The Worst Place I Have Ever Been



A UK tourism bus side for Las Vegas reads; ‘You know why you come here.’ To which a million answers spring to mind;

‘Because it’s the last place my parole officer will ever think of looking for me.’

‘Because I’m a morbidly obese gambling addict.’

‘Because it’s the Pikey Monte Carlo.’

‘Because I sometimes black out and wake up covered in blood.’

‘Because women won’t talk to me unless I pay them.’

‘Because the police have a sample of my DNA.’

My partner was once in Vegas near their horrible stunted version of the Eiffel Tower (sorry, ‘The Eiffel Tower Experience’) when the gigantic woman next to him said, ‘I’m so glad I’ve seen this – I don’t need to go to Paris now.’ It is, by a very long way, the absolute worst place I’ve been in the world, and I’ve been to Tunisia.

Paradoxically, the streets behind the strip where the Vegas workers hang out between shifts are less offensive. They’re good people, sad, hard workers with tough employers, and doomed lives, and provide a respite from the grotesqueries of The Strip, with its catcalling drunks, its clockless glaring environments, its vast bland buffets and ‘colour & movement’ shows. The Strip is the only part of Vegas people ever see, but it’s actually located south of the city limits in the towns of Paradise and Winchester.

I saw Frank Sinatra’s final performance at Caesar’s Palace there, when it still had a little bit of an edge. I’d gone in the company of professional gamblers who got the kind of top-table service normal schlubs only dream about. Now Vegas is not just a holiday destination; it’s a top three spot in the US for business conventions, so basically a drunken knocking-shop for delegates willing to pay for ‘table service’ to sit at a one-armed bandit. Because the last thing may of the patrons can do is stand unaided with a bucket of coins.

Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905, when 110 acres of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned off as the downtown area. In 1931 Nevada legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks. The influx of construction workers for the Hoover Dam helped the city avoid economic calamity, and the power was used to floodlight every inch of the place. The heat is unbearable there, so there noise of slot machines is accompanied by the buzz of air conditioners.

These days, Vegas appears to be a squeaky-clean family entertainment capital, but still has more than its fair share of shocking scandals. You won’t find them on Google, though, as the city’s PRs have wiped its pages of anything negative. Vegas is regularly voted as one of there worst places in the world. Its homeowners were ruined by the housing crash, which fell 64.5 per cent. It has the 13th highest incarceration rate in the US and a legendarily crooked nightclub industry designed to strip cash from morons.

So when you pass that bus side and think, ‘I’ve never been to Vegas – maybe I should check it out,’ keep walking.


22 comments on “The Worst Place I Have Ever Been”

  1. Susan in Las Vegas says:

    I’m so sorry you had an unpleasant experience in my home town.

  2. Brooke says:

    Whenever I think about how shabby, stupid and corrupt Philadelphia is, I recall Las Vegas and count my blessings.

  3. Roger says:

    ‘I’m so glad I’ve seen this – I don’t need to go to Paris now.’

    The lady can miss the wonders of Blackpool too.

  4. Another Susan in Las Vegas says:

    If you come to Las Vegas again, get away from the Strip! Go to the places where real people live, work and relax: Springs Preserve, Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston, Smith Petforming Arts Center. Vegas is the Strip, Las Vegas is where people live.

  5. Rich says:

    I’m one of the poor sods who ends up in Vegas once a year or so for work. My tip for surviving the experience is take an extra day or two, hire a car and head out to Red Rock Canyon and beyond to Death Valley. Some of the most awe inspiring landscapes you’ll ever see. Made it all worth it for me this year.

  6. admin says:

    Dear Susan in Las Vegas –

    It wasn’t all horrible. I did get to see Sinatra. I’ll make sure to see the rest another time, but I imagine the Strip is all most poor tourists see!

  7. Martin Tolley says:

    Mr F. You clearly haven’t been to Bicester Village…

  8. admin says:

    High on my list, Martin…

  9. Paul Graham says:

    Dear Admin…”Bucket’s of coins”…That dates your last visit to Vegas! The constant “ding, ding, ding” of dropping coins that punctuated every indoor space from arriving and departing from McCarran airport is long gone. The one-armed bandits that fill the casino floors and once cause that cacophony now dispense only strips of bar coded paper when you cash out.

  10. Wayne Mook says:

    Roger you’re forgetting the Winter Gardens.

    Have they knocked down the town to create the village at Bicester? Thanks for the warning Martin I never knew this existed. Although places like this have an odd fascination for me, I find them faintly unsafe as I feel at any moment things will collapse like Westworld or The Stepford Wives. I thinking 70’s films. The façade drops.

    Death Valley is a place I’d love to visit, as is Red Rock, although I’m not really built for heat. I find the advertising slogan ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ vaguely depressing and sad, it smacks of sordid desperation, hopefully they will dump it as it does the place no favours, the ‘strip’ is not a place I’d fancy visiting.

    The paper strip just makes it seem even more depressing Paul, at least the noise of coins gave a feeling of some reality.


  11. Helen Martin says:

    I’m told that spring in the desert when the wild flowers bloom is unbelievable and a teacher in an ad hoc discussion group in California (we were all eating ice cream to escape the heat) told us that Las Vegas was the fastest growing school district in the US and the district was offering great salary and percs to lure people there to teach. That was a number of years ago, though. As in every attraction based place (like London) you have to wander away from the attractions to see the real place. I still have no desire to visit Las Vegas (my apologies to the Susans).

  12. Ken Mann says:

    Once had a day out from Las Vegas visiting Rachel Nevada, where by sheer chance they were celebrating Rachel Day. The local airbase gave them a fly past of stealth aircraft. At least they said they did.

  13. Brian Evans says:

    First prize-A week in Las Vegas.
    Second prize-Two weeks in Las Vegas.

  14. Jan says:

    I like it. Walked cos I k new no better miles to see the Star Trek experience and the Klingon blokes were so funny and nice to me made me feel great. And there’s a good shop to buy wide fit shoes and what more could you possibly want? And I iiked that street where the whole light show thing happened and I saw the Rat Pack show at The Sands

    I know I’m No intellectual but I thinks it’s good fun

  15. Helen Martin says:

    Sounds like fun to me, Jan. It’s a matter of looking for the sort of thing you like. Ooh, Bible quote: “What did you go out into the desert to see?” You don’t go to Coney Island for classical concerts or classical gardens to exercise your horse. Every city has something to please every taste if you look hard enough. I don’t mind looking at railways, real or model, but my interest is limited. Hamburg has a huge model rail site but it has art galleries and gardens, too. (Great emigration information centre, too.)

  16. Jan says:

    Been thinking about even more things I liked .Stayed at that very tall hotel at the cheapie end of the Strip and went on a ride on the (flat) roof there that shot you up in the air like a vertical catapult. Doing that ride looking down on the lights below was just brilliant.

    And I like it that the city get constantly ripped up when interest falls away and they rebuild something different. The City of London is getting like that if they don’t get 55% of the Walkie Talkie occupied within a few years they r going to rip it down. I like the constant reinvention.

  17. Helen Martin says:

    And when the Abbey is turned into a Kwiksave?

  18. Jan says:

    There’s no Abbey in the City Helen and the Abbey in Westminster is set to become a Sainsbury’s local in late 2019.

  19. Helen Martin says:

    Oops, lost my geography there for a minute. Sainsbury might not be quite so destructive, although laying it out in my mind does make me shudder somewhat.

  20. Tara says:

    Rick Riordan wrote one if the cleverest takes on Las Vegas in The Lightning Thief when he has Percy, et al. make a stop at The Lotus Casino (a gauzily veiled reference to the Land of the Lotus Eaters) which nearly becomes permanent when our heroes lose all sense of time’s passage inside a pleasure palace of amusement park rides, free food and arcade games. They eventually come to their senses and escape, even freeing some kids who have been trapped there since shortly after WWII. Perfectly captures that sense of listless compliance and addled amusement upon which the success of The Strip is based. I loved reading that chapter with my kids. Truly a cautionary tale of the dangers of flashy distraction and subterfuge. But there is so much beauty in that region of the US. It’s too bad The Strip looms so large in the world’s conscious impression of Las Vegas.

  21. admin says:

    Tara, surely that Percy idea is lifted from the original Pinocchio and his trip to Pleasure Island, where he is seduced into idleness by amusements?

  22. Tara says:

    Yes, I suspect you’re right. At any rate, Riordan did a deft job up updating it for modern kid audiences. Pinocchio is not really on their radar, particularly once they are teens and tweens, but the rabbit hole of video games looms large so the caution, delivered with humor, has value. And a story well told has merit, even if it’s been told before.

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