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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
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.