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11/09 -- Oddly enough, this "rant" seems to be one of the most memorable ones to my patients who come to see me in the clinic. Many have given me good tips about Vegas.
Well, anyway, I felt compelled to comment on this hotel after spending a few days there with my kids on vacation in 2006. The Flamingo is a huge old hotel in Las Vegas. Although on the web, there are pages suggesting that it is "kid friendly", in my opinion, a Holiday Inn is a lot more friendly.
Our "Deluxe room", is not as nice as an ordinary Holiday Inn or Red Roof Inn room. It is in the middle of an enormous hallway, that seems largely unoccupied (perhaps you have to pay more to get a room close to the elevator). The carpets look as if they were the originals from the 50's. The plastic outlets in our bathroom are cracked -- etc. The elevators are certainly antiques -- that are showing a lot of wear.
The pool is indeed big. It seems to be basically a place where people lay around in the sun. It is not designed for serious, exercise type, swimming. There is a water slide. Again, nothing very serious.
Everything is expensive -- Soda for $2.00 (although the 7-11 and CVS down the street sell stuff for normal prices). There is internet, for an $11/day charge, per computer (how cheap can you get ?). Everything costs extra here. Water ($3.50), Coffee ($2.50/cup), Fridge ($15/day) -- the only thing free is soap and shampoo.
There is no in-room refrigerator. Just bottles of water priced at $3.50. The management indicated that I could get a refridgerator for $15/day. And this is supposed to be a deluxe room.
Even more amazing, there is no coffee pot in the room ! Instead, you can order coffee from room service for $6.00. So here we are, in this gigantic antique hotel, that doesn't even have a coffee pot in the room ! An email from Harrahs indicated to me that they have no in-room coffee pots because of 9-11 terrorism issues. Perhaps they are worried that people will put arsenic in the coffee pots, one by one ? What a joke !
On asking the room service lady who brought up a tray of coffee ($6.00) , she said that they had instituted this ridiculous change (no coffee pots) 1 month ago. She also said that the executive level does have coffee pots. So it seems, in Las Vegas, terrorism is not a concern for executives. There are also no simple amenities that you get in most hotels -- no newpapers, no breakfasts (of course).
Even the TV channel selection is very limited. We get many more cable channels at home, and our service isn't much. Certainly not kid-friendly - -there is no Disney channel or cartoon network (for example). An email from Harrahs indicated to me that this was because it is not a "kid-oriented" part of Las Vegas.
Regarding restaurants, we tried the buffet (pretty good), the hotel restaurant (OK), and Vesuvio's (or something like that) which had just awful pizza, prepared while you wait.
There are far nicer looking hotels across the street or down the street (the Mirage, and the MGM-Grand for example). After this bad experience, I would not want to stay in Caesars palace (another Harrah's property) either, as they undoubtedly act similarly. Of course, I can't speak for the others. Perhaps they are even worse.
My advice: If you have kids that you want to amuse in Las Vegas, patronize other hotels in Las Vegas or just go somewhere else. It might work well to stay somewhere off the strip where things are more reasonable.
Las Vegas has a lot of very neat stuff, but it certainly isn't kid friendly. Many of the giant casino/resort/hotels are simply spectacular. Here I would include the Mirage, MGM/Grand, Caesars, Alladin, New York/New York and the Venetian. Just taking a (long) walk through is worth it. I particularly liked the Venetian, which has an indoor mall with the general atmosphere of a theme park.
Transportation is one big problem. The strip is big and the sun is very hot. Walking it is possible but not much fun. The alternatives are not great. Every cab trip in Las Vegas, even just a mile, costs $15. As soon as you get into the cab (this costs $3.25), they start saying that they are going to take the expressway (even to go 1/2 mile). The reason for this is that the traffic is just awful, and the lights all go for 3 minutes. Another thing to know is that cabs don't pick you up on the street -- just from casino's. The whole idea seems to be to encourage people to stay in the mega-casino/resort/hotels, and never venture out.
There is a short monorail system. The problem with it is pricing. At $5/ticket to go 1/4 mile, it must be the most expensive public transportation system in the country. It also has very few stops.
There is also a free tram (which we didn't try), and courtesy casino buses.
The casino's seem a bit conflicted about kids. Many have large arcades -- on a gigantic scale. I suppose the idea is that the kids play games upstairs while Mom/Dad play games on the casino floor. There is a large one "gameworks" just outside the MGM/Grand, another one across the street at New York/New York, and another one called the "Adventuredome" at Circus/Circus. These vary from the ambience of a Dave/Busters (at best), to just downright tacky. Prices are very high too.
Many have nice pools. Many also have what I would call "totem" animals -- the MGM/Grand brings in lions several times/day (they don't live there), the Flamingo has birds (flamingo's of course). If you could collect them all together, you might even have a small zoo. Unfortunately though, because of the transportation problems, it is difficult to see them.
There are some neat outdoor spectacles. The Mirage has a "volcano" that goes off roughly once/hour during the evening hours. Neat !
Shows: Most of the shows in Las Vegas are understandably adult oriented. Perhaps 90% are adult only. We had a great time though at the American Star show, which does allow kids, at the Stratosphere casino. This is star-impersonator show -- the lineup that we saw included Elvis (of course), Michael Jackson, and several others. The show was a blast, but we got scammed (of course), by the Flamingo booking agent who signed us up for the Stratosphere tower (which was terrible mainly due to the very long line and security screen -- ??? why a security screen ??? ), and the Buffet (which was nice but there is an unreasonably long wait).
You can get show tickets from your hotel (I suggest NOT getting any package deals -- go for the cheapest price, and don't let them "bundle" in things), as well as from outlets scattered about which sell tickets at half-price to the less popular ones.
Adventure dome (Circus-Circus). This is the largest of the kid-oriented things we saw. It is basically an indoor amusement park. Like most of these, you have to walk through about a block of Casino to get there. There is a nice roller coaster ($7/ride), and some other small rides (usually about $4). Circus-Circus is very far down the strip.
New York/New York. Basically a one-trick pony (roller coaster). Few people seem to be taking it, perhaps because of the outrageous pricing structure. An arcade resembling a carney outside.
MGM/Game works. Somewhat like a "Dave/Busters" with lots of arcade style games. The least tacky of the lot. We spent several hours there for $20/kid.
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