“My wife became a man and ran away with my girlfriend”
The sign was roughly scribbled on a piece of cardboard. The man holding it seemed pretty jolly considering his apparent personal circumstances. He was even happily posing for a photo from a passing tourist.
Well then, welcome to Vegas!
I never imagined myself here, in one of the world’s most famous cities. Hollywood had shaped so many of my preconceptions I really wasn’t sure what to expect other than the ding-ding-ding from the casinos, the bright lights and show girls.
The first thing that hit me was the warmth. We had landed in the middle of the desert after all, so it shouldn’t have been too surprising. But being more accustomed to the cool, fresh breeze of The Minch and Atlantic Ocean in Scotland, it was a wonderful adjustment to have to make.
My usual rule of thumb for travelling is that a hotel is just a place to rest your head. In Vegas – your holiday is entirely focused on hotels. It’s incredibly strange but absolutely fascinating. The famous Strip itself is 4.2 miles long. Hotel resorts line the entire length – from Mandalay Bay at the South End to Stratosphere at the North. Each one is unique in character and design; the Egyptian themed Luxor, the French themed Paris, the Camelot themed Excalibur. And lest we forget New York New York, complete with roller coaster! The Strip really is a true testament to human imagination and creativity.
Again and again I hear from Americans and Canadians how they wish they could visit Europe because of its long and rich history. But Las Vegas is a prime example of the fascinating story cities all over North America have to tell. Take the Flamingo hotel – the oldest luxury resort on The Strip. In the 1940s Vegas was just a fledgling city when famous Mafia boss Bugsy Siegel decided to invest in the hotel, in the hopes of making the most of the legalized gambling in the area. The hotel was apparently named after his girlfriend, who was nicknamed Flamingo because of her long legs. The Flamingo stands today as a sort of cornerstone on the Strip. Though somewhat overshadowed by its bigger, flashier neighboring hotels, she is a monument to the fascinating and slightly dubious story of this amazing and unique city.
The Mob in general played a huge role in the development of the Vegas we know today – a fact that is recognised by the existence of the Mob Museum: National Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement in the old part of the city, Downtown.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do may be held against you in a court of law…” The quirky Museum experience begins in the lift when you’re read your Miranda rights by a cop on a TV screen. When you exit, you’re greeted with a sign that tells you that you’re under suspicion and you are given the opportunity to have your mugshot taken in a faux line up.
This isn’t your usual exhibition of old items and information card reading, though there is plenty of that for those enjoy the traditional experience. Each station has presentations with first hand accounts from ex-Mafia members, cops, politicians and witnesses, all of whom give their two cents on the history of the Mob in Vegas. Having no real knowledge of the Mafia, out with The Sopranos, it was amazing to read the real-life influence they once had on shaping and forming this small corner of the planet. But whilst the Mob influence may have faded away in Vegas, the city still has its slightly shady side.
Flick, flick, flick. The soundtrack of The Strip. As you stroll from the hotels and down the crowded street, there are people who flick plastic cards together in their hands, determined to grab your attention. Each card advertises a different girl or strip club. There are trucks which drive the length of The Strip and proclaim that they can bring a girl directly to your door. This was the part of Vegas I expected and the part I disliked the most. On the one hand a family friendly vacation spot, on the other, well… The reality is that these things are usually pretty easy to ignore, though it is difficult when you stop and consider the women and lives behind each of these adverts. But Vegas makes no excuses for what it is – the good and the bad. Take it or leave it.
And the good really is very good. Want to get a sun tan? Want discount designer labels? Want to sit beside the pool for days on end? Want to try your hand at blackjack? Want to do none of these and just spend 5 days at a buffet the size of a football field? Hitch the next plane to Nevada and remember to bring your walking shoes!
We flew from Bellingham, WA to Las Vegas, NV with Allegiant Air and stayed in the Trump International.