Thursday, January 31, 2013

The last of Vegas, I promise. The Sarky Traveller 3.

Okay, so Vegas wasn't really meant to take up three blogs, but brevity is something I struggle with just as much as my friend, Rants of a Bitter Northerner. Still. This will be the end of it and then we can branch out to even more of America.

All The Sarky Traveller blogs now have a new home on

So we're back to Vegas at night, but this time a night of exploration, gambling, eating, a different hotel and free shows. It's an adults playground and there's something for everyone:

First things first let's cover the new hotel: New York New York. Now this is towards the North end of the strip, really in the thick of things and has a Brooklyn Bridge you can walk over, boats, The Statue of Liberty, the iconic skyline and a huge roller coaster framing it all. And that's just the outside.

Now again, we booked just a couple of weeks before and this was a weeknight so the deals were even better. We were offered a suite with jacuzzi in the room, but when we got there, they upgraded us to a suite that was bigger than our flat in London. And had a view on the strip. Winner!

Our slightly blurred from glare, view of The Strip.

Once our bags were dumped it was time to forage for food and then ride the roller coaster. There are loads of choices for food within the hotel/casino complex. There are restaurants, seafood, fast food joints, burgers, Italian (of course), pizza and Mexican. Just wander the indoor streets of Greenwich Village and you'll find something to your liking. 

Greenwich Village for all your eating needs and the finishing straight of the roller coaster. 

We chose Mexican at Gonzalez y Gonzalez, which was cheesy and meaty and ricey and beany and stodgy, which we needed after a very long day. But also, if you like your tortilla chips mighty then this is the place for you. You don't even have to ask for them and they come this big:

Then follow signs for The Manhattan Expressway for the most terrifying roller coaster ever! (I guess technically I can't say that as I haven't been on them all, but it was pretty terrifying, and I like roller coasters.)
There are loads of shops and The Coney Island Emporium, as you make your way up. So think arcades, grabber machines, pin ball. etc. Then you get to the roller coaster entrance and it's not cheap at $14.00, but when you only have one night there, it really is a must do. It's open late as well, most nights till around 11.00/midnight, so there's no rush. 

Now, you have to leave everything in a locker, but what I didn't realise until I'd handed in my ticket, was that my glasses were likely to fall off and my earrings. ARGH! So, please ladies and gents take off anything that has a slight possibility of flying away, otherwise you spend the whole ride like I did, clinging onto my ears for dear life. My glasses I some how secured between my legs, but this additional stress just made the ride even more terrifying. 

The first climb, you think you're never going to crest and the first drop you think is never going to plateau. Wow! I was shitting one from that first drop, until we eventually made it back in one piece. I have to say from the outside it looked very big, but also the drops looked quite gentle. I knew it would be fast but I think it was the loops and twists straight after each other that added to the scream factor. Although, you're going so fast and the force against you kinda knocks the sound back in. It's like, I'm trying to scream but it's forced back into my mouth. Very strange. 

The first two drops are 23 metres, followed by another climb and then a drop of 44 metres. And that's real stomach losing, feel like you're never going to level out, mess with your head type of drops. Wow! And when we finally finished, which you know by going through a section of the casino, you heart is on over drive, you're shaking, your legs don't want to work and you can't even decided if you enjoyed it or not.

We collected our stuff and forced our jelly legs to walk back down to casino level, where gaining some distance definitely helped. And after a half hour or so we did come to the conclusion that we enjoyed it, in a very stressful way and we were glad we did it because who knows when we'd be in Vegas again, but also that there was no way we were doing it again. Ha!

So if you're into rides. Go for it. Experience the thrill. But please take off all dangly things first and brace yourself. It may look nice and gentle, but it's actually savagely brutal with a twist of terrifying brilliance.

Now the real night time jaunt begins. The strip at night is spectacular. The lights, the buzz, the craziness. You can't really put it into words, you just have to get over there and experience it yourself. 

Day time rules still apply at night. 
  • Taxis are our friends.
  • Look around for the best rates on poker or roulette tables.
A lot of complexes have free shows and most of them outside. The most famous being The Bellagio fountains. Shows run from 12pm to 12am on weekends, with an increasing number of shows in the evenings. And on weekdays they start at 3pm and run through till 12am. (I didn't see them in daylight but at night they were absolutely spectacular.)

So the odds are, you are going to catch one of these and I urge you to! The fountains are amazing, the way they dance to music. And the combination of water, lights and music just adds to the weird, mystical sort of magic of the desert.

We had the delight of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. Ha! In true Vegas style.

Then we hop footed it to TI (Treasure Island) to try and catch the Siren's of TI show. Sadly it was way further than we anticipated - should have taken our own advice and made friends with a taxi - and we missed it. Boo! But they were due one more later. So we formed a plan: Gamble at The Venetian. Catch the Volcano show at The Mirage and then back to TI for the Siren's.

I'd just like to say that I like the name Treasure Island and don't think TI makes it any cooler. At the end of the day it's pirate themed, what could be cooler than that? You could call it Pirate Chic and people would still go. You could call it Arrrrr ship mates! And people would flock there. So really, the initials thing actually annoys more than anything.

Anyhoo. The Venetian has a cool light show which runs through winter at The Doge's Palace. It has more stuff going on in the summer too, but we managed to catch a bit of that before we went into the casino:

So to the plan. Now A really wanted to try some roulette and so we began the hunt for a cheap table. We managed to find one at a $10 bet, but it was rammed and we couldn't get in, so instead we opted for a $15 bet table with just two other players. Now these were few and far between as most of them were $25 plus, but if you have some patience and look around you can make your money go a lot further. (Okay, I realise I am speaking to people that are probably not quite as sensible as my partner and I. We were not made to gamble and are way too cautious when it comes to money, but we did seem to have luck on our side that night.)

We started off betting on red or black, which won us a bit more back. Then after a few bets I said this is boring, let's bet twice. So then we were betting odd and black, or red and no's 1-19. So it was a gamble but not as much as putting it all on one number. And we just kept winning both, so that each time we were getting an extra $30 back. 

Sticking to the plan though we only had ten minutes to get to The Mirage for The Volcano, so we cashed out with a whopping $165 from a start of $30 worth of chips. And in 10 minutes we'd made $135. Whoop! Even non gamblers can give it a good go. 

It always bums me out that you can't take pictures in the casinos, as they really are a sight to behold, but here is a picture that we took in the entrance to The Venetian casino:

And so to another free show at The Mirage. The Volcano plays nightly from 5pm and is a spectacle of fire, lights, music and sounds.

Last show at 11pm, nightly, The Volcano combines the music of Indian Tabla and sounds from Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead. An interesting and tense combination. Just wait for those fire balls, they'll warm you up on a chilly evening. 

Now, Vegas really does get a pounding from winds, whipping across the rest of the empty desert and this can stop shows from happening. The Bellagio and The Siren's of TI are especially affected and shows can be cancelled at short notice. Now sadly, this happened to us. It was due for the final show of The Siren's of TI, around 11.30 and they cancelled it due to high winds. Boo! But here is the pirate ship at night.

To curb our upset, we played a few slots in the casino at TI and I won another $14.50. Whoop! A good night for small winnings, but we honestly felt as though we'd won the lottery or something. He he. 

One of my favourite things about Vegas was this:

No, not a random silhouette of a man but the van in in front of him. Girl's Direct To You . Com. Genius!
This van just drove up and down all day long. Back and forth up and down the strip. And I was convinced there was actually women inside. You would call up and they would deliver a girl to the hotel of your choice. Ha! Kept me amused for two days anyway. 

Oh and another thing, on every street corner are a load of Mexicans giving out flyers, for, yes you guessed it: Girls! Because, what more would you want? Even when they see a couple together, they still offer you girls. And they annoyingly flick their flyers at you which makes this really irritating sound. And I'm not kidding, they're on every street corner. And along The Strip, that's a lot!!!! Just make sure you have a decent 'Fuck off and get out of my way' face and you should get by without throttling them. It was touch and go with me, but I resisted the urge. 

Now, of course each hotel complex also has shows on. These might be singers, Cirque du soleil shows, Blue Man Group, comedy, major artists like Elton John and Celine Dion, or cabaret and burlesque. If you have the time I would definitely do this, as there is so much to choose from and you can get last minute deals if you turn up just before the show and they have tickets left. Sadly, we only had one useful night there as the first night was after 24 hours of travelling. So we had to sacrifice seeing Elton. But we took in four free shows, won ourselves a bit of extra spending money and had an absolute blast. 

So I hope I've shown how you can do Vegas on a budget, but also that you can of course go all out if you have the available funds and the time. I would never suggest to someone to stay in Vegas for a whole holiday, though I know some people do that, but a few days is sufficient and surrounding Vegas is a whole host of exciting excursions and day trips, which we I will be sharing with you in travel blog 4. 

And so to summarise:
  • Take in free shows. They run daily along The Strip and offer an additional outdoor thrill.
  • If you have time, take in an indoor show at one of the complexes. They offer Broadway hits, alongside superstar musicians and mystifying circus skills. 
  • Ride the roller coaster at New York, New York and go head over heels. 
  • Find your best 'Fuck off face' and use it on the flyer flicking Mexicans. (I'm not being racist here, it's just they were all Mexican.)
  • And give yourself a gambling time limit. It's not only exciting that way, but it means if you are losing desperately, then you force yourself out of there. 
That's all for Vegas, but next time think Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon and Death Valley, the trilogy of amazing excursions!

The Sarky Traveller

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