Years ago a national newspaper trade group that I belonged to held its annual convention in Las Vegas, and I used to enjoy an occasional trip to Sin City. The casino buffets were affordable, and even if you weren’t a gambler, people watching could provide hours of free fun. But both myself and the city have changed over time, I’m not sure if either one for the better.
We took a ride down the Strip the other night, admiring the bright lights and unique architecture of the casinos, and marveling at the crowds. The folks who design the casinos truly are artists, and on a drive down the Strip you can see everything from castles to pyramids, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and pirate ships.
This is a fantasyland for grownups, and whether you like angels, demons, winged goddesses, Elvis impersonators, drag queens, magicians, country superstars, or anything in between, an hour on the Strip will provide just what you’re looking for. Yesterday, we drove part of the busy road again, to see it in the daylight, and I was glad Greg White was driving, so that I could eyeball everything around us.
The country may be in a recession, but you wouldn’t know that from Las Vegas! The streets, sidewalks, restaurants, and casinos are all packed solid. The lines in front of popular places like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville were so long that we didn’t even think of stopping for a Cheeseburger in Paradise.
You probably wouldn’t be surprised to see a line of people waiting to get into a Las Vegas pawn shop, but the folks waiting to get into this one probably aren’t there to hock their wedding rings for enough gas money to get back home. This isn’t your everyday pawn shop, this is the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, made famous by the History Channel’s reality program Pawn Stars. A couple of weeks ago our friends Stu and Donna McNicol were in Las Vegas and stood in line about ten minutes to get into the shop, where they were lucky enough to meet Rick Harrison, one of the shop’s owners, and Stu even got his picture taken with Rick! We wanted to check the shop out too, but decided to come back mid-week, when hopefully, the line would be shorter.
Playing tourist can work up an appetite, and Las Vegas has more places to stuff your face than fleas on a hound dog! Every casino has a buffet, but unlike the old days when I came here every year, the $1.49 breakfast buffet and $5.99 dinner buffet are ancient history. These days you can expect to pay a minimum of $15 for a buffet dinner, and over $30 per person at many of them! The Village Seafood Buffet at the Rio Casino is very highly rated, but at $38 a person, we’ll never know.
We did find a good deal at the Boulder Station Casino, a few miles from downtown, and not far from the Thousand Trails campground. After registering for our free players club cards, we paid $15 each, including tax, for an excellent selection that ranged from Chinese food to prime rib, barbecued ribs, and a half dozen other entries, along with plenty of sides and a great dessert bar. Everything was delicious, and we promised ourselves we’d go back again while we’re in town.
With our players club cards, we each also got $3 in free slot machine play, and while Greg and I promptly lost ours and went bust on penny slot machines, Jan ran hers up to about $40 and Miss Terry topped out at $54. But alas, they didn’t pay for those elaborate casinos by giving money away, and by the time the ladies’ streaks had run out, Jan walked away with a penny and Terry cashed out with ten cents! But what the heck, we got a great meal at a good price, and we got to play for an hour or so on the casino’s money. The smart thing is to walk away once you spend their money, and not dip deeply into your own pocketbook to keep playing. But judging by the number of fancy casinos here, I don’t think too many people can resist the urge to tempt Lady Luck just a little bit longer.
Thought For The Day – Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travelers don’t know where they’re going. – Paul Theroux