Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vegas: Business, Pleasure, and Cultural Immersion

Emily's Very First Trip to Vegas
I had the privilege of taking a business trip to Las Vegas two weeks ago. I attended a conference all about retirement savings accounts. Ironic, right? While I took notes on tax penalties for withdrawing funds from an IRA, thousands of people within a few-mile radius were gambling. I learned a lot about policies and procedures, but the biggest lessons had to due with the city itself.

Prior to this trip, my knowledge of Las Vegas was limited to what I'd seen in movies. Allow me to elaborate.

Thanks to the 1992 Disney classic Honey I Blew Up the Kid and everybody's favorite drama-crime-comedy trilogy Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, I was woefully misinformed. 

Emily's Misconceptions about Las Vegas

Traffic on the strip is that of a residential neighborhood (remember when Wayne Salinsky lures his giant baby away from casinos with an ice cream truck?).

Reality: crossing the street in Vegas risky. Best to wait for the cross walk and traffic signal, then elbow your way through the crowd to get to the other side. I saw a middle age woman, clutching her husband's arm, tense with fear and scream “Ahh!” Her eyes were wide as pedestrians from both sides of the street merged in the middle of the road. It’s no place for babies, giant or otherwise.  
    See all those lanes? Scary
Las Vegas is glamorous, clean, and filled with celebrities (other than elevator shafts and AC ducts, Daniel Ocean and his Eleven cronies were always shown in ritzy settings surrounded by beautiful people).
Reality: People-watching in Vegas is the combination of a high-end mall, the county fair, and WalMart. Passing each other on the casino floors at any hour of the day are people in formal attire, swimsuits, wedding gowns, sweatpants, and any combination of the above. I thought I was going to feel out of place since I didn’t pack anything with sequins, but I needn’t have worried. It’s hard to stand out no matter what you wear.

Showgirls and man with baby occupy the same sidewalk. Weird.

The weather in Nevada poses a constant risk of heatstroke and sunburn (for someone who burns as easily as I do, SPF 30 is a must).

Reality: Every building on the strip is air-conditioned. Good thing my co-worker warned me to pack sweaters. After our classes each day, we'd drop off our teaching materials in our room, change out of long sleeves and jackets into swimsuits, and lather on the sunscreen. However, we only had one day by the pool when we were actually in the sun. Every other afternoon we had to contend with clouds, a brief rainstorm, and, duh, the huge buildings surrounding us, obstructing the sun.  

Good thing the pool towels were big.
Gambling is only one of many things to do in a casino. 

Reality: everything is geared toward keeping you in the casinos. Even in the shopping areas, there are no windows, no clocks, and plenty of opportunities to keep buying drinks. Wi-fi cost $15 a day at the casino I stayed in. There was an hourly fee for using the weight room (I packed my gym shoes and workout gear, but never wore either: no way was I going to pay to use a treadmill). Instead, I lost $25 on the penny slots. In a VERY brief period of time. And I wanted to keep playing. They had me right where they wanted me. The lights and colors and jingling noises on the casino floor were totally hypnotizing. Annoying, but hypnotizing nonetheless. I'm easily distracted by anything shiny so I was a lost cause.
For my shark-loving husband
That being said, the highlights of my trip had nothing to do with gambling:
I loved the Bellagio Fountains (and learned that Clair de Lune was just the song recorded in Ocean's Eleven...there's a new tune playing every 30 minutes in real life).
I didn't really know what to expect, but was totally delighted by Blue Man Group. If you haven't seen them, you should. Any attempts to describe them will sound lame and not do their hip, edgy sense of humor any justice. I couldn't even decide on a picture to post, so here's their link: http://www.blueman.com/experience. SO GLAD I went to their show.

It was a great trip!

Me and my co-worker in Margaritaville


  1. My only memory of Vegas is going to Circus Circus with my family at the age of about 7 or 8 and winning a tiny stuffed lion. Probably just as well.
    We stopped in a casino on our last vacation, somewhere in central Florida. I was bored out of my mind. Drew wanted to play the slots and I just ambled behind him, ready to leave as soon as possible. The bright flashy lights and large crowds of people were like sensory overload for me.

  2. Aw, fun! I've been to Vegas a million times for work, but never with my friends or husband. Now I want to!


  3. I took my first trip to Vegas in July and found it ironic that the gym at my hotel closed at 9 p.m. when everything else stayed open forever.

    I loved the Bellagio too -- fountains and all.

    I chose to see one of the Cirque Du Soleil shows.

    Can't say that I'm itching to go to Vegas again.

    Great recap of your trip.

  4. Love Vegas :)

    I have some incredibly great memories but honestly there are some strange happenings going on over there. Crazy town.