I’m in Las Vegas for Blog World Expo where I spoke yesterday on the subject of “Travel Porn”. This is a fascinating city which I’ve visited many times. Here are some facts you might not have known about Sin City:
There are 124,270 hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Actually, there are probably more than that at this point. It would take 340 years to spend an evening in each room. 19 of the 25 largest hotels in the world are in Las Vegas. The four hotels at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana Ave. have more rooms than all of San Francisco.
I’m finally out of Vegas and have arrived in Newport Beach, CA. I’m staying at the Newport Beach Fairmont, courtesy of Fairmont Hotels. After a week at Circus Circus, staying here is like Jed Clampet moving from a shack in Kentucky to a Beverly Hills Mansion.
Sunday I drove Rob of Bloggeries.com to Los Angles from Vegas. He is starting his own trip around the world and is leaving tonight to Thailand on a one way ticket. We hung out on Venice Beach and watched all manner of people out doing their thing. It was nice to see someone else setting out on their own adventure.
Saturday night I was invited to see the Cirque du Soleli show, Mystere, at Treasure Island with Pam Mandel of Nerds Eye View. I’ve seen several Cirque shows before. I saw Love when I was in Vegas at the start of my trip, I saw La Nuba in Orlando, and I saw Dralion when it came to town in Minneapolis. Even though Mystere is one of the oldest Cirque shows in Vegas, it didn’t disappoint. My comment to Pam was that Cirque should be a new Olympic sport.
I’d also like to mention that I got to meet Drew Bennett of BenSpark.com. (Drew also posts a daily photo and has been doing it longer than I have) He was sitting in a session that I was at and asked a question. I introduced myself to him and we started talking about photography. He pulled out a point and shoot camera to take a photo of us and I made the comment that I seldom get to take photos of myself when I travel. (which many other people have commented on as well) Without skipping a beat, he went into his bag and pulled out an xShot 2.0, which is an extending metal rod where you can attach your camera at one end. So I really want to thank him for that.
The big question for those of you with blogs who are reading this, is was it worth going to Blog World Expo? The short answer is: Not really. I have no regrets going, but I don’t know if I’ll be coming back. Blog World seemed mostly designed for new bloggers. None of the panels were particularly enlightening. I’d get more business information by attending Affiliate Summit and you meet more and better people in the travel industry by attending Travel Blog Exchange (the 2010 conference is happening in New York June 26-27).
I did meet some interesting people that had nothing to do with travel, but they were few and far between. There were a lot of “social media consultants” (I have no idea what the hell that is) and other marketing types that just sort of provided chaff for the conference. The reality is, the only real reason to attend conferences is to meet with people in person. Given my niche of travel blogging, there aren’t many people who really care to talk to me. The entire weekend I hung out with the same group of travel bloggers.
To anyone who noticed the giant hole in the crotch of my jeans this weekend, I apologize. That is one of the hazards of living out of a bag with not much clothes in reserve. I’m buying a new pair today.
I don’t gamble and seldom drink, yet I love Las Vegas. I know a lot of seasoned travelers who loathe visiting Vegas. I understand their apprehension, but despite all the places I’ve been I still get a rush when I drive down the strip at night.
It has been two and a half years since I was last in Las Vegas. It was actually the place where I started my trip. As I drove down Las Vegas Boulevard last night I passed the Luxor and I thought to myself “hey, I was at the real Luxor in Egypt”. I repeated the same thing over and over as I passed other hotels: Monte Carlo, Paris, New York, Venice, and the Riviera. I had even been to the location of Caesar’s real palace in Rome! Despite having been to the actual locations of the places these casinos were modeled after, I don’t turn my nose up at the faux versions of it which line the strip. It is a totally different experience and is something which needs to be experienced for its own sake.
Vegas is a city of contradictions. It is at once the cheapest and most expensive tourist destination in America. On my last trip to Vegas, I had a meal at Picasso’s in the Bellagio. It is a five-star restaurant with original Picasso paintings on the walls. A meal for two people with wine was over $500. Today I’m writing this at the buffet at Circus Circus. You can eat all day long, every meal and between meals for a total of $20. There are suites here which run over $10,000/night and places off the strip which you can get for about $25/night, and if you just use a reward program card consistently at a casino, you can probably get most of your meals and rooms comped for free.
You can walk down the street and mingle with the rich and the poor. The ultra high-end casinos are open to the public so it is not uncommon to see people wearing “I’m with stupid” t-shirts walking past a Gucci store. In fact, there is a law in Nevada that all gaming tables must be open to the public, so no matter how rich you are you can’t hide in a private room to gamble were the hoi poli can’t see you.
As I noted above I don’t like gambling. I have no ethical issues with it, but as a someone with a degree in mathematics, I have a deep-seated understanding of odds. If the odds are against you, the more you play, the greater your chances of losing. What I enjoy doing in Vegas is just observing how the whole thing operates. Casinos are some of the most fascinating business operations in the world. Everything from the position and sounds of the slot machines to the colors of the carpet, everything is designed to make you part with the maximum amount of money.
The streets are also great for people watching. You’ll find families, businessmen here for conventions, guys out for a weekend, and girls out for a bachelorette party. You also can’t forget the people who hold the lowest position in the employment ladder: the guys who hand out the fliers for escorts. (Is there any job in the world which requires less skill?)
The energy you can experience at night in Las Vegas is probably greater than in any other city in the world. The only places which come close are Times Square, Hong Kong harbor, Ginza district in Tokyo and maybe Piccadilly Circus in London. Even Macau, which has overtaken Vegas as the biggest gambling destination in the world, can’t compete. Macau’s gambling is all business whereas Vegas is all about fun.
If you have been to Vegas tell me what you think of it, and if you haven’t let me know if it is someplace you’d want to visit. I’m curious to hear what other people think about it.