Bright Light City

If you live in California, and are of a certain disposition (which I am), going to Las Vegas becomes a recurring experience.

So when the Las Vegas CVA invited Smart Meetings out to take a tour of some new properties in town, I wasn’t expecting that I’d see anything terribly different from what I knew and loved.

As it turns out, I did nothing familiar at all. I had never even been to the Grand Canyon before Monday, so we’ll go through the first day backward from bedtime to wake-up call. 

The final stop of the night was the 9:30 p.m. show of Mystère, the original Cirque du Soleil show in town. I had never seen Cirque, and the experience was kind of surreal. The changing stage, the costumes, the power and abilities of the human body—the amount of teamwork involved in putting the show on is pretty ridiculous. Would you hang upside-down, do a flip and land in your coworker’s arms?

Dinner was at Botero steakhouse in my host hotel, Encore. If you go, try the vanilla-scented yams with marshmallows, and your steak should for sure be done in chimichurri seasoning.

Before dinner we took a tour of Encore’s meeting facilities, and I must say, it will be an amazing venue for The Smart Meeting in March (you heard it here first). The rooms were incredibly comfortable and actually made me feel at home—a sensation no hotel has ever really accomplished.

After lunch (but before the tour of Encore—remember we’re going backward through the day) was Hard Rock and all the fresh offerings it has for groups. The addition of the Paradise Tower and the HRH all-suites tower has made Hard Rock an off-strip sanctuary, and the once-condensed casino is more than doubling in size. I got to do a hard-hat tour of the yet-to-open spaces and could see through the scaffolding the potential it has.
Hard Rock HRH Tower under construction

SmartCity really impressed me with what they can provide attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center (which I had never even been to) so I guess it’s no wonder so many technology shows are held there—more on them in a future publication, I’d imagine. Then Aramark flexed its culinary muscles with a surprising lunch that was capped by liquid nitrogen spiced pumpkin ice cream with cranberry glaze and pepita brittle. It was gone faster than it was frozen.
Aramark makes liquid nitrogen ice cream

The brittle may have been the highlight of the day if it hadn’t been for the reason I woke up at 6:30 a.m. (again, something I’d never done in Vegas). We jumped in a bus and went out to the home base of Papillon, for our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.

Hoover Dam bypass
I’m a flying nut so the ride itself was a blast, and it was a great icebreaker with the rest of my tour group. There were seven of us in the chopper, including the pilot, and we got to talk over headsets for our three-hour tour over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Grand Canyon and the southern tip of Nevada. There are tons of shots, but here are some videos so you can get a sense of what the experience was like.

Click below for videos of the ride
Landing in Boulder Canyon
Entering the Grand Canyon
Above the Grand Canyon

Landing in a helicopter actually feels like hovering on air, and we got to do it twice. After that, I was up for all the running around the next two days could muster. The shared experience set the tone for the rest of the trip, and now I can’t wait to get back out there. Which actually is the one feeling I always have right after a trip to Las Vegas.