Las Vegas has a reputation for being "sin city", a place where people go to do things they might not otherwise do at home. There certainly is the opportunity for excess, but in our case we go there to enjoy the luxury of a five star hotel at a bargain price, eat at restaurants and see top-notch entertainment the quality of which are usually not available to us at home. You can stay cheaply in a lesser quality hotel, but if you check the websites of the top rated properties and get on their email list, it is equally affordable for a higher-end experience. I got an email offer from the five star property in City Center, Aria, for only $79 a night. (As most hotels nowadays they do charge a daily $25 "resort fee" in addition to the room rate.) Nevertheless, that is what I paid to stay at the airport the night before our flight in a LaQuinta. That is like comparing the Taj Mahal to a tent.
It's not an accident that you have to walk through the casino to get to the guest elevators. We don't gamble as a rule, but just for fun we occasionally will sit at a penny or quarter slot machine for a short while.
On the way to the room we did just that. I dropped $1 into a penny machine and pushed a few buttons. I didn't actually know what I was doing, but all of a sudden the light on the top of the machine started flashing and before I knew it I had won $78. Suffice to say, I wasn't taking any chances and cashed out. That was the last time I played until the last day, when almost the exact thing happened at another machine where I won $40 in the span of a few minutes. The key is to take the winnings and not fall into the trap of using it to try to win more. It was a nice little treat, but not an addiction I care to flirt with.
I loved the health club at Aria. The service is impeccable. Upon check-in you are given a chilled bottle of water and a towel. The beautiful sitting room complete with fireplace and couches has a refrigerator with more water and urns with fruited water. The swimming pools are beautiful, although too shallow to do any serious swimming (my only complaint). Poolside drink service is plentiful and prompt and there are plenty of lounge chairs to go around. All the most renowned chefs have restaurants in Vegas. These can, of course, be pricey. We did try one: Nob Hill, a Michael Mina restaurant at the MGM Grand. A great choice! The decor was subdued and masculine. It reminded me of a place businessmen would take their clients. Our appetisers were quail and fois gras and we shared the signature lobster potpie, which was brought to the table in a large pot and served to our plates by the waiter. Other favorites were Todd English P.U.B., which was in Crystals right next to our hotel. I still can't stop thinking about the fabulous lobster on toasted buttered rolls. (Hmmm, seems like a recurring theme, now that I think of it.)
I can't stay in the neon lights of the city too long without getting into nature. We took day trips to Lake Havasu, Arizona, where we visited a friend and saw "Fiddler on the Roof" at Grace Arts Live, and another day to Red Rock Canyon, just an hour outside of Vegas. It is a beautiful place to hike and enjoy God's beautiful creation and quite a contrast from the glitz and man-made excess of the strip.
Now that we are home, I have gotten my fill of Vegas for awhile. But I know from past experience in time I'll be ready to go again. Perhaps someday when Eric Kunze is starring in Phantom of the Opera...
More photos on my Picasa photo album here