Sin City is a safe bet

Travelling to Nevada’s bright lights doesn’t have to drain your wallet

Miguel McKenna

Las Vegas is a shimmering, tempting paradise of party, especially to students looking to get away from a snowy winter. This past February, I counted myself as one of the many who succumbed to the lure.

The key to having a good time in Las Vegas is simple: Don’t gamble. Save your money for the shows and the food. It’s easy for me to say that as I’m not much of a gambler in the first place, but I’m aware that for many people, gambling is the main attraction. It’s what everybody asked me when I told them I was going, and it was what everybody asked me about when I returned. Gambling and Las Vegas go together like farmer sausage and perogies. Like drinking and smoking. Like sin and repentance.

Las Vegas is a fantastic destination for a student on reading week, spring break or for anybody cobbling together a reason to escape Winnipeg’s dreary months. The weather was warm (think Vancouver summer – shorts in the day but pants in the evening), the plane fares were cheap (I paid about $700 for return flight and five days in a nice hotel, through Expedia) and they don’t care where you drink. Seriously, I was able to walk into a 7-11, buy a single, giant can of Heineken, and open it soon as I was outside. Maybe it was just the novelty, but I sure loved drinking beer on the sidewalk.

If you’ve ever seen CSI, The Hangover, Ocean’s Eleven or any of the other thousands of pop-culture salutes to Las Vegas, you’re familiar with the casinos. They offered spectacle in and of themselves – let alone the gambling and drinking – including animal shows (dolphins, tigers, lions), carefully choreographed water fountains, indoor rain showers and rollercoasters 15 stories up. The casinos had no security at the doors, but were packed with enough cameras to film several reality TV shows at once.

The highlight for me was seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Ka, a show celebrating Chinese history, resplendent with martial arts and song. It was amazing. The stage was set on a giant robotic arm that allowed it to spin and pivot like a bird tied to a string. At one particularly breathtaking moment, the stage inclined to about 75 degrees and the actors ran up and down it, harnessless. It, like most of Las Vegas, was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen.

I had fun in Las Vegas, but one thought just wouldn’t stop nagging at me – everything was artificial. Every building, every plant, every persona – fake. I wasn’t expecting a nature retreat, but the glitz got to me. Las Vegas is a city in the middle of nowhere that takes an army to maintain and is powered by a huge dam and human hope.

To that end, I might not return, but I’m glad I went once. That’s one off my bucket list.

Published in Volume 64, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 25, 2010)

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