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Vegas is not about sleaze anymore

You don't have to be at the gaming tables to enjoy Las Vegas is your biggest takeaway as you leave Sin city.

travel Updated: Sep 22, 2011 18:30 IST
Taru Bahl
Taru Bahl

You don't have to be at the gaming tables to enjoy Las Vegas is your biggest takeaway as you leave Sin city.

Gambling is the main stay of the locals at Vegas. Special chartered flights bring groups of people from countries like Taiwan, China, Japan and even England with many being frequent visitors. And if there has to be the one single most defining symbol that is representative of the city, it will have to be the slot machine, for these you can see as soon as you deplane and enter the airport lounge and ofcourse in every hotel, and there are as many as 3,000 dotting a city that is spread over 131.3 square miles on what is typical desert mass.

Las Vegas was built on a desert and has the heritage of the old west of USA. Local people wear cowboy hats as a norm. Known for wild stallions which can be found in abundance in the desert, horse breeding continues to thrive, being one of the oldest family-run businesses. While there are a dozen odd State and National Parks in Nevada alone, along with hundreds of fun, educational, entertaining and fascinating side trips for the family, most of the action can be seen on the Las Vegas Strip, a 4.2 mi (6.8 km) stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known quite simply as "The Strip". During the day, the place looks calm and placid but the moment the sun goes down, it comes alive, with an energy and spontaneity that can make the most sedate of us, break into a little heady jig in the middle of the road.

The Strip draws even the most conservative of us like a magnet

The Strip houses all the hotels, gaming parlours, entertainment shows, shopping and food extravaganzas and ongoing street events. Given its tolerance for all forms of adult entertainment, as early as the year 1910, when other cities in America were still a bit prudish, earned Vegas the title of "Sin City". Today, with Vegas having a lot more to offer and also other cities having their own liberal share of adult fun, the sleazy connotation which Vegas had, has slowly diminished. Local Americans look at it more as a family place now or even as a business convention destination.

America's king size image comes into full play here with hotels that are gigantic, with rooms that run into thousands and with décor and facades that range from the exotic to the bizarre. The Venetian is Venice reincarnated, replete with gondola rides and 15th century European architecture. Little wonder then that you have water-filled canals inside the hotel and a sky light that changes periodically when shows are presented. Actors are dressed in costumes reminiscent of that period. And you can almost visualise Ceaser and Brutus having an exchange outside the tombed structures of their ancient city. Discovery Channel recently devoted an entire episode to the making of The Venetian. Then there is Ballagio with its music coordinated fiercely magnificent fountains outside and a world flower garden with exquisite flowers in coloured glass, in the lobby.

It can't get grander than this

Infact, the hotel lobbies, if you can call them that, are crammed with all kinds of gaming tables and paraphernalia. While some hotels have pretty cleavage-showing girls managing the tables don't for a moment be misled into believing that they do not mean business. For here, in this city, at the gaming counters, the focus is on getting people to play for as long as is possible. Bursts of oxygen are released into the casinos post midnight, to keep people happy and awake. Drinks are on the house, not just for the person putting the money on the table but also for the companions. Interestingly, the Chinese are the leaders of the gambling pack, followed by Indians who can be found dominating the poker tables.

The Treasure Island hotel has ships outside the hotel which are right out of RL Stevenson's Treasure Island. Not only are they perfect reproductions but after 8 pm they get "active" with music, attacking each other and doing their piece before again getting silenced at midnight. Wynn, another pricey property has a golf course as its backyard and that too an 18 hole one. The Luxor hotel is based on an Egyptian pyramid with the theme replicated in every corner of the hotel. The Mirage has a white tiger zoo and a volcanic water fall. You can join the crowds to see the artificially created volcanic eruption on the water fall. The New York New York hotel is built complete with the statue of liberty and its tall towering buildings and small stone streets within. Italian pizza mom and pop stores give it the real NY feel with Irish pubs.

Achieving the impossible: From all things forbidden to a safe family destination

That Vegas can be a family vacation, something it could not boast of 8-10 years ago, is evidenced by the sheer presence of entertainment options that the city offers - the shows outside the hotels which are free, are spectacular. A lot of restaurants within the hotels have their own side shows, with music, dance, water and other special light effects. All you have to do is buy a drink to gain entrance. The mother of all shows is O, a mind blowing extravaganza that is currently in its 10th year of running. Every day at $135 it has run to packed audiences. A must see and then there are other long running shows as also those which do the typical few week round before moving to another city. The one on Elvis Presley and the Beatles had been there for a couple of months and were still drawing in the crowds.

The Disneyland and amusement parks within Vegas area one of the best in the US and quite a hit with children and adults alike. This is not to say that Vegas does not have activities for those wanting their carnal pleasures satiated. The pole dancing, topless bars, male striptease shows and the rest are there aplenty but none of this is in your face and it is not the only thing that is keeping their tourist industry flourishing. Prostitution is still illegal here and it is, as most of us would expect it to be - a thriving industry.

View of a local resident

Bisham Kriplani, who has lived in Vegas for over a decade with his wife and two children, dabbling in cars and real estate unabashedly says, "Vegas undoubtedly is the most electrifying city in the world crowded with tourists all year round. It boasts of flamboyancy and extravagance with a wide array of art, plays, concerts, nightclubs and casinos. Night clubs are in abundance and open all night. The XS is the one I would not miss. The foundation room is built with an Indian heritage. All statues of Indian gods are embedded in the walls and a part of Rajasthan mirror garments hang all over the 15000 sq ft club which is located on the 51st floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel which overlook the complete strip.

His practical advice: the cheapest season is May-August. You can get a room at the NY hotel for $69 only and cheaper if you are in a four-star than a five star Belagio, Venientian or The Wynn which are the most expensive ranging anywhere between $139 to $229 off season and during season it depends on availability The largest conventions and conferences in the world are held here in Vegas as it is only here that you can accommodate 5000 plus people in one hotel. Now, Macau is trying to replicate the Vegas look but nothing can substitute the real original thing. Convention locations stretch into hundreds of acres housing 500,000 people. World famous Auto shows and Electronic Sema shows are annual features. Nevada is a tax free state so a lot of multinationals have sattelite offices here enabling them not to pay state tax. This is also the location they choose for company conferences as rooms are cheap when booked in bulk plus casinos get traffic The Casinos are the only enterprise that pays tax in Nevada state

According to Bisham, recession h

First Published: Sep 22, 2011 18:30 IST