Las Vegas!

Sin City feels a lot less sinful with a toddler.

I’m not sure what to say about Vegas. It was completely overstimulating for all of us, especially coming from Zion. The national rodeo finals were in town, so there were lots of gentlemen in very large cowboy hats accompanying ladies who wore jeans with festively bedazzled rear pockets. It is still legal to smoke inside casinos. Food was generally ludicrously expensive, which is definitely not how I remembered my family’s visit in the mid-90s. The whole place was so surreal.

We visited for three nights and stayed at the Mirage on the Strip, with a view of the volcano out front (which we watched erupt several times while we were there. Worth the upgrade).

Plus, they’d put on their Christmas finery, which was awfully fine indeed,

Visiting with a young kid was, well, probably pretty different than if Logan and I had gone by ourselves. For one thing, we didn’t go to any shows. We also only did one fancy dinner (at Jose Andres’s Bazaar Meat, which was INCREDIBLE), where thank god Ami did really well and also really enjoyed her skirt steak, the straw potatoes with malt vinegar powder, and our giant chicharron with yogurt dipping sauce.

There were a few things we felt we had to do with a toddler, like visit M&M World slash giant ridiculous store. I left there feeling like my sinuses were coated in commercial chocolate – it wafted through the air like thick perfume. Ami was a huge fan, though she and I both wondered why the 3-D movie was so scary! Seriously, a giant screaming furnace tries to eat our candy-covered heroes. WTF?!

We did a ton of walking along the Strip. I was impressed by the number of pedestrian walkways, and saddened by the metal barricades that are being installed along the roadsides for pretty much the whole length of the Strip. I’m assuming this is in response to the recent attacks where people have driven vehicles into large crowds of pedestrians.

Ami was a big fan of the dancing fountains at the Bellagio, but gah, the song was My Heart Will Go On.

She also really liked the Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. My mom, brother and I actually saw them perform when we visited in 1995, and I’d forgotten that half of their shtick is their hilariously overblown theatrics. This mural reminded me. Apparently the Secret Garden, a space carved out of the courtyard of the Mirage where several white tigers and lions as well as a couple of sleek leopards are on display, is just like Noah and the Ark. And it’s $22 per adult to get in, also just like the Ark. Whatever, Ami was into it.

She liked it so much we had to get her a stuffed tiger.

That selfie is from the Venetian, where, yes, we took a gondola ride. It was cheesy fun, and Ami especially loved the singing of our gondolier.

Also, the Venetian’s replica of the Rialto Bridge contains a moving walkway, which is approximately the most American thing we’ve seen on this road trip so far… and we’ve been following historic Route 66.

Our last morning in Vegas, we went to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace to carb up before our 5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon. The last time I was in Vegas, as a teen, buffets were still cheap and you could still find a $2.99 surf and turf. Yeah, the Bacchanal Buffet is $49.99 for weekend brunch, boasts upwards of 500 dishes at a time according to their ad copy, and has a seafood station, Americana station (think BBQ and carved meats), a Mexican station with tacos and slaws, an Italian area, a Chinese area with congee and lots of dumplings, a sushi and poke station, and a huge dessert area with tiny pies, cakes, ice cream, and crepes cooked to order. It was RIDICULOUS and also a great place to take a 3 year old, who ate pizza and edamame and plain rice and approximately sixty-seven desserts. And, most importantly, who was free. Here is a pic of a tiny section of only one of the buffet lines.

On our way out of town, we stopped at the Hoover Dam. When my family visited, we almost didn’t get to see it because a truck carrying McDonald’s French Fries overturned on its way up to the dam, blocking the road entirely. Thankfully, we returned on a different day. (Seriously, that trip was oddly cursed. From the French fry incident, to the blizzard in Death Valley, to our car being towed from arrivals at Midway at 2AM after a much-delayed flight, the whole affair has passed into family lore.)

On Sunday, no mishaps kept us from the dam. We only had time to stop and take a few pictures, unfortunately.

And now, here we are, in the Grand Canyon, and Vegas seems like a distant, slightly uncomfortable dream. Not sure if or when we will be back, but I hope Darth Vader and the feathered showgirls will always be there to welcome the slightly discombobulated tourists.

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