When the weather was still cold in North Carolina, we flew to Las Vegas, Nevada for my niece's wedding.
We stayed at the Downtown Grand, which was lovely, except that nothing in Vegas is the quoted price. They hit us with significant extra fees before allowing us into our prepaid-online rooms.
Restaurants are expensive, with a mixed-drink around $14. We really liked the Triple George, where we ate and relaxed out on the sidewalk several nights.
Culture shock continued as we ventured beyond the casino-filled lobby and our hotel block. Apparently Vegas laws don't require clothing. At least, not on Freemont Street.
The Downtown pedestrian area was an overwhelming sample of "Sin City," full of lights, casinos, restaurants, and ... strange folk. An overhead light show plays every night, punctuated by screaming zipliners.
Beggars abound. So do artists – both the visual arts and the musical kind – and costumed people posing for photo ops. I liked many of them, from Darth Vader to Bumble Bee (the transformer) to David Bowie.
"Downtown" is the original heart of Vegas, whereas "the Strip" is the newer area filled with mega-hotel-casinos like the Luxor and Ceasar's Palace. We walked all around Downtown, visiting the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop where the reality show Pawn Stars is filmed.
We took a bus tour to the Hoover Dam. Our driver told us how the mafia started Vegas. As law enforcement cracked down and things got too hot for the mob in Chicago and New York, they moved to this desert area where gambling and prostitution were legal. There's a Mob Museum Downtown, but I didn't visit it.
We went down into the dam and power plant. It's amazing how power (and water) for the entire area is still supplied by state-of-the-art 1930s technology. Public areas are decorated with Art Deco carvings and signs.
The dam and newer bridge were very similar to the one I visited last year at Glen Canyon.
Next time: from the depths of the dam to the heights of the towers.