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Wherever I Go, There I Am

June 6, 1998:
Las Vegas Without Gambling
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  June 6, 1998

Las Vegas, Without All The Gambling

As neither my dad nor I gamble, when we visited Las Vegas a few weeks ago we were interested in checking out what, besides the gaming, makes this city America's New Favorite Destination.

One thing any traveler to Las Vegas must do is check his irony at the city limits. Having arrived with preconceptions of Las Vegas' cheesy gaudiness, I was very pleasantly surprised by the care with which the city has developed, the sophistication of the architecture and design, the marvelous detail found in the experiences throughout the city.

Most Beautiful Building--Outside
Hotel Rio. 51 stories tall and fairly wide, the glass windows luminesce in the daylight with curved bands of brilliant teal, fuchsia, aquamarine, and other Rio-esque colors.

Most Beautiful Building--Inside
Caesar's Palace and Forum Shops. The decadent ancient Greek-themed interior design, with paintings, statuary, columns, bright-sky-blue ceilings, and various other features, is all-out without being crass or gaudy. It's just terrifically detailed and very well-executed. (If you have QuickTime VR, check out the "virtual tours" on the Web site to get a taste of what I'm talking about.)

The Most Fun Interior
New York, New York. I find the outside of this hotel/casino to be a poor simulation of the real thing (though the faux Brooklyn Bridge is cute), but the inside, while also definitely not real, is fun. The "Village Eateries" area is a cool place to hang out, featuring fake store-fronts, t-shirts 'drying' on fire escapes, and even antennae and water towers on the roofs of the buildings.

A Most Fabulous View
Back to the Hotel Rio. On the 51st floor is the Voodoo Cafe and Lounge, which features outdoor seating and a marvelous panorama of the Strip and the Las Vegas basin. Definitely worth a trip up. (We never ascended the Stratosphere, so I don't know how the views compare).

The Only Decent Coffee On The Strip
Starbucks, where else! And I don't mean to sound like a shill; people know me as a "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Starbucks" kinda guy. But in a land of such weak swill, I didn't have much choice. Of the three I saw on the Strip, my favorite was a little stand in the GameWorks arcade, where I was served by a most friendly barrista.

Most Surreal Marketing Event
The World Of Coca-Cola. For two bucks, you take a ride up "The World's Largest Coke Bottle" and are dropped off in a room depicting the history of the world's favorite soft drink. Wandering through this time capsule, you then head to the Coca-Cola World Fountain, where you can sample Coca-Cola-owned soft drinks from around the world, with flavors ranging from watermelon to honey-lemon to ginger to 'bitter aperitif' (from Italy, of course).

The piéce de resistance is a bizarre Coke bottle display. About 1000 Coke bottles, arranged in heavily-raked rows about 10 deep, rhythmically spurt water in tune with music playing in the room. In front of the display is series of Coke dispensers. When placing your glass under the dispenser, a seemingly-random Coke bottle about 6 feet away spews a glorious arc of syrup and water into the dispenser, which then delivers it to your cup. It must be experienced to be truly enjoyed.

Most Wonderfully Gratuitous Entertainment Display
The Fremont Street Experience. This proved to be my dad's favorite attraction in Las Vegas. Fremont Street runs through downtown, where Las Vegas' classic casinos reside. As the Strip became evermore popular, the old casinos needed a hype boost, and the Experience was born. A three-block-long curved canopy of millions of light-bulbs, the Experience presents dazzling displays on-the-hour every evening. The bulbs serve as giant pixels on this stretched screen, from which brilliant animated images are shown.

Another Example of how the Government is Sticking It To The People
Hoover Dam. Mousing over the link to the left, you'll notice the URL ending in ".com", fitting even though the Hoover Dam is a government project. Dad and I were quite surprised to find out that a tour of Hoover Dam, a dam created with taxpayer money, and that, one would think, generates revenues through it's operation, that a tour of Hoover Dam is not free, and in fact, costs $8. Well, to hell with that. We didn't go on the tour, and instead just wandered around for a bit..