Viva Las Vegas

A little known fact about Las Vegas: there is a campground on “the Strip”. There’s a wall around most of it for security and sound-dampening, so if you’re not looking for it, you probably wouldn’t see it. But nevertheless, there is a large parking lot behind Circus Circus, and it’s run by KOA.

Really there’s very little about camping on the Strip that would usually be described as camping, outside of the fact that we lived in our camper. There is no grass, dirt, trees, or anything else that can be described as natural. When we tell people that we camped on the Vegas Strip, most of them laugh and seem slightly confused.

Our “campsite” with Circus Circus in the background
Pop-up campers were not so common here. Most of our neighbors were in RVs. 

But camp we did, for two nights. I had read somewhere that Vegas had been trying to redo its image into more of a family destination, and that there was therefore lots of family-friendly stuff to do. We had lists. They were outdated. Apparently the “family friendly” image didn’t work out so well, so Vegas is back to selling itself as an adult playground. I suppose if you’re good at something, it’s best to stick to that.

Not that there weren’t families there, and not that we didn’t find fun things that were family-friendly. We walked the Strip during the day (when the casinos don’t have strippers dancing in cages that are visible from the sidewalk), down to the Bellagio and saw the fountain show and their indoor gardens. Classy. If I were ever forced to stay in a hotel in Vegas, I’d chose the Bellagio (though I doubt I could afford it).img_2575.jpg

The fountain shows are impressive!

Emelie loved it except she didn’t want to stand too close because she didn’t like the sounds it made as it shot the water up into the air. If you look closely, she’s wearing her “ballerina skirt” over her sundress. A girl on the Strip has to dress up!

Indoor gardens with live classical music. Classy.

We drove a bit off the Strip to the Silverton Hotel and Casino to see their mermaid show. This was a hit with the girl-child, that’s for sure.

Even mermaids have to decorate for Halloween!
There were breathing stations scattered throughout the aquarium so the poor girl could breathe every now and then. Here she caught one of the fish in her hands and is showing it to the kids… and tickling it? Blowing kisses to Emelie. We tried to get a picture of Emelie and the mermaid that has Emelie’s face in it. The mermaid even posed for us. Emelie would not take her eyes off the mermaid to turn and look at the camera.img_2567.jpgThat face says it all. The poor thing cried when the mermaid went away!

The M&M store had a free 3-D movie starring Red and Yellow, which turned out to have a bit of a Halloween feel to it and the sound effects in those 10 minutes gave poor Emelie nightmares for a few days. Oops.

img_3158.jpgShe loved the glasses. And she was so funny trying to catch the things coming at her when the movie first started (before the scary sounds came).

But just experiencing Vegas during the day seemed to us to be missing 90% of what Vegas is. So in the two nights we were there, we each got a chance to go out and explore after dark, while the other stayed at “home” with the kids. I was more than a little bit nervous about going out on a Friday night by myself. A woman alone in the dark in Sin City? But the alternative was to miss it. So out I went. The first thing I realized was that it is never dark in Las Vegas. The light changes from natural to artificial, but it isn’t dark. The other thing is that no one looks twice at someone walking around in a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. Not when all the other women walk around dressed like they’re going to the prom, drinking neon beverages out of enormous Eiffel Tower cups that make them unable to walk in their stilettos. I walked through a few casinos, and even gambled a few dollars here and there, mostly to have an excuse to sit down when I got tired of walking.

img_3156.jpgThe Strip at night. It was so crowded it was hard to walk or even move sometimes. 

I felt completely out of place, and probably looked it too. Being there just made me sad, especially to realize how quickly money disappears into those machines and at those tables. And yet people sit there for hours. And the casinos are full. All of them. And there are plenty of them. All around me were people throwing their hard-earned money away, not to mention their dignity and self-respect. No, I am simply not comfortable in a place whose economy is based on gambling, sex and alcohol. And I’m ok with that.

On Sunday morning we went to church at Central Christian Church, a large church with a focus on ministry to people who are lost in that mess somewhere. It wasn’t my favorite church we visited, but I have enormous respect for their ministry to the people are around them who are struggling and hurting. We were much happier to put our money in their offering plate than into a draw poker machine.

There are few places that we visited along our trip where we felt finished when we left. So many times, as we got in the car to leave, we said, “When we come back here someday…”. But Las Vegas is one of the places that we “finished”. We saw what we wanted to see, we satisfied our curiosity, we had the experience.

Campground Review: Las Vegas KOA

Price: $97 for 2 nights. Not cheap. But cheaper than any of the hotels around us for sure.
Location: Right on the Strip, for better and for worse. Convenient to walk, although it’s a bit far to walk to the north end of the Strip. And not exactly quiet at night, as you can imagine.
Facilities: All the standard KOA facilities. A nice pool/hot tub area which we enjoyed. A good playground. Bathrooms were fine. They had laundry, though we didn’t use it, and good wifi connections.
Site-description: Paved, paved, paved. It’s literally a parking lot with large enough spaces for an RV, and water spigots/electrical outlets between sites.
Neighborhood: Diverse doesn’t begin to cover it.
Comments: If you adjust your expectations to a “campground” on the Vegas Strip, you won’t be disappointed. This isn’t a visit to a national park and it doesn’t really feel like “camping” but it’s convenient. Besides, it’s all a part of the experience!

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