TR: 4 days in Vegas (02/15-02/19)

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Thursday, February 24, 2005 1:26 PM
Last week I spent 4 days in what I still consider to be the greatest city in the world- Las Vegas, Nevada. While there are plenty of negative things that can be said about the city, I just can't seem to get enough of the place. Being the great guy that I am, I treated my parents to a trip to the city that never sleeps and we managed to pack in quite a bit in the 4 days that we were there. Here are some of the highlights.

X-Scream atop the Stratosphere Tower now ranks as the scariest thrill ride I have ever been on. Since I had just missed a ride cycle, I had my choice of seats on the next ride. I of course had to choose the front. The restraint system is an unusual mix of a lap bar and a set of ankle restraints, but it really isn't uncomfortable at all. Now if X-Scream was located on the ground, it would probably be a pretty weak experience, but when its perched off the edge of a 900-foot tower, the fear level rises pretty quickly. The ride program consisted of the arm rising and then lowering so that the car could roll freely towards the end on the first pass. Nothing too scary here. On the second pass, the car seemed to roll MUCH quicker towards the end, which definitely startled me a bit... but still it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. The third and final pass sent the car rolling at the same angle as the second pass and we hung at the end for what seemed like a minute. The view is simply gorgeous and the feeling is rather creepy. Then, all of a sudden, the arm drops even lower... creating the sensation that the arm has just broken or something has gone completely wrong. I swear I about wet myself. For some reason, I didn't see this coming and it really threw me for a loop. My on-ride photo is a real hoot as it looks like I am letting some serious profanities fly. X-Scream was definitely a unique experience and one I won't soon forget.

With Insanity just sitting there waiting for Opening Day, I decided to take a ride on the Big Shot as well. The staircase leading to the launch pad has long been my least favorite part of the ride. There's just something unsettling about climbing a staircase that high up and the visuals alone are enough to make some people have second thoughts. I got to face the Strip for my ride and I have to say that this is the best S&S Tower ride I have ever been on. The launch is powerful, the airtime at the top is just brutal (even on the second bounce up, you strike the harness pretty hard), and the visual of seeing the Las Vegas Strip so far below is simply amazing. Definitely a must-ride on any trip to Vegas. And no, my parents did not ride either of these with me... my dad was even a bit freaked out by the rumbling of the High Roller and wanted to get back to ground level as soon as possible!

Since I didn't have much time at Circus Circus (and that is definitely a good thing... that is one heck of a creepy casino), I only got to ride Canyon Blaster once. A real deal at $6 a ride compared to other coasters in town, Canyon Blaster still gets my vote for best coaster on the Strip. For an Arrow ride, the coaster is smooth, features an awesome pop of air following the twin vertical loops, and exerts some nice laterals through the tunneled helix finale. The visuals on this ride are also unmatched. As you climb the lift and see the giant pink dome surrounding you, it's a pretty cool sight. While I didn't ride anything else, it's interesting to note that the new Chance Sling Shot ride is also considered a "Premium Ride" and costs $6. I'd rather jump off the top of the Adventuredome and land in the concrete parking garage for $6 than ride a Chance Sling Shot. Other rides in the Dome include a Chance Inverter, Chance Chaos, an Iwerks Motion Sim theater, what I believe to be a Zamperla pendulum boat, a small dodgem ride, an Arrow Chutes (which was down), and several kids rides. Adventuredome is a neat concept... I just wish it was at a nicer place than Circus Circus.

That's about it as far as amusement rides go. Other highlights of my trip included seeing "The Mac King Comedy Magic Show" at Harrah's (which I was pulled on stage for during one of his tricks), touring the Imperial Palace's impressive Auto Collection, checking out the "spiral escalators" at Caesar's Forum Shops, catching the Fremont Street Experience light shows on the new "VivaVision" screen ("Area 51" definitely is the best of the bunch), and taking in a performance of "Legends In Concert" at the Imperial Palace. The featured "Legends" for our performance were Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, Janet Jackson, The Righteous Brothers, Gloria Estefan, and Elvis Presley. Most of these impersonators were very talented and were convincing in their performance. The Janet Jackson impersonator especially was both talented and hot. Gloria Estefan could have used some work, but overall, it was a very well-produced show that caught me by surprise.

We stayed at the Fremont Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas and I think it is one of the cleanest, nicest hotels I have ever stayed in. Most of the downtown properties seem to try harder to lure people... the Fremont doesn't need to. They have a VERY loyal customer base and a staff that will do just about anything to make your stay a pleasant one. Reasonable rates, GREAT food, and decent play in the casino make the Fremont one of my favorites in Vegas.

And I can't let this condensed TR conclude without a mention of Michael Kennedy at the Westward Ho. Hailing from Ashtabula, Ohio, Michael is quite simply the WORST Elvis impersonator I have ever heard. This guy can't hit a note to save his life, he sounds nothing like Elvis, and his jumpsuit seemed a bit too tight (yikes), but the guy has a charm all his own and packs the rubes in at the Westward's small lounge. Michael's "Tribute To Elvis" included severe butcherings of "That's All Right", "If I Can Dream", and "Burnin' Love", yet the crowd ate it up. People were taking photos with him after the show and even buying his cd. Oh wait... that was me buying his cd to add alongside such other classics like Pat Boone's heavy metal cd and William Shatner's "Has Been". I love a good train wreck ;)

Thanks for reading...
Ray P.

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Thursday, February 24, 2005 8:19 PM
Great TR Ray! I'm still scared regarding Xscream, and your short description was enough to keep me cautious! Wowzers................. :)

I got goosebumps just reading. Thanks!

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Thursday, February 24, 2005 9:16 PM
Ya Ray. Now that was a trip report that AJ likes. I have an autographed photo of Mike Kennedy in my crib. His does not sound like Elvis, but he does sound like he should be singing in Vegas. I have the CD. It is fabulous.

Did you see the 'Dealertainers' at Imperial Palace? They are not the quality of the Legends show, but they deal mean 21 at night.

The Freemont is another often over looked property. They have a great seafood buffet on Wednesdays. That one single hotel put Boyd Gaming where it is today with the Stardust, Sam's Town, Borgata, etc. I love the dollar slots. I treat them like the atm machine.

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Thursday, February 24, 2005 9:46 PM
Agent Johnson, I too have the autographed picture of Mr. Kennedy as that was part of the $10 "package" with the cd. I was really amazed at the amount of people that he packs into that tiny lounge for his performances.

And yes, I did see the "Dealertainers" at IP. I totally forgot about them. The guy that played Rod Stewart was great and there was also an Alice Cooper look-alike who sang a mean version of "No More Mr. Nice Guy". The Imperial Palace still amazes me with the amount of business they do. I don't think any casino on the Strip can match the sheer volume of people that pass through the IP at any given time. The place is perpetually mobbed. With its center strip location, low prices, great game selection and now having a stop on the LV Monorail, Imperial Palace is a place that's hard to beat for budget-minded travelers.

Ray P. (who ranks Fremont's buffet among the best and most under-rated in town)

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Friday, February 25, 2005 1:24 AM
I was in Las Vegas 2-7 through 2-9, way too short, but sometimes the budget dictates your trip, being a college student from Cincinnati. I do look forward to coming back though.

The experience was unreal, with all the spared no expense resorts like Bellagio and Venetian, the moving sidewalks, trams, and the new Monorail.

The Monorail is something I hope to see done in other U.S. cities eventually. I also loved seeing the spiral escalators in Caesars Forum Shops - although the stores were closed when I went there, the escalators were still running.

I have to agree with the first guy that X-Scream probably is the scariest ride anywhere. Screaming and looking down at that IHOP below was very memorable.

I stayed at Bally's - while pricier than some places, the room was recently renovated, very clean, and gave me a view toward the airport, where I could look down on the monorail. They had a card that offered discounts on food and other things at Bally's, Caesars, Flamingo, and Paris, where I got 1/3 off an Eiffel Tower ticket. Not to mention that the place is in the center of everything, and a quick walk inside to the Monorail!

The coasters were fun, Manhattan Express was not as bad and painful as I heard it was, but it's nothing that would top a list. Sahara's Speed: The Ride, I was surprised it still had OTSRs, but it rode comfortably yet intense.
The High Roller: would seem like a tame family ride in a local FEC, but seems to actually scare people when placed 1,100 feet off the ground. Rides that are definitely expensive compared to the big parks with season passes, but hey, I'm a midwesterner who usually has to wait until April.

One question I have for everyone? What kind of place in LAS VEGAS closes at 6:00 p.m. - The Adventuredome, during the week. I know that it's in a family-friendly resort, but it's not like this is Cincinnati on a Sunday (sorry to rip my hometown). Sure, I admit I was very busy in a short period of time, researching the area for my thesis on the monorail, but 6 pm is pretty darn early for this town!
I also didn't make it down to Buffalo Bill's - a car was unncessary and out of the question for me. Guess I'll have to wait and get my Arrow hyper fix on Magnum in May.

Can't wait to come back, ride the Canyon Blaster, visit Downtown, see more, ride the monorail some more - and hopefully succeed with the slots!

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