot! Airplanes fascinate me to no end and always amazed at how the work. The experience inside the cabin is far different these days compared to when I flew as a teenager. Airlines have cut down quite a lot in the experience of flying. This may be due to not being an international flight but seriously… I’ll post more about my obsession with planes later… really… it’s a bit of an obsession.
ANYWAY… Back to the trip, of course travelling does have headaches. TSA requirements and luggage issues. Since this is a several day trip, I had to check in one suitcase. Normally we could have put this on the plane as carry but the problem was my mom packed a few too many things. Oh well, anyway checking in isn’t an issue, and they were kind enough to deal with the suitcase issue at the airport. Something I wish I knew about when I flew to Washington D.C. the last time.
TSA security is well security… I’m not saying much else for well security reasons but one thing I will note, the scanners don’t like cargo pants that much. They had to pat down the side pockets because of the pants lining. A nice pair of slacks should do. Also where easy to put on tennis shoes or walking shoes because you’ll be on your feet a lot. The airports are getting bigger and bigger!!
The City of Sin
Anyway beyond the airport we have Las Vegas… Compared to Florida, Las Vegas was a nice day outside. Sure it was +85 degrees but it wasn’t humid, I actually enjoyed it! Of course there were people all around complaining about how hot. Vegas is huge by far, and we were staying right in the middle of the strip at the Flamingo. One thing to note about going to Vegas is bring lots of money. Not for gambling but if you are going to do that set aside money ONLY For gambling. You’ll most likely lost it all but you don’t want to eat up the other cash you need to survive while there.
Did someone say Food?
Food… GOD the food is expensive! Normally when I eat out the food from a fast food place would run me about 5-8 dollars. Las Vegas? Try 14-20 dollars! No seriously! A slice of pizza, a side salad and a drink was 15 dollars for me. Albeit it was a stuffed veggie pizza it’s still a bit on the high side pricewise but the Jonny Rocket that was there was no better. Of course you could also eat at the buffets. Each hotel (except the Caesars Palace at the moment) has a buffet. They range from as low as 21 dollars to as high as 40 dollars. One thing to note is before you go, get a members card for each of the hotel groups there. There are I couple that I I know of. MLife covers the MGM group including Monte Carlo, and the new Aria hotels (more on those hotels later), the Players Advantage which covers the Caesars Palace, Flamingo and Harrahs, and the one that covers the Venetian. I didn’t check that one out because of time constaints. Sign up online before you go and then just drop by the hotel and they’ll hand you a personalized card. What are they good for? Well you earn points for spending money at their hotels for food (restaurants only it seems), gambling, and tickets. Some cards will even get you discounts, especially on the food!
So the buffets, these are a glutton’s dream resort. Anything you want could end up in these places. The first place I tried was Harrah’s mostly due to a miscommunication between myself and Yelp. The food was decent. They had a wide selection with salads (yes I did eat quite a bit of it over the weekend!) seafood, pastas, some Chinese/Japanese cuisines and Mexican. The deserts were just as good. I also tried out the MGM’s buffet. Remember when I gave that price range, MGM is much more expensive but for a reason. The food was much much better and even had a place that would cook steak to order (order it medium well or well done to be safe). One thing to be careful while eating there is no your limit. The first day you’ll feel full when you hit it but the subsequent days it’s a bit harder. I only did this for two of the days. I was actually planning on eating at a restaurant at the MGM but ended up at the buffet instead. Maybe I chickened out since I was by myself but I dunno… The buffet at the MGM was good though :O
I don’t remember that being there…
Or in some cases, wasn’t there a hotel here? Las Vegas is ALWAYS under construction. The last time I was here there wasn’t a hotel next to the Monte Carlo. When I walked to the MGM Grand Saturday morning I was surprised by the modern style hotels across the street. It took my a second to realize this was the area that was under construction the last time I was here! The hotels there are the Aria hotels. Inside are some of the most beautiful structures you’ll see in terms of modern design. The buildings themselves are unique in fashion as well as they aren’t straight up skyscrapers and tend to curve and hot completely uniform. As it turns out the Bellagio, Aria, and Monte Carlo have their own tram system outside of the one that runs across the other side of the strip. Speaking of construction, the Imperial Palace which is an oriental themed hotel and casino was under heavy construction so most of the outside was covered so they could work on it. I never did go in there but I really should have to check it out. The same goes with the MGM Grand which was getting renovations.
On with the Shows
So aside from Gambling which I only did a small bit off, I’ve got no luck to speak of with gambling, I went to see a Cirque du Soleil show. If you go to Vegas, at least see one! I went to see Ka at the MGM Grand which I have to say I really enjoyed! One thing to note about Ka, the stage is everywhere so you’ll want to sit at least in the second tier seating. I was in row BB which was far enough back to give me a good view of everything on stage and the sides of the theater. Why the sides? Ka uses every space it can including the Aisles for it’s performance. I won’t go into details because that would just spoil it! Go see it!
Now getting the tickets was a bit of a challenge. Tickets start selling fast on most nights though the night I went it didn’t sell out mostly due to a certain boxing event that was also in the MGM Grand that night that cause quite a bit of commotion later. (Thank god I went to the 7:00 show instead of the 9:30 one!) I actually my tickets that morning but I had tried to get tickets the previous night but ended up finding out it sold out. Get them early, or even, book them online ahead of schedule and just pick them up. Now that being said, these tickets can sometimes be discounted if you have a card for that hotel so check with the ticket office and the concierge services at the hotel. They’ll help you even though your not a guest staying there.
I Almost went to see another show there without mentioning it to my family but well… um… Yeah!
…Are we there yet?
The Vegas strip is about 4.2 miles long from one end to the other. From where I was staying, the walk takes about 20-30 minutes to do since it’s only about a mile away but that mile gets longer as you have to weave in and out of different shopping areas or cross intersections over bridges. I happen to wear my Fitbit on me at the time and I was averaging about 17 miles at the end of each day from running around between and inside of casinos and hotels. Remember when I mentioned those walking/tennis shoes? Yeah they’re for this part as well!
Also pack water! I didn’t and regretted it. There is a Walgreen’s every mile or so on the strip and pick up water there since it isn’t that expensive there. Street merchants also sell water for a dollar there as well but frankly I don’t trust them sometimes. I do know they do get their water from Walgreen’s though since I saw a merchant buying it at the Walgreen’s I was in and was selling it a few minutes later a few blocks over. I wonder if these guys were staying at Las Vegas and blew too much money gambling and are trying to earn some back by selling water…
Other things to do (besides ogling the girls…)
Since I’m not a gambler I did try to find other stuff to do. If I’m going to spend money in a machine, it better be for some enjoyment. So when I dropped by the Excalibur which is on the south end of the strip, I found an arcade! Jackpot was the first thing that went through my head! I haven’t been in one in quite a while. Sure enough the usual staples were there. Racing games, fighting games and of course the light gun games. I one cabinet I found an arcade flight simulator. This isn’t an arcade fighter pilot game, you play as an airline pilot. Yeah, immediately my obsession came in. The game features work rudder pedals and a flight yoke that you would see in an airplane. I immediately jumped in and started the training mode… God damn it… this was a hard game. I only made it through Take off after a second try and couldn’t score enough to clear the turn. Part of the problem is unlike games featuring fighters turning a plane and banking like I usually do is a bad thing. It doesn’t help that the controls were slightly off calibration. When left centered you begin to dive just a little which means you have to pull back at all times on the yoke to stay level. Also doesn’t help that when you turn, the dead zone is massive on one side but not the other. This is an old Sega game and I can tell from the Yoke itself that it’s seen it’s fair use from the wear and tear on the machine. That being said many of these machines looked that way.
In one corner was the Police 911 2. I know this game well as I played the hell out of it many years ago… and then couldn’t walk properly for a day or so. The game puts a lot of stress on your knees and hamstring area. Since I’ve been exercising every week, I haven’t had much of an issue with this area of the muscles so I wasn’t messed up as badly though going up the stairs afterwards made me pause for a second to make absolutely sure I was okay. The game itself requires you to physically duck to hide as the sensors around you are detecting body movement so that means leaning low and left puts you into cover. There is a time limit and you have to move fast to have enough time. I played two games, one as a swat officer with an MP5 and as a police officer with a revolver. Again I said these machines have seen some wear and tear, the police pistol was all over the place in terms of accuracy. When I peeked at the sensor at the end of the first stage, I noticed the lens inside was slightly caved in which is not a good sign for a light gun game. I averaged around Captain rank with only take one hit during the second game where I accidentally peeked up during the boss battle too early. What makes the game interesting is that you can actually lean around things instead of just popping back up to get a clear shot which I found a lot of fun. I’m surprised they haven’t made a game like this using the Playstation Move or Kinect yet. There were other games there and I played a bit more before I went back north to the other hotels/casinos.
My friend pointed out to me after i got back that I may have missed one of the bigger arcades which was over at Circus Circus… That’s on the bum fuck other end of the strip! *sighs* I’ll have to consider that next time I go…
Shopping (Another way to lose more money… but with benefits!)
Of course there’s a bit of shopping to do. I actually did just a little bit. Of course Las Vegas strip is mostly clothing stores since fashion seems to rule Las Vegas. Of course the lack there of on the street is another story. I didn’t realize bikinis were the current trend for walking around Vegas these days… So the shopping i did… because I’m a geek was actually check out the Sony Style store and the Apple store. I only bought from the Sony Store as they actually had the DAMN Vita battery unit there! It took me a full day to decide to get the unit and it was worth it. The battery pak is 5000mHa and can provide charge for the Vita or even the iPad which is a plus over my 2200mHa unit. With both i can power enough devices on trips and not worry about finding a wall right away. I also picked up a copy of Blazblue for the Vita since it was on sale… seriously, it was cheaper then even Amazon… in the middle of Vegas… in a Sony Store! I must have gotten there during a sale or something because two new Vita games were coming out in a few days.
I also checked out the HMD unit (Head Mount Display) that Sony makes. I had messed with a Vuzix unit once but sent it back as the quality wasn’t good enough and the PC option wasn’t there yet. I’ll consider these once they get up to 720p as a portable monitor system for my consoles down the road. I did eye both the Smartwatch, a watch that talks to your android phone which lets you access emails, text messages or music from a phone you have on you via bluetooth. As tempting as it is, I wasn’t sure about it just yet since it just came out. It’s something I wish the iPod Nano had but it lacks bluetooth and I don’t think Apple is too keen on going this direction with it but it would be awesome! Speaking on Nano’s I did check out the Apple store there. Funny thing is the day I left Vegas, Apple announces the new Macbook Pros and such and I’m pretty sure the Apple stores had them somewhere in the back ready to throw up for display. Damn my timing!
Of course Seeing a show in Vegas also has stuff to buy goods for. Cirque is no exception. Right next to the Ka theater, it even funnels you through the store to get out, is a small gift shop with stuff Ka themed! I did walk way with a few things including a pair of shirts (on sale) and the music CD for the show. The music of Ka is amazing so of course I got it! The DVD I was tempted to get but passed on it. I could have gotten the kit which includes a program-like book but decided it wasn’t worth it at the time. If that was a good idea or not not sure. I did peek through the book and it didn’t catch my fancy. There was a jacket there that looked really nice and wasn’t too badly priced but I have the Deus Ex trenchcoat in my closet… which I need to fix… damn AMC Theater seats…
Things that don’t cost money!
Of course there are somethings in Vegas that are free… Madness! Right!? Some shows and exhibits are free and worth seeing. The most Obvious is the Fountains of the Bellagio. During the day except Sunday, they perform every 30 minutes starting at 11am and then starting at 7 or 8pm every 15 minutes. Also it seems on Sunday they run every 15 minutes. Each show is different from the previous. I heard 4 different songs play over the course of the weekend though my favorite was Fly me to the Moon… which was followed by me ducking for cover into the Bellagio itself as the wind blew the water that was in the air my direction. Inside the Bellagio itself is a beautiful conservatory and botanical gardens. I’m not a plant person but it’s a beautiful garden they have which surprisingly is just past the check in. I kinda remember it being there the last time I was there but not really sure.
There’s also the Mirage Volcano show which starts at 8 pm each night. I saw it briefly the first night I was there but not afterwards. I kept meaning to but that late at night it was a difficult to since I was on a crunch schedule and a parental leash. There are much more like the MGM had a lions den somewhere in the hotel I never found and the Mirage had the white tigers which I’m still not sure why I never went there to check out. It was on my list of things to go to but never did.
I spent a good deal inside Caesars Palace Forums which is the shopping area trying to see the Fall of Atlantis show. It’s an automated animatronic stage show featuring the children of King Atlas vying for inheritance of the throne. Funny thing is I confused this with the attraction in Orlando which is at Islands of Adventure… I want to go back there again
Well that’s about all i can think of right now about Vegas. I’m a bit burnt out from the travelling and such but hopefully I can add pictures soon. (I’ll actually process quicker now…) One thing I suggest if you go to Las Vegas, go with friends since family makes this invisible leash you can’t really sneak out of to easily. It’s fun but man, does it limit you to things you can see and do.