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bright lights, Big City
Las Vegas proves just as fun as it looks in the movies

It might be known as "Sin City," but Las Vegas proved to offer more than just gambling and bar hopping.

My boyfriend, Marcus, and I flew into the Nevada city for a five-day trip. After we checked into our hotel, the Luxor, at 1 a.m., the sounds of the slot machines piqued my interest. I decided to go ahead and get my one shot at gambling out of the way.

I played a slot machine and won $1.50 after spending about $5. Then I tried a few games of blackjack and walked away with $15. Marcus and I decided that we weren't high rollers and that was enough gambling for us. After all, we did come to Vegas on a budget.

Our first day started out with a good meal at Pharaoh's Pheast Buffet at the Luxor. The restaurant was every food-lover's dream. It offered an all-you-can-eat buffet of pizza, salad, fruit, fried chicken and stir-fried dishes, just to name a few.

After lunch, we hit the streets of Vegas to check out other hotels. Our first stop was the Mandalay Bay Hotel next door. As a wine lover, I enjoyed 55 Degrees Wine and Design. The shop featured more than 2,000 bottles of wine. A glass bar just inside the door allowed patrons to sample the wine.

We also went to the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, an aquarium that featured more than 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of sea water. While it couldn't top the Georgia Aquarium, the Shark Reef still had plenty of interesting animals to see, like lion fish, lizards and alligators.

Next on our must-see list was the lion habitat at the MGM Grand Hotel. As Marcus and I walked in the hotel, we were greeted by two lions, one male and one female. We were able to see the lions up close through a glass walkway in their habitat. The male lion was more playful with the trainer and liked to get his belly rubbed, while the female lion was perfectly happy lying there unaware of all the people watching her. She got up briefly to drink from the waterfall in their habitat.

As the sun started to set, we went to the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel. The tower stands at 540 feet from top to bottom, so I knew the view of Vegas would be beautiful from up there. For $9 a person, a glass elevator took us up 460 feet to the observation deck. Although it was windy, the view was breathtaking.

Our arrival was perfect because we managed to catch the fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel across the street. You might remember the fountains from their prominent role in "Ocean's Eleven" with George Clooney. As the water shot up as high as 240 feet, Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" played on speakers below on the ground.

After our first day of Vegas hotel-hopping, we decided the next day to only make two different stops. We spent several hours in the New York-New York Hotel at Coyote Ugly, a bar whose slogan is "Misbehavior encouraged." As a fan of the 2000 movie of the same name, I knew we would have fun.

The bar was filled with beautiful women known as "Coyotes," who dance on the bar as part of the entertainment. The dance routines were a cross between country line dancing and techno. Patrons picked the music on the jukebox in the corner of the bar. In between the "Coyote" performances, customers were encouraged to get up and dance. I would recommend Coyote Ugly to anyone looking for high-energy fun.

Later in the evening, Marcus and I were ready to sit down. We got tickets to see comedian Carrot Top at the Luxor. For two hours, the redhead used his famous props to tell plenty of jokes about traveling on airplanes, traffic and Michael Jackson. To make sure the crowd was awake, halfway through the show we were surprised with a light shower of water from the ceiling. As a hot-natured person, it cooled me down, but some people weren't as thrilled about getting wet.

Our last day in Vegas was spent in Caesars Palace and the Bellagio. Caesars was the prettiest hotel, with beautiful mermaid statues and an actual aquarium built in one of the walls by the food court. Caesars is also home to the Elton John store, Pure Nightclub and the Pussycat Dolls Lounge.

The Bellagio's coolest attraction was an enclosed butterfly garden in the middle of the hotel. Peaceful music played while fountains shot water over our heads.

Marcus and I wanted to end our trip back at the New York-New York Hotel. We rode the Manhattan Express roller coaster, which travels partly inside the hotel. The ride started out taking us outside, facing the strip, as we were lifted 203 feet in the air. The first drop was amazing at 67 mph. We went upside down twice then back in the hotel. Just when we thought the ride was over after about two minutes, we went through a tunnel and dropped again and went back outside for a few corkscrews. After about 41⁄2 minutes, the roller coaster came to a stop back inside.

The ride was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. How many people can say they've ridden a roller coaster inside a hotel? Not very many, I'm sure. It was the best way to end a trip to one of the most exciting cities in the world.