Vegas Trip!! (1 of 2)

>> Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pharmie and I took a quick 4-day trip to Vegas last weekend without Henry. He had a great time playing at his Grandparents' house! Today I'll post some "general" photos from our trip (along with our "Vegas advice"), and on Monday I'll post photos from our 2 long workouts / hikes / runs in the Vegas area.

We got in on Friday night around 8:30. We were THRILLED to see THIS was the view from our room on the 22nd floor of The Bellagio:

We always had a front-row seat for the fountain show!

Saturday, we got up and walked the Strip for about 90 minutes. We stopped at a CVS Pharmacy to get some snack food and sodas so we didn't have to pay through the nose at the hotel. We also ate oatmeal out of drinking glasses - we wanted to have a "Vegas experience," but we didn't want to go broke eating out ALL the time:

Oatmeal from a glass. Classy.

The Christmas Show was still up at The Bellagio Conservatory.
Those polar bears were all flowers.

In front of our hotel on a morning walk.

Late morning, we walked up and down the Strip and through casinos for about 3.5 hours. We went through Caesars, The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Palazzo, The Venetian, Harrah's, the Flamingo, Paris Las Vegas, and Planet Hollywood. We also walked through the shopping complex at Caesars, walked past all the shops and the indoor gondola rides at The Venetian, and walked through the Miracle Mile shopping center near Planet Hollywood.

The shopping complex at Caesars was great!

Pharmie in front of some curving escalators next to a fountain by "The Forum Shops" at Caesars.

We stopped once to gamble and grab a quick bite to eat at the small Casino Royale, and I was actually up by $40 playing $5 blackjack at one point. I stopped while I was still $10 up, tipped the dealer $5, and took my $5 winnings and left. High-roller right here. ;)

Saturday evening, we got dressed up to head to church (about a 40 minute walk away). It was past New York New York which was handy because we were heading to the Cirque Du Soleil "Zumanity" show there - so we could hit church, and then the Cirque show was on our way back. As we walked around before the show, we went through the Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, and ended in New York New York. So on Saturday, we hit the MAJORITY of all of the casinos / hotels on the Strip!

Our seats before Zumanity.

Pharmie liked this guy.

We both liked her act - she was spinning a ton of hoops while flying around
by 1 arm over the audience. The "naughty school-girl" outfit was a nice touch. ;)

By the end of the show, all of these people had performed topless. Seriously.

Out for drinks at The Cosmopolitan after the show.

Gambling later that night.

Finally seeing the Fountains from ground-level.

Pharmie soaking in the tub reading a book on her iPad.

Sunday we went to The Bellagio's buffet for breakfast:

That cheese pizza was SOOOOO good!

"The World's Largest Chocolate Fountain" (the official Guinness paperwork is on the right).

We were fueling up for a big hike that afternoon. We rented a car and headed out to Red Rock Canyon. MORE ON THAT IN A FEW DAYS.

We stopped for soda at Rocket Fizz along the way, which is a candy / soda store. Check this out:

They had 3 carts of soda like this.

This is ALL Root Beer!

HERE'S MORE ON MY "ROOT BEER BLOG" regarding what I bought at Rocket Fizz.

After the hike and the trip to the soda store, we stopped off at The Pinball Hall of Fame. There are about 200 machines for people to play from one guy's private collection of over 1,000 pinball machines! Any profit goes to the Salvation Army. It's pretty sweet. Some pinball machines date back to the 1950s and 60s.

Pharmie playing an old game.


Pretty realistic "curves" on this machine...

I HAD to play some Excitebike!

The more modern machines were more popular.

Then Sunday night, we ate at Michael Mina (one of the fancy restaurants at The Bellagio). This was probably our biggest "Vegas splurge" at about $120 total (not including tip). That was just 2 small meals and a glass of reasonably priced wine for my lovely lady. Had we had the larger "tasting menu," it would have been over $300 total for that meal.

After dinner at Michael Mina.

My 6 bottles from Rocket Fizz back at our hotel room.

Sunday evening was also my luckiest time in the casino. We only lost about $20 over all 4 days between blackjack, roulette, and my wife's love of penny slots, but it would have been more like $50 had I not turned $1 into THIS playing some video blackjack:

I made a lot of stupid decisions and got lucky to get this high.

Sunday night is when we started feeling the effects of 5-6 hours of sleep for the past 2 nights along with about 16 miles of walking over the previous 2 days. (We walked about 8 miles each day between seeing the strip on Saturday and hiking on Sunday, and we always woke up early being we were still on "Minnesota time.") So we crashed a little early Sunday night.

Monday morning we got up early.

Sunrise from our room.

We ate some delicious crepes as fuel...

... and then we hit the road for Hoover Dam. We stopped just outside of Boulder City (about 4 miles from the dam), and ran the rest of the way along the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail. The final 4 miles of the 30+ River Mountains trail system is on a trail that was built in the 1930s so railcars could access the Hoover Dam construction site. In 1964 the rail lines were tore up, and it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places 20 years later. Again... MORE ON THAT IN A FEW DAYS.

Our last stop on Monday night (before having to be up at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning to catch our flight) was The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars. LOTS of people recommended that. We were only about the 4th couple in line, but it took us over 20 minutes to get seated. Lame. But the buffet was GREAT. They had different areas that focused on different kinds of food. I started in the Asian "wing," so my plate was mainly Asian food, along with a slice of pizza and a slider:

The upper plate had a made-to-order taco on it, the cast iron
had some cheesy potato skins, and there was mac and cheese next to that.

Chips with meat and 4 different kinds of salsa and guac.

(I also had TWO made-to-order dessert crepes and a mini key lime pie for dessert, but I was too excited to get photos of those before putting them inside of me.)

I know a lot of people go to Vegas pretty often and there are a lot of people giving advice, but here's OUR 2 cents on heading to Vegas...

So here's what we'd do DIFFERENTLY next time:

• We'd rent a car the whole time. We found a $40 rental for 24 hours at Treasure Island (it was $60 at The Bellagio), but it was only about $15 / day at the airport. ANY "good" casino on The Strip has free parking, so that won't be an issue. Navigating the strip by car wasn't as hard as we thought it was going to be. (Just maybe try not to drive The Strip on a busy weekend night.) Once you figure in the cheap shuttle we had to-and-from the airport, it would have been about the same price to have a car for those 3.5 days from the airport than to just have one for 1 day and take a shuttle. [Oh, and speaking of shuttle, if you use one, book through a travel agency and NOT the shuttle itself. We were on the shuttle with someone who lost their ticket, but being they booked through a travel company, they could just "look up" their info - otherwise they would have had to re-pay if they just went through the shuttle service.]

• See "Old Vegas." We didn't have time for that.

• Find a "decent" restaurant off The Strip. We only ate at fast-food places or NICE restaurants right on the strip. We could find good food for a LOT cheaper a bit off The Strip.

• Drive along Lake Mead up to the Valley of Fire State Park. This just got cut from my "to do in Vegas" list, and a local we talked to at Hoover Dam said that this is a great drive. And then there's great running / hiking in Valley of Fire.

• Run Mount Charleston. Again, a few locals mentioned this. This is north of Red Rock Canyon (where we hiked - more on that soon), and it sounds fun. It stays cooler there in the summer, so when Lake Mead is ROASTING, head to Mount Charleston for your workouts. [We were told by an employee at Hoover Dam that more people die in the Lake Mead National Park than in any other National Park, and it's mostly due to being out in the heat, getting disorientated, and dying of heat / dehydration.]

So here's what we'd do the SAME next time:

• Stay in a 4-5 star hotel in the middle of The Strip. We loved our stay at The Bellagio, and from what we saw on our "self-guided" tours, we would like to stay at Caesars, The Palazzo, The Venetian, or Paris Las Vegas. We weren't impressed with The Luxor, Treasure Island, or Harrah's (again, this is just what we thought after walking around in the hotel / casinos on our own). We'd probably stay south of The Venetian and north of Excalibur. But definitely ON The Strip.

• Get out of the city a few times. We'd LOVE to spend longer on that trail to-and-from Hoover Dam (info on that coming soon), and I'd love to hike more at Red Rock (Pharmie sprained her ankle badly in October, so she didn't want to over-do that). We'd do things like that again.

• Take in a show. Maybe two. It's Vegas, after all....

• If you're not a big gambler but like to drink, gamble JUST long enough at the penny slots to get a free drink. We did this twice. Pharmie got 2 big glasses of white wine, and I got water. And if you purchase a drink, it's as strong as TWO drinks!! (That glass Pharmie's holding in the photo of us after the Zumamity show was the one drink we bought, and it got her pretty drunk...)

• Mix up meals with "cheap" meals at fast food places, nice buffets, and nice restaurants. We're too cheap to do fancy places all the time, and I think we found a nice balance of meals when we where there. But again, as noted above, we'd try to travel off the strip once or twice next time.

• Eat at the buffet at Caesars. There are longer lines for some parts of this (especially the fresh-carved meat and the seafood areas), but take a few hours to slow down and eat a LOT of good food.

• (My wife says) Eat MORE crepes at The Bellagio! There's a little cafe past the Conservatory where the "World's Largest Chocolate Fountain" is located (it's called "Jean-Philippe Patisserie" [we had to look that up]), and they had DELICIOUS crepes. My wife had a Nutella and whipped-cream crepe. In fact, this morning we made 12 crepes. Really. We have a problem now, thanks to Vegas.

• Go for a run down the strip early in the morning. Pharmie got out around 8 a.m. (not UNGODLY early) and the place is DEAD at that time - it's a REAL different Vegas experience. Here are 2 photos she snapped crossing over The Strip at 2 different spots:

Empty and clean sidewalks - they pressure wash a lot of the sidewalks in the early morning.

If you run much later in the day, it's REALLY crowded. And there are a lot of stairs over bigger intersections, so be ready for that - you won't get in an "even tempo" run because of those steps, but you can still run. And it generally feels quite safe during the day by yourself (so says my wife after her solo run).

Finally, here were a few pointers for me from a Facebook friend who went to Vegas JUST before we did:

Do wear comfortable shoes.
Dont drink so much that you waste the next day.
Do go to old Vegas.
Don't gamble too much on slots, you'll never win big. Instead do play black jack and roulette (always bet on a color).
Do see a Vegas show, preferable a cirque du soleil.
Don't go shopping. Everything is way over priced and not any better than you can find in mn.
Do see the monet exhibit in the Bellagio.
Don't talk to people on the street who are trying to get you to go to clubs.
Do walk around in the other hotels and look around. The Paris and the venetian are very beautiful.
And do have fun :)

I'll post some beautiful photos from our hike / run / workouts on Monday! (There are a lot of my wife's beautiful bum.)

p.s. If anyone else has anything to add (especially any "athletic" related things), please add them in the comments. I've had a number of people ask for Vegas advice because they're heading there shortly. Thanks!!


trimybest 12:27 PM, January 12, 2013  

hahaha my family all agrees that is me in the photo above the "bullwinkel" photo.

sounds like a fun trip! the last time i was in vegas we drove past a traffic jam that was over 70 miles long. luckily we were going in the other direction! :)

Steve Stenzel 1:00 PM, January 12, 2013  

trimybest, that DOES look like you! HA!

Ian M. 1:49 PM, January 12, 2013  

We were in Vegas nearly 2 years ago and stayed at Vdara which is right next to Bellagio. I was a bit worried that it was a bit too far off the strip, but it wasn't. It had no casino to walk through to get to our room.

I ate at Jean Philippe EVERY DAY for 8 days. I was in love with the dulce de leche brioche. There is another outlet at Aria.

I pretty much agree with your list of what you'd do the same and differently. I didn't run at all in Vegas because we walked SO MUCH!

We got out of the city to see the Grand Canyon, Death valley, Hoover dam and Red Rock canyon. Wanted to get to Valley of fire but just ran out of time. I would definitely recommend a car. Navigating the strip isn't really that hard, even for a rural hick like me.

Saw old Vegas and wouldn't waste my time going back.

My recommendation for where to eat is Hash House a Go-Go out on W. sahara Ave. Need a car to get to it, but was worth it. Ate there twice.

We saw O and Ka and enjoyed both. Also saw the Price is right show, which was fun.

You can get cheap show tickets at Tix For Tonight. There's booths all over the strip. You can get a pretty good deal if you aren't too fussy about what shows you see.

Hardly gambled at all, there wasn't enough time!

Rainmaker 6:17 PM, January 12, 2013  

Ahh bummer, our stays overlapped by about a day!

Glad you enjoyed it, and as one who goes pretty often for work, I'd agree with all of your recommendations - especially the car rental and getting out into the mountains.

Ironman By Thirty 8:39 PM, January 12, 2013  

Faygo FTW!!!! Hometown root beer representing!!! haha :)

This post actually makes me want to go back to Vegas. I was there once for work and just not impressed. Maybe it was because I was there for work and didn't have much time to check out the fun stuff. I just desperately wanted to get off the strip for a day. Ended up running to the UNLV campus to get away from it all.

Sue's Ramblings 10:39 PM, January 12, 2013  

I was at the Venetian Macau 3 years back; fashioned after the one in Vegas. Also caught Cirque de Soleill - am surprised they allowed you to take pics of the performance, it was strictly forbidden at their show in Macau.

Cinthia 1:08 AM, January 13, 2013  

Hate Vegas but love the desert outside the city. So many lovely places to hike/run.
Love Pharmie's purple dress!

TriMOEngr 10:31 AM, January 13, 2013  

The best meal I had in Vegas was a $5 meatloaf special (with potatos and green beans) in some diner in "old" Vegas. The betting limits are lower there too which is nice if you don't want to lose too much gambling. I did the early morning run on the strip (earlier actually - still mostly dark) and even then I felt safe because of the lights and some people STILL out partying (though not enough to worry about running around). It was a little cool (Feb) and I hadn't thought to take a jacket with me. I agree with a lot of the other advice you gave. I saw La Reve at the Wynn and it was fantastic. I saw Mystere the 2nd trip and it was good, but La Reve was better. I definitely agree with the comfy shoes - my feet hurt from all that walking. Everything is much further than it appears. The lack of sleep I got on the first trip (with friends - 2nd was a business trip so I didn't party as much) was a real kick in the pants when I got home. I'll definitely rent a car next time so I can go to Red Rocks. I rode with a friend that had a car to Hoover Dam, but we didn't go on the trail.

Colleen 12:31 PM, January 13, 2013  

Sounds like you guys had a great trip! :) I agree with your do's and don'ts. We learned our lesson with the car and always rent one at the airport now. We love going to Red Rock and either running the 13 mile loop or exploring the trails. My sister in law lives on Mount Charleston so although we think it's pretty good, there are more exciting places in my opinion. There are some great restaurants just a block or two off the strip. And we did the "bring your own snacks and drinks to the room" thing. Saved us a ton of money! :)

Ririnette 7:14 PM, January 13, 2013  

Oh maaan, just came back from Vegas yesterday where I was since Sunday. It looks like we crossed paths, but didn't have enough time to make it more likely to meet. It was my first trip to Vegas and I still have mixed emotions about it, but for having spent a week there, I can share quite a few tips. Glad to see that you guys enjoyed ourselves, I am going to take my hubby there too one day.

Ririnette 7:15 PM, January 13, 2013  

*yourselves* - I swear this wasn't a Freudian slip. :-D

Melanie 12:18 AM, January 14, 2013  

For those who have an extra day or two, I would suggest driving out to the Grand Canyon. My parents took us on a trip out to Vegas for a week (I was 19, sister 15, and we found it very friendly toward the under 21 crowd with plenty to keep us busy all week). We rented a car one day and drove out to the Grand Canyon and back in that one day. It was super awesome, but I really hated that we couldn't stay there overnight a night or two and do some hiking in and around the canyon. I want to go back and do that and would recommend the same to other active folks.

Nikki,  7:11 AM, January 14, 2013  

I end up in Vegas at least 3 times a year for work and you have hit the nail on the head with the "early" morning walk/run on the strip. There is nothing better than watching people stumble home from the night before, and seeing the staff shine the strip up. One of my favorite things to do.

Wendy 10:15 AM, January 14, 2013  

I love your review! I agree with the early morning run - we just went in October and I got in 6 miles at about 8am. I think there were more runners on the streets than tourists! That is my favorite memory of my Vegas trip.

Purduerose 11:32 AM, January 14, 2013  

Now I want to go to Vegas, those hikes looked beautiful!

Kathleen,  2:36 PM, January 14, 2013  

Husband and I rode our bikes from Vdara Hotel to Red Rock Canyon and back. My Garmin showed 3,145 ft. elevation gain, 53 miles and alittle over 4 1/2 hours. Quite an adventure riding thru Las Vegas as there are no bike lanes (very polite drivers!) and it's not flat, slight uphill all the way to Red Rock. Great workout on loop in canyon, it's one way only with the right lane for cyclists only. Bring cash or credit car, cyclists had to get in line at entrance and pay the per person fee :) Next time would start closer to Red Rock, maybe on West Charleston closer to 215 overpass. Very dry heat so drink lots of water including electrolytes.

Katie 11:06 AM, February 21, 2013  

I'm glad I came across your posts about Vegas. I'm heading there with my husband tomorrow with basically the same schedule as you. We're both active and runners, so your advice is even better!

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