Well I hadn’t planning on traveling again this year, but I ended up attending a conference called Senchacon 2016 in Las Vegas for my work at MagiQ Software. Definitely a place that I wasn’t planning on visiting anytime soon, but I ended up really enjoying my time there. The city is certifiably crazy but has a very unique atmosphere, and I learnt a lot from my time at the conference.
Flying into Las Vegas at night is a great site, pretty much nothing but darkness everywhere except for this huge mass of lights. I didn’t realize how far stretching the suburbs around the city were, once we were over the main city all I could see in every direction were the lights of the outer city. We stayed at the Aria Resort & Casino where the conference was being held and it’s without a doubt the biggest and most up market place I’ve ever stayed at. The entrance lobby is a massive room decorated for Halloween, and the rest of the public areas are filled with a casino, bars, restaurants and conference rooms. Then I came up to my room on the 21st floor and was blown away again by the scale, easily twice the size of any hostel room that I stayed in during my Europe Trip earlier this year. It had a great view of the city, nice shower and bath, big comfy bed and a tablet that controlled everything from the TV to the lights and curtains, I was in heaven.
We first arrived at our hotel at about 10:30 on Saturday night (we flew out of NZ at just after 11pm on the same night). After checking in I went for a walk around the casino and then out onto the strip, the place makes quite the first impression with all the neon lights and music blaring out of every garden. I ended up down at New York New York where I had a walk around the chocolate shop and the casino, even though I was still on NZ time where it was early in the evening I called it a night since I was pretty tired from the 24 hours of flying and waiting in the airports it took to get here.
Since we had a spare day before the start of Senchacon we decided to take a day trip out of the city to the Hoover Dam, 221 meter high tall dam was built between 1931 and 1936 and currently provides electricity for Arizona, Nevada and parts of Southern California. We took a Grey Line tour bus out there which included a tour through the inside of the dam. It really is an impressive piece of architecture, the scale wowed me when I first saw it and it just gets more impressive as you walk around and learn more about how it was built.
The tour starts off with a short video then you take an elevator down into the bedrock of the canyon into one of the tunnels that were drilled to bypass the dam during construction. There were several other stops including the generator room and then up on top of the dam, looking over the edge down to the Colorado River it’s possible to see all the different concrete sections that were laid. It’s really an incredible feat of engineering, even more so seeing that it was built in the 1930s. We walked out the back towards Lake Mead and found one of the spill drains which were installed to prevent the dam from overflowing, just seeing the size of these 50 foot in diameter pipes was awesome.
The final stop of the tour was up on the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, where after climbing up a few flights of steps we got a great view of the entire Hoover Dam and the surrounding areas.
After getting back from the dam in the afternoon I had a small break, did a bit of work then went out for another walk in the opposite direction. This time I went out onto Las Vegas Blvd and then turned left down towards the famous casinos that I didn’t see the night before. I stopped outside the Bellagio and watched the fountain show a couple of times, really neat choreographed lights and fountains matched to different songs. Then I walked on a bit further and went into Caesars Palace, this place is something else. Every bit of decor inside of the casino matches their theme, but the really cool part is the forum shops area. Laid out like old Roman streets with a ceiling painted to look like the sky, it’s a surreal place to walk through. Plus it’s massive and very hard to find your way out of (by design), it was a funny feeling seeing things like the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon ceiling in Vegas especially considering I was in Rome looking at them earlier this year.
I had a training session on the Monday morning which meant we had a bit of free time in the afternoon in between work and the reception drinks later at night. So we caught a bus down the Freemont street, which our bus driver that took us to the Hoover Dam had suggested. It’s about half an hour away from the main strip and has some “smaller” casinos. The main attractions would be the huge overhead screen which covers the whole street and the multiple states that are set up for bands and singers to perform on. Since we had to get back to the hotel in time for the welcome reception we didn’t get to see any of the music, but the screen was turned on when it got dark as we were leaving. Again another impressive feat of engineering, the 460 meter long LCD screen updates throughout the night with photos that have been posted to Twitter with a specific hash tag.
Surprisingly enough I didn’t starve while I was in America, most of my meals were provided in big buffets by the conference and they insisted on feeding us every couple of hours. Before Senchacon started I did buy a couple of meals which also thoroughly filled me up. I got a try out the famous General Tso’s Chicken which was pretty good.