WHERE ON EARTH?
Weird and Dead Stuff

       

WHERE ON EARTH?
Weird and Dead Stuff

       

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SO YOU'RE GOIN' TO VEGAS !

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Having lived in the Vegas area for four years, from 1999-2002, revisited for Heidi's 50th birthday October of 2004, here are some great tips to make the most of your time there - I'll cover the Sights, Dining, Gaming, Shows, Hotels and Roller Coasters here. There is indeed a lot for families to do without any gaming involved, though kids will likely see the casinos when checking in, for instance, and during some of the touring of casinos - remember not to linger, as security guards WILL move you and your children along, as there are NO children allowed to remain in the casino area.

SIGHTS!

Welcome at the airport, and slightly oversized desert critters:

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Our first stop in Las Vegas so we could take a picture of the Vegas sign...NOT a recommended stop at the Klondike.

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 Fashion Show Plaza (Alien UFO looking saucer over the complex makes it easy to find):

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Entrance to Little China shopping & restaurants on Spring Mountain Road is a worthwhile stop:

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The Harley store on Las Vegas Blvd.  is quite a sight with the huge Harley "crashing" through the wall:

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And even a Harley Chia-Pet outside to view:

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*Note on VALET PARKING - TAKE ADVANTAGE of it! Average tip $1-2.00, drop the car off in front or where specified and wait a few minutes to pick it up...no big deal. Just don't leave valuables in the car.  Parking garages for ALL casinos adjacent to casinos, if you prefer to self park - for cars or mini-vans - for tall vans & SUV's the valet service is mandatory.

*NOTE: On tipping waitresses in the casino - the norm is $ .50 per drink for soft drinks & water - order each time she comes around, remember you're in the desert! Then stay near the area till your drinks arrive.

*NOTE: Wear a good pair of walking shoes. If you park at one casino and do three casinos sightseeing in the immediate vicinity, you'll appreciate this tip. Even doing the Forum Shops in Caesar's is a mile or more to see it all.  DON'T try to walk from Treasure Island to the Stratosphere, for instance - it only LOOKS close, and there's a few seedy blocks you'll wish you never walked.  The walk from MGM to Bally's, across the street and back also LOOKS close but you'll walk over THREE MILES - believe me, we did it.

 

FIRST SUGGESTION:  DRIVE THE STRIP - from Old Town at the north, all the way to the Luxor at the south and back again!

Suggested combinations:

Fremont Street (park at Fitzgerald's & walk)

Rio Casino (it's by itself)

Hilton  "

Caesar's "

Stratosphere  "

Aladdin "

Mirage - Treasure Island (adjoining) - Venetian (across street)

Paris - Bellagio (walkway over LV Blvd.)

MGM Grand - New York New York (bridge between)

Mandalay Bay - Luxor (monorail between)

1. FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE - (see information below the pictures too)

Heidi in front of Binion's Horseshoe Casino there:

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 here is what the canopy overhead looks like BEFORE the show begins, standing in the center, looking one way, then the other:

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 Here is a "slide show" of one show we enjoyed in October 2004, some chose to lay on the floor and look up, it was tempting!

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 A MUST! This is the OLD "strip". Go at dusk or dark to "Downtown" Las Vegas, (take 93 to Las Vegas Blvd., south to 4th Street, right into the Fitzgerald Casino/hotel, drop the car with a valet, walk half a block) to the NEON CANOPY ! Overhead shows every hour depending on the season, at least two different overhead shows. Stop in at the Indian store which is great; watch the Spray Paint artist on the sidewalk and other interesting activities, photo op at the Lady Luck Hotel for a pic next to the HUGE slot machine at the entrance. Watch for the $1 shrimp cocktails in Old Town if you need a "snack".  DON'T play the slots, no need to enter any casinos here, or eat downtown - better gaming & dining elsewhere! Make this a fun family experience!

Another opinion added, friend Frank recommends seeing the 

"Hand of Faith" gold nugget at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino:

 The largest on public display in the world, discovered using a metal detector six inches below the surface.  875 troy ounces, found in Australia by a man prospecting behind his modest trailer home.

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2. The Hilton Hotel 

Trekkies only! on the north end of "The Strip" of Las Vegas Blvd. has a great interactive Star Trek Experience Ride that is perfect for the Trekkie in your life. Visit the small but excellent Star Trek Museum right there near the ride which is part of the store, eat something light in the Quark Cafe (cool place!) and if you linger over a tall coffee you may just see one of the characters in costume walking thru for an impromptu visit! Another family fun adventure.

3. TREASURE ISLAND

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Great free Pirate show right in front - just stand on the sidewalk - regular shows perhaps every hour!

4. MIRAGE 

Great volcanic eruption outside - seen from the sidewalk. Nice aquarium inside in the lobby (free). The white tigers can be viewed there even though there's no longer a Siegfried and Roy show, though we never investigated. I believe there's a charge.

5. VENETIAN

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Great for a walk around the shops to look at the atmosphere they've created - artwork on the ceilings - very elegant place. Don't bother with the gondola ride - just enjoy the singing of the gondoliers somewhere along the line - they can be amusing. Nice photo ops on the bridges for wedding parties.

6. CAESAR'S

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Great indoor architecture and sculptures throughout the Forum Shops! Also, the free Poseidon show at the end of the hallway near the Thrill Ride every half hour is worth watching. Check out the FAO Schwartz Toy Store!! DO NOT eat at the buffet at Caesar's.  Save your money and eat soup and bread at Spago's or Wolfgang Pucks instead.  Good IMAX theater too, to get off your feet.

7. MGM GRAND

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EXCELLENT free lion habitat you "walk through" clear lucite tunnels and see handlers with the lions all around you. MUST SEE, even at night though the lions may be sleeping. Walk across to New York New York casino via the bridge across the street after this.

8. NEW YORK NEW YORK. (by day and by night)

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Statue of Liberty with and without Heidi:

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 Stroll the streets of New York and Central Park. Suggestion - get a loaf of ciabatta bread at the Italian bakery attached to the Italian restaurant (Il Fournais), get a bowl of chicken soup from the New York Deli, get gourmet coffee and cookies from the little bakery, sit on the "street" for "outdoor dining" and hear the roller coaster overhead, see the steam from the manhole covers. Fun and cheap eats! Also Coney Island rides and activities for the kids on the top floor, if you wish.

9. RIO 

GREAT free Mardi Gras show in the main casino - check for start times; they're about half hour long, worth taking the time to see. Show is on stage and all overhead - pure fun! Note the buffet is among the best too, around $15.95 - makes you wish you had 4 stomachs like a cow - you'll see what I mean.

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10. PARIS

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A renowned bakery on the ground floor if you opt out of the restaurant:

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And a "bronze" rock star statue that is actually a live street performer right outside the bakery:

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11. BELLAGIO

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The fountain display (like no other!!) - stand close to the main Bellagio entrance for the full effect, if possible, watch two shows - they're every 15 minutes, should be different music for at least two shows. FREE. Then step inside and see the Dale Chihuly glass flower ceiling in the lobby - world renowned. Unless you're into expensive shopping or want to spend about $20 to see the Art Gallery, move on to:

12. LUXOR

 The black Pyramid - the light shooting from the top can be seen by the Shuttle in space. Great walk inside in a circle around the casino which is in the center of Egyptian motif, some nice artwork statues in the casino, interesting shops. Blue Man Group performs here (about $60 - sit at the back for best effect). Take the free shuttle across to Mandalay Bay after this, or vice versa.

13. MANDALAY BAY

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Free shuttle to the Luxor - easy parking. If you're staying during hot season, the surf pool is cool. Main attraction here is the Shark Reef (around $15) which is pricey - we felt it was worth about $8 but if your kids love sharks, you may opt for it - and the buffet (especially the dessert table!) is very good.

14. ALADDIN

The Aladdin has a fun shopping area to walk around for the Middle Eastern atmosphere if you've got the time; a great Oriental Chicken salad available in the cafe, large enough for two.

15.  Newest Casino:  Wynn's.

We have not visited it yet, we welcome information on it!

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16.  Monte Carlo

Lovely Roman architecture walk outside, nothing special inside, our opinion only.

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17.  Stardust

Famous for Wayne Newton's shows:

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18.  Bally's

The tube entrance is the most interesting part, the casino is what you would expect inside.

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BEST ROLLER COASTERS

1. Sahara Casino (NASCAR Cafe/store) (goes inside & out) great new roller coaster.

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2. New York New York (goes inside & out)
3. Circus Circus (also an indoor water park for the kiddies)

4. Top of Stratosphere - outside (*thumbs down) take the Hotshot instead, if you dare!  Been there, done that!

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BEST BUFFETS
1. Sam's Town (lunch or dinner) around $9-12 (Boulder Highway)
2. Rio (top-of the line!) $16-dinner
3. Mandalay Bay (lunch or dinner) $9-16 prox
4. Green Valley Ranch (a Station casino) off Hwy 215 (Las Vegas Blvd to 215 East to Green Valley Rd exit - you can see the casino from Hwy 215)
*5. Not buffet, but a meat feast - special dinner for two - we suggest Yolie's on Paradise Blvd. one block off the strip - Brazilian open-fire grill with a parade of meats sliced from the skewer at your table till you say "when". Fresh atmosphere, wanna feel pampered, here you go. $25 per person.
6.  Sweet Tomatoes - a salad/soup/bread/pasta buffet restaurant for around $10 per person that re-defines good eating (Stephanie Drive, Henderson)
7.  Recommended by customer Carolyn:  Buffet at Main Street Station casino in Old Town, lovely stained glass view, good buffet.

 

BEST SHOWS
1. "O" at Bellagio - Russian water ballet with a new definition. $100 each, never any discounts, always sold out, get tickets ahead to be sure.
2. "Cirque du Soleil" at Treasure Island - animal-free French circus will also re-define "circus" - front seats are great, but other seats are fine too. $90 ea.  Get tickets in advance.
3. "Blue Man Group" at the Luxor - $60 - and sit at the back, the view's actually better. Very avante-garde show, refreshing change from anything you may have seen before. You MAY get free tickets by going to a card table to the right of the regular ticket counter just before the show starts and asking for comp tickets.

 

CHEAP EATS
BREAKFAST
LONGHORN Casino - on Boulder Highway - $2.99 for a HUGE ham steak, eggs, hash browns, toast and coffee. We got hooked.
RAILROAD PASS Casino - Hwy 93 heading towards Boulder City (15 min. from downtown) - $ .99 breakfast - order two! Eggs, hash browns & toast.
CHARLIE'S (formerly PT's Casino) $ .49 cent big breakfast.
LUNCH/DINNER
PT's MINING Co. Casino (now Charlie's) (Boulder Hwy, also other locations) $1.99 big burger & fries - excellent.
MAGIC STAR Casino - Boulder Hwy heading towards Boulder City - $.99 for huge burger and fries, all day and night. No take-outs. BIG ELVIS performs here on Wednesday nights, our last information - REALLY big guy, really great voice!
RAILROAD PASS Casino (halfway to Hoover Dam) - Conductor's Room - Prime Rib for $6.95 is a full dinner, never had a bad meal.
MIRAGE - Garden Cafe adjoining the Noodle House - order a Club sandwich and fries you can even split and be full. $8.95.
NEW YORK - Mentioned above - check it out.
Other eating tips mentioned by Casino above.

 

OUTSIDE THE CITY
1. A drive to Mount Charleston (an hour) has some awesome houses on the mountain, and a cozy stay at the old Lodge on the left halfway up, or just a snack in the huge dining hall with incredible views, skiing with plenty of snow after October and through April at the top.
2. Boulder City - on the way to the Hoover Dam - stop at a couple of the antique shops in Old Town (Back in Thyme on the main street, and Janine's Antiques around the corner on B Avenue) - our old shop was at 523 Nevada Hwy across from Back in Thyme Antiques. The Boulder Dam Hotel on Arizona Street a few blocks away has the Boulder Dam Museum on the top floor which is a unique "you're there" experience of what life was like for the workers at the Hoover Dam. Eats - Evan's Bar & Grill - excellent Italian/Greek/American food, 1 block from the Boulder Dam Hotel; Casa Flores - great Mexican food, Pit Burger (Vons shopping plaza) for a huge burger & fries, the Coffee Cup for huge omelets and the five cent cup of coffee and a taste of Old Town Boulder City.
3. Hoover Dam - a GREAT sight to drive across the dam, photo op from both sides, stop at the Visitor's Center and look down the 700 feet of the dam itself. Surface tours only, since September 11th. GREAT drive across & back at NIGHT too!

 

GAMING

We've found the mega casinos on the Strip tend to be wound pretty tight on the slots, and ho-hum machines, though you may win big anywhere, anytime, of course. Don't bother getting the ID cards for points - it's only useful if you play every month and can trade in points for meals. Your cards would expire in three months anyway from non-play. Here's our top picks where locals go to win steadily and play on new choices of gaming machines every two weeks:

1. FORTUNE Casino - off Boulder Hwy on the way to Boulder City, turn at the K-Mart - left on Horizon for 3 blocks. "Penny" slots - a misnomer, as you insert no pennies, nor does it pay in pennies. You can play a penny, but no one does. Minimum 8 cents, usually around 36-45 cents are played per bet, up to $2.25 per hand. BEST PAYOUTS and MOST INTERESTING MACHINES - ask anyone next to you, or the floor people how a machine is played. Don't be shy.  ALL ticket in-ticket out.  YOU WILL BE SPOILED ONCE YOU FIGURE THIS OUT, you won't want to play anywhere that may still have coins or hand-pay.
2. GREEN VALLEY RANCH (Station Casino) on Hwy 215 - directions above.
3. SUNSET CASINO (a Station Casino) on Sunset Drive.
4. LONGHORN Casino - Boulder Hwy. Play the old machines near the restrooms; but there's others that can be fun. (don't forget the great breakfast deal!)
5. HACIENDA Casino-- halfway to the Hoover Dam from Boulder City. Quiet and spacious, we've won our share there. Unless you eat fast food there, eat at at the steakhouse rather than the buffet. Nice movie theater too.

Hacienda sunrise outside hotel window:

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6. PT's Mining Co. Casino (Now Charlie's Casino) on Boulder Hwy. Cozy place (you won't get lost), good restaurant (ask for Nan) and plenty of fun machines.
7. FIESTA Casino - Boulder Hwy and Hwy 215 Juncture. Changed hands recently. The Fuego Restaurant is a nice dining experience, $10-20 for dinner. The Cafe is very good also. We recommend it.

Of course, there's oodles of other casinos and attractions, but this gives you some starting points, folks.

Any other questions, we're happy to answer for you - just email us (email address below). If you have your own suggestions to add once you've been to Vegas yourself, do let us know!

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