“Sin City.” “Entertainment Capital of the World.” Best known as “Adult Disneyland” (I made that last one up, but you get it), Las Vegas is what you get if you imagine Times Square in the desert, with wall-to-wall slot machines and 2000 percent more heat. Sound like fun? Excellent! Let’s proceed.
First, although I adore Las Vegas with every fiber of my being, I know it’s not the town for everyone. For example, while your family is walking down the street, if people shoving escort service cards into the hands of your teenaged child offends you, maybe a recalibration of those family vacation plans is in order. Or, if your idea of a relaxing day by the pool does not include the (rather unfortunate) aromatic blend of Axe Body Spray and desperation, try Naples. I hear it’s lovely this time of year. The point is, Vegas is not for everyone. Yes, it is more family friendly than you would think, but that ends up with a situation where a roller coaster is no more than 500 feet from a strip club.
That, my friends, is the real charm of this city. It tries to be everything, and largely, it’s wildly successful! That roller coaster? It’s in a hotel called “New York, New York,” which—you guessed it! —means to miniaturize NYC into an 84,000 square-foot building. It fails so wonderfully, it’s hard to describe. Not the roller coaster, mind you (the roller coaster is amazing). It fails at “being” New York, but that’s precisely what makes it great. You don’t book a room at that hotel to feel like you’re in New York. You book a room at that hotel because you want to experience an over-the-top (but endearing) representation of a “greatest hits” version of NYC landmarks, all within walking distance. So, it doesn’t matter that the baby-sitting service is within shouting distance from the Cirque du Soleil theatrical show that is quite literally all about sex. In fact, it’s the whole point.
Las Vegas is a city that attempts to give everyone a reason to come spend some time here. It’s able to fund this real-life Westworld by gambling. Oh, so much gambling. Sure, Vegas has the pool parties, the shows, the events and all manner of things to occupy your time, money and mind in the effort to try to distract people from the truth, which is Vegas exists because people are losing money by the millions of dollars per day. I mention this fact because it’s everywhere. It is literally the engine that makes this city go. So, if the idea of gambling, the incessant chatter about gambling in public conversation or (and much more importantly) the lure of gambling is an issue for you, then consider another travel destination. This city isn’t for you. But for who is it? A city that’s going to try really hard to make you feel welcome eagerly awaits your presence (and money). The entire hospitality industry here is honestly focused on making you feel welcome, and the city has the immense benefit of somehow not looking (or smelling) like what you’d expect of a city with millions of people passing through in a given month to look or smell like. It’s no Toronto, but it’s no New York City, either. It’s really an amazing thing to experience, especially considering you’re in a vast expanse of desert.
Ultimately, the decision to go can be made by taking this three-point test. Circle the appropriate answer.
(YES/NO) Would you like to experience a show about Michael Jackson that is quite honestly one of the finest tributes to any musician, ever?
(YES/NO) Does your idea of a “people-watching” good time include observing drunk folks stumbling like newborn puppies around the casino floor?
(YES/NO) Are you interested in getting free alcohol while pretending to play the slot machines?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should plan a visit. Generally, you can get here for about $350 with a 14-day advance reservation, at almost any time of day you would want. United, Southwest, Delta, American, Virgin and JetBlue all offer direct flights that take about five and a half hours to get from point to point, nonstop. The hotels and hotel rooms are plentiful and generally well-apportioned, so you should have little problem planning a trip that fits into your budget. In general, you can shop by price or “experience,” as you can get a very accurate feel for the ambiance of a property from their websites. The food options are plentiful, diverse, affordable and good. I can’t imagine you won’t find a restaurant you won’t consider camping out in to spend the remainder of your days. I may or may not have spent too much time at the Aria buffet, enjoying a plateful of deliciousness you may know as “pork rinds,” but I now refer to as “manna from the heavens.”
My advice? Indulge. Let Vegas show you what it can do. It really, really wants to.