Vegas Trek

They call it Sin City, but we weren’t in Las Vegas for gambling or sex: my primary mission was to get the nerdiest possible photo I could with William Shatner at the Star Trek Convention.

Me and Amy with William Shatner

Mission accomplished.

Some POV videos from highlights of our Vegas trip:

We stayed at the Luxor because I wanted to experience living in a pyramid, but the pyramid experience got a bit too real when, mere minutes after check-in, we found our room infested with cockroaches. Front desk was nice enough to move us to a nicer Tower room at no extra charge; while not in the pyramid, the room had a nice view of it, and of the mountains to the west.

Luxor Tower room panorama, view looking west
Inside the Luxor, Las Vegas

First visit was to the famous, fabulous Welcome Sign — and its lesser-known other side, Drive Carefully.

"Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" Sign
Rear of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" Sign

We ascended Stratosphere Tower — so I could jump off it. It was actually a gentle, calming experience with a great view and a soft landing (but keep knees bent).

From the heights of the North Strip we descended into Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay on the South Strip, a series of aquariums with sharks and other animals, land and sea.

Mandalay Bay Shark Reef
Jellyfish Tank, Mandalay Bay Shark Reef
Tired Gila Monster in Mandalay Bay Shark Reef

Next morning we headed to Bellagio (via various bridges, trams, and casino walkthroughs) to see the conservatory, Chihuly glass sculpture, and Gallery of Fine Art, featuring “Painting Women”: various works by and about women, on loan from the Boston Museum of Fine Art.

Bellagio Conservatory, Las Vegas
Dale Chihuly's "Fiori di Como" at The Bellagio #throughglass
"Painting Women" Exhibit, Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

Across the Strip was The Mirage, and Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. Siegfried himself was greeting visitors; he was very pleasant, and assured us Roy is doing better after the sad incident of 2003 and Mantecore’s death this year.

Siegfried Selfie

The lion cubs were, of course, adorable.

Lion Cubs

As were the other animals in the habitat: lions, tigers, white tigers, and dolphins.

Sleepy Lion
White Tiger

At the Venetian we witnessed a strange simulacrum of the Venice we had visited two years previously: gondolas beneath a fake sky, a Doge’s Palace that was also a shopping mall, and a Ponte di Rialto with escalators leading to a wax museum and a Campanile di San Marco we could not ascend.

The Venetian, Las Vegas
The Venetian, Las Vegas

Late afternoon was spent doing a rotation on the High Roller, freshly opened this year and the tallest ferris wheel in the world thus far. (Not to be confused with the now-dismantled High Roller coaster atop Stratosphere.) We had a cabin all to ourselves and the afternoon views were as spectacular as they had been from Stratosphere.

High Roller Ferris Wheel
The High Roller Ferris Wheel, Las Vegas
View from the High Roller Ferris Wheel, Las Vegas

Next day: Grand Canyon, South Rim. There and back again in a day, about 5 hours drive each way. (With a late night return stop at Hoover Dam that, though unphotographed, was quite memorable.) We walked along the South Rim from Mather Point to Grand Canyon Village, stopping for lunch at the Arizona Room.

Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Grand Canyon from Mather Point
Grand Canyon panorama from outside Bright Angel Lodge

Next morning, a quick trip to Fremont Street to have breakfast at Magnolia’s in 4 Queens and see the downtown area by day. I tried getting dashcam video of the drive up from South Strip.

The famous Fremont Street Experience canopy had no light show in the daytime, and turned out to not even shield the promenade from the drizzle, but it was still a sight to behold, especially with historic “Vegas Vic” cowboying it up.

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas
Fremont Street with Vegas Vic

Afternoon of the last day of the Star Trek Convention at Rio, there wasn’t much left to do besides get our Shatner photo-op, but the classic transporter set was open for photos, and the vendor floor was still bustling.

Star Trek Convention 2014 #throughglass
Transporter, 2014 Star Trek Vegas Convention
Star Trek Convention 2014: Qualcomm Tricorder Federation Photo Booth #throughglass

My favorite part of the vendor floor was the Qualcomm X-Prize Tricorder Federation photo booth, where they’d turn your funny costumed studio poses into Trek-themed image macro postcards promoting the Medical Tricorder project. I’m pretty proud of my entry.

Tricorder Federation Star Trek Convention Photo Booth Entry

After the Convention we had a huge lunch at the Village Seafood Buffet, where I ate all the crustaceans.

Crustaceans station, Village Seafood Buffet, Rio #LasVegas

Early evening after the Convention, we ascended the Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower for some lovely views of the Strip and surrounding landscape, as beautiful as the view had been from Stratosphere and the High Roller.

Eiffel Tower, Paris Las Vegas
View from Eiffel Tower, Paris Las Vegas

Not done yet with the evening we later watched the Bellagio fountains as they spouted to one of Chopin’s Nocturnes. Unfortunately this was in the middle of a heavy monsoon downpour, so we were peering from indoors through shopping mall windows near the entrance. I caught the scene in slow motion.

For our last day we had several hours between hotel check-out and our late night flight home, so we drove to nearby Red Rock Canyon. It was an amazing sight, the famous red rocks moodily lit by afternoon sun through passing clouds, the mountains glistening with rivulets of monsoon moisture trickling down their slopes. The main scenic loop and visitor center were closed, possibly due to flash flood watches, but even just the drive around Blue Diamond Road and the stops at the state scenic viewpoints were beautiful.

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon

It was near midnight when we flew out of McCarran Airport to head home, getting a nice view of the Strip before heading back east.

Parting shot, Las Vegas at night from plane

Good trip, packed with fun and scenic views. We hardly even gambled. (Although I will say that for the few minutes I did spend on slots, I came out ahead. Except for “OMG! Kittens”; that game, while cute, did not treat me well.)

Full photoset here, and full video playlist here.