LAS VEGAS — Watching the advertising campaign for Sin City might lead you to believe an elaborate cover story is needed before heading to town.
That is, you must be a racecar driver or a big game hunter or something just as seemingly outrageous. At the same time, you might think you’ll need thousands of dollars in disposable income that you’ll be willing to throw down on a whim to have a good time.
But that’s not the case.
Las Vegas is all about what you make of it. Surreal? Yes. Bizarre? Indeed. Over the top? Without a doubt.
“Oh, there’s blackjack and poker and the roulette wheel / A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal / All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel,” the great philosopher Elvis once opined about Sin City.
The typical Vegas casino is indeed an endless row of slot machines, blackjack tables and roulette wheels, not to mention the poker tables and sports betting — hundreds of opportunities to try your luck at just about every type of bet imaginable. Whatever strikes your fancy, Vegas has it and in any theme you desire — from a Central Park theme at New York-New York to ancient Rome at Caesars Palace.
Want to bet $10 on a hand of blackjack? There are a dozen or so chances to do so within feet. But maybe you don’t part quite so easily with your hard-earned cash. No need to worry, just look the other way, and there are the penny slot machines. Yes, you can spend an entire week in Vegas and bet only one penny. Not sure if that has ever happened, though.
Just think of how many times you could pull the handle on the penny slot machine if you put in a $10 bill. At the blackjack table, that could be gone in a matter of seconds.
When you find the time to pry yourself away from the slot machines — or the Pai Gow tables, as is the case is with my friends — there’s the chance for some pretty good meals. Vegas is known for its buffets — breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, if a buffet doesn’t strike your fancy, I dare say you could find just about every type of food you could ever want and in most price ranges. For me, it’s a trip to Batista’s Hole in the Wall every time I’m in town. I don’t think you could do much better for the price — which includes free wine with dinner.
But just as famous as the hotels and casinos are the shows. From musicals to scantily clad showgirls, Vegas has it all. Lavish hardly begins to describe the shows — the music, the stunts and the scenery are over the top, in line with everything else that Vegas has to offer. That’s not to say the shows aren’t pricey, but if you’ve come this far, why not drop a few more bucks for the true Vegas experience?
Las Vegas certainly represents about the most extreme that America has to offer. Where else in this country can you find the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statute of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and a pyramid within walking distance? And walk you can. It’s possible to cover the roughly 3-mile strip, stop for gambling and grab a bite to eat in less than an afternoon – not to mention a chance for exercise.
But a trip to Vegas isn’t just about The Strip and its casinos. Strategically located, it is easy to head out to other nearby destinations, such as the Hoover Dam, for a quick day trip. Or, the Grand Canyon by a bus or helicopter allows for an even longer adventure away from the bright light city that’s going to “set your soul on fire.”
Back in Vegas, there’s no need to change your watch to adjust for the time change. Though not New York, this is a city that never sleeps. Perhaps, if you stay at New York-New York, you’ll cover both bases.
Raise those stakes? Absolutely.
After all, “There’s a thousand pretty women waiting’ out there / And they’re all livin’ devil may care / And I’m just the devil with love to spare.”
So, Viva Las Vegas, the city that’s a real-life “choose your own adventure,” where you have the opportunity to decide which life you want to live-even if it’s only for a few days.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on April 2, 2006.