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OPINION - Vegas: a city where everybody's somebody else, pretending to be somewhere else

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  I’ve seen Las Vegas through the eyes of a first timer.

I already knew that people aren’t who they are in real life when they’re in Vegas. That guy in the casino with $4,000 worth of chips in front of him isn’t really a high-roller. He drained the savings account or hit the credit cards before he got there. That 20-something woman in the 4-inch heels and the skin tight dress isn’t really Mariah Carey’s younger sister. She’s dieted for two months and works at a desk when she gets back home.

What I wasn’t expecting was that the Las Vegas experience isn’t really about a place. It’s about pretending you’re somewhere else.

Las Vegas tries to recreate Paris with a two-thirds size version of the Eiffel Tower. Nice, pleasant. But it’s part of a casino that also comes with a fake, silly looking Arc de Triumph. The Excalibur tries to recreate a medieval castle. Fail. The Flamingo is like a beach house. It’s only 500 miles from the ocean. New York-New York has a Brooklyn Bridge and a Statue of Liberty. My hotel, Luxor, looks like a pyramid. It amazed me that a city that has so much going for it – the best shows, the biggest casinos, stellar weather for late March – spends so much effort making its visitors feel like they’re somewhere else. That was my biggest Vegas misperception.

A year ago I took my end-of-winter vacation in New Orleans… a city that I intended to go back to this year. For the record, I love New Orleans after Marti Gras in late March. The rowdy element has left town by then. I get an overnight train ride, good food, two days betting the horses at Fairgrounds, and get to travel around via streetcar. It truly is a city that’s unique.

But this year my tax refund was smaller than I’d expected. My vacation kitty called for an inexpensive trip. And no one beats Vegas on price. My round trip airfare and three nights hotel was less than my lodging alone in New Orleans. Vegas pricing is based on the assumption that many guests will feed some money into the slot machines.

I’m happy to report that my blackjack losses were modest… I was a heavy-hitter at the buffet… I enjoyed the two shows I saw… and I went swimming in 80-degree weather. All very nice. So who cares where “here” is?

Chris Conley

PS -  I’d blogged earlier that I was a first-time flyer on Spirit Airlines, with the ultra-cheap fares but the ultra-aggressive fees.

It was about as I expected. The leg-room was very tight. The seats didn’t recline. There was bus-card style advertising on the overhead bins. But, even after paying to check one bag, the flight still cost $109 less than any other airline.

The free-for-all that I expected at boarding, with newbie fliers not being aware of the fees, didn’t materialize. Most people knew what they were getting into. 

Image: The New York-New York casino on the Las Vegas strip, by Chris Conley