While sitting in a café on our last evening in Las Vegas, I reaffirmed to myself that this trip to what was once my favorite getaway spot for decades, was no longer fulfilling my passion.
Much has changed about that once mysterious, intriguing little spot in the desert since I first went there over thirty years ago. (Am I giving my age away?)
The grand allure Vegas held for me in the past had vanished, along with much of its old charm. Gone are the days of ‘beautiful people’ dressed in their finery just to enter a casino at night. Gone are the days of $1.99 buffets, free comp tickets given out to select patrons by pit bosses as a thanks for leaving a donation, or just because they liked you.
The hotel rooms were once all so elegant, with marbled bathrooms and comfortable beds. Many hotels still have their marbled bathrooms, only now, they seem to be in need of an overhaul. The hotel I stayed in, although the room was fairly nice and could have used updating, most definitely had the original mattresses. Mine was so soft and worn, it put my hip out, and still hasn’t healed. Room comfort is not a huge priority there. And I wasn’t impressed by the $32 a night, plus tax, ‘resort fee’ they began charging over a year ago. I questioned the girl at the front desk as to what ‘this fee’ is for. She smiled with her response as she told me I would have ‘free’ (wasn’t I just now paying for it?) internet, parking and use of the gym. I replied, “I don’t have a car, or a computer here, and the last thing I came to Vegas for was to go to the gym.” Then I proceeded to try to persuade her to knock off the bogus $212.62 U.S. charge (That’s $260. Canadian dollars!) For ZIP!—to no avail.
In older decades, the nightclubs featured icons like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., et al. It wasn’t uncommon to find any one of those stars pass through a casino in between sets or during the day. The Strip, Las Vegas Boulevard, was merely a dusty road that led from McCarran airport to the strip of iconic hotels that housed all the excitement of the town. The short five minute drive offered a view of merely vast desert patches of cacti, interspersed with the infamous hotels of yesteryear.
And there wasn’t a child in sight.
I’ve been to Vegas over thirty times through the decades. I’ve watched, in sadness, some of those beloved, iconic hotels get blown up to smithereens, in order for the bigger and better ones to take their places. But bigger wasn’t better; at least not for those like me who loved the adult wonderland that it once was.
Vegas has become too big, too crowded, and certainly one jumbo commercialized enterprise. The streets are crowded by the new younger generation, baby carriages, and people hounding you to ‘ultimately’ buy time shares, see hot girls, and once I was even offered ‘free money’ if I partook in some seminar. Ya, trust me, nothing is free, especially in Vegas. Heck, you can’t even take a picture of a costumed character on a street corner without them charging you for the photo.
The entertainment is mostly geared towards the younger crowd; pool parties, DJ’ed nightclubs, and other assorted themed parties. Sure, there are still comedy shows and various Cirque de Soleil shows, which can run you $300 to $400 dollars for two tickets.
The casinos don’t seem to be as full anymore. The city earns its revenues from the entertainment avenues they now provide. This leaves me wondering, where do these young folks get this money to spend there? Another distant thing of the past is the constant ringing of jackpot bells from slot machines. I don’t recall hearing the chiming of ‘Ding, ding, ding’ in any casino I walked through.
Drinks are still free in the casinos, but step outside to anywhere, and you’ll pay large for a cocktail, and even for water. I was blown away when my hub and I ate dinner in a moderately priced restaurant and the glass of (inexpensive) wine I ordered was $12 U.S. dollars! Sheesh! They sold that same bottle of wine in the Dollar store there for eight bucks!
I still don’t get why people want to take their children and particularly babies to a place like that. Smoking is only permitted in casinos there now, but most hotels you must walk through the open-air casinos which adjoin the lobbies. Kids aren’t allowed, supposedly in the casinos, but that didn’t stop so many of them from running around the slot machines, nor did it prompt any pit bosses to alert a player to this rule who continued to play blackjack with her baby carriage parked right beside the table!
Texting has also become the main form of communication there. Hundreds of zombie-like people pave the streets, aimlessly, looking down at their phones. Even the restaurants, which many of them seem to be hosted by very young girls, can leave one waiting in long lines until the next table becomes available, because the hostesses are busy chatting and texting, instead of noticing the empty tables that have yet to be cleaned and reset.
What has happened to my beloved Vegas? As I continued to watch the crowded sidewalks, and the constant line-ups of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the now very busy, eight lane Las Vegas Boulevard, where the taxi meters chug away at lightning speed, I had to wonder where did all the boomers go?
Sure, there were boomers there, but not nearly as many as the younger generation. We were certainly a minority. My husband and I shook our heads at what has become of a place we both once adored, and decided the people of yesteryear must have already moved on to places such as Reno or maybe Tahoe. We both said that we wouldn’t go back to Vegas for a very long time; if ever.
But my love for the desert hasn’t faltered. And as many of you know, my newest passion is for Arizona. Lots of open space, so much to see and do, and the warm, inviting desert climate will become our new winter home, starting this coming winter.
DGKaye ©July 2015