Greg Alexander

Las Vegas: a sure bet for a fun vacation

Baltimore Sun, December 2002

Billed as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” Las Vegas has fought for years to counter the common stereotype that Las Vegas is a city primarily of vices — gambling, drinking and partying. While most nightclubs are still open 24 hours a day and gambling is still big business, a new, aggressive advertising campaign by the city illustrates what over 35 million visitors discover each year — there’s more to Las Vegas than slots, blackjack and roulette.

Indeed, gambling is still a major draw for tourists each year — 86 percent of visitors gamble during their stay, according to a 2001 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study, while the average gambling budget per trip was $607 per visitor, helping to contribute to $6 billion in annual revenue for the casinos. However, for those not interested in gambling, Las Vegas has plenty to keep you busy, says Molly Hurwitz, a travel agent with Burton Travel in Owings Mills.

“Las Vegas has become a destination for couples and families … there’s something for everyone to do,” says Hurwitz, who has visited Las Vegas four times and has worked for 12 years in the travel business. “The hotels themselves are an attraction.”

As a matter of fact, visitors to Las Vegas could probably spent their entire vacation simply touring the magnificently glamorous resort hotels on “The Strip,” Las Vegas’ famous main road of glitz and glamour. Hotel options are endless, but Burton recommends staying in one of the signature resorts — The Mirage, Caesars Palace, Venetian, The Luxor, MGM Grand, New York-New York or Paris, Las Vegas.

The Mirage is located in the heart of “The Strip,” and the 30-story resort features 3,044 guest rooms and suites, nine specialty restaurants and a spa. Plus, the showroom at The Mirage features the world-renowned Siegfried and Roy. Caesars Palace is a landmark elegant resort in Las Vegas and is well known for its shopping — most notably, The Forum Shops at Caesars, where high-end shops are set in an ancient Roman marketplace.

Hurwitz also recommends The Venetian resort, which allows guests to experience the elegance of Venice, Italy without going to Europe. Guests can partake in a graceful and romantic glide down the Grand Canal in an authentic Venetian gondola. For high-end accommodations, The Venetian also features a “Piazza Suite,” a room over 1,400 square feet in size.

For another exotic experience in Las Vegas, Hurwitz touts the Luxor Hotel and Casino, a 30-story bronze reflective pyramid that has more than 4,400 rooms including 473 suites. The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino is a classic Las Vegas resort with more than 5,000 art deco-themed guest rooms and suites, while the New York-New York Hotel & Casino re-creates traditional New York City landmarks, including a 150-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty and a 300-foot-long replica of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Hurwitz also recommends the Paris Las Vegas, a new $760 million resort that gives guests a Parisian feeling in the heart of “The Strip.” An elevator ride up the 50-story replica of The Eiffel Tower provides a breath-taking view.

In addition to the sights at the resort, Las Vegas also is home to several exciting museums, such as the Liberace Museum, the Neon Museum — which is a rare collection of famous neon signs — and the Elvis-a-Rama Museum. Plus, for golf aficionados, Las Vegas’ mild temperatures and 60 public golf courses will surely tempt.

“The weather is always pleasant in Las Vegas for outdoor activities,” says Hurwitz. The average temperature in Las Vegas is 66 degrees with an average 294 days of sunshine to enjoy each year.

If you’re looking to get married, Las Vegas is famous for 24-hour wedding chapels, and “there’s no waiting period or blood test necessary” says Hurwitz, who had a client who loved Elvis so much that she went to Las Vegas to renew her wedding vows, complete with an Elvis impersonator.

A special wedding anniversary was the driving force for Joyce and Tom Dreisch, a Cockeysville couple who visited Las Vegas in April for their 30th wedding anniversary. “We had always wanted to go there,” says Joyce. “Tom had been to Las Vegas in 1968 and had some idea as to what to expect; however, what a tremendous change since then! We expected to be ‘wowed’ by all the glitz and the unique design and beauty of the hotels … it exceeded all of our expectations.”

Joyce and Tom, who stayed at The Luxor, say they saw several shows, ate dinner at some very fine restaurants, visited other hotels and, of course, played some of the slots.

The area beyond Las Vegas also has endless activities, says Hurwitz. Just 35 miles southeast of Las Vegas lies The Hoover Dam, an historic man-made creation built during The Great Depression that tamed the mighty Colorado River and created North America’s largest man-made lake, Lake Mead. The Red Rock Canyon is only 15 miles away and is home to feral horses and wild burros. Moreover, if you want to add on a longer trip, Hurwitz says the Grand Canyon is a one-hour flight away. Sightseeing air tours of the Grand Canyon also depart Las Vegas for half-day, full-day and overnight excursions.

When you return from a day trip, you may want to treat yourself to a day at a luxurious spa. At the Palms resort, an 18,000-square-foot, three-story spa is available, featuring outdoor water therapy, while the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino features a 63,000-square-foot facility and was ranked by Condé Nast Traveler magazine as one of the top 10 resort spas in the country.

Packages to Las Vegas typically include round-trip airfare, airport transfers and hotel accommodations, Hurwitz says, with optional show tickets and day trips available. Southwest Airlines and America West offer non-stop flights from BWI, while other major carriers also offer flights with limited stops. Hurwitz says that a mid-week, three-night airfare and hotel package will cost $350 to $400 per person.

“If you want an exciting vacation, Las Vegas is the place to go,” Joyce says. “We’d go back in a heartbeat.”

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