I hadn’t been to Sin City since the late 1980’s, and boy have things gotten bigger. The skyline has probably doubled in size, there are way more casinos than I ever thought could exist in one place, yet, the fountains at the Bellagio looked smaller than they looked in the Ocean’s 11 movie.
Nonetheless, you can’t beat Vegas for every sort of entertainment there is, some family-friendly, some, well, not so much. I joined a group of moms on a birthday weekend, celebrating numbers I won’t disclose, but I will just say this: we’ve been around the block a few times, and we do know our way around a casino, except the craps table.
Which is why we took advantage of Mandalay Bay Casino’s package where for $20.00 one receives $30.00 worth of play chips specifically for the craps table. Vegas even makes a great deal to learn a new game! The package includes a small coupon, worth a $1.00 tip to the dealer for their unending patience to newbies who don’t know a lick about craps. Three gentleman, two watching the table, and one holding the stick that pushes the dice back to the roller, answered question after question on how to bet, where to place them, why to choose one number over another, as they gave repeated warnings to not, not, not, put your hands anywhere near the betting board when the dice are about to be tossed. We learned a lot andleft with a few more chips than we started off with. The morning is the perfect time to learn a new game, as come mid-day, the craps tables especially are packed, loud, and very active.
On to another game which seemed easy to master: Casino War, which is just what you’d think. In actuality, it’s for those who really don’t want to think: the dealer deals a card face up to each player, and whoever has the higher card wins. DUH. If you tie the dealer, it’s WAR, and another card is pulled until there is one victorious winner. We sat for a few rounds until we pretty much lost the battle.
If you prefer no human contact, there are plenty of electronic games with Imax-size screens featuring virtual reality dealers explaining the game and asking players to “place your bets.”And, of course, there are the slots. For me, they’ve lost a bit of their luster when casinos switched to paper cash vouchers that pop out rather than that exciting flow of quarters ching-chinginginto the holder. The machines gave a lot of play, but the bells and whistles go off even if the win was 30 cents. Really. But I love them.
To escape the ding-ding-ding of the games, we opted for one night away from the casinos to check out the Las Vegas Live Comedy Club, located a quick Uber ride down Las Vegas Boulevard. It was a welcome and relatively inexpensive night out. The headliner at the intimate theatre was Edwin San Juan whose very funny set included jokes about his Phillipino heritage and having a black brother-in-law to which he referred to as his “brother IN LAW.” That exact joke was the one that saved him from being arrested. As the story goes, San Juan had been caught smoking a joint by the police, an incident that was filmed for theTru TV show. The police officer, after hearing that his “perp” was a comic, offered to let him go if he made him laugh. Edwin used that line and was released; the video of the arrest and Edwin’s conversation with the police officer was part of the act.
To see another part of Vegas, we took the 30-minute drive out of the city to see mother nature’s towering Red Rock Canyon, a 195,000-acre conservation area within the Mojave Desert. It offersstunning views of the centuries-old limestone hills and educates visitors about the early Native Americans, and how the western part of North America was formed. After the ginormous casinos of Vegas, the loud din of the game areas, and the rowdy crowds on the streets, this mountainous quiet natural landscape was a welcome respite for the body and soul.
For our last night, we opted for dinner at the VenetianCasino which brings you into the heart of Venice, Italy and all its remarkable art and architecture. We marveled at the hand-painted ceilings, a reproduction of St. Mark’s Square with its columns, and water-filled canals. After a celebratory last meal at the fabulous Casanova restaurant, we hopped on a gondola for a group birthday serenade. Despite the cliché, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” I think the town will survive having a few stories spill out.