Las Vegas, Nevada, seems to change its image every time I go there. On my twenty-first birthday, I went there to drink and gamble. Later I went to see spectacular shows, and then to attend conventions. The attraction seemed to change with each new decade and I was curious to see what they offer today.
The Las Vegas personality sizzles. Of course it’s hot – it’s in the desert – but it’s a dry heat and frequent breezes make it tolerable. Besides, most of the action in Las Vegas takes place indoors or after sundown. Nevertheless, visitors like me, are not content to stay in a hotel room, no matter how nice it is. I had to get out and explore.
Not far from the airport, at the southern entrance to the city on Las Vegas Boulevard – aka the Strip – I stopped at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign to take a picture. The city has built a special parking lot for tourist photographers. It’s a good thing too, because hundreds of people stop there every day to snap a souvenir photo of the world famous sign.
Pedestrian flow along the legendary Strip has been greatly enhanced over the years with wider sidewalks and overpasses at the busiest intersections. Photographs of the magnificent icons along the Strip hardly do them justice – the huge MGM lion, the replica of the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks have to be seen in person. These unique features are reminiscent of an upscale amusement park.
A city bus took me from the outer edges of the Strip to the downtown area, once the heartbeat of this constantly growing megalopolis – population in 1900 was 25, in 1950 25,000 and today about 2 million.
The downtown has changed too. Fremont Street has been rebranded as The Fremont Street Experience. It’s now covered with a canopy that helps control the temperature and provides a surface for a spectacular light show in the evening.
Motor vehicles are not allowed on Fremont Street and I strolled among kiosks filled with snacks and souvenirs watching artisans making handicraft souvenirs, scantily-clad women posing for selfies, and buskers, the British name for street performers, all doing their best to earn tips. I watched in awe as enthusiastic tourists rode the SlotZilla Zip Line from one end of the street to the other, over the pedestrians below.
For night life, I went to a performance at the Luxor Hotel featuring the Blue Man Group, a live spectacle starring three blue-skinned men doing zany things that tickled all of my senses. The Blue Man Group has been performing all over the world for 25 years. Las Vegas is just one of a half dozen ongoing venues. It’s a unique spectacle that I heartily recommend.
This desert oasis has pandered to all kinds of people and tastes over the years. They have targeted gamblers, star-crazed fans, families, conventioneers, thrill seekers and newly-weds. They even offer the latest in weddings – a drive-thru wedding chapel.
A little publicized area near downtown is the 18b Arts District. The 18b stands for the original 18 blocks, but the area is much larger today. Not far from the 18b is The Smith Center for Performing Arts that opened in 2012 http://www.thesmithcenter.com/. I took a behind the scenes tour of this world-class theater complex and hope to go back for a live performance.
To sum up my visit: What happens in Vegas doesn’t just stay the same – it changes and reinvents itself, year after year. Go see for yourself.