I visited Las Vegas the first time in the summer of 2000 with my family. Since that first visit, it has continued to fascinate me no end. On this my fourth visit to the city, it came across as a metropolis maturing fast and in many ways still being the same old icon of the decadance.
I was in Las Vegas the whole of last week for Autodesk University 2007. This was a 5 day convention/conference on Autodesk products. It gave me ample opportunity to look at Vegas with more than a hurried tourist eye. Architecturally Las Vegas has always appealed to architects since the seminal book Learning from Las Vegas. Robert Venturi along with his students analysed Las Vegas and why it is what it is.
From the last time I was there in 2002 with Shirrin, Vegas has changed perceptibly in small ways. There is a new construction boom on the strip. The Las Vegas Central is a massive construction site with seven towers and a grand central urban plaza. The Wynn was another relatively new casino since the last time I was there.
The week after Thanksgiving is probably one of the slowest weeks in Las Vegas tourism. Having seen crowds in the summer, this seemed a deserted town…well not really, but you get the idea.
Vegas remains a definitive food and entertainment hub. Celebrity chefs like Emeril, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Todd English and Joël Robuchon have their restaurants there, as are other classics like Nobu, Bouchon Alize and Aurele. And of course the humongous buffets. On this trip, being alone I did not try any of these as I feel you need company to enjoy fine food. Entertainment wise too its a fantastic hotspot with nearly every casino having exclusive and special acts ranging from Celine Dion and Wayne Newton to Ray Romano and Jay Leno.
So now for some observations on Las Vegas, all my own and completely open to disagreement.
- Gambling is so in your face that there is a slot machine 20 feet from the time you get out of the airport.
- The city is slowly maturing into a mainstream megapolis and is somehow losing its slightly over-the-edge pulse. However this could be because I was there on a slow week.
- The casinos are crowded at any time of day or night. Be it 7 am in the morning, or noon, or 3 am late at night, there are always people at the slot machines and gambling tables.
- Prostitution is a very public enterprise. Single men are openly approached for “romantic” rendezvous and guys are handing out business cards for call girls all along the strip.
- The slot machines do not give out coins anymore. This was one of the biggest disappointments I encountered. The first time around in Vegas, my dad had collected these plastic cups from various casinos as souvenirs. These were given free to everyone to put their coins they earned from slot machines. And so this time I was looking forward to collecting a few more to help update my dad’s collection. However now if you win the slot machine makes the sound of spitting out money and prints out a receipt at the end which can be scanned and used to collect cash at an ATM. What a bloody let down.
- It very rarely rains in Vegas. And it did on the last day I was there. Vegas looks beautiful in the rain. Kind of surreal.
- The best way to see Vegas is to walk up and down the Strip and then go up the Eiffel Tower at Paris Hotel and Casino and get an overall view and see the musical fountains of Bellagio from an aerial view.
- Vegas is surely one city that has to be visited to be experienced fully. It is a thriving pulsating example of the creation of man based on indulgence, decadance, money and the capacity to flaunt it. Enjoy these pictures for now, till next year when I am there again for AU 2008.
Check out a few snaps of Las Vegas in the slide show below.