Bet on Nonstop Fun
Sports have been a staple for Las Vegas.
They just haven’t been a staple in Las Vegas. Oh, there were prize fights. Some big-time college basketball games, too. A basketball All-Star Game was played here a few years back.
Then hockey came to town and now there’s a pro-football team that relocated there last year, and this year, will open its new stadium up to fans when it hosts Seattle in the first preseason game.
And if there’s one thing Las Vegas knows how to do it’s how to host visitors.
So here’s an opportunity to visit Las Vegas, watch a football game and maybe go to New York, New York. You know, the casino that’s modeled after the Big Apple right down to the roller coaster from Coney Island. Or steal off to Paris for some French-themed accommodations.
I grew up in Southern Oregon. I became a grown-up in Las Vegas, though. Or at least learned what grown-up vacation felt like when I went to Las Vegas in March 2004 with a collection of high-school friends. The first of us turned 30 that year, and we had reached the point in our lives in which we took an adult vacation by which I mean our calculus included comfort as opposed to trying to cram as many people as possible into a single room reservation.
We stayed at the Bellagio that weekend, which coincided with the first two rounds of college-basketball’s annual tournament. We ate steak for dinner. We stayed up late. We spent a chunk of each afternoon in the pool hoping the desert sun would cook some recovery into our bones. It felt like we had graduated to the class of men with discretionary income and friends to enjoy it with.
Plenty of people come to Las Vegas to gamble. Not me. Well, I like to be around gambling, I like to watch it. I like to see the kind of development it bankrolls. I love seeing all the amenities that surround it, but one of the truths I’ve discovered about myself is that I don’t actually enjoy the activity of gambling itself. I’m nervous to the point of anxious when I’m winning. I feel physical discomfort in my stomach if I’m losing.
But I love coming to Las Vegas because this is a city built to serve whatever taste you might have. The food is not only delicious, but it is innovative. Butter-poached steak? You got it at Stripsteak, Michael Mina’s restaurant located in the Mandalay Bay. Mexican and Chinese food not so much combined as paired together? Check out China Poblano in the Cosmopolitan, which offers noodles AND tacos.
I celebrated my 40th birthday in Las Vegas. My more significant other surprised me with a trip. I thought we were driving north to Vancouver B.C., but instead she turned onto I-5 South from Seattle. We drove to the airport and boarded an Alaska Air flight to Las Vegas where she had a reservation at the Mandarin Oriental. We ate steaks that night. We stayed up late. Breakfast was delivered to the room the next day, Sunday morning, in a cart that included a warming tray containing an assortment of pastries. It was positively decadent.
From there we went to the sports book to watch the day’s football games. This was before pro football came to town, though. Because now? Now, you can go to a game.
Arrival: There are two things that make McCarran Airport (LAS) exceptionally convenient, the first being its proximity. The airport is about 2 miles away from the pro-football stadium. That’s right: 2 miles. It’s a little farther to the Las Vegas Strip, which is about 3 miles from the airport. The second reason that it’s exceptionally convenient? Well that would be the fact that Alaska Air routinely offers eight different non-stop flights to Las Vegas from Seattle.
Stadium: Allegiant Stadium is a dome, which is to be expected. It’s the desert after all. But this dome has natural grass, which is rolled in for the football games using a mechanism similar as to what’s in Arizona’s pro-football stadium. The college kids have to use artificial turf when they play at Allegiant, though, and one of the architectural selling points of Allegiant Stadium is the curtained windows that look out on the Las Vegas strip. Al Davis would certainly be proud.
Last time here: Seattle hasn’t been here before. At least not Las Vegas. It will be the third different city where Seattle has played the Raiders, who went from Oakland to Los Angeles back to Oakland and now begin their second season in Las Vegas.
Dining: Stripsteak is Michael Mina’s den of decadence located in the Mandalay Bay. Appetizer suggestion: Instant bacon, which is a five-spice pork belly. The only question about the main course is which steak you’re getting and whether you want it wood grilled or poached in butter and THEN wood grilled. Dessert suggestion: The beignets! Another of my favorites is China Poblano, which is an innovative restaurant from Jose Andres, located in the Cosmopolitan. It’s less a fusion restaurant and more traditional preparations of two different cuisines that pair expertly together.