Expectations were high along the route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, around 280 miles through Mojave desert. We were sure that we would either love or hate Las Vegas, because it didn’t seem like a halfway city to us, and one question kept coming up to our minds: is it really as crazy as everyone says?
After endless road stretches through a dry desert landscape, with Joshua Trees here and there (how appropriate to listen to U2), we finally got to the Nevada State border. Known because of its liberal laws, it was the first State to legalize both gambling and prostitution (which is still legal however with restrictions, in the counties which decide to allow it), and to simplify marriages and divorces in order to make them quick and easy, no questions asked, no complications. This liberalization was a strategy to attract money during the Great Depression, in the 1930s, and it seems to have worked just fine… guess what is the first thing we saw right after the border? A complex of hotel resorts and casinos, with lots of neon lights, a roller coaster, of course… in the middle of nothing, literally!
Having all this information plus some movies in mind (as for example “The Hangover”), we couldn’t help but wonder if Vegas was appropriate for children (we had two in the backseat), but we went on, and finally arrived to our destination. Las Vegas, aka Sin City, emerges in the middle of the desert, as if it was a product of our imagination. After the silence, we went into the traffic, the noise, the chaos… navigating through the city isn’t difficult, so we quickly got to our hotel, huge (as is everything here) – the walk from the parking lot to the lobby alone took us 15 minutes, check in lines are airport alike, a map is needed otherwise we would get lost, to get to the rooms we have to cross casinos (!!!)… but we finally got settled and went out for a first tour of the city.
It didn’t take us long to find the answer to our first question: YES, it is as crazy as everyone says (or even more)!! A succession of high end resorts and luxury shops as extravagant and flashy as possible, all competing to get one’s attention with neon lights and sounds, casinos everywhere with slot machines almost to the doors, restaurants, music, street artists, gladiators and lots of Elvis Presleys all wanting to take a photo with you (in exchange for a few bucks, obviously), and people, lots of people. It’s such an excessive buzz that we can feel overwhelmed. First dinner outdoors in a typical BBQ, very nice. We even tried the mechanical bull… but we can’t speak about that kind of adventures, because as everyone knows, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas… 🙂
We spent the following day exploring the famous Strip (LAs Vegas Boulevard, the 4.2 miles long main avenue). Many of the world’s biggest hotels are located here, and everything is huge: recreating Venice, Rome, Paris, New York, Egypt’s pyramids or pirates’ ships, everything gigantic in order to impress (which it does!). who haven’t heard of Bellagio or Ceasar’s Palace yet? A few more movies come to our mind… There are countless shows with high profile names: on that day alone 2 or 3 distinct Cirque du Soleil shows were on, as was Celine Dion, Jerry Seinfeld… the tickets prices were too high priced for us, so we decided to keep exploring the city. We walked around casinos, gambled just a little bit and won the terrific amount of 0.05$ (!!!), did some shopping – great stores, M&M’s world was the children’s favourite, and then hit the hotel’s pools – massive, as is everything else – which felt really good because are temperatures are no joke around here, and an unprecedented heat wave was starting (but this will be the story of our next stops in far west, you’ll have to wait a little bit to hear about it).
Some oddities which surprised us (but not that much):
- There are many people who really never walk (and we mean really). We saw drive through pharmacies, drive through ATM’s, we suspect that you can buy almost everything from within your car around here. All hotels and casinos are connected at ground floor (and sometimes high walkways), so we can walk the whole Strip without seeing the light of day – you sometimes only know you’re in a different hotel because the scenery changed. Many people, faithful to the no walking principle (after all, it is a tiring activity), rent electric scooters to stroll around (we also saw these in supermarkets). Even our hotel swimming pool had an (artificial) river where we could just flow on inflatable rafts with no need to swim (or any other exhausting effort…)
- As noticed before, navigation in hotels is always made through casinos, therefore it is inevitable that children pass through them. But they must keep at least at 2 feet from the slot machines, otherwise these could be a bad influence 🙂 ). Nevertheless, we saw slot machines in road service stations…
At night there is a huge amount of offer of company for adults (in a very expressive and clear way, with leaflets or megaphones on very explicitly decorated vans), impossible not to see. On top of that, as late night comes, many under the influence of alcool are on the streets, as well as increasing numbers of homeless and beggars. the atmosphere can get somewhat heavy, so it felt good to go back to our hotel (especially because of the kids).
Outside central avenues there are nice neighbourhoods with houses the same colour as the landscape – ochre, so quiet they are a real contrast to the touristy areas.
This was a really fun stay and we all enjoyed it a lot, in a city which is like a giant theme park. There are attractions everywhere, at any time, for every taste, in a total insanity. It was a great experience and we all loved to visit LV, but when the time came to leave to Grand Canyon, we all felt kind of relieved to know we were headed to a natural wonder, with silence and hopefully no crowds… but you’ll have to wait for our next post to find out how that went.