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Doug's Diggings: Still plenty of excitement in Vegas

I was on a short “guy” trip to Las Vegas last week.

Before you think that sounds a bit too crazy, keep in mind this group of guys is pretty mellow. In fact, one of the brother-in-laws could not make the trip so one of the “guys” brought his wife.

I hadn’t been to Vegas for a couple of years and the city continues to be non-stop. We stayed at Harrah’s on the strip. Our typical day found us traveling to the Gold Coast Casino for breakfast. It’s one of the few places close to the strip where you can still find a cheap buffet. The breakfast buffet was $5.99.

Those who travel to Las Vegas have probably discovered the same thing I did -- meals on the strip are no longer cheap! The town has put a renewed effort into making guests enjoy the “dining experience.”

There was a day when each casino had a buffet and one restaurant/café and food was cheap. Now each casino has multiple dining choices.

I did a quick check and discovered the MGM has nearly 30 eating choices and many of those are high-end restaurants. Most large casinos have something in the neighborhood of 20 dining choices. But, today it is hard to find a restaurant or buffet that comes with a bargain price.

So we made the drive to Gold Coast and usually sat at the buffet until 11 a.m. or later. The breakfast buffet became both our breakfast and lunch. In the afternoon we generally explored some of the fancy casinos, or walked along Las Vegas Boulevard in the beautiful sunny, 70-degree weather.

We generally had to meet early for dinner because we did attend a couple of shows. One night we ate at the food court in Caesar’s Palace; the next night we went back to the Gold Coast for the $9.99 buffet and the third night we ate for free at the Red Rock Casino (it had a promotion that if you earned 600 points on a players card, your buffet was free). Red Rock is a beautiful facility on the far west end of Las Vegas (probably 20 miles from the Strip).

We saw Shania Twain at Caesar’s Palace. I’m not a “country” music fan, but most of Shania’s music has a rock twist. The show was great. There are a lot of people who know more than I about Shania Twain, but a couple of interesting notes.

As we took our seats in the second to the last row of the balcony at the beautiful theater at Caesar’s, a young lady sat next to me. A few minutes later an usher asked her if she was alone. She obviously didn’t speak strong English, but finally got the message and said “yes.”

We figured they were going to move her to a possible seat in the front. If there’s an empty seat up front, it would make sense to fill them up.

Later in the show, Shania brought a couple of people up to the stage and then said she was going to pick one more from a front section of the theater. After surveying the rows of eager fans to be picked, she selected a young woman – the same woman that was sitting next to me in the very back of the theater!

Shania said, “I’ll pick you because you have on my shirt.” The young lady was now wearing a shirt and cap that advertised a foundation operated by Shania. Obviously the young lady was chosen and given the Shania Foundation clothes -- her selection from the audience was not as random as it may have appeared to the audience.

Also, when I talk about Shania, some people have told me that she either owned property, or a home, somewhere south Hudson at one time. If anybody knows the story I’d like to hear about it. She was married to Robert John "Mutt" Lange for a time and apparently he was big in working with Prince -- that’s what I’ve heard anyway. The couple later divorced and if they did have any local connections, it probably ended with the marriage.

The next night we went to see Donny and Marie Osmond at the Flamingo. I had seen them a couple of years ago and they put on a tremendous show. This year, however, it was not quite as energetic. Donny Osmond came on stage sporting a cane.

I later discovered he was injured the night of July 3 while performing a fairly routine dance move and ruptured the tendon in his right gluteus maximus. He originally tore the tendon about four years ago during “Dancing With the Stars” while sliding across the floor and beneath partner Kym Johnson.

But, Donny and Marie still put on a great show. The Flamingo showroom is one of the few “old-style” showrooms remaining in Vegas. All the new casinos have huge, glamorous new venues. The old-style showroom allows the audience to be close to the action.

One other thing I noticed outside our hotel window is the construction of a huge Ferris wheel. I later found out that the wheel is being built by Caesars Entertainment Corp. as the centerpiece of a huge new development called The Linq, an open air 300,000 square foot retail, dining and entertainment area. It is directly behind Harrah’s and the Quad (Old Imperial Palace). Called the High Roller, the company prefers to call the coming attraction an observation wheel, rather than a Ferris wheel.

The High Roller will be 100 feet taller than the London Eye, which opened in 2000, 30 feet taller than China's Star of Nanchang, which opened in 2006, and 9 feet taller than the Singapore Flyer, which opened in 2008.

The huge wheel can take more than 1,000 people on a ride 550 feet into the sky over the city's famed Strip. The main construction of the wheel is nearly finished and is expected to open in early 2014.

Because of its size, the High Roller wheel will take about 30 minutes to take its passengers on one full revolution. The wheel will have 28 cabins, similar to a capsule in a sky tram or gondola, with a maximum occupancy of 40 people. Each cabin will include 300 square feet of glass.

We flew home on a red-eye flight Thursday night, Oct. 17, arriving in Minneapolis at about 5:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18. Yes, I made it to work on Friday!

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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