Las Vegas. If you've been there, you can probably think back on your experience and spin up a fun story or twelve. And if you haven't been there, maybe you've seen it on television or in the movies.
It's hard not to have some expectations of Vegas as a first timer, right? I know I did. I expected Times Square on steroids, free booze at the craps table, loud music, frat-party attire, gold-plated Beemers, sparkling pools, multiple jacuzzis, girls (girls, girls!), shiny stilettos, and, of course, I knew the golden rule - that one piece of advice that invariably crosses the lips of all those who have been there before - "three days, max."
::Vegas veterans nod their heads, knowingly::
So, I've just returned home from my maiden voyage to Las Vegas. I had a great time, and I intend to return one day. I am not in any way trying to deter anyone from going there. It's almost important that you do go so that you can understand humanity a little more intricately. But while it's fresh, I want to share some of my perspective with you, because there were three things that I did not expect before I landed at McCarren International, and maybe they'll help you prepare for your own first time...
#1: The Traffic
My vague and, admittedly, un-researched understanding of the geography of the Vegas strip before arriving was that a) it's really close to the airport, b) it's only a very few miles end to end, and c) it's walkable. And all of those things are true! But oh, the traffic. Our cab ride from the airport to the Vdara (about two and a half miles) took nearly half an hour in the late afternoon on a Saturday. During our tenure in the taxi, my husband told me that it's "traffic-light-traffic". I actually think they've done a stellar job of keeping people safe on the strip by lifting the majority of pedestrian traffic up into the sky, and I assume that in doing so they have alleviated the auto traffic. But still. Expect a ten minute mile in a cab, and triple that if you're hoofing it. (Note: the walkways in Vegas deserve their own post altogether.)
#2: The Children
I was unaware that Vegas is a family vacation destination. I understand conventions and sports bringing people out here, and I understand the need and desire to travel as a family, but I guess that as a noob, it wasn't on my radar to see kids everywhere! So, expect to see children - and I'm talking anywhere from newborns in car seats silently soaking in the inordinate stimuli, to toddlers slumped back in their umbrella strollers with their eyes glazed over by the flashing lights, to school-aged kids standing in line for breakfast left to ponder the adult carnival games on display ten feet away on the casino floor.
All I'm saying is that you can expect to see children in more places than just the pool. I walked past entire families (possibly even one family reunion) on the strip. There were kids in the hotel lobby, in the elevators, at the pool, on the strip, in the restaurants. (Tip: I don't have one on this front yet. I didn't bring my kid... maybe I should have?!)
#3: The Smells
Full disclosure here: I happen to be a bloodhound. (This trait was even more pronounced when I was pregnant and could walk past a garbage can on the street and recite its entire contents.) But even so, I can't imagine that the olfactory assault goes unnoticed by your average dude or dudette.
I was almost entirely unable to get away from the cigarette smoke. And it's not just the smoky smell that will infiltrate your being. There are numerous flavors of perfume that are used at every turn to either mask the smoke or to "enhance" the Vegas experience (my guess). I was first struck when I walked into my room at the Vdara (which, by the way, is a very clean and comfortable place to stay - don't get me wrong), but they have decided that it is a good idea to spray every room with some sort of musk (signature scent?). I personally ended up changing rooms three times until I got one that was un-sprayed.
The casinos too, in what I can only assume is an attempt to mask years of smoke abuse to their upholstery, have chosen to pump sickening amounts of fragrance into their labyrinthine environments. (Tip: The least-smelly-casino prize goes to: New York, New York.)
I have plenty more to say about my virgin voyage to Vegas, but for now, I hope that these three things, in addition to all the other advice and expectations that pave your path to this unparalleled desert oasis, help you to focus less on the unexpected and more on the crucial business of enjoying your own 72 hour whirlwind.