Las Vegas: Like No Place Else
Like a modern gold boom town, Las Vegas makes its living off of indulgence, fantasy and dreams. Tourists come here looking to make it big, but so do locals. Construction workers, electricians, servers, dancers, valet parkers and other members of the hospitality industry can, if they’re good, make six figures in this town. The “anything-can-happen” mentality reigns here, even more so than the more infamous “what happens here stays here” concept.
It’s that opportunistic way of thinking that’s helped Las Vegas change drastically in the past 10 years, from a relative gambling cow town to a world-class destination, with its high concentration of fine dining establishments, shopping, clubs, sex and wacky history, making it unlike any other place in the world. Here are some highlights:
Vegas has the country’s largest number of master sommeliers and a remarkable concentration of celebrity chefs in the four-mile stretch of the Strip. In fact, a jaunt down Las Vegas Boulevard is akin to a Food Network marathon. Choose from Joel Robuchon’s eponymous restaurant in the MGM Grand, Michael Mina’s Seablue (also in MGM Grand), Charlie Trotter’s in the Palazzo, Daniel Boulud’s Brasserie and Alex Stratta’s Alex at Wynn Las Vegas, Guy Savoy, Bradley Ogden and Rao’s at Caesars Palace, and the list goes on.
Shopping isn’t just a pastime in Las Vegas. It’s entertainment. Walk amid statues of David, under painted blue skies and around animatronic fountain shows at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, while browsing through Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and a three-story high FAO Schwartz. Wander along the gondola-strewn canals of the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes, where human statues roost, fooling people shopping at Burberry, Kenneth Cole, St. John Sport and Jimmy Choo. And look at models sporting your potential outfits on a runway during the weekend fashion shows at Fashion Show, set among Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.
Sex and Wedding Chapels
Prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas. You have to drive about an hour away to Nye County for those fringe benefits, but it is marketed everywhere you go, from the handbillers on the Strip handing out “Hot Babes Direct to You” fliers to the scantily clad night clubbers to the Strip clubs.
There’s also an interesting phenomena in Vegas called swingers clubs, where singles or dates go to mix and mingle and, well, let’s just call it swingle. Two of the best known spots are the Green Door and the Red Rooster. The Green Door (953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite B27/28) is a maze of rooms with themes such as dungeon, gym, etc. where all kinds of canoodling can be found. The Red Rooster (6405 Greyhound Lane), on the other hand, is a large house, owned by a couple, which is open to those in “The Lifestyle.” There’s a pool, dance floor and many, many bedrooms to act out your wildest fantasies.
Even getting married has a different meaning here, with dozens of wedding chapels eager to unite two lovebirds (drunk or not). Options range from traditional elaborate nuptials at an upscale resort to a quickie ceremony at a drive-in chapel.
If you think about it, Las Vegas isn’t that different from any other city. It’s just more honest about it. Residents aren’t embarrassed at things like their city’s mob-run past. Rather, they’re dedicating a museum to showcase that history, and it’s set to open in 2010. That’s just one in a list of, shall we say, colorful museums honoring Las Vegas' past. Other highlights include the Atomic Testing Museum, showcasing the Silver State’s role in the Cold War, and the Liberace Museum’s dazzling journey through candelabras, charisma and countless sequins.