This morning I walked down to Mandalay Bay, which anchors the far end of The Strip. Saturday morning is a good time for a walk in Las Vegas — the crowds are gone, and other than a few joggers and some muttering people lurching out of the casinos, you’ve pretty much got the sidewalk to yourself.
The end of The Strip is a bit strange. Unlike the other end, where the modern Strip morphs into Old Las Vegas in a haze of Strip malls, construction sites, and cheesy wedding chapels, the Mandalay Bay end is more abrupt. You’ve got a fake New York skyline, a fake castle with multi-colored turrets, a fake Egyptian pyramid and Sphinx, the golden Mandalay Bay towers, and then . . . desert nothingness. Guests at Mandalay Bay look in one direction and see a gambling fantasyland, and look in the other and see a desolate waste.
There’s a lot of sameness in Las Vegas. You see the same slot machines and “no limit” rooms, one roulette wheel looks like another, and it seems like every casino has a Gordon Ramsey “Hell’s Kitchen”-themed restaurant. (How much “hell” can one guy produce, anyway?)
With so much sameness, it’s not surprising that every casino in Vegas appears to have adopted some kind of gimmick to distinguish it from its neighbors. The Flamingo, for example, has a little outdoor area where you can find actual flamingos. You have to walk through the entire casino to get there — because casino designers consciously make you walk through the casino area to get anywhere — but you can find the real flamingos outside, going about their grooming and classy strutting without paying too much attention to the fact they they now live in an artificial habitat next to a casino where Donny and Marie Osmond perform.