Going Home to Las Vegas
I am going back to Las Vegas for the first time in many years and it is a little like going home. I lived in Las Vegas for two years during my high school days. I was plunked from my school in South Minneapolis and transported to a different universe where the sun was hotter than hell in the summertime and winter did not exist as I knew it. My mom had remarried and the guy she married lived in Las Vegas and thus, there I was.
My mom lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years. She married out there, took us kids out there, worked out there, and retired there and then promptly moved back to the winters and the colds of Minnesota. I never understood that! Anyway, when she lived there my wife and I would visit Vegas once a year, bringing the kids and having a built in baby sitter for when we would eat drink and gamble. Those were great days. My mom always had a swimming pool where she lived and all of our meals and baby sitting services were comped, by my mom and her husband, and my wife and I had more money to spend.
Since my mom moved back I have been back once. This is my second time back coming up, and we are taking our much older kids with us. We are going to stay at the MGM Grand because of their pool and lazy river, and this time we plan to explore outside of Las Vegas and go to the Grand Canyon. I have never been to the Grand Canyon.
What to do in Las Vegas
Here is a list of what I love to do in Las Vegas. Maybe it will help out others who want a “locals” perspective. I would highly recommend renting a car and then just go and explore!
1. The Grand Canyon. OK, I have not been there before but the last time I went I tried and heard the freeways were all closed because of forest fires. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive to the western rim which is on an Indian reservation. I have read that this is NOT the place to go for the best views. The best place to go is the one run by the Federal Government, the North and the South rim. Each is a little over a 4 1/2 hour drive. The North Ridge takes about 15 minutes longer to get to, has fewer amenities, but has the more spectacular views. This is the one we are going to drive to.
2. The Hoover Dam. Just outside of Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam. From the strip it is about a 45 minute drive to get there. Once you are there you will see Lake Mead on one side of the dam and the Colorado River leaving, and continuing it’s journey, on the other side of the dam. The Hoover Dam itself is massive and a wonder to behold. You can take tours and see the workings of the electrical plant in the dam, and if you walk to the middle of the dam you can stand in Nevada and Arizona at the same time. In the summertime, you will also be in two different time zones.
3. Red Rock Canyon. This place is only 20 minutes from the strip and it reminded me of a mini Grand Canyon. The place looks like a Road Runner cartoon, the desert is stunning in this environment. You can bike, drive or hike on marked trails and if you bike or hike you have about a half dozen different choices on where to go. If you drive there is just one big loop. It is hard to believe you are so close to Vegas when you are here.
4. In-n-Out Burger. There are several locations throughout Las Vegas. If you want to see all the merchandise they sell, then go to the one located just off the strip, on the other side of I-15 on Tropicana Avenue. There you can buy anything from Christmas ornaments to cups, shirts to stickers. They are open late and the In-n-Out off the strip is where you will find the most interesting people of Las Vegas. The food is absolutely stunning. If you do a little research you will find items you can order off the menu. I love the Double-Double Animal-style.
5. Farm Basket. As far as I know there is only one location left at 6148 W. Charleston. This is a little hole-in-the-wall fast food place that sells the greatest turkey sandwich ever invented, The Clucker. The Clucker is a turkey breast that is breaded and deep fried and it is served with Miracle Whip and cranberries. If you get the basket you get nice and crispy thin-cut potatoes. It is a hole-in-the-wall, local, and fantastic.
6. The usual free Las Vegas attractions. The things you can do for free in Las Vegas are numerous and fun! There is the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino, the Bellagio water show, the volcano at the Mirage, the pirate show at Treasure Island, the Freemont Street experience, circus acts at Circus Circus, the air parade at the Rio, and the lions at the MGM grand. For an added bonus, there is free candy tours at the Ethel M factory located at 2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson NV. If you go to the Hoover Dam, Henderson is right on the way out!
7. The Buffets. They are too numerous to mention, ranging cheap in price ($7.99 a dinner) to expensive ($50 per dinner). This sight has a fantastic list of all of them, along with prices and ratings. There are wonderful bargains to be had. http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/buffets.cfm.
8. The Las Vegas Strip. This deserved it’s own number because if you drive or walk the strip at night it is neon ambrosia. Where else can you walk or drive down a street at night and the ambient light around you makes it seem like it is the daytime? Vegas, baby, Vegas!
9. The Nevada School of Massage. This is located at 2381 E. Windmill Lane and they offer student massages there for $32/hour. Once every 10 weeks or so they offer a massages for 2 for $32. If you join their group on Facebook you can get the word of the day for each weekend and then get $7 off your price. They are only open Saturday and Sunday, from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the strip AND treat yourself to a massage, you will pay significantly less than you would at a casino spa.
10. Casinos with Lazy Rivers. There are only three of them and if you stay at one you get to use their pools and lazy rivers. All three start with the letter M, the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and the Monte Carlo. The MGM one is the longest, followed by Mandalay Bay and the Monte Carlo. I have been to the first two mentioned and they are both fantastic. When the weather hits 115 (which it is going to do during my trip) there is no better place to be than a lazy river. Relax, drink and enjoy!
Leaving for Las Vegas
That is it, my insider’s guide to Las Vegas. It contains a lot of free attractions as well as a lot of places to visit that people from out of town usually would not find. I like places that are inexpensive and fun, and places to take your family. There are also extremely expensive places to eat and you can get ANYTHING you want when you are in Las Vegas, if you have the money. I hope when you go you only take as much money as you can afford to lose. There are many things to do there that do not cost money and are a lot of fun.