I had the opportunity to ride the Las Vegas monorail this past Saturday, and overall, I liked it, though it does have its drawbacks. For me, it was very similar to riding the BART in the San Francisco bay area, except that these trains are a lot nicer, and the seats are slightly padded and covered by fabric rather than just being hard plastic seats.

The monorail currently has seven stops: MGM Grand, Bally's/Paris, Flamingo/Caesar's Palace, Harrah's/Imperial Palace, Las Vegas Convention Center, Hilton and Sahara. If you're going to or from any of those locations, the monorail is fairly convenient, but if you're wanting to go to any of the other hotels, you're pretty much out of luck. Even with those stops (I stopped at 4 of the 7 stations), at least one of them is misleadingly named. The Flamingo/Caesar's Palace stop isn't really all that convenient for Caesar's given that the stop is actually at the very back of the Flamingo, so you have to take the fairly long walkway to even get to the Flamingo, then walk through the entire Flamingo hotel, walk up the stairs to get to the Las Vegas Boulevard crossover, go over Las Vegas Boulevard, go down the stairs on the other side, and then walk the distance to get to Caesar's main entrance. It's a fairly long distance from the Flamingo monorail stop to Caesar's. As a matter of fact, when I got off at the Flamingo/Caesar's Palace stop, there was a couple who got off as well because they wanted to go to Caesar's and were fairly confused because they were at the Flamingo instead. Some of the stations aren't very well marked either, so even finding the station at Bally's took a while.

Many of the stations are fairly far away from the main hotel, so it's quite a trek. The MGM station is right next to the Grand Garden Arena, which is fairly convenient if you're going to a show there, but not so easily accessible from the rest of the hotel. Similarly, the stops at Bally's and Flamingo are at the very back of the hotel, almost further away than the parking structures for the hotels. This is understandable given that the hotels are on the strip, so it's not like the monorail track could have been built so the station is at the front of the hotel, but it's still very inconvenient nonetheless. The best stop of the ones I went to was for the Hilton. The station is located so that you're dropped almost directly into the SpaceQuest casino, right near the Promenade, and since that's where we normally spend our time at the Hilton, it works perfectly for me.

The hours of operation for the monorail are 8am to 2am, extended from its previous closing time of midnight. I was happy to discover that the hours had been extended as when I'd first heard that it closed at midnight, it seemed really early for a town like Las Vegas. I wasn't sure that I'd be able to ride the monorail with such an early closing time, so the 2am closing was much more convenient.

There are several different types of admission that can be purchased, with children 5 and under riding free. A single ride costs $3, no matter how far the distance being traveled. Purchasing two rides at the same time allows for a slight discount so the total cost is $5.50. There is also a ten ride pack for $20, an unlimited day pass for $10 and an unlimited three-day pass for $25. As I looked over the choices and figured out how many times I'd be riding the monorail, the day pass made the most sense for me. For $10, you get a pass that you can use an unlimited number of times during the subsequent 24 hour period. There is no stated policy against transferability, so technically, different people could use the pass at different times during that 24 hour period. There are kiosks where tickets can be purchased, but one thing to note is that any change being given is in $1 coins, which isn't exactly the most convenient to carry around, but with so many casinos around, it's not hard to get them changed back into paper money.

The literature states that it takes 15 minutes to get from the MGM to the Sahara, which is pretty good time. Monorails arrive on a pretty regular basis, so you never have to wait for very long. There are attendants stationed at the entrance and up on the platforms as well. Once you purchase your ticket, you insert the ticket into the entry gate, and once it registers, it opens the gate to let you through. If you have a multi-ride ticket, remember to take your ticket back before you continue through the gate. The monorails are air conditioned, which is much appreciated, especially in the heat of summer.

The monorail seems to be fairly popular as it was crowded when I rode it several times during the day. As I left a concert at the MGM Grand around 11pm, there were lines about 15 people deep at each of 3 kiosks to buy tickets. It was nice to be able to walk right past them as I'd purchased my day pass earlier in the day. Riding back from the Hilton to the MGM at about 12:45am, I did notice that you get a great view of the city, with everything all lit up, and it's nice not to have to worry about driving back to the hotel yourself or having to hail a cab. It's also obviously a different view than you'd get traveling on the street. At that time of the evening, there were understandably not as many people riding the monorail. With the attendants around, it felt very safe, but even still, I elected to sit in a cabin with two other women rather than sitting by myself in an otherwise empty cabin.

Some of the monorails have sponsorships - the first one I rode was decorated with Monster Energy information. I'd heard about the Star Trek one decorated with the Borg to promote the new Borg Invasion 3D at the Hilton, so the geek in me was a little disappointed when the first time I was walking up to the platform, I saw that monorail pull out of the station. When I took the monorail from the MGM to the Hilton, though, I was pleased that it was in fact the Borg monorail I was on. Both the outside and inside bear pictures of various Borg and indications that the monorail has been partially assimilated. I'd become accustomed to the soothingly soft woman's voice who instructed rides to move away from the closing monorail doors and to hold onto a handrail while the monorail was moving and who also announced the next stop. During the ride, music was also played over the sound system. On this ride, as we pulled out of each station, creepy music was played that matched the feel of the Borg. As the monorail pulled out of the convention center station, the timber of the sound changed, and a Borg voice came over the speakers giving the instruction to hold onto a handrail and announcing that the next stop would be the Las Vegas Hilton, where the occupants would disembark and be assimilated. I thought this was a very clever touch, and yes, the remaining people on the monorail stared at me as I laughed during this part - obviously not Star Trek fans. After the Borg's announcements, a regular announcer voice came on to explain about the Star Trek Experience with its two separate simulators and the museum and the promenade shopping area. That was my favorite part of my monorail rides.


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