Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#135 He Does Vegas

When I was in first grade, my grandparents on my father's side moved to Las Vegas.  Perhaps as a way to ease the blow of this move, my parents told my brothers and me that one day we would visit them.  I'm sure they instantly wanted to kick themselves for making such an off the cuff suggestion.  From then until about fifth grade there wasn't a moment that I wasn't either asking when we were going to Vegas or packing a bag for Vegas, just in case.  The summer after I finished fifth grade, my Vegas grandfather passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  My dad made the trip to Vegas for the funeral, and I don't think I ever asked to go again.

Until my mother decided a few years ago to treat my family to a trip to Vegas with inheritance money she received from some random great uncle I had never heard of before.

Thank you random great uncle.

After this most recent trip to Vegas for Hubby's 30th birthday, I realized I really love Vegas.  Like, I really really really love it.  So here it is:

My Top Five Likes About Vegas
(I hope you are as excited about this list as I am)


1. Everything is open late

I am not a morning person.  However, I am also not the type of person that stays in bed until noon.  I can be awake in the early morning, I just don't want to speak to anyone, and I certainly do not want to smile.

Night time is a different story.  I'm happy, I'm awake, and I'm ready to go.  It depresses me that everything closes at 9 pm because that is when my day is just getting started.  I don't want to be home at night, I want to be out.  The worst part is, it doesn't matter to where.  We could be headed out for a night on the town or only going to Target to pick up toothpaste and I'm in my element.    

So when I tell you that the stores in the casinos are typically open until 11 pm and that most other things on the strip are open even later I'm not exaggerating when I say that my heart is palpitating just a little bit over the thought of such things.


2. Every casino is different, a world within itself 

We stayed at The Flamingo this year because we had comps that made us only have to pay something like $12 a day in taxes (can you say, 'sweet!!!'?).  Plus, The Flamingo is basically in the center of all the action.


Every casino has its own little theme and cutesyness to go along with it.

Yes, cutesyness.  Cutesy is a word, so why not cutesyness?


What I remembered from a few years ago was that The Flamingo had real flamingos at it, and for some reason that came back with me as extremely awesome.

It was funny watching them fight.  I wasn't sure if I should go over and break it up or not.


There are so many casinos with different features it's too hard to describe them all.  Some of my favorites are: 
  • Paris: Featuring a mini Eiffel Tower that you can go up in for a view of the strip (it also has a restaurant inside just like the real Eiffel Tower), French restaurants (delicious breakfasts to be had there!), and ceilings painted like the Paris sky
  • Circus Circus: WAY off the strip but a very kid friendly casino with circus acts and its own theme park inside
  • Luxor: It's a pyramid.  Enough said.
  • Excalibur: This casino probably has the best outside and inside appeal.  Shaped like a castle, inside and out sticks to the Medieval theme in a classy and also kid friendly way.


3. The food

As I said before, food is one of the main attractions of a vacation for me.  With Vegas you have to be leery of getting sucked into too many buffets.  Some of them are awesome, others are just posers.  They have all the bells and whistles on the outside, but as soon as you've shelled out $25 (and up) and are heading towards your seat...that's when you realize perhaps not all buffets are created equally.    

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The best buffet we went to was Bacchanal Buffet in Caesars.  And no wonder, it was voted the best buffet in Las Vegas.  Did we know that when we went there?  Of course not!  So we wound up eating there for breakfast, but I can only imagine that their lunch/dinner is amazing.

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I know it's a little blurry, but I had to include the above picture of my crepe I got there for breakfast.  There was an omelet station, a crepe station, seafood (even at breakfast), and other average and non average breakfast delights.

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'Cravings', the buffet at The Mirage, was decent.  We had dinner there before seeing a show.  Wine and beer were included in the dinner price, which was pretty good considering most buffets charge you separately for alcoholic drinks.  Although they didn't have soft-serve ice cream (which Gram had been craving), they had some pretty gourmet desserts which not only looked gourment, but had a taste that matched. 

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The Venetian recently opened Carlo's Bake Shop, and although I could make a trip anytime I want to Hoboken to go to the original Carlo's Bake Shop, I figured I'd spare myself the trip by trying this one out.

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I knew it was going to be good, but I had no idea how good.  Hubby and I went there for breakfast on our last day in Vegas.  We had two hours to kill, so we shopped a little in the Venetian, then stood in a considerably short line (in comparison to what it looked like a few nights before) for our goodies.  

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Hubby got a Midnight Chocolate Mousse which was without a doubt the smoothest, creamiest, most delicious mousse I have ever tasted in my life.

I had been craving a cheese danish since the middle of the week and had yet to find one.  They were sold out of the individual cheese danishes, so I unashamedly ordered the $13 danish ring.  I won't say how much of it I ate, but it was more than what is pictured below.

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4. The shopping 

If you wanted to, you could stay on the strip and get all the things I love about Vegas: food, shopping, and shows.  We did this for most of the week.  Pictured below are the Miracle Mile Shops which house 170 shops.  Every casino has some form of shopping.  Some such as The Venetian and Caesars offer a more mall like option.

We did, of course, venture off the strip before our trip was over to the North Premium Outlets.  That's right, Las Vegas has a North and a South Premium Outlets.  Both seem to offer most of the same thing, except North had more and that is how I made my decision of where to go.    

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5. The shows

Tix 4 Tonight has booths literally everywhere on the strip and they offer a decent discount on show tickets and other attractions.  Depending on the show you can even purchase the tickets the night before.  This time around we saw three shows and I wish we had squeezed in one more.

First, for Gram, we saw Donny and Marie which was much more bearable than I expected.  They sang a lot of their hits, paid homage to performers who have inspired and influenced them, recognized a man in the audience celebrating his 103rd birthday, and ended with a taste of their favorite Broadway hits. 

I wanted to see The Rat Pack, even though Hubby and I had already seen them before.  They were performing in Rio which is so far off the strip it makes Circus Circus seem smack dab in the center.  It wasn't until we made the agonizing walk in 102 degree heat  from our hotel to Rio (which looked from our hotel to be much, let me stress MUCH, closer than it was in actuality) to pick up our tickets that the man at the box office told us that our hotel should run shuttles to Rio.  This was after we realized we forgot our voucher that we needed in order to pick up our tickets. 

Regardless of that fun and embarrassing story, The Rat Pack makes you feel like you are in a nightclub watching the real Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra perform.  If that's your kind of scene, you'll swoon for sure.  I know I did.

We saved the absolute best for last.  It was between Blue Man Group (which is still on my list) and a Cirque show for our last night in Vegas.  I had been interested in seeing Cirque Du Soleil's Love featuring The Beatles' music and Hubby made it happen.


When we found our seats I was in shock with how close we were:

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We were four "rows" from the front.  I use quotes because the first "row" sat two people, the next four, and progressively larger as the rows went back.  I can't describe the show any better than to say it was the most amazing show I have ever seen in my life, and I promise, I am not exaggerating.  There are so many different acrobatics taking place on stage at once that Hubby literally had to shut my jaw once because my mouth was hanging wide open in amazement.  The fact that the music was The Beatles just made it even better.

If you've contemplated going to Vegas but weren't sure because of the bad rap Vegas seems to get from television and movies, have no fear: it is as awesome as it seems.  There are so many things we still haven't done (Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon) that I know we'll be coming back again, and maybe even again?        

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