Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Greetings from Las Vegas!

Hi everybody! I am writing to you from Las Vegas, Nevada! My friends Keith and Kristin from the Stanley Foundation are here in Las Vegas for a big convention. We arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday night and we're staying at the Las Vegas Hilton near the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Here's the view from Kristin's hotel room.

The mountain you can see in the background reminds me of the red rock mountains I saw in Arizona last summer. That's when Kristin showed me on the map that Nevada and Arizona are right next to each other. I guess that's why the mountain looks so familiar! I noticed a lot of sand on the way from the airport to the hotel. Kristin says that's because Las Vegas is surrounded by desert. Who knew?

Keith and Kristin decided to take me on a tour of Las Vegas Sunday night. Before we left for the tour, Keith told me that Las Vegas is famous for gambling. I had no idea! Keith says most people who visit Las Vegas come here to gamble or to attend a convention. Kristin says there are places called "casinos" and "casino games" all over Las Vegas. They are casino games in the airport, at EVERY hotel, and even in some restaurants. But Kristin warned me that I wasn't going to get to play any casino games. She says that casino games are only for adults. She also says I can't even walk into a casino without an adult because I am not 21 years old. :(

Kristin must have seen the look on my face because she told me not to be too upset. She says there are lots of interesting things to see in Las Vegas. That's when I learned Keith has been to Las Vegas many times and really, really likes it here. Kristin says she visited here when she was my age. She thinks Las Vegas is a big amusement park. I love amusement parks. So, I think I will like Las Vegas, even if I can't play any casino games.

There was a VERY LONG line of people waiting for a taxi at the hotel, so Keith and Kristin decided to take something called the "monorail." The monorail looks like a subway train. But the monorail isn't underground. It is hundreds of feet ABOVE my head. How cool is that?

The monorail runs between major hotels on something Keith calls, "The Strip." "The Strip" is a name people call an area of Las Vegas that has lots of hotels and casinos.

Wow! Do you see all of the bright lights? Las Vegas is like Times Square in New York, except it is MUCH bigger. I've never seen so many flashing lights and big TV screens in my entire life! Even the McDonald's sign has cool, blinking lights.

It sure doesn't look like the McDonald's sign in Muscatine, does it?

When we got off the monorail, I asked Keith where we were going. He told me we were going to Paris. Paris? I thought Paris was in France. Keith just smiled and told me that Paris was just a short walk away. Guess what? He was sort of right. There is a hotel here called "Paris" and the hotel's main lobby was built to look like streets in Paris. There is even an Eiffel Tower that goes right through the roof of the lobby.

Since I have seen the REAL Paris, I can tell you that "Paris" in Las Vegas is nothing like Paris, France. But, the Eiffel Tower here does look neat at night.

After we left "Paris," Kristin said we were going to New York. What? I was just in New York City last week! It turns out there is a hotel here called, "New York, New York." The outside of the hotel was built to look like the tall buildings in New York City. The hotel even has a Statue of Liberty in front of it!

Inside, the hotel's lobby looks like the inside of Grand Central Station in New York City. There is even a huge pretzel stand inside the hotel that is a bigger version of the pretzel carts I see on the streets in New York. "New York, New York" in Las Vegas is cool, but I still like the real New York City better!

After we left "New York, New York," Keith and Kristin took me to a hotel called "MGM Grand." Keith says it is a very famous hotel in Las Vegas and has been here for a LONG time. I wasn't too impressed when we walked inside. It looked just like some of the other big hotels I've stayed at before with Keith and Kristin. But then I saw two HUGE lions walking around in an area near the hotel lobby. Yes, there were REAL lions inside the hotel! But don't worry, they were behind a tall glass wall. Here I am near the glass wall. Can you see the lions behind me?

Kristin asked me if I wanted to get closer to the lions. Of course, I said yes! She took me to a special place where people can walk UNDER the lions. How cool is that?! Kristin says it was hard to take a photo of the lions through the glass. The photos might not be great, but trust me, it was AWESOME to walk under the lions.

I thought it was strange that there were lions inside the hotel. Keith told me the MGM Grand was built in the 1970's by one of the people who owned a movie company called "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer." Kristin says the company always starts its movies with a big, roaring lion. That's why there are lions at the hotel. I had no idea! I'm going to have to pay closer attention to the start of movies I watch to see if I see the lion Kristin is talking about.

Keith and Kristin ate dinner at the MGM Grand. Afterwards, they told me there was one more place they wanted me to see. It was already WAY past my bedtime, but I decided I could stay awake a bit longer. (Shh...don't tell my Mom and Aunt Lynn that I stayed up way past my bedtime!).

Guess where Keith and Kristin took me? Egypt! Well, OK...we didn't really go to Egypt, but we did go to a hotel that was built to look like some of the famous places I saw on my trip to Egypt. The hotel is called "The Luxor." It's named after Luxor, Egypt. That's where King Tut's tomb is!
I didn't see King Tut at the Luxor in Las Vegas, but the main part of the hotel is shaped like the sphinx and pyramids I saw at Giza, near Cairo.

"The Luxor" even has a small building that looks like the Karnak Temple in Luxor. Trust me, the REAL Karnak Temple is MUCH cooler!

As Keith and Kristin were taking me back to the Hilton, I realized that there was a theme to many of the places I saw along the Strip. Many of the hotels and casinos were built to look like famous places around the world. Then I realized that I have actually visited the REAL places that Keith and Kristin took me to in Las Vegas! Kristin just smiled and told me that was why she wanted me to visit Las Vegas.

She says many people come to Las Vegas to see hotels like "Paris" and "The Luxor" because they can't visit the real places. Wow! I am a very lucky flat boy! I am SO glad Keith and Kristin take me on their big adventures.

That's all for now...I need to get some sleep.