The year is coming to a close and it's always a good time to look back and think forward. Looking back, my version of Las Vegas takes place in a weird time for the city: between eras. I’m considered a younger person from Generation X. That makes me too old to be a millennial and too young to be a baby boomer. I found Las Vegas in between the golden era and the modern era.
Sure, Las Vegas is still mine but I’m thinking about my peak years of visiting Vegas when everything was new and amazing to me. It's taken awhile, but I think I know what to expect in all parts of Las Vegas since I've now lived here for seven years. Every step doesn’t have the wonder it once had. There’s nothing wrong with my view today but it’s not the same as it was exploring a new city.
I hear many of my peers and slightly elders reminiscing about the glory days of Las Vegas. I wasn’t around for the Rat Pack or pre-corporate Las Vegas. I started visiting Las Vegas just as Stardust and New Frontier were closing. Casino companies like Harrah’s (now Caesars Entertainment) and MGM/Mirage (now MGM Resorts International) were just becoming the massive corporations you know today.
I missed Dunes, Sands, Hacienda and Desert Inn. I didn’t visit O’Sheas, Riviera, and Sahara until just before each closed and they had seen better days by the time I was visiting Las Vegas regularly. My peak Vegas era probably started in the late 1990’s. The south end of the Vegas Strip was still new and Bellagio was just opening. By today’s standards, this would be like first visiting Las Vegas when Aria and the Cosmopolitan just opened.
Ahhhh... the good ole days when Vegas Vacation was a new movie. It looks much older than 20 years but that’s probably another story for another day. Between that movie and the remake of Ocean's 11 a few years later there was no lack of Las Vegas in my life. I didn't see Casino (GASP!) until many years later.
Visiting Las Vegas was always a luxury. My friends and I always looked for experiences we couldn’t have at home. With that in mind, I can see that Vegas hasn’t changed all that much over the years. We knew that everything on the Vegas Strip cost more than at home and were fine with it. We saved money so that we could enjoy gambling and some finer dining than we’d have at home. Besides a fee for everything, the Vegas Strip hasn't changed all that much price wise.
Thankfully, I grew up with friends that knew how to budget their money. Nobody ever lost their bankroll gambling in one session so we could all enjoy everything Las Vegas had to offer for the entire trip. We all played similar limits at the tables and sports bets were based on how much anyone wanted to risk since that didn’t affect anyone else.
I still sometimes play the role of “visitor” in Sin City when wanting a vacation. I know that my trips to the Vegas Strip will cost more than going to a casino in the burbs or in downtown Las Vegas. It’s always been that way and it will be that way moving forward. This isn’t new to me so I guess I’m happy not experiencing the Rat Pack era and the $1.99 buffet. There are still plenty of deals to be found and the lights on the Vegas Strip are as bright as ever.
I love knowing Las Vegas as a tourist and as a local. I can find the best of both worlds. Some days I'm fine overpaying for delicious steak in a great location. Other days, I can find a different delicious steak at half the price. Las Vegas has changed for me over the years but I still look at the Vegas Strip with that glimmer I had back when I was jammin’ to Ludacris and Destiny’s Child.