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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vegas was... Cold

We left with the temperature being in the single digits, dipping into the negatives (with windchill) and raining.

We landed in Vegas with the temperature being in the single digits, dipping into the negatives (with windchill) and raining.

Vegas was... well, Vegas was nothing like I'd expected. That's both a good and a bad thing.

Before we left we'd read the big books: our Frommer's and Fodor's and even the Moon's. We'd hit up sites like cheapovegas.com and mapped a good chunk of the strip in our heads. We learned all about what places we wanted to visit, what shops we wanted to see, where we were going to eat and how we were going to get there.

Those plans barely survived the landing, let alone the stay.

Over the course of 5 days we walked all over the strip (yes, walked) - from Excalibur to Palazzo, from the strip to Gold Coast, hell, the entire Fremont Street experience. (Freemont street's not that big... but it's not for those with ADD :P) We also used the Deuce for most of our other transit, whenever we needed to get from point A to point B in a hurry. $7 for an all day/all transit pass is a bargain - especially if you pick up the $15 3-day pass. One thing I will say is that their transit blows the TTC out of the water. Both fast and punctual, they issue electronic tickets with clear expiry times. It seems like such a simple thing that the TTC has yet to master.

Moving on...

Sooo... the fun question: How much money did I lose? Well, my games are Roulette and Blackjack for the most part. Roulette I did well - at my highest point I was up $100 on a $5 starting bet. Most of that I lost over the course of the trip, usually by betting on slots and Video Poker (why, oh gawd, why?!) . Blackjack I fared much better. I sat down at the $3 tables ('cause I'm hardcore like that, yo) and turned $3 into $60. Again, much of this was put back into the system for food and drinks and such. What can I say?

Vegas giveth and Vegas taketh away. My worst run happened at the roulette table - I was up $80 or so and tried playing with the big boys. $5 chips betting on the 4s and singles. Yeah, THAT's gambling. Needless to say, I didn't win.

One strategy I found worked out really well was to make sure I took back my initial investment. The moment I won triple my original bet, I pulled the original off the table and put it in my pocket. I made sure to do that every time I tripled my original. For Blackjack that proved to work brilliantly 'cause as soon as my chips were gone I'd know that my 'luck' had run out and I could leave without being empty handed. Doing that allowed me to walk away up $60 for about an hour and a half's play at the $3 tables. Of course who knows how much I'd be up if I'd just walked away at my highest point (or if I'd bet more like $10 a game) but it's best not to think about those things. I was there for the fun, not to make money.

For Vegas itself, I learned that most of what's in those books is nice - in theory. As long as there's not an economic crisis knocking on your door. For us, in a lot of ways, Vegas was like a shinier, flashier Toronto. As far as we could tell - with the exception of alcohol - all the prices seemed to be what we'd pay in Canada (albeit with American cash...). I'm sure a lot of this is due to the Vegas effect but it was interesting to note that a bottle of water's going to set you back a buck (oooor more... yeesh) no matter where you go.

Almost all the comps that the books had talked about - things like the fun book and most of their line passes/coupons - had been rescinded and we were greeted with less than happy tones when we asked about them. One thing's for sure, our 'conscierge' at the Imperial Palace was a cold, COLD lady who'd either been having the worst day of her life or, for some reason, took an immediate dislike to us. Let's just say that smiles were met with glares on more than one occaison.

Show-wise we only got to see one: Lance Burton's illusion show. One thing I'll say off the top is that this guy has some wicked, wicked illusions. Even sitting in the balcony, looking down and even looking for the swaps and such - he's really, really, good. What killed the experience a tad for me was the presentation itself. A weird mix of tangental stagecraft and dreamscape/nightmare, his show felt all over the place and outright cheesy at some points (the disappearing clown/phone box bit... ugh). I get that it's supposed to be a family friendly show, but some of it just seemed so cloying that I was pulled right out of the experience. Still, if you can stomach the cheezwhiz frosting, his show - his MAGIC - is brilliant. Highly recommended.

Food-wise, we helped ourselves to 2 buffets while we were there (and scoped out many more). The two that got us to spend our money were the dinner buffet at Rio and the Lunch/Dinner buffet at Harrah's. Rio set us back close to $50 for the both of us but was, by far, the best of the two. Massive crab legs, steaks, sushi, taquitos, you name it. The place boasted over 300 different items (no I didn't try them all) and was gorgeous - not as eye-popping as the buffet at the Bellagio, but waaay cheaper. They had real italian gelato in a ton of flavours and more fresh baked treats than you could even dream of eating. Harrah's got our money because we learned of a little trick where if you go in about 40 mins before lunch time ends, you can essentially stick around for dinner too. That one set us back just under $25 for us both and you could see the difference in cost immediately. The 'cooks' cooked like they didn't give a damn, most were standing around looking bored. They also had shrimp and crab legs, though they looked like the cast offs from from someone else's bigger table. Taste-wise things were okay, if greasy (looots of grease). Their brownies were badass and their wafflecones of ice cream were HUGE. So, yeah, dessert was good. If it sounds like the dessert stands were my favourite stop it's because they were. (Don't worry, I walked it all off... lol)

All-in-All, I enjoyed Vegas though I don't think I got the 'Vegas' experience - I didn't go there with a lot of money to lose and we did kind of tend to be tourists rather than gamblers. I filled up 5 gigs of memory with pics and about 3 hours of DV tape which I have no idea when I'll get around to cutting. The Bellagio, Palazzo and Venetian were my favourite hotels and the Fountain show in front of the Bellagio was gorgeous (though it seemed like every time we went there they were playing Celine Dion for some reason).

Would I go there again? Yes, there's still a lot for me to see, places I would've liked to spend more time in. I would've like to gamble a bit more as well. However, I think if we head to that area again we'll probably go to the Canyon and the Hoover Dam (both of which didn't make it into our itinerary...).

I know I've probably forgotten to include a ton of stuff, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask away. I'll try to have pictures up soon.

Cheers,
Brandon

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