For Travel Writers Tales

By Chris McBeath

I’m always intrigued with Las Vegas, and while we all know it’s gambling central of North America, I always look for the unexpected — something to restore balance after the neon-lit, show-time, slot-machine sensory overload. Click here to see story on Valley of Fire.

But since it’s the shows, shops and slots that make this over-the-top city tick, here are some must-dos to create that thirst for ‘balance’:

• Catch a Cirque de Soleil; there are five to choose from including Mystere to the company’s most sophisticated production O. The first exits just in time for Treasure Island’s swash-buckling, street-side Pirate Show; the latter coincides with the night-time spectacular of Bellagio’s musical fountains.
• The Crazy Horse (MGM Grand) incorporates clever choreography and light combinations for a titillating show of tame eroticism — a fun tease without any obscenity.
• Make time for comedic magician Nathan Burton. He has a reputation for pulling Houdini-style publicity stunts and the late afternoon show is a terrific transition from day to evening entertainment.
• Ride the monorail to one end of the strip and start the long trail back via all the landmark hotels which are theatre spectacles unto themselves. The Pyramid and Pharoahs at Luxor, Ellis Island rides, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, The Venetian’s Gondolas. And so it goes … with names such as Barry Manilow, Donny and Marie, Rod Stewart, Cher (didn’t she retire?) Come to think of it, aren’t they all getting near the big R? But, they’re still packing them in along with the likes of Garth Brooks, Adele and Lady Gaga.
• If you’re a shopper, The Fashion Show is a must-mall (a recent shopping survey noted Las Vegas was the 3rd most popular US city for shopping); if you need a restorative hand, spa out at the Bellagio, Caesars, the Mandalay, or the Venetian as top choices. Wynn has a quality spa, as does Donald Trump’s gleaming gold tower. The Trump, incidentally, doesn’t have a gaming unit anywhere on site which in this town has rather a rogue panache – much like its celebrity owner.

Suffice to say that Las Vegas continues to evolve, grow, and sprawl. Even though current economies have put some expansions on hold, cranes still litter the skyline, traffic is standstill ghastly, and people populate the tables 24×7. Perhaps they’re General Motors executives in disguise – after all, wasn’t it a black jack do-or-die bet that got Fedex airborne? Hmm, it seems more likely that those die-hard players are from government!