Succumbing to Vegas

Sampling Sin City’s myriad sights and sounds

The last time I found myself in Las Vegas, I’m pretty sure I sold my soul to the devil. It was either sold or gambled away. I’m a bit hazy on the details. All I remember is that it took a large chunk of my money and left me with an all-round “Why did I want to come here again?” feeling. That was three years ago. This past month, I was invited to head down for an old high school friend’s birthday party. Regrettably, I conceded.

If someone ever tries to tell you Las Vegas is a cheap trip, I can assure you that they are lying. Either that, or they’re relatively boring and didn’t do anything fun while there. Yes, you can find reasonable prices on airfare and hotel at almost any time of the year, but it’s the extracurricular activities that can deplete your funds rapidly. So, you better make sure you pick some good ones.

First and foremost, there’s gambling. I’m not a huge gambler, but we did spend a small chunk of time placing bets and trying our luck. Much like my romantic life, gambling proved not to be overly successful. After losing a few hundred dollars at a blackjack table, I took my lack of self-confidence elsewhere — to roulette. It ended up being my game of choice for the remainder of the trip, and I ended up walking away with a little bit of extra cash. The odds are more or less 50/50, so stick to betting on red/black and you should be able to sustain yourself.

As for shows, you can catch Elton John or Donny & Marie (I’m not sure who goes to that one), to name a couple, and, of course, there’s Cirque de Soleil (many of the main hotels on the strip offer a Cirque show). If you’re going to splurge and see one of these spectaculars (about $200 per ticket), it should be The Beatles-themed LOVE. Located in The Mirage hotel, the show is a 90-minute mesmerizing stage performance with a soundtrack of classic fab four tunes that everyone knows and loves.

After watching this show, which was worth every penny, my friends and I went to a neighbouring bar called Revolution Lounge. The club has been designed around the Cirque de Soleil show, with bright ’60s-esque “psychedelic” design accents. Drinks were pricey, but it was an interesting spot. We watched timidly on the corner of the dance floor as an intense dance battle took place. Maybe they were filming Step Up 4. I’m not sure.

If you really want to experience the glitzy dance-club nightlife, then PURE in Caesar’s Palace and TAO in The Venetian are the places to go. That being said, my friends and I are not much for fist pumping and gelled hair, so we didn’t make it to either. If you want a truly perplexing experience, though, make sure to check out the mildly perturbing King Ink lounge. Here, patrons are actively encouraged to drink (free drinks for women on Wednesdays until midnight) beside a tattoo parlor. I had to actually talk a friend out of getting a tattoo of “life, dream, fly” on her foot, even though she thought it was a fantastic idea. Yes, this did happen on a Wednesday evening.

Obviously, there is no shortage of dining options. If you’re looking for hotel buffet advice, I’m sorry to say that I have not tried any. I figured that I was indulging in enough of my sins and didn’t want to add gluttony to the list. We did have a top dollar meal at Le Cirque in The Bellagio that was tasty and reminiscent of the modernist cuisine you’ll find at Teatro here in Calgary. As well, my friend and I had a reasonably priced meat-centric meal at Stack Steakhouse in The Mirage. I enjoyed a 24-ounce prime rib to myself. All right, maybe I was a bit gluttonous....

On the fourth and last day of our Sin City adventure, my friend and I found our way to Fremont Street, or “Old Vegas.” This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The street was — for lack of a better word — intoxicatingly gritty, with lots of sketchy looking souvenir shops, questionable characters and old casinos like The Gold Nugget, and Golden Gate. You can zipline down Fremont Street, getting a laser-fast aerial view, which seemed to be a lot of fun. However, due to our margarita “breakfast,” I wasn’t sure we could stomach that. There are also a few different live performance stages set up in the district, with acts happening throughout the day. Bret Michaels from the band Poison was performing later that evening, but we had a plane to catch.

Leaving Las Vegas, I had a sense of relief. There would be no more giant, flashing lights, the ding-ding-ding of slot machines was slowly fading from my ears, and I could tell fresh Canadian air was mere hours away. Although, in the back of my mind, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I’d head back. For better or worse, this city is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience and, let’s be honest here, every once in a while, it’s fun to succumb to that little devil on your shoulder.

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