Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS TO LAS VEGAS

Apart from all the nonsense involving the tightened security because of that idiot who tried to blow up that airplane over Detroit, my recent trip to Las Vegas went amazingly well. All my arrangements for it had been made at once over the Internet, so I had no hassles when it came to getting shuttles to and from my hotel or in checking in once I got there. I got into Las Vegas just after 5pm Nevada time on Wednesday and was able to take advantage of basically the whole first night to look around the Las Vegas strip and see the casinos.


If you are thinking of going to Las Vegas, now is definitely the time to consider it. Las Vegas is already famous as an affordable destination, but because of the recession in the USA, there have been plenty of empty rooms in the hotels. So there are a lot of deals out there to fill the rooms and lure people into the casinos. The vacation deal I got came in under $600 total for the airfare, the shuttle to and from the airport, three nights’ hotel stay at a good hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, and all the taxes and travel insurance I had to pay. Not a bad deal. I probably could have gone there for even less if I had chosen a less swanky hotel or booked even earlier. Also, I saved a lot of money on transportation once I got there. I did a lot of my own walking on the Strip, and when I went downtown I took the bus and paid a grand total of six bucks for the round trip. The bus was really slow, though. I could have taken the monorail to save time, but that would have ended up costing me more money.

Another big advantage for me, anyway, was the fact that Las Vegas is one of the few American destinations where you could go there on a direct flight from Saskatoon. That eliminated a lot of hassle, but the direct flights on WestJet aren't daily. Only on Wednesday and Saturday.

By the way, once you land at the airport, YOU ARE RIGHT THERE. The major hotels are all literally right across from the airport runways. That was interesting to me, since I’m used to going to airports located in the boondocks far from all the action.

It’s important to watch out for the best deals and to be flexible when it comes to Las Vegas vacation plans. I had actually moved my Vegas vacation up from when I was planning to take it in late January, which I figured would be the pit of winter. But then the prices for late January went up by well over a hundred bucks. So I saved a lot of money by going at Christmas. It’s a good thing I went, too. I was going bat crazy with the terrible cold weather in Saskatchewan. I couldn’t take one more day of it, so I was really glad to enjoy three days of sunny skies and reasonably decent temperatures with highs in the low teens. It felt like September weather down there. It really was absolutely better than the best weather Saskatchewan could come up with in December.

I sure didn’t miss Saskatchewan life very much when I was there. About the only thing missing in Vegas was Tim Hortons, but they have Krispy Kreme donuts down there and those taste better, anyway. Sorry, Canada.

Don’t expect to see much hockey on TV there, though, not even on the highlights; ESPN shows much more football and basketball. Incidentally, expect to see a lot of NASCAR race cars and other stuff in the casinos. Las Vegas is a NASCAR city and there’s a Sprint Cup race there in late February for those interested in going down there that month. There’s also a NASCAR Cafe on the Strip for those interested.

Las Vegas is famous for hosting the fights (boxing and UFC) so you may want to look up some if you are interested in those. There’s also a lot of football merchandise around, but you won’t find too many Saskatchewan Roughriders items in Las Vegas, unfortunately. At the hotel I was staying at, though, I noticed a tourist who was proudly wearing a green Wes Cates jersey. I felt right at home seeing that.

Fans of network television can preview some of the pilots being considered by NBC and CBS for free at some locations. The CBS screening rooms are at MGM Grand and NBC is at Mandalay Bay. Incidentally, the souvenir stores are overrun by CSI merchandise on sale everywhere; the show CSI is set in Vegas. There’s a real-life CSI exhibit you can visit at the MGM Grand as well, but it costs money to get in.

For those planning a vacation, make sure you get booked into a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip if your primary motive is to see any shows down there or do any shopping. Downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street is definitely not where the action is anymore and frankly looks a little worse for wear. I went down there on Christmas day and the place looked like one of those corpses discovered by the CSI people. The place was dead, dead, dead.

I’d say the Fremont Street casinos are really for the hard-core gamblers and card players. If you’re a hard-core gambler who likes to wear boots and cowboy hats, you’ll probably like downtown a lot more than the Strip, which is getting overrun by a lot of swanky shops from Beverly Hills and other types of stores aimed at the rich and the cool people.

The hotels downtown didn’t impress me, though, except maybe the Golden Nugget which at least had a little life to it. Most of them looked kind of average to me. If you insist on staying downtown make sure the hotel isn’t charging you an arm and a leg, otherwise you are getting robbed. (Also, anyone considering the California Hotel should know that the hotel has nothing to do with California; it’s full of Hawaiians.)

Incidentally, there are lots of pawn shops in downtown Las Vegas. Just an interesting observation.

Away from downtown, those considering swanky casino-hotels like the Palms, the Gold Coast and the Rio should know that those are located off the Las Vegas Strip and are kind of isolated. That’s a disadvantage if you want to schedule visits to a lot of casinos on the Strip, but an advantage if you want to get away from the crowds and noise and the wall to wall traffic, and want some peace and quiet. I actually went on foot to these casinos from Caesar’s Palace and it’s a long walk just from there, and I wasn’t even staying at Caesar’s Palace. So be aware of that. Also, there are other casinos such as South Point that are far away to the south and isolated, too. So know your hotel locations before you go.

If you do want to go to shows, consider waiting until you get to Las Vegas and go to Tix4Tonight, which sells tickets at half price. A lot of shows are NOT sold out, so spending sixty to a hundred bucks on a show might not be worth it in the end.

That’s it for now — needless to say I am seriously considering joining the World Poker Tour and moving to Las Vegas full-time. Fun place.

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