Las Vegas, my Achilles' Heel

"Should we get the margarita in the yard test tube or the strawberry daiquiri in the plastic guitar?" My friend and I went back and forth for a couple minutes, even asking the bartender about specific portions and alcohol levels. It didn't matter that we weren't going to drink the entire thing, or even half of it, and it didn't matter that it would potentially be our worst investment of the trip (Depending on how the next game of pai gow went). What mattered is that it would look funny while filming and would certainly get us a whistle or two while walking down the strip. What really mattered is that this was Vegas and in Vegas, anything goes. "We'll take the margarita in the yard test tube," I finally quipped back to the bartender, mainly because I just liked saying "test tube" aloud. "And hand me one of those straps. I want to hang it around my neck walking down the strip."

We all have those destinations. You know what I'm talking about. It's that ONE place you could just go to over and over again. For some, it's the lights and action of Manhattan. For others, it's the ocean and breeze of San Francisco. And for others, it's the aloha spirit of Maui. Sure, there are hundreds of new destinations we could go to, yet instead, we go back to a sense of familiarity, wondering what it would be like to live in those destinations full-time. Evidently that destination for me is Las Vegas, as I'm less than 24 hours from a return trip, my second in the last few months, as I get all the closer to hitting double digits for Vegas visits. But before you check out, thinking that I'm just another "Vegas guy" here to justify the sexual appeal and gambling of Sin City, I urge you to stick around a bit longer, as I'm not what you'd probably call your typical male Vegas traveler, being that I'm not into the clubby scene of Vegas, nor do I gamble, being that you'll likely spend more at happy hour this weekend than I've spent in total on gambling in Vegas.

I've heard it all. Vegas is weird. Vegas is raunchy. Vegas is sin city. Vegas is Hangover waiting to happen. Vegas is overpriced. Vegas is too touristy. Many of these same things could certainly be said about areas of many cities around the world. But not all travelers concentrate their time in these areas, as most cities worldwide are more sprawling and don't have the compactness of Vegas. Las Vegas comes at your face, from the time you step off the plane and are greeted with slot machines in the airport, until the time you leave. If you go to "Sin City" and see it through the lens of its stereotypes, then those stereotypes will likely manifest themselves. But like any destination, if you look beyond the surface, I think you might like what you see.

The very reasons that many people visit Las Vegas are the very reasons that I don't. Vegas isn't gambling and strip clubs to me. It's an all-in-one destination that's rare to find in the world. In the same afternoon that you're drinking a boozy milkshake overlooking the Las Vegas Strip you can be in a helicopter overlooking the Grand Canyon.  While one moment you're riding a gondola within the Venetian Hotel, the next you're rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. While Vegas may be absent of a beach, it's rare to have such accessibility to everything from restaurants featuring world-class chefs to bars run by award-winning mixologists to famous entertainers to nearby hiking trails to adventure activities that can be experienced few other places. Did you know that just off the strip you can fly an aerobatic plane or drive a bulldozer? Or that you can even drive exotic and muscle cars. Or for the quirky traveler, there's the Neon Museum, which is something of a neon sign boneyard of old Las Vegas signs.

Crazy as it may sound, not all Vegas nightclubs resemble that of the Hangover. Can you have a Hangover experience in Vegas? I can't guarantee that a tiger and Mike Tyson will be involved, but if you try hard enough, I'm sure you could have a night in Vegas that involves nudity, plenty of shots, and a wedding that you don't remember the next day. However, like many destinations, if you do a little research, you'll find that there's more to the nightlife scene. I found this out at Hyde Bellagio, which has more the feel of an upscale lounge with the added perk of one of the best seats in Vegas for viewing the Bellagio fountains. Will it cost you? Absolutely, as all of the better experiences in Las Vegas typically do. Yet for what you're likely paying for a hotel and flight to Vegas, should you be surprised?

Tomorrow morning I will get on a plane yet again for Las Vegas, spending the longest time there I ever have, an entire week. I will eat at new restaurants, try drinks I've never even heard of, experience March Madness, and fly a plane. I'll do it because eating, drinking, flying, and March Madness in Vegas, isn't eating, drinking, flying, and March Madness anywhere else. Vegas is America's wild card and similar to how Forrest Gump referred to life, Vegas is like a box of chocolates."