Secrets to Vegas: Potpourri
We don't live in hotels. Not all Vegas women are showgirls. No one wants your kidneys. Now that we've dispelled those little misconceptions, find out more of what we locals know about the real Las Vegas.
Get out there: Arriving before check-in time at your Vegas hotel should be the least of your worries. If you arrive early and your hotel doesn't allow early check-in, grab what necessities you may need for the next couple of hours, drop your bags off with the bellman and be on your way. With so much to do here, don't waste your time in the lobby. Even if it's the most beautiful lobby you've ever seen.
Can't hack traveler's checks: Many Vegas taxi drivers are unable to accept traveler's checks. So, if you plan to pick up a cab at the airport to take you to your hotel and you're carrying only traveler's checks, you might want to turn some to cash before approaching the taxi staging area.
Canvassing: What is it, and is it illegal? You know those guys who stand on Las Vegas Boulevard trying to hand out fliers for strip clubs and escort services? They're canvassers. After much fighting with the City Council, the canvassers appear to have won the right to pass out information. Even though most people complain that the fliers cause litter and the canvassers get in the way of pedestrians, we've noticed that if you just keep walking, they aren't aggressive at all. Of course, you could always take a brochure; we just won't take responsibility for anything that happens after that.
What to wear: Yes, Las Vegas is in the desert. And, yes, the temperature gets to be about 115 degrees in the summer. But if you happen to be visiting in the winter (usually from Halloween to Valentine's Day), don't be fooled. A jacket is definitely recommended, especially if the wind is blowing. We know our blood is probably thin from living here, and we may not get blizzards, but consider this your warning -- it's a lot colder here than you'd think. Click here for the latest conditions.
Comfy shoes: There are certain places where fashion is more important than comfort -- Tao, Marquee or Haze. However, when you're slumming around during daylight hours, casino hopping or standing in line for a buffet, wear your Hush Puppies or Chuck Taylors. After all, you don't want your fashionable shoes to rub blisters when you're vamping it up at Marquee. For ladies partying all night at the clubs, we suggest gel insoles. From strappy stilletos to go-go boots, you can actually get away with looking cute and being comfy. Oh, and if you choose to ignore our words of wisdom, make sure you've packed your specially selected Band-Aids.
Crossover: Imagine summer in Vegas. The temperature is 115 degrees and you're wearing your favorite sundress or Bermuda shorts. You're walking down the Strip or Fremont Street when you decide to enter a casino and partake in a cool, refreshing beverage. Prepare to freeze! You'd think there would be a happy medium, but for some reason, casinos tend to keep the thermostat at what feels like a shocking 60 degrees. So you can either (A) have a light jacket with you to put on or (B) grab your drink in a to-go container and get back out in the what-you-once-believed-to-be-sweltering heat.
People-watching: If you love to people-watch but are tired of hanging out at the airport, we've found the next best place. When you're at the Forum Shops at Caesars, request patio dining at Spago. It doesn't matter whether you're eating lunch or dinner, people will flock to the fountains located out front. In fact, anyone venturing to other areas of the shops has to pass by first. Just remember -- no heckling!
Pedestrians: Look left, look right, look left and look right again. Pedestrians need to pay extra special attention as they walk across the Strip. Traffic is scary. Perhaps it's the lights, the volcano, the fountains, the Eiffel Tower or the lion; whatever it is, drivers seem to have a difficult time following simple traffic rules. Even if your light says "Walk," still look left, look right ...
24 hours: It's easy to become spoiled by living in Las Vegas since most businesses stay open late or even 24 hours. It's a shock when we travel and can't get dinner past 9 p.m. or when we see gas stations that actually close. So, while you're here, eat when you want or grab a Big Gulp at 3 a.m. just because you can! If you're looking to wind down after a show, an especially wonderful spot to hang out and grab a cocktail or dessert is the Peppermill. The lounge and coffee shop are open 24 hours a day and have that Old Vegas feel.
You send me: Looking for internet access while you're on the Strip?
Many hotels offer data ports or Wi-Fi in their guest rooms for an added charge, while some include it in the resort fee. Most hotels, as well as the Las Vegas Convention Center, offer business centers with fax machines, computers and printers you can use for web access, The Venetian has a printer/fax machine in every room, and the Four Seasons offers technology gurus to assist their guests with everything from presentations to VPN needs.
If you aren't carrying around a laptop, McCarran International Airport has pay-per-use kiosks located in areas throughout the C and D gates, and the MGM Business Center offers access but charges a per-minute fee. Many hotels offer pay-per-use kiosks as well.
Some resorts offer Wi-Fi access throughout the public areas, but this usually comes with a fee for 24 hours of access.
Lucky for you, all of the major cell phone carriers have good reception and data speeds in and around most of the Las Vegas Valley. Where things get a bit tricky is inside resorts: You might be limited to 2G or EDGE speeds or little reception, although newer hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Aria at CityCenter have compensated for this by building in technology to amplify cell signals.
It is important to remember that for major conventions (think the Consumer Electronics Show), you'll also be competing for signal with thousands of other convention-goers. Keep that in mind if there's any essential work or calls you need to take care of. Take advantage of any Wi-Fi being offered up by the convention itself or any of the exhibitors.
Avoiding the masses: If you're attempting to avoid the crowds and visit Vegas during the slow season, it may be difficult. Vegas is a hot vacation spot year-round. However, we can tell you that from about 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. is perhaps the slowest time, particularly during the week. Early-morning hours are probably the perfect time for new players to step up to a craps table and play without the pressure of veteran players glaring at you.
The water of life: Drinking lots of booze at night + walking around in 115 degree heat during the day = dehydration. Unless you're one of those travelers who enjoy visiting local hospitals and getting strapped to an IV, we recommend you drink lots of water. Avoid the tap water (it actually smells); buy one of those trendy bottled waters. The prices for the bottled stuff are quite high at the hotels, so stop by a local grocery store or convenience store and stock up.
While you're at the drugstore: It's a dry heat. It's a dry cold. It's a dry wind. In Vegas, it's dry, dry, dry. Our hands are dry, our faces are dry and please, don't look at our heels when we wear sandals in the summer, because, yep, they're dry, too. To make up for this dryness, do what we sometimes fail to do and carry with you at all times the following items: lip balm, sunscreen and lotion. It is even a good idea to pick up some re-wetting drops, especially if you wear contacts.
Keeping in touch: Cell phones and walkie talkies are a great way to keep in touch with fellow travelers while in Vegas. Just keep in mind that most casinos frown upon their use on the casino floor (and they're strictly out of bounds in the race and sports books). Walkie talkie users actually say the signal is clearer than on cell phones, plus they're generally cheaper, but they do have a far more limited range.
Attention, gambling virgins: Don't be ashamed. We all can remember that awkward first-time feeling. When you initially sit down at a table, perhaps for a game of blackjack, do yourself a favor -- take lessons if the casino offers them. If lessons aren't available, spend a couple of bucks on the crib card that supplies the basics. When all else fails, ask questions. The dealers are there to help -- and most of the time they're happy to do so. Just watch out for those showy gamblers sitting next to you who seem more than helpful. The dealers are the only true professionals at the table.
It adds up to real money: Coins in a bucket or chips in your hands seem more like play money than the real thing. But it is real, folks -- and unfortunately, there are people out there who would love to separate you from it. Our advice is to keep your change buckets close and your chips even closer. If your winnings become too heavy to lug around, be sure to make use of the hotel safe. By the way, we recommend against the Demi Moore-in-"Indecent Proposal" method of throwing the money on the bed and rolling around in it. You may lose some, and besides, you don't know where that money's been.
Free cigars, you say? The next time you're passing time at the tables or machines and ordering those free drinks, don't forget to ask for a free cigar. Several hotels have been known to keep some of those trendy little incendiary devices on hand for just such an occasion. It's still recommended that you tip the cocktail waitress.
Lower table minimums: Still trying to find your way around the tables and feeling intimidated by the high table limits on the Strip? Head for downtown Vegas. The table minimums for craps, pai-gow poker and "let it ride" are usually lower, so your learning curve won't cost you too much. Oh, and don't forget to order up a shrimp cocktail, just try not to spill cocktail sauce on the tables.
Player's clubs: Stand in line, get the form and sign up for the frequent gambler card at your favorite hotels. Use the card to accumulate points, since you'll probably be gambling anyway, and perhaps receive something free. It helps to be on the mailing list for a lot of hotels. Who knows, they might pick you for a special room rate or decide to send you tickets to a free show.
Specify, specify, specify: Our hotel-casinos are larger than they look -- telling your party to meet you at the bar could leave them wandering around for hours as they try to find the exact spot you were thinking of. Name a specific location all will be able to find -- such as the front desk or the casino's showroom -- and you won't spend your vacation looking for your fellow travelers.
Larger than life: Speaking of hotels that are larger than they look: If you have trouble walking or are a senior citizen, you may want to request rooms near the hotel's elevators. Most people have never seen hotels this large, and you might find it tiring when you have to hike to your room at the far end of a very long hall time after time for five days.
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