Saturday, December 5th -
We woke up at dawn to catch our American West flight from Ft. Lauderdale (got a great $200 non-stop round trip fare). The flight leaves at 7:45 a.m., but the wife loves to get to the airport early so we don't have to rush. After about six cups of coffee, our flight was off (and so were we....the adrenaline and the caffeine has that effect). Our flight arrived only 20 minutes late and we waited only about 10 minutes for our bags (only lost about $2 in the airport slots while waiting for the bags...a waste of money we know but as Vegas virgins we couldn't help ourselves). We made our way to exit #4 and got in our Las Vegas Limousine (thanx board...$3.75/pp was a real bargain). We waited about 5 minutes for our limo to fill up and we were off. As luck would have it, the only other person in the Limo was staying at Circus Circus so we had the driver drop him off first and got a free limo ride up the Las Vegas Strip...how beautiful. It was day time but the ride was euphoric.
We arrived at the Luxor at about 11:30 a.m.. What a beautiful hotel. The decorations were some of the best in Vegas. We did not notice many children and the place had a sense of calm to it that was extremely rare to find in the rest of the Vegas casinos. There was no line and we walked straight up to the registration desk. The clerk told us that check in would be at 3:00 p.m., which obviously did not sound appealing to us. She checked what was available but again none of the available rooms seemed that great. Then lightening struck..she must have noticed that my wife and I were celebrating our first anniversary...she asked her supervisor a question and then told us that our Jacuzzi suite was ready (20th Floor in the Pyramid). Not bad for $49/night (Sunday and Monday), $100/night (Saturday). The lesson here is always let people know about special occasions...you never know what your going to get.
We checked in to the room...unpacked and went exploring. First stop was the Luxor lunch buffet (free with cost of the room). A very nice buffet, but this would be the first and last time we ate there (just too many places to eat to double up in one trip. We then went for a walk around the hotel. Went to the second floor where the IMAX theater was as well as a food court and an attraction called search for the Obelisk (3D Motion Simulator). We never went on any of these attractions although they looked like they would be fun. We then grabbed a beer and went to the Excalibor.
Getting to the Excalibor was easy...indoors through a moving walkway. The Excalibor is a nice hotel. We especially liked it from the outside. Inside, however, it seemed just a little tacky...nothing too terrible, but clearly not as upscale as the Luxor. The casino was laid out well. It was very busy and the occasional processional of trumpet players with the royal family was funny at first and annoying at second. We signed up for their slot card (something I thought I would do at all the casinos...but which did not happen much later in the trip). We then found a three dollar blackjack table and we sat down to play. It was my wife's first time playing blackjack in the casino, which can be a little intimidating. However, I can't say enough about the dealer we had. She was just great. She took her time and explained things very well. As would be the pattern throughout this trip, when we left the table, my wife had made a few bucks and I had lost. I guess she knew what she was doing after all.
We made it back to the room and showered. We had dinner reservations at Emerils and then were going to see EFX (with David Cassidy). The wife had been dying to eat at Emerils since the moment we made out reservations. It Is inside the MGM which made it convenient with the EFX theater at the other end of the casino. The food was good (not great) and quite expensive. The kicker was that half way through my wife's meal she found a huge piece a hair baked into her meal. The waiter was apologetic and brought her a new meal within minutes, but the whole experience was not what we expected. They could have offered to comp the meal, but they didn't...OH WELL. For the money I suppose one could do better but all in all a very good meal (plus the company couldn't be beat).
We made reservations for EFX about a month before we went to Vegas, but the ticket agent could not confirm our seats at the time...it made me nervous, but when we arrived and they gave me front row center seats, I could not complain. Neither could the wife who spent the next two hours with David Cassidy Gyrating in her face. A fabulous show. One not to be missed...but don't let them fool you (as they did us)...the girl (Laura) they pick from the audience is part of the cast.
When the show let out, we walked through the MGM for a while. Pretty lame casino. Much too big and busy for me. Wouldn't want to gamble here and the decor was average...nothing special here. Well, you can imagine how tired me and the Mrs. were by now, so we decided to head back to the Luxor. A nice bell man walked us to the exit leading to New York New York (thank god he did because you can really get lost in this place). The NY NY won first place for the coolest hotel on the outside. The Statue of Liberty standing outside next to the Empire State Building and the rest of the New York skyline was breathtaking...way cool. On the inside, I liked it although the wife thought it was too confusing to get around. We played some Jeopardy slots here...drank more beer and pretty much had a great time losing money in the slot machines (hell, it was money we promised a friend we would bet for her, so the beers were on her). We walked down what appeared to be a New York street and believe it not got hungry looking at the "New York Pizza" and "New York Deli" signs. Had a very difficult time finding our way out of this casino....doesn't anyone know how to give good directions (go straight, make a right, and go up the escalator just doesn't cut it). I got the feeling that they were doing it on purpose so we would stay and gamble more. Well at least we got to see the coney island carnival upstairs. Made it back to the Luxor where the wife went to sleep and I went down to play about an hour's worth of craps...lost about $60...not bad.
[I think I'm being way too verbose so I'll try to cut some of the info. out]
Sunday, December 6th -
Woke up at 7:00 a.m....well, the wife was up, I stayed in bed for another 20-30 minutes. I looked out the window the same time my wife said, "I can't believe it's raining...oh well." About that time, I said honey look out the window IT'S SNOWING!!!!!!!!!!!! That's right, before we knew it the snow was piling up on our window....IT WAS A BLIZZARD. By the time we left the room we couldn't even see out the window...amazing!!!!!
We were out the door by 8:00 a.m. Outside people were making snowballs and just taking part in the general merriment of a snow storm. What fun. We took a cab to Caesar's Palace to check out their sports book (it's traditional and I'm a traditional kind of guy). On the way saw snow on the palm trees...what a sight. Got to Caesar's and after taking some snow pictures outside we went into the hotel. Caesar's is a beautiful hotel...inside and out. The sports book is nice but after seeing other ones later in the trip (Las Vegas Hilton, Treasure Island), I would have to say it was not the best one in town. We bet some $5.00 parlays at the sports book and headed across the street to Barbary Coast for a reasonably priced breakfast ($20.00+ Sunday buffet at Caesar's seemed a little much). Barbary Coast was a quaint little casino with a small sports book and some low stakes blackjack table. Since the hostess said it would be about 30 minutes, we played a little blackjack. Like before the wife won and I didn't (although I did manage to break even this time). Breakfast was very good and we decided to check out the Bellagio before we had to meet some family at the Forum shops at noon.
The Bellagio...talk about upscale. We walked in via the Caesar's Palace walkway and were treated to a barrage of upscale shops (Channel...Versace) on the way. The walkway had sunlight coming in which was a nice change of pace from all the dimly lit casinos on the strip. We then walked through the casino which was beautiful and well laid out. It would be impossible to get lost in this casino (I think). Surprisingly, there were numerous $5.00 tables (blackjack and craps) and a number of .25 slots. People better play a long time for Wynn to make his money back on this place. We walked through the main lobby and checked out the garden area where a huge Christmas tree was located and where the entrance to the art gallery is. We decided not to spend the $10.00 admission fee for the art gallery although I have heard it is worth the price. This place is everything you have heard about and more...words fail to describe the magnificence and splendor of this hotel/casino. But, it was time to head over to the Forum shops.
The Forum shops are indoors but the lighting and the clouds on the ceiling give one the feeling of an outdoor mall. Most of the shops are upscale (Coach, Fendi, etc.) But, there are some places one can actually buy something (Gap, FAO Scwartz). In the new section of the shops is a huge fish tank with all kinds of aquatic life (nice place for a picture or two). There is also a neat show which takes place on the hour where statues come to life and say a few words to the crowd (although it was all Greek/Roman to me).
We then wen downtown and spent some time playing blackjack and craps at Binion's Horseshoe. [Stopped by the world's largest gold nugget and the Binion's million dollars first.] A very nice place to gamble. Not seedy...just some really down home nice people. I won about $100 playing craps and both the wife and I won a few bucks playing blackjack. All and all a most excellent trip downtown. It was then back to the Luxor to shower and shave and get ready for Mystere that evening.
We took a cab to Treasure Island to get our tickets to Mystere. I really liked this place. It was not too large or crowded and I got the feeling that the hotel employees were very helpful and nice. We took the tram over to the Mirage and caught the volcano eruption. A great attraction which should not be missed. We still had about an hour before the show and spent it sucking down a few Coors Lights in the sports book. The sports book had a whole section of extremely comfortable lounge chairs which looked to me like the perfect way to spend a football Sunday...well, maybe next trip. We bet on a few horse races (by name only...no handicapping this trip) and got a beer just before heading over to the show. The next event best describes how Las Vegas is like no other town: With full beers in hand the wife and I headed over to the show. We both talked about throwing the beers away before going in, but I said hey lets try to walk in with them...what's the worse they could do. As we passed through the doors, the usher stopped us, asked to see our tickets and said, "sir, about the beer......can I get you a glass." Imagine walking into a Broadway show with a beer...I don't think so. Anyway, I guess it's the small things in life that impress me. Mystere was awesome...how can people move there bodies that way. If there is a must see show in Vegas this is it. The acrobats, the humor, the dance....it was all so amazing.
After the show we decided to grab a late dinner at the seafood buffet at the Rio. The Rio is someplace I would highly recommend to anyone. The food at the seafood buffet was excellent and for $23.00 for all the lobster tail you can eat what a deal. The layout of the casino was beautiful and easy to navigate; we really enjoyed the masquerade ball on the ceiling as well (like nothing you've ever seen before). After dinner we went up to the Vodoo Lounge (thanx to the board for the suggestion). Although we did not order what the witch doctor had, a single malt scotch for me and a Coors Light for the Mrs. really hit the spot. What a view from this place (51st floor of the Rio) As good as the Strat and for far less cost. We hung out and listened to some great music (jazz..."you can leave your hat on"....). We headed back to the hotel and made use of our Jacuzzi....but I'll leave that story for another time and another place.
Monday, December 7th -
We woke up early, around 7:30 a.m. and went to Alamo to pick up our rental car. Of course, the car we reserved was not available, so they gave us an upgrade to a full size for free...what a boat, but for $20/day including tax who could complain. We were then off to Sunset Station to meet some family for breakfast before we headed to Hoover Dam. Sunset Station was really nice. If you have the opportunity to visit...do so. The atmosphere is similar to the Forum Shops (i.e., clouds on the ceiling with daylight type lighting) but with a Mediterranean feel to it. Plus, the odds are much better off the strip...so I'm told. We never did win here (lost $20 playing craps and about $20.00 more in the slots). We had breakfast with the family at a real locals place. For .99 cents, the breakfast I ate was out of this world (ham, eggs, hash browns, coffee). It's nice to know people with the inside scoop when traveling to sin city.
Then we were off to the Dam. It was a beautiful drive to the Dam past Lake Mead and all the mountains. The Dam was pretty neat, but after the initial thrill of seeing it, there was not much else to do. We took the Dam tour....took some Dam pictures...told some Dam jokes...finally, we drove the Dam car back to Vegas.
On the way back to Vegas we stopped at Ethel M.'s Chocolate Factory (located where Sunset Road makes a fork). Walked around the gift shop for awhile and got a taste of some of the best chocolate on this earth. Bought a few bars of chocolate to take home with us and some for a little snack for the car ride back to Vegas...mmm...good.
Back in Vegas we stopped for lunch at the Fat Burger which one of our cab drivers had highly recommended. It was very good and definitely blew away the Mickey Ds right next door. We then went to the Mirage where we wanted to see the white Lions in the secret garden of Siegfried and Roy. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the white lions had been brought in for the day. We nevertheless decided to spend the $5.00 to see the dolphins. While I wouldn't say that it was worth the cost of admission, being that close to the dolphins was definitely an experience. These are beautiful creatures that appear to be smiling at everyone as the swim by. The dolphin trainer told us all about how they train the dolphins and that they're not the smartest creatures in the world (as we all are lead to believe). Not wanting to ruin my perceptions of these beautiful fish (I mean mammals) we decided it was time to leave.
From the Mirage we drove over to the Las Vegas Hilton. I had been dying to see the Star Trek Experience and even though my wife really didn't care for it too much, she made it a point to make sure that I got to enjoy the experience. The Star Trek Experience was just amazing and in my book one of the best parts of the trip. The museum has tons of memorabilia which was way cool. There was also a time line explaining the story of each Star Trek series (i.e., the original, the next generation, voyager, deep space nine) in one place. It was very interesting to see the overlaps between the series. While walking through the museum there were numerous characters (i.e., klingons, ferengi, etc.) walking around and interacting with the patrons. "May honor come to your house," said the Clingon. And "would you trade your coat for two bars a latinum," stated the Ferengi. Very realistic. The ride itself was very well done. You really got the feeling like you were on a starship. The 3d motion simulation ride was also one of the best I've ever been on although I must be getting old because it made me feel a little queasy (oh, getting old....). At the end of the experience the wife met me in Quark's bar where we both had some Romulan ale (Warsteiner on tap). For all you trekkies out there the Star Trek Experience alone is worth a trip to Vegas.
We walked around the Hilton for a while and played a little Keno (lost) and then went into the sportsbook. By far the biggest and the best sports book in Las Vegas. This place was great (and the fact that Maryland was kicking DePaul's butt on the big screen didn't hurt either)!!!! Didn't do any gambling here but it looked like a nice place to make some bets.
We then drove back to treasure Island to catch the 7:00 p.m. showing of the Pirate Battle. We valeted the car and walked over to the show area. It was an understatement to say it was cold (low 20s at best). The wife was miserable waiting for the show to start, but talking to a friendly family and their kids made the time go a little quicker. The show started and as luck would have it, the show was postponed due to technical difficulties. There were some freezing tourists that were not too happy (then again those pirates who had to dive in the water were probably a little colder than we were waiting for the show to restart). The show then began again and we got to see it in its entirety. Very cool battle scene and the fire from the explosions were not only a great sight but provided a great deal of warmth as well.
We then drove to downtown to enjoy the Freemont Street Experience. Unlike when we were here with the family yesterday afternoon, at night when you don't know where you're going, downtown can be a little intimidating. We found a spot near the Golden Nugget (valet was full except for hotel guests) and walked over to Freemont Street. The lights downtown are the best. It's what everyone thinks of when they think of Vegas. So bright you can't hear yourself thing (well, maybe a slight exaggeration). The first stop was the Golden Gate for its world famous .99 cent shrimp cocktail. It was great, so we had another...mmm!!!! Golden Gate was pretty cool. Very small, but there was an old west feel to it. The piano player helped set the mood. A lot of friendly down home cookin' people here. Went outside and saw the country rodeo Freemont street Experience. With the national rodeo finals in town and a cowboy everywhere you turn, we though it was very appropriate. There was also a country bank which played on a stage located in the center of Freemont Street. Definitely worth the trip downtown.
We were very hungry and went to Binion's to see about their $3.00 New York strip steak special, but realized we were an hour early. We didn't feel like waiting so I ended up suffering through one of the best prime ribs I ever had and at $6.25 (including baked potato and a huge salad) one of the best values I ever had. Downtown was definitely the place for the bargains. We walked around some more but did not do any gambling....it was a little too crowded and seedy for our liking. The wife was real tired so after walking around for awhile, we drove back to the Luxor.
I left the wife in the room and went down to the Luxor casino to try my hand at craps. For the trip we were both up a little bit, so I thought I give the $5 craps table a try. At first the dice were cold but then they started heating up. At one point I was up about $300. Of course I did not quit while I was ahead and gave it all back plus about $70. Oh well.... I then played some blackjack and some .25 cent slots. I spent about five hours in the casino and only lost the $70 I had lost earlier in craps...a great night in the scheme of things. Back to the room at 4:30 a.m. I knew I'd pay for this in the morning.
Tuesday, December 8th -
Our last day. I never want it to end. The wife woke up first and I stayed in bed as long as a could...seeing as I was only getting about 3 hours sleep...well I'm still alive although I fell like I'm dead. What a night....well, the mind was willing but the body just doesn't handle those all nighters like it used too. I some how manage to get up and take a shower. When I got out of the shower there was a cup of coffee waiting for me (do I have the best wife in the world or what). We packed up and got ready to head out to Red Rock Canyon. Since our flight didn't leave until 11:15 p.m. we had the whole day to party. We decided to go to the Monte Carlo for breakfast. I hadn't heard anything about the buffet here, but it was one of the hotels we had not seen yet and one of the ones I was originally considering staying at. The breakfast buffet at the Monte Carlo was excellent. Apple crepes, made to order omelettes, orange juice, coffee (did I mention the coffee).....it was the perfect medicine for a hangover. We threw a few bucks into some slots here and we were off to Red Rock Canyon.
We drove down state road 159 (Charleston road) until we got to the Red Rock visitors center. We picked up some information regarding the rock formations here and we then began the 13 mile scenic tour. Red Rock Canyon is picturesque. Every turn we made was more breathtaking than the next. The red rocks contrasting against the beige and white was unbelievable. Took many pictures here and had a most magnificent time driving through the mountains and valleys of Red Rock canyon. As per the instructions of the Canyon visitor's guide representative, we took state road 160 home and enjoyed even more scenery on the way back to Vegas. We popped on Interstate 15, got off on Tropicana ave and went straight to the Hard Rock Cafe.
The Hard Rock was cool, but if you've been to one in another city you pretty much know what to expect. We had some micro beer here and played some video poker at the bar (lost a few bucks). We checked out some of the memorabilia (including Jerry Garcia's guitar) and then bought lots of stuff from the Hard Rock store (tee-shirts, shot glasses, etc.). We decided not to check out the hard Rock casino...at this point they were all starting to look alike anyway. We took a ride to the Stratosphere to see the Viva Las Vegas show for which we had free tickets (thanx LVA). We first signed up for slot cards because I had heard that you get a free ticket to the top for just signing up. Well, the deal is that you get a free pull on the slot machine and you might win a free trip to the top of the Strat or some other prizes. We, of course didn't win a thing. We walked through a gallery of shops on the second floor of the Strat in order to get to the Viva Las Vegas Theatre. Very nice...like being at a mall back home. And not a bad marketing ploy....give em free tickets make them walk through the mall where if they buy anything at all, the tickets are paid for. We got there early...bought our mandatory $4.25 drink and waited for the show (too long of a wait). It was a pretty cheezy show, but the comedians were funny and I especially liked the dancers with their butts hanging out (yea...cool!!!). Al and all worth the price of admission.
We were beat...this town sure takes a lot out of you...wish we had more time. I'm sure on the next trip I'll spend less time doing the tourist thing and more time just hanging out. But for now we had about five hours left so we decided to grab a bite before the flight. We went to a place I was dying to try out since I read about it on the Internet. The restaurant is owned, in part, by Steven Spielberg and it's called Dive. It looks like a big submarine and upon entering you get the feeling like you inside a sub. The menu is more of a lunch menu containing an assortment of submarine sandwiches and burgers and such. I had the spicy chicken and pasta and my wife had the chicken salad. While eating my wife (don't ask why she was using ketchup) said the ketchup tasted funny...I tried it and agreed. We told the waitress and next thing you know both meals were comped....take a note Emeril's this is the way things should be handled. My spicy chicken was too spicy anyway and the comp was really nice (considering the food). As typical with these themed restaurants, the atmosphere was killer but the food was average.
Since we felt like this would be a lucky night, we headed over to the Holiday Inn Boardwalk to play some blackjack before our plane was scheduled to leave. I had heard from another trip report that this was a decent low stakes place to play. Again, the information from this board was right on target. A great little place which was not too crowded and had some $3.00 blackjack tables (PERFECT). We sat down and at first the cards were not so kind too us....then a nice man sat down to our left and our luck drastically changed. Double down...no problem...dealer busts. Split 8s...great idea....dealer busts. By the time we were done we had won $135.00. Not a bad way to leave Las Vegas. Returned the car to Alamo...quick and easy. Then got on their shuttle to the airport. Hate to say goodbye Las Vegas...but I know we'll be back someday. VIVA LAS VEGAS BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!