Saturday, 5 May 2012

Viva Las Vegas

I truly believe there is no other place in the world quite like Las Vegas.
My first time to Vegas was in 2003 for a holiday where I was dazzled by the intense lights and 24 hour buzz of the place.
This time around was for business and I was determined to try to discover more to Vegas than the flashy casinos and crazy characters on every street corner.
Arriving in my hotel New York New York started the trip with a familiar feeling of being transported into a movie set where nothing seemed very real.
New york style streets, restaurants and monuments set the scene and a few goes on the slot machines got me into my part.
Jumping on a bus outside the hotel heading toward Fremont Street was a great adventure and an opportunity to experience the less touristy part of  Vegas and soak in some of the history.
My first stop was the Arts District, living in Melbourne I am always attracted to street art and so this place really appealed to me.
A small cluster of abandoned buildings, boarded up with tumbleweed rolling by had been transformed by artistic designs and bold use of colour.
Fremont street is best experience when the sun goes down the reveal a retro neon light show like no other.
Many of Vegas's original signs have been restored here and unlike the glitzy Vegas strip, this part of town feels more authentic.
The Golden Nugget casino is a great example of an authentic casino exterior with light bulb facade and red carpet entrance, with this type of authenticity you don't mind the slightly dated interior or faint scent of stale cigarette smoke...its cool. I was even lucky enough to see Jim Carrey existing the casino after shooting part of his latest movie which was a thrill.
I then discovered one of the most crazy restaurants I have every experienced, something only Americans would come up with - Heart Attack Grill.
As the name would suggest this is not for the healthy eating fanatics, this restaurant concept is based on the idea that gigantic fatty burgers are a good thing and if you weigh a lot because of this you will be celebrated by eating for free.
Staff are dressed as nurses and doctors and you are encouraged to put on a hospital gown on arrival. If you are game you can weigh in and if you are lucky to exceed the weight limit you will hear cheering from across the room.
Burgers are cleverly named bypass, triple bypass and quadruple bypass for obvious reasons...
Perhaps my greatest discovery in this part of town was the Neon Museum, also known as the Neon Graveyard.
This place is a non for profit wonderland full of signs which have been saved from ruined casinos since 1996.
You are met by a volunteer tour guide who has a great passion for the rich history of neon signs in vegas and are given the chance to wander through a giant lot of hundreds of discarded original signs.
The boneyard features all the great signs and is a living museum full of stories of days gone by.
As you walk around and discover the beauty behind the signs you are told the stories behind them to and you can't help but feel a little sad that the hotels which once held these signs so dear are no longer on the strip, instead have been replaced by newer model.
The new Vegas isn't a bad place, in fact some of the interiors of the new hotels like the Wynn, Encore and Cosmopolitan are a thing of beauty in an extravagant kind of way of course. 
The wedding chapel tradition has even been given a modern twist with the introduction of a Pop Up Chapel/Retail store. You can drop by and get married with tourists peering through the shop window then as you are on your way out you can pick up a few gifts for romantic.
And finally to the real reason I was in Vegas, CES - the world's largest consumer electronics show. over 2,500 exhibitors, 100's or thousands of visitors and kilometres of exhibition halls to walk through and discover the latest and greatest in technology.
Vegas was a great experience, one that my feet are still recovering from but a place of inspiration, excitement and discovery all rolled in to one.