Best of Las Vegas: Buyer beware in glitter gulch
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The famous sign on the South Strip says "Welcome to Las Vegas" If there was any justice in this world, it would also display the disclaimer, "Enter at Your Own Risk" Las Vegas is a city of contrasts, and therein lies its irresistible attraction. One hand, there are $300 a round golf courses, $20 vodka drinks, and $100 steaks. On the other hand, there are hardened municipal tracks, free drinks at nickel slot machines and $5 all-you-can-eat buffets.
It is easy to pay too much for something in Glitter Gulch. It is almost just as easy to seek out some killer bargains. Here's what one writer uncovered during a recent, six-day golf and black jack boondoggle.
Best $4.95 Prime Rib: The Klondike - Situated about a quarter of a mile south of the prestigious Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, the Klondike is one of The Strip's few local haunts. Play penny slots, suck down free bud draughts, and indulge yourself with some juicy prime rib. As you wolf down your red meat, you'll get a good glimpse of the underbelly of Las Vegas. The majority of patrons have a two pack a day cigarette habit and the robotic stares of those folks pulling the handles on the nickel slots indicate a high number of lost souls.
Best Sports Book: Mandalay Bay - Time was, Caesars Palace was the place to lay it on the line. Mandalay Bay, with its giant, digital line board, movie screen sized big screen, and dozens of smaller televisions is the new haunt for sports junkies. If you need to compare and contrast, step next door and check out the meager sports book at the Luxor where patrons are jammed into a hot, smoky room with grease boards and tiny TV's. Only thing we'd change at Mandalay: you might have $500 riding on the big game but you have to pay for drinks. Ethel, with a $5 investment on the slots, can guzzle gin to her heart's content without having to dip into her faux leopard skin pocketbook.
Best Golf Facility: Las Vegas Paiute Resort - It was a close race between this remote golf Mecca and the up-and-coming Lake Las Vegas. But with three top notch Pete Dye designed courses, some of the most stunning scenery in Southern Nevada, and a clubhouse you may never want to leave, Paiute is the winner. Paiute's Wolf Course is presently the longest layout in the state, at just over 7,604 yards, and the Sun course and Snow Mountain course are two of the more highly regarded golf courses in Las Vegas.
Best Golf Course Dining: Cili at Bali Hai - This just in: there's a Wolfgang Puck eatery at a golf course in Las Vegas. Shocking? Hardly. The famous pizza chef opened a Southern Pacific themed eatery at the Bali Hai Golf Club, a Southern Pacific themed golf course. Patrons can enjoy some coconut-encrusted shrimp and a smooth glass of red wine while watching duffers take dead aim at the 18th hole's island green.
Best Themed Golf Course: Royal Links Golf Club - Never been to the birthplace of golf? No problem. Las Vegas is the replica capital of the world, and Walters Golf has made an admirable attempt to create 18 linksy holes inspired by the best that Britain has to offer. Test your mettle against the famous "Road Hole" or stick your tee shot on the elusive "Postage Stamp." Adding to the Royal Links experience is a castle-esque clubhouse, a feisty bagpipe player, and the availability of forecaddies.
Best Pizza: Wolfgang Puck's Trattoria del Lupo - The pizza master is alive and well at Mandalay Bay where his Trattoria eatery snares its fair share of pie craving patrons. Chicago natives, be warned - this style of pizza could offend your sense of decency. The crust is cracker thin and traditional pizza sauce is nowhere to be found. Our suggestion: try the meatball and onion pizza with a little marinara on the side. This way you'll get the flavor of what the Wolfman is trying to accomplish while maintaining some semblance of a traditional pie.
Best Golf Day Trip: The Oasis Resort in Mesquite sports two Arnold Palmer-designed courses, and nearby Wolf Creek Golf Club is regarded as one of the top five courses in the entire state of Nevada. The drive time is about an hour each way; the golf is more affordable and the fairways less crowded. The town itself is an ephemeral collection of cookie cutter housing developments and seedy, neon lit gambling establishments. Over the past ten years, no town in the U.S. has grown faster than Mesquite. More than 15,000 people make their homes in this burgeoning burg on the Arizona/Nevada border.
Best non-golf, non-gambling activity: the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay - Think Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, times 100. Only a thick pane of glass separates you from nature's deadliest creatures. And this isn't your father's aquarium - the marvels of modern engineering allow you to walk through glass tunnels while Great Whites and Tiger Sharks swim overhead and underfoot.
October 28, 2002