Off to the races!
The Whitingtons head west for NASCAR's
Las Vegas 400

Come along on our Las Vegas Vacation, as we settle in at Caesar's Palace and head out for the NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Along the way you will hopefully get some ideas for your own trip to Vegas - things to do, places to stay, and some general travel tips. Let's get started!

Caesars Palace

Although we visit Caesars on every trip to Las Vegas, this was the first time that we've stayed as guests. It was an enjoyable experience on all fronts - the service was exceptional, we had great luck in the casino, and the facilities were impeccable. We tried several of the restaurants at Caesars, and we were never disappointed.
The first glimpse of the hotel's elegance that you get is in the lobby. Once you set foot inside, there's no doubt that you're in a world class hotel. We've had to wait in line for registration every time that we've been to Las Vegas, but when the Caesars staff saw that one was forming they quickly mobilized several additional people to help get everyone checked in.
The statuary at Caesars is breathtaking. The replica of Michaelangelo's David in the photo on the left was hewn from the same marble quarry as the original statue. Throughout the hotel and casino there are beautiful works of art that are replicated masterpieces. Our one complaint is that Caesar's didn't have a guide to them! We took it upon ourselves to discover them, though.

Our Room at Caesars Palace

We had called ahead and asked for a room in the new tower, but when we got there Caesars was out of rooms there. They instead upgraded us to a suite in one of the old towers. As it turns out, we're really glad that they did! We asked what the view was like, and the desk clerk said "The only views are in the new tower." It didn't dawn on us until we got to the room why. When Caesars was originally opened in 1966, the huge hotels weren't crowding the strip, and there was no need for a "view". In fact, the old towers are covered with a concrete trellis-work. When we opened the door to our suite, we found ourselves in old Las Vegas splendor.
There was a bathroom that ran a corridor that was the length of the room containing a large dressing area, a shower with three heads that hit you all over your body, and a huge jacuzzi tub. There was a sitting area with a couch and chair, and in the center of it all was a raised circular platform that contained a round king-size bed. Around the edge of the platform were roman columns with sheer drapes that could close off the bed area, and to top it all off there was a cicurlar mirror on the ceiling. A set of french doors opened from the bed to the tub. We really felt pampered!

Show cars abound!

The first thing that we noticed on the Strip was that every hotel was vying for the Winston Cup show cars. Caesars scored Rusty Wallace's Miller Lite Ford with the special "Elvis" paint job that his team put together for this race. Jeff Gordon's car was across the street at Bally's, and the other cars dotted the major hotel/casinos up and down the Strip.

The Harley-Davidson Cafe

A new addition to the Las Vegas Strip, this restaurant turned out to be a great find. If you don't drive a Harley when you go in, you're probably going to want to by the time you leave.
You'll see Harleys of all shapes and sizes on display here, including a larger-than-life one bursting out of the front of the restaurant.
Inside, there is a wall-sized American flag made of painted heavy chains, and there is a collection of 1997 Harleys on suspended platforms that "cycle" through the restaurant. The food is good, and the atmosphere is extremely unique. The walls are adorned with Harley memorabalia, include gas tanks and photos signed by celebreties who own Harley-Davidsons.

After scheduling a rental car, then a cab, and finally a bus, we finally arrived at the...

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

This track is billed as a tri-oval, and the banking and track seemed to be perfect. The drivers were able to run three-wide the entire way, and there were no significant accidents during the race. Except for a horrendous shortage of restrooms, this track was fantastic.
We got to the race just in time to hear Wayne Newton give the traditional "Gentlemen, start your engines!". Look closely, and you'll see the cars all lined up on pit road getting ready to go. Getting to the track was quite an ordeal, though. Even with reservations, when we landed at the airport we found out that they were out of rental cars. We quickly switched to Plan B, and decided to taxi out to the track on race morning. Stepping out of our room a good four hours early, we soon discovered that there were no taxis available (something unheard of in Las Vegas). It seems that they were all stuck in traffic going out to the race
We stood in line at the taxi stand for a while, and those that did trickle in refused to go back out to the track. Time for Plan C. We finally got a driver who took us downtown to the bus station, where he said that special buses were shuttling people out to the track. That part was true, but only after an hour and a half wait. It turned out that even the special bus lane was congested, though. After three and a half hours, and a lot of frustration, we finally got there. The seats were perfect - about halfway between the final turn and the start/finish line. We had a wonderful view of the cars roaring around the track.
Of course, we took some time to go visit all the booths and souvineer trailers. Ricky Rudd was sporting a brand new trailer this year, a lot bigger and much more colorful. Needless to say we came away with Rudd tee-shirts and all kinds of other paraphernalia from the #10 Tide Ford race team. There was also a huge selection of food available, and there seemed to be plenty of everything except restrooms. The average wait for the men's room was twenty minutes, and it was even worse during the few caution flags during the race.

Since the finishing order seemed to be pretty well set by the last few laps, we decided to beat the crowds and duck out of couple of laps early. There was a huge line for the city buses already, but we found a hotel courtesy bus that got us right back to the Strip in about forty-five minutes. The race was simply awesome - we had a fantastic time.

The Coca-Cola Museum and M&M World

There's a little bit of everything in Las Vegas, and on the south end of the Strip you'll find a building with a giant Coca-Cola Bottle and a huge bag of M&M's. Entering through the bottle you're at the Coca-Cola Museum, a four story tribute to the drink, where you'll find a historic old main street with a soda fountain, a theater with continuously running Coke commercials from years past, an all-you-can-drink fountain of Coca-Cola products from around the world, and more that we could have imagined. Next door, M&M world is more of a theme shop for M&M candies, although it's also four floors and was interesting to look around in.

The Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton

Just a few blocks northeast of the Strip, the Las Vegas Hilton has opened a new attraction called "The Star Trek Experience". It's a tribute to the world of Star Trek that takes about an hour to get through, with some time to stand in line beforehand and some time down on the Deep Space Nine Promenade Deck afterward. After buying your tickets, you're treated to a Star Trek museum that winds around in a corridor that eventually leads to the "ride" part of the experience. You can spend as much time as you like there, but once you cross over into the ride you can't come back so make sure and see everything!
Along with costumes and props from all the television shows and movies, there is also a time-line that starts with the dawn of human history and marks all relevant events (in the world of Star Trek) up through the Voyager series. That, along with all the goodies behind the plexiglass, make the museum part a very interesting experience.
A special section of the museum highlights all of the alien races that have been encountered in the Star Trek world. No museum would be complete without the Klingons, of course, so they rate several displays. This one features the imfamous Duras sisters, B'Etor and Lursa.
We are Borg. Prepare to be assimalated. The Borg display isn't huge, but that's because not much is known about this race... it mostly encompasses the Federation's contacts with the Borg so far. After the Borg, you are ushered into the "ride" part of the experience. No photos were allowed, and since we enjoyed it so much we aren't going to spend a lot of time describing it. (basically, we don't want to ruin any surprises!) This was really great, though, so be sure and make it a part of your Las Vegas trip.

Deep Space Nine's Promenade Level

After exiting the Star Trek Experience, you walk directly onto the Promenade Level of Deep Space Nine. You'll find Garak's Clothiers, Zek's Grand Emporium, the Molecular Imaging Chamber, Quark's Bar and Grill and even a nice little soldiered stand called Moogie's Trading Post (so maybe the Ferengi are getting more progressive about women owning businesses). Tami is standing between two of the airlock doors leading into the Promenade.
Quark's actually has some surprisingly good food! There's a full menu from appetizers and salads to delicious entrees and deserts. You can start with a quesadilla called "The Saucer Section", continue with a "Bacon Cheese Borger", then finish up with "Nog's Banana Split". As the 214th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition states: "Never begin a business negotiation on an empty stomach."

After much deliberation, Mitchel had the Cheese Borger and Tami had the Shuttle Salad. Both were great, definitely a notch or two above standard restaurant fare. While we were eating, we visited with a couple of other Quark's other guests that were kind enough to pose for a photo.

The Forum Shops

The Forum Shops at Caesars might possibly be the world's most exquisite shopping experience. You can buy a refridgerator magnet for a few bucks, or an outfit for a few thousand. The entire mall is done in the Roman theme, with a ceiling that is painted to represent the sky. The lighting passes from dusk to dawn several times a day. The Strip entrance in the photo is heralded by a charioteer driving a team of four horses, and is truly magnificant.
There are two fountains in the Forum Mall that are much more than they seem. On the hour, the statues in the fountains come to life and do a show for the Forum guests. The Baccus fountain is shown in this photograph, and the Atlantis fountain is deeper into the mall.
The Las Vegas Planet Hollywood is shown in this photo, but you can look down the walkway to get the flavor of some of the other shops in the Forum. This is a place to take a relaxing, casual stroll and do some window-shopping. It's hard to come out of here without at least a couple of sacks, though.
These are a couple of other shots that show the Roman architecture of the Forum.

FAO Schwartz

In the new "Atlantis" section of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, the world famous toy seller FAO Schwartz has a great store. It's three stories tall, and you enter through a giant Trojan Horse. On our first visit, we easily spent two hours there. Not only are the displays fantastic, but there's a "hands-on" play area every where you look.

Tami is standing in the stuffed animal "adaption" center of FAO Schwartz. Fortunately for us, they didn't have any basset hounds or we'd have a real problem checking our luggage on the way home. The dogs and other animals were cute, though, and a lot of people were leaving the store with new stuffed pets.
From a life-size Darth Vadar and R2-D2 to the radio-controlled cars that you can race around their special ATV terrain, this store has everything. Tami's just hopping off the foot-activated keyboard that is reminiscant of the one that Tom Hanks had a ball with in "Big". We had a ball here!

Race For Atlantis!

We kept seeing advertisments for this IMAX ride all over Caesars, but it wasn't until our last day of the vacation that we stumbled across it. The entrance is located at the back of the new "Atlantis" wing of the Forum Shops at Caesars (Mitchel is standing under it in the photo on the right)
This could be the best attraction of this type that we've ever seen. You cruise through Atlantis in a chariot that sits a dozen people, and it's one of those rides where there's a screen in front of the car and your seats move with the motion on the screen. The difference here is that the screen wraps around your field of vision and you're wearing full-face 3-D goggles. This one is awesome. In the photo, Tami is standing in one of the fog-shrouded walkways that take you into the world of Atlantis.

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