Let me set the stage: this is our second trip to Vegas this year (we were there in June for 8 days), we are both teachers in our 50's, and we are low rollers. This trip was different from our others because we invited my mother (85 and still loving Vegas) and my sister (61 and a retired school teacher) to join us. We planned a short stay so it wouldn't be too much for mom. I booked our airfares through Sun Country Airlines out of Minneapolis at $205 each. We left on Monday, July 31st, on the 2:45 p.m. flight. We were an hour and 25 minutes late taking off--a good deal of that time was spent parked on the runway while the maintenance crew repaired a gauge in the cockpit. We arrived at 4:45 p.m. Vegas time. My husband, Jack, zipped off the plane and headed to Alamo to pick up our rental care while my sister and I gathered up mom and all her equipment which included a wheelchair and an oxygen concentrator. We wheeled everything out to the pick-up area just was Jack drove up in our rental car--an Oldsmobile Intrigue.
Jack reported that everything was quick and easy at Alamo--no snags--the total cost for the Monday through Friday rental was $107 plus gas. There was room in the trunk for our 7 suitcases, the wheel chair, and the concentrator, but I don't think we could have squeezed in one more thing. Then we were off to our first destination-- Vacation Village.
We had a lot of fun at Vacation Village during our last visit, and we all wanted to stop there and spin the wheel to win half of our airfare. The lady at the booth told us it would be another half hour before we could spin, so we used some coupons from the funsheet she gave us to get 2-for-1 drinks and played a few slots. At 6:30 we met at the wheel to try our luck. Jack got to spin first, and would you believe it, the pointer stopped on JACKPOT (good for half his airfare)--we were all so excited with our first win! I won $2 and my my and sister each won $1. We whooped and hollered as Jack collected his $103, then headed to Fitzgerald's.
Why Fitzgerald's you might ask? We had 2 good reasons: 1--my sister has a zillion O'Lucky Bucks she needs to use and 2--we could get a room for $28 a night and we had some O'Lucky Bucks to use up, too. We valet parked there and checked in without a hitch. My mom and sister had what they call a handicap room--I think they are a bit larger to accommodate a wheelchair and have bars in the bathroom, etc. Our room had two full-size beds. This is the second time we had to settle for full-size beds. It must be because of the late hour--7:30--that all the queen and king rooms are taken. But, the Fitz has listened to the masses. They have installed goose neck pipes to raise the shower head to the 7 foot level. We didn't spend much time settling in, and then we were off to The Plaza. We joined their new slot club and then headed off to try their $5.99 prime rib special. We were all hungry, and it really hit the spot--just delicious! We played slots there for a while, and Jack won another $100 in nickels on one of those Adams Family machines. Mom was beginning to look tired, so we headed back to the Fitz. While I pushed mom up to her room, Jack headed to the casino. It only took a few minutes to get mom organized, then I went to find Jack. At first I couldn't find him, then I heard his voice calling 'Sweetie.' I could tell by the excitement in his voice and the look on his face that something good had happened. As I approached the machine he was standing by, I saw two racks of tokens, flashing lights, smiling people, and all the signs of a big win. Sure enough, he had run one of his newly-won $100 bills through a $5 machine and hit two Wild Cherries and a red 7--that's 200 coins or $1,000. That's the biggest win we've ever had, and a great first day in Vegas. We were both so excited--had to run up to the room and tell mom and call the kids. The kids were tickled for us--bet they're thinking it means bigger Christmas presents for them! We strolled over to the Golden Nugget and visited some of our favorite machines, played a bit at Binion's, then back to the Fitz. Called it a night at 2:09 Vegas time--Jack is still smiling.
One of my sister's co-workers, another retired teacher, was also in Vegas at this time. He had found us at Fitzgerald's and invited us all to breakfast. Mom needed more rest, but the 4 of us went to Molly's Buffet at Fitzgerald's. The food was fine, but the best part was just relaxing and chit-chatting. We decided to all enter the slot tournament at The California that morning, so we hiked over there for the 10:00 session. We had fun playing, and Jack made the finals--are you starting to see a win/lose pattern here--Jack wins and I lose! After the tournament we played nickel slots and quarter VP but no big wins. We stopped in Ethel M's, and I bought some dark chocolate for mom--her favorite--then we headed outside.
Jack likes to collect the mardi gras beads they give away at LaBayou, so we stopped there to get some beads and play a little bit. There were 2 Free 'N Easy machines that caught our eye, and we each put in $20 and started to play. Jack couldn't lose. On the 2nd or 3rd play he hit 7, 7, Triple for 1,000 quarters. He kept getting free spins like crazy while I had only one or two free spins. He cashed out up $300. From there we walked over to the Golden Nugget to see how the carpet laying was going. We had watched the workers the night before ripping out the old and laying the new carpet. They had quite a system, and it was good entertainment just watching how they worked. We each put $5 in the big Golden Nugget slot machine by the front door, and we each cashed out $10 . Then we each put our $10 in a Top Dollar machine. We never got to play the Top Dollar feature, but we each made $30. We also stopped in The Lady Luck and played a few slots there. We each earned enough points there to get a coffee mug and a free buffet. By now, it was getting close to 4 o'clock, so we zipped back to The California so Jack could play in the finals. In his defense, I have to say he gave it his best shot but his machine was a DUD. We decided it was time to head back to Fitzgerald's and check on mom. The temperature sign read 111 degrees. Jack is up about $1,000 , and I'm down about $70--not bad.
Mom is fine but wants to just take it easy, so we take off in our rental for The Fiesta. We've been there before, but we are never there when they are playing the organ in the pizzeria. This time, however, we get to enjoy the music for 30 or 40 minutes--this instrument is really something to see and the sound is unbelievable. We used our LVA 2-for-1 buffet coupon at The Fiesta. There was no line, and the food was very good. I especially like the carnival-like atmosphere there. After eating, we spent some time there playing slots--Jack played Deuces Wild Triple VP, and I played Jacks or Better--no big wins. Jack also played some roulette, then we tried some 50 cent slots. Jack won $90 on double diamonds, and I lost $20--the pattern continues. We drove back downtown in time to catch the FSE at midnight. We were getting slightly hungry--I think it had been several hours since our last buffet! So we snagged some fries at McDonald's and ate them in bed--only in Vegas are we this decadent!!!
Well, my notes are practically non-existent for the next 2 days, but I'll do my best to recall all the highpoints. This was moving day--from Fitzgerald's to--are you ready?--Bellagio!! Now that's what I call moving up. Why Bellagio you might ask? Again, I have 2 reasons:
1--we've always admired the hotel and casino and wished we could stay there and 2--my sister had a free room! So, we packed up mom and all the stuff and headed over. Our room wasn't ready, so we stored our things and revisited some of our favorite parts of Bellagio--the lobby, the conservatory, the pools, and fountains. We were shocked when we sat down to play some slots to find that their computer system was completely shut down, and we would get no credit for our play. We played for several hours. Jack struck up a conversation with one of the hosts who apologized for the down computer and explained how we should keep a gaming diary until the computer was up and working. She gave each of us a little folder and showed us how to fill it out. We filled it out faithfully and turned it in at the slot club desk the next morning. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. That evening, I remember Jack and I ate the buffet at Bellagio. The line was very long, but we had lots to talk about so the time went quickly. We had enjoyed their lunch buffet before, and this was equally delicious. We both had a feast of King Crab legs and many other delicious items. The rest of the evening is kind of a blur, but I think we just enjoyed the many pleasures of Bellagio. I know we saw several fountain shows and even went in some of the stores. We made plans to do 'the pool thing' in the morning, and then called it a day.
This is our last full day in Vegas, and we got up early to make the most of it. As planned, we put on our suits and our white Bellagio robes and headed to the pool area. It opens at 8:00, and we were one of the first ones there. After locating the perfect spot to relax and read the morning paper, I went in search of coffee. Had to go back in the hotel to find something open. Purchased two cups of wonderful coffee then back to the loungers for more r & r. It was a terrific morning. I could almost see the stress just lifting off both of us. We lolled around in the spa like a couple of sunning seals, and giggled and splashed in the fountain pool like two little kids around a fire hydrant.
We stayed until about 10:30, and I have to say it was one of the highpoints of our trip. If we ever stay at Bellagio again, we plan to rent a cabana for a day. We even picked out the one we want. We showered and dressed then went back to the coffee shop for one of their pastries--we got a carmel roll to die for and enjoyed eating it together by the pool. We also used this opportunity to photograph the pool area so we can remember just how lovely it was. We joined my sister about noon and decided to drive out to Sunset Station to see what it's like and use one of our last 2-for-1 buffet coupons. We had to wait in line for a bit, but it just seemed to whet our appetites. My sister and I especially liked the barbecued ribs. We wanted to get replacement boarding pass slot club cards (we had left ours back at the room) and play a while at Sunset Station. It seemed like all 3 of us were winning, so Jack and I decided to drive back to Bellagio and pick up mom so she could play there, too. BIG mistake. The traffic was horrible, and the heat was draining. It took over an hour to make the trip to Bellagio and back to Sunset Station. I had my one and only win there--I hit 4 3's on a quarter VP machine for $100. About 6:00 we loaded up and drove back to The Strip. Jack and I had enjoyed the pool so much, we decided to take one last dip before the pool closed at 8:00. Everyone must have gotten hungry or something because most of the time we pretty much had the place to ourselves--it was heaven. I still wanted to do one more thing before our trip ended, and that was to view the new shark reef at Mandalay Bay. We showered and put on clean clothes and headed out for our last night on the town. Jack wasn't interested in seeing the sharks, so he walked me to the ticket window and then headed off to the casino. We agreed to meet in 45 minutes, and that was just about the right amount of time for me to enjoy the exhibit. The shark exhibit is a bit like a piece of music--it starts out kind of slow and low-key and each display builds the excitement and tension until you finally reach the highpoint. The climax is at the very end where you can stand on a glass floor and there are sharks below you, sharks swimming right over your head, and sharks swimming all around you. I didn't feel the price was out of line--$13--but unless you find beauty and interest in marine life, don't bother. My only complaint is that there's no learning or information about the exhibit available. I thought there would be a pamphlet to read or a tape to listen to or, at the very least, some signs identifying the creatures you are viewing. Maybe it's a 'work in progress' and they will add those things. While I was viewing the sharks, Jack played throughout the casino. He didn't win, but he played on his initial $20 investment the whole time. We have read many glowing reports about The Border Grill, so our next stop in Mandalay Bay was there. We were seated outside on a patio, and it was a beautiful but warm evening. I think we've tried every margarita in Las Vegas, and we were looking forward to trying the much-acclaimed 'Border Margarita'. We like ours salted and on the rocks. We both agreed they were very good, but for $6 each they should be. We also agreed that the margaritas that the cocktail waitresses bring you at Bellagio were every bit as good if not better. We weren't real hungry, but we wanted to try something so we ordered an appetizer--nachos with black beans, 3 cheeses, and other yummy stuff. The taste was unique, but our favorite Mexican food so far has been at Jose and Willy's at Sam's Town. By the way, the margaritas there are very good, too. We played a few machines together before we left MB. I had a $65 hand pay on a nickel machine--Who Dunnit?--that was lots of fun, and then we headed back to Bellagio. We played a variety of quarter, half dollar, and dollar machines before packing it in. We played a lot of Wild Cherries since Jack had won on those. We strolled up to the room about midnight--only 5 hours till we had to be up and packing. Our room at Bellagio was on the 19th floor overlooking the pools. It was spacious and clean. The best part was the bathroom--so roomy and the soaking tub was a delight. It also had a huge walk-in, sit-down shower that was great.
Since we had an early flight, we asked for a 5 a.m. wake-up call. Everyone was up and packed and enjoying some Krispy Kreme donuts we'd picked up the night before at Sunset Station when I noticed my sister frantically digging through her backpack and luggage. She could not locate her billfold which had her credit cards, cash card, and most importantly, her driver's license--without a photo ID we knew she'd have a real hard time getting on the plane. We all searched the room with no luck, so she headed for the security desk at the Bellagio to see if anyone had turned it in. While she was gone, I placed a quick call to Sunset Station since I remembered her having it out to join the slot club. Sure enough, that's where she had left it. We called the bell desk, loaded the car, and were off to Sunset Station. We didn't have a lot of time to spare. Thankfully, the traffic wasn't too bad that time of the day. But, it took quite a while once we got there because they had her billfold locked up in a safe somewhere. It took about 10 minutes for them to retrieve it.
When we finally got to the airport, we tried leaving the car unattended for a few minutes while Jack checked in. Of course, a police officer came inside and told us we couldn't leave the car parked there. Jack mentioned he was helping a lady in a wheelchair and he allowed him to leave the car for 'just a couple minutes.' As soon as we got Jack checked in, he took off to return the rental car to Alamo. Us womenfolk got checked in and collapsed in the waiting area. It had been quite a morning. Thank goodness everything turned out OK. Our plane left right on schedule and arrived in Minneapolis a few minutes early. Our two-hour trip home from the airport was uneventful with my mom and sister snoring peacefully in the back of the van.
1-we didn't get to play low-stakes craps together like we planned
2-we only made it to Bellagio and Mandalay Bay on The Strip
3-we didn't get to eat Saimin at The California--we love it
1-we came home with more money than we went with
2-we plan to go back between Christmas and New Year while we're on break