Visiting Las Vegas

I’m a live-in-the-woods and visit-the-city kind of guy, and visited Las Vegas twice this year. Vegas has never been a real draw for me – I only gamble with my time, not money; I don’t drink all that much; I don’t smoke; I don’t eat a lot – Vegas couldn’t compete with NYC, SF, or LA for my travel imagination.
But on these two trips to Vegas (in May, for TEDxSinCity, and in August, for the American Sociological Association meeting) I decided it might be the most creative city in America. I had a really good time (mostly) on both trips.
It’s creative because there are hundreds of shows, each of which is employing dozens or hundreds of creative specialist professionals to do set design, acrobatics, acting, singing, makeup, lighting, multi-channel sound, etc. It’s amazing. Even the malls and storefronts have a creative “take.”
Here are my travel tips:
* Stay on the strip. The hotels are fun, it’s great to be in the center of the action, and Vegas cabs are expensive. I stayed off the strip in May and it was a hassle, and way more money to get around.
* Did I mention Vegas cabs are expensive? It costs about $4 just to close the door, and in a morning of running errands between Caesar’s, NYNY, and the Palazzo I spent about $40 including decent tips.
* Spring for a show. All the Cirque du Soleil shows are amazing. We saw Zumanity, which was amazing. A friend who has seen them all said “O” was the best because of all the water. Order tickets in advance online and get good seats. You’re in Vegas, you may as well enjoy what they do best.
* If it’s hot, and you don’t like the heat, pay for the cabs. We had a lunch meeting at the Mirage, and we were staying at Caesar’s Palace. Got in the cab, said, “Mirage, please.” Cabbie said, “Buddy, it’s right next door.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s 110 degrees! Not walking to a meeting and arriving drenched.” He shrugs. It was $10, and totally worth it.
* There are amazing high-quality restaurants in Vegas, and you should go eat at them! Don’t go to the now-overpriced buffets, get a super-quality dining experience with killer service and awesome entrées. I don’t know much about sushi, but friends who do took me to Sushi Roku and wow, it was great! I do know about beef, and splurged on the NY Sirloin tasting menu (pdf) at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut and wasn’t disappointed. Plus, where else can you decide to spend $400 on dinner for two? You don’t get that chance every day. A friend’s favorite restaurant is Craftsteak. Pick your favorite food style and I bet (heh) you’ll find an exemplary experience in Las Vegas.
* In full disclosure, most days on the August trip we ate at the food court at Caesar’s. It was good enough, and cheap enough.
* Shopping is amazing. I needed a new suit for my wedding, and bought it at the mall attached to Caesar’s. It wasn’t even that expensive, as suits go. There’s all kinds of stuff you don’t see every day, and because tourism is down, etc, there are sales and people are super-friendly and helpful. I dislike shopping completely, and found shopping in Vegas easy and essentially fun.
* Here are the Apple Stores in Vegas, ’cause you never know….
* People really like to show off their bodies in Las Vegas. Whereas in Boston, if you smile at someone because of what they’re wearing you might get a black eye, in Vegas they smile back and slow down. Male, female, straight, bi, gay, lesbian, people are dressing for display, and enjoying the looks. I found this captivating and liberating. Much more of a “you look mahvelous, dahrling” vibe than any sort of creepy weird vibe.
* And, you can get anything you want, really fast and easy. K arrived with a really nasty knot in her neck, and had to do a presentation the next morning, so at 8pm I’m calling around the hotel to get her a massage. Being really clear that “my wife has a debilitating knot in her neck and shoulder” and we were not looking for a “massage” but an actual real neuromuscular style massage, someone was able to show up in our room in less than 30 minutes. It was amazing.
Here’s a fun talk by the Mayor of Las Vegas from the TEDxSinCity event. And here’s Fred Mossler, a senior guy at Zappos, describing why they’re relocating their entire workforce to Las Vegas.
Of course, after a week on the ground in Las Vegas this introverted country-mouse was wiped out and ready for it all to end. I know that in a world where externalities were priced appropriately Las Vegas wouldn’t exist. It’s in the middle of the desert, after all. There’s no water, except there’s water everywhere. People shouldn’t be able to survive there, except there are people all around. That said, since they built it, and people still hold conventions there…. The trips were super-fun, and I highly recommend planning to have a great time while visiting in Las Vegas.