If you want great sex, the place to go is Amsterdam and not Vegas.
But if a huge amount of entertainment options appeals to you, the middle of
the Nevada desert should be your destination of choice. During the course
of our trip, we did a lot of non-coaster things- many of which are
documented here. Beware- this is going to be a long one (as if I were
actually able to compose a short TR)!

Hoover Dam

I've seen it in pictures a hundred times but nothing prepared me for the
immense size of this engineering marvel. If you've never been there before,
do yourself a favor- shell out the money for the semi-self-guided tour.
While it consists of a few stops that aren't too far from the ones you can
visit by walking around the area of the dam on your own, it does include a
short presentation on the history of the dam, a longer one outlining the
benefits of the dam project and a trip down to one of the generator rooms.
that latter of which is mind-boggling because of the sheer immensity of it
all. Equally mind-boggling is the thought of the giant dam turning a deep
river bed into an enormous lake that is something like 500' deep.

If you are like me and have a thing for architecture and engineering (or
just natural beauty), don't miss out on this. Its only forty or so minutes
outside of Vegas (maybe a little longer if you hit some traffic as you drive
down the mountain to the dam) but worth every mile and every dollar.

Zion National Park

We wanted to go to the Grand Canyon but ten hours of driving made that a
tough accomplishment during the course of a single day. Instead we drove
2.5 hours north on Interstate 15, past a ton of gorgeous natural scenery, to
what is probably the most breathtaking thing my eyes ever encountered- Zion
National Park. For just $20 (per vehicle), you are free to spend the day
driving around, taking pictures and hiking along miles and miles of winding
paths. Needless to say it was well worth it.

I'm not big on nature stuff but I found Zion to be amazing, bordering on
surreal. Words or pictures can't do the place justice and if you're ever in
the Vegas area with some time to kill, I highly suggest visiting what can
best be described as a national treaure. For something natural to leave my
jaw on the floor is certainly saying something.

Red Rock Canyon

Located about twenty minutes to the west of Vegas, Red Rock Canyon isn't
nearly as impressive as Zion but it's still a sight to behold. As is the
case with Zion, you drive into the park and are free to admire the scenery
and hike on trails once inside. Red Rock even allows you to climb the "red
rocks" for some pretty interesting photo ops! The only thing different is
the fact that Red Rock features a single, one-way road through the park
while Zion features a tangle of two-way roads that branch out and give you
access to many areas of the park. Not ones to hike, we just drove the
13-mile loop to make the occasional stop to admire the views and snap a few
pictures. It's a weird feeling to be so close to Las Vegas but so far away
from it at the same time. Places like Red Rock make me wish that I were
into hiking as many of the trails looked like a lot of fun.

While Las Vegas lacks a traditional theme park (how's that for a paradox?),
many of the casino resorts along the Strip can be considered theme parks
without the coasters. With a variety of restaurants, shows and exquisite
décor, places like Bellagio, Mirage and Venetian feel like adult-oriented
Disney attractions!

The Bellagio

Bellagio left me in awe just as Hoover Dam and Zion did, but for entirely
different reasons. Walking through the building, you can't help but feel as
though you hit the lottery. The entire thing is so big, so ornate and so
overwrought that I couldn't help but stand there with my eyes popping out of
my head. Incredibly detailed tile floors, a botanical conservatory & garden
(with a stunning fall harvest-style overlay) and a huge collection of blown
glass flowers on the ceiling make the place feel more like a palace than an
attraction for the common tourist. And the Fountains of Bellagio show
outside is every bit as impressive as people say it is. Since all of these
things are free, there's really no excuse to pass them by. Nothing says
Vegas better than beautiful excess!


The Fountains of Bellagio show seems to get the lion's share of attention on
the Strip but Mirage's Volcano is equally impressive. Sitting in the middle
of a lagoon surrounded by lush vegetation, the 54' volcano shoots smoke and
flames into the air while fire covers the surface of the water. And if you
venture inside of the resort, you'll find an aquarium behind the reception
desk, a domed rainforest and one of Siegfried & Roy's tigers on display.
Get there earlier in the day (meaning: not after 5:00) and you can check out
Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. We missed both but
will be checking them out next time.

Treasure Island

I had heard many things about the Treasure Island, err. TI show. TI was
hyping their revised performance, now called "Sirens of TI" and it seemed
like a safe bet- 45 minutes before the show was about to begin, the sidewalk
viewing area was already packed with onlookers. It had to be good, right?

Not really.

I'm not at all familiar with the premise of the show's previous incarnation
but I can imagine that it was a battle between two pirate ships that results
in one of them sinking into the lagoon. There are still two pirate ships in
this "new" show but one of the ships is filled with sirens that seduce the
pirates into coming over with strip club-quality pole dancing so they can
attack their ship and steal their "treasure" (I use the term loosely because
the "treasure" seems very ill-defined, given the theme of the show). I can
understand the cannon fire and the subsequent sinking of the pirate's ship
by the sirens, but what I don't get is why the pirates climb aboard the
sirens' ship afterwards and everyone breaks into a dance. It's as if the
old family-oriented show was deemed too childish for TI's new adults-only
demographic but didn't want to spend money on a new presentation so they
left the old effects and placed on top of it something that feels like a
cross between a Britney Spears music video and Pirates of the Caribbean.
What could have been a high-quality action-filled showdown on the high seas
was instead an amateurish pile of pop culture crap that deserves to get
tossed on the pile of boardroom-contrived embarrassments that includes Nick
& Jessica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Clay Aiken.

Mandalay Bay

An upscale mega-casino & resort that tries to trump Bellagio's opulence but
instead winds up feeling just a bit cold and stuffy for my tastes. The main
reason we went here was Shark Reef, which sounded like a miniature Sea
World-style attraction. It included a few aquariums but the main attraction
was clearly the sunken ship and acrylic tube that gives you excellent views
of all different types of sharks. A nice attraction but pretty short for
the $16 admission. Then again, compared to the two-minute flurry of pain
that is called Manhattan Express (BPOS), it sounds kinda cheap.

Fremont Street Experience

Take old Vegas with its walls and walls of tacky neon lights, put a huge
canopy over it that doubles as a huge screening surface (Viva Vision) and
you have an attraction within an attraction that can't be missed. Every
hour on the hour, a spectacular light show takes place on the canopy that
eclipses just about anything that catches your eye on the Strip. While the
canopy makes "old Vegas" feel a little more like a museum and less like the
lively place that Elvis and Wayne Newton made popular, I can appreciate the
fact that this section of town was preserved instead of bulldozed. I'm not
sure I like the idea of an old amusement park being preserved in the same
manner but here, it seems to work.