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OMED 2013: Local DOs and students share their fave spots in Las Vegas

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Time for a new profile pic? Don't miss snapping photos in front of the most famous sign on the Strip, writes John A. Garrison, OMS III. (Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas News Bureau)

“Vegas, baby, Vegas!”

It’s what Vince Vaughn’s character said to Jon Favreau’s in Swingers as the struggling actors prepared to take an impromptu trip to Sin City for a night of gaming and carousing.

DOs at OMED 2013 should also have a chance to enjoy the city’s spoils after their daily sessions. Perhaps you’ll be saying “CME, baby, CME!” by day and “Vegas, baby, Vegas!” by night.

To help you get the most out of your free time during OMED, which runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, The DO asked local DOs and students for their insights on Vegas. Here’s a roundup of their expert recommendations—a guide to Vegas for DOs, by DOs (and students).

If your schedule is jam-packed every day, local DOs say the Bellagio fountain show is the one can’t-miss attraction in the city. Bonus: It’s free. Added bonus: Enjoying the fountains will only take a few minutes of your time. Emerging from a small lake in front of the hotel, the lit-up fountain streams move and ‘dance’ to popular songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” taking a different pattern for each tune. Fountain shows happen every 30 minutes from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Have more than a few minutes for sightseeing? Walk down “the Strip,” the miles-long stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard lined with casinos and resorts, check out a few of the newer ones, and catch a show, several DOs and students suggest. The Cosmopolitan, a casino and resort which opened its doors in December 2010, is highly recommended for its glamorous atmosphere.

“The Cosmopolitan has the best bar in Las Vegas,” says Jerome Hruska, DO, a Vegas native and resident. “It’s a four-story place called The Chandelier, and it really feels like you’re drinking inside of a chandelier.”

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The Bellagio fountain show is a must-see, DOs say, and will be easy for busy physicians and students to fit into their schedules. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

In The Chandelier, patrons sip cocktails amid walls of lit-up beaded curtains and underneath Cadillac-size light fixtures that give the bar an ethereal glow.

Chase your libations with the jaw-dropping concoction of outlandish costumes, performance art and out-of-this-world acrobatics that is the Cirque du Soleil. These shows are a must-see, DOs say. Their favorites include the aquatic-themed “O” at the Bellagio, the myth-inspired “KÀ” at the MGM Grand, and “Michael Jackson ONE,” a tribute to the King of Pop, at Mandalay Bay. Prices for Cirque shows range from about $75 per ticket to more than $200.

Family style

In the ’90s, several Las Vegas destinations made an effort to appeal to families on vacation and capture a slice of the Disney crowd. Now, more resorts embrace Sin City’s reputation as a glitzy playground for grownups, but parents should be pleasantly surprised by the family-friendly options in the city.

The whole family will enjoy Vegas Indoor Skydiving, says Ryan Huang, OMS II. In a padded 10-by-22-foot cylindrical room, a giant fan propels divers outfitted in inflatable flight suits around the room.

“The minimum weight is 40 pounds, so even little kids can do it,” says Huang, who attends the Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine in Henderson (TUNCOM). “There’s a superstrong fan on the bottom that blows you upward, and you can change your body position to dive and float up.”

A single flight at Vegas Indoor Skydiving is $75, and a group of two to five can book a 15-minute block for $350.

Other DOs recommend the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, which boasts a plethora of sea creatures such as turtles, jellyfish and stingrays, as well as a “shark tunnel,” a glass-enclosed passage through the shark tank. The Discovery Children’s Museum, which has exhibits on art, water, sustainability and investigation among others, is also a top pick of DOs.

Families that want to see “a natural side of Vegas” can check out Gilcrease Orchard, Anna VanToai, OMS IV, of TUNCOM, recommends.

“Kids can pick their own fruits and vegetables,” VanToai writes in an email.

Gilcrease Orchard is a 20-minute drive north of the Strip and is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Hayrides are offered on Saturdays. Specialties include apple cider donuts and apple cider, which kids can sample after navigating a hay maze.

Vegas: A foodie’s guide

When the kids want something more substantial than apple cider donuts, Vegas delivers a dazzling array of dining options for practically any budget. For frugal students and those who spent all their money on shows and slot machines, the No. 1 budget-friendly eatery praised by DOs and students alike is In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food chain in the American West with a cult following.

“I think In-N-Out has the best burgers in Vegas, to be honest,” says Brian Jahnny, OMS III, of TUNCOM. “And they’re super cheap. It’s maybe $6 for a whole meal.”

A hamburger at In-N-Out will set you back about $2, while a cheeseburger is $2.25 and French fries are $1.60. If you go, be sure to check out the “Not-So-Secret Menu” online first.

The freshness of In-N-Out’s burgers is what makes them so much better than those at other fast-food outlets, Jahnny says.

Searching for a swankier, more mysterious budget-eating adventure?

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Musicians perform at The Chandelier bar in the Cosmopolitan. Jerome Hruska, DO, says The Chandelier is the city’s best watering hole. (Photo by Tom Donoghue)

“The best thin-crust pizza in Las Vegas is in the Cosmopolitan,” writes Steven Dalton, OMS IV. “The shop doesn’t have a sign, but it sits near the dangling crystals in the middle of the restaurant sector tucked back at the end of a hallway.”

Dalton, who attends TUNCOM, is referring to an unlabeled pizzeria in the resort nicknamed “Secret Pizza.” The DO found scant information about “Secret Pizza,” but several DOs gave it rave reviews, and Steven T. Elsbecker, DO, helpfully notes that it’s on the third floor next door to Jaleo.

Other low-rent establishments DOs love include Peppermill, a 24-hour diner with an interior heavy on neon and stained glass, and Hash House A Go Go, whose specialties include bacon waffles and sage fried chicken.

On the flip side, some DOs might win big and want to treat their colleagues to a fancy meal. At the pricier end of the spectrum, buffets are a Vegas institution. Most of the resorts have one. If the word buffet conjures images of congealed slabs of Salisbury steak and lukewarm mashed potatoes, consider this: Bacchanal Buffet, in Caesar’s Palace, has “more than 500 items prepared by a team of master chefs in nine globally-inspired kitchens,” according to its website. Think oysters, crab legs and artisanal sausages.

Huang says Bacchanal is Las Vegas’ best buffet because of the variety and amount of food available.

“Bacchanal has macaroons of different flavors and desserts that other buffets don’t have,” he says.

Other buffets name-dropped by DOs include the Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon, The Buffet at Wynn and Studio B at M. Buffet prices range from $11 to $26 for weekday breakfast to $40 to $50 for weekend dinner.

DOs looking for more of a sit-down, white-napkin affair will want to check out China Poblano in the Cosmopolitan, Dr. Hruska says.

“It’s a fantastic restaurant. It’s based on the old story that the Mexicans captured a Chinese princess back in the 1500s,” he says. “So it’s an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant. You can have margaritas and guacamole and then have sticky buns at the same time. It’s phenomenal.”

Other DOs recommend dressing up for Picasso at the Bellagio. Pablo Picasso’s real artwork adorns the walls, and the menu evokes the regional cuisines of France and Spain where the artist once lived.

An ever-changing city

Picasso is just one example of the many Vegas attractions that transport visitors to another place. But what’s day-to-day life like for those who live here?

A city of rapid change and dizzying growth, Las Vegas’ population more than doubled between 1990 and 2011, when it stood at 586,356. The metro area grew by more than 2.5 times in that time period to 1.97 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. And in the past 20 years, the Strip has seen the development of numerous casinos and luxury resorts, such as Planet Hollywood, New York New York and Wynn Las Vegas.

Fill in the blank: Best of Vegas

The DO asked Vegas-area DOs and students to complete the following: “The best ______ in Las Vegas is _____.” Here’s how they answered.

“The best time of year in Las Vegas is October.”
Daniel F. Royal, DO

“The best steakhouse in Las Vegas is THE Steak House at Circus Circus.”
Victor K. Sun, DO

“The best comedian in Las Vegas is Carrot Top.”
Jonathan Michael Ricker, DO

“The best people-watching spot in Las Vegas is in Cabo Wabo Cantina.”
Steven T. Elsbecker, DO

“The best gambling in Las Vegas is at either Harrah’s or Circus Circus. The nicer the casino, the worse the gambling.”
John A. Garrison, OMS III

“The best scenery in Las Vegas is at Red Rock.”
Gregory E. Yager, DO

Magical memories

“What’s your favorite Las Vegas memory?” The DO asked DOs and students. Many of these moments could only happen in Sin City.

“Experiencing the mildest winter ever.”
Adam Freilich, OMS II

“Winning $280 on $15 at the slots.”
Jonathan Michael Ricker, DO

“Date nights with my wife on the Strip.”
Steven T. Elsbecker, DO

“Hiking Mount Charleston.”
David W. Wood, DO

“Riding my horses with my family around the city.”
Charnell Cain, OMS III

“Las Vegas had a snow day in 2008 … even the Strip was covered in snow!”
Brian Jahnny, OMS III

“I got engaged on top of the Stratosphere and then married at the Little Church of the West.”
Leslie J. Howell, DO

—Rose Raymond

Despite slowdowns in growth due to the state’s housing market crash and the economic collapse, longtime Vegas residents say new resorts, new housing and new residents are the biggest changes they’ve noticed over the years.

The first house he lived in as a child years ago, Dr. Hruska says, was a block away from a drag strip, but it’s now surrounded by miles and miles of new housing.

“My favorite childhood memory was riding on four-wheelers to the local 7-Eleven because everything was a desert around there,” he says. “Now it’s all built up, and you can’t do that. But you could do anything you wanted to when we were kids.”

Vegas’ housing and resort booms meant construction was a constant presence in its residents’ lives, writes native Charnell Cain, OMS III, of the Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn.

“Las Vegas has been coined the ‘fastest growing city’ for many years, and for good reason,” writes Cristina Capannolo, OMS II, of Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest in Lebanon, Ore. “I have seen casinos come and go, and the amount of homes and schools that have been built is amazing. It is definitely different and a lot bigger than it was when I was a child, but to me Las Vegas still has somewhat of a small-town feel to it, as crazy as that may sound.”

Dr. Hruska agrees.

“For being such a big town of 2 million, it’s still a very small town,” he says. “The people who have been there all their lives still know each other.”

For those new to Vegas but curious what the city was like years ago, local DOs recommend The Fremont Street Experience and its casinos. The Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall located in what’s known as “Old Vegas” or downtown, an area a few miles north of the Strip where many of Las Vegas’ original hotels and casinos were. Like the Strip, neon abounds in downtown Vegas. If you’re traveling between downtown and the Strip, Cain suggests taking a cab or a bus instead of walking, for safety reasons.

Tourists are drawn to a “light canopy” on Fremont Street called Viva Vision, a giant screen that forms a high ceiling above the street and spans the length of five football fields, according to Vegas.com. Passersby can watch various custom shows on the screen such as “KISS Over Vegas” and “A Tribute to Queen.” Joshua Pendl, OMS III, writes that unexpectedly witnessing “Bon Jovi’s Cosmic Concert” with a half-dozen fellow TUNCOM students is one of his favorite Las Vegas memories.

Leaving Las Vegas

Not much about downtown Las Vegas or the Strip is natural—the neon, the opulence and the expansive resorts will likely leave some DOs longing for Ansel Adams-style landscapes. But Las Vegas is in a desert, and just outside the city, wilderness abounds.

Twenty-three miles west of the Strip, visitors to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area can take in stunning views of crimson rocks and cliffs and desert stretching out to the horizon while hiking or driving along its 13-mile scenic loop.

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Mount Charleston, an hour west of Las Vegas, is a refuge from the city’s bright lights and desert heat. Due to altitude, temperature on the mountain is up to 30 degrees cooler. (Photo by Judy Baxter)

“What you see in Red Rock is more the natural environment of Nevada,” Jahnny says. “There are several trails ranging from very easy, with no incline in altitude, to another trail called Turtlehead Peak that can take about four to five hours. Personally, Turtlehead Peak is my favorite because at the end there’s a view of the entire Las Vegas Valley.”

DOs seeking to escape the Strip and the heat can drive an hour west to Mount Charleston, where hiking trails will take visitors up to 10,000 feet and the temperature can drop as much as 30 degrees, says Dr. Hruska.

Those with more time to spare can check out the steep cliffs and mountain vistas of Utah’s Zion National Park, which is a 2.5-hour drive northeast of the city, or Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, which is four hours away.

Whether your time in Vegas is filled with arresting desert landscapes, epic buffet meals, or a whole lot of continuing medical education, you’ll want to memorialize your trip.

“You can’t miss getting your picture taken at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign,” writes John A. Garrison, OMS III, of TUNCOM. The sign is on the Strip just south of Russell Road and only a few blocks from Mandalay Bay, the site of OMED 2013.

rraymond@osteopathic.org

2 Responses

  1. ALAN L MENKES, DO, FACOI on Sept. 6, 2013, 3:54 p.m.

    Students should not be frequenting casinos

  2. robert migliorino,d.o. on Sept. 7, 2013, 8:22 a.m.

    Anyone over 21 can go to a casino.However,rugrats are not allowed & security will escort them & you off the floor.BTW,be aware that many of the strip restaurant are also in the Summerlin area(NW) & their prices are much lower if you want to save cash.

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