Vegas to LA: Entertainment Unlimited (Part 1: Las Vegas)


What do you get when you combine Sin City with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood? Well, you get a chance to embark on a wild ride through time and space, into the recesses of your personal fantasy world! It’s a world where fabulous fakes, dancing waters, blazing infernos and world-class entertainers combine with magical theme parks, mind-blowing animatronics and celluloid dreams. You got it, baby! Welcome to viva Las Vegas and star-struck Los Angeles!

A trip to these two cities is a must if you’re visiting the west coast of USA. From hip-hop Gen Y to grey-haired grannies, from the rich and famous to everyday citizens, there’s something for everyone in Vegas and LA. But first things first – those of you who think Sin City is just a gamblers’ paradise, think again. Apart from the lure of the lucre, there are a number of wondrous sights to be seen here, and many of them, surprisingly, do not involve semi-clad women!

Travel the globe while staying in Vegas

Vegas brings you some of the world’s most famous monuments, carefully reproduced with a stubborn core of commercialism. In fact, you can travel the globe and through the ages – all while staying in the same city! Where else can you visit Paris, New York, the villages of the Mediterranean, Venice and the ancient Greek gods all in one evening?

Never mind how a neon sea ended up in the Mojave Desert, or why the Statue of Liberty is immersed in a sea of traffic! When you’re in Vegas, it’s best to leave all logic behind and just celebrate the city’s over-the-top, cheery garishness. And that’s precisely what me and my husband did while visiting Sin City.

Harrah’s cheery garrishness

The first thing we noticed when we touched down were the lights. For as long and as far as we could see, there were thousands of glittering lights.

Glittering lights on the Vegas Strip

The sapphire green façade of MGM Grand and a bright purple structure beside it were also distinctly visible from the flight. As we reached closer and closer, the lights got brighter and everything got bigger. Big and bright – that just about sums up Vegas. Whether it’s the giant hotels and casinos, outrageous special effects, or elaborate costumes, everything is larger than life!

Harley Davidson Cafe – Big, bright and larger than life

Not wanting to miss any of the action, we decided to stay at Planet Hollywood (earlier Aladdin), bang in the centre of the Strip and walking distance from most other hotels.

Planet Hollywood hotel

On one side were MGM Grand, New York New York, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay and Luxor, while the other side boasted of the Bellagio, Paris LV, Venetian, Caesar’s Palace and Sahara. Each hotel had a unique theme and was an engineering marvel in itself, artistically designed to perfection.

One of my favourite hotels in terms of décor was Paris Las Vegas. Opulent style and fine craftsmanship impart an European sophistication to this hotel.

Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Paris Las Vegas

Authentically replicated Parisian landmarks include the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre façade, the Paris Opera House and a cobble-stoned French street at the base of the Eiffel Tower, which was home to the casino. The quaint bylanes offered myriad French dining options from cafes to creperies and boulangeries. The ceiling, which resembled the blue sky with floating specks of clouds, looked enchanting!

Another hotel which appealed to my die-hard romantic sensibilities was the Venetian, inspired by the architecture and grandeur of Venice, Italy.

Venetian hotel façade

The highlight of this hotel were the indoor and outdoor gondola rides, complete with serenading gondoliers.

Gondola rides at the Venetian

But what fascinated me most was the ‘Living Statue’ – a lady dressed and painted fully in white, resembling a statue, stands for eight hours non-stop at the centre of the hotel’s courtyard daily. When I first saw her, I mistook her for an actual statue.

Living Statue

Then I noticed a crowd of people staring at her, some cracking jokes, others passing comments to make her laugh. But she didn’t even tweak a muscle, leave alone budge an inch. The only time the ‘Living Statue’ reacted was when a tourist placed a dollar in front of her – then she smiled slightly and gave him a thumbs-up!

And of course, how can we forget the MGM Grand, which gave us a royal feeling from the minute we saw it. The massive lion statue outside the hotel’s entrance, the huge casino and spacious interiors gave it a truly ‘grand’ look.

MGM Grand

We also visited the ‘Lion Habitat’, a popular tourist attraction. Strolling through a glass tunnel with these majestic creatures prowling above and below us was a surreal experience. But the antics of the trainer were even more unbelievable. He fearlessly strode up to a sleeping lioness, lay down beside her and put his head on her back. The crowd gasped, fearing the worst. But the lioness merely grunted and playfully pushed him away with her paw. Aww… Cho chweet!

Another not-to-be-missed attraction in Vegas is the Fountain of Bellagio. It packs all the punch of Fourth of July fireworks and Disneyland Parade into one! Outside the stunning Bellagio hotel, thousands of fountains perform a magnificent aquatic ballet choreographed to music and lights.

Fountain of Bellagio

The show is set in rhythm to one of 30 classic Vegas songs. As the music plays, the jets spray water up to 200 feet in the air, making it wave and dance exactly on beat to the music.

By now, it’s obvious that in Vegas, there’s no dearth of fake famous monuments, or to put it better – precisely-moulded models of the world’s wonders.

Fake Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas

While Luxor immerses you into exotic Egypt, Caesar’s Palace transports you to ancient Rome. Excalibur resembles a medieval castle, while Mirage has its personal volcano that erupts every 15 minutes. As for New York New York, it gives you a tour of the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building all in a matter of minutes!

And if you get bored of history, you can always drop by at the Coca Cola or M&M’s store located in Showcase Mall. The World of Coca Cola Museum is the largest bottle-shaped building in the world, which sells all coca cola merchandise / memorabilia and is a collector’s dream. As for M&M’s World, well, it uses ingenuity and a whole lot of sugar to make an impression on visitors, young and old alike.

Chilling out at M&M’s World

The mouth-watering exhibit features M&M’s colourful characters on everything from T-shirts and golf-club covers to calculators and martini glasses. Four floors of retail space devoted to your favourite chocolate-covered candies? Yummy… things can’t get better than this!

But what about those who dream of making a fortune in Vegas? Well, there are options galore… From huge casinos at all the hotels, pubs and restaurants, to hundreds of slot machines at the airport itself, you can try your luck anywhere and everywhere. In fact, when we landed at Vegas airport, we saw many people rushing to the slot machines even before claiming their baggage! Money can sure make people do strange things. I, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered with learning the tricks of the ‘trade’ – after losing $2 on a slot machine with complicated rules, I swore never to gamble again. As for my husband, he kept trying his luck at various games, before calling it quits at $1,000 down (after initially striking it big)!

Casino entrance of Planet Hollywood

Nevertheless, visiting the casinos is an experience in itself. They seem never-ending, with rows after rows of slot machines, a variety of roulette and blackjack tables, huge poker rooms and scintillating pleasure pits, with beautiful women clad in sensual lingerie dealing cards, serving drinks or dancing on tables. The sounds of chips clanging together, the constant ringing of slot machines, people grooving to hip-hop music, whoops of delight followed by cries of despair – all combine to create an adrenaline-pumping atmosphere at all times of the day and night.

Talking of a charged-up environment, there’s no point going to Vegas if you’re not planning to see at least one ‘show’ – be it magic, acrobats or showgirls. We zeroed in on ‘V – The Ultimate Variety Show’, which was a mix of comedians, jugglers, acrobats, death-defying stunts and magicians. The one-hour show was a non-stop riot and entertaining to the core. The juggling act took the cake, with the performer juggling ping-pong balls – not with his hands, but with his mouth, and making them fall on a synthesiser in rapid succession to play music. The acrobats were amazing too, with one of them balancing himself on top of his partner, using only the back of his neck! So now you know why Vegas is called the Entertainment Capital of the World.

Entertainment galore in Sin City

But don’t worry. If you happen to splurge all your money on various forms of entertainment, you can walk into any of those buildings sporting sign-boards that read: ‘Bankruptcy – Free Consultation. Walk-Ins Welcome’. Didn’t I tell you – there’s something for everyone in Vegas!

Amidst all this modern, outrageous and dramatic existence, there’s a distinct air of casual hedonism and neon-bright frivolity that you’ll either love or hate with a passion. For our part, we loved it. So much so, that after celebrating life at Las Vegas, we proceeded to the city that celebrates celebrities – Los Angeles! Read all about it in ‘Part 2: Los Angeles’.


(Note: A modified and shortened version of the above article was published in the ET Travel section of The Economic Times on April 10, 2008. I have reproduced the original version here for the reading pleasure of fellow Ghumakkars.)



  • naina says:

    Brilliant article. I have never been to las vegas but its like I have seen it thru your article.. Lovely.. I can’t wait for part 2..

  • Shilpa says:

    Naveena ..the article is really well written ..I have been to Vegas twice ..and it reminded me of all the fabulous casinos and hotels I hv seen ther e… cheers…!!!

  • ram dhall says:

    Thanks for taking us on a virtual tour of Las Vegas.

    After reading through this brilliant write up, it seems I have just come back from Vegas.

    Shall await the next part of the story.

  • Once again Naveena , Beautiful and Wonderful article.

    I wait for posts of some authors in ghumakkar and you are one of them.

    Pictures are ultimate once again showing all the colors of Las Vegas.

    Best part of the post for me was that living statue standing continuously for eight hours. I still don’t believe it. I literally tried to hold myself in that position . couldn’t do it for a single minute.

    Eagerly waiting for next part……………………..

    • Naveena Israni says:

      Thank you so much Vishal ji! Your support and appreciation means a lot to me.

      Hope I can continue to live upto your expectations in future as well :-)

      Yes the Living Statue was really phenomenal… you had to see it to believe it!

  • DEEPAK VANEY says:

    Reading article together with dear Satyan’s Photography has made us younger by 28 years younger when I and Neelam had visited Vegas. Keep it up.

  • DEEPAK VANEY says:

    Reading article together with dear Satyan’s Photography has made us younger by 28 years when I and Neelam had visited Vegas. Keep it up.

    • Naveena Israni says:

      Thank you so much! It’s really sweet that you could relive your younger days through this article :-)

  • Bapu Nagar says:

    Wow! Wish I can write like you. Excellent article! I was in Vegas last week from work and just got back home on May 12th. I second on the ‘shows’ you mentioned. I saw ‘Ka’ and ‘David Copperfield’ in MGM grand and they were superb! I also visited Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon from Vegas and would highly recommend to anyone visiting Vegas. Both parks have very beautiful short hikes. Vegas – Zion – Bryce is around 260 miles one way and can be easily visited in two days by spending a night at Bryce Canyon.
    About the Casino, there is/was(did not check this time) “Brahmaji’s Statue” outside of Caesar Casino. Also, restaurants and decode inside Caesar is very nice.

    • Naveena Israni says:

      Thanks Mr Nagar! Am glad you liked it.

      And thanks for sharing the information on Zion and Bryce Canyon. Will try and see these places next time I visit Vegas, though I did visit Grand Canyon this time.


  • Sulagna says:

    Thumbs up to your article and Satyan’s photography…. always a pleasure to read . I get to visit all places over and over again when I read your articles !

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I know this sounds cliched but I did get a new perspective of Vegas after reading this article. May be, it is a fleeting feeling since I just read this but Vegas looks promising. Much more than a casino hub.

    Would it make more sense to create a single series of all of your US posts ?

    • Naveena Israni says:

      Thanks Nandan! Am glad I could provide some new insight into Vegas. For me, the casinos were hardly an attraction. I found the other things much more alluring.

      Even I had toyed with the idea of a single series on USA, but the places seemed too different and far apart to put them under a single series. Maybe in hindsight I should have done that…

      Anyway, LA is the last of my USA posts. So I have nothing more to add in USA for now.

      Warm Regards,

  • Manish Kumar says:

    Hmmm till now I have seen Vegas in Holywood movies, nice to see it with ur eyes. Beautiful pics..

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Really good article, but excited to know if any trick to make money from that Slot machines. Next time please try more than Tonnie.


    • Naveena Israni says:

      Thanks for the suggestion Mr Sharma! But I don’t think there’s any trick… my husband learnt it the hard way :)

  • M .S.Kanwal says:

    Your revised article is much more interesting,with pictures,the narrative and description vived.

  • ashok sharma says:

    nice story,good pics

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