Vegas Baby Vegas!

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Well, we spent a long weekend in Las Vegas this past weekend. It was actually my fifth time there, so without realizing it, we took absolutely no photos!

I am not much of a gambler, so I once told Rob that if we ever went back to Vegas, we would each bring the same amount of money and he could use it to gamble and I would go to the spa. We would both come back home with the same thing – but I’d be much happier. 😉

I do play poker, though. I grew up in a family where it’s a focus of many holiday events! In addition, Rob and I host a monthly Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament with friends. We attend another friend’s event each month, too. So, I do know how to play. I just haven’t been very good as of late, so I didn’t have the guts to play in Vegas.

poker

Despite these hypothetical plans, our trip to Ireland this past fall set us back a bit. But I still intended on just enjoying my non-spa time! I knew we’d enjoy some time with my co-workers with whom we were traveling, maybe eat at a nice restaurant, walk the strip, wander around downtown a bit, perhaps see a show… and of course, watch the Packer-Vikings Playoff game! What? Have I really never told you that I’m a Packer fan living in Minnesota?

Rob and I at the December 23rd Packer game at Lambeau Field

Rob and I at the Packers vs. Titans game at Lambeau Field – 12/23/12

Back to Vegas…

This trip, we fell in love with the Video Poker machines – Double Double Bonus Poker that is. It was a good way to pass away some time in this city that never sleeps. We made $50 last a good 24 hours and even won $250 at one point. In the end, we didn’t come out ahead… But that is generally the case in Las Vegas, isn’t it?

Since I’ve been to Vegas a few times, I’ve put together a list of things for the first-timer to do, but based on what I personally have enjoyed the most. And so I don’t forget, I wanted to make a note on what I’d like to remember to do if I ever go back. There are so many other places in the world to explore, but if someone is going to send me to Vegas, I’m not going to argue!

Keep in mind that there is a so much to do in Las Vegas, whether you are a gambler or not. Still, gone are the days of spending a cheap weekend in Vegas, even if you aren’t a gambler.

If you are a first-timer in Las Vegas, you must:

Walk The Strip.

Bring your walking shoes! It’s a long haul. But you do have to check out each hotel and it’s accompanying casino. Each has it’s own theme and feel to it. Some of them are just beautiful. If you are staying someplace cheap, it’s nice that you can go into these hotels and dream!

Spend an Evening Downtown on Fremont Street.

The casinos here have an old school feel. However, the street itself is far from that. You’ll find performers, kitschy souvenirs and the ultimate people-watching. {But that is the case anywhere in Vegas!} The canopy covering the street offers an entertaining light show in the evening.

Still things downtown have changed a bit since we had last been there in 2006. {Or was it even earlier than that?} On this trip, we went downtown on a Saturday night to find music pumping, people dancing in the streets, alcohol being sold outside of the casinos and people who were just crazy-drunk having a good time. It took a bit to get through the crowd! Then I heard a loud buzz and looked up. Someone zipped right over my head. There were zip-liners! Yes, you can ride the zip line under the canopy on Fremont Street. I wonder how much one pays to do that.

Tip: A bus ride downtown from the furthest end of the strip should cost you under $5 versus a $25-$30 cab ride. If it’s just two or three of you and you aren’t in a hurry, you can save some dough that way.

See a Show. 

Well, how would I know? I’ve never seen one in Vegas!

Those of you who know me are probably surprised. I love plays, concerts and musicals. Not being much of a gambler, you’d think it would be one of the first things I’d be sure to do. It hasn’t happened… yet.

The first time I went was in college. We just had the day wrong for the cheapest show that we wanted to see and could afford. I think we only had another day left and it wasn’t showing.

Another time we were there for my husband’s best friend’s wedding. There were other festivities taking place that weekend!

When I went with The Traveling Vineyard for a Leadership Conference, a friend and I had originally planned to go to a show, but decided to spend the money on a nice dinner instead. We rarely saw each other, being from different states, so spending the time talking with each other over a meal and catching up was way more appealing. And it was absolutely the best decision ever.

Something that wasn’t in Vegas when I was there last in 2006 are the Half-Price Show Ticket Booths. There are several located along the strip. They also offer dining discounts as well. This trip, we checked the list of shows and didn’t see one that we were really excited about – at least not enough to wait in line for the half-price tickets nor pay full-price. Next time, though, the show will go on!

Enjoy a Nice Dinner.

There are a few times that I’ve been to Las Vegas that I thought, “Wow. I thought this was supposed to be cheap here!” It’s not really the case. However, I also used to think that you could only have a nice meal if you went to an expensive restaurant. That’s not necessarily true now either.

If you need a cheaper weekend, you can find deals, hints and tips online about lesser-known casinos and restaurants; though many are out of the way. There are also more fast-food places between the hotels and casinos than I ever remember before. My husband likes to call Las Vegas “Disneyland for Adults”. There are so many shops and food courts now that I swear they are catering to the shopping mall teenager!

But splurging on a dinner can be a nice way to treat yourself on vacation. Have a favorite celebrity chef? Seek out their Vegas restaurant if they have one! Adore steak, Italian, sushi… {insert your favorite cuisine here}? Then find the best of the best and scope out the menu online to see if you might like to dine there. Two of my favorites from my TTV trip are Bouchon (The Venetian) and Mon Ami Gabi (Paris, Las Vegas).

But you still can get excellent food without dropping as much cash as you may have on that blackjack table. We had exceptional food at the following restaurants this trip. {Sorry! No photos this time!}

  • Burger Bar (Mandalay Bay) – Great specialty and BYO burgers and and above-average beer menu.
  • Zefferino (The Venetian) – We weren’t excited about the lunch menu, but were pleasantly surprised with what we ordered.
  • Rí Rá Irish Pub (Mandalay Bay) – We had better food here than we had in Ireland.
  • T&T – Tacos & Tequila (Luxor) – For some reason, I was craving some sort of Mexican or Tex-Mex since the moment we arrived. Extensive Beer Menu and undeniably the best queso fundido I’ve ever had. We both ordered enchiladas – chicken divociadas (me) and beef barbacoa (Rob). I think I’d be hard pressed to order anything else.
  • The Public House (Luxor) – This is where our group watched the Packers beat the Vikings. Even if they would have lost, we still would have been wowed by the Kettle Chip Nachos {beer braised short rib, smoked gouda fondue, tomato salsa} and the Filet Mignon Sliders {mini onion brioche, caramelized onions, blue cheese, hand cut fries}.

I also remember that  on a previous trip, I tried a dish with truffle oil for the first time. That was at the at Lupo (Mandalay Bay), a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. I also enjoyed one of the best martinis at the Red Square Bar (Mandalay Bay), as well.

There are just too many restaurants and so little time. So Rob and I decided we have to try new restaurants every time we go.

By the way, I swear Starbucks and Pepsi own Vegas.

Gamble.

Okay, so that one’s obvious. You just wouldn’t believe all the ways you can gamble. Play blackjack tables, roulette wheels, slot machines, video poker or in a poker tournament. Bet on sports or even Beer Pong at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall! {Oh how we miss you O’Shea’s!}

When you gamble, you drink for free. We tip a dollar per drink, unless we want them to come around faster. 😉 The little bloody marys I’ve had are actually pretty decent. Sometimes I sip slowly and make my second drink a bottle of Blue Moon. It’s my favorite Bloody Mary chaser. Such a bottle would be $6 otherwise if you belly up to the bar. That’s a win, even if I’m losing at the machine.

My plans for next time:

  • Get the guts to play in Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament. The ones at the Luxor were only a couple of tables and my boss assured me that they were pretty casual. I’m still intimidated.
  • Go to a show already!  Next time, I’ll look up all the shows in advance and make a list of the ones I’m thinking of seeing.
  • Have a list of nice restaurants and pick one to try.
  • Learn how to play craps. Many casinos have morning lessons to encourage people to play!

And one of the favorite things I’ve ever done in Las Vegas:

Watched the Bellagio fountain show from the balcony bar with a nice glass of bubbly.

That was a gorgeous evening!

~

Have you been to Las Vegas?

What are your favorite things to do?

Cheers~
Carrie

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15 responses »

  1. Love it that I’m part of your favorite memories of LV — as you are part of mine. Miss you and my other TTV buddies — I think we should plan an a Vegas reunion sometime!

  2. I always have to visit Bellagio…the fountains, the indoor garden, and the art gallery, and the chocolate fountain. Also just love reading a book out by a pool in a “quiet” area usually when Jesse is in his conference. Oh and the mojitos at Tacos and Tequila at Luxor are so good!

  3. I love Vegas! I’ve been there twice and we were talking about going back, I hope we get too. Though I’m a poker player also, I don’t do the tables, I stick to slots. Shopping is my favorite thing there though. I’ve never seen a show. I can’t remember the one restaurant, it’s off the strip but, they had buffets from all over the world. It was pricey but, we spent like 3 hours there eating and drinking, it was great! Another place I like is Coyote Ugly Saloon, I often would go there while the hubs gambled 🙂

      • The Coyote Ugly shop was fun to shop at and after that, I just walked the strip and went to different boutiques I thought would be interesting. There was a thrift shop that was huge (I don’t remember the name but, towards the Stratosphere end), that had some really neat and cheap things!! I didn’t go looking for anything specific. I think the last time I bought a dress at the Bellagio (way too expensive but, I HAD to have it…lol!), a purse from the thrift shop, an awesome belt buckle from Coyote Ugly and a Harley jacket from our hotel….which is MGM 🙂 Also, you can ask taxi drivers, bus drivers etc. for different off-the-strip shops. We did find one more shop off the strip that had old and antique items, it was cool.

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