1. Speed: The Ride is a hoot.
Ten bucks for one ride or twenty bucks for all the rides you can handle. I don't need to tell you which option I chose.
I've always been a fan of Premiere's LIM-launched rides, even if the only other ones I've done were in Six Flags parks so I had to wait a zillion hours for the quick, 60 minute zoomfest. Their launches are exhilirating and they're intense but smooth. But to tell the truth, both The Chiller and Mr. Freeze are pretty much cut and dry: Launch, inversion, spike, reverse, go back. (ok, there's a bit of business after Freeze's inversion with curves, but that's OK.) Speed gets to do a wee bit more, which is nice.
The ride launches you into a near-inverted curve, then a plunge thru a tunnel into the loop, and then a second LIM so you zoom around a building and up into the spike. And folks, it's the most beautiful vertical spike it has ever been my pleasure to float up and down, mostly because of the Strip-at-night view around me. While the overall shuttle experience is about the same length as any other shuttle ride, it's a hell of a lot of fun. Intense and, oddly enough, smooth, at least in the front seat of the cars. Sitting on the left side was the best because you come quite close to the Sahara in that curve between the second LIM and the spike. Bonus points for getting the Stratosphere in your view as you're going around the loop. Yeah, I had a lot of fun, rode it five or so times, and enjoyed it in spite of the NASCAR Cafe atmosphere. (C'mon, on one wall you've got a shrine to Dead Dale Earnhardt, and on the other wall you've got a picture of Live Dale Earnhardt shilling for Coke.)
2. Treasure Island sucks out loud.
The casino used to rule because you must agree that piratical themes can rule when done right. The outdoor pirate ship battle with the sinking ships and the cannon fire and the rope swinging and the n'hey (designed by an ex-Imagineer, I'll have you know) has been replaced with an outdoor ship show featuring tits 'n ass. THE SIRENS or something. Whatever. Now I know the casino was built when Vegas was under the delusion that it could turn itself into some kind of family-friendly vacation destination, and I know the show ran for ten years or what have you, and I know that Steve Wynn sold the casino to someone else who then apparently decided to change the theme from PIRATES to, uh, TREASURE just as a personal F-You to Steve, but seriously. The new logo that replaced the gigantic skull 'n crossbones sign looks like a goddamn cellular company logo than a casino logo. And calling yourself "Ti"? Please. The Desert Inn got away with being "DI" because it was a venerable institution. Treasure Island does not get that luxury but makes the presumption anyway. (And now the Desert Inn is GONE, so the entire damn thing is moot.)
But, see, pirates aren't necessarily a "kiddie" theme. I mean, look at Circus Circus if you can -- you think that's entirely For The Kids? Them clowns is scary. The best themes in Vegas are Money and Opulence. In no particular order. (Exotic Vacation Destinations rounds out the Top Three and I think Sex is up there somewhere too, but nobody's made a SEXIE CASINO yet.) Paris, Bellagio, Monte Carlo, Venetian, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, New York New York, each prizes opulence and money above all else. Pirates exude both to a certain extent, though I will admit more Money than Opulence -- but then again, Tortuga wasn't bad. A nice Tortuga-themed casino, now...
Anyway. The theme change went thru right before Pirates of the Caribbean made pirates cool again, so they really missed the, er, boat on that one. And Steve Wynn has responded with the ultimate F-You, a gigantic monolithic shiny bronze/copper colored sail of a hotel going up nearly across the street from the Treasure Island. So more power to him. I enjoy Mr. Wynn's work very much so I can't wait to come back and see what the Wynn's all about.
3. I'm not so crazy about the Bellagio or the Monte Carlo, either.
The Bellagio is a wee bit too pretentious and ostentatious (oh hey) for me. Besides, the Conservatory was closed for renovations so there went the entire point of going. Goddamn renovations. The Monte Carlo looks great from the outside but inside, uh, it looks like a Mediterranean Foxwoods. Didn't care too much for it. I liked the Mandalay Bay, as Trump-YOOGE as it is, but they could stand to lay off the coconut scent. I need to get back to Red Square for some vodka but it was closed. We did get to the shark reef exhibit, which was great. Not only is the setting beautifully themed, with ruined sunken temples and underwater pirate ships that you walk through and big tubes so sharks swim all around you, but they had a hammerhead shark! And a giant turtle! And a big tub o' moon jellyfish that gave everybody the heebie-jeebies. So much recommended is the Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay.
4. Penny slots are trashy but fun.
I don't bet much at the casinos (I seriously am here just to ride the rolly-coaster and mess around) but I made six bucks off a Men In Black penny slot machine. You're supposed to play the penny slots while chain-smoking and talking about your grandchildren, I guess, but I had fun with the game anyway. Slots in Vegas have turned into video games. Not only are there licensed slot machines for every non-kids' television and movie franchise out there (SNL? MASH?!) but the game is video-like, there are Bonus Rounds for extra credits, and all the bells and whistles you wish other games had. Only this game you just hit one button and lose money. Except for me, I made six bucks. Which I then put in my pocket and walked away with.
Ok, more tomorrow. Maybe. Time to find some food.