Leaving Las Vegas in My 30’s

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Bright Light City, can you still set my soul on fire now that the Jell-o shot days and voluntarily sleepless nights of my 20’s are firmly in the rear-view mirror?

Las Vegas is a city on which most travelers have strong opinions. Either you find the excess revolting on all levels, or you revel in the belief that the city makes anything possible, at least for a couple of nights, and with the right amount of cash.

I’ve always had strong opinions on Vegas, but now in my mid-30’s I find myself a bit torn on my love of the sparkling lights. I grew up with “family” trips to Vegas in the 1990’s when the city thought attracting families like the Griswold’s was a good idea.

Las Vegas 90's

Family trip to Vegas in 90’s

There were theme parks, arcades, and hotels built like castles, pirate ships, and a circus tent. I loved that Vegas. It was certainly a bit gaudy and over-the-top, but that made it more fun. It had something for me as a kid, and it had the promise of more behind the curtain waiting for when I was old enough.

I counted down the years until I was old enough for the full Vegas experience the way teenagers count down the right to drive the car. Going to Vegas on my 21st birthday was a no-brainer, and I proceeded to hit a royal flush that very night playing video poker. Vegas and I were made for each other, and I was hooked. It had waited as long for me to drop my quarters into the slot machines as I had waited for it.

My Vegas luck held out as my husband and I got married there in 2008 when prices in the city were rock bottom and comps were being handed out even to relatively low playing fish like us. After our wedding ceremony, we went down to the casino in full wedding attire where I proceeded to roll craps for quite a while, resulting in big wins for almost everyone at the table. Since I was the “lucky shooter” and in a wedding dress, strangers at the table were even throwing chips at me as wedding presents. What could be better?Las Vegas Sign

In those years I was in my 20’s and working an extra job in large part to have “Vegas money”. Every few months we would enjoy comped rooms, and put our second-job-cash on the line at the craps tables, blackjack tables, and even on my old video poker friend.Las Vegas Dinner

The free drinks came frequently, and I was too young to care what type of alcohol was in my whiskey sour. It didn’t taste cheap when you were dreaming of winning big. We supplemented time at the tables with visits to the pool, shows, and to great restaurants that tasted even better when you were a bit buzzed from the City of Sin.

We would come home from two or three nights in Vegas exhausted, somewhat hung over, but missing the City of Allure before our plane could even get over the Spring Mountains. A few days of rest, and a few months of working the part-time gig, was all it would take to be ready for another visit. In truth, we actually won money on many of those trips, which certainly helped our love for the city grow.  My gosh, we even took our “first family photos” in Vegas it was that big of a part of our lives. 

Photo by Chelsea Nicole

Photo by Chelsea Nicole

We got boring. We grew up. We are exhausted with the demands and schedules of life before we ever go down the escalator at McCarran and into the sea of lights and slots. Call it whatever, but the end result is the same. We drifted apart with the city we loved. It stayed the same, we changed.

For us, Vegas in our 30’s has become a city more associated with work conferences, name badges, and chinos than with table games and little black dresses. The two hour time difference from Central means we are yearning for bed in Vegas at dinner time, and by the time we push through the meal we are way too exhausted for a show. We have fallen asleep in the dark theaters during KA and Britney not because they were boring, we were drunk, or we were just catching a few winks before rallying to head to a club. We were just too tired to Vegas any more.

That may have been more depressing of a realization than realizing we spent the last $20 for the trip in the slot machine.

We work too hard to really enjoy wagering money on the pass line at the craps table the way we used to. Room rates and flights aren’t the virtual freebies they once were, and the pull to spend that “travel money” somewhere else as a family is strong.

I still love that city. My city. The restaurants, the lights, the sounds, the excitement, the entertainment, the possibilities. My wedding certificate will always say Clark County.

But I don’t love the way my feet feel after a night going through the casino in heels. I don’t like how my eyes water from the smoke. I don’t like being conflicted about gambling and potentially losing money that could have been better spent on almost anything else. I don’t like having to pay $100 to get an umbrella by my chair at the pool. I don’t like leaving tired since Lord knows there is no time to crash on the couch when we get home.

The Vegas of my 30’s isn’t anything like what it was in my 20’s. I’m not yet to the point in life where I can put on my sparkly red and purple hat and join the Wheel of Fortune Grandmas for a night of fun at the slots, but I am certainly passed the decade of being easily seduced by cheap whiskey and sparkling lights.

Have you ever grown apart from a city you once loved?

Las Vegas Mix

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  1. Great post mommypoints! I still remember going on a family vacation to Las Vegas when I was 12 years old. I loved the amusement park at MGM (it closed several years ago, unfortunately), going to the circus circus buffet (there were 8 of us total so I can’t blame my parents for picking this one), the pyramid of Luxor, ships & pirates at Treasure Island, etc. I loved it even though I didn’t gamble one penny.

    Just thinking about it, do you think Las Vegas is still kid-friendly? I have gone back as an adult in my 20s but it’s certainly not the same experience! 😉

  2. I could have written this!!! 😉 … Wait til you hit your forties!

    This also applies to me and my hubby traveling overseas which we used to do on a whim. The last time we went to Paris was 10 YEARS ago. We’ve had 2 kids, a mortgage and two sick parents since then. Priorities change… We’re planning to take the kids to Hawaii for the first time though, so we’re not complete losers!!!

  3. I’ve always been a late night person on the east coast, so when I get to Vegas I’m just normal (at least where sleeping pattern is concerned).

    I don’t recall any lost city loves. I was reminded of the song “All my rowdy friends have settled down” reading this.

  4. I have to say I’m one of those people who loathes Vegas. I’ve been there once with a GF who like to gamble, and who won enough to pay for our trip and more. For me the best part of the trip was renting a car and driving out into the desert for a day.

    That said, with a little paraphrasing your description of your changing relationship with Vegas mirrors my relationships with an assortment of girlfriends .. but not really any “place”.

  5. As,the philosopher Martin Mull put it:

    “I’m tired of rock n’ rollin’
    Let’s get married honey, let’s go bowlin’
    Throw away our pot and acid
    Spend the weekend at Lake Placid
    It’s hard to live in this town if you’re strange
    What say you and I get normal for a change.”

  6. Very well written.

    I’m about decade older than you and I find myself choosing to stay “off strip” more and more. As far as the party animal – I can still do it but I’m down to about 2 days and then that’s about enough for me. There is also a 1-day recovery “down time.” But I still like it. Just do it less frequently.

    Oddly, one of my best trips there was staying in old Vegas at Freemont Street. Loved it. Wish more of the hotels there had some kind of shuttle.

  7. FYI, Vegas doesn’t stay the same. I grew up nearby and as a 39 year old, I’ve seen it evolve quite a lot. I’ve never much cared for the place though. We shop, we eat, we get the heck out of the circus as fast as we can. We always joked that it was not a city built on “winners.”

  8. In small doses, I’ve always liked Las Vegas. And still do. Probably because I’ve never taken it to “excess,” and enjoy it for what it is — a very strange place unlike any other in the world. And if you’re a “gamer” (in the frequent flyer sense, not the gambling sense) there are always fun deals to be had — cheap entertainment, affordable meals, etc.

    But the best thing about Vegas may be it’s location. It’s a fantastic springboard for outdoor activities, especially during the time of year when it’s too cold for those activities elsewhere in the USA. A couple hours away are Death Valley and Zion; closer in are the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. So we pop into Vegas, enjoy the “excitement” for a day, and head to the wilderness. It’s perfect.

    • iahphx, indeed I think that is the perfect Vegas type of visit once you are past the 20’s style allure of Vegas. I know my parents love using it in that way!

  9. Great post MP. Having now stayed in LV over 30 times from my 30’s to now 50 I must agree things are radically different. I only started to notice the last few years. I’m now much older than the usual visitor and I’m no longer sure I am anywhere near the demographic that the Strip desires. Not that it will stop me from going again on Friday:)
    I guess we are all getting older and hopefully wiser…and come to think of it wealthier. Heck maybe Vegas wants us back after all……

  10. Even after 30 years and dozens and dozens and dozens of trips, I still get pumped up about a return to Vegas. It is still exciting, interesting, colorful and in your face. But, I also view it, taste it, feel it and absorb it in a much different way now. At first it was an all out dreamlike fantasy. Around every corner was a new, titillating experience that revved up my heartbeat and supercharged my senses. This was not southeast Texas, this was Vegas, baby. And the difference was palatable. I knew the next hand would be a blackjack, the next pull a triple 7, the next show to be even more topless and the next buffet even cheaper. I was in Heaven even if it was closer to Hell. However, The years have calmed those excited nerves. It is now more of a bright light explosion viewed through practical bifocals. More reality than optimistic fiction. Our trips now have far less gambling and more sightseeing, shopping and people watching. We love going to Vegas shows and eating at some favorite places. We admire the wealth, the ingenuity, the size, the artistry and the constant flux of Vegas. But, we too now ofter use Vegas as a portal to other treasures in the west. I do not think we are jaded, just different. Times change, perspectives change. I will always look forward to Vegas and dream of the jackpot. The jackpot just might come in the form of a road trip or a headliner or a day in the sun. But a jackpot, nonetheless.
    Viva, Las Vegas!

  11. Totally get this one. I fell back in love with Vegas once the kids could do the pools, but I definitely see it more in the daylight hours than I used to!

  12. Beautifully written. I remember reading years ago that “Vegas is civilization’s greatest tribute to pop culture.” I just don’t like pop culture anymore…

  13. it’s always interesting to hear from people who love vegas… I don’t, never have. I am going to pass through on a national parks trip later this year, and to piggyback iahphx’s point, I imagine I’ll enjoy it more after sleeping in a tent for a while.

    I feel that same sense of fatigue with travel in general right now. I’ve been travelling at pretty good clip since I have all the resources I need, and I just want to sit a home more, get my laundry done, and have the time to make homemade dinners. I just don’t recover from jetlag the way I once did.

  14. From someone in his 60’s….Vegas is great….as a gateway to Zion, Brice, and some of the most wonderful natural sights on the planet!!

  15. Annie – Check out Red Rock Canyon Nation Conservation area at Vegas. I love it there and have also been to many of the national parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, etc.).

    Then later I can hit the strip or Freemont.

  16. I’ve never been to Vegas before and am planning a family trip for this winter. Do you think there are any Cirque shows that would be appropriate/interesting for a 5 year old?

    • Julie, five is the magic age where they are permitted to some shows. I would think several would be appropriate – other than Zumanity, assuming your kid is good at sitting in the dark and watching something.

  17. Seems like you are on my path, while in my 60’s now. Had my honeymoon in Vegas, though didnt have your luck 🙂 Been going to Vegas for over 40 yours. In my single days used to head there more often, but now still try and do 2 or three trips a year. My tastes in rooms have definately changed through the years. No longer Bally’s or Flamingo now try to stay at Wynn and Mandarin. Last trip was to Bellaggio though thanks to Hyatt Diamond to Mlife Platinum match, which I learned about on BA. AS the time goes on you just enjoy the time to relax and take in the sights, rather then try to do everything. Maybe that’s just old age ..lol. One thing about Vegas there always seems to be something new opening up …even in the down years.

  18. Switch to London. The theatre, history, museums–most free, great london walks and great escursions are engaging and fun! We have been 6 times– a week at a time…

    • Margita, love london and booked again for next summer…but sadly can’t get there for weekends the way you can Vegas. 😉

  19. What a great post. Our thing though is that we didn’t so much outgrow Vegas as it changed to the point of not really being fun anymore. I’ve been going there for close to 30 years so obviously what was fun as a kid changes dramatically as you get older but the Vegas we once knew and would still enjoy going to is long gone.

    The wheels have completely come off. We were there just last week and I swear the average age now has got to be like 25. People used to come as couples. Now you’re hard pressed to find anybody not there in a group of at least 10 people either doing their bachelor or bachelorette party. All drunk, rude, inconsiderate, pushy and obnoxious. I guess if they grew up watching “Hangover” they think that’s how they should behave.

    It’s now such a sleazy crew. It’s a fact that society has more or less collapsed over the past 10-15 years and become much more coarse and vulgar but if you would have compared it to just 10 years ago in Vegas, you would have thought either the prisoners escaped and took over the hotel or the circus was in town. Steroid enhanced thugs, punks with full body tattoos, massive ear plugs, yelling, swearing as loud as possible. Disgusting.

    It’s a shame the brain trust at these casino’s have targeted this demo but any class that was still left in town has vanished and will probably never be back.

    I guess that’s why most everyone over 35 seems to have left town. Vegas doesn’t have much say in what people are like today but they do have a say in the people they are trying to attract.

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