Woke up this morning, decided we didn’t want to try and get out to Hoover Dam. Instead, we’d have breakfast at the Stratosphere, then go up to the top and take the tour. Then we’d go visit the Rio so we could see the Masquerade Show in the Sky parade and show, then over to the Venetian. If we had time we’d pick up stuff from the secondary list of things, such as “The World’s Largest Gift Shop” and seeing “The World’s Largest Stock Car” at the NASCAR Cafe in the Sahara Hotel and Casino.
We got our tickets to go visit the top of the Stratosphere, then went down to the buffet. We were a little bit later than we were last time, so they had a few more lunch entrees on the buffet. Once again, not the best by Las Vegas standards but it sure beat the pants off of Old Country Buffet here at home.
Up to the top of the Stratosphere, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States and the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. They walked us through metal detectors and took our tickets on the third floor of the casino, then we shot up 857ft in 30 seconds to the enclosed observation deck. Here we took the audio tour, which was similar to the one offered at the Shark Reef, punching in code numbers to hear the tour based on the way you were looking out of the 360 degree view. The glass angled outward, which meant you could look down at the ground. (As long as you ignored the signs advising, “Don’t lean on glass”) After walking around the entire deck, we walked up the stairs to the outdoor observation deck.
This is up at 869ft, and your reward for climbing the stairs is an even better view. The only other times I’ve been this high on a structure were the few times I went up to the roof at U.S. Bank Place in Minneapolis, during tours given by the building management. The other times, it was incredibly windy - but on top of the Stratosphere I detected nothing but a slight breeze. I’m guessing it is either a combination of the design of the tower which does not have a solid base (it is made up of three support legs) or the fact that there are no other buildings of a similar size clustered around it.
The full height of the tower, 1149ft is only reached by riding the “Big Shot”, one of those air pressure-powered launching rides that have become so popular over the past few years. I’m not particularly a fan of having my stomach contents being flipped upside down so I skipped that, although the roller coaster looks like it would have been fun. (Curiously, they make you buy the tickets down at ground level for the rides on top of the tower, precluding any spontaneous decisions to go for a ride)
The final ride is the X-Scream. I think they should automatically enroll anyone taking this ride into a mental health program. It is basically a teeter-totter on top of the tower, one whole side of which hangs over the edge of the tower’s top. As the teeter-totter falls down on the side over the edge, the cart of 8 people go zooming over the edge of the tower, suspended as they stare down below to the ground. Then the teeter-totter pulls them back over the tower, then back over the edge again. Right before the end of the ride, as they are sitting out of over the edge of the tower, the ride drops them another 10 feet or so, making it feel like something broke and they are freefalling. Ugh!
So, after watching a few morons ride the X-Scream, we decended back down the tower to the shopping mall area. Picked up a treat or two, then made our way down to the car. On the way over to the Rio we stopped by Bonanza, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop” Indeed, I hadn’t seen a gift shop this large anywhere before. Store upon store, filled with everything from gag gifts to Las Vegas potholders.
Onto the Rio. As we walked through the casino on our way to the “Masquerade Show in the Sky” show, it was fun to watch the little “impromptu” performances that the casino staff made on these platforms sprinkled throughout the casino floor. Some of them were really quite good! We grabbed some ice cream and some pretzels and staked out claim in the balcony to watch the show. A few minutes later, the show started, floats moving all around, stage show going on, it was all very impressive. And then the bead-tossing commensed…we managed to get about 6 strands between the two of us. Woo!
We skipped the buffet at the Rio, thinking that the Venetian would have a great buffet. We get in the car, drive on over to the Venetian, walk in, look at the directory - no buffet. DOH! We weren’t really dressed for any hoity-toity dining, so I asked one of the casino employees and they directed us to the Grand Lux. Think of it as one step up from a Cheesecake Factory. (I say this, since they are owned by the same company) A huge menu to choose from, huge portions, great service make this one restaurant that I would come back to again on a subsequent visit.
After dinner, we went out and took a gondola ride in the outside canals. The gondola driver did a great job entertaining us, sang wonderfully and even managed to stretch out our ride a little bit. It was a perfect night, a slight breeze, got a great view of the new Treasure Island casino’s sign as well. Didn’t realize until I stared at it for a little bit that the letters don’t just change color, they actually change color and patterns. Must be screens like a Jumbotron which they can show anything they’d like.
Knowing that we had to get back to the hotel and pack, we ended the day. We barely squeezed everything into our suitcases, over the course of the week we really picked up a lot of stuff.