So, to do Vegas properly... to do Vegas as a musician... er... to do Vegas as a broke-ass dude from New Jersey that usually plays music for a living and has only one night in town, here are a few suggestions.
I guess, before I go on with my mini review of Las Vegas that I am typing in some room off the strip, I should let you all know that I am on some strange adventure through America, the country I am from, but not really the one I have been traveling through. Yes, I have "gotten around" over the years, but I noticed that most of that was in the Eastern States and, if you've been reading this little blog lately, or have been following my actions through my Facebook status updates, you'd have noticed I've been out west.
I drove all the way from NYC to Wyoming then headed south all the way to California and will be spending the next few days in Utah and Colorado before returning. This has been a mixed trip of business and pleasure and so far, it's been both productive and enjoyable.
So, last night I did Vegas. Not the most romantic, or the most disturbing, but memorable and enlightening. If you are on tour and have the time off, or if you are playing a gig in town, or if you are just criss-crossing the US and feel compelled to visit, here's a few suggestions to make it work for you.
It's best that you spend either the day before, or the afternoon before, visiting the natural curiosities and expansively empty seemingness of Mojave Natural Preserve a couple hours south of the city, specifically Kelso Depot for lunch and some chit-chat and Kelso dunes for an amazing hike/climb up the highest sand dunes in North America. You can pretend you're in some desert film and the sand is whipped around your ankles and the sun blares down on you.
So, after a stop in Cima (and when you get there have your camera ready... you'll know why), you head the couple hours north to Vegas. Personally, Vegas should be arrived at by car, in the evening, coming south and, for the life of me, I can't figure out why no one has built a scenic pull out on I-15 because as you are clearing the final pass, the lights of the city, after complete darkness, mind you, the lights spread out like a sea of gold, the glittering city is breath taking. If the lights of Vegas are bright from space, imagine being just miles away.
So, arriving in town, I like to stay cheaply. Yes, you can probably get good deals at the fancy casino resorts, but if you are not diving headfirst into the low end, stay at the Super8 just one block off the strip. Not only is it the "Largest Super 8," but it is pretty reasonable and clean, and if you are one of those people that grab Room Savers from rest stops, you could end up paying about $45 including tax (!). What city anywhere can you get a clean, safe room, so close to the action? Not many that I know of.
So, you are around the corner from all the action. What next? My money goes to the Bellagio or to Caesar's Palace. Caesar's is just top form, with the best entertainment, an amazing pool and it is probably the biggest entertainment complex in town. The Bellagio is pretty classy and, if you've won big, or if you've successfully pulled off an amazingly technical but humorous vault heist, spend the rest of your evening quietly gloating with your cohorts at the famous Fountain outside that runs every day on the hour starting around 3pm.
Hungry? Well, there are plenty of good deals in town, and numerous celebrity chefs with restaurants but, to tell you the truth, I found the most satisfying place was "Stripburger," right across from Encore and Wynn. As a tourist, you sometimes want to find "that place that the locals go to" and Stripburger was it. As I sat in this open-air restaurant with table views of the Las Vegas Strip and outside heaters above me (it does get cool at night in the desert), I had the Ahi Tuna Burger, Cheddar Fries and a Cookies 'n' Cream Milkshake. Yikes.
As I sat there, all the workers from the casinos and other "fancier" restaurants were coming in for Happy Hour, which starts at 11pm, and to grab some take out. Everyone knew each other and, suddenly, I was transported away from this weird tourist trap Mecca and was "backstage" with all the help.
I felt at home as I sipped my shake, which was pretty good, and overstuffed myself, as the dealers came in, one after the next, and the lights glittered and all the disasters and parties went on in hotel rooms and at the roulette wheels. It was something.
So, now that I need to check out. I want to let you know that there is a 24-hour Starbucks just around the corner from my Super8 on Koval Lane located in the Westin and what I have discovered over the years is this: say what you want about Starbucks, but if you want an easy, quick and well-put-together breakfast for the road, they have a lot of good options. So I had the oatmeal and a coffee, yes, a coffee, which I have started drinking again... every day.
So, 'til next time, when I do some recapping, discuss Denver and finally do some reviewing of some of the music I have been listening to.