Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012 Began In Vegas

Simply put: I don't know what to do with myself in Las Vegas. I don't gamble. I don't go to clubs. I don't drink much.
Nevertheless, Erinn and I joined my two roommates and a couple others on a trip to Las Vegas for New Year's Eve and we really enjoyed ourselves. Erinn and I haven't been to Las Vegas since we were kids so this was our first Vegas trip as adults.

Really the draw for us was the Paris Casino and a few other themed casinos. Paris, the Luxor, the Venetian, and New York look so cool because they've created a sort of miniaturized version of the places they represent. The Paris hotel has a scaled down Eiffel Tower. The Luxor is a glass pyramid. The New York hotel is a grouping of famous New York skyscrapers. And the Venetian has canals where you can take a gondola ride with a man who will sing to you! All of these novelties are very fun to look at when you're walking around the Vegas Strip with very little cash.

For us, it started at the Gold Coast Casino buffet, which is where we met up with our other New Year's companions Mike, Laura, Tyler, and Garrett. They had all gotten to Vegas the night before and didn't get much sleep. The popcorn shrimp and cheesecake was pretty good, but not much else.

We then split up with plans to regroup later that evening. Erinn and I walked to the strip, got lost in the Bellagio, and made our way to the Paris Casino. The Las Vegas strip has a number of walkways that take you over the street to decrease pedestrian congestion at street corners, but there were so many people there on New Year's Eve it was chaotic. We had a fun time dodging crowds, avoiding those people who hand out flyers with naked people on them, and finally found the front of Paris.

The Paris Hotel is very beautiful. The exterior is made up mostly of a replica Eiffel Tower and a building in the shape of a hot air balloon. And everything is covered in lights. Once you get inside, you feel like you're walking down a parisian street complete with restaurants, cafes, and shops each with their own street-like facade. The ceiling is designed to look like the sky and the outdoor lights and benches really complete the scene. This is typical of many of the hotels on the strip which have a distinct theme like those I mentioned earlier. New York, The Venetian, and others have a Disneyesque feel to them on their main levels, each unique to their respective names. However, drift a bit from the main rooms with all their simulated streets and you'll come across black jack tables and slot machines like you'll find in any other hotel.

There's an elevator in the Paris Hotel which will take you up the Eiffel Tower for something like 18 bucks, but Erinn and I decided to save our money. I enjoyed walking around the hotel feeling like I was in some smokey, Americanized version of Paris, but I know we'd both prefer to save our money to see the real thing. The crepes looked delicious, but if I'm going to pay 10 bucks for one, I'd rather be doing it in France.

We continued down the strip, but very slowly. Walking the sidewalks on New Year's Eve is a bit like going to Wal-Mart on Black Friday, except with more booze and snakes. Did I mention the snakes, yet? At several (yes, several) points along the strip, there were snake handlers hoping to get some money thrown into their hats. Also Wonder Woman, bagpipers, and some guy trying to sell his burnt cd for 5 bucks. Finally we made it to the New York Hotel.

Our afternoon continued on this way until we met up with Tyler and Garret and started walking back to our hotel. What's great is that at this point, the strip had been closed down to vehicles and was open only to pedestrians. This made our walk much faster. By around 5pm, we had gotten down to Excalibur, which put us about 2 miles from our hotel. It took us a few hours to get that far south on the strip that afternoon, but it only took about 50 minutes to walk back up.

We met in the room with Mike and Laura, split up again for dinner, met again in the room and started walking to the strip again around 8 or 9 (Erinn and I were singing songs from The Little Mermaid for some reason).

This is when the celebration for New Year's Eve really started. People were everywhere and there was this party feeling even though everyone else was just walking around like we were. The six of us lost each other a few times, but we just kept moving, looking around. We ended up in front of the Bellagio so we could watch their fountain show until midnight when fireworks were supposed to start. So here we sat, watching the fountain, watching people, talking with each other. When midnight came there was a countdown on a big screen overlooking the strip, and a fireworks show began. It was pretty impressive. The fireworks were being shot off eight different hotels all along the strip. We were right in front of the Paris Hotel, so these were the ones we paid the most attention to, but it was pretty amazing looking up and down the street to see all the towering hotels shooting fire from their rooftops. When the fireworks eventually stopped (and they seemed to go on for ages) we said "Happy New Year" to each other once again and walked slowly back to our hotel.

The next morning, after checking out, Erinn and I said goodbye to the group and headed off on our own adventure in the pursuit of delicious food.

It was definitely different from most of my other New Year's celebrations. Usually I end up at some friend's house for a New Year's party. I think last year a few of us had a shindig at my house and we played Rock Band all night. This was a fun change of pace and Erinn and I love getting out of town. I don't plan on going back to Vegas for another New Year's Eve, but I'm glad I went this time.

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