I just flew back from my first trip to Las Vegas (and boy are my arms tired). Let’s get to the list.

1. You can, indeed, be ballin’ on a budget

I laid out in my previous piece how I planned to save money in Las Vegas, but I was still skeptical of my budget-ballin’ ability.

This is, after all, a city designed to separate you from your money.

But our first night proved I shouldn’t have been worried:

  • Uber from airport to In-N-Out Burger behind the Strip (my girlfirend and I were freakin’ hungry, man): $16.45
  • In-N-Out for two, in my opinion the greatest meal ever crafted: $15.26
  • Our CVS bill, which included snacks for the week and a couple of walking-around beers: $25.62

And that was it! Okay, I did get myself another walking-around beer later. Sue me.

Of course, you can always choose a more luxurious drink option. It’s $16 to get a cosmopolitan at The Cosmopolitan.

I’m sure there are a million ways to lose your money on a Saturday night in Las Vegas (not to mention 50 ways to leave your lover), but putzing around some jaw-dropping resorts that cost more than $1 billion… with a 24 oz. beer you bought at CVS for three bucks: (At the risk of infringing on Mastercard’s trademark) Priceless.

2. The Vegas Strip is kind of inhospitable to pedestrians

Altruism, engage!

I want you to examine the bottom left of this photo of CityCenter, if you don’t mind straining your eyes a bit. Keep in mind that this is a popular stretch near the middle of the Strip.

(Tristan Surtel/Creative Commons)
Examine the bottom left corner of this photo for my big problem with CityCenter. (Tristan Surtel/Creative Commons)

There’s no crosswalk between the section of the Strip on the left and the one on the right. We’re talking about one of the busiest walking corridors in the Western U.S., and all of us people walking have to detour over, then up the stairs, then over the bridge, then back down the stairs and over again to cross the street.

While it may not be much trouble to do that once, it became absurd when we had to chart a course to the other end of the Strip. Then it became a matter of 4 or 5 bridges, and a realization that Vegas built its streets for the 1-percenters taking taxis and limos, not ol’ JimJam traipsing with his $3 Budweiser can.

If you LOVE Instagram bait, Vegas has got. you. covered.

What should be a simple walk becomes a test of Euclidean geometry in Las Vegas. Bring your protractor.

3. The Neon Museum is a must-see

After I became frustrated with the Vegas of the present, I was delighted to visit a place that celebrated the Vegas of the past.

The Neon Museum is a bright and buzzy gem.

We reserved a nighttime tour, and I was in awe. Just getting the chance to see these old signs up close would be worth the price of admission, but our docent was also well-versed in Las Vegas history. He was able to weave the story of Vegas through the signs.

(Now, the museum had a lot of rules at its entrance about where you can publish photos you take in their ‘boneyard.’ So, with the hope I’m not running afoul of their copyright rules, I’m just going to drop in my Instagram post.)

I was enamored with the @theneonmuseumlasvegas (in case you couldn’t tell from my Insta story). Here’s a sampling of their stunning Neon Boneyard of signs.

35 Likes, 1 Comments – James Santelli (@jamessantelli) on Instagram: “I was enamored with the @theneonmuseumlasvegas (in case you couldn’t tell from my Insta story)….”

4. I am one of the greatest and most consistent gamblers alive

In my first blackjack session in Vegas, I won $75 and got 3 complimentary beers.

In my second blackjack session in Vegas, I won $75 again (no beers this time though).

Then I quit.

I am in that small percentage of people who has gambled in Las Vegas and, technically, never lost.

Therefore: I am one of the greatest card sharks alive. Suck it, Phil Hellmuth.

5. It would be a great trip for the outdoorsy types (which I am not)

Until I got there, I didn’t realize how close Las Vegas is to some of our nation’s grandest sights.

  • Death Valley: 2 hours
  • Grand Canyon: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Zion: 2 hours, 45 minutes
  • Joshua Tree: 3 hours

Did I go to any of these places? HELL NO! We had 4 nights and Vegas, and I was going to use them to eat, gamble, and do the kind of sightseeing that I enjoy most: people-watching.

We also visited the Hoover Dam. What the heck am I going to tell you about the Hoover Dam that hasn’t already been well-documented? It’s a marvel! Go see it!

How It Works!

How Do-Goodery Works

That said, we did get the chance to get to visit beautiful Red Rock Canyon, which you can properly appreciate in the following Creative Commons photo:

Lovely, isn’t it? (Samartur/Creative Commons)

But I am banking on a return to Las Vegas as a home base to see America’s greatest treasures (not named Dolly Parton).

6. I liked it!

Look, I’ll be honest: going to Vegas was not my choice.

When I get vacation time in early March, I’ve got one destination on my mind – – Two words: Spring Training.

But to Vegas we went, and I had a fun time!

I love going to theme parks (check out my money-saving tips for Universal Orlando!). And jumping around the Vegas strip was like a plussed-up version of resort-hopping at Walt Disney World. Just, y’know, with more drunks.

We also got a fine deal on the Park MGM (née Monte Carlo). And the fact that it was more *ahem* understated than some of the other Vegas resorts made it a nice place to turn in for the night.

I’m not going to become one of those people who goes to Las Vegas every year. After all, by the grace of God and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, I can now bet on March Madness without even crossing a river.

But now that I’ve been to Vegas, I see the appeal.

And that’ll be the city’s new slogan:

Visit Las Vegas: James From Pittsburgh Sees The Appeal!