Golf is, of course, just one of the many lures of Las Vegas. For many RVers, a visit to Las Vegas begins with a white-knuckle driving adventure down the Las Vegas Strip to the KOA at Circus Circus. Formerly known as Circusland, the Las Vegas KOA offers 366 RV sites just a five iron away from the non-stop action of The Strip.
KOA assumed management of the park in December 2003. Of the 450 KOAs in the country, this is one of the busiest with 36,000 visitors annually, according to general manager Richard Allen. It offers pull-throughs, laundry and shower facilities, a swimming pool, a hot tub/sauna, wireless Internet, fishing and ski boat rentals, ATM services, a snack bar, a convenience store and two tent sites. “We even have vehicle detailing on site,” says Allen.
With a record 37.4 million people visiting Las Vegas in 2004, there are obviously a great many attractions. The portion of Las Vegas Boulevard designated as The Strip extends from Sahara Avenue near the Stratosphere Hotel and Tower south past Mandalay Bay Resort, where the familiar sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” has greeted visitors for half a century.
Travelers should visit this Mecca of neon at least once in a lifetime. From the glittering lights of 30 casinos on the 4.5-mile Strip to the array of entertainment, free or otherwise, Las Vegas has something for everyone. Here is a sampling of free things to see and do in the Entertainment Capital of the World:
• Visit the Royal White Tiger Habitat at The Mirage, which is home to Siegfried and Roy’s famous white tigers.
• See sexy sirens battle a band of renegade male pirates in Sirens’ Cove at the front of Treasure Island Resort. There are four performances daily.
• Enjoy the fountains in front of Bellagio, where every half hour you can see water from 1,000 fountains soaring 245 feet in the air in a display choreographed to music and light.
• Walk through the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand, which features a multi-level stone and nature environment for a pride of lions, including Goldie and Metro. The thick glass tunnel runs through the habitat for guests to experience the lions prowling above, below and on either side of them. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. till 10 p.m.
• Watch the nightly volcano eruption at The Mirage. Spewing smoke and fire 100 feet above the water, the volcano erupts every 15 minutes from 8 p.m. to midnight.
• Take a walk past New York-New York Casino, where you will see a bittersweet tribute. In front of the New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty is a permanent display honoring those who lost their lives in the tragedy of Sept. 11. When the terrorist attacks of 2001 occurred, a spontaneous outpouring of emotions resulted in letters, teddy bears, autographed fire department shirts, photos and other items being placed on the sidewalk outside of New York-New York. Some of these items are now encased in displays.
If viewing the city from above is your thing, then consider a visit to the Stratosphere’s 1,149-foot observation tower. It is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. A nighttime visit is spectacular, as is a helicopter ride over the Strip after hours.
A few museums that should be on the must-visit list include the Liberace Museum, Elvis-A-Rama, the Auto Collections at Imperial Palace and the incredible collection at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. In addition, Las Vegas has a burgeoning downtown art district, and a First Friday event where downtown art galleries open their doors and provide live music on the first Friday of every month.
A couple of unique restaurants worth visiting include Battista’s Hole in the Wall and the Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas. Battista’s offers scrumptious Italian meals and unlimited carafes of wine. In addition to the entrée, meals include salad, bread, and an after-dinner cappuccino. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Germany during Oktoberfest, Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas is as close as you can get to the original. The 18,600-square-foot venue is a virtual clone of the Munich, Germany, original, including the dirndls worn by the pretzel girls. The authentic German food ist sehr gut!
The 19th Hole (and a few chip shots)
You can’t talk about Las Vegas anymore without including golf. One local golfer—Danny Gans, who performs five nights a week at The Mirage—has some suggestions. He says, “My favorites are Shadow Creek (the private course owned by MGM Mirage) and Southern Highlands. Dragon Ridge is another great course.”
The Desert Inn Golf Club has been around since 1952, and is located on The Strip. It has hosted more than 50 professional tournaments. Bali Hai Golf Club, located on The Strip near Mandalay Bay Resort, features nearly 3,000 palm trees. Be warned: it’s pricey and pretentious.
Royal Links Golf Club is dedicated to the courses played during the British Open. Monuments accent the layout and the castle-clubhouse, bringing golf folklore to life. Bear’s Best Golf Club is a course designed by Jack Nicklaus; it fits perfectly into the desert overlooking the Vegas Valley.
Happy New Year!
Rick Stedman is an avid RVer, golfer and writer who lives in Yakima, Washington. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org