September 20th, 2019

A trip to Vegas on my mind

By Lethbridge Herald on July 6, 2019.

Leave it to Beeber

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

A trip to Sin City could be the way to celebrate a milestone.

When I turned 60, I decided that a special vacation was in order this year. So far it hasn’t happened. And I’m not sure it will due to family scheduling matters.

But this fall, if it does happen, my 60th will be celebrated belatedly in Las Vegas. I’ve only been once — which I know sounds really lame — and while I’m not much of a gambler, there is something about that city I find absolutely spellbinding.

Vegas has a certain allure I can’t quite put a finger on. Part of it, of course, is due to its history with the Mafia, the criminal connections which are legendary on the Strip and Fremont Street. On my first trip to Vegas two years ago, we stayed at the Flamingo, in part due to its ties to the infamous Bugsy Siegel.

And for a first-time visit, the Flamingo was an awesome place to use as a base. I tend to scour travel websites for visitor opinions on hotels no matter where I’m going. And I’ve learned you have to discard the highest scores and the lowest and read between the lines.

Fans of certain places are always going to gush while chronic complainers will diss a hotel no matter how good it was. It’s just their nature. Humans can be like that — extremists. Our friends from Ontario, who are well-travelled and pretty balanced, weren’t thrilled with their room which was on a lower floor because Kelly is scared of heights. Ours, which was near the top of the hotel, was excellent. It was clean, quiet and spacious with an incredible view north of the Strip.

Since our vacation in the fall of 2017, the Flamingo has renovated many of its rooms and it would certainly deserve a second look. But I’m curious to see what other hotels are like — I took an instant liking to Harrah’s when we walked through it. Just north of the Flamingo, it’s one of the most well-known hotels on the Strip and it also has undergone some renovations. It gets strong reviews for customer service and cleanliness and it has a certain ambience I found really charming.

On our 2017 trip, we spent a lot of time walking the central and northern (my idea of northern) areas of the Strip. Some hotels like the Venetian and Wynn were spellbinding and by their prices, they can also be jaw-droppingly expensive. Treasure Island has a must-do restaurant in Gilley’s, which is going to be a stop on my next trip there.

The thought of a heaping plate of deep fried chicken and cheese grits is a temptation that really is hard to resist.

On the next trip, we are going to spend more time exploring southern parts of the Strip — the Luxor being one hotel that really interests me. The reviews of this hotel are all over the map and I’ve heard mixed reviews from friends about it. But the look is really unique and I’m drawn to it. Planet Hollywood is another one that I think needs to be explored. Even though I had a bad experience at an electronics shop on the Miracle Mile, I’d go back in a heartbeat since I’m taking the fall for that one being a Vegas newbie. At the north end of the Strip near the newly-rebranded Strat (formerly the Stratosphere) SLS has gone back to its roots with a new name, Sahara, one associated with old Vegas. This boutique hotel gets good reviews and while its location is farther from the action, it has a monorail station that can zip visitors south to numerous hotels.

I’m torn about Fremont — I know friends who love it. The hotels are cheaper and the area has a feel that I guess can’t be replicated on the Strip. If we go, I’m leaning toward the El Cortez, a hotel that’s been around since the 1940s, simply because of its history. It’s easy to get caught up by the excitement of all the neon lights but I’m not afraid to go on the less-travelled path.

Downfalls about Vegas, aside from the lousy Canadian exchange rate, are the extra costs, the biggest being the daily “resort fees.”

Those fees, which can be more than $40 Canadian per day above the room cost, are supposed to cover the cost of Internet and other things.

But there is a movement afoot in Vegas that is calling for these fees to be dropped since they are basically just a money grab.

I’ve even read of one establishment charging a service fee on drink orders which makes zero sense.

When Vegas introduced paid parking at hotels, there was a huge uproar and it’s grown with the emergence of resort fees.

I follow various Las Vegas feeds on Twitter and the city’s casinos are starting to feel an economic pinch. MGM Resorts, for instance has laid off many employees from its various hotels to save money.

Free drinks for casino players have become extinct as hotels try to cut costs — not that it affects me — and I’ve read where at least one hotel may charge an extra daily housekeeping fee on top of the room and resort fees. Seriously, travellers can expect to start paying for a service that is traditionally part of the room fee.

These costs are certainly a drawback to a Vegas trip, which is not cheap like I’m told it used to be.

Dining costs are the same as they are here, more when you factor in the exchange rate, the best bang we got for our meal money being at In ’N Out Burger on the Linq promenade. It’s quick, it’s cheap and it’s enough to get a person through a long day of walking, exploring and shopping.

I’m a huge Starbucks guy but the price for just a morning joe can be crazy. Yet people — including us — pay for the convenience of having that familiar cup of java to jumpstart the day. I was just reading on Twitter that a Starbucks location at one upscale hotel on the Strip has just dropped its prices, which hopefully will be a trend as hotels and businesses start realizing the Vegas experience may be one some people just can’t afford anymore.

I’ll give you an update in October if the trip comes to fruition.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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