Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Views of the Strip

Working at my house, and working on the yard makes me forget where I live. I'm so busy concentrating on what I'm doing that I forget that we live in one of the hotest tourist destinations in the world. But, then things happen to remind me. We had some visitors out last week. My uncle from San Diego, and my son's girlfriend from San Francisco. And they both wanted to hit the casinos and gamble. My uncle hasn't been to the strip in twenty years, so he wanted to see the new things. I don't think there is anything on the strip that is the same as it was twenty years ago.
But, when driving around different parts of the Las Vegas valley the strip is always evident. Interstate 15 runs north/south right down the center of the valley, and the strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) is parallel to 15 just east of it. There are mountains on both the east and west sides of the valley, with Red Rock to the west. Our house is about three miles due west of the center of the strip. Most major streets run east/west, and looking down to the valley center when driving presents different hotels directly ahead of you, depending on the street that you are on.
This view from a few blocks away from our house shows the Stratosphere.

Over 1,000 feet tall, it's visible from almost anywhere in the Las Vegas area. Up on top is an observation deck, and a restaurant that rotates. Not very fast - about like the ones in Toronto and Seattle, it turns once and hour. That is enough to get some people dizzy. My wife became ill from the motion the last time we ate up there last year, before we moved here when visiting our daughter. Besides the restaurant there are also some rides - a roller coaster (yes, on top over 1100 feet high), a vertical drop ride and a new one that hangs you over the edge and drops a bit. Here's Stratosphere - tourism version.
Driving to Henderson to see a friend last weekend brought up this view coming away from his house. Henderson is a small city southeast of LV, on the way to the Boulder Dam about fifteen miles due east of the strip. Driving back brings up this view.

At this resolution you probably can't make out the Stratosphere, just under the hanging traffic light on the right. The strip is right ahead, with the pyramid to the left. At night the lights really stand out.
Visiting someone else that lives near Summerlin, to the east brings up the next picture.

Summerlin is about fifteen miles west of 15. You can't make out much in this photo, but all of the casinos stand out at night. I'm usually driving around in the daytime so those are the pictures you get. My camera doesn't work very well on these long range shots at night.
For those of you looking for something more familiar, we have the strip itself. We took my uncle down one afternoon, which stretched into the evening. Making a small circuit, (he doesn't walk too fast) we started at the Luxor pyramid, over to the Excalibur, across the street to New York, to the MGM on the other corner, and the Tropicana on the fourth corner.

This was taken from the pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard, between the Tropicana and the Excalibur, looking north. You can't see the stratosphere from here, I think it's behind the MGM sign. According to Las Vegas magazine this is the busiest intersection in the US, with over 28 million cars a year driving through it. The MGM Grand is the largest hotel in the US - over five thousand rooms at this one location. It's the second largest hotel in the world, according to Google the First World Hotel in Malaysia is the largest with 6,300 rooms. Lots of fancy restaurants in the MGM Grand - it is always on the list of best places to eat, and now I hear that Alan Ducase, rated as the best French chef in the world, is supposed to open a small place at the MGM next year. I guess if you have $200 a head to lay out for food (not counting wine) Las Vegas is a great place to be. The Bellagio also has a half dozen great places to dine as well. Las Vegas has 12 of the 13 largest hotels in the world.
We usually hit off strip restaurants, but I do want to go to Picasso at the Bellagio. It was built by Steve Wynn, but is now owned by the same group that also owns the MGM, Mirage and TI (formerly known as Treasure Island). Look at the list of places there - besides Picasso, they have Le Cirque, Aqua, Olives (we've been there before) and others. Most cities don't have that many great places to eat, let alone one building.
So much for now - and yes, both people ended up leaving LV with more money than they came. My uncle did well on the crap tables, Juanita hit it big on the slots. Not big enough to take us out to these types of restaurants, but OK for them.