Vegas Bright writer Kelly Lamrock introduces the audience to a new series titled “Starting A Fight”, where he tackles various topics while defying conventional wisdom.
I came to Vegas late – I was 41, to be precise. I always assumed it wouldn’t be my thing. I came to a friend’s 40th birthday party on the grounds that I should try it once. After my first day, I just….got Vegas. The choices, the absurdity, the anonymity, the complete lack of judgment around you – it all suited me. Six years and thirteen trips later, I know and love this city.
Which also means…..I have developed opinions. And if you read my bio, you’ll know I used to be a politician, so I don’t mind a good argument. So I am launching this series called Starting A Fight. Basically, each article I will tackle some topic where I don’t buy the conventional wisdom and I will happily tell you why. Then, you can use the comments section to either tell me I am a bloviating idiot or to advise me that I have spoken your fondest thoughts aloud.
Just remember these ground rules – this is all in fun and there really is no wrong answer. In all things Vegas, if you did it and had fun, then you were right.
So here’s the first bit of conventional wisdom I will throw out there, piñata-like, to whack down. Some will say that the more you spend on a resort, the more you get. People who aren’t staying at the Bellagio or Wynn would if they had more disposable income. I totally disagree. In fact, I believe there are several downmarket resorts that are much more fun than the posh resorts.
To tell you how I arrived at this conclusion, let me tell you about my one resort-switching trip. One year, my girlfriend and I did the long distance thing. To break up the time apart, we resolved to each fly into Vegas. To make it worth our while for the long trips (especially hers), we booked a 13 day Vegas stay. The first week, we were joined by a gaggle of our friends. The last few days, she and I did the couple thing. And our choice of resorts reflected the different settings.
For our group of friends, we all decided to stay at Bally’s because it fit everyone’s budget and was centrally located. For our canoodling second week, my girlfriend and I had a suite at Encore reserved. This would be the acid test – when we left aging, smoky Bally’s for the deep red tastefulness of the Wynn and Encore, would we feel relief? Would we feel like we could never, ever go back to the way it was before we knew true Wynnian luxury?
Well, the results are in. You don’t need me to tell you that the Wynn is an impressive resort. It was everything you pay for and more. The surroundings were relaxing. It was NBA Summer League time, so there was some star watching to be done. The pool was beautifully kept and the lounges had awesome cocktails. The service was impeccable. Not only was staff attentive and friendly (in that distant, smooth way of the well-trained), but there were little touches. One time, a patron was loudly objecting to being told to leave. Security just appeared and, through some protocol that was clearly rehearsed, the guy just…vanished. No one grabbed him or made a stir. He was just surrounded and walked out at an angle where he had to move. One staffer even appeared beside us and made friendly small talk to distract from the extraction going on to our immediate right. It was almost beautiful to watch.
If you have the bucks, I can’t tell you otherwise – the Wynn is great. But if you ask me if I had any more fun than I did at Bally’s, well, I can’t tell you that either.
We both talked after about how we could appreciate the Wynn but still find the lower-end resort just as much fun, if not more. Here are some things that you can often enjoy while spending a lot less:
Casino energy. The high-end resorts are classy and pricey. A $100 a hand blackjack table has two serious dudes at it. A $10 table has rookie players, girls’ night revelers, folks ditching their trade show, laughing, noise and…fun. Stately works for restaurants. Casinos feed off folks happy to be there whether they are experts or not. And don’t sweat that dude and his girlfriend standing on 15 and denying you “your card”. That’s a myth, statistically. Make friends and enjoy the tables where people aren’t betting enough to matter.
In and Out With Ease. The Bellagio, Caesars, MGM, and Wynn are great places if you want to spend your day at one resort. If you’re a nomad of the Strip and love to take in the atmosphere, the 15 minutes it takes to escape your hotel (or heaven forbid, run back to your room for a second) can break your mood. I like to casino hop, and so I like smaller resorts. I kind of appreciate places like Bally’s, Monte Carlo, and the Mirage where you can barrel from the elevator to the exit without having to break for libations. Speaking of libations…..
Cheap(er) Libations and Supplies. OK, the Strip is rarely cheap. And I am not adverse to paying for quality in a craft cocktail. But the places where you can get a $5 shot, a $3 light beer or even a bottle of water instead of an $18 pina colada are appreciated. Heck, sometimes you want a Jello shooter or a frozen drink in a cheesy souvenir. Sometimes, you just need a pair of cheap sunglasses and not a Rolex. The shopping markup is less if you stay among the mall walkers and not among the trust fund kids. Also,
The company. This depends on your preference, but sometimes you want to be somewhere that is more comfortable than aspirational.
The bottom line is that, while you get what you pay for in décor and amenities, sometimes you have just as much fun spending a little less on the resort and saving that money for the shows, dinners, and experiences Vegas offers. If you’re a resort homebody and want to relax in a steady home base, the high-end places will treat you well. But in my unpopular opinion, I’d rather not pay for the lobby of my resort. Stay at a moderate resort, and stroll over to see the glamour when the mood strikes you. You’ll save enough to have one of those pricey drinks, too.
[Photo Cred. @LasVegasJunkie]