So my partner and I just returned from a trip to Las Vegas. We spent three nights there in the company of some good friends, ones we don’t get to see very often at all.

This was my first time visiting the city. It both was and wasn’t as I expected, and I’m still processing where the balance of things I enjoyed falls in relation to the things I really didn’t.

The good stuff:

  • Amazing food. We had some of the best restaurant meals of my life this week, most notably at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House and Fiamma Trattoria.
  • The Cirque du Soleil. I’d never seen a Cirque show before, and now I understand what the big deal is. We caught a showing of Ka, and it was unquestionably a highlight of the trip. It blew all other live performances I’ve seen previous out of the water.
  • The people. We had a few notably great cabbies, and I ended up having an unexpectedly fantastic conversation with a staffmember in the Ka gift store.
  • The spa services. I’m not really one for the stereotypically feminine stuff, but I let myself get talked into it while the guys went for hot shaves. It was the sauna and hot pool that did it for me – there’s nothing quite like a good soak to kick off a vacation.

The not so good stuff:

  • Cigarette smoke everywhere in the casino area. It was like stepping back into the 80s, in the worst possible way. I could gauge how close we were by how badly my eyes were stinging.
  • Predatory pricing on almost everything. Everything from no coffee station in the room to ‘encourage’ you to take something from the fridge (at a 200% markup plus $50 restocking fee, of course) to the businesses in the complex. After the first half day, we learned to be very careful with our money. At least I was pre-warned on the stuff in the room…
  • The water. I’m not sure what Vegas does with its water treatment, but I’ve never had nastier tasting municipal water – all chlorine with a musty aftertaste. As someone who lives off water, I struggled to keep hydrated through the trip.
  • The enclosed environment. It was unsettling how hard the hotel complex works at disconnecting guests from natural light and their sense of time passing. After one day, I was squirrely for some fresh air.

All that aside, my impression is that I feel like I’ve missed out on something staying on the Strip. I usually go to a place to see the area, not a tiny three-kilometre radius. This trip, I saw no history, visited no parks, and it’s not sitting well with me.

I think I’d consider going back, but not to stay on the Strip. The gambling, drinking and carefully calculated pleasures still aren’t my thing, and I feel like all I saw was the facade of Las Vegas, not the real city at all.

C’est la vie. It was by no means a wasted trip. It’s always a treat getting to spend time with these friends, never mind get away with my partner, and the company made it a much better experience than it would have been otherwise.

At very least, now I can say from experience that I’m not particularly interested in much of what the Strip has to offer.