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July, 1998

Well, five months have gone by since our last vacation, so time for another trip. We were trying to decide between Las Vegas and New York City (we're starting to repeat ourselves). Since we got a great deal on a flight, Las Vegas won out. However, as a compromise, we stayed at the New York, New York Hotel in Vegas. We booked our flight with Canada 3000, a charter airline.

After an uneventful flight, we departed our plane after landing in Vegas and headed out of the terminal. We grabbed a limo to take us to the New York, New York Hotel. Our driver turned out to be an Elvis impersonator. Only in Vegas.

The New York, New York Hotel and Casino at night

Although we originally intended to stay at the Excalibur (because it was cheaper), we decided to stay at the New York, New York because it was fairly new. We didn't regret our decision. Each room is located in a tower that resembles a New York landmark, like the Empire State Building. Replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge stood outside the hotel, while inside were recreations of Central Park, Coney Island, and Soho. Our hotel room was small, but it wasn't as small as I feared (we got a tower room, which is $10 cheaper than a standard room). The room had plenty of space for the two of us, with a king-size bed, TV, a table and chairs, and a couple of night tables. Heck, the bathroom was twice as big as the one in our old apartment (the bathroom had the coolest shampoo/conditioner/mouthwash/shower cap/sewing kit containers; each was shaped like a New York building. We stuffed these into our suitcase every morning) The room was decorated in an art-deco style (it reminded me of the Chrysler Building). Our room overlooked the Strip, facing the MGM Grand. We looked down on the Manhattan Express roller coaster, and could easily hear the screams of the riders. Fortunately, the roller coaster stopped operating at 10:30 in the evening, before we went to sleep.

"What's a Mr. Pibb?" These are the immortal words that Julie recited when confronted with a McDonalds menu at the Monte Carlo Casino. For the uninitiated, Mr. Pibb is a soft drink that is similar to Dr. Pepper (only without the Ph.D.). Our first afternoon was spent exploring the Monte Carlo, which was next door to the New York, New York. We were very impressed by the Monte Carlo. Although small by Vegas standards, it was clean, quaint, and relatively quiet. We ate at the Monte Carlo buffet twice, with the food being pretty good and reasonably priced. Breakfast included freshly squeezed orange juice; just the thing on a hot desert morning.

The New York, New York Hotel and Casino during the day

One of our days was spent getting acquainted with the Las Vegas transit system. All the car rental outlets "ran out" of economy cars, so the cheapest car to rent was $50 (a Dodge Neon at that - ugh!). We decided to take the bus instead of shelling out that much money. We took the bus to the Belz Factory Outlet, a Target story (in urban Las Vegas), and Toys 'R Us. Waiting for a bus, without shade, in 46 DEGREE Celsius (115 degree Fahrenheit) heat was not the most pleasant of experiences.

That night, we visited Caesar's Palace. It has expanded a LOT since we last visited four years ago. The Forum Shops went on forever. We hung out at FAO Schwarz for what seemed like hours (today's toys are so cool). The Trojan horse in front was pretty neat, as was the Steiff Bear display. Other new things that we saw in Vegas include Coca-Cola World (the lychee cola from China was disgusting), Gameworks, and M&M World. The problem with the heat was that we would be tired in the afternoon, head back to our hotel room, and end up falling asleep for 3 hours, essentially wasting our afternoon.

FAO Schwarz in the Caesar's Palace Forum Shops (AP Photo)

Another new "event" that we saw was the Excalibur moat show, where a wizard battles a fire-breathing dragon. However, this was about as elaborate as an episode of Teletubbies. We didn't bother to attend the Treasure Island pirate show, as we saw it last time we were here. Nor did we bother to see the Mirage volcano show again.

Julie won $20 on a nickel slot machine!

The Fremont Street experience was new to us. It was better than I expected, although it was kind of short (only about 10 minutes long). And despite the city's best efforts, the Fremont Street area is still a bit seedy. The neighbourhood didn't seem that safe, and there was a real fear that our bus might get bus-jacked. I wanted to go across the street to get a Slurpee at the 7-11, but Julie's pleas of fear (and loathing) prevented me from going.

The Fremont Street Experience

One evening, we had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in the MGM Grand. It was a waste of time. We had to line up to put our name on a list (and receive a ticket), then line up when our name got called (45 minutes later), and lined up again after they took our ticket. It took about 90 minutes to finally get seated, even though the entire second floor was empty. Plus, I'm all for saving the environment, but I hate preachy restaurants that make me feel guilty that I threw a pop can out the car window in 1986. Just let me sit down and stuff my face. Enough with the rampant environmentalism, already. If we all want to do something good for the planet, how about a moratorium on crappy theme restaurants???

Overall, Las Vegas was great the second time around. The city changes so much year after year, that we'll have to visit fairly often just to keep up to all the changes. New hotels going up soon include the Bellagio, the Venetian, and Paris. Maybe we'll visit in 4 more years. Can't wait.

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