As you know, I travel a lot for work and most often wind up in Las Vegas since that’s where many companies seem to hold user conferences and sales kickoffs. I can certainly see the attraction for the hosting company: lots of hotel rooms, convention space of apparently all sizes, easy access to entertainers who can liven up the event, and likely some good deals to be had during the slow periods here.

However. Vegas isn’t my favorite place. I’m a New Englander, so smoking inside public buildings simply doesn’t happen in my world. Here, cigarette and cigar smoke is everywhere. I walked the Vegas “strip” yesterday: glorious sunshine, fountains, street artists and guys making money photographing tourists sitting on a huge stuffed tiger. Even saw a wedding, Elvis and all. Back into the hotel for the Dassault Systemes 3DEXPERIENCE media reception, and I have to weave through a smoky casino floor just to get to the elevators.

And that smoky floor sees action all night long. Well, I presume so, since it’s humming when I go to bed and still has takers when I get up at 4AM local time (7AM East Coast time, where I live). I wish all of those people were having fun, but some seem so desperate, like the next slot machine will make their fortune. It all seems so sad.

BUT. The companies I care about will continue to hold their events here, so it’s time for an attitude shift. I asked a couple of young senior citizens (unconnected with our event) about why they come to Las Vegas, and it’s not at all what I thought. They’re not here to gamble, though they tried it. They’re not here for the food at name restaurants. They’re not here to drink. They’re here to see shows and aren’t picky about which — they’ll go see whatever they can get tickets to. They were very excited to see Legends in Concert, a “tribute” show in which impersonators pretend to be Elvis Presley, Liza Minnelli and Dolly Parton. They thought they might also try to get tickets for Faith Hill/Tim McGraw or Donny and Marie Osmond. And definitely some Cirque de Soleil. When they’re not looking into getting tickets, they’re people-watching and window shopping — most of the stores here are aimed at the young, so they may pick up gifts but aren’t really shopping for themselves. But, why Vegas? Because they can’t see these shows at home, let alone all of these shows in one week.

That Legends thing sounds like fun, so I may give it a try sometime. I did have time yesterday to look around for an hour or so, and there are some lovely things about Las Vegas: The fountains at the Bellagio hotel dancing in time to Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz:

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The Venetian is starting to decorate for Christmas with a giant, glittery white Christmas tree. Most buildings have fountains that add a lovely gurgle to the background noise. And then, there are those tantalizing mountains, just out of reach, at sunrise today:

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I’ll be spending the next two days in a conference center that could be anywhere in the world. But when I can, I’m going to duck outside to see a bit more of Las Vegas. It’s not so bad after all!

Talk to me: what do you do when you come to Las Vegas? If you’ve never been, is it on your bucket list? Why?