Monday, July 2, 2012

Celebrating America in the Most American of Cities

Unfortunately, I won't be celebrating the 4th of July in Las Vegas this year. It's a shame because if any city knows how to Independence Day right, it's Vegas. Sin City is hardly a place that represents what's best about us as a nation, but it does represent what's massive, loud, stupid, and fun about us... and even though the American Revolution was one of the great victories for democracy and freedom, the 4th is really about Beer, BBQ, and Fireworks. Which is why I submit that Las Vegas is the ultimate destination for celebrating our nation's independence.

If the founding fathers hadn't taken a stand against England, we wouldn't be gambling in giant casinos with features like hugely wasteful water shows in the middle of the desert. We wouldn't be sipping sugary cheap margaritas out of comically large plastic souvenir cups (shaped like guitars that play riffs from Sammy Hagar hits or the Eiffel Tower) while we enjoyed colorful explosions above recreations of landmarks from all over the globe. And that's why Las Vegas is the best place to celebrate all the freedoms we enjoy today... but it comes with its own drawbacks. The town will be filled up more than usual, with a high percentage of bros who think the backward ballcap and no shirt look makes sense on any level. You'll need a guide to steer you to the best ways to enjoy Las Vegas on America Day. And even though I won't be there, let me be your Sindependence Day spirit guide.

Where to Stay: If I've said it once, I've said it a million times (or at least 15 times): when it doubt, head Downtown. The crowds will be fierce on The Strip and room rates will be high. Save some of that much needed booze money by checking into a Downtown Hotel. I've already sung the praises of the awesome Cabana Suites at the El Cortez. If you can't book a room in one of the boutiquey suites, you might be able to find a good deal at the old school Golden Nugget on Fremont Street... which has one of the best pool areas in Downtown (a necessary feature in the hot July sun) and the added bonus of featuring a translucent waterslide that goes through a shark tank. If you're filled with child-like glee and wonder (or just immature) like me, this feature alone is enough to get you to check in there.

Where to Keep Your Cool: Las Vegas is in the middle of the dessert, so visiting there in July means it will be very, very hot. Make sure you book a room at a hotel with a great pool area... and make sure said pool area doesn't become an obnoxious day-club/ pool party/ quasi-orgy during the summer. While resorts like The Hard Rock (who kicked off the trend with their Rehab parties) usually have a smaller and demure pool area, you'll want something more than the also ran pool. You'll want that perfect balance of a great place to take a dip with nice amenities without the loud bumping dubstep beats and that gross outdoor nightclub vibe. As mentioned above, The Golden Nugget probably has the best pool area in Downtown, but if you insist on ignoring my advice and staying on The Strip, Mandalay Bay has a massive playground for soaking in chlorinated water, complete with a wave pool, lazy river, multiple standard pools, and a few hot tubs. If you feel like gambling while you're swimming (because we live in a culture where multi-tasking is everything) The Off-Strip Red Rock Resort has a few chilled out swim up tables and Wynn will let you put down some money like a classy, James Bond style high roller (even though you're dripping wet and don't look as good as Daniel Craig or any of his many Bond girls in a swimsuit).

Where to Drink: I may be pretentious, but I'm not going to recommend that you totally avoid The Strip on America's birthday. I've sung the praises of Public House at The Venetian in a recent post, but let me reiterate this fact: if you love good beer, this is your best bet in Las Vegas. With hundreds of varieties of Craft Brew available and Nevada's first on-staff Cicerone (kind of like a Somelier for beer, also known as the best job in the world), this is the place you have to visit in order to properly raise a glass in honor of our flag. Also their burgers are awesome.

Where to Eat like an American Hero: Nothing says America like scarfing down on some fatty meats, and if you're not going to miss out on grilled food prepared in a backyard because you're in Vegas, there are still plenty of places to enjoy BBQ style cuisine. As mentioned above, Public House has an excellent burger, while Holstein's at The Cosmopolitan, KGB Burger at Harrah's, and Hubert Keller's Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay all offer gourmet twists on the American classic. Hot Dog lovers have some great options, like LA icon Pink's at Planet Hollywood and Brooklyn classic Nathan's at New York New York. And if you're looking for some kitsch mixed with your ribs, enjoy a down home meal at Lynyrd Skynyrd's BBQ and Beer at Excalibur, which serves surprisingly excellent Southern comfort style food (just don't tell Neil Young you ate there).

Where to Watch Explosions: Caesars always fires off an epic round of fireworks every 4th of July. Sometimes the most mainstream and obvious answer is also the correct one. Try and score spots close to the action, because the sidewalk will fill up fast. If you don't want to stand around for hours holding a spot for yourself while you're on vacation (and you don't mind splurging a little bit), book a table at one of The Bellagio's fancy pants restaurants with patio seating on The Strip... I've eaten at Todd English's Olives, and it's a bit pricey but also excellent. You can enjoy the fireworks show from a comfortable seated view, an excellent meal, and perfect views of the resort's famous dancing fountain show. Note: this plan is best implemented if you're in Vegas with that special someone. But there's nothing wrong with sharing a bottle of wine and a fine meal by a beautiful body of water with a few your closest bros.

So get out to Vegas and get blitzed, gorge yourself on unhealthy food, waste time by the pool, and enjoy sparkling explosions in the sky in America's stupidest city... and celebrate the fact that you live in a country where you have the freedom to be as stupid as you wanna be.

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