Viva Las Vegas: Student Travel at Its Cheesiest (and Most Fun)

May 26, 2009
Yar! Vegas is a great place to shiver your timbers. Whatever that means.

Yar! Vegas is a great place to shiver your timbers. Whatever that means.

My favorite travel writers are the ones who get off the beaten path and come upon unexpected adventures. I aspire to be a more flexible, spontaneous traveler, even though it means trying to tame the ultra-organized planner side of myself.

It’s because I want to avoid predictable experiences that when I travel, I try to avoid American fast food and eat what the locals eat. I try to see the historical sights and pass on the really gimmicky tourist traps.

But what happens when what the locals eat is American fast food? Or when a whole city is nothing but gimmicky tourist traps?

That’s what I had to think about on my last trip to Las Vegas, where my friend, Canadian Chris, and I celebrated his birthday. It’s not a city with a deep, rich history. Sure, the gangster stuff is interesting, but it’s no Istanbul or Cuzco. And there is no unbeaten path in Vegas, there’s just the Strip. But what a Strip it is.

The whole point of Vegas is to overindulge in everything – food, gambling, entertainment – and go home broke and bloated. In other words, there’s really no classy way to do Vegas, and even if there is, why would you?

Vegas left me with no choice: I was going to be a tourist instead of a traveler for once.

We started with the buffet at the Wynn and I ate about seven desserts. (Good, but I think the Bellagio is better.) We shopped in Planet Hollywood, gambled in Paris and grabbed a snack at the MGM.

Spike meets Sinatra.

Spike meets Sinatra.

We went to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum at the Venetian and I took pictures with Johnny Depp and Elvis. I got out Spike the Rhino and took pictures of him with almost everybody. He really likes to have new things to add to his photo album.

We watched the fountains in front of the Bellagio, had drinks and enjoyed some live music at the Nine Fine Irishmen in New York, New York and caught the trashy pirate show at Treasure Island / TI.

Most importantly, we had fun. Without having a guidebook and a must-see list, we were able to wander around and enjoy being in Vegas, instead of worrying about what we might be missing out on. It’s the kind of travel attitude that I think I need more of, and hope to practice soon.

Viva Las Vegas!

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