11 June 2011

Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Accommodations: The Bellagio.  Because Michael had stayed in one of its sister hotels, the MGM Grand, just a year prior, we were offered a deal to stay here.

Where we ate: 
  • We ordered room service for dinner both nights.  The first night was simply because we arrived to the room so dang late (after midnight), and my pregnant belly was screaming for another meal.  The second night was all my fault.  We had walked around the strip and downtown all afternoon and well into dinner time, say 7:30.  Tired, sore, and pissy, I needed to take a nap in our room.  Michael passed out, too, but I figured he would wake up after only an hour so we could have our one night out on the town to celebrate our upcoming anniversary.  Instead, we woke up after midnight.  We missed our chance to eat out, as well as the chance to see the Bellagio fountains.  I cried in bed over feeling like the pregnant wife who ruined vacation.  He soothed me, reassuring I had done nothing of the sort, and we ordered room service again.
  • Wolfgang Puck's Pizzeria and Cucina.  This was lunch for our only full day in town.  The restaurant was located inside the Aria hotel next door.  We took the free tram ride over just for the experience.  The decor of the restaurant was sleek and modern.  The service flowed like a river.  The food couldn't have been fresher if we had picked the ingredients ourselves.  We split the Insalata Mista (seriously, the freshest greens on a plate I've ever eaten) and a 10-inch proscuitto pizza with spinach, feta, and kalamata olives.  Es war sehr Gut!

Memorable sights and experiences:
  • The "lake" at the Bellagio.  It's huge.  And it's manmade.  It makes you want to go for a swim in the heat of the desert.
  • The Mirage.  We stopped here for a refreshment, but had to move from the bar when a woman lit up right next to us.  We found ourselves at the roulette tables getting marriage advice from our Filipino dealer named Aris.  He warned me about a man's mid-life crisis and how they have their own version of menopause.  We wanted to see the dolphin exhibit, but since it cost extra, we settled for taking pictures inside lush jungle-themed atrium.
  • Downtown Las Vegas.  A short taxi ride to downtown Las Vegas brought us here.  It made me rather sad to see this "classic" part of the town trying to survive the beating it was taking from the strip's popularity.  You may not have had the shoulder to shoulder sidewalk traffic here that you did on the strip, but the crowd you did see looked a bit sketchy.  And they were trying everything they could to get people excited about being downtown: zip line rides from one end to the other, selling one-liner T-shirts and belt buckles from kiosks, the chance to take a picture with a real Vegas showgirl, and giving out free hugs.
  • Caesar's Palace.  Sure, we saw it at 4:00am since we decided to venture out after our middle-of-the-night room service meal, but it was a lot less crowded than it would have been earlier in the night.  Its casino had a more unique look than a few others we had walked through earlier in the day.  It had thousands, if not millions, of crystal pendants that hung from the ceiling of each room and countless armless statues in water fountains.
  • Paris.  OK, so it was not the real Paris that comes to mind across the pond.  Instead, it's the one across the Bellagio fountain: the Paris Las Vegas.  With its Eiffel Tower replica and giant electric hot air balloon, it was the epicenter of fun every time we sauntered past it.  This place was beautiful at night, and the ceiling inside of their casino is painted to look like the sky.
Pros:
  • Visual stimulation.  Whether you have a passion for art and architecture, or if your inner child simply likes pretty lights, then Vegas has it all.  There is not a tile in any floor out of line or a light bulb in a display out of power.  The sculptures, the water features, the palm trees, the advertisements--everything is meant to attract and hold your attention long enough for an "ooooh" or an "ahhhhh".
  • Accessibility.  Whatever you want, whenever you want it, it's yours.  The town literally never sleeps, which is how they earn their business.  No wonder this town attracts high rollers and celebrities.
  • World-class dining.  We admit, we are amateur foodies.  If we had had more time in town, we would have tried a little of everything.
  • The shows.  I wish we had the time to see one of the shows.  There were so many to choose from in so many different categories: comedy, magic, acrobatics, burlesque, famous entertainers, throwbacks to favorite musical eras.
  • There's always room.  If you can't book a room somewhere in Vegas, you didn't try.  There's always room, whether it's on the strip, downtown, or just outside the city.
Cons:

  • Smokers welcome…everywhere.  Seriously.  It's a smoker's paradise in Vegas…and a pregnant woman's nightmare.  Non-smoking zones are practically non-existant (like in your hotel room).  So whether you're standing on the sidewalk, buying a drink at the bar, or simply passing by a casino, you're going to walk through someone else's cloud.  It was absolutely my least favorite aspect of the town.
  • The attire…or lack thereof.  The teensy weensy clothes of the party-type girls in Vegas make the sorority girls' attire at UGA look like what your granny would wear.  It's one thing to catch a little cleavage at the pool.  I expect that.  But when I can tell you aren't wearing any underwear beneath that sheath dress without you bending over, I kind of want to vomit.
  • It's not for kids.  People make the claim that Vegas is family-friendly, but I don't buy it for a second.  The casinos, the pools, the shops, even the restaurants…nothing screamed at me that one day Michael and I should return with our children.
  • It's a money pit.  Everything costs something.  Nothing here is free, and it felt like everything was eating into our travel budget.  Good thing we were only here 2 nights.
Traveling while pregnant tip I learned from here: I thought the dry heat would be my friend, keeping me cooler than in the overwhelming humidity of home.  But because I lost a lot of hydration from all the sweating I did while walking around during the day, I found myself getting thirsty very quickly.  I also felt the need to put sugar in my body since you lose more than water through sweat.  The solution?  Stopping at a casino bar for a virgin daiquiri and a tall glass of ice cold water.


OK, so we took this picture on the way OUT of Las Vegas, but it serves best as a first picture for an entry on Las Vegas.  A woman stood at the sign and offered to take pictures of tourists…for a few bucks, of course.  She was worth the cash.
In my mind, the Bellagio pool was one of the redeeming qualities of Vegas.  Waitresses walked around filling drink and snack orders.  If you needed a lounge chair, an employee would run to grab 5 chairs and then position them the way you wanted them to be angled in the sun.  No children were running amuck or having water fights to tick off the serious sunbathers.  I still can't decide what's more embarrassing, though: the young men who puffed out their chests and tried to hit on the pool maids or the old European men who strutted their overly-tanned and wrinkly selves in brightly-colored, butt-hugging Speedos.

The world's largest chocolate fountain was located in the Jean Philippe pastry shop, which was located in our hotel.  We purchased breakfast from this store both mornings we were in Vegas.  Their quiche was rich and savory, and their blueberry brioche was heaven in a flaky pastry.

The Bellagio lobby features the masterpiece Fiori di Como by the glass genius Dale Chihuly.  Each time I stood under it, I couldn't help but be amazed.  It was like walking through a museum every time we walked into the hotel.

Another shot of the Chihuly glass.  Makes you feel as if you're swimming through a reef of colorful anemones and jellyfish.

Going to the restroom at Wolfgang Puck's Pizzeria was an interesting one.  Men and women's private stalls are separated only by walking space, not by completely different rooms.  The "clean up" area is shared space between the stalls.  Still a little weirded out by this one, but at least the look of the sink area was sleek and artsy.

On our first walk down the strip, we stopped at the Bellagio "lake" where the famed fountains put on a show each night with special light effects and songs from classic entertainers.  You don't realize just how large the lake is until you see it during daylight hours…yeah, it's 9 acres.  You could fit our yard in this lake almost 5 times!

All Parrotheads must stop here.  And I did--for a pair of palm tree flip flops and a Margaritaville Las Vegas shot glass for my collection.  Michael encouraged me to buy a vintage T-shirt, but my bulging Baby Nerd belly prohibits the buying of screen tees until after she arrives.

The sports book inside of the Mirage.  I figured since Michael was a close follower of sports stats that I'd take his picture.  A floor worker in the casino approached me and informed me that photography inside of any casino was strictly forbidden.  It was one of my many casino faux pas during our short stay.  I still kept the picture.

Downtown Las Vegas!  Classic look, sketchy feel.

Another view of downtown Las Vegas.



Location: Hoover Dam and Lake Meade, NV


Where we ate: 
  • At the concession stand.  We ordered a dam slushy and a bottle of water before heading into AZ.

Memorable sights and experiences:
  • The dam itself.  The sheer size of this structure is enough to drop your jaw.  We learned a lot about the building of it walking through the visitor center: the amount of cement it took to build, the number of workers it took, the pay each worker made.  Now this is something worth taking the kids to visit.
  • Standing in two states (and two time zones) at once.  OK, so you can easily do that just about anywhere in the country, but we've never stood in NV and AZ at the same time!  It's something that entertained these 2 southerners, and we can tell our daughter one day that she was there with us.
Pros:
  • The high security.  Everyone has to put their travel packs and purses through X-ray machines and then step through a metal detector.  You do feel a little safer knowing that there aren't any firearms or bombs on the dam when you're walking across it.
  • The experience of seeing this modern marvel.  It is something you should take the time to visit.  It will take your breath away and impress you with its history.
  • For the basic tour, it's only $8 per person!  You can take tours of the hydroelectric facilities if you want, but it costs a lot more.  We were able to see so much on the $8-a-head tickets and have the freedom to walk across the dam.  It was worth it.
Cons:
  • They don't allow food inside the dam.  And they aren't kidding.  If you have it in your back pack like we did, security officers will confiscate it.  That's exactly what they did to us.  They took every single snack I had bought before the trip to keep my stomach from getting angry while enduring long stretches of road.  I was furious.
Traveling while pregnant tip I learned from here: Be aware of the location of all restrooms.  You could venture out on the dam, suddenly have to pee, and not know where the closest facility is.  


Me from a great viewing deck of the dam.  You could get a serious case of vertigo looking down inside the dam from here.

A shot of Michael in front of the Hoover Dam bypass, which was built in case you didn't want to cross over the busy dam.  Just look at that view behind him!  Turns out, the road past the dam was closed and we didn't know this until we made the trip across it.  We had to backtrack to get to the bypass in order to cross into Arizona.

Looking beyond the dam toward the bypass.  Nature and man collided here, and then decided to work in harmony.

There's always a nice tourist who will offer to take your picture together.  I love pictures with the hubs.

This is the mid-point of the dam where NV and AZ meet.  We were the dorks that had to have a foot in each state for the picture.  Baby Nerd was really trying to show she's a part of the state straddling, too.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at Vegas last month and I took pics inside the Mirage casino. The people who worked there didn't mind at all and actually allowed us to take pics!!! :)

-ilovehorseyrides

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