In terms of sheer weirdness, Las Vegas is hard to top. One minute you’re flying over the arid beauty of desert mesas pocked by huge lakes that show no evidence of surrounding vegetation. Then suddenly you cross a line and the housing developments begin, still mostly devoid of plant life but decorated with the occasional pool. At night obviously you would then hit the neon shockwave.
Setting that aside…. It’s been about ten years since I first visited. Back then, Vegas was ending a transition out of the Mob era (I guess) and in the midst of a concerted effort to present itself as a family destination. The Luxor had a killer virtual arcade. Roller coasters and gondola rides were the kinds of attractions being built.
Nowadays, of course, the city’s marketing slogan is the infamous “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” which has entered the popular lexicon (even spawning the not-very-imaginative winning team name at the US Amateur Team Chess Championship this year: “What happens in Parsippany stays in Parsippany”). Give them credit for creating a slogan that excuses and encourages wild excess on the part of tourists, since that was obviously the goal.
You can smoke not only in the casinos but throughout the hotels, restaurants excepted. Girls in miniskirts still carry around trays of cigarettes and roses. In that respect you feel like you’ve time-warped straight to the 70s.
The signage is quite different now from what I recall of that first visit. Nightclubs in the major hotels have names like Tryst. There are “pool lounges” called Venus and Bare which evidently offer poorly- or un-clad lounge attendants. No, I’m not a patron and in the interest of whatever children may read this blog, please keep salacious commentary to a minimum :) My point is more of an observation about the marketing identity of an entire very strange city.
Of course, it’s a massive commercial success. The Venetian, already colossal, is just completing a second hotel tower which (I was told but have not verified) will bring it up to 7,000 rooms. Let’s VERY conservatively imagine that the average room rate is $200 and that on a Friday night they hit 85% occupancy. That’ll be more than $1.1 million dollars just in room revenue in a single night. That’s a lot of people looking for stuff that “stays in Vegas”.