Travel

The year was 2013, we saw the unseen (Part 4 – Underage in Las Vegas)

After packing up a heavy dose of adventure in Florida, we were off to Nevada. There could be multiple reasons why we were headed there, but you guessed it right! It was to check off the next movie location off my uncle’s list. Las Vegas: the setting stage for the movie Hangover.

When you go to Las Vegas as an underage visitor, you tend to observe and enjoy the most unnoticeable of things. The first of such observations popped up right after check-in. While we had family friends in Vegas, we didn’t want to impose on them. So we booked 2 rooms at the Stratosphere. Stratosphere lay at the end of the strip and thus was the cheapest option at the moment. After check-in, we walked into the elevator and pressed the button for our floor. We noticed that the buttons started from ‘C’ and then went ahead with the floor numbers. I was initially baffled but then it hit me. ‘C’ represented ‘Casino’! Since the lobby of almost every hotel in Vegas is a Casino, they replaced the ‘Lobby’ button with a ‘Casino’ one. I agree that it is an absolutely irrelevant detail but I found it highly fascinating. I’m weird that way.

‘Casino’ button within the elevator

Budget-friendliness wasn’t the only perk of living at the Stratosphere. It had another huge advantage, or should I say ‘tall’ advantage? Being the tallest building on the strip, the view of strip from its observatory deck is breathtaking. The night-time view showcases a flurry of lights while during the day, it shows the structured layout of the strip and the adjoining neighborhoods. Well, it was 2013. A recent trip convinced me that that is not the case any more. There are casinos left, right and center.

Additionally, Stratosphere offers some adrenaline pumping rides with jaw-dropping views of the city! However, I’m sure that once you are up there, views won’t be something that you would focus on. The first ride is ‘Big Shot’ which is a vertical speed drop ride at 45 miles per hour. Next is ‘Insanity’ where the riders are dangled from the tentacles of an octopus-shaped contraption from the top of the building. Lastly, and definitely the best-designed one is ‘X-Scream’. It is a roller coaster which gives its passengers the impression of falling of the ledge and pulls them back just when the heart starts pumping at 2X speed. Although I didn’t have a chance to try them out, fellow tourists told us all of their rides and what an exhilarating experience it had been. So, do check these thrill rides out!

On the first day, we chose to drive hundreds of miles to Grand Canyon. Now that I look back, it wasn’t the best decision. However, we’ll get to that later.

We were up early that morning and picked up by our family friend. The journey is time-consuming and thus getting a head-start put us ahead of the other outgoing traffic. While traveling, the terrain majorly comprised of red rock and shrubs. Although, I admire greenery, the charm of such a red rock landscape is brought about with the sun shining on it with all its glory!

After a few hours of driving we reached the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and enquired about the IMAX show timings. I had heard unending praise about it and definitely wanted to check it out. Since we would have to wait significantly for the next show, we decided to watch it on the way back and proceeded to Grand Canyon’s Mather Point.

It was almost mid-day when we reached Mather Point and it was time to soak into nature’s engineering marvel. The expanse of the canyon was astonishing and to think that people actually climbed some of those rocks was mind-boggling. Although we didn’t get a chance to visit it, Grand Canyon also has a glass bridge over the canyon, which seems to be worth the added effort.

I mentioned earlier that driving to Grand Canyon for a day trip from Las Vegas wasn’t a good idea. This was because this admiration of red rock glory was short lived. To be able to watch the IMAX show and get back to Las Vegas in time, we were barely able to spend an hour at Mather’s point. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to Grand Canyon Visitor Center. In a couple of national parks and scenic locations across the US, IMAX shows have been produced to educate visitors about geographic facts and historic recollections. Among these, the IMAX show screening at Grand Canyon Visitor Center is definitely worth every penny. As we headed back to Vegas, we halted briefly to admire the Hoover Dam as its water glistened with the floodlights’ reflections, thus giving us a glimpse of our next day.

The following morning, the Nevada sun shone bright on us. A little too bright for my liking since we had planned to take up a day-time walk down the strip. As an underage tourist on the strip, I focused on an underrated feature of the casinos. The architecture. Every casino/hotel had a unique personality. Stratosphere was the tallest and thus was the city’s observatory. While Circus Circus reflected the look of an old-timey traveling circus, Treasure Island gave the feels of a pirate movie. However, its easy to guess my favorite because of its unparalleled design and interiors. The Venetian. It was a sneak peak of the real deal which I went on to visit in 2016 but back then, I was blissfully unaware of my future.

The Venetian had plenty of arched bridges overlooking the canals both inside and outside the building. The ceiling and the stairs had fine Italian detailing right from the paintings to the carvings and sculptures. The Grand Canal Shoppes had a falsified ceiling to mock the look of a clear blue sky. Occasionally, a gondola would pass by the shoppers carrying bags from Burberry and Coach almost luxuriously transporting us across several time zones. Just when I thought that nothing could top that scene, we came across some pizza and gelato stores. It was the icing on the cake!

To kick up the level of charm a notch, The Venetian carries out periodic masked parades and shows with jugglers on stilts. Every corner of the casino had so much to look forward to even without the gambling and the booze. The splendid interiors didn’t end with the Grand Canal. They spilled over magnificently to the casino, a beauty that we gazed at from afar.

After a quick lunch, our family friends picked us up and we left the city yet again. This time our drive was much shorter. While we had had a quick stop at the Hoover Dam the night before, it just wasn’t enough. We wanted to soak in the sunlit version. The hydroelectric power generated at the Hoover dam provide power for utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. It is important to mention that I have mixed feelings of power sourced by dam generators. The artificial storage of water and large generators harm the biodiversity of the water body and upsets the system. On the other hand, hydroelectric plants act as a renewable source of energy thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels. However, back then none of that was on my mind. We just stood there fixated at the expanse of water before our eyes.

That evening was our last in and around Las Vegas. As we headed back, subtle sunset hues filled the sky. I left Vegas hoping that I’d come back someday when I didn’t have to hold myself back from all the fun activities, but then again, when did I ever?

Sunset hues

Next up: Heading back to New York state!

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