Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When Vegas Family Visits

The past month has flown by without a post from the Vegas Girl because I’ve had family in town. I spent most of the month of May cooking, cleaning, and having fun with people I haven’t seen in a long time. When our relatives visit, most of them aren’t interested in going down to the Strip. They all used to live here. None of us are gamblers, nor are we impressed with the glitter of the Strip. If we can work in an evening doing touristy stuff, that’s great, but if not, no one is too upset about it.

During this visit, my niece, Chrissy, was here. She was in Las Vegas for the first time in 17 years, having driven here from Wisconsin with her parents for her brother’s wedding. She and I quickly decided we had to go out for an evening. Anyone who willingly drives thousands of miles across the country with her parents deserves an evening out. Maybe not a “what happens in Vegas” kind of thing, but we needed to get out and see the sights.

On a Friday night, we headed to the Strip and parked at the Treasure Island. Chrissy and I walked out of the front of the casino just after the pirate show had ended, and I was surprised to run into TI security personnel herding people back inside. “Too crowded for you to walk this way,” they told people, preventing anyone from exiting to the Las Vegas Boulevard sidewalk. I wasn’t the only person irked at being shoved back inside when my destination was right in front of me—and definitely not too crowded to navigate—but there wasn’t much we could do but follow the herd back inside the TI. Chrissy and I exited via valet parking and had a nice, long walk to the Strip, past the parking garages and side streets full of cabbies and limos.

We wound up in front of the Mirage just as the volcano was erupting, and Chrissy was thrilled. She left Las Vegas when she was 12, so it wasn’t like she got to spend a whole lot of time out on the town before her family moved to the Midwest. The two of us got busy snapping pictures right away. I don’t get down to the Strip very often, and it was great fun to play tourist in my own town.

Next, we went across the street to the Venetian. It’s one of my favorite new casinos, along with the Mandalay Bay (at the south end of the Strip). Chrissy and I roamed through the Venetian’s shopping mall to see some of Old World Italy alongside New Expensive Las Vegas. At the end of the gondoliers’ canal, a new section has been added to the mall. In the new addition, a collection of umbrellas hangs suspended, staggered below a domed sky light. On the way out, Chrissy and I stopped at photographer Peter Lik’s gallery. His gallery was the only shop we entered. We were drawn inside, mesmerized by Lik’s sharply focused, panoramic scenes that pull you into his landscapes. Looking at a picture of a wooden pier extending far out into a turquoise ocean, Chrissy said, “It looks like you could just jump off the end of that pier into the water.”

We finished wandering through the Venetian just in time to make it back across the street for the Sirens of the TI show. Imagine the Pussycat Dolls with a dash of Pirates of the Caribbean, only with way more emphasis on the half-naked dancing girls. Fortunately, Chrissy and I were closer to the sexy-guy pirate side; oh, so sadly, I really didn’t get any useable pictures of the scantily-clad female sirens. This time we knew we were going to be ushered inside after the show ended, so we proceeded to the car for a drive downtown to see the Fremont Street Experience.

Down on Fremont, Chrissy and I were in pursuit of a Margarita when the casinos turned off their neon, and the overhead light show burst into life. The show featured Kiss, and most of the crowd stopped to stare up at the graphics running the length of the canopy from the edge of Fremont East to the Union Plaza. After the light show, Chrissy and I resumed our search for Margaritas and penny slots. First, we went into the Golden Gate. It’s a small place, and walking straight back takes you to the casino bar and the card tables, which come complete with go-go dancers on poles. Once we saw the dancers, we made a turn around the tables and walked right back out of the Golden Gate. Not the best place for unescorted chicks. We stopped at a bar outside the Four Queens, and we each got a $7.00 Margarita from a bottle-juggling bartender who looked barely old enough to be legal. He made a strong Margarita, though, and on the way back down Fremont, I had to stop drinking mine for fear of drinking too much to drive.

That was our only night out, and we were home not long after midnight. Pretty tame by Vegas standards. When Vegas family visits, we’ve got other things to think about: weddings, barbeques, and pot-luck dinners. I know, I know—most people probably think Vegas family visits are more like an episode of a reality TV show. In the real reality of Las Vegas, that’s just not the case.

All photographs by Terrisa Meeks.

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