Visit to Las Vegas

I Love Las Vegas and I’m Not Ashamed

Derek Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice, USA 94 Comments

Love Las Vegas

I love Las Vegas. I love it so much in fact that I made sure I included a visit to Las Vegas on the itinerary for my recent road trip around the Western USA back in December.

That itinerary also included visiting a good friend of mine in Los Angeles, a couple of days wandering around Santa Barbara, a drive along the California coast through Big Sur, a stop in beautiful Monterey and some days in San Francisco. It was a very nice trip, and I enjoyed every destination, but when the trip was over, the destination that stood out the most was Las Vegas.

And it had nothing to do with gambling. I did not win big. I actually barely gambled and in the four days I was in Vegas, I think I lost about $100 USD on the slot machines and never really had an urge to gamble any more than that.

So forget about gambling. What stood out the most for me this time (I had been to Las Vegas twice before) had more to do with some interesting lessons that I learned from my visit, lessons about myself and about travel, lessons that helped me understand how a person who spends most of their time traveling in the developing world, visiting countries that see very few travelers and writing about the benefits of such travel, can enjoy such a touristy city.

I realized these lessons, not during my actual stay, but in the midst of that five and a half hour, trance-like drive through the quiet ‘high desert’ from Las Vegas back to Los Angeles, when I had plenty of time to just stare straight ahead and think. And this is what I realized…

Sometimes we should visit destinations that don’t fit our normal travel style.
You might be surprised. As I mentioned in a recent post, you might actually discover that you do enjoy something or someplace you never thought you’d like. The only way to find out is to do things and travel to places that you normally wouldn’t! It really is as simple as that. (I know several other travelers who love Las Vegas even though they typically prefer locations that offer a much different experience.)

Destinations are not always what they seem.
We often think we know what to expect in certain places but unless we actually travel there for ourselves, we’ll never truly know. This is why we travel in the first place, to see the world with our own eyes. And to ignore a certain destination simply because we think it will be too touristy for us, and therefore not provide us with the kind of experience we prefer, seems to go against this core goal. As for Las Vegas, most people naturally assume that a visit to this city must revolve around gambling when that’s not exactly true. Excellent food, impressive shows (I did catch a performance of Cirque du Soleil’s “Zarkana” – very cool!) and an abundance of beautiful natural surroundings to explore could easily keep you busy for weeks. Throw in a stroll along Fremont Street in downtown Vegas, a drive through many of the neighborhoods far away from ‘The Strip’, a visit to the ‘Pinball Museum‘ and possibly catching a wedding at the famous “A Little White Wedding Chapel” (either your own or someone else’s, and no, I did not participate in this activity myself) and this city may very well prove to be much different, with much more to do, than you had assumed. And this is generally the case for just about every super-touristy destination out there in the world.

Water Fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas

There’s no shame in visiting touristy places.
There’s a reason why touristy places are touristy. There is something to do or see that draws people in. In the case of Las Vegas, it is without a doubt quite a sight to see. There is no other city on the planet quite like it and I believe that a full day’s walk along the Las Vegas strip, while ducking in and out of the various casino properties in order to witness the bizarre, over-the-top attractions, such as light shows, musical water fountains, statues of Greek gods coming to life, polar bears made out of roses, gondoliers singing loudly as they paddle their gondolas through narrow waterways, the insane rides that hang you over the city from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Hotel, the random singing, the random dancing, the costume-clad women on stilts, the superheroes on the street corners, the varied architecture and ridiculous themes and on and on, is well worth the experience, at least once. Again, where else can you see such craziness?

And the fact that Las Vegas is so unique makes the argument that some travelers are ‘better’ than others simply because they avoid touristy spots when traveling, seem a bit silly. What’s wrong with visiting such a unique destination? I personally don’t care where anyone goes and I’d happily travel to a touristy location such as Las Vegas or Phuket, Thailand or Playa del Carmen, Mexico myself in order to experience what they have to offer and to see why so many people flock there. Maybe I’ll like the place, maybe I won’t, but I don’t mind finding out on my own. And I certainly don’t look down on anyone else who wants to do the same, or even those who only travel to such touristy locations.

The point is, there’s no shame in a visit to Las Vegas, or any touristy location, no matter what kind of traveler you happen to be or what kind of traveler others believe you to be. Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your visit either!

It’s up to us to create a rewarding adventure.
After all, we have some control over how much we gain from our travels, regardless of where we go. Whether we travel to Cancun, Mexico or Brebu, Romania (not quite as popular as Cancun!), we can always meet and talk with local people, find new activities to try, discover new foods to eat and ultimately, have a fun, educational and rewarding travel experience. While in Las Vegas, my father drove down from Utah for a couple of days to meet with me and while he’s not a local, he spends a great deal of time there for work. As a result, he had some recommendations of things to do and places to eat that I absolutely would never have found on my own. From a tiny, and excellent, Vietnamese Pho shop far off The Strip to a restaurant that serves a delicious sesame glazed banana that is prepared at your table, from beautiful, quiet mountain locations with magical views to a few small casinos that have some very interesting history attached to them, I can say with relative certainty that 99.9%, or more, of the travelers visiting Las Vegas, don’t make it to any of these places. So even in touristy Las Vegas I did a few very non-touristy things, and I loved them all.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Call me a tourist, I don’t care.
Tourists, travelers, again, it doesn’t matter to me. Call me a tourist for liking Las Vegas, I’m perfectly okay with that. I’ve never liked the ‘tourist versus traveler’ debate and Las Vegas only makes me dislike the debate even more. The thing is, as I’m walking around Sin City, I’m interacting, whether it’s a conversation, a handshake or a simple nod, with people of all kinds, from the husband and wife wearing their “My Name is Dave” and “I’m Dave’s Wife” t-shirts who are having a genuine blast on their once-in-a-lifetime trip, to the European tourists laughing and shaking their heads at the sight of it all, to kids and adults of all ages and nationalities mesmerized by the musical water fountain in front of the Bellagio Hotel, to the party-goers living it up like never before, to the newlyweds, the families, the sightseers and everyone else in between. And there’s no way I’m going to tell any of these people that the smile on their face, that the excitement in their step, that the memories they’re creating are worthless because they are just tourists who like to visit touristy destinations.

To me, they are all interesting people, all with their own stories, all with their own reasons for coming to this city, and I myself love the energy created by such a diverse mix of travelers, or tourists, or whatever they are. Who cares? Throw in the Las Vegas natives, as well as the staff at every casino, restaurant and shop, many of whom are from countries all over the world, and the mix of people becomes even more interesting. Couple all of that with the diversity of sights and of sounds and of atmospheres that Vegas offers, however touristy, superficial or ‘American’ it all might be, and you get a destination that allows visitors to have as unique, rewarding and fun an experience as they want.

So, instead of avoiding touristy places, why not join the masses and see what those places are all about every now and then? Why not forget about tourists and travelers and just enjoy the experiences together? We’re all just human beings, we’re all just tourists, we’re all just travelers and by realizing this, we can avoid labels, both of people and of destinations, and instead, just focus on what’s most important – meeting new people and seeing the world, every corner of the world, with our own eyes.

That’s right, meeting new people and seeing the world. Thank you Las Vegas for teaching me that any destination can be a destination worth exploring, a lesson that was certainly well worth the $100 I lost at the slot machines.

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Have you visited Las Vegas? Have you visited other touristy destinations? What kind of experiences did you have? Tourist versus traveler, do you care?

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Comments 94

  1. Rich

    Nice photo of Treasure Island! Thank you Derek, I have discovered your site Earl and will be visiting again. I am signing up now.
    It reminds me I went to ice skate there with my daughter. Great memories and I live here year ’round.
    Las Vegas, Nevada

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  3. Aimee Shreve

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Las Vegas! I always have. I’ve been many timed and it’s different every time. You can do exactly the same thing or something totally different each time you go. It’s one of my favorite places!

  4. Agnieszka

    Hi Earl!
    I just happened to come to your page and found this post! I generally don’t like travelling to crowded places, but I agree, that sometimes they can have a lot to offer. For example I can’t imagine being near Las Vegas and not going to see Grand Canyon. However, I am more the nature than the city lover, so I don’t have much desire in LV.
    Although, now I am in Texas and in few weeks I’m travelling to the west coast, before I come back to Scotland. At the beginning Las Vegas was on my planning route, mainly because it’s on the way. But after reading your post I think I should stay there more! Thanks 🙂

  5. Jake Ryan

    Loved reading this. I visited Las Vegas for the first time at the end of last year and just had to go back earlier this year. Easily one of my favourite places and I spent years avoiding Vegas assuming it wouldn’t be for me.

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  8. Trish

    Earl – I’ve just started reading various travel blogs, yours included, and so far this is one of the best posts I’ve read. No, make that the best. Some of the blogs I’ve checked out have definitely had that “I’m a better traveller than you” vibe that turned me off immediately. Thank you for admitting to enjoying a touristy place and appreciating that for many people, somewhere like Las Vegas really is the trip of a lifetime that they’ll enjoy remembering forever. Your paragraph about that actually brought tears to my eyes because it was so eloquent. Love your site.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Thank you for that comment Trish and I’m really happy to have you as a reader of the site. And I understand exactly what you’re talking about…I really stand by my belief that labeling people based on the way they travel absolutely goes against the core idea of travel in the first place. A person can’t be too open minded and interested in learning if they claim to be better than someone else because of the destinations or travel style they choose!

  9. E. Thai

    Hello! Found your interesting blog while searching for something.
    I just returned from a trip to the west coast myself. We may have crossed path in Vegas; I was there a couple of days around Christmas. It was my second visit, but this time, I did not like it one bit. Yep, too touristy and took forever to get from one end to the other on the strip. Ditto for L.A. I think there are more people traveling around the world these days, and that explains why all these iconic destinations are getting so crowded.

    I believe traveling has to do with one’s state of mind. I find that as I get older, having the been there done that mentality, it’s harder to get excited about destinations I’ve been to before. I’m not the type who could spend vacations in the same place year after year. Don’t get me wrong; I never get tired of visiting NYC, Banff, Miami, Boston or Cape Cod. Some day, I would love to go back again to Phuket, Istanbul, Yosemite and London, no matter how touristy they get.

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  12. Gemma

    I LOVED Las Vegas! One of the best 24 hours of my life! So different and vibrant and strange and everything you say. I would visit again in a heartbeat, but I would be keen to see some of the more out of the way places, like the small casinos you refer to, or the off the main street restaurants. I hate it when people look down their nose at the ‘touristy’ sites. Though I do appreciate a ‘tourist trap’ warning about some things – like visiting Venice in July!

  13. Lo

    As someone who was born and raised in Las Vegas, I enjoyed reading this post. I am maybe down on the strip once a year, but Vegas really does have a lot to offer. Mountains in our backyard for hiking, rock climbing, camping. There are Hot Springs that are a short distance away and a great little get away. Plus, I enjoy the lack of snow in winter. I actually didn’t realize how much I loved Vegas until my most recent vacation to the always rainy Portland, OR. It was very gorgeous, but I was surprised to find that I missed the desert sunrises and sunsets. This town is very unique, and I am glad to call it home.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Lo – Unique it is and it’s great to hear from those who have spent so much time there, just to confirm that there is so much more to this city than the strip.

  14. Nina

    Haha, as travelers it’s only normal to visit the touristy places AAANNNDDD the less beaten path. The touristy places are touristy for a reason… They are usually awesome, beautiful, or significant in someway. I haven’t been to Vegas, although I am from the States, and it’s on my list of definitely must-see’s. Why not!?

    I live in Krabi, one of the hot spots in Thailand. I don’t care, it’s freakin beautiful here! Plus I get more of a chance to meet people from around the world when I’m not in a town that sees like 9 foreigners a month 🙂

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