February 11, 2011
Since Alex and I live in Arizona, we have a few large cities within a day’s drive for when we want to have a weekend getaway. Since this is our first real vacation since moving in December, we decided to go to Las Vegas since Alex had never been there before. On Friday after work, we packed up the car with a large suitcase, a dog carrier, a cage, and our two Pekingese puppies. We found out through the internet that there is a PetStay program in Las Vegas that allows you to bring up to two dogs that weigh less than 50lbs. each. Participating hotels have a designated dog walking area (Astroturf) and supply your dogs with food bowls and organic dog treats in the room. They also supply you with a crate for your dog if you need one. Anyway, we decided to stay at Bally’s since it was in the heart of the Strip and fit into our budget. The dog-friendly rooms at Bally’s were in the North Tower, the rooms are very large, and it is very quiet because it is located on the back of the Strip.
We didn’t leave Arizona until 6PM, so we arrived in Las Vegas at 10PM . I would highly recommend driving into Las Vegas at night. Coming through the desert, we were surrounded by complete darkness. Once we got about 50 miles away from Las Vegas we could see the skyglow. Finally, we drove up over a mountain and came across a huge grid of bright lights that are just amazing to see at night. This is mostly because Las Vegas is in the middle of nowhere and the city itself is the only source of light nearby. Even though we got to the Strip by 10, we did not get to our hotel until almost 11. Unfortunately, Alex missed our turn onto the strip and then missed the next turn onto it. To his credit, 10PM is like rush hour in Vegas and with all of the bright lights and traffic, it can be distracting and quite difficult to get into another lane at the last minute. When we did turn onto the Strip, traffic was at a complete standstill. First, a Chippendales bus had broken down, and that had blocked a lane of traffic. Second, there was another lane of traffic closed further down because a girl in a hot pink Escalade had been pulled over and arrested. There were multiple police officers present, and the girl who was handcuffed was just standing in the middle of the street for whatever reason while the cops chatted and drank Red Bull. I felt bad for her because she had two friends with her who were not being arrested but were laughing at and taunting her while they sat on the back edge of the SUV. All of the cars nearby were bottlenecking to take pictures and be nosy, so this further hindered our progress to the hotel. The other interesting thing that we noticed about Vegas at night is that traffic lights are irrelevant at this hour. Since cars were back-to-back, there really was no way to avoid getting stuck in an intersection during a red light. There were a few times when we found ourselves in this position, but we were far from the only ones sitting there. Although maybe this was a special circumstance and that’s not normal, I don’t know.
We finally arrived at the hotel, walked a quarter mile to our room, and then decided to do some exploration once the dogs were settled in for the night. We walked down to the Hollywood themed Planet Hollywood Hotel, which turned out to be Alex’s favorite. What Alex and I really liked about this place was that everything was centrally located and there are a number of hot places to shop, eat, and be entertained including KOI restaurant, Sugar Factory, and Pink’s hot dogs (famous in LA). There were two levels in the “middle” of the hotel, with the casino and Miracle Mile shops on the bottom floor, and Holly Madison’s PEEPSHOW on the second. In the casino, there is a section called the “Pleasure Pit” where the dealers are girls in lingerie, and “go-go dancers” dance around poles while you play. This section of the casino was not secluded as I assumed it would be, but was right in the center of the casino floor and impossible to miss. We walked through the casino and stopped at Earl of Sandwich to get a midnight snack after we were turned away at P.F. Changs, who had just closed. Other than buffets, there are not many sit-down restaurants open past midnight, so it was nice that there is a sandwich shop open at that hour. They specialize in hot sandwiches that are pretty simple but also pretty darn good, and we enjoyed our Ham & Swiss and Hawaiian BBQ sandwiches. After getting food, we stopped at the daiquiri bar conveniently located adjacent to the Earl of Sandwich and the casino. In Las Vegas, drinking alcohol on the Strip is perfectly legal and you can literally go anywhere with your beverage, so it made sense when we saw a ton of people who were drinking alcohol from giant containers that were up to 3 feet tall! Some even had straps attached to their drink to hang around their neck (you know you have a problem when…)! Anyway, at the daiquiri bar they had every size from a 16 oz. glass to one shaped like a life-sized electric guitar. We ordered the ½ yard strawberry daiquiri to split between the two of us, and continued on to Paris Hotel.
The Paris Hotel is a lot different from Planet Hollywood. Where PH is more young and trendy, Paris is much quieter and serene. The casino is huge and is set up to make you feel like you are taking a romantic stroll through the streets of Paris. The daytime lighting threw us off a bit since it was 1AM, but it was very pretty and gives you a sense of renewed energy. We slowly made our way through the casino (which also has the Eiffel Tower ride and restaurant), and then walked through an alley of Parisian shops and cafés that connect across into Bally’s. It’s a huge advantage when hotels have walkways that connect to each other, especially since it’s 40 degrees outside in February. Once we got back to Bally’s, we stopped briefly to play some digital roulette. What I like about digital roulette is that there is a real roulette table and dealer, but you make your bets on personal touch screens that encircle the table. It makes it much easier to keep track of your winnings, place your bets, and is a little bit more private, which I liked. Our room was an elevator ride away, so after breaking even 30 minutes later–or more aptly put, Alex gained what I had lost– we called it a night and went upstairs.
February 12, 2011
This morning, Alex and I slept in until 10:30AM since the dogs both had us up all night with their barking. Apparently, Howie, our 1 year old Pekingese does not like people walking through the hotel hallways. After we got ready, we walked over to Caesar’s Palace for lunch and to do some shopping. There are numerous walkways that go over the Strip, so it’s pretty convenient and fast to get to all of the different hotels. We arrived at Caesars through the casino entrance and immediately started looking for the Cleopatra slots. I did very well the last few times I’ve played Cleopatra, so I wanted to find it again this time. We did not stay long once we found the machines because this time they were just not very lucky. As we walked through the casino (which was surprisingly basic), we came across Mesa Grill, which is owned by famous Iron Chef Bobby Flay. We weren’t in the mood for Southwestern cuisine but took some pictures in front of the restaurant since we are both very big Throwdown fans. Across from Mesa grill is Pure nightclub (one of THE hottest nightclubs in Vegas, more on that later) and the Pussycat Dolls gaming pit. The Pussycat Dolls perform inside a lounge at Pure, so this is why there is a PCD pit next to it. This was almost too similar to the Pleasure Pit at Planet Hollywood, or vice versa I guess. The girls were dressed in “sexy cop” uniforms and similar to PH, there are pole dancers on top of the tables. There is also a PCD gift kiosk in this section to get any souvenir items.
Inside the Rome-themed Forum Shops, you can find any and all luxury designer stores. The forum shops also had a sky-painted ceiling but didn’t feel quite as bright as the Paris hotel. The ceiling was painted baby blue with clouds to make you feel like it was lunchtime, but the lighting on the buildings made you feel like it was dusk. For lunch, we ended up going to Planet Hollywood because there was no wait and would be fast. Our next stop for the day was the Venetian hotel to check out their shops and make dinner reservations. The Venetian is just a stunningly beautiful hotel and has so many things to do if you stay there. The only thing is that it seems much more appropriate for couples who want a romantic getaway than for families. One of the attractions there for families is Madame Tussauds. It is located on the outside of the building, which attracts a lot of tourists. We did not go there this time, but I went there with a friend two years ago and really enjoyed it. You can get your picture with any number of celebrity wax figures, and even participate in “interactive displays” such as “eloping” with George Clooney in a dress and veil or putting on a Playboy bunny outfit and posing with Hugh Hefner.
Across the replica bridge of the famous Ponte di Rialto is the entrance to the Grand Canal shops. When we first walked in, we saw TAO nightclub (also a major hotspot) and wax figures of the Blue Man Group. We walked past the three figures through a huge crowd of people who were taking pictures of them. I can’t even tell you how realistic their eyes were. In fact, they could have been real, but I was too creeped out to stay and find out. The shops surround a canal where you can take a romantic gondola ride. The stores are similar to Caesars Palace and the theme is again similar the other hotels where you feel like you are walking through a city (in this case, Venice). One of the features in the canal shops is the presence of living statues. They are people who are painted completely white and do not move unless they are switching positions. A lot of people enjoy this free attraction, but personally it creeps me out. And I don’t understand why the Venetian has a weird obsession with wax figures other than to scare away any children that might want to stay there. We went around the back side of the living statue so he wouldn’t jump out at us and made our way upstairs to Bouchon, a French restaurant. We normally would call to make dinner reservations, but there were two French restaurants in the hotel and wanted to see them both in person before we made a decision on where to go. Bouchon is placed up in an obscure area of the hotel. We had to get permission from the guards at the hotel to go up the guest elevator to the 10th floor and across a walkway that leads to the restaurant. Bouchon is well-known for its Brunch menu but we heard their dinners are excellent as well. But since it was only 3PM and dinner reservations were for 9:30, we took the Monorail to the MGM Grand to do some more hotel exploring. We really liked the monorail system for people who are staying in a hotel that has a station. If you get a full day pass (for $12.00/pp) you can go anywhere on the strip in mere minutes, which saves a lot of time when you have a lot to do. We arrived at the MGM Grand and headed over to the Lion’s Habitat, where they house lions in a giant glass enclosure. It was really cool because there is a clear tunnel that you can enter through and look up at the lions inside of their habitat. When we went in, both lions (females) were asleep directly on top of the tunnel, so we got to see them VERY close-up. It’s also free to see the lions and they are located inside the casino, so you can watch them while you are trying to win some money.
M&Ms World was our next stop. It is right down the sidewalk from the MGM Grand and is also free to visit. You can find any M&Ms brand product from pillows to M&M dispensers. The store is three stories, so that should give you an idea of how many products they offer. The second floor has an M&M wall with every color and type of M&M. It’s a self serve bar, so you can take as much as you want for $13/lb. If you want to do something even more personalized, the third floor lets you personalize your M&Ms to say anything you want (within reason, of course). We left with a small bag of dark chocolate and pretzel M&Ms. Nearby and across the street is the Monte Carlo hotel. We went here to visit the Minus5 ice lounge. This is a bar that is 23 degrees Fahrenheit at all times and is carved completely out of ice. The walls, the seating, the bar, and even the glasses are all made out of ice. Entry is $15, and that includes a jacket and gloves. For more money, you have the option to get a fur coat, a souvenir fur hat, and a free cocktail at the bar. We placed our electronics inside the lockers as required, and suited up: Alex in a black fur coat and me in a white one. We entered a holding room from the outside that was the size and temperature of a walk-in freezer. Here we were outfitted with gloves and then entered through the airtight doors into the Ice Lounge. It actually felt refreshingly nice inside and was cozy- about the size of a two bedroom apartment. You might think that 23 degrees is unreasonably cold, but there is no wind and is actually not bad at all. We walked up to the bar and ordered our ice-themed drinks. Our cocktails were served in glasses made entirely of ice, and we were told to hold them with two hands at all times. We sat down on an ice bench covered with deer skin and enjoyed our drinks on an ice coffee table while their in-house photographer took pictures of everyone. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and something that we are both glad we got to experience. Maybe someday we will get to visit the ICEHOTEL in Sweden and spend a night!
Once we warmed up after leaving Minus5, we walked through the New York-New York Hotel, which feels like the streets of Brooklyn. They even have pizza cafes and a Jewish deli! This hotel also has a roller coaster that starts inside the hotel and loops around the outside of the building. Near the roller coaster entrance is an arcade area for families with children. This hotel is in a section of the Strip that is the most “child-friendly” in my opinion. There are so many things for kids to see and do, and the hotel themes are fun (and a little cheesy). I personally like to visit these hotels because when I used to visit Vegas as a child, this section of the Strip was the only part my parents allowed me to be on, and still brings me a sense of nostalgia. Excalibur is next door to the New York New York via an outdoor walkway. This hotel is themed like a medieval castle and has a dinner and jousting show similar to Medieval Times. There are also little shops, a Spongebob 4D ride, and an arcade. Like most hotels in Vegas, the shops lead to an indoor walkway that is attached to the Luxor.
The Luxor is one of my favorite hotels. It is Egyptian themed, is one of the more reasonably priced hotels, and is actually the only hotel I’ve ever stayed at in Vegas up until this trip. The hotel is a giant pyramid, with a lower casino level and a restaurant and entertainment level that looks up into all of the rooms that are placed along the sides of the pyramid. It’s a great hotel because you can see nearly everything from your room, and there really is no way to get lost in the hotel. The theme itself is also really neat. Luxor has club LAX, which I had a chance to go to 2 years ago for Kim Kardashian’s birthday party. It’s actually a pretty large club, two stories, has plenty of VIP seating, and has a dance floor in the center.
Even though it seems like we spent a lot of time out of the hotel (which we did), we did not go more than 5 hours at a time without visiting the dogs in the room and taking them out for a walk. We got A LOT done in a very little amount of time. We took a cab back to the hotel (faster than the monorail would have been) and got ready for our night out. The dogs were watching Sex and the City: The Movie when we left the hotel a little bit before 8PM. We took another cab to Treasure Island (The pirate themed hotel) so that we could see the free Siren Show at 8:30. On the way, our driver took a back way and we ended up pulling onto the Strip directly in front of the Mirage Hotel’s volcano eruption. In the front of the hotel at night, a volcano erupts on the hour, every hour with huge bursts of fire and smoke. It was really cool to see up close, and was even better because we got to watch the whole thing since traffic wasn’t really moving. We pulled into Treasure Island and decided to play some penny slots near the doors to Sirens Cove since we were early. We sat down at the Press Your Luck slots and were surprised to be the only ones there! I guess nobody knew what Press Your Luck was because so many people walked by, stopped to look at what it was, and then left without stopping. The Monopoly slots on the other side of our machines, however, were completely full. Well thank goodness I’m well-versed in pop culture because those slots won us $100 in 15 minutes! And they’re penny slots! The Siren show was about to start, so we took a break from the game and walked outside. Treasure Island has a large lagoon with a boardwalk that allows its guests to watch the show from. The show begins with a giant pirate ship sitting in the lagoon, when a group of sirens in lingerie come out singing a song that is supposed to enchant pirates to come onto their ship. The lead siren, Cinnamon, who I swear on my life was Kathleen Turner (yikes), seduces a pirate that looks like Johnny Depp to come onto the ship. And she does this for no other reason than to tie him up while they sing and dance some more. Trust me, it was the only way to keep him from jumping ship. The coolest part of the show, however, was when “Johnny Depp’s” pirate ship came to rescue him. It actually sailed through the lagoon, exchanged fire with the sirens ship, and then sunk after being hit! It was pretty cool to see everyone jumping off of the masts of the ship as it was sinking. After the ship was gone, the pirates swam up to the sirens’ ship, got seduced by them, and then the show ended with them all dancing together on the ship. It was a little cheesy, but it was free to watch and the explosions and sound effects were pretty cool.
We went back to the Press Your Luck slots because we had some time to spare before our 9:30 reservations at Bouchon. We were still the only ones there, but continued to win just as big as before we left! At 9:15, we decided that we could no longer play or else we’d be late, so we pushed that “max bet” button one more time (a few times over) and collected our winnings. When you cash out, you get a ticket instead of money, so we used this ticket as an excuse to go back later that night to play one more time before collecting our money. Luckily the Venetian is right across the street, so we arrived exactly at 9:30 for our reservations. Bouchon is a very nice French restaurant with a wine list longer than the food menu. Not worrying about having to pay for dinner (since we had just won a few hundred dollars), we indulged on their soup a l’oignon, a nice juicy steak, and yummy chicken. I also ordered a glass of the Pinot Gris. The French onion soup was to die for, the bread and warm pistachios were incredibly good, and the entrees were fabulous. We got a little too full, however, and both had to stop eating much earlier than we anticipated. I felt bad sending back 2/3 of my steak, but I really didn’t want to push it. We left the Venetian and walked over to Caesars Palace to go to Pure nightclub. I was able to get us on the guest list for Lauren Conrad’s birthday party, so we had to get there before midnight when she had planned to show up. We entered Caesars through the Forum shops, which were closed at that hour but still free to walk around in. They have moving elevators that spiral up three levels, which is really fun to go on. We actually got lost in there while trying to find our way into the actual hotel, and even asked the security guard for help. He was in a pissy mood and literally pointed to the store to his left and said, “Keep walking straight ahead”. I’m not kidding! Turns out, the layout of the shops is like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. It starts in the center, and you have to circle around as the spiral gets larger and eventually leads to a pathway that connects to more shops and eventually the hotel! This is BY FAR the most confusing hotel to get around in. Even the map did not help us!
Once we got to Pure, we got in the guestlist line and were let in pretty quickly. I was really excited because this would be the first nightclub Alex has ever been to, and what better way than to start at the hottest nightclub in Vegas? So we got inside the club, ordered a drink each, and made our way through the club to explore. There are two levels at Pure, one which is a giant room with a central dance floor and a few VIP sections, along with the Pussycat Dolls Lounge. The terrace, which is essentially 100% VIP seating is smaller but more exclusive, and I’m sure is better in the spring and summer. We went upstairs, but it was very chilly and we didn’t know anyone, so we went back downstairs after walking around a bit. When we got back downstairs, we found a table with some girls to hang out with. Soon enough, Lauren Conrad showed up completely unannounced and just took pictures of herself and talked with friends. About ten minutes after she got there, they brought out a giant birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday while she blew out the candles. Almost instantaneously, the cake was taken away without even being cut, and then Lauren wasn’t seen afterward!! That was it!! And can I just tell you, February 12th is not even her birthday!! It was two weeks ago! I can’t even tell you how disappointing it was. When I was at LAX, Kim Kardashian was announced, talked to everyone, danced around, and stayed for hours. I know that their personalities are different, but come on; Lauren wasn’t even there for more than 15 minutes. I suggest that if you want to see or meet a celebrity, go to Hollywood. Unfortunately, neither of us really LOVED Pure. The music was nice and all, but at the risk of sounding jaded, it was my first time going to a nightclub without being in the VIP section. There’s really nothing to do but stand there and dance, which gets tiring and hurts after a bit when you are in heels. I like to sit and talk, and dance when I feel like it. But Alex thought it was still a good experience, so maybe another time we will try it again. We soon left and went back to Treasure Island to have a more laid-back evening.
Surprisingly, when we arrived at Treasure Island, our machines were taken! Taken! As in, the entire row of machines was completely full! I guess people do know what Press Your Luck is after all. Either that or they saw someone win big on it while we went to dinner! We waited patiently for someone to leave, and after one person did, I sat down and tried to play. Nothing. The machine had gone cold and we decided to cash out and head back to our hotel. By the time we left, my feet were hurting so badly that I didn’t want to walk back to Bally’s, so we took a cab. Once we got to our hotel we decided to play some more slots and went to the Price is Right machines. This is BY FAR the most fun machine we have ever played on! We played plinko, cliffhanger, and punch a bunch as bonus games. I even got a showcase showdown bonus! I won close to $500 and Alex won close to $300 when we each started with $20; however, we got greedy and thought we could win even more money, and unfortunately lost most of what we won by placing maximum bets. But I have to say it was so much fun and we stayed for two hours! We even played Deal or No Deal and Goldfish, which is a stupid game that everyone seems to love. Trust me, nobody ever wins and when they do, it does not seem to pay off as much as they spent before the bonus. But after playing enough and before we actually lost money, we went back to the room and got a good night’s sleep before heading out in the morning.