Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Travel Tips - Las Vegas

Time for something a bit unusual for one of my posts, but something I nonetheless had to give some props to. I’m usually blathering about video games, movies, television, or other forms of media, but today I thought I’d talk about another form of gaming.

I am, of course, talking about gambling – and I thought I’d tip you off on a brand new spot to head off to.

A few years ago, my parents retired and moved away from the loving embrace of New York City, to the bright lights of fabulous Las Vegas. Since that time, I’ve gone out to visit quite a few times, and in many respects stopped considering myself a tourist while there. Now, if you know anything about Las Vegas, you know the strip – that long stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard where all the mega hotel/casinos are. Where you book a room at one hotel, but spend your vacation tooling up and down, visiting each of the others – and why not, it’s legal to walk on the strip with open alcoholic beverages!

My main problem is that I spend most of my time at home at work, and I work right near Times Square. Times Square is one of, if not the largest tourist destination in our country. Since I spend 5 days a week surrounded by the thickest flow of tourists imaginable, when I go away to relax and visit my folks, I try not to go near the strip – it’s like being at work when I’m 2,500 miles from home. There are plenty of really nice places off of the strip that offer everything the mega joints do – sometimes even more. For example, until my last trip, I’d say that my favorite place in Las Vegas was Red Rock Casino. The architecture of the building is incredibly cool, with long, low waterfalls and fire pits outside. The gaming floor has a very pretty red aesthetic, to match the nearby red rocks of the Nevada mountains. They have all the games you want to play – and with better table limits and less restrictions on rules than on the strip. There are a lot of food choices, ranging from good all the way to great. There’s a ton more than the casino, too – an amazing spa, a huge movie theater, the coolest bowling alley I’ve even been to (which is cheap as hell, too!!), and the sweetest pool area I’d seen yet. Oh, and it’s populated by really cool, mellow locals, all friendly and just looking for a good time – the exact opposite of the huge jostling crowds giving off heavy and bad vibes on the strip. All that, and if you’re free during the day, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is right nearby, with some breathtaking views, trails, and a great scenic drive. I recommend climbing to the top of the tallest peak there, Mt. Turtlehead – my brothers and I did it, and it was exhilarating, offering great views of all of Las Vegas.

So … what could be better than all that?


That’s it. Just one letter and it says it all. M is the newest luxury joint in Las Vegas, and it sits just south of the strip, just off I-15. Inside, it offers all the amenities on its gaming floor that Red Rock does, but bigger, newer and nicer. I’ve never met a friendlier staff at a casino, with people always looking to help out and hook you up – anytime I saw anyone ask for any type of comp, they got it. Now, I can’t truly speak on what all those peoples gambling tendencies were, but I can say I’ve never seen pit bosses jump so energetically at the prospect of getting something for free for the customers.

And the free things seem to be everywhere. Simply for signing up for a comp card, I was treated to a free buffet. As good as that may sound, consider this: the family that runs the M owns their own farm where they raise the delicious beef used there. They own their own vineyards, and supply their own delicious wine. They own their own microbrewery and supply their own beer. And in the buffet, which featured probably the most amazing selection of gourmet international foods I’ve ever seen assembled in one room, all the wine and beer you want is included. How’s that for value?

My first day in town was July 4th, and my parents and I went to M, outside by the pool area to watch their fireworks show. I was fairly impressed by it, and I’ve seen the one they put on in Redbank, NJ. But what really impressed me was the sweet layout of the pool area itself, and how beautiful it was – and the fact that the strikingly gorgeous sunsets over the mountains around the M didn’t hurt at all. My last night in town, my ‘rents and I went to the Veloce Cibo, at the top of M. The impressive views of Las Vegas were almost as good as those from Mt. Turtlehead (though there wasn’t the I-just-climbed-a-mountain sense of accomplishment to heighten it), and the food there was flat out ridiculous. Seriously. No peppercorn sauce should be that good – that’s how people get addicted.

All this, supported by what is by far the most attractive wait staff I’ve ever seen (why, if I didn’t have my Norah Jones, I’d be in love with every woman there), and you’ve got my favorite destination spot in all of Nevada.

- Goodchild

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