Cultural Las Vegas
Saturday dawned sunny and clear. We breakfasted on pastriesand coffee from the hotel’s Il Fornaio Panetteria ($5) and used a coupon we’d receivedat check-in to get free biscotti.
Most summer days in Las Vegas you want to stay indoors, so weboarded a free shuttle to our first stop, the Elvis-A-Rama Museum, stocked with Elvis’s cars, jumpsuits,and even handwritten letters. In front of the small stage’s goldlamé curtain, a young Elvis swiveled and crooned “Love MeTender.” The performance wasn’t as grand as an evening show, but itwas as goofy and fun. And it was definitely worth it for $9.95 each. Back on the Strip, we headed to the MGM Grand,where we visited another kind of king―a pair of big cats atthe casino’s Lion Habitat.
It was really hot by then, and we needed to cool off. We tookmoving walkways and a free monorail all the way down the Strip toswanky Rumjungle, at Mandalay Bay. A wall of water and fire at theentrance kept the interior dark and cool. Dinners here can cost alot, but from 12 to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, inexpensivegrilled sandwiches are available in the bar. We lounged in therustic leather bar stools and were cooled by the sound of rushingwater. Tab for two sandwiches, $18.
Shuttling north again, we journeyed to Desert Passage, the mall between the Aladdin and Pariscasinos. Though the shopping center has many familiar upscaleboutiques, it also has roving performers inspired by the ancientspice trade route. We watched a man fold himself into a tiny boxand bedecked belly dancers spin and swivel marvelously (free).
Across the street, Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (free) was alush and sweet-scented retreat. We walked past the lobby’s colorfulglass flower chandeliers sculpted by Dale Chihuly and into theconservatory’s collection of live roses andchrysanthemums―hundreds of them in an airy greenhouse. Theywere swirled into patterns and shaped into butterflies. A bride wasbeing photographed on the stairway.
Dusk was settling over the neon city when we emerged, refreshed.We were just in time for the best free spectacle of them all―the fountains at Bellagio. As Luciano Pavarotti’s ariasoared, a thousand lighted fountains exploded and cascadedperfectly on cue. They were surprisingly expressive as they misted,fizzed, and arced over a reflecting pool.
Dinner was tasty Mexican food with a South American influence atthe Venetian’s Taqueria Cañonita. Pork tamales, tacos with molé,and black beans cost us $32. As we ate, a passing gondolier serenaded hispassengers.
We’d been impressed with Bellagio, so we returned for nightcapsand jazz at the Allegro Jazz Lounge. It was elegant and indulgent, all for $15).Day two budget
$99 in pocket
Pastries and coffee at Il Fornaio: $5 ($94 remaining)
Elvis-A-Rama Museum: $20 ($74 remaining)
Prowl MGM Grand’s Lion Habitat: FREE
Sandwiches and atmosphere at Rumjungle: $18 ($56 remaining
Shop and watch roving acrobats and dancers at DesertPassage: FREE
Stop to smell the flowers in Bellagio’s Conservatory andwatch the fountain show: FREE
Mexican fare at the Venetian’s Taqueria Cañonita: $32 ($24 remaining)
Nightcaps and jazz at Allegro Jazz Lounge: $15 ($9remaining)