Category Archives: Gambling

Viva Las Vegas – Part II

Getting Around Las Vegas

For our first few days in Las Vegas, we walked everywhere despite the summer heat (it reached a high of 111 degrees while we were there)…from Terribles Hotel Casino, up and down the Strip, and to the Liberace Museum.  Don’t forget distances between blocks in Las Vegas are huge and what just looks to be around the corner can be a half hour walk. It’s a dry heat so you don’t notice it as much but we were prepared with large bottles of water in our knap sack that we kept handy at ALL TIMES. 

When our feet started getting sore…we tried taking public transit and found out it’s very easy.  The Deuce is an air-conditioned double decker bus service that travels up and down the Las Vegas Strip.  The fare is $5 and it’s valid all day and night for a 24 hour period plus you can use your transfer on the regular transit system as well.  That’s what makes the transit system so attractive.  These Alexander Dennis double decker buses were made in Great Britain;  there is always lots of sitting / standing room and the super efficient air conditioning system is a welcome cooldown.  We used it to get to the shopping outlets which we’ll talk about it below and to dine at a Red Lobster restaurant.

Shopping in Vegas

No trip to Las Vegas would be complete without going shopping.  You are spoilt for choice.  Several hotel casinos have their own shopping mall.  Underneath the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino lies the Miracle Mile Shops.  One mile of shops selling everything from leatherware to electronic gadgets.  The Forum Shops is part of Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino.  The interior resembles ancient rome with its streets, columns, and arches.  What stood at most to me were the talking statues that are part of the Atlantis laser show and the ceiling which resembles a sky that slowly changes from day to night and back again.  The Grand Canal Shops are part of the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino. The concept of having gondolas and a winding series of canal’s through the mall and outside the hotel is an incredible engineering feat. You could almost be in St Mark’s Square. 

If you’re looking for a mall with all the major department stores, check out the Fashion Show Mall. It contains a variety of unique clothing, cosmetic, accessories, and gadget stores.

If you want to visit the shopping outlets, there are a couple of choices: the Las Vegas Outlet Centre (indoor) and the Las Vegas Premium Outlets (outdoor).  We encountered the best deals at the former, the stores are slightly lower end but definitely worth a visit.  The latter has higher end stores but we weren’t particularly impressed with the sale items.

Liberace Museum

Even those of you who found the musician, Liberace, too much to bear, you would be fascinated by his legacy he left behind in his museum. From the outside, the building looks abit non-descript but you’ll be surprised.   It consists of 2 parts.  The first shows Liberace’s family exodus from Europe to America with archival photographic material and a partial collection of his outrageous vehicles.   Several of his pianos that were made famous from his TV appearances are also there.  

A short walk away will take you to the second building which displays a sample of the outrageous costumes he wore for his performances.  Outwardly Liberace might have seemed a bit sissy but don’t let that fool you.  He was a strong fit man, he worked out regularly in order to fit into his costumes…some of which weighed over 200 pounds. The famous outlandish rings that he wore are also on display here.  They update the items displayed regularly from their warehouse so there won’t always be the same things.  We recommend taking a tour with the docent to get the full history of this colourful performer.  His museum is not to be missed.

Time Shares

Most of the hotels along the Strip have sales people promoting timeshares. They will attempt to pre-qualify you by asking some questions and then offer you incentives to attend a short seminar in exchange for things like vouchers for free meals, tickets to shows, etc.  Be forewarned that these seminars start out very low key but the pressure to buy into the timeshare escalates.  It invariably takes up more time than they originally tell you during the pre-qualification, especially if the presentations are off-site. You have to decide for yourself if it’s worth your while to go through with it.  

Here is a continuation of my impression of the other major Las Vegas hotels:

HOOTERS CASINO HOTEL: This casino hotel has country music theme and it’s located behind the Tropicana Hotel. It’s location makes it central to the MGM Grand, Excalibur, and New York New York. The casino area has wooden floors and is abit smaller compared to the other Las Vegas Strip hotels. 

BALLY’S HOTEL & CASINO: Bally’s is an older hotel.  I didn’t find anything architecturally unique about it.  It has a very good central location on the strip amongst all the other hotels, bars, and restaurants. You reach the reception area from the Strip through a covered semi-circular walkway which is illuminated at night with neon lights.

CAESARS PALACE HOTEL & CASINO: This is a beautiful opulent hotel which connects to the Forum Shops. The hotel features roman style statues and fountains in beautifully landscaped gardens.  Look out for Bette Midler, Cher, and Elton John, these performers alternate their performances throughout the year.

VENETIAN RESORT HOTEL & CASINO:  This is one of the best hotels in my opinion. The Grand Canal Shoppes and Madame Tussauds are part of the hotel. If you don’t like the smell of cigarette / cigar smoke, the Venetian make the best effort to mask the smell.  I have been to the “real Venice” and I tell you it’s very close to the real thing. 

PALAZZO RESORT HOTEL & CASINO: The Palazzo is an extension of the Venetian Hotel and is located between the Wynn and the Venetian.  It is just as luxurious as the just mentioned hotels. The theme is of course sicilian and they have used marble extensively throughout.  If you’ve never been to Barneys New York, you have your chance now since they have a store on site. 

WYNN LAS VEGAS HOTEL: This hotel is very distinct from the outside with its sleek semi circular structure clad in dark red glass.  There is a lush garden dome in the middle of the hotel with a few high end shops around the perimeter.  If you’re in the mood to shop, the Fashion Show Mall is across the street.

RIVIERA HOTEL & CASINO: This is an older hotel and doesn’t appear to be undergoing any renovations.   When we walked into to explore the facility there weren’t many people around or in the hotel casino.  Have people given up on this place??? There is a Walgreens nearby and a few souvenir shops as well. 

CIRCUS CIRCUS HOTEL: This hotel was better than I expected in terms of cleanliness and popularity.  If you’re a doughnut fan, the hotel offers a Krispy Kreme Doughnut store. The hotel’s steak house advertises a $14 steak dinner.  Down the street is Bonanza’s Gifts, the largest souvenir shop in Las Vegas. At the nearby Slots-A-Fun, they offer a .99 cent Shrimp Cocktail.

PARIS HOTEL & CASINO: This french themed hotel feature it’s own Eiffel Tower.  The casino is built under the base of the Tower with cobble stone streets around it with a variety of shops and restaurants.  They have an open stage area beside the casino for live performances.  The ceiling is painted blue to resemble a faux sky giving the impression of being outside.  The restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi, is cute bistro with patio seating along the Strip.  The bistro’s exterior balustrade features cool jets of water mist providing a cooling effect to pedestrians walking by.  

FLAMINGO HOTEL & CASINO: Great location one of the oldest hotels on the strip but very well maintained. There is a funky restaurant called Margaritaville for which the food is good value but the Margaritas are a little pricy.

STRATOSPHERE HOTEL & CASINO: This popular hotel at the north end of the strip is located between the downtown’s Freemont Street and the more popular hotel casinos at the other end of the Strip. At the top of the tower there is an observation deck and a restaurant with incredible views of the city.  It offers a small mall with lower end shops.

HARRAH’S HOTEL & CASINO: A huge jester statue welcomes you above the main entrance to this hotel casino. It has a central location along the Strip adjacent to the Imperial Palace, across from Caesars Palace.  

MGM GRAND: This decadent hotel has a striking emerald green exterior which dates back to its Wizard of Oz theme back in the early 1990’s.  It features a large MGM Lion outside as well as a smaller one inside by the cavernous reception area. A popular attraction at the hotel is the Lions Habitat.  A glass tunnel runs through the habitat allowing visitors a close up view of the lions.  

SAHARA HOTEL & CASINO: This hotel has seen recent renovations inside and out.  It offers a large pool area with nice landscaping.  From the outside you can see part of their roller coaster ride which runs throughout the day.  The food court area has a Nascar theme.

IMPERIAL PALACE HOTEL & CASINO: It’s one of the older hotels along the Strip. It’s located across from Caesars Palace adjacent to the Flamingo.  The hotel offers a variety of asian restaurants.

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Viva Las Vegas – Part I

Welcome to another post on my blog that I hope you find useful.

Just trying to catch up on my weekly blog posts. I recently  returned from a quick trip to Las Vegas using an airline called Allegiant Air.  They fly out of Bellingham which is about 30 minutes south of the Peace Arch border crossing (Canada / US). Bellingham Airport is a breeze to transit through. Minimal lines at check-in and passing through security is a minor inconvenience since you already crossed the border security so all the flights have Domestic Status.

Allegiant Air uses McDonnell Douglas MD83‘s which are an older aircraft but very comfortable (the seating is 5 abreast). Since they are a budget airline, there is a charge for checked baggage so travel light to minimize your expenses.

I arrived the evening of Friday, July 4th.  Hotel accommodations were very expensive on the Las Vegas Strip since it was the American Independence Day long weekend. So the first two nights were spent at a budget hotel casino a few blocks off the Strip called Terribles.

Here are my views from a travel agent’s perspective on all the major hotels I explored.

TERRIBLE’S HOTEL CASINO: This was great value for money. I would rate it approximately “two star plus”, the rooms were very comfortable and ours was furnished with a 42″ plasma TV.  There were complimentary facilities that included parking, the use of a basic fitness centre open 24 hours, and internet access from a computer terminal in the fitness centre. The Bougainvillea Café and Rotisserie offered excellent value for money and was nicely furnished. The hotel is off the strip but well located for bus services and it is approximately a 20 – 30 minute walk to the strip. There is a nice outdoor pool area which is open late. This hotel is a short car ride (or 45 minute walk) from the Liberace Museum.  After the first couple of nights, a relocation to Planet Hollywood was in order.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD RESORT & CASINO:  It offered a nice bit of pampering. This was the former Aladdin Hotel Casino which was transformed over many months into the amazing Planet Hollywood.  The hotel is furnished in contemporary soft brown and purple colour schemes.  Our room contained a large plasma TV as well as authentic movie paraphernalia from “Basic Instinct”. The exterior is just as impressive as the interior, with lots of neon lights and large LCD screens, almost like being at Piccadily Circus in London, U.K. The pool area is on the 6th floor and has a roof type set up with views of the surrounding hotel towers. Inside the hotel is the Miracle Mile Shops, a shopping mall offering a variety of shopping and dining options.  It also has a unique mix of shows in a theatre on site.  

MANDALAY BAY HOTEL & CASINO: The hotel features an outdoor shark reef aquarium and a saltwater aquarium which can only be accessed by paying an admission. There is a huge tropical fish tank in the reception area and beautiful floral displays. The hotel is connected to the Four Seasons Hotel and is only 10 minute drive from the Las Vegas Outlet Centre. It is connected to its sister properties, Luxor and Excalibur, by the free Mandalay Bay Tram.

LUXOR RESORT HOTEL & CASINO: Has an impressive ancient egyptian theme inside and out. The pyramid shaped hotel is clearly visible from the distance, especially at night when the bright beam of light is shown skyward from its apex.  It is undergoing a major interior renovation at the moment in the centre of the pyramid. but nevertheless, still an amazing structure, also a great location too. 

NEW YORK NEW YORK HOTEL & CASINO: It captures the New York city theme by creating the facade of the city skyline with tall skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, etc.  This 12 year old hotel casino is currently undergoing a significant renovation project…inside you’ll hear the sounds of construction echoing throughout the casino. The inside of the casino has an art deco theme.  There is a shopping restaurant area with cobbled streets with all types of ethnic food available. The hotel houses a huge roller coaster and a Harley Davidson store. 

EXCALIBUR HOTEL: An older hotel based on a Knights of the Round Table theme.  It resembles a castle from both the outside with its many turrets  and the inside too with many of the areas and restaurants having an Arthurian name. 

TROPICANA HOTEL & CASINO: This is an older hotel and was one of the early ones on the Strip. The hotel is located opposite the Excalibur and looks abit worn and tired. The hotel consists of a couple of towers and a low rise building of hotel rooms.  The pool area appears very nice though and has tropical theme. The are two major exhibits at the hotel casino:  Bodies the Exhibition and Titanic – The Artifacts Exhibit.

BELLAGIO HOTEL & CASINO: The Bellagio is a very grand hotel inside and out. It is renown for its large artificial lake between the hotel and the strip that is home to the amazing dancing water fountain synchronized to music.  The dancing water fountain runs throughout the day and most of the evening.  When you walk into the lobby what strikes you right away are the spectacular glass blown flowers hanging from the ceiling by the reception area.  It was created by Dale Chihuly and is called the Fiori di Como.  In the casino area, there are canopies with italian style patterns hanging from the ceiling. Adjacent to the reception area is a garden area with american imagery with a nest of eagles, statues of bears made from what appeared to be shrubs and clothing from actual moss, jumping water fountains, and a miniature train running along tracks across the different sections of the garden.

I’ll continue posting my impressions of the other major Las Vegas hotels and their convenient transportation system in a few days.

So many hotels…so little time. Be patient, part 2 is well worth the wait.