A nattily-attired bellman promptly greets us as we park our baggage in the bustling foyer of the 5,000-room MGM Grand Hotel. High-definition screens above the rows of hotel registration personnel projects flashing images of Robin Williams, The Police, Jimmy Buffett and a myriad of world class boxers, mixed martial artists and entertainers set to invade the hotel's numerous entertainment venues in the coming months.
Meanwhile, tourists dart about the packed foyers' marble floors, some posing alongside the hotel's majestic centerpiece lion for a digital shot for posterity. Others check out the hypnotically alluring sounds from countless slot machines and blackjack tables a few steps away. This is Las Vegas; my wife and I are here for our 25th
anniversary, and we made the right choice. The city that never sleeps defies us from the moment we arrive to sample its many delights, an impossible task in a five-day span.
Outside, the hot, dry air beckons us to take in the sights of the 6.4 kilometre (four mile) Strip - whether it be the famed Tropicana, replicas of international icons such as the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building or simply a chat with the natives.
"Do you want to take my picture," an affable, burly bicycle cop asks. "I made it to CNN last week so it would be great to have my face show up somewhere in Canada."
For tired feet, the best transportation option is the monorail - a speedy eco-friendly service behind the resorts that jets passengers along a 6.3-kilometre (3.9 mile) stretch to all destinations from Bally's to Harrah's, Caesar's, the MGM Grand and back again in a twinkling of an eye. The environmental crowd is pleased to learn that the monorail usage eliminates 4.4 million auto trips for a 135 ton reduction of carbon monoxide. In a flash, it takes us to the Romanesque wonders of Caesar's Palace - its bold Tuscan columns and towering statues, fountains under painted skies and wonders such as the Temple, Neptune and Venus Pools.
Then, there are culinary concerns - what and where to dine. Our curious taste buds lead us to the affordable Rainforest Café - steps away from the Grand Lions Habitat - where dining momentarily pauses at timed intervals for a synthesized thunder storm. There's Dinner at Emeril New Orleans Fish House and Planet Hollywood's famed Spice Market Buffet.
Our theatrical experience begins on a winning note with Spamalot, an engaging musical comedy based on the Monty Python troupe's search for the Holy Grail, starring the "ridiculously handsome" (as one poster informed us) John O'Hurley (of Seinfeld fame) as King Arthur. While the show recently ended its run at the Grail Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas, the good-natured antics of a talented cast tackling Eric Idle's witty medieval dialogue proves to be a genuine crowd-pleaser.
The following evening, we prepare ourselves for a late night show - an extravaganza we had literally planned our celebration around. The
question - would it live up to its hype? As we eased ourselves into one of the 2,013 plush seats strategically positioned around Mirage's Love Theatre's centre stage, it is clear Cirque du Soleil's Love was to be an unforgettable entertainment highlight of our Vegas trek - an energetic, awe-inspiring spectacle guaranteed to linger long past departure. Not simply a quaint musical trek down memory lane or a fleeting glance at those swingin' 60s, this was a unique journey into an unchartered world of sight and sound inspired by two artistic entities from different eras: Liverpool's Beatles and the Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil.
Surrounded by carefully selected visual images of the Fab Four on two massive walls above us, we are transfixed by the brilliantly re-mastered music that dominates an earlier epoch and appears destined to enchant yet another generation. All those joyful sounds emanating from the three speakers within our seats magically married to Cirque's jaw-dropping, gravity-defying acrobatics leaves the audience - young and old - wide-eyed and mesmerized. One offers a simple, "Man, that was awesome!"
Not expecting to top that experience, the plan is nonetheless to end the celebration on another high note - taking in the manic energies of ageless Tom Jones, who at 68 was about to prove to those gathered in the MGM Grand's cozy 740-seat Hollywood Theatre that he can
shake it with the best of them. With a sizzling horn section, lead guitarist, bassist, pianist and solid-as-a-rock drummer, he makes it abundantly clear throughout his vigorous set. But this isn't just a chance for those thrill-seeking grannies to hurl various pieces of lingerie at the bemused Welsh singer.
Before Jones launches into his classics and tries a few modern numbers, we quiz a trio of young gents at our table about their unusual choice of evening entertainment. "My parents, named me after him," one says in a decidedly British accent. "Yes, my name is Tom." From a different generation, perhaps but their feet tap and their hands clap wildly as the singer and his band saunter off the stage after a final encore.
What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay there - yet much of that glitter and glamour sticks for days, weeks and months after.
Geoff Dale is a freelance business/travel/agricultural and entertainment writer & photographer based in Woodstock, Ontario. He is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets including The London Free Press and Better Farming and writes profiles on Newfoundlanders for the Transcontinental Media chain in St. John's and Grand Falls-Windsor in Newfoundland.