Las Vegas & Grand Canyon
As a first time visitor, Las Vegas was overwhelming. The best way I can describe it is Times Square in street form. Except replace all the skyscrapers with casinos.
After popping into almost a dozen casinos, we realized they all followed the same footprint. Lure people in with a fancy exterior, populate the bottom floor with a sea of slot machines and tables, have a well-themed mall on the upper level, and add an attraction.
Neither Emily nor myself are big gamblers. We couldn’t resist playing a game here and there, but in total I think we gambled less than $20 total. We were more there to soak in the atmosphere.
Here’s a recap of the casinos we visited.Stratosphere
I’ll have a separate update for this one, but the views and rides were incredible. It’s just really far from the rest of the strip.Circus Circus
This was probably the most family friendly casino we saw. There were a lot of activities to keep kids entertained and we enjoyed the Adventuredome (separate update forthcoming).
But it was probably the saddest for gambling. I’d be hard-pressed to find another casino with as many people staring hopelessly at slot machines. The casino floor had this overwhelming feeling of gloom.Rio
The Carnival World Buffet was fantastic. Keep in mind, I’m used to the Old Country Buffets of the world. And while we skipped the zipline, it’s location atop the tower sure looked imposing.Caesar’s
As good as the Rio’s buffet was, the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s blew it out of the water. It was more upscale, in terms of both the atmosphere and food. Jumbo crab legs, t-bone lamb chops, prime rib, slabs of bacon, etc. It was a glutton’s dream.Luxor
I loved this casino’s architecture. The pyramid structure was quite appealing from the outside with the giant spotlight, but it was even more of a marvel from the interior.Excalibur
I loved the exterior. It reminded me a lot of Story Land’s castle. Unfortunately, the interior was pretty basic.New York, New York
The casino would make the Big Apple proud. It was vibrant and bustling.
And you can bet I tried the Big Apple Coaster. I’ll put that one in a separate update, but it didn’t kill me. In fact, I actually liked it!Mirage
We really liked the animal/jungle theme of this casino. And the volcano show out front was eye candy at its finest. Who doesn’t like gratuitous usage of fire?Venetian
So we arrived at the Venetian super late, so it was dead. Eerily dead. But we loved the bright blue sky and atmosphere. It reminded me of Tokyo DisneySea’s Venice area.Buffalo Bill’s
Just kidding. The website listed Desperado as closed until further notice. I just missed it by a few weeks based on some recent reviews.Hoover Dam
But our travels went beyond the Las Vegas Strip. One such stop was the Hoover Dam. We originally planned to take a tour, but they were suspended indefinitely.
So instead, we observed the dam from the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. If you drive over this bridge, you won’t see anything. And it’s probably a good thing; otherwise tourists would stop and cause a biblical traffic jam. But there's a free parking lot in the Hoover Dam area, so pedestrians can walk the bridge.Grand Canyon
As impressive as the Hoover Dam was, it was topped by the Grand Canyon. Pictures do not do this natural wonder justice. The sheer size of this chasm is unbelievable. Just make sure you drive past the ripoff West Rim in favor of the South Rim.
But we almost didn’t even get to see the Grand Canyon. A 2.5 foot snowstorm knocked out power in the village and made several roads inaccessible. The route was slow, but the payoff was worth it. How many people get to say they’ve seen the Grand Canyon with snow?
While most of my trips are centered around coasters (and this one did have coasters), it’s nice to do some normal touristy things every once and a while.