Las Vegas is the Wild Wild West in more ways than one. From prevalent gambling, quasi-legal prostitution, legalized rental of automatic weapons, and the lights on the strip never go out – Las Vegas still holds its reputation as “Sin City”.
Destination at a Glance
|Date of Trip||Nov-2006 through Dec-2009|
|Destination Good for||Partying, Gambling, Outdoor activities|
|Best Time to Go
||Most of the year except Dec-Feb. Avoid conventions|
|Good Way to Get Around||Own Car: No||Public: Yes||Taxi: Yes||Walking: Yes|
|Appox. Trip Cost||Moderate to Expensive|
|Didn’t get to do||Outdoor Skydiving|
|Would I Recommend||Yes|
|Overall Trip Rating|
When I was a kid, Las Vegas was one of the few places you could legally gamble in a casino. Sure, Atlantic City, NJ also offered gambling and a beach front to boot – but NJ doesn’t have the allure of quasi-legal prostitution, that beach isn’t of any value in the winter and – hey, it’s New Jersey (sorry). Since I don’t care for games of chance and don’t pay for naa-naa, I have to say Vegas was never a place that really excited me. If you don’t participate in what the city is known for – is there anything to do? Is there a reason to go??
Turns out Las Vegas has changed a great deal since the days of my youth. In the past, an overwhelmingly majority of all revenues were generated from Gambling. The entire town was setup to entice you to gamble. Rooms right on the strip could be had for very little money, full steak buffets only cost a few bucks and as long as you continued to gamble – all of the drinks were on the house.
As other states and municipalities began passing laws allowing gambling, Las Vegas’ revenues started to slip. Why travel hundreds of miles to play the slots or poker when you can stay in your own community and do so was the theory. As state lottery pots grew larger, fewer and fewer people felt the need to make the trip to Vegas to try their luck. 13 states currently allow full fledged gambling and over 90% of the country allows some form of the lottery. In order to stay relevant, Las Vegas had to change.
Welcome to the New Las Vegas
Las Vegas has transformed itself from somewhat seedy town that catered to gamblers and those looking for a little female companionship. To make up for the loss in gambling revenues, Vegas has almost turned into a family environment. It’s not that gambling and escorts are gone, they are simply no longer the focus.
In the late 80s, several high-end hotels (those that included golf courses, marble bathrooms, etc.) started to spring up along the strip – like the Winn and the Bellagio. In addition, several theme properties sprung up all across the strip – including Caesars Palace (ancient Rome), the Luxor (ancient Egypt) and Treasure Island dotted the strip. Superstar musical acts (Celine Dion, Toni Braxton), Broadway style plays (Cirque du Soleil, Jersey Boys) and interactive entertainment (Boxing, Zoos, and Amusement Parks) all displaced gambling as the primary methods of luring customers into Vegas.
Recent reports state that non-gambling revenue (rooms, shows, etc.) account for over 60% of each hotels revenues. This means the policies designed to keep you gambling – cheap eats and cheap rooms are gone (though free drinks while gambling are still in play). Big spending gamblers will always taken care of – just don’t expect grandma to get a room comp after spending an hour playing dollar slots.
The Las Vegas Strip
The strip itself is a 4 miles stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that spans from the south end’s Mandalay Bay Hotel to the north end’s Stratosphere Hotel (Russell Road and Sahara Avenue respectively). I wished someone had taken the time to give me the lay of the land prior to my first visit to Vegas. Since I didn’t know any better, I ended up staying in the Circus Circus hotel on the nearly desolate north side of the strip (thought the hotel had something to do with the show). Not sure how a hotel can be a family oriented and extremely seedy and smoky all at the same time – but the Circus Circus pulled it off. Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of the strip sections to aid with your bookings.
- North – The least congested section of the strip that spans from about the Winn hotel up to the Stratosphere. Except for the attractions and restaurants within the hotel properties, there’s little else to do on the North end. In fact, because there’s gaps in properties due to older hotels being demolished – it can get very dark at night on the north end. Hotels include the Circus Circus, Sahara, Riviera and Encore.
- South – Some of the popular but older properties are on the southern end of the strip that spans from the Mandalay Bay to the Aria (part of City Center complex). This section generally hosts the many boxing and MMA fights (MGM and Mandalay) as well as several on-strip restaurants and bars. Hotels on the south end include the Luxor, Excalibur, Tropicana, New York-New York and the Monte Carlo. The famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is also on the south end – about half a mile south of the Mandalay Bay
- Center Strip – This is essentially were all the ‘action’ is. Most of the restaurants, clubs and people tend to congregate in this 3 block section that spans Planet Hollywood up to the Palazzo. Whether it’s the Bellagio’s magnificent water fountain show, Treasure Island’s pirate battle or the mob of folks eating and trying to get into Margaritavillle – there’s always something going on in this section. If not the most luxurious – certainly the best ‘looking’ hotels litter the center strip section. Hotels include the massive City Centre complex, Caesars Palace, the Paris, Ballys, the Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Casino Royale, the Mirage and the Venetian.
Technically there’s another category called ‘off-strip’ reserved for hotels just off of the strip. If you were reading the hotel’s literature, it may tell you our hotel is just 1 block off of the strip. Well, the block on the strip is sometimes half a mile square – sometimes even more. The Hilton for example is on the north end “just off the strip” – which translated means a mile walk. My suggestion is, unless there’s a deal at these types of hotels – don’t stay there, just take a cab to the attraction. The Palms and the Rio are off-strip but have excellent shows and/or clubs.
Finally, no article about Vegas would be complete without at least a cursory discussion about escorts and prostitution. To be perfectly clear – prostitution is illegal in the city of Las Vegas. There are only 8 counties in Nevada that allow prostitution – and all of them are far away from Las Vegas. Now that I’ve gotten the legal stuff out of the way – I can positively say Las Vegas is the easiest city in the country (perhaps the world) to obtain an illegal prostitute. Under the euphemism of “entertainment”, flocks of Mexican immigrants litter the strip with little color flyers offering a specific escort or an escort service. Since many of these immigrants don’t speak English, they simply smack the pile of flyers in their hand to get your attention. At first it’s pretty funny to walk down the strip and see 5-6 funny little mean all wearing “For a good time – Call Sunshine” – each making smacking sound with their hands. After about the 350th time – it’s no longer funny – just annoying.