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April 29, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

What happens in Las Vegas…

My husband and I recently spent six days in Las Vegas. Neither of us are gamblers or heavy drinkers so the ubiquitous slot machines, card tables, and bars weren’t the beneficiaries of any poor choices on our part. We were there to attend an event, but added a few extra days to look around since neither of us had been to Sin City for many years.

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We spent one day walking up and down the Strip, enjoying the kitschy fantasy hotels created to emulate great cities of the world, such as Paris, New York, and Venice. I have to admit the designers did a pretty good job capturing their essence… if Paris, New York, and Venice were filled with bright and noisy slot machines and cigarette smoke (OK, maybe they nailed that part).

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The next day we took a tour of the Neon Museum and Boneyard, which features discarded signs from old hotels and casinos. This two-acre outdoor museum is crammed full of vintage neon; some of signs still light up (they offer an after dark tour but it usually fills up quickly), but most are in various stages of decay and show the lovely patina of age. The hour-long walking tour was full of history and the photo ops were glorious.

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After our tour, we drove a few short blocks to the Mob Museum where we learned about the history of the Mafia, both in general and, more specifically, in Las Vegas. Although there are guided tours and audio tours available, we opted to take ourselves through the fascinating and well-organized museum. (Tours of both museums can be booked online, and there is a special price when you purchase the two together.)

As interesting as these museums were—and I do recommend them if you ever find yourself in Las Vegas—the main reason we were there was to attend Viva Las Vegas: a four-day extravaganza of music, cars, dancing, and a people-watcher’s paradise.

Viva Las Vegas is the largest Rockabilly festival in the world and attracts about 20,000 attendees from around the globe. The event features over 75 bands, North America’s biggest pre-1960s era car show, and hundreds of vendors selling vintage clothing and accessories. There are also fashion shows, tiki pool parties, and dancing, including demonstrations and contests.

Did I mention the people watching?

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Although my husband and I love to swing dance, I didn’t know very much about Rockabilly or the Rockabilly culture. Viva Las Vegas provided an extreme immersion course. Apparently, there is a whole subculture that embraces a style that combines 1940s/1950s dress with tattoos and hair colors not found in nature. I was fascinated by these Rockabilly aficionados and we’d often find a comfortable seat just to watch them stroll by. As members of the selfie and social media generation, most seemed completely comfortable in their (heavily tattooed) skin and were happy to pose for pictures.

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I couldn’t help but contrast myself at that age… trying so hard to fit in, but not stand out. If this was a “thing” when I was young, would I have gotten tattoos or dyed my hair a cartoon color? Probably not. I both admired them for their confidence, and worried for their future marketability in the job world. Hair color can be easily changed, tattoos… not so much.

We had such a great time that we already have our hotel reservations and tickets for next year. Although we won’t be getting tattooed in the interim, we do plan on picking up a few new dance steps and some vintage clothing before we return. It’s all part of the fun.

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43 Comments

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  1. Kate Crimmins / Apr 29 2016 4:52 pm

    Sounds like fun!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 29 2016 5:17 pm

      It was! And, we were by no means the only oldsters. I sure was happy that I didn’t have any tattoos on my 60-year-old-bod, though.

  2. Denise / Apr 29 2016 5:09 pm

    I am not a gambler or drinker either but I enjoy Vegas. I am old enough to have seen the Stardust when it wasn’t just a sign laying on the ground, actually visited there.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 29 2016 5:19 pm

      You would have loved the boneyard! I’m sure I saw some of the signs in their former glory, but I didn’t remember them specifically. Las Vegas sure has changed over the years!

  3. snakesinthegrass2014 / Apr 29 2016 5:48 pm

    My ex-wife had/has a gambling problem, so unfortunately my memories are mixed of our many trips there. Still, I am able to remember what I liked about it — much of which you did apparently. For me, it was never really about the gambling or the booze — I just liked the vibe. The Boneyard wasn’t yet fully established yet, so I never made it there. I’m sure I would love it. Ditto for the Mob Museum, which when I was last there was a semi-permanent exhibit at the Tropicana. I’d love to see it now. My favorite moments were walking on the Strip and checking out the old haunts of the 60’s and 70’s heydays. For instance, I remember walking into the erstwhile Sahara Hotel circa 2007 and finding the Casbah Lounge that featured artists such as Louis Prima and Keely Smith. No one was around, and I got to stand on that stage!

    I can’t get my current wife to consider going. I’ve tried to sell her on the entertainment and the spas, but she’s not keen on it. Maybe someday, though.

    Great pics!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 10:49 am

      I took a picture of the old Sahara sign, which is in the boneyard. I would have loved to see Louis Prima and Keely Smith… what amazing talents! Las Vegas isn’t a destination we’d normally go to except for the event. Next time we’ll probably skip the Strip (except to ride the HUGH Ferris Wheel, which we missed this time) and maybe go on a hike or see Hoover Dam.

  4. betsysbeat / Apr 29 2016 6:06 pm

    How fun! When we were there recently, we stayed near the Mob museum but ran out of time so good to hear it’s worth seeing next time. And congratulations on NOT buying a time share 😉

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 10:50 am

      I thought of you when I saw the various time share booths. 🙂 Yes, definitely make time to see the Mob Museum – and give yourselves at least 2 hours, if not 3.

  5. dconnollyislandgmailcom / Apr 29 2016 9:07 pm

    My husband and I have been to Las Vegas several times (with most of our time spent off of the strip). We have never been to the Neon Museum or the Mob Museum or to Viva Las Vegas — and will definitely need to plan a future trip with these events included. We have done some great hiking in Red Rock Canyon which we highly recommend.
    Donna
    http://www.retirementreflections.com

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 10:53 am

      We thought about going hiking but,since we had limited time, figured we’d save it for our next trip. Viva Las Vegas is in April so the weather is still not too hot for hiking.

  6. Polly Huffman / Apr 29 2016 9:56 pm

    Great trip! Las Vegas s more than the strip for sure!

    • Polly Huffman / Apr 29 2016 9:59 pm

      Is more…I need to read before I post!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 10:55 am

      I’m glad we made time to get beyond the glitz of the Strip.

  7. Parkit / Apr 30 2016 4:48 am

    I might actually get Craig back to Las Vegas for that. He can’t stand it there:) I have wanted to see the Neon Museum for a while.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 10:58 am

      The Neon Museum was amazing. Be sure to take your camera – fortunately they allow enough time to take pictures. I think a lot of people don’t like Las Vegas because their image of it is just of the gambling and craziness. There’s more there than that.

      • Parkit / Apr 30 2016 1:12 pm

        We have been a few times to see Cirque and have been to Red Rock Canyon horse back riding, etc. I think he feels bad for all of the homeless people:(

        • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 1:17 pm

          You are right… just off the Strip it looks like a different world. I wonder how many came to Las Vegas expecting to make money only to lose it all. So sad.

          • Parkit / Apr 30 2016 1:18 pm

            And so many houses sitting empty they could use!

  8. Keith / Apr 30 2016 6:17 am

    Janis, thanks for the tour and recommendations. We no longer drink and gambling has never been our thing, but you paint an enticing picture. We will need to add it to our list, if only to see the Mob Museum. Keith

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 10:59 am

      It was very interesting and provided much to do beyond gambling and drinking. They did such a great job with the Mob Museum – they didn’t sugarcoat a thing.

  9. Joe / Apr 30 2016 6:54 am

    Thank you for the enjoyable read and unique new places to visit on our next trip to Las Vegas. Learning about the Rockabilly culture would be fun, and the Neon Museum and Boneyard looks interesting. In my memory, I can see the lights of the strip at dusk, neon’s finest hour.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 11:28 am

      We had hoped to get up on the High Roller Ferris Wheel at dusk to see the strip and the neon, but couldn’t swing it. Maybe next time.

  10. Kristine Puzel / Apr 30 2016 10:53 am

    Growing up, may parents took us to Las Vegas frequently; I think it was the shows that drew them, more than anything else. Clearly, it now offers much more interesting entertainment then what was previously available! Glad you had such a great time!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 11:33 am

      They really have some great shows but we didn’t get to any this time. I think there are several Cirque du Soleil shows being preformed right now, and our friends saw the Jersey Boys and said it was great. So much has changed since my parents got married there over 70 years ago!

  11. Anabel Marsh / Apr 30 2016 11:22 am

    We flew in and out of Las Vegas once, so I’ve only had one full day there. We did the up and down the Strip thing and I’m not in a hurry to go back, though if we do fly from there again I’d now like to go to the neon museum which sounds great. The only rockabilly singer I’ve seen live is an Irish one, Imelda May! I just assumed she was American till I heard her speak.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 11:38 am

      Oh wow, we saw Imelda May in concert locally a couple of years ago (and, she performed at Viva several years ago)! She was great! Her now-ex-husband performed at Viva this year and we chatted with him as we stood in line for breakfast. If you just see the Strip, I agree that Las Vegas wouldn’t be all that attractive.

      • Anabel Marsh / Apr 30 2016 11:58 am

        Oh no, is he now her ex? That’s sad. We’ve seen them several times.

        • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 12:56 pm

          Yes. We didn’t know either. We kept referring to his “wife” until he corrected us. Too bad.

          • Anabel Marsh / Apr 30 2016 2:32 pm

            Yes, they had a young child too. I remember one time seeing them when she was pregnant, then the next time she was so happy about the little boy (I think it was a boy they had).

  12. Encore Voyage / Apr 30 2016 12:33 pm

    Everyone needs to experience Vegas at least once every 5-10 years. It’s just a stupidly, fun, kitschy place. I want to ride that big ferris wheel too! And you are so right – there is no better place for people watching! Might need to go back soon! Thanks for taking us with…

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Apr 30 2016 1:14 pm

      That Ferris wheel looks like so much fun! I think it takes a half hour to complete one revolution… giving you plenty of time to take in the view! I recently read a book about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (The Devil in the White City) and the style of the capsules reminds me of the description of the Ferris wheel in the story… except WAY bigger.

      • Encore Voyage / Apr 30 2016 1:32 pm

        Hubs read Devil a couple of months ago. I also want to ride the Ferris wheel in Seattle! 🙂

  13. Terri Webster Schrandt / Apr 30 2016 4:21 pm

    LV is pretty cool. I loved that Stardust sign in your photo. I stayed there back in 1993 and loved it. I was sad to hear it had been demolished. When we went in 2010 we got to stay free for three nights at the Venetian, complements of a friend in San Diego. It was pretty awesome. Looks like your trip was fabulous 🙂

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / May 1 2016 4:45 pm

      The Venetian looked pretty cool. I think it would have been fun to sit and eat at one of the “outside” cafes along the canals. I remember the Stardust but I don’t think I ever stayed there.

  14. Carol Ferenc / May 1 2016 3:26 pm

    What a great trip! My hubby and I have toyed with the idea of a Vegas trip but since we don’t gamble we decided against it. Now I’ve got a brand new perspective on Vegas. Everything you described sounds great, Janis. Thanks for sharing!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / May 1 2016 4:47 pm

      I wonder if they have any statistics on how many people visit LV but don’t gamble. I would imagine it’s a fairly good number. But, as I once was reminded, they didn’t build the casinos on losses… there are still an amazing number of people who are willing to bet (and lose) against the house.

      • Carol Ferenc / May 1 2016 6:37 pm

        I’ve always felt that I worked too hard for my money to just throw it away. Luckily for the casinos, not everyone feels the same!

  15. joannesisco / Jun 20 2016 2:24 pm

    I’ve only been to Vegas once and we lasted 24 hours before we decided to leave. It just wasn’t our speed.

    … but this Rockabilly festival sounds like fun and a good reason to go to Vegas. I might just consider a return someday 🙂

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Jun 20 2016 6:01 pm

      The Las Vegasy parts of Las Vegas aren’t really our style either. Fortunately, the Rockabilly event is off the strip. In addition to having our hotel reservations and event tickets for next year, we’ve been taking dance lessons to learn the Balboa.

  16. Bellewether / Aug 16 2016 12:21 pm

    Sounds like you had a jolly good time! I am not a gambler or drinker either, but I enjoyed Vegas for the same reasons as you, everything was so colourful and lively, and the people were all uniquely expressive, as they were all there to have fun 🙂 Check out my post if you like:

    https://bellewether.me/2016/08/10/trip-to-the-u-s-part-3-best-las-vegas-hotels/

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Aug 16 2016 1:59 pm

      Vegas is over-the-top and can be a bit overwhelming for some people. We enjoyed the people watching and the Rock-a-billy glamour!

      • Bellewether / Aug 17 2016 2:35 pm

        Yes, for sure! Did you get to see the classic car showroom at the Linq? Colourful Cadillacs and a range of other iconic cars of the era, I would recommend it 🙂

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