I love Times Square. Whenever we go to New York, I always want to stay right on Times Square. I leave the curtains open so that when I wake up at 3 a.m., which I always do, I can see all the beautiful lights.
It’s for that reason that I fully expected to be just as crazy about Las Vegas and all its great lights when I visited there for the first time earlier this month. (Alan and I were there for a public relations conference, which I’ll post more about later.)
But the lights of Las Vegas just don’t satisfy like the lights of Times Square do. I guess it’s because the whole thing is such an incredible pretense — all primarily intended to drive people to the tables. A group of us from the conference signed up to have dinner together at a restaurant called Le Provencal in the Paris Hotel and Casino. You know, the famed property with the replica of the Eiffel Tower attached to it. What kind of food would you expect to have there? French, right? Wrong. Spaghetti and meatballs, which is what one of my colleagues had. And pizza, which is what I had. Why? I’m guessing that experience (or research) has shown that the average Las Vegas visitor is more familiar with traditional Italian food than with French.
Don’t get me wrong. We all had our share of fun in Las Vegas — and in Lake Las Vegas where our conference hotel, Loews, was. And the dinner we had at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in another casino was out of this world. We also saw The Lion King and Cirque du Soleil’s “Love,” a production of songs by The Beatles — and we loved them both. But folks were puking on the sidewalks. And at one point on Saturday night, I was actually afraid for our safety because of the crush of people who were out on The Strip.
So here’s what I would suggest if you head to Las Vegas for anything but gambling. Go for the shows and for the celebrity restaurants. Be careful about the restaurants that don’t have famous chefs — you will certainly get food, but it won’t be anything to write home about. Or, better yet, just head for New York City instead.
Here are a few more observations about Las Vegas, in case you do go:
- In Vegas, things are farther away than they appear. Some of our crowd suggested that it’s because the signs are so large that they seem closer than they really are. But I think it’s because the humidity is so low and the visibility is so high. There’s very little haze. On several days when we were there, visibility was listed as “unlimited.” So you can clearly see things that are very far away. Because of this optical illusion, things take longer to reach than you think. What you think will be a ten-minute walk will take 30 minutes. We missed our shuttle to the hotel due to this little fact and had to take a $90 taxi ride instead. Ouch!
- I wondered what was so irritating to me about The Strip and the casinos, given the fact that I love the bright lights of Times Square. Alan figured this one out. It’s the music. Almost everywhere we went, rock music, hip-hop music or techno music was blasting. This was the case in all the casinos we visited (except for Mandalay Bay, which was much more pleasant) and all the lobbies and even outside. On Times Square, it’s noisy, of course. But it’s the noise of people and traffic — not the overly loud thump-thump-thump of a bass beat.
- The economy still hasn’t come back. One of our cab drivers had been in the construction business for 30 years but had turned to driving a taxi because the construction business still is so stalled. The landscape is littered with casino and multi-use developments (residential, commercial and office) that were begun years ago before being abandoned when the economy tanked. Sadly, while we were in Las Vegas, the legendary Sahara Hotel and Casino closed its doors forever.