4 Off-Beat Reasons to Visit Vegas (Besides Gambling)
by Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP
I’ll admit I’m not much of a gambler. Let’s just say that my name isn’t on any casino’s list of big spenders. So when I first went to Vegas, I was expecting to be bored out of my mind. What a surprise! Now I go every year, anytime I have the opportunity. It’s become my go-to destination and gambling has nothing to do with it.
To me, Vegas is my yearly getaway from the daily grind, a way to rejuvenate myself. Who knows but that I might even be extending my life by a few years through my annual pilgrimage. Could it do the same for you? Maybe. Here’s my advice:
1. Hone Your Fixation on Art
In Vegas, architecture is the prevalent artistic expression. If you stop to think about it, where else, other than in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, have the most brilliant illuminati in architecture been given such free reign?
If you’re like me, you’ll notice new details that will enrich the experience each time you visit. Day or night, a stroll down the Strip stimulates your own imagination. Where else do you find yourself imbued and inspired by the talent and genius of what may be the most creative designers and architects in the world, today? And guess what? As a timeshare owner, you essentially own a little part of this incredible town. Moreover, the view is ever-changing each time you come and (bonus here!) it’s at no extra charge! Once you own a timeshare in this bold, beautiful town, the world is your oyster... at least several artistic renditions of it are.
I wonder what archeologists finding the ruins of Vegas thousands of years from now will think. Will they be befuddled, or what?
On the one hand, they might find the classicism of ancient Rome in Caesar’s Palace with its Corinthian columns, carefully chiseled bas relief, and statues of toga-clad figures. (The columns in Caesar’s are reputed to be the tallest in the world, by the way.) According to Wikipedia, "Caesars Palace was established in 1966 by Jay Sarno, who sought to create an opulent facility that gave guests a sense of life during the Roman Empire." Amazing to think that 52 years later, it’s still awe inspiring.
After exploring the Roman era iconography and statues, including a 20-foot statue of Augustus Caesar at the entrance, the group might next find the Paris Las Vegas with replicas of the Paris Opera House, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Louvre, along with its own Eiffel Tower.
Dig a little further and a team of future explorers might then stumble on other marvels. “Is this Venetian lagoon, surrounded by Italian Renaissance palazzos, and piazzas a desert mirage?” they might ask. They’ll be convinced they’ve been transported to the banks of Lake Cuomo in Italy by the time they reach the Bellagio where, 2,000 square feet of the lobby ceiling is covered with 2,000 of Dale Chihuly's “Fiori di Como.” Actually, these delicate hand-blown glass flowers will likely be shattered by the hand of time before they see them; so you’d better go now!
2. Go Wild; Go Native
Of course, residents of Sin City avoid the Strip like the plague. But, not us! However, once I’ve taken in a show or two, perhaps tried my hand at baccarat, and made the ‘scene,’ I’m ready for a change. That’s when I ‘go native.’
When Las Vegans want to party, they go to the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block entertainment district in the historic downtown area. I remember the city planners proudly restoring this section of what had been a pretty seedy area of town at least two decades ago. At the time, ‘historic’ was a euphemism for the run-down part of town; today, the area is an extraordinary mecca for fun seekers.
The spot defies description. You’ll feel the ‘wow’ factor as you start walking under the world’s largest video screen, which towers over the pedestrian mall. Called the Vida Vision, the screen is 1,500 feet long, 90 feet wide, and pumps out free light shows every night of the week as daredevils shoot out from underneath on 850-foot ziplines. Actually, the ziplines are for the chickens in the crowd. Above them at 1,750 feet are suspended "Zoomlines" upon which the truly insane can fly superhero-style as they are shot off from a 12-story slot machine-themed tower.
The Fremont Street Experience hosts free concerts, food and retail venues, plus “Fear the Walking Dead Survival,” an immersive, walk-through attraction that’s part thrill ride, part escape room, part maze and part interactive video game. And, of course, there are plenty of gambling and drinking opportunities throughout. Hilton Grand Vacations has a number of resorts located not too far from there, but you’ll want to drive or take a cab in my opinion.
3. Go Native; But No-So-Wild
Ready for a more laid-back experience? Try a visit to Vegas' diminutive Chinatown, located in the Las Vegas Chinatown Plaza, 4205 Spring Mountain Road. There you can pour through quaint little shops while you search for authentic Chinese arts and craft objects, jade pieces, and home decor items before taking a break for some tasty dim sum or spring rolls. There are almost a dozen eateries in Chinatown Plaza. For a break from traditional Chinese cuisine, you might want to try one of the mall’s other spots such as Kapit Bahay Filipino Fast Food (‘get it fast, but eat it slow’), Mother's Grill for Korean BBQ or the Pho Vietnam Restaurant. Top it all off with a coffee and a pain au chocolate from The French Bakery for desert. The prices are certainly more affordable than those on the Strip. You’ll have a little green left over for more shopping in the center’s almost 20 stores.
There are a number of quirky sites and museums in town that are off the beaten path. One of these, the Neon Museum, located inside the historic La Concha Motel, has an ever-expanding collection of retired Vegas signs and memorabilia. Remember the old Stardust sign? It’s here, resting in peace in the Neon Boneyard. How about the Hard Rock guitar? Yup…it’s here, too. In fact, the non-profit has managed to garner the funds to restore as many as eleven signs, despite restoration being a very involved and costly process.
Even the museum visitor center was, itself, saved from demolition in 2005 and brought to its new home at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North. The shell-shaped building was designed by acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams. Williams, who placed a significant stamp on post-WWII Los Angeles with his futuristic, spaceship-like design, was the first African-American ever to win the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal.
Be prepared to ‘check your weapons at the door’ if you’re planning on’ doing some time’ at the Mob Museum. Four floors of artifacts and informational materials focused on organized crime are packed into a Palladium styled building at 300 Stewart Avenue. You can climb the backstairs, slip into the Speakeasy, and explore how the mob rose to power in the devil-may-care days of prohibition. Carefully curated and informative displays take you through the years exploring how authorities are continuously challenged by malfeasants and manage to maintain the upper hand, despite evildoers’ worst intent.
You’ll need a safe harbor after studying the dark side. Maybe you’d like to ‘make your escape’ as far as possible. In that case, I recommend the Westgate Flamingo Bay at 5625 West Flamingo Road. Flee to your one- or two-bedroom villa, unwind in your jetted tub, and sip on a cool glass of something... Canadian whiskey or moonshine, anyone?
4. Get Pampered
I doubt there’s another city in the world offering so many avenues to self-improvement and in a relatively compact area. One of my favorite resorts in the area is Marriott’s Grand Chateau for about a billion reasons, not the least of which is for their spa. It’s a splurge and probably the most expensive non-food-related activity I go for; but each time I visit, I take an entire day at the Aquae Sulis Spa, located right there at the resort. Schedule a facial and a massage toward the end of the day and plan on showing up as soon as the place opens in the morning to get more bang for the buck.
The name, aquae sulis, is Latin for "the waters of Sulis," after a temple the Romans built over hot springs in Britain, in honor of the Celtic goddess. Sulis was thought of as a nurturing, life-giving Mother Earth type figure. It won’t take much to conjure up your own inner goddess (or, gentlemen, perhaps your inner Jupiter) as you luxuriate in a bubbling hot whirlpool bath and feel your muscles release their tension, all the while serenaded by soothing rhythmic tones.
You’ll want to pace yourself as you move from there to the indoor or outdoor pool, the steam room, or the sauna. Often there’s some confusion about the use of a sauna versus a steam room. The two originally arose from different cultures, but the objective of either one is to aid the body in sloughing off impurities by sweating. So it doesn’t matter if in which order you move from one to the other, if you wish to sample them both. You are King or Queen for the Day, so you can do like I do and use every, single, gosh-darned apparatus there, or you can do only one or none of the above. Just remember to keep yourself hydrated.
They have a wonderful, magic ‘gadget’ you can add to any facial, which produces what are called microcurrents. Microcurrent is a low-level current that is said to mimic the body’s natural current to provide antiaging results. The idea of having my face shocked freaked me out, but they promised it wouldn’t be uncomfortable. They were correct. This is called the "non-surgical facelift" and I couldn’t agree more! My face feels amazing for days afterwards! I highly recommend it even if you’re not interested in antiaging.
These are just a few of the reasons I like to visit Las Vegas every year, if possible. At the end of my stay, I go home with no hangover, no regrets, and with money in my pocket. In fact, I return home feeling rejuvenated, educated, and energized.
Of course, I’ve only just scratched the surface; there’s so much to do in this vacation spot. How about you? How often do you manage to get to Vegas? How frequently do you manage to get away at all? When someone owns a timeshare week, it’s like having a prepaid vacation. You know you are guaranteed a vacation every year and it’s even better when you can make it into a healthful, restorative event filled with pleasant memories!