Viva Las Vegas.

I don’t know how I feel after October 1st.

 

I wasn’t at the festival, and the people I’m acquainted with that were came home okay. I don’t feel entitled, really, to feel sad, because of that. But in the days since then, I can’t help but feel like someone poked a hole in all of my balloons.  

 

My city always felt safe. That’s not to say there wasn’t violence that went on here before, but it was to such a small degree that it was easy for most parts of the city to forget about. It’s a city where I felt comfortable walking around at five in the morning, or midnight even as young teenager. Las Vegas has never been at the top of any “dangerous city” list; our crime rate even decreased between 2015 and 2016. You might lose your money here, but your life, especially as a tourist, was always a safe bet.

 

I worked at Mandalay Bay as a teenager. My first job was inside the Shark Reef gift shop, stacking stuffed animals and selling shark tooth necklaces. While no one in my immediate circle was at the festival that year, I’ve had family attend in years prior. Being in such close proximity to an act of terror is sobering, and confusing in a way I haven’t yet experienced. Knowing that these things can continue to happen, is even more grievous to me.

 

When I read about the victims, hoping that the number stays where it is and no one else succumbs to injuries, I can’t help but notice how many of the deceased weren’t from here. I think, and I might be wrong about this, that fact makes it feel different for the rest of the country. This shooting affects more than just one city. The victims were from all over the country, here simply to have a good time. If you can’t relax and be free on vacation, when can you be?

 

The other main thing I can’t get my head around is – why here? Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination, but it’s not a pivotal place in terms of politics. We’re not an import/export hub, we’re not even the state capital. Las Vegas is a desert getaway, a place to come when you want to let your hair down and forget about real life for a while. You’re suppose to be safe here. Thankfully, to the quick response of our local SWAT and other law enforcement officers, as well as the security team at Mandalay Bay, the damage stopped after minutes. Hundreds were hurt, and many died, but without their quick action it could have been much, much worse.   

 

If you’ve never been here before, I hope you decide to visit one day. If you have been, I hope you come back. With your help, we can be the infamous party city we’ve always been. While this dark cloud looms over our heads now, eventually, the neon will shine through once more.  

 

To those who lost family and friends, I’m so sorry. To the police and the firefighters and the medics that confronted the shooter and got people help, thank you. To the everyday Joes who risked their own safety to get people out, I applaud you. I hope all of you, one day, will feel safe again, and find some peace.

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Valley of Fire Dos and Don’ts

If you ever visit Valley of Fire, be sure to bring enough water. And make sure you’ve got plenty of gas.


Valley of Fire State Park | Ken Lund/Flickr
Valley of Fire State Park | Ken Lund/Flickr

I’ve been away from this blog for quite a while, and I thought it was time to check back in. As of June, I became the Las Vegas contributor to The Culture Trip, a travel and culture website. Keeping up with that, and my regular job/life has been a little bit of a learning curve. But it’s been fun, and I’m so happy to finally expand my horizons.

I decided to go to Valley of Fire on the fly a couple weekends ago. I’ve kicked the idea around in my head for a while, but could never muster the energy to make the drive out there.  These are the types of things one normally plans out well in advance, with supplies and water and…a plan. But not I, dear reader, not I.

I packed my dogs in the car that morning, initially intent on going to one of the few dog parks near my apartment. As I came upon the freeway entrance, I made a last minute decision (not a last minute turn, I’m not that warped) to jump on the freeway and see the park I haven’t been to since I was a child.

Do leave early

This will be subjective, but I’d recommend seeing Valley of Fire early in the day if you’re visiting in the summer. If you’re staying in Las Vegas, it takes about an hour to drive out to the park, and by 8 a.m., it’s already hot. By the time my dogs and I got out there, we were panting. All of us.

Fill Up Your Tank

This is a no-brainer, but there aren’t many gas stations on the way to Valley of Fire from Las Vegas. As stated earlier, most people do their due diligence and plan for this in advance, but for the fly-by-night, seat-of-your-pants people like me (if there are any), it bears repeating.

Take Your Time

Valley of Fire is a slap in the face of anyone who thinks the desert can’t be beautiful. Whether it’s the Beehives, White Dome, The Cabins or Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire is like an outer space oasis in the middle of the desert.

Bring Extra Water

If you’ve decided to be rebellious and visit the Valley in the middle of the day, take extra water with you, especially if you’ve got pets with you. I wouldn’t recommend taking pets with you to the Valley (mine and I only lasted about 45 minutes in the park total) in the summer, but in cooler weather it shouldn’t be an issue.

 

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Valley of Fire, and what you thought about it.

Happy travels!

Travel Questions No. 4 – How Often Do You Get Sick from Planes?

Travel Questions No. 1 – Does the Weather Affect How You Enjoy Vacation?

Goodbye Free Parking. Thanks for nothing, MGM

vegas

As I mentioned in my first post, MGM has decided that this year, they are going to start charging their patrons for the use of their parking facilities. This announcement has met with a huge backlash, enough to the point where MGM is “taken aback”. I am among one of the many opposed to this change, to the point where I’ll park at a Caesar’s property and walk before wherever I may need to go.

This may sound like a non-issue to those who don’t live in Las Vegas, and I admit the proposed parking fees are much lower than in other cities. The only thing I can say is that there are some things you just don’t mess with. In a city that has changed its skyline at least once every decade in the last sixty years, free parking is one of the few things we’ve been able to hold onto, just like the local’s discount and penny slots.

Some might argue this isn’t an entirely new concept; in the last couple years, downtown Las Vegas has started to do away with its free parking amenities. However, I would have to point out that 1. those hotels usually comp their guests at the very least and 2. You can still get your parking comp’d if you know where to go.

The MGM executives that addressed the issue cite issues like profit losses, the need for funds for revamped parking structures, and the fact that, well, “everyone else is doing it”. These reasons, while acceptable on their face, don’t really hold any weight. Just because they aren’t making money in a particular area doesn’t really count as “profit losses”, and while some of the garages could use a face lift, I doubt they would have to start laying people off if they just went ahead and paid for them. Finally, I say…just because everyone else does it, doesn’t make it a good idea.

It just seems like MGM wants to nickel and dime their customers, both domestic and foreign. Since my days of working on the Strip I couldn’t fathom how or why a person would pay up to four dollars for a bottle of tiny bottle of Dasani, but overpriced drinks are nothing new. Overpriced drinks are even to be expected. I even witnessed my own manager raise prices over 50% on floral arrangements during Valentine’s Day “just because she could”. However, until MGM made this announcement I had no idea that there was such a thing as a “resort fee”, which is a non-refundable charge for use of all the amenities at the resort, regardless if you use them or not. Now with these proposed parking fees, it seems like they want their hands in your pockets from the minute you step foot on their property.

We’ve lost some historic properties and buildings over the years in the name of progress, and for the most part we don’t complain about it. Being adaptable is a critical part of survival, and Las Vegas has managed to survive as a major worldwide tourist destination because of its willingness to keep up with the times (and well, basically offering people whatever they want). These parking fees are a slap in the face to the people that keep this city running.

Moral of the story: stay at Caesar’s! 🙂