Thursday, October 25, 2012

Las Vegas: Sights to See

Before I get into all of the fun stuff we did in Las Vegas, I have to throw up a quick review of the bag I used as a camera bag and day pack.  As we were planning our trip, I heavily researched camera bags.  I wanted a comfortable camera bag that also allowed for additional non-camera items, was easy to access for quick pictures, and was airplane/TSA compliant.  Not an easy item to find, let me tell you!  Thankfully some other photographers out there turned me on to the Kata DR466i.  Though the bag did get heavy after hours upon hours of walking around, it was very comfortable to wear.  It also didn't let my back breathe well, but no backpack is going to do any better.  I carried my Nikon D5000 and a few accessories in the bottom of the bag and my Kindle, wallet, typical purse/bag stuff, and some snacks in the upper half with plenty of room left over.  I had absolutely no problem carrying my bag through the airport or onto the planes.  The tripod holder functioned very well as a loop to stick my fleece pullover through.  I really liked the chest strap as well, a nice addition.  The backpack is durable and seems to be constructed like a battleship.  I might not carry this bag as my every-day bag (Timbuk2 has my heart in that arena), but it is a great camera pack for sure, especially for hiking or vacations!

Now, onto the fun:

Hoover Dam looking from Nevada into Arizona
Hoover Dam was high on everyone's list.  We ventured out to the dam early on our first full day in Nevada.  Mom, Dad, and I (with my sister) went to Hoover Dam about twenty years ago (saying that makes me feel old), and it was over 110° last time.  This time, we chilled around 90°, a much more comfortable and reasonable change.  Being Oregonians, however, we were all very warm.  Yuck.  Dad and The Man went on a dam tour while Mom and I investigated things from the top of the dam and the gift shop.  I gave The Man my camera, so he took pictures inside the dam.  Being all terrified of heights, not a fan of large bodies of water, and generally hating heat, I was not thrilled to be at the dam.  Mom and I walked over to the Arizona side of the dam, so I can say I've been to Arizona twice now.  The Man and I bought a couple souvenirs at the gift shop, and then we all headed to our next destination.

Hoover Dam looking downriver toward the new bridge (which terrified me)
The Ethel M. Chocolate Factory was a ton of fun.  We walked through the beautiful cactus garden for quite a while before heading in to see chocolate being made, sampling chocolate, and then buying chocolate (hello lighter wallet).  I wish they'd take the Christmas lights off of the cacti in the garden during the non-holiday season, but I understand how difficult it would be to put them on and take them off each year.  The lights were distracting.  Otherwise we really enjoyed this stop.

Ethel M. Chocolate Factory: cactus garden (pretty, but so not my lush, green, allergenic grass)
After lunch, we agreed to check off another big thing on our lists--especially my list--"CSI: The Experience" at the MGM Grand.  I was so excited to do this as I used to be a big fan of the show (until William Peterson left, then I quit watching, because, really, he was the show).  CSI: The Experience is an interactive exhibit that teaches people about crime scene investigation both through videos and text, and the participants get to "solve" a crime as they tour the exhibit.  Mom's background in criminology and the legal system and my experience with science and observation made us a formidable team.  Dad and The Man bundled their extensive logic and craftiness to make the other team.  Our goal, according to the exhibit host, was to get through the exhibit and solve the crime--different crimes for each team--faster than the other team.  Game ON!  We started by watching a little video explaining our purpose, and then we moved on to the "crime scene."  We observed the scene (nothing gory or explicit, somewhat of a letdown actually), took notes, and then moved on to ballistics, trace, and the lab to gather more evidence before reviewing the autopsy and drawing our conclusions.  At the end, we presented our evidence and conclusions to Grissom and were rewarded with a certificate indicating we completed our task if we were correct.  We were.  I don't know if I was expecting something wildly different, but the exhibit was very disappointing.  I didn't have to use much of my brain at all.  Maybe little kids or drunk people would struggle with the exhibit, but we all thought it was pathetically easy.  Every time we went to the next section, we'd see the answer to something we were supposed to figure out in the previous section.  There was no possibility for error.  Lame.  We all finished at the same time and exited through the gift shop pretty quickly.

The one big thing everyone told us we had to do in Las Vegas was see a show.  Shows in Vegas are expensive, or at least more than I'm used to paying in Oregon.  We were shocked that some shows cost as much as $200 or more per seat.  Ouch.  We decided we'd go to a show on our third night, so that morning I started looking for tickets in a price range we didn't hate.  We all settled on going to a Cirque du Soleil show, so after comparing prices and seating availability, I suggested the Mystère show at Treasure Island.  At the last minute, I was able to find seats at center stage in the third row.  AWESOME!  Later that night, after standing in one of the longest lines I've ever seen, we wound our way into the theater for what amounted to an incredible, fantastic show.  The stage was great, the costumes and makeup were perfect, and the changing acts really kept a great pace.  While the aerial acts made me feel a bit lightheaded, I loved the Chinese poles, the hand-to-hand gymnasts, and the trampoline series.  We're all very glad we went to see this show.  The music--all performed live in the theater--was also incredible.  If you get a chance to see Mystère, GO!

That's about it.  Between flights, too much food, hours and hours of walking and seeing casinos, taking in sights along the strip, relaxing in the pool, and visiting the things mentioned above, we had a very full vacation.  I am so happy to be home, though, as there really is no place like home.

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