Diaries of a Las Vegas Virgin

Las Vegas
Do you remember the first time you went to Las Vegas? I do. It was a few weeks ago. That’s right—you could have called me the 39-year old virgin until MPI’s World Education Congress at MGM Grand. In a way, I pity the event professionals who visit Las Vegas three or four times per year. While the city may never feel old hat to even the most frequent visitors, I’d imagine returning planners and attendees get desensitized to the spectacle that is Las Vegas. So sit back and laugh at this newbie’s first impressions.

Everything is close but so far away. 

I had no idea you could see the Strip from McCarran International Airport. The 15-minute ride to your hotel is a major selling point to any planner considering Vegas. It’s also a precursor to what the rest of the trip is like. Getting out of most of the massive hotels takes 15 minutes; walking across the street takes 15 minutes; getting to a designated Uber pickup spot takes 15 minutes, etc., etc.

The sticker shock is real. 

Leisure travelers have to come to this gaming capital for years knowing they’ll probably walk away with a lighter wallet. From the comments I heard at WEC, it sounds like other expenses are representative of the destination’s latest golden age. A simple bottle of water (good luck finding a water fountain) costs $5.50 at a minimum, and salads can run you $30. Heck, even Starbucks is marked up three times from where you normally stop en route to work. Now I know that as long as you throw Gordon Ramsay’s name on a pub, you can charge $25 for a burger and $30 for a milkshake. (But I don’t know how either taste—we just got appetizers to share).

That said, the food is worth it.

Name any celebrity chef and chances are, they have at least one restaurant on the Strip. The F&B here is spectacular—and an experience unto itself. I was lucky enough to to visit five amazing restaurants at ARIA Resort & Casino and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in one night via Lip Smacking Foodie Tours. I’d never order escargot or sweetbreads on my own, but I’m grateful the tour stopped at hot spots like Bardot Brasserie and Sage that served the delicacies to our group. Heck, Sage even served absinthe, a liquor so strong servers burn alcohol off the drink at the table (apparently inhaling the fumes is part of the experience). Perhaps most amazing is the simple dishes were among the best I’ve ever had. Milos’ tomatoes are crazy good, and Scarpetta’s spaghetti pomodoro was my favorite dish. Yes, it is just noodles and tomato sauce. The Italian member of our group was even impressed. Lip Smacking Foodie Tours is available for teambuilding or as a simple culinary adventure for attendees.

Pictures don’t do Vegas justice.

Between “Ocean’s Eleven” and all the coverage we do on the city, I’ve seen the all the Las Vegas highlights before. But just like Skype can’t replace face-to-face meetings, nothing is like experiencing Las Vegas for yourself. The Bellagio’s fountains are fun, especially with the Eiffel Tower replica in the background. You could never understand the luxury at Caesar’s Palace without getting lost in its halls. And only in Las Vegas can you walk in on a Blue Man Group performance at a conference. Surely, that can’t get old.