Road Trippin USA – Vol. 15
Un-glitzy Old Las Vegas – why go here when you have all the new glitz and glamour up the street? You go to old Las Vegas to experience the real thing.
When Kathleen and I decided to make a one night stop in Vegas, we started reminiscing about past trips we’ve taken there. Wild times – dancing, skimpy dresses, gambling, clubbing, parties, shows, and many drinks. Las Vegas is the glitzy desert paradise, where people come to see and be seen. I just love Vegas.
We discussed how we had never really done the ‘older’ Vegas. We had not visited the old relics; the casinos of old Vegas before their sad demise to dynamite and the glitzy new Vegas. We had never done cheap, gaudy Vegas…the kind where you eat at a buffet, gamble at the old casinos and went to topless shows. Well, this was our chance…considering we were already on a budget, the Bellagio wasn’t really within our means on this trip; therefore, we decided to see the side of Vegas that we hadn’t really seen much of…Vegas on the cheap.
The sad part is that we were so cheap that we couldn’t even afford to stay at the cheap hotels (which aren’t very cheap any longer!). Luckily Kathleen opted to use her Hilton points to ensure that we had a bed for the night! We stayed at the Hilton on the strip. What’s that, you’ve never heard of it? That’s for good reason…because it’s banished down at the end of the strip nestled between Circus Circus and the Sahara – two old relics that are hanging on. Plus, the Hilton on the strip was really the Hilton Family Vacation Hotel. Yes, that’s right, family. There were kids in the hotel and no casino which seems rather anti-Vegas in every way possible.
After going to the pool, and having a much needed drink, we struck up a conversation with the bartender to find out just how to do Vegas on the cheap. He was full of advice for us; now we had a plan. We dressed up in our best travel clothes that we were rather sick of by now, and went out walking on the strip. It was warm….very warm…a great feeling considering we started our day in Bryce Canyon freezing in the snow!
The Budget Las Vegas Plan
We went next door for a quick gamble at Slots-A-Fun. You have to love that name. Slots-A-Fun was a casino in front of Circus Circus that offered cheap entertainment – 1 cent slots. Woo hoo…I could play all night! I wondered if I could get free drinks while playing with my pennies. We even splurged and played the 25 cent slots…losing all of the change from our combined wallets…some things never change. We were starving and decided that if we didn’t get out of Slots-A-Fun pretty soon we be chowing down on their half pound hot dog for 99 cents. It was actually starting to smell good…scarey! Worth noting, not only did Slots-A-Fun have mystery meat for 99 cents, but they offered free donuts and coffee to its early morning gamblers!
Black Tie Dining 24 Hours
We went across the street to the Peppermill Diner, a recommendation from our bartender. The Peppermill is an anchor on Las Vegas Blvd – oozing of neon and tackiness…so much so that you really can’t do anything but enjoy it. We sat in a huge round booth and surveyed our surroundings. The place was packed full; bachelorette parties and businessmen. I about choked on my water when out of the blue and pink neon came a cocktail waitress dressing a long black evening gown with a slit up to her…you can use your imagination. Boobs were hanging out as they always seem to do in Vegas, as she asked us for our drink orders. I looked around and had to laugh…this was a diner…just a regular 24 hour diner – what was this cocktail waitress doing here? Oh – that’s right, it’s Vegas – home of boobs, booty, and booze.
The food waitresses were dressed a bit more conservatively, yet not much. The food was your typical diner food; huge, greasy portions. We saw them bring some desserts out to various tables. I willing to bet that there was no dessert that wasn’t as big as my head and less than 2000 calories…it was insane. We passed on dessert and opted for beer instead. We wandered into the Fireside Lounge; the Peppermill’s answer to romance. As we entered into Fireside, we were assaulted by more neon, more slinky waitresses, more round velvety booths, and one giant bubbling fire pit in the middle of the room. The Fireside Lounge is also a Vegas staple. In fact, a few years ago it was voted one of the top 10 bars to make out in across America. Too bad I was with Kathleen…I’m sure she was thinking the same about me.
If I thought the diner was tacky…well then, I was naive. The lounge room was anchored by the fire pit; basically a small, bubbling hot tub with a flame coming out of the water burning eternally. Around the ‘romantic’ bubbling fire pit were lounges that you could slink into and make out with your date apparently. We had a beer and both sat there watching the ‘sites’ while not really saying a word to each other. I think we were in shock; or mesmerized by the mirrored ceilings and neon; or quite possibly the array of fake boobs that were paraded in front of us barely fitting into their plunging necklines. This wasn’t the place to be for an A cup…I think I would have quite a complex if I lived in Vegas.
Casinos the Old Way
We left the Fireside in order to check out the Sahara hotel and casino down the street; a place for cheap gambling and more people watching no doubt. I’m used to going to all of the upmarket hotels, casinos, and clubs while in Vegas, so the Sahara was quite a shock. Sure – it was the same loud, bright, party atmosphere as the other more upmarket hotels/casinos, but it had one thing that the others didn’t…quite a unique clientele. The Sahara wasn’t filled with the weekend parties from LA or San Diego – instead, it was filled with the less attractive, less plastic tourists and locals. I had to stop and wonder how we fit into this motley crew…definitely not plastic…the rest, I’m not sure!
We quickly gambled away our allotted money on blackjack and decided to go listen to the lounge band as at least that was free. It was as if I walked into a wedding reception in the Midwest. The band was trying hard to generate some interest and excitement, but the only people out on the dance floor were an older couple (about 60 yrs old), dressed in a suit and the woman was dressed in something that looked like it could have been a prom dress a few decades back. The lovely lady also wore a hat with some fake flowers on it – reminding me of an Easter bonnet. They danced around in a quirky fashion to the band covering U2…a very strange sight indeed.
I wasn’t sure what was more disturbing – this scene or the bountiful fake boobs surrounding me. Yet – at the same time, I loved it all. This is old Las Vegas – quirky, plastic, loud, tacky…and most of all…fun.
If budget Vegas isn’t for you, then try a visit to Vegas in style at Las Vegas Resorts