By Ellen Creager
Detroit Free Press (TNS)
Things here are getting stranger all the time.
This is a city where someone actually thought, “Hey, let’s have people jump off the top of our hotel on a vertical zip line.” Where someone said, “Forget about strip shows, let’s have day clubs with topless pools where we charge male tourists a lot of money to stare at female tourists.” Cha-ching! It worked.
Las Vegas is building a pro hockey arena on the Strip. Ice skating in the desert? No problem.
It also decided it absolutely, positively had to have a giant observation wheel that lights up pink and purple at night – and voila! The High Roller became a reality.
This city shows what money can do. Enough money, and anything is possible: bizarre dreams and odd quests and strange sights. The music is constant and pulsing here. I saw three showgirls on break standing on the sidewalk eating pizza in the dark, their feather headdresses resting on the grass like sleeping birds. I saw a couple emerging from the Little Vegas Wedding Chapel, the bride’s long dress slashed to a miniskirt in front.
In Las Vegas, even the puppets don’t want to leave.
In an act at the Mirage Hotel and Casino by ventriloquist Terry Fator, puppet Winston is lured by glamorous Hollywood, only to find it so stressful he has to retreat to quieter Vegas.
Turtles will always be turtles. But for humans, the whole point of Las Vegas is to pretend to be someone you never were and never will be, if only for the weekend.
IN ON THE SECRET
This trip, I am staying at Hotel 32, a little-known boutique lodging high atop the Monte Carlo Hotel.
It has just 51 rooms, separate check-in, a view of the shimmering Strip and little chocolates served on small white trays.
I have a personal concierge who called me two days before I arrived to ask if I needed anything.
Book a suite, and they even will pick you up in a limo from the airport.
My studio room cost $258 a night, including resort fees and taxes, about $200 more than a regular room at the Monte Carlo, which can start as low as $49 a night.
And guess what? Las Vegas is actually full of these secret hotels.
Caesars Palace has the tiny Nobu Hotel inside its vast white edifice. MGM has the Skylofts, a separate small hotel within the blocky blue exterior of its massive resort. Mandalay Bay has the Four Seasons.
Why do they do it? Snob appeal.
The Monte Carlo is a huge, beige resort wedged next to the kitschy New York New York Hotel. It caters to the budget-minded. So why pay for Hotel 32? Well, you get your own elevator, and that’s cool. I also sweep past the long check-in lines into the hushed VIP room, where they check me in in two minutes.
Upstairs, they have a lounge with snacks and breakfast so you don’t have to mingle with the riffraff below.
And isn’t that the whole point? To avoid the riffraff?
Except that in Las Vegas, it turns out to be sort of boring to sit in your expensive hotel room staring out the window on the 32nd floor instead of wandering amid the riffraff below, who seem to be having a whole lot more fun than you are.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
So was it worth it to stay at the exclusive boutique hotel? Yes and no.
Hotel 32 (about $250 a night) is a bargain compared with MGM’s Skylofts (about $900 a night), so it was certainly a reasonable choice.
It was quiet. It had beautiful teal drapes and furniture. The service was excellent.
But glamorous? Not really. Not enough to make the extra expense worthwhile.