August 27, 2022

A Non-Gambler's Adventure in Las Vegas (National Parks Trip #3)

This post represents another installment in the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.

Back when the first casinos opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the late 1970’s, my Mom wanted to check out the gambling scene.  (Thank heaven her spirit of adventure was passed along to me.)  She was in her 60’s; Alan and I hadn’t yet hit our mid-20’s.  In fact, he and I weren’t even married when the three of us made a pilgrimage to the Atlantic City casinos to try our luck at the slot machines.  Mom enjoyed the excitement and, subsequently, would occasionally visit Atlantic City on a bus trip for seniors.  She enjoyed the social scene on the coach, and loved battling with the one-armed bandits in the casinos (no electronic versions in those days, at least not at first).  But she always set a dollar limit for herself and, if she went through that amount, would be content to sit in a hotel lobby with a book she brought along for just that purpose.

Alan and I are, most definitely, not gamblers.  I can see its appeal as an entertaining pastime, but I think our very logical minds and my love of numbers may preclude an inclination toward it.  However, considering the fact that there are probably some bankers, accountants and computer programmers attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, it may be for an entirely different reason.  Who knows?  On that Atlantic City trip, we blew through the few rolls of quarters we had allocated ourselves, laughed about the fun-filled experience and never went back.  So, why include Las Vegas as a stop on a National Parks trip, especially when we had an 18 year old with us who wouldn’t even be allowed to walk through a casino?  So. Many. Reasons.

I have to say, I loved Las Vegas!  That may surprise you, and I’ll admit that it surprised me, too.  I don’t like crowds; I don’t like a lot of noise; and I don’t enjoy gambling.  (I married Alan.  That was a huge gamble that paid off in a really big way, so I’m pretty sure I used up my lifetime allotment of gambling luck!)  I do enjoy creative artistic expression, beautiful architecture, intriguing attractions, scavenger hunts and exploring new-to-me places.  Check, check, check, check and check.  Even so, it seems to me that Las Vegas is a city of excess.  It both tantalizes and overwhelms all five senses.  Plus, there are slot machines everywhere – and I do mean everywhere.  In the end, this is a tale of how three non-gambling, first time visitors managed to have an absolutely delightful experience in the gamblers’ mecca that is Las Vegas.

Having spent hours researching the city ahead of time (what else would you expect from me?), we had an entire scavenger hunt list of attractions and places we wanted to see in the one day we’d be in Las Vegas.  I also had notes on local restaurants and a list of museums that might be of interest to us.  We did eat, but we didn’t make it to a single museum.

Yum!  Sadly, the Las Vegas location is now closed, but there are four remaining in California.

Honestly, we could have easily spent a few days in Las Vegas without ever setting foot on a casino floor, but we just didn’t have the time on this trip.  After all, this was a National Parks trip with our focus being on the Parks along the west coast.  Our Historic Route 66 stops and our very brief visits to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco were just syrup on the pancakes of our itinerary.

I'm sure there were pancakes on the breakfast buffet at Main Street Station.

Early in the morning on Day #8, we fueled ourselves well at a buffet breakfast (remember, pre-COVID) at Main Street Station.  We checked out, and headed over to the Strip.  While we’re looking for someplace to park our big truck, consider these fun facts about some Las Vegas hotels:

* Back when I was researching this trip (more than five years ago), eight of the twelve largest hotels in the world were located in the four miles between Tropicana and Sahara Avenues in Las Vegas.  The MGM Grand was the 2nd largest with 5,044 rooms and the Luxor was the 3rd largest with 4,408 rooms.  At the time, the largest hotel in the world was in Malaysia with 6,118 rooms (and probably a very exhausted housekeeping staff).

* At the time of our visit in 2017, the Golden Nugget had been a Las Vegas fixture for more than 70 years.  It’s still going strong.

* The Tropicana opened in 1959 and was the most luxurious and expensive resort on the Strip.  It’s now a Hilton Double Tree and called Tropicana Las Vegas, but the Trop is still the Trop.

* There are fewer than 100 spiral escalators in the world and two of them are in the United States.  One is in Westfield Shopping Mall in San Francisco.  The other is in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  (Yes, of course we rode it - it was on our list!)  Spiral escalators cost close to $1,000,000 to install.  Regular ones, like the ones in your hometown mall and mine, cost about a quarter of that price.  BUT, according to the designers, it’s all about the journey.  A spiral escalator provides a panoramic view that’s constantly changing as a rider winds his or her way up or down the spiral – quite the advantage when you’re in someplace like Caesar’s Palace or a mall where they want you to see as many store windows as possible.

The spiral escalator in Caesar's Palace

* Back in 2017, Mandalay Bay had one of the largest casino floors in the world at 135,000 square feet.  You’ll never believe the size and location of the current world champ – WinStar World Casino & Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma, with a 600,000 square foot casino floor.  The increase in size in just five years is astounding!  There must be lots of money in casinos – and I don’t mean in the cash office.

* Speaking of Mandalay Bay, on the sky bridge between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor is a casino mall (Mandalay Place) with a bar called Minus5 – it’s 23 degrees inside.  Guests wear parkas and drinks are served in glasses of ice.

You go ahead.  I'll wait for you at the coffee shop.

Okay, back to our regular programming.  We did find parking at the Strip.  However, try as I may, I can’t remember where it was.  I do have a photo of the truck barely squeezing into a parking garage, but I have no idea which one.  Got it in, locked it up and headed out.  Hopefully, we made a note as to where we were parked.

Usually, my posts contain more commentary than photos but, in this case, our photos provide an excellent indication of just how well we did on our Las Vegas Scavenger Hunt for the Impressive and the Extraordinary.  In no particular order . . .

The Fountain of the Gods - Caesar's Palace

The main lobby at the Bellagio

That's original artwork by American glass artist Dale Chihuly on the ceiling

A stunning outdoor fountain at the Bellagio . . .

As opposed to the entertaining fountain show, also at the Bellagio

A perfect example of the "excess" I  mentioned

New York-New York's Statue of Liberty

Not to be outdone, Paris Las Vegas has the Arc de Triomphe . . .

AND the Eiffel Tower (which, in this photo, looks more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa)

Art-O-Mat - retired cigarette vending machines converted to vend miniature works of art (

An unusual statue at the Venetian?  No, actually, a mime - and notice the tips on the ledge in front of him!

Gondola rides at the Venetian
And, of course, the ubiquitous gift shop

We managed to see a LOT during our single day in Las Vegas.  I especially enjoyed the creative interior and exterior designs of the individual hotels.  Every single one was stunning.  Truthfully, aside from the heat and having to stay constantly aware of remaining hydrated, I enjoyed every minute of that day.  It was all new to us and extremely fascinating.  Sadly, though, we missed a lot.  I would have loved to see “The Hand of Faith” gold nugget on display at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino – it’s one of the largest in the world.  It would have been fun to compare it to the teeny tiny gold nugget I brought home from Alaska, but I guess that will have to wait for another time.  We didn’t get to see the Downtown Container Park, the Big Rig Jig, The Neon Museum or the Pinball Museum either.  Still, the day was an explorer’s dream come true and a complete success.

Sunset at Lake Meade

Thankfully, at the end of Day #8 we remembered where we parked the truck, and made our way back to the Lake Mead Village RV Park for a (desperately needed) good night’s sleep.  The next morning it would, again, be “Westward, ho!” for these three intrepid travelers.



  1. Ah yes, wretched excess appeals to me as well; and there is nowhere better than Las Vegas to find it. Having made many trips there, I mourn the loss of the old stars that lit up the marquees: Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Liberace, etc. They were from the golden era that only old coots like me recall, and we saw most of them. Unforgettable! The last time we went, a few years ago, we saw two shows and walked out. It wasn't music; it was noise. Be glad you didn't attend the shows. However, for having spent only one day, your research seems to have paid off. There is much more, of course, so you'll have to go back someday. Thanks for the memories. (Yes, we saw him, too.)

  2. We don't gamble either, but we do (did, post-Covid) attend an annual Rockabilly event in LV. We always planned non-casino outings such as the Neon Museum (awesome, must have reservations), the Mob Museum (very interesting) and the various red rock parks in the surrounding areas. If we go again, I'll think about adding the Container Park, the Big Rig Jig, and the Pinball Museum to our list.

    1. I really thought we'd be "one and done" in Las Vegas, but I'd definitely consider going back to catch all of the activities and attractions we missed and to tour more of the hotels. If Vegas is actively marketing the various museums and attractions in or near the city (besides gambling), it's news to me. I wasn't aware of half of it until I read a travel guide about the city. Lots of fun to be had, that's for sure!

    2. I'm not sure why my name comes up as Anonymous on some sites all of a sudden and I'm not sure how to fix it. Anyway, this is Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.

    3. Hi, Janis! Google changed up the comment function in Blogger a number of months ago. (Personally, I preferred the older format). So that may be the reason if you're having trouble in Blogger-based blogs.

  3. Mary,
    I'm glad you posted this because we've been to Vegas three times in the last five years and spent most of that time on a Casino floor (I can resist almost anything but temptation). LOVE the Bellagio, but my favorite is Harrah's. We did visit Hoover Dam and Lake Meade and I'm glad I saw it before it runs dry. Great pictures! Have a great week! Joe

    1. Three times in five years! Wow! I guess I haven't been counting. The next time we go, I know who I'm going to hit up for restaurant recommendations! Hugs to you and Helen!

  4. Mary, I laughed when you said that you don't like crowds or gambling, but you enjoyed Vegas. We also don't like crowds and we don't gamble, but we had a great time in Vegas! About 10 years ago we went specifically to see the Cirque de Soleil performance of "Love," which was fabulous. We also had dinner at the Bellagio buffet, which although I do not typically like buffets, was outstanding. Like you, I really enjoyed the creative interior and exterior designs of the buildings. Thanks for the fun post!

    1. Laurel, I'm really starting to believe that we're more alike than not! I'll bet seeing a Cirque de Soleil performance in Las Vegas was a phenomenal experience! That's a show that I'd love to catch sometime, somewhere. Vegas seems to have something for everyone, and it was only after we were there that I realized we had just scratched the surface. I trust that you and Eric (and Magnolia!) are enjoying your summer adventures. Safe travels!

  5. I find Las Vegas to be exhausting. Three days feels like a week. The traffic, lights, and constant stream of people is not much fun for me. We have been to very good shows over the years so it hasn't been a complete bust. Too bad I don't feel more attracted since it is only a five hour drive away.

    One thing Vegas deserves strong credit for is their approach to water conservation. Virtually every drop of water used in the city is recycled and fed back into shrinking Lake Mead. There are new regulations regarding ornamental grass in both public and private spaces. Even the unused glass of water set on your table by a waiter is poured into the system for reuse. They are a model for all of us living (and drying up) in the Southwest.

    1. Bob, I wasn't aware of how thoroughly entrenched water conservation is in Las Vegas. I appreciate the information and education. I would expect the city to be as conservative as possible in its use of water, but I find the details intriguing. I can't tell you how often I've thought, "What a waste!" in many other cities when I've seen servers put out glasses of water for everyone and half of them aren't touched.

      For those of us who live (and prefer) quiet lives, Las Vegas is a sea of humanity and an ocean of over-stimulation. I made it through one very full day, but I don't know that I could have gone back and done another one immediately after. If we go back again and plan to spend more than one day, I think I'd break up the stop with a visit to Red Rock Canyon. Nature is my go-to stress reliever.


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