BOTCON SAN DIEGO
(griffin's 2013 BotCon adventure)
- check out by 10.00
- TOUR - bus around Vegas, old and new (4 hours)
10.00 Tour depart
14.00 Tour return
15.00 to airport
- FLIGHT - Las Vegas to Los Angeles
17.05 - LV depart
18.15 - LAX arrive
- FLIGHT - Las Angeles to Orlando Florida (fly overnight, arrive next day)
21.30 - LAX depart
My alarm was set for 8am, but I couldn't sleep, so ended up getting up at 7... barely two hours of restless sleep.
I packed up my stuff, with the TV on to slow me down... and checked
out a little after 9am (leaving my big bag at the bell desk until after
I was wanting to have breakfast at ihop next door (International House of Pancakes), as they were open 24 hours... and I'd never been to one before (love pancakes, so really want to try one evenually). Realising that there wasn't enough time to have a decent breakfast (we had to check in with the tour guide at least 20 minutes before it started), I just caught a cab and headed over to where the Tour started (Bally's Casino/Hotel).
On the way I took a this photo of the Rio... and it is even more colourful
at night when lit up with different coloured lights.
Waiting to hop on the bus, looking over at the Flamingo Hotel/Casino,
which is currently closed for renovations. Our tourguide told us that it
was the first Casino on what is now The Strip, as it was built in 1947.
(either the first, or the oldest surviving one, as many of the old ones have since been bought and demolished, to make room for big, new, fancy Casinos)
While we were waiting for to get on the bus, the tourguide mentioned in passing that the Vice President Joe Biden was in Las Vegas yesterday... probably for the Mayors convention.
The map to refresh your memory of the Casino strips.
The tour would head north, stopping at the Venetian, then taking us into the Downtown precinct... then all the way to the southern end of the main strip (at the Vegas sign near the Mandalay Bay), and then we were dropped off at the Bellagio as the last stop.
Some info given at the start of the tour...
Apparently the MGM Grand is currently the biggest Casino/Hotel in Las Vegas, able to accomodate 10,000 people.
The Bellagio is said to be the most expensive to build, at $3.6 BILLION! Followed closely by the Cosmopolitan at $3 BILLION.
The Fashion Show Mall is the second largest Shopping Centre in America (behind Mall America in Minnesota).
Las Vegas attracted so much money (rich people) that Louis Vuitton moved their international Headquarters to Las Vegas.
The Encore is where the famous Desert Sands Casino used to be, while the Pallazo is where the Sands Casino used to be.
Free nightly shows...
Treasure Island - Pirate show, 4 times a night.
Mirage - Volcano, hourly.
Bellagio - fountain show, every 15 minutes.
At the first intersection, Bumblebee was back at the spot I first saw
him... but now he was joined by an Ironman and a Chewbacca... each with
their separate tip buckets (get your photo taken with them, and give them
Driving past Caesars Palace... one of the bigger Casino/Hotels.
Complete with a colossium.
Then past the Mirage.
And stopping at the Venetian. On foot we would be checking out
the Venetian, the Palazzo and the Wynn. (probably a special arrangement
with the tour company)
As the name implies, the Venetian is Italian themed, specifically imitating
parts of Venice.
This particular Casino/Hotel spent a fortune on all of these intricate
A replica of the Sistene Chapel ceiling.
Massive chandaliers... and more painted ceilings.
But the main feature of the Venetian... is the replica courtyard from
Venice, complete with a painted sky and canal.
It doesn't look weathered enough, but is apparently quite an authentic
replica (produced by using hundreds of photos of the real thing in Venice).
The indoor canal, complete with gondala rides and singing boat-operators.
A chocolate shop, where you can see them making it.
Inside the Pallazo, an indoor waterfall.
Outside, we crossed over a footbridge to the Wynn & Encore.
The Encore has a floor to the casino that requires people to have a
minimum $320,000 to gain access.
Somewhere inside the Wynn/Encore complex is a Ferrari & Maseratti dealer, and is apparently the only one in the world inside a Casino or shopping centre.
On the footbridge, looking over at Treasure Island.
The waterfall outside the Wynn, that people use for photos.
Inside is a tropical garden.....
....and a curved escalator. Yes, a working escalator that curves.
The owner wanted two to frame this open area, so one had to be designed
On the gaming floor... another Star Wars slot machine. (Lucas Arts must
have pimped out the brand to casinos, because I saw more at the Airport
later that day)
Back onto the bus outside the Wynn, we headed towards the Downtown casinos.
We passed the Echelon construction site, which has been sitting there
abandoned for five years now. The Famous Stardust casino used to
be there, before the site was bought for the Echelon.
We drove past the Stratosphere next, and then the "Little White Chapel",
which boasts doing the most weddings in world... due to them having a drive-thru
chapel. Yes, you don't even need to get out of your car to get married
in a hurry.
They do about 8,000 weddings each month.
Next, we drove past the Pawn Stars (TV show) pawn shop. I wanted
to go to the store, but didn't have enough time in the two days I was there.
I'll do it next time.
Arriving at the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas.
The big feature of this Casino/Hotel is the aquarium filled with fish
and sharks.... and a waterslide runs through the middle.
This shows the exit of the waterslide, which you can see passes through
the shark tank.
A promo image from a tourist booklet at the Casino (I couldn't get a
good shot of from where we were).
Another feature of the Golden Nugget Casino/Hotel, is a couple of nuggest...
...the golden ones on the right.
The big one is the worlds largest nugget on public display, worth $14 Million, and was actually found in Australia, by a guy with a metal detector.
The gaming floor.
We went out to the main street (we'd call it a Mall in Australia).
It looks so different during daylight hours, with very little lit up. The canopy was constructed in 1995, and has 12.5 million LEDs of different colours.
The Zipline/Flying Fox in action during the day.
The structure at the far end is what they are currently building for
a bigger Zipline ride, which will end up looking like a slot machine (picture
Next time I come to Vegas, I'm spending at least a couple nights in
the Downtown District, as the food prices are amazing...
And apparently the gaming odds are better, as a way to compete against the newer Casino Strip.
We hopped back on the bus and headed for the Famous Vegas Sign, south of the city.
The Golden Gate Casino/Hotel is the oldest in Downtown.
The tag line for Oscar's - Beef, Booze, Broads... that pretty much sums
up Las Vegas.
Yes... a Mob Museum. Not run by the Mob, but all about their involvment
in Las Vegas.
The Fremont Canopy from the outside.
Stratosphere, Fontainbleu and Encore
In the middle of the photo is Circus Circus, with the huge shiny red
amusement park next to it.
Bellagio, Cosmopolitan and Planet Hollywood.
Monte Carlo, New York New York. (it's just one solid building, with
the exterior sculpted to look like a dozen individual ones)
Excalibur (castle), Luxor (pyramid), Mandalay Bay (golden pair).
The MGM grand at the back, and you can see that Excalibur castle, which
is surrounded by two hotel buildings that form a square around it.
All around Las Vegas are these iron animal sculptures... done a few
Near the Vegas sign is another famous/popular wedding chapel.
The sign... which had to have a carpark built to stop people from getting
run over, as they would have to park elsewhere and then dodge traffic to
get to it.
Built over 50 years ago, it is now a heritage listed American icon.
It's a favourite for the tourists to get their photo taken with it...
even those tourists who are from a long, long way away...
There were two signs near the Vegas Sign, promoting the recreational
use of machine guns at a gun shop.
I kept thinking of the motto of Triggerhappy (the Decepticon Targetmaster) - "Have gun, have fun!"
We got back on the bus, and headed for our final destination - the Bellagio.
On the way, our tourguide was telling us some stats for Las Vegas.
40 million visitors in 2012 - 4 million of them were for conventions, making Las Vegas number one in America for hosting the most conventions.
Gaming revenue last year was $6.2 BILLION... but, non-gaming revenue was $9 BILLION (accomodation, food, transport, shows, ect). Tourists spend an average of $485.
Most weekends, occupancy rates would be up to 98%, from an estimtated 150,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas.
It is just a four hour drive from Los Angeles, making it an easy weekend destination.
The Luxor, which is obviously Egyptian themed.
New York, New York... with a statue of Libertry as well.
Monte Carlo and Aria.
Aria and Crystals.
The Bellagio. The structure above (and below) is just a walkway
to the hotel itself...a very extravagant walkway.
Inside the check-in foyer... 2000 hand blown glass flowers, costing
about $45 Million.
Some of Oceans 11 was filmed in this casino.
An avery and flower garden.
Another chocolate shop, featuring the Worlds Largest Chocolate Fountain.
The chocolate pours out of slits in the ceiling, and flows down from plate
to plate, to the bottom (to be pumped back up to the top.
The latest fashion... a chocalate dress.
The tour had ended, and it was only 1.10pm (it was supposed to go until
2pm). They were supposed to drive us back across the road to the
Bally's Casino, but everyone wanted to just go their separate ways at this
one, as it would have been quicker to walk across to Ballys, than to get
onto the bus and navigate it through the traffic.
I walked out to the front of the Bellagio, just as the quarterly fountain show was on. This was about as good as I could see from where I was.
The Flamingo (white and dark pink buildings on the left) and the Paris
Casino/Hotel (with an Eiffel tower and that famous archway thingy.
Yeah, this one...
Note the Gordan Ramsey on it. There were at least two restaurants on the Strip with his name or face on them... and at least three different Circe De Solei shows as well.
Looking back at the Bellagio and its lake.
The Planet Hollywood, with the other Gordan Ramsey restaurant inside.
It is called BURGR... which sounds yummy if it is burger themed.
Inside the Cosmopolitan is a two-storey chandelier.
At one side of the intersection, looking south.
And on the other side of the intersection (on the foot bridge), still
There was yet another Walgreens at this intersection (they are worse
than Starbucks), and I found a third Transformers toy (Legion Hardshell).
I then had to find a Taxi to take me to the Stratosphere. I started walking around the side of the Planet Hollywood, and ended up going all the way around the back to get to the hotel entrance where Taxis drop off and pick up. I got one, and I got him to drop me off at the ihop next to the hotel... hoping to get some lunch before I left.
Unfortunately, the place was packed, and there was at least a 10 minute wait.
I walked over to the hotel, got my bag, and went outside to get a taxi to the airport.
2.00 - leave Stratosphere. (suddenly I realise that I don't have a booking reference for this flight, because I booked it myself, so wasn't on the Travel Agent's paperwork... I end up getting out my computer and looking up the confirmation email just before we arrived at the airport (it was only about 10 minutes from the hotel)
A last look at Las Vegas as we approached the Airport.
I self check-in and drop off my bag, then go through security.
Then had to hop on the tram that took me to my departure gate's terminal.
Inside this terminal were quite a few slot machines, including another
Star Wars one, which was different to the other ones. (it wasn't as much
I had two hours, so bought some lunch - Pretzels of course (regular,
cheese & pepperoni, pretzel dog, cinnamon sticks), and a chicken burrito.
I went to the departure gate and worked on my computer until 4.40, which was when boarding started.
5.05 - depart Las Vegas for Los Angeles.
6.30 - arrive Los Angeles (1 hour time difference - 2.5 hour flight)
We were in Terminal 4 for the second flight, so grabbed a coffee from
Starbucks to try to keep me awake...but I ended up napping for a couple
I was woken by an announcement asking for volunteers for the exit row at no extra cost (airlines charge a fee now, because there is more room in the exit row). I went up to the counter and offered, and got one.
9.00pm - board plane.
9.30pm - depart Los Angeles for Orlando
(sleep on the plane)
5.00am (Sunday) - arrive in Orlando (3 hour time difference - 4.5 hour
flight... was meant to be 5 hours though)
Or - Return to main index page
OZFORMERS - The Australian
(and Asia) Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction (started way
back in 1996 - try to find a Transfan community that's older)
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au