Since the early 70's I have been going to Las Vegas on average at least once a year. And in all those years I have never once gone to Las Vegas to go to Las Vegas.
In the early years I went to Las Vegas to go to the Grand Canyon. Later on I also went to Las Vegas to attend travel industry events.
At first I simply hated Las Vegas because it was so garish and tacky. Moreover, it was politically correct to badmouth Las Vegas. It was convenient to hate Las Vegas so as to be able to sincerely badmouth the place.
Over the years, without my realizing it, my attitude towards Las Vegas slowly started to change. It's emotionally corrosive to unreservedly hate a place that you know you will return to often -- and besides, no place is all bad.
What I came to appreciate about Las Vegas is how good it is at being garish and tacky. It takes genius to do garish and tacky that well.
I became conscious of this change of heart just a few weeks ago at the Conde Nast Specialist Summit. The last evening, a good friend, Zach Rabinor from Journey Mexico, remarked that he was getting used to Las Vegas and to really appreciate it we should have dinner at the rotating restaurant at the top of the Stratosphere.
What Las Vegas does brilliantly was reflected in that restaurant. At night, from a continually changing vantage point of 100+ floors up, Las Vegas is at its most beautiful.
When they seat you, they emphasize that if you leave your table to go to the restroom, it is important to remember what section you are in. If you forget you might never find your table again.
The food was perfect. Any worse and we would have complained. Any better and they would have been wasting money.
The third person in our threesome, Andrea Grisdale, from I.C. Bellagio (the real Bellagio in Italy, not the hotel in Las Vegas) had been up-graded to a three-bedroom wrap-around suite at the much-talked-about, brand new Cosmopolitan Hotel. Not wanting the evening to end we decide to check out her suite and have a nightcap.
By now the moon had risen, a perfect backdrop to the lights of the strip. Standing there with two dear friends it was hard to hate Las Vegas.
"You know something," I said. "Last night from my balcony on the other side of the hotel, I saw the same moon. One of the moons has to be fake!"
What I appreciate and hate so much about Las Vegas is that for just a few seconds they believed me.