Katie and I seem to do vacations in pairs. We’ll go somewhere on a trip, then a year or two later come back and do all of the things we discovered but couldn’t find time for the first time around. Last April we went to Las Vegas for an extended weekend, did some sightseeing, saw some shows. This year we came back mainly for the shows, and did the trip during the last week of March, driving out on Monday and returning Friday evening.

Standard Rio RoomWe stayed at the Rio, which has very nice, huge rooms—even if we didn’t spend much time there. The casino floor is also surprisingly easy to navigate, unlike some of the mazes on the Strip. We’re probably the only people to stay there four nights and not to see the “Show in the Sky” (some vaguely Mardi Gras-ish production they do with floats that run on tracks in the ceiling).

Of course, it is a bit off the Strip:

View of the Strip from our hotel room

But at least it wasn’t as far off as the last hotel we stayed at.

We managed to catch Spamalot (which replaced Avenue Q at the Wynn), Cirque du Soleil’s O (the one with the water), Penn & Teller’s magic show, and Jubilee! (a traditional-style Vegas extravaganza, and yes, the exclamation point is part of the title). Continue reading

You know the routine. We can’t pass up a bizarre image without taking a photo and posting some sort of comment. Not even on vacations.

Alien Fresh Jerky SignThe drive to Las Vegas from southern California is simple: make your way to the 15, head north, and keep going until you get blinded by the neon. The ⅔ mark is Baker, CA, a small strip of restaurants, stores and gas stations in the middle of the desert, famous for the Bun Boy and the world’s tallest thermometer. Baker has something new: Alien Fresh Jerky.

We were staying at the South Coast Hotel and Casino, the latest megasino to open, which is a bit off the strip. At first I was a bit worried about finding the right exit. As it turns out, it’s the first giant hotel you’ll see as you approach Las Vegas from the south…about two miles before you actually have a chance to get off the freeway! (They have a free shuttle to the strip, though that had its own share of problems.) They put us in a room on the 24th floor, which had a great view of suburban South Las Vegas. Continue reading

We picked up a few flyers on our way to Las Vegas, including one for the Haunted Vegas tour and show. We didn’t get around to looking it up, but we didn’t quite need to.

The South Coast Hotel* is so new that they’re still building things like the swimming pool. Being new, lots of things didn’t quite work right. The 42″ wide-screen TV was stuck on with no picture, so it glowed faintly in the dark until I unplugged it and plugged it back in. The water was so soft that you couldn’t rinse off in the shower. One drawer in the dresser just wouldn’t open.

The most bizarre was the whistling. Our first night in town, we noticed a whistling sound like water rushing through pipes, or like someone trying to blow across the top of a bottle. We figured someone in the next room over was taking a shower, but it kept going. The noise stopped when we opened the door, then started again when we closed it. Standing barefoot near the door, I could feel the air rushing in underneath it. It turned out the air pressure in the hallway was high enough that the air rushed in through the door jamb, creating a constant whistling sound.

So we blocked the jamb with a towel every night and slept soundly. But it wasn’t just our room. Every time we walked down the hallway, we could hear the sound coming from other doors as we passed them.

*We finally found out why it’s called South Coast when it’s hundreds of miles from anything resembling an ocean. (The Salton Sea doesn’t count.) The company also operates the Barbary Coast, Gold Coast, Sun Coast, and several other casinos in the city. The new one is farther south than… well, anything else in town, so: South Coast.

Whew! We took a few days off for our second anniversary and drove out to Las Vegas last weekend. Neither of us gamble, so it might seem kind of an odd choice, but there’s something else Vegas has a lot of: shows.

In four days we managed to see Avenue Q, “Pirates 4-D” (a cheesy 3-D pirate movie with Leslie Nielsen that even Eric Idle couldn’t save), a museum replica of Tut’s tomb at the Luxor, Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity, Star Trek: Borg Invasion 4-D, an impressionist exhibit at the Bellagio, Excalibur’s “Tournament of Kings” (a Medieval Times–like dinner show), Rita Rudner, Treasure Island’s pirate show, and the Shark Reef aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

We also got to see how much Las Vegas had changed since the last time we were there, back in 1998. The hotel we stayed at last time (the Holiday Inn—we were college students on a budget) has been bulldozed. Several gigantic hotel/casinos have opened on the strip, and more off.

And for some reason, I don’t remember noticing all the mountains in the distance last time. Maybe it was too cloudy or hazy, or maybe it was just that we stayed off the strip this time and weren’t surrounded by buildings.