Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vegas for Kids? Ummm, not so much.

I hadn't been to Vegas since my 21st birthday. Of course I was looking at things through very different eyes then, but what I remembered was lights, sparkle and glitter, plus some exotic animals and large quantities of horrible buffet food. So, when I across an advertisement touting Vegas as a family friendly destination, I thought it would be a fun change of pace from the tent camping and nature filled travel adventures we have been having. I tossed the idea out to my kids, and they loved it. Bling, sparkle, zing. A city that never sleeps. It sounded great.

So, we headed to Vegas. Navigating insanely busy freeways in a car that was so packed I couldn't see out the back windows was a bit stressful. Girl Child for the first time panicked about her lane changing approval duties, which doesn't work so well when your lane is ending and your going 75 miles an hour. While she mumbled "uuummm, uummm, ummm" I hollered something calm and reassuring like "We need to change lanes or we're gonna die!"

Well, we didn't die. We made it Vegas. Let me just say that it was a LOT different than I remember. Some things were the same- the lights, the crowds, the all night entertainment. But other things were different, shockingly different than I remember. In your face with more than you ever wanted to see kind of different.

As we pulled onto the strip, we were not only bombarded by people everywhere and noise, but by sign trucks- the ones that are basically a lit up billboard on wheels. I've seen these for soda and cars before, but these were selling women, or renting them at least. Each truck was plastered with about 5 larger than life and practically bare, thong wearing womens' backsides. They had a number you could call to get HOT GIRLS 2 U IN 20 MINS! There was one on every single block too.

It got worse when we parked and got out. On every corner there were at least 4 people trying to hand out fliers for the "hot girls." They all appeared to be fairly recent arrivals to the US, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was the American dream they had imagined. Standing on a street corner in a bright orange T-shirt advertising women for rent. Yes, I'm a little older now, and I'm a mother so that naturally changes my perceptions of the world, but I'm pretty sure I would have remembered the blatant selling of women and all those bare butts on signs.

These are the kind of times when I lament that my children are so inquisitive because now they were asking questions, and I had some explaining to do. I basically said that it was like a dating service and that people paid for other people to go out with them.

Girl Child said "So, they must kind of be losers if they have to pay for a date, right?" Yes, that's right. 
Boy Child could not fathom why we had to look at all those butts. When he saw one billboard with a backside that had a playing card and another had a dollar bill in the tiny fabric covering them, he was baffled and noted "That's not very sanitary."

At least the folks handing out the leaflets would generally avoid trying to hand them to me when they saw I had kids in tow. They did however try to hand them to lots of other folks who didn't look like they would be customers- elderly couples, single women, pretty much everyone who did not have a kid with them. One poor fellow didn't see my kids and tried to hand me a flier, I shot him a flaming glare and added a sharp and loud lecture about his mistake that sent him scurrying off. I don't think he could understand the words, but the meaning was clear.

We even noticed a woman who looked to be in her late 60's handing out the date for hire fliers. Seriously? Girl Child couldn't believe that a Grandma was doing that job. We wondered if she was probably the real "hot girl" you got a date with after you pre-payed. Boy Child said "It's like those fast food burgers that look all big and tasty on the commercial, and then you buy it and it's flat and gross." I nearly spit my coffee out on the street laughing at that one. I suppose if my sweet, innocent kids did have to be exposed to these unpleasantries, at least they realize the evil and deceptive ways of marketing.

We did find some positive things while in Vegas. We got an amazing deal on a room at Excalibur, and the kids loved the whole castle and knights theme. We loved all the amazing architecture, although some properties were better than others about carrying their themes inside and out. Luxor was amazing with ancient Egyptian motif. Treasure Island was neat on the outside, but thoroughly confused us with the scantily clas cowgirls inside. Where were the pirates? One thing they all had in common was that they were incredibly difficult to find your way out of. Everyplace we went to see some exhibit, signs directed us round and round through the casino. It was like a maze that was really hard to escape.

The people on the street provided even more entertainment. For tip, you could get your picture with Elvis, Superman and all sorts of other characters. Some were amazing in their likeness. Others, well...not so much. There was a seedy, creepy kind of feeling trying to make your way through the crowds. I definitely kept my kids close at hand. There were plenty of young and intoxicated people, but also lots of people with kids. I wasn't the only silly one who thought Vegas could be for families. The Belagio was a sharp contrast to the streets, with calm, beautiful and very pricey stores and amazing glass and flower art displays.

After being overwhelmed by the strip, we headed to the pool where some really nice lady bought us lunch and drinks. I don't know if we looked really haggard from traveling for so long, or if she was just really nice. We decided on nice, and enjoyed the gifts.

The roads out of Vegas were as difficult to maneuver as the casinos. It felt eerily like the whole place was specifically designed to keep you from leaving. We persevered and after driving in circles with children yelling about having to use the bathroom again, we finally made it out. My exhausted co-pilots fell asleep on me somewhere in the lonely desert. That was probably good because the shock waves followed us through Nevada for a while. I pulled in to what appeared to be an all night gas station in the middle of nowhere to look at my map, thinking the sign said "Brother." When I realized it said "Brothel" I decided to keep diving by instinct and look at my directions later, glad I didn't have to explain that one to my kids too.

I was oh so happy when we crossed the state lines back into California, and while we did find some interesting things in Vegas, I don't think I"ll be back there anytime soon.