On my 27th birthday (which I still can’t believe was a few years ago) I promised myself that I would always travel somewhere to celebrate surviving another year (bonus points for making personal and professional progress) and that no matter how long or short the distance I would change my surroundings. My 27th birthday marked my first trip to Vegas and whom better to commemorate my debut into the world with then the one responsible for it but my mommy. We came, we saw, ate Johnny Rockets and conquered. We stayed at the Mirage and besides her cussing me out in the middle of a casino, we managed to have a good time. After celebrating my 28th birthday with the boyfriend at a cheesy lover’s resort in the Poconos whose claim to fame are lucite champagne tub towers and free Sinbad performances (the comedian, not Kevin Sorbo), we decided to take a our first official trip with airfare included and go back to Sin City.
The Aria hotel has a way of making all of its guests feel filthy rich by association. I woke up every morning with a view of the Gucci store and there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t see a woman casually strolling through the casino in Michael Kors flats and a Kate Spade satchel slung over her shoulder. Even the modestly priced “Café Vettro” menu options made me feel like Lauren Conrad sipping lattes at a contemporary styled Laguna Beach bistro.
All of the hotels on the strip must have some kind of service contract with Febreze. But seriously, all of the ducts send scents unique through the hotel wafting through the air. Aria had a woodsy vanilla smell. The first two days was nice, but on the last few days it kind of gave me a migraine.
My first Cirque Du Soleil experience was impressive. “Ka” was like my dad reading me a childhood fairytale complete with acrobats swinging from my bedroom canopy. There’s a scene were the performers look like they’re swimming to the bottom of the ocean literally right in front of you: surreal.
Eli Roth’s Goretorium was fucking insane. The haunted house is short but totally worth the beanie that I lost after emerging from a trash bag material covered room described as a “vinyl vagina” that literally envelopes (borderline suffocates) you before spitting you out. Think S&M meets Hostel.
The “Bodies” exhibit was a little boring until you realize about half way through that you are staring at an actual preserved embryo. Made me consider my pro-choice status for about five seconds. Be prepared to look at some beautiful organ displays in Crayola colors and shriveled preserved penises since apparently only men like to donate their bodies to science. A pre-med student’s dream.
Came up $40.00 off a $1.00 in a MGM Grand slot machine.
Lost $10.00 in Aria slot machines.
The Aria’s biggest selling point was its electronically controlled rooms. There’s a super remote (that mind you doesn’t even stretch a foot beyond the headboard, so if you want to control anything expect to be held hostage by the nightstand). You can control the lighting to give a room a romantic ambiance or even the drapes so that each time you enter you’re greeted by a display of the Las Vegas skyline, BUT be prepared to spend the first few days trying to figure out how to get the room to do what you want it to before getting frustrated and just walking over to all the appliances to control them manually. I was always opening the blinds when I was freshly butt naked from the shower when I meant to turn on just the desk lamp. Oh, and by day three I was completely over the sexy low lights. I just wanted one bright lamp to be able to read the buttons on the regular TV remote.
The one cool thing is you can control the bathroom lights from the bedroom and enjoy leaving your friends in a pitch black bathroom listening to soulful R&B while they take a shit.
Speaking of “Soulful R&B”, there were no rap selections in the music categories. Forget listening to French Montana’s “Pop That” while pre-gaming with your girls before you head to Haze. Be prepared to bring an audio kit for your IPod or spend like$30.00 if you use the one the room provides. Guess they didn’t want certain guests offending others by being loud and hoodish **clears throat** prejudiced **cough cough**
There’s a reason Aria is located in City Center. It’s basically a mini city. It took us about 15 minutes to go from our room to a restaurant in the same building. The layout made me feel like Jennifer Connely in the labyrinth while the cleaning staff were friendly creatures helping us along the way. Unlike the Mirage which was huge as well, but simple to navigate, I never could get my bearings. Our check out was like a scene from a movie. We couldn’t find our way from the regular lobby to the tour lobby where our shuttle was picking us up. We ended up going completely in the opposite direction, luggage in tow with ten minutes to make it to this impressively hidden tour lobby. After getting off an elevator that took us down but wouldn’t take us back up, boyfriend had to lift my luggage up a short flight of stairs only to find that the one path was blocked by construction moving a huge decorative plant, meaning we literally had to go up across a bridge to the other side of the hotel. We finally made it to the tour lobby on time, but I was literally sweating, panting and pissed off.
I left feeling like this overrated hotel was doing the most but not getting it done well. The windows were dirty making my view of the MGM Grand and Gucci store like looking through the scratched up bulletproof glass at the corner Chinese store. One of the handles of the dresser drawers was falling off and there was something that looked like a tag made with a Sharpie on our “fancy” bathroom pocket door. (Sorry I was too disgusted to take pics).
They say you never know someone until you travel them. The boyfriend who can navigate through Philly in a fog with his eyes closed was turned into a lost directionally challenged mess (myself included). Much of our time was spent trying to see what tram to take and deciding whether we were in the Crystals shopping Center or our actual hotel. But at least we can read. We weren’t the only lost ones, but we are critical thinkers. There are plenty of signs and staff to help you along Hotel Labyrinth, so why were other guests wandering around aimlessly, taking up space in the “Check-In” line when they were clearly “Checking-Out”? And don’t get me started on the foolishness of the McCarran airport. They need line leads or something. There were as one lady stated “no rules” at the airport. US Airways had no curbside check-in so after paying to check our bags at a kiosk, we ended up in a small gathering at the front counter where it was every man for himself after one employee made an announcement that she was getting off leaving the counter understaffed. TSA’s asked me if I had liquids in my carry-on and after replying, “I don’t think so…” she must have decided that was good enough for her after letting me pass through a half-assed inspection.
The tourists here are also annoying. I realize I am included in those tourists, but what is it about foreigners that make them visit other people’s cities and treat the locals like degenerates. We came across plenty of “Brads” on this trip with their leather loafers and Louis Vuitton laptop messenger bags jaywalking across the huge intersections lifting their hands for motorists to stop as they sauntered through traffic with the steely-eyed entitled gaze that warned, “Rich White Man Crossing”. And unlike one of my fav cities NYC where pedestrians move with a purposeful and important rhythm with agendas that range from Wall Street meetings to shopping at the hugest Macy’s in the world, pedestrians here were uncoordinated, awkward and god awfully slow. Maybe because everyone was just trying too hard in 5 inch heels and ill-fitted bandage dresses.
Lastly there are the hype ass passengers at the airport. Why are you standing up ready to make your way to the front of the line if you are seated in Zone 4? Excuse me while I politely roll over your pretentious toes with my polka dot carry-on. And all of you big spenders who are enrolled in Silver, Gold and Bronze preferred flying clubs: apparently the ability to read is not a requirement since you are still stupidly standing in the line marked “General Boarding”.
Although I spent much of this trip doubting the little confidence I had gained overcoming my directional challenges, Vegas is still one of my favorite places to visit. There’s always something to do whether you spend hours in the casino, shopping in the Fashion Show Mall or Miracle Mile Shops, or getting solicited to participate in a time share presentation, get free passes to a titty bar or get offered to buy some kush. I’m actually planning a girls’ trip there in the summer so I can finally take advantage of a pool and some place I don’t need a Segway and a GPS to navigate. In the meantime if you’re planning a trip keep these things in mind:
- You can do Vegas right whether you’re on a stockbroker budget or think a fancy dinner is anything you don’t have to boil in a microwaveable cup. There’s fast food, plenty of hotels with modestly priced cafes if you actually have the kind of professional job that offers benefits, and swanky restaurants and clubs if you truly want to bottle pop like a Rick Ross video.
- You have to get one of those super tall frozen margarita drinks. Everyone walks around with some kind of open alcoholic beverage here. You’ll feel like a loser until you get one.
- Bring a pair of cross trainers or some kind of walking shoes. Walking the strip will have your feet on fire if you try to do it in heels.
- See a show. Vegas is all about extravagance, glitz and glamour. There’s shows with magic, sex, and both.
- All gamblers have to start somewhere. Play slots if you’re completely clueless and watch a good game of blackjack. Eventually you’ll gain the courage and confidence to jump in.
- Be careful planning your visit. I loved the Christmas displays and 70 degree weather, but there was a lot of construction going on and exhibits that were closed for the week since this is labeled “the slow season”. Most of the clubs are only open the latter end of the week. If you want to make lots of new friends, come closer to the weekend, but if crowds aren’t your thing Monday through Wednesday is a good time to book.
- What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but criminal records and STI’s follow you home. Don’t be stupid. You can have fun without becoming completely delusional. Eventually you’ll have a very average life to return to with company policies and stuff.