Back to Vegas!

A week at the fabulous...


McCarrin Airport

Sunday morning we landed at Las Vegas' McCarrin airport - there's as much glitz and glamor at the airport as there is at any hotel - and you hear the clinking of the slot machines the minute that you step off the plane.


The Monte Carlo

The Monte Carlo hotel opened in the summer of '96, a fabulous resort hotel that is modeled after the world famous Monte Carlo Casino in Monoco. The fountains and statues at the Las Vegas Blvd entrances are duplicates of its namesake. The entire hotel is beautiful, as you can see from these photos.
On the left is one of the chandeliers in the casino, and on the right is a view down the indoor street of shops that is modeled after a merchant street in old Monoco. The hotel has its brewpub on this street, which has great beer but the personality of a snobbish yuppie frat house (maybe the only bad experience of the hotel).

Monte Carlo Pools

One of the greatest features of the Monte Carlo is its pools - there are five in all. There's a kiddie pool, which was the only one we didn't try out. Of the others, one was a wonderfully landscaped standard-sized pool (upper left photo), there was a huge hot tub to float around in (the upper right photo), a wave pool that simulates an ocean beach (lower left), and the best of all - the "lazy river" at the lower right. The lazy river was a long, winding simulated river that you could just float in and let the current carry you around. The pools were a daily ritual with us.

The Monte Carlo Buffet

We enjoyed the Monte Carlo Buffet for several of our meals... there was a great selection, the food was fabulous and the prices were suprisingly reasonable. The restaurant carried out the archetectural theme of old Monoco.

The Room...

This is our room at the Monte Carlo. It was clean, classy and we enjoyed it... and the view of the strip was spectacular.

The View...

We took way too many photos of the Las Vegas Strip from our room - the view was great. Here's two of them: On the left is our view of the MGM; it's magnificant, all lit up in green at night. On the right is the New York, New York casino that was under construction 24 hours a day while we were there.
Not shown is the view of the Aladdin, the monorail that we watched between MGM and Bally's, and the landing strips of McCarrin airport in the distance. This was really a great room.

The Dive!

This restaurant is designed and owned by Stephen Spielberg; as you may guess from the photos, there is a submarine theme, and the submarine sandwiches that they serve are a culinary delight. Each one is a specialty, and the french fries are out of this world. It's hard to decide whether the atmosphere or the food is the best attraction.

New York, New York

It may look like a city, but this is actually a hotel under construction. It's built to resemble the New York skyline, complete with the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. The crews are working on it 24 hours a day, and it should open at the end of 1996.

Caesar's Magical Empire

One of the most enjoyable things that we did on the trip was spend an afternoon at Caesars Magical Empire, an experience that takes you back 2,000 years into wonderfully mysterious surroundings. We were treated to an extravagent dining experience complete with grand-scale illusions. The journey starts in a small room where you must face a statue of Caesar himself and solve his riddle before being lowered beneath the surface to the Magical Empire. Once past that, you find yourself in an underground Catacomb Maze where a centurian leads you to one of several Dining Chambers where you are treated to a delicious three-course feast. Each chamber seats only 24 people, so the attention is very up close and personal.
Throughout the meal you are entertained by a resident sorcerer host, who performs feats of magic as the meal moves along. Afterwards, you are free to wander the many other amazing attractions within. Just outside the dining chamber is the centerpiece of the Magical Empire known as the Sanctum Secorum, a circular playground of illusion. In the center is an impressive 70 foot giant fireball pouring from a grotto under the main rotunda. The Luminaria show is an enchanting combination of sound, light, dancing fire and a visit by the great Caesar himself. A fifty foot sage presides over a constantly flowing, free-floating vessel of water. A dragon's mouth cave off the main rotunda conceals the Grotto Bar (complete with a haunted piano that plays guest requests) and a second lounge called the Spirit Bar with its own surprises.
There are also two small theatres in the magical empire. The Secret Pagoda is a small theatre presents masters of "close-up" magic in an intimate 75-seat, 20-minute show setting. The larger theatre, The Sultans Palace holds 150 guests for 1/2 hour shows of top magicians. The entire experience takes at least two hours, and is well worth what might initially seem like a steep price.

The Fremont Street Experience

On this visit we checked out the newly-opened "Fremont Street Experience", which is billed as an over-all face lift for the downtown area. We were definitely impressed. To begin with, Fremont street is now a pedestrian-only street: re-paved, cleaned up, and covered with a canopy that projects multi-media shows hourly after dark. The new atmosphere was wonderful!

Bally-MGM
Monorail

This is the best way to travel between the south end and the middle of the strip. It's free, it's air conditioned, and it's fast. Both Bally's and the MGM have spent a lot of time and money on the monorail, and it shows.

The Houdini Lounge

Right off the casino in the Monte Carlo is the Houdini Lounge. It's a quaint place to stop in for a drink; it's intimate and low-key, with great service and magic memorabilia covering the walls.

Country Star - An American Music Grill

This restaurant is owned by several big-name country music stars, and there are live performances every evening. Sometimes by the talented singers of the wait-staff, and sometimes by stars of country music that are in town.
The Country Star is right on the strip, about a block north of the Monte Carlo. It's the "Hard Rock Cafe" of the country music world, so there's a thousand pieces of memorabalia to look at while you're waiting on your meal. By the way, we got the best meal of the trip here.

Flamingo Hilton

The most surprising discovery of the trip was at the Flamingo Hilton, a hotel that we've always thought was beautiful. On every trip we spend some time at the Flamingo, but on this trip we saw a sign in the casino that said "<- To Gardens". We followed it to a breathtaking site - a maze of fountains, gardens, palms and exotic plants. It was so beautiful that we spent quite some time exploring, and even ate lunch at their Poolside Grille. It's fantastic... Bugsy would be proud.

Holy Cow!

The Holy Cow brewpub at the top of the strip just isn't to be missed. The hand-crafted beer, the delicious entrees and the laid-back atmosphere makes this a wonderful stop. Besides, we've won at their slots on every visit to Las Vegas.

The Stratosphere

The tall tower that you see when you land in Las Vegas is the Stratosphere... and as we found out, it's worth a visit. This is the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, and comes complete with a roller coaster on top. There's also a big-$$ restaurant, a snack bar and several shops on the upper levels. For the view, go at night; for the convenience (and no crowds), go during the day. You'll be impressed in either case.

"Folis Bergere" at The Tropicana Hotel

This trip we took in the Folis Bergere show at the Tropicana. It's a classic Vegas show - singing, dancing, elaborate costumes, huge headdresses, some tasteful nudity, etc. The show included dinner, and with a tip to the gentleman seating us we had one of the best seats in the house. It was a great show that we highly recommend!

The Mirage Dolphin Habitat

No visit to Las Vegas is complete without a stop by the Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. This isn't a dolphin show... it's a natural habitat construted by the hotel for the study of dolphins and to educate the public about these wonderful animals. No dolphins were captured from the wild - the Mirage adopted them from shows & such that no longer wanted them. At their habitat at the rear of the Mirage hotel, you can go underground and watch the dolphins though underwater windows, or see them interacting with the staff that is involved in the project.
There are no tricks or performances - nothing happens that the dolphins themselves don't want to do. The price tag is only $3, and that goes toward the program that brings thousands of school kids to visit each year. In one of the photos, you'll notice a dolphin swimming upside-down. His name is "Banjo", and the only reason that anyone can think of why he does that is that he just enjoys it.

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