View: Doing 'Vegas Without Gambling
friends of mine and I were in Las Vegas recently for a few days. Our
friendship goes back many years to when we were all college freshman
together. We now live in different parts of the country – West, Southwest,
and Midwest. We have kept the friendship going by taking biannual and
sometimes annual trips together.
This is our second trip to the city of gambling. But, for
us, there is more to do than gambling in Las Vegas today. The Strip is so
different than when I came here 20 years ago. We simply didn’t spend any
time on gambling while there.
We’re not adverse to gambling; we just found other great
things to do that appealed to us more.
In recent years, Las Vegas has increased its cultural
offerings tenfold. We did it all – eating in great restaurants, sitting on
outdoor patios where we could people watch, being seen in nightclubs where
the cool people go, strolling through lush gardens with fanciful giant bugs,
enjoying live theater, and staying up till 3:00 am in a luxurious casino
lounge sipping a liqueur. Our senses were joyfully on overload!
made our temporary home at Bally’s Hotel and Casino, which is right across
the street from the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, the home of the famous
Fountains of Bellagio. We were fortunate to see the Fountains water and
music show every day and every evening as we passed by them whenever leaving
our hotel. The Fountain shows repeat the music and water presentations using
the spectacular fountains firing at a variety of heights and angles
synchronized to music. The shows run daily mid afternoon to midnight every
15 minutes or every half hour, depending on the time of day.
It seems any media coverage of Las Vegas always features
these fountains. Now I understand why; they are splendid and not something
one sees everyday. They are spectacular both in the daytime with the water
rising and falling in time to the songs shimmers against the sunlight and in
the evening under the glow of the lights of the Strip.
Nightlife in Vegas is still so exhilarating and ultra high
energy! We started each evening in the very urbane champagne bar called
Napolean’s with a cocktail and the complimentary prime rib sandwiches.
Napolean’s lives in the heart of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel’s Le Boulevard
area with everything Parisian. Large windows let you gaze out onto the Paris
“streets” of cobblestone from plump leather and overstuffed couches and
chairs. Live jazz is performed nightly.
The bar is designed so the music is not too loud for talking
and not too crowded for seating. For me, Napolean’s exhibits the type of old
world elegance one used to see in the 40’s always associated with high
society and culture. The clientele every night we were there was an older
over 40 crowd. We fit right in!
Another evening we hit one of the hottest spots of the
moment in Vegas – the Ghost Bar Night Club located in the Palms Hotel
Casino. The Club is not large and was loud and crowded. But the clientele
were well UNDER 40 – unlike us. It’s located on the 55th floor of the Hotel
with spectacular views of the city below.
Ghost Bar is an ultra-hip bar famous for its high profile
celebrity guest list. Is that why all those serious young men in black suits
greeted us at the entrance to the Club? Best dressed bouncers I have even
seen at a club.
It has a roof top deck with a see-through acrylic floor
called the “ghost deck” looking through to another lounge below. It seemed
that everyone in the club wanted to see and be seen on the “ghost deck”, but
only one or two brave individuals were willing to actually stand on it. And
none of them included us! It was just too scary to think about the possible
scenarios when you look beneath the plexiglass floor you are standing on to
see the floors below!
Late one evening we went to a very hip, trendy restaurant
called Nine in the Palms Resort Casino. It’s supposed to have great steaks
while being very contemporary in design. We went there just to have an after
dinner drink and see another hot spot in Vegas as it's known as a place
where you can dine and socialize. I remember lots of illuminating lights in
the restaurant area.
We were seated in the bar area which was very comfortable
but noisy with lots of folks standing around us at the bar. But, the
atmosphere was definitely mod, hip and fun, and we loved being there to
Another evening we were in a soothing and restful lounge in
the center of Le Boulevard in the casino of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel having
a very late night drink. In fact, it was the early morning hours of the next
day! With the painted blue sky and clouds on the vaulted ceiling above us it
very much seemed we were living the moment in the daytime.
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors
Authority, the city has expanded its offerings beyond gambling to a
well-rounded dose of art and culture. The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino
has featured collections from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg,
Russia and New York’s Guggenheim Foundation.
Before we left for Las Vegas, we learned the Claude Monet
art exhibit was on loan to the Bellagio Hotel and Casino Art Gallery. It was
definitely added to the top of our list of things to do while in Vegas. On
an afternoon excursion we meandered leisurely through the Monet exhibit at
the Bellagio. All of us enjoy the Impressionist painters such as Monet,
Renoir, and Delacroix.
The exhibit has apparently been on loan to the Hotel from
the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ world-renowned collection of works by Claude
Monet. This is the first time in ten years the Museum has agreed to loan
paintings out to any group from its collection of works by Monet. Certainly
support to how much Las Vegas has changed from being known primarily for
My friends and I absolutely adore live theater and
performance art. Las Vegas is also making a name for itself in bringing
great theater and performance art to the Strip. For an absolutely full
sensual theater experience with one of the oldest entertainment art forms in
the world as its backdrop, plan to see the “O” Cirque de Soleil show, also
at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. It’s astonishing! We went to an early show
one evening. There are amazing technical aspects that transform the stage
floor into a giant water pool where the acrobats and performers become
divers and synchronized swimmers.
Although we had great center seats in the middle of the
theater, there didn’t appear to me to be any seats in the vast theater that
would limit ones ability to take in the high level of action in the
performances. The theater is the size of several movie theaters. The only
thing that baffled me was whether there was supposed to be a theme or plot.
If it was there, I couldn’t figure it out. I guess I have a need to anchor
myself to a theme or plot in my desire to make sense out of a performance
rather than just enjoying for its artistry and beauty. “O” had plenty of
The Las Vegas Strip in past years was devoid of good places
to eat with only inexpensive buffets and all-you-can-eat specials. The only
places to get great food when I visited the Strip 20 years ago was in the
restaurants in the high end hotels who catered to the high rolling gamblers.
The Strip now includes cuisine from every part of the world with some of the
world’s top chefs satisfying our zest for different foods.
Apparently since Wolfgang Puck opened Spago’s in Caesar’s
Hotel and Casino in 1992, it has started a culinary revolution for dining in
Vegas. We went there for dinner late one evening. Along with our usual
salads, our group shared one of Spago’s famous pizzas with smoked salmon. It
didn’t appeal to us at all. Just too different on pizza for our taste buds.
Spago’s is casual dining with the tables a bit too close
together to be comfortable. But, the restaurant is in an open-air setting
under an enclosed area of the gigantic Caesar’s Hotel, which keeps it from
feeling claustrophobic. It does have a great wine list. And, of course, the
wait table staff were elegant in all things you would expect in one of
Puck’s restaurants. The food was good but not better than other food I had
in Vegas on this trip.
Another day for lunch we ate at Olives restaurant at the
Bellagio Hotel in the outdoor patio dining area. Olives has one of the
world’s top chefs in Todd English. We made our reservations for a bit later
in the day when the restaurant was not crowded so that we would be able to
see the Bellagio Fountain shows while we ate. We suggest you make a
reservation as otherwise it is difficult to get into the restaurant. The
Mediterranean food served there had amazing presentation and it was very
However, lunch at Mon Ami Gabi was my favorite restaurant.
It’s a charming French bistro which is part of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
that offers al fresco dining overlooking the Fountains at Bellagio show on
the Strip side. We made a reservation for an early lunch. We don’t suggest
trying to get in without one. We got seated just in time to see the
Fountains at Bellagio show again and people watch. I never got tired of the
Fountains! The food was simple French food served by impeccably polite and
polished waiters. Having been to the real Paris in France, I can say Mon Ami
Gabi is the closest thing to dining on the Champs Elysee’ that I’ve
experienced this side of the Atlantic!
On our last day in Las Vegas we wandered almost breathlessly
through the rainbow of color, texture, and fragrance using all of our senses
in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino Conservatory. The Conservatory is across
the lobby from the front desk. We stopped often to submerge our senses in
the smell of gardenia and the lush, magnificent living garden of exotic
plants and flowers weaving throughout the gardens. Built in the midst of the
garden are gazebos, ponds, and bridges.
You can easily forget you are in Las Vegas with such soul
enriching and lush surroundings. Apparently the Conservatory recreates
nature representing each season of the year all year round. It was spring in
the Conservatory when we were there with gigantic snails skulking in the
plants and large butterflies flying high in breathtaking colors.
As far as gambling while in Las Vegas, we just never got
around to it. We obviously found many other high intensity activities with
just the amount of diversity we wanted to keep us happy! Gambling just
didn’t make it on the schedule! Maybe our next trip there. We will be going
The Fountains are considered the #1 free
attraction on the Strip. They are contained in the quarter-mile long lake
in front of the Hotel on the Las Vegas Boulevard side or Strip side.
About the Author:
Ph.D., spent 35 years in Adult Education and Adult Literacy Education.
She has also spent the past 25 years writing and traveling - turning her
favorite hobbies into her occupation. As avid traveler, Shelia has
visited cities around the glob including living and working in South Korea
and South Vietnam for two years. Places she have visited include
cities throughout the US and to Mexico, France, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong,
England, Puerto Rico, and Aruba. Sheila who resides in Texas specializes in
writing about the history and cultural aspects of a travel location. (More
about this writer.)