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Choose your own Las Vegas adventure, or let the Monorail do it for you.
Photo: PR (The Monorail could be extended to McCarran International Airport)
My carbon footprint is the size of a Sasquatch’s, and something’s got to give. So I’ve planned an entire day revolving around the Las Vegas Monorail. The train runs along a four-mile stretch on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard from the MGM Grand to the Sahara, with seven stops along the way.
The $5 ticket (for a single ride; $12 for an Unlimited Ride Day Pass) opens up a world of adventure, while saving my weary feet—and helping the planet. “The Las Vegas Monorail addresses the need for progressive transit options by providing a fully electric, zero-emission service that is used by about 25,000 people every day,” says Ingrid Reisman, vice president of corporate communications for the Las Vegas Monorail Company. “As a community, we must take advantage of every opportunity to alleviate increasing congestion and the resulting pollution.”
I have big plans to maximize my monorail experience, from shopping to shows and even showgirls. But first things first: breakfast. I duck into the Rainforest Café at the MGM Grand. My server is dressed as a safari guide and tells me to enjoy my adventure—one that includes not only bacon and eggs, but rumbling thunderstorms, a 10,000-gallon arched aquarium, and a mushroom-shaped bar. Surrounded by lush trees and plants, I may as well be in the Amazon. Fortunately, though, the jaguar here is animatronic. Butterflies, zebras, and frogs peek out from the leaves as I devour my bounteous breakfast. It’s just the sustenance I need before heading back out to the jungle of a different sort: Las Vegas.
After purchasing my ticket at an automated machine in the MGM Grand monorail stop, I wait for less than two minutes before the train comes racing into the station. Traveling at speeds of up to 50 mph, it carries me along the backside of the Strip resorts. As the car rumbles along, I feel as though I’m on a Las Vegas tour, catching a glimpse of the construction of CityCenter, the 76-acre, $8-billion project that’s being built by MGM Mirage and Dubai World. Once finished in late 2009, the complex will be a mix of shopping, resorts, and gaming, meaning even more entertainment close to the monorail. After just a few minutes the train stops at Bally’s. It’s 10:45—just in time for my 11 a.m. backstage tour of the long-running show “Jubilee!”
A showgirl leads an entourage of curiosity seekers behind the scenes and explains that there are 100 different sets and backdrops and nine to 11 costume changes per cast member per show. In other words, if you’re in the audience, don’t blink! She goes on to detail some juicy “Jubilee!” facts. From the performers’ 35-pound headdresses to the five different feathers used, the tour gives memorable insight into the showgirl, a Vegas icon.
After the tour, I pass through the casino’s walkway to Paris Las Vegas and the Eiffel Tower Experience. At 460 feet, the observation deck provides some of the best views of Las Vegas. In the daytime you can see all the way to the edge of the valley. At night, you get a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the Bellagio fountain show, combined with the twinkling lights of the Strip. The tower is half the size of the French original, but just as romantic.
Gazing up and down the Strip puts me in the mood for shopping. The rail ride to Flamingo Las Vegas/Caesars Palace turns out to be an educational one. An audio feed of informative tidbits notes that 6,000 people move to Las Vegas each month. It goes on to say that there are 20 different nightclubs within reach of the monorail, and enlivening the statistics is a sardonic slice of humor. “Be sure to check your seat. Rumor has it that Howie Mandel scours for lost chips after the show,” and “Children under five ride for free. Adults acting like children pay extra.” Passengers exchange amused glances as we pull into the station near the Flamingo, across Las Vegas Boulevard from The Forum Shops at Caesars.
This is a shopping destination that would have made Cleopatra swoon, with more than 160 shops (everything from Anthropologie to Valentino to Gucci to the Gap) and a wealth of restaurants (Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, & Stone Crab; The Palm Las Vegas; Sushi Roku; Spago; Planet Hollywood, and more). Even nonshoppers love the Forum Shops, where a fountain comes to life and chronicles the fall of Atlantis, and Roman gladiators wander the property posing for photos with visitors under the sky-like ceilings. There is a lot to take in, and after a few hours my shopper’s appetite rears its head. Cheesecake Factory slays it, thanks to a Chinese chicken salad and a decadent slice of caramel pecan turtle cheesecake.
Sated, I take a walk back to the monorail, giving me time to consider my options. I narrow them down to two: I can join the fanilows at “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits” at the Las Vegas Hilton, or I can take the monorail back to the MGM Grand and see “Kâ.” The Cirque du Soleil show details a journey of separated twins searching for one another.
Hmm. It’s so hard to pass on a Cirque show, with its unrivaled acrobatics, choreography, and whimsical genius. But where else can I hear “Mandy” live? Maybe I should toss a coin, I think. No, wait. I’ll leave it up to the monorail. If the northbound train arrives first, I’ll see Manilow. Southbound, “Kâ.” My decision is made within minutes. The southbound train roars into the station. “Kâ” it is. And I don’t regret it for one spellbinding minute. Even the planet’s happy.
Las Vegas Monorail Company
3960 Howard Hughes Pkwy., Ste. 750, Las Vegas
Eiffel Tower Experience
3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas
MORE FUN ON THE RAILS
Yeah, it’s nice to be transported around Las Vegas via a leisurely monorail ride, but—for those seeking a more thrilling rail romp—there are a bevy of roller coasters in Southern Nevada.
Starts at the NASCAR Café (inside the Sahara)
Speed: Up to 70 mph
Single ride: $10
The Roller Coaster at New York-New York
Via Coney Island Emporium
Speed: Up to 67 mph
Single ride (shown below): $14