Don't get me wrong. It was gigantic fun but it also ranks up there as pretty much the only place on the planet I've travelled to from a destination vacation perspective, where I don't feel a compelling need to want to pack up and move there.
It's changed tenfold since I was last there 15 years ago. The hotels are just enormous. Beyond enormous. I know big hotels or thought I did, having spent a good chunk of my career working for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, who have a few monster properties like the Banff Springs Hotel to brag about. But these properties make the Springs look like a small boutique inn.
We stayed at The Excalibur in a renovated room, which the kids loved. I think it has something like 4,000 rooms. We lucked out in that we were on a quiet floor and not too close or too far from the elevator. But of course everywhere you go when you stay on the Strip, you have to walk through a smoke-filled casino to get where you're going to. Unless you're going to the casino then you're in luck, (or so one is led to believe).
Even getting to the monorail, which takes you up and down the Strip entails a mile+ walking each way.
But the themed hotels - OMG, they were amazing. New York New York was by far my fave, although the Luxor lobby area was pretty cool, too. We spent time in the Caesar's Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian, MGM Grand, Harrah's, The Flamingo, The Hilton, The Luxor and the Bellagio. Most are an attraction in and of themselves.
The best part of our week was going to the Grand Canyon. Wow, double wow, triple wow - what a view and we were only at the West Rim of the GC - I can't even imagine what the South Rim must look like. I was a very nervous Nelly on the paths near the cliffs' edges (and that's putting it mildly - my son tells it as, "Mom was like totally freaking out on us!") - I was almost in tears at one point so finally hubby and the kids relented and kept their distance from the edges.
And I changed my mind from a year ago and walked the Skywalk. I was wrong - the view is infinitely better from there. Holy Daughter was so brave, she circled that thing straight down the middle glass part (that feels like you're walking on air) no less that 14 times. She's a daredevil. Some people were shuffling along the side where it appears like there's a proper walkway as opposed to glass, and they were holding onto the rail for dear life.
The Skywalk folks boast that it can support the weight of something like 6 or 7 Boeing 747s, which is what I pointed out to one timid woman. It didn't get her away from the edge but she did begin to walk a bit faster thereafter.
We rented a black Nissan Armada SUV, so we cruised in style and perhaps best of all, we were able to separate the kids with their own back seat bench, which is important when you're taking a road trip with tired children. We barely managed to get them out of the vehicle for our Hoover Dam stop - "awwwhhh, do we have to!?" The security stops and Checkpoint Charlies reminded me of our travels through the nuclear zone areas of Pakistan...which is a sad twist of irony that speaks volumes to the state of this late great nation in this post-terrorist era.
Other highlights of our week included:
- going to Mystere, Cirque de Soleil's amazing show - it was our first Cirque show but definitely not our last
- sneaking our 53-inch tall, 8 year old daughter on the 54-inch tall height restriction, giant roller coaster at New York New York - she slipped her shoes off and stood on the tops of her heel backs so as to look the height but they didn't care anyways. I held onto her leg for dear life and didn't let go the entire ride, whereas she kindly restrained herself (for my benefit, as she recounted to me later) from flailing her arms above her head the entire ride, as she is wont to do on any and all roller coaster rides.
- doing the rides at Circus Circus Adventuredome which is really lame and doesn't even begin to hold a candle to the indoor rides and triple loop roller coaster of Galaxyland at West Edmonton Mall. But it wasn't busy so that was a bonus.
- going on the Star Trek Experience 4D ride and attraction at the Hilton - I'm not a Trekky but it was fun to meet and speak with a Borg and experience these virtual reality trips to outer space.
- walking down the street or through the lobby with a drink in our hand - that was cool. Very liberal liquor laws
- having a late dinner with the kids at Margaritaville - the kids had fun interacting with the dudes on giant stilts and hanging out in a bar with live music at 11pm
- messing with the guys handing out girlie show cards with pictures of naked women on them - these dudes are all over the Strip but aren't allowed to hand cards to men (or women) who are walking with kids. I bet my son $3 bucks that I could play with buddy the card dude's mind. So the kids watched and giggled from afar as I grabbed a card from the outstretched hand of a very surprised Mexican, and innocently inquired in my best dumb tourist voice what the card was. (I didn't look at it - I maintained eye contact and my wide-eyed innocent look). He said, girlie show, and I said, girls? oh excellent, what do they do? dance? he mumbled something about stripping and I acted confused....and by this point, his buddies were laughing hysterically at him, he was blushing and I was still relentlessly curious. Holy Son and Daughter were busting a gut. Holy Hub was pretending he didn't know me and/or wishing he could sneak off to one of these girlie shows.
- hanging out at M&M World - cool store - we came home with 5 lbs of colored M&Ms and a couple of M&M dispensers
- slothing by the pool at our hotel drinking Rum Runners and catching some rays on an 80 degree day while the kids frolicked in the pool
- attending the cheesy Tournament of Kings jousting show at our hotel - kids loved it...
- finally making Holy Hub blow $5 at the slots at the airport while waiting for our flight home - it took him less than 3 minutes to lose it but he wanted to show Holy Son how quickly the slots eat money
- checking out the dancing fountain show at the Bellagio, watching the sky turn from daylight to dusk at the Forum and the Venetian shops, and watching a lion sleep on a glass walkway above my head for 20 minutes or so
I'm already plotting our next canyon trip though - I'm checking into a Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park camping vacation through southern Utah. Can't wait.