This weekend, we flew to Vegas for about 30 hours, to celebrate our friend’s 50th birthday. We’ve been doing this basic trip to Vegas and back since we were in our 20s. This was the first time we’d been in at least five years.
Turns out the Vegas you visit when you’re 50 and don’t drink is VERY different from the Vegas you went fucking bananas in when you were in your 20s. We pre-gamed Saturday night with a nap, went to a fancy dinner and a fantastic show, and then really went nuts with two desserts: cake pops in the restaurant, and then gelato in the casino.
Off. The. Chain.
I bet on the Kings to win, which they did. I ended Saturday night $19.05 ahead, and I was asleep before midnight.
Sunday, we went to the Rio (WOW it has really fallen into … wow) to play KISS mini golf, and visit this museum that a cynical Gen X punk who doesn’t particularly care for KISS (Strutter notwithstanding) could maybe call a monument to Gene Simmons’ willingness to license his name to literally anything in the world.
Here’s the thing. The best time I had during my 30ish hours in Vegas? It was playing stupid KISS mini golf. It wasn’t even a good mini golf course; it was just stupid fun with my best friend and two of our closest friends in the world.
I got a hole in one, and I ended with the lowest score, so we memorialized the occasion in the appropriate way:
When we were walking to our gate at the airport, Anne and I talked about how different the experience was for us, compared to the way it was when we were younger. I initially thought I’d outgrown Vegas, but I don’t think that’s right. I think that I’m just not that interested in what Vegas has to offer, and that’s totally fine. I don’t like to gamble and I don’t drink, so I’m not exactly in the demo, right? But we still had a GREAT time, and I think that, if we choose to go in the future, it’ll be similar to this trip: a fancy meal, a great show, and we’re back in the Valley before anyone notices we were ever gone.
33 thoughts on “rock at your own risk”
This makes me happy. I love that instead of finding yourself disillusioned with “something that used to be awesome” you just found it awesome in a different way.
Your photo caption made me think of this pretty cool mashup: https://youtu.be/S5s3QSrRsQ4 (DJ Cummerbund – Rock & Roll Until a Reasonable Hour. Mashup of The Commodores’ “Easy” and KISS’ “Rock and Roll All Nite”)
“Turns out the Vegas you visit when you’re 50 and don’t drink is VERY different from the Vegas you went fucking bananas in when you were in your 20s.”
“I don’t like to gamble and I don’t drink…”
100% why I’ve never stayed in Vegas. I’ve driven through parts of it, but never had cause to stop. Maybe if some rare show by a reclusive artist ends up there or something, but otherwise, I’m too 51 years old for that shit. Also, as fellow Gen X punk, I roll my eyes at KISS, as well – and my secret shameful KISS fave is “Fits Like A Glove”.
Just to say its wonderful for ‘older’ folks to be reminded that we can have fun doing simple and good things, funny and silly things and still count ourselves as responsible enough to get a decent night’s sleep. Joy is where you make it. Vegas is as good a place as any to be young at heart. Thanks Wil.
I miss 90’s vegas when there was a big focus on the kitschy and family friendly activities. Hotels that look like pyramids and castles are the Vegas that I love!
If you like pinball, go to the Pinball Museum next time you are in Vegas. It’s a heck of a collection.
We go to Vegas regularly to visit family, and we’ve found we spend way more time enjoying the natural scenery outside of town way more than anything on the strip. A nice walk along the Las Vegas Wash or a trip to Red Rock Canyon is more my speed.
I do enjoy the restaurants on the strip though. Some out of this world food to be had there.
People who don’t live in Vegas often believe that roughly 80% of Las Vegas is dedicated to the Strip. 20% comprises everything else.
Those who do live in Las Vegas know that 20% comprises the Strip and 80% everything else.
Next time you’re in Vegas, skip the strip and go to the Pinball Museum! it’s great. so many pinball and upright video games from all decades, and they are all in working order and playable! (quarter machine at the front, just like you remember.)
Well…some of them are in working order.
But it did have a coin-op “Mr. Do” game…
A left-handed golf club guitarist! I’m impressed!
Are there actually good mini golf courses? I always thought most of the experience is about who you go with. The one in my town is indoors because it’s Alaska and it’s decorated with glow-in-the-dark/blacklight reactive paint but the holes are kind of shit. It’s still fun to go just because everyone gets silly. We make our own fun.
FWIW, I’ve never gone to Vegas and come home without being sick. Like in bed for a few days sick. I don’t gamble or drink, either. I finally got tired of spending time recuperating instead of remembering an amazing trip, which to be honest, rarely ever was amazing.
I look upon it as outgrowing the experience. 🙂
My approach to Vegas has changed with age too, but less to “I don’t like what Vegas has to offer” and more to “You can keep the gambling, drinking and clubs; I’m off to the 13 national parks that are within a 6 hour drive of the city.” It’s a fantastic hub for desert outdoors adventure that most people don’t realize because they’re distracted by the weird hellmouth that is the strip. My last trip I landed in Vegas, picked up a campervan, and hit Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion (with lots of amazing stops in between) and I liked it so much I’m going to go live in Vegas for a year so I can get those parks in different seasons.
I’m impressed to see you masked up. I still wear my N95 whenever I go anywhere indoors that isn’t my house or a friend’s house, and I’m pretty much the only person I see wearing a mask.
So….. I know you’re a big punk guy…. this has me super excited, and I’m trying to figure our who I want a guided tour from: https://www.etix.com/ticket/e/1032615/the-punk-rock-museum-guided-tours-las-vegas-the-punk-rock-museum Like… a guided tour from CJ RAMONE??!?!?!?!? And they’ll let you play the band equipment that was donated.
The museum just recently opened. Depending on the day, different legends of punk and/or punk bands provide the tours .
I saw Kiss live in concert in… 88, or 90? I don’t remember. lol it was a long time ago. I was a little more metal than punk then, but still disenfranchised. 😉 There are so many things to do in Vegas and the surrounding area besides gamble and drink. The one time I’ve been, I was meeting my World of Warcraft guildmates in real life. How’s that for nerdy! More than a dozen of us met up for dinner and shopping and just hanging out. It was so much fun! We had t-shirts made, and hats! I’m still friends with some of them both in game and out via social media.
Anyway, I’m glad you guys had fun, and I appreciate all of your posts, and writings, and I’m a big fan from the “teen idol” days (your pages from Teen and Tiger Beat were torn out and pasted all over my walls. I’m embarrassed that I’m telling you that, but I do so in the hope that you’ll laugh about it with me.
So yeah, keep being real. I see you, and appreciate you.
If you end up out there again, go out to Red Rock Canyon. Fantastic. You already know anything by Cirque du Soleil, even if you’ve already seen that particular show, and the Neon Museum is pretty cool. The Cosmopolitan has a unique and wonderful buffet, and they have repurposed old cigarette machines to sell ART. Vegas is still fun but in a different way, as you noted!
Note that reservations are now needed to get into the park proper. But the Calico Basin remains open. It’s an impressive place to do all things hiking/exploring/scrambling.
Vegas resident here. The city has changed very deliberately in the past ten years. I can’t say for the better. But not for the worse, either.
The Pinball Hall of Fame still shines (when Tim has the machines working). Last year Particle Inc’s “Speed of Dark” was amazing, located in the Arts District. You did…ummm…check out the Arts District? Town Square is cool. Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group remain astounding. And although Fremont Street has become the equivalent of the county fair with lights, East Fremont has become this trendy, stylish stretch of land.
Less visible are those fun, cool bits and pieces that give the Strip its pop and pizazz. They’re still there, but you have to know where to find them now. But why stay there when Red Rock, Valley of Fire, Zion, and Mt. Charleston are so close?
Nobody local believes that the Rio is anything of a hot spot. The once-entertaining main area in the casino, where live bands would play funky tunes while giant Mardi Gras faces would float by overhead, is now a dark tomb. The “Kiss” mini golf is just bad. The only worthy part to the whole place is the convention center, and only for one week in the summertime when the “Trek” convention lives there. Parking is free, and the quick walk over the 15 to LV Blvd. is good for meeting daily step quotas.
Still, Vegas is the best city around. No congestion. No overpopulation. Live entertainment line no other. Weather is all blue sky and sun for ten months of the year. The streets follow a very deliberate north-to-south and east-to-west grid. They’re also wide—you don’t feel compressed. There’s no hardcore crime. Gangs don’t prowl the streets. Henderson, Summerlin, Green Valley, and Centennial Hills are heaven. I could go on…but this post already sounds like a travel brochure.
Most of my visits to Vegas were in the 80s, when I was in grad school in Salt Lake City. In SLC, the drinks were awful and everyone looked alike. Vegas was the place where good food was dirt cheap and even the cheap drinks weren’t bad, and if you didn’t gamble, you could have an amazing time people-watching without spending much. I loved it.
I’ve only been back a couple of times since then, but I’d happily go again (still not gambling). The food isn’t cheap any more, but the people-watching is still terrific, and I can afford to see the shows.
We went through the Star Trek Experience in 2002, and loved it — there were costumed characters hired to entertain the folks in line. We could see the Luxor from our much less expensive hotel, and it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. (Most of the really OTT hotels hadn’t been built yet when I first visited, so all that was new to me.)
This is pretty much me since forever. But even moreso now. I’ll go to Vegas for a car race or a show and that’s about it.
As another fifty something Gen Xer, can I just say I’m impressed that you can still wear Chuck Taylors and actually stand up at the end of the day? I think Converse and Doc Marten have both missed out by not offering a Gen X orthopedic line.
For the longest, longest time I thought the words to that song were: “I want to rock and roll all night, and part of every day”. Even as a kid the thought of partying every day seemed a bit much.
Reading your blog always makes me reflect — I’ve only been to Vegas once, in 2015, and it was a work trip. I was involved in a client’s activation for SEMA, so I saw Vegas in it’s real-time-study-of-human-condition-night-mode, and wasn’t really impressed. I don’t drink either, nor do I gamble, so it’s not really designed for me either. That said, I am a designer, I create experiences for humans, so why was I not gobsmacked by the 100% fantastically designed bacchanalian experience that made everything seem glamorous/possible/improbable? On reflection, I think it’s because the reality of it’s rather carnal purpose-idea depressed me. All this creative energy and talent devoted to encouraging our demons rather than our better angels seemed personally to me like a wasted opportunity. That said, I know others in my profession that’ve jumped at the chance to design for shows in Vegas, and they did amazing work. I’m proud of them even though it’s not for me.
I’m happy that others love to “go to Vegas,” but not me. And that’s okay.
There is an absolutely stellar natural history museum in Vegas, and the Musem of Sex…. museum nerd here.
Don’t forget about the Mob Museum just off of Fremont street. Also the national Atomic Testing Museum near UNLV. So many amazing experiences
I was in Vegas last weekend too. My favorite thing was Omega Mart (The Meow Wolf installation at Area 15). I 100% recommend a trip to Vegas to see it (and maybe trips to all other other MW installations around the country).
I have to ask, what is that little electronic game under the lunchbox on the Ready Room set? It is always running in the background and looks cool.
It’s galaga! In my game room, where we filmed during lockdown, I have a Qbert just like that, which my nephew gave me. When we moved into the studio, we put Galaga there to pay homage.
Meow Wolf/Omega Mart was a fantastic experience the last time I was in Vegas, very surreal but entertaining art experience. The Millenium Fandom is a fun nerd bar and I bet everyone would flip their lids if you walked in. And I’ve had some amazing food in holes int he wall and strip malls off the Strip. Really the secret key to Vegas is that (with enough funds) you can make it whatever you want it to be, and it doesn’t have to involve drinking or gambling at all.
I don’t gamble or drink either and I still enjoy Vegas. It is a people-watcher’s paradise! Now I’ll need to try mini-golfing, too.