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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Split decision

2 April 1999

Dear Mark,
We are deciding to make a family trip to either Las Vegas or Disneyland. We have three children all under the age of eight. I would like to know your recommendations and experiences (good/bad). Elise G.

Elise, if you're looking for total family entertainment, choose the latter and take your family to Disneyland. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Las Vegas-just not as a family destination. Because it's only fair you get a second opinion, let me bring in my expert on such matters-the biggest Las Vegas promoter I know. No, not Steve Wynn, my 10-year-old son, Nick.

Mark: All right, Nick, tell my readers your choice of a vacation, Disneyland or Las Vegas?
Nick: Las Vegas! It's rad.
Mark: Come on, it's not for kids. We were there on a Tuesday during a school break and I could count all the families I saw on one hand. (Note: Before you write in and call me a numskull stating it's during the school year, so don't expect kids, we were at Disneyland the following two days and it was swarming with families.)
Nick: That just means we have the whole place to ourselves.
Mark: Okay, name some of the things you thought were "rad."
Nick: The Luxor arcade. The coolest I've ever seen.
Mark: In two hours, you spent more in quarters than a Disneyland Passport costs for the day.
Nick: We both liked that pirate stuff at the Treasure Island Casino.
Mark: The pyrotechnics and the pirate ship battle were good, but don't forget we waited for one hour so we could view it from the front, and you complained you were being squished to death. Plus it lasted only five minutes.
Nick: I've got something, big fella. I can't wait to go on that roller-coaster on that tall building.
Mark: I'm drawing the line here, Nick. No way am I going to allow you to get on a roller coaster that's 1,149 feet in the air. Wait till you're 18, better yet, 21. Case closed.
Nick: Chicken!
Mark: And one further thing about the Stratosphere tower roller coaster....
Nick: Bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk.... Anyway, I thought the amusement park at the MGM was way cool.
Mark: We were there off season, not during the summer, when the temperatures rise to over 110 degrees, long lines and you're limited to just 12 rides. Overpriced, no matter what they charge. (Currently, you must be over 48 inches tall to go on any of the rides.)
Nick: You have to admit, Dad, the MGM building is awesome. All the buildings are.
Mark: You mean I've got a future architect in the family? NOT! You just wanted a $20 souvenir from each location.
Nick: Well, they at least offer you something to do once you're inside.
Mark: Whether it's the boat ride on the Nile at the Luxor or viewing the Emerald Forest in the MGM, cha-ching, cha-ching, it cost bucks, very little is free. And all the walking to and from, I've got blisters....
Nick: Your whining!
Mark: True, but I don't know what's worse. Blisters from all the concrete afoot, or our taxi bill for two days: $148.
Nick: Well, I know something the big guy really liked-the buffets.
Mark: Guilty as charged.
Nick: And when I went on stage during Lance Burton's Magic Show, not once, but twice!
Mark: Nick, you couldn't find a prouder father. Of course, not everyone scores front row, center seats and has a son with the best "pick me" handwave in his fourth grade class. Let's take a break, Nick.

Elise, the "Sin City" element of Las Vegas is still alive and well, so don't expect Vegas to be the "Orlando of the West." Example: I took a solitary walk between the Flamingo Hilton and the Luxur, estimation one mile, and 47 times I was approached and handed four color brochures of fantasy girls, willing and able, to make my visit to Las Vegas worth-use your imagination. Retreating with my wife and Nick in tow, discretion worked to a point, with only nine handbill distributors pushing their wares on me. I guess on the plus side, 38 respected the institution of the family, but the visual effects remain. Those circulars are scattered all over the sidewalk.

Nick: I'm back. Any other questions, snoop doggie Dad?
Mark: Sure, one more, Nick. Your final word on Las Vegas.
Nick: When can we go again?
Mark: My final thought, Elise. Baby strollers and high rollers don't mix.

A final thought. The total expenditure for two days in Las Vegas was $739. Disneyland, $466. The following is directed to the gaming industry. Guess how much I gambled (total) when our family went to Las Vegas? $20. And when the "Nickster" doesn't go? Let's just say, MORE! Your "family theme" idea is way off the mark.

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.