Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Neon Museum @ The Neon Boneyard

The Neon Museum (The Neon Boneyard)

Thanks to my friend Claire, I was able to venture off-Strip for once and check out the Neon Museum (also known as the Neon Boneyard) with her and some of my other Vegas friends on a nice Saturday morning in October. I was so happy to be able to take my Canon and get some good photos for my personal collection!

Claire was nice enough to arrange limo transportation for six of us to and from the Palazzo Hotel & Casino, and the trip to the museum took about 20 minutes with traffic. We were dropped off at the museum office - which sits across the street from the actual "museum" - to pay the entrance fee of $15 and sign waivers stating we would NOT use any photos we took for anything other than personal use. Absolutely!

Paul was our guide for the day, and he took our tour group across to the museum area from the office area. He kept up a running dialogue of interesting facts about the signs found outside the museum property along Las Vegas Boulevard and what the museum owners were planning to do with the additional signage they were acquiring from hotels when ownership changed hands as we made our way up to the gates of the boneyard.

Before we were allowed inside the museum grounds, we were given strict instructions to look, but don't touch; not because the signs in the area are necessarily fragile, but because they are old, sharp, and could fall on us if we attempted to get too close to them or pose around them. He invited us to take our time and take as many photos as we wanted, and he proceeded to lead our group from area to area, giving background information on the signs and answering questions as he went. The walking tour took about an hour, and it was a beautiful day for a stroll amidst all that Vegas history.

Claire and I being the avid photographers of our group (along with a couple of other equally avid photographers in the tour group) tended to stray behind a little and didn't hear all the descriptions, details and history because we were too busy framing shots at every opportunity. Even so, we were extremely happy because we were able to photograph to our hearts' content the historic and interesting signage out on display in the boneyard. Getting an up-close and personal look at the classic signs from The Dunes, Stardust, Binions, Moulin Rouge and other famous or long-gone hotels was fantastic, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to see them all up close. I was surprised that there were so many other signs in the collection from hotels I'd never even heard of. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, since I've only been vacationing in Vegas for about 13 years, and some of the signs are well over 50 years old.

In the end we DID manage to catch up with our group at the end of the tour, and a limo was waiting to pick us up and return us to the Palazzo. It was a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning in Vegas. On a scale of 1 to 10 for Vegas attractions, I rate it as a 9.

If you plan on visiting the museum, be sure to make reservations for you and your party as far in advance as possible, as they only have two tours available on any given day. There is no penalty if you should need to cancel, but reservations are required because of the limited number of spaces available. Also be aware that closed-toed shoes and long pants are strongly recommended by the organizer, and you could be refused entry into the boneyard if you are wearing sandals or flip-flops because of the danger and risk that may be involved walking so closely to some of the ancient signs.

For more information or to schedule a tour, go to their website for the link to the request:

Tour times and days:
Tuesday - Friday, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Max Brenner's Las Vegas

Crispy Chocolate Eggrolls

S'mores Concoction

Max Brenner Las Vegas
This is a more extensive review of Max Brenner's restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. A shorter review was included in my previously posted October 2010 trip report.

I planned on meeting my friend Claire for dinner on our first night in Vegas, and after a failed attempt to get into Mesa Grill (it was packed and there were no reservations until 10:30 p.m.), she suggested we just walk through Caesars Palace and see what we found. After passing a couple of other crowded and/or expensive places, she suggested Max Brenner’s, and I’m glad she did! It was DELICIOUS!

Located about halfway through the Forum Shops - across from where the old FAO Schwarz store was located - is the newly opened Max Brenner's. While this restaurant is part of a chain, it is certainly worth a visit, and not just for chocolate, which Max Brenner is famous for. We managed to try sweet and savory concoctions during this trip.

The restaurant has a bar area and casual dining area up front and a separate dining room upstairs, but we chose to eat downstairs near the bar. Music played in the background and never overpowered us during the entire meal, so we were able to chat and catch up while we dined. I really appreciate that in a restaurant; I don't want to have to yell, but I also don't want to feel like I have to whisper in order to keep the neighbors from overhearing everything I say.

Our server was a great help to us during the entire meal, and he was cute and funny to boot. We were more interested in trying several different things rather than just filling up on one item, so his suggestion to get individual servings versus full orders was great for our needs. We shared the “Really Cheesy – Really Crunchy Mac n Cheese” appetizer with marinara, fresh tomatoes and bacon baked in. It was a fantastic blend of cheese and savory bits that could make it a meal in itself. We also shared an individual serving of the “Chicken Bacon Cheddar Rolls” with maple glaze and buttermilk dressing. The rolls were four bite-sized portions of chicken breast, wrapped in bacon and cheddar cheese and served with a buttermilk dressing on the side for dipping. Delicious! Even with the individual portions, there was too much for us to finish, and we had to have room for dessert if we were dining at Max Brenner’s!

For dessert, Claire ordered the “S’mores Concoction”, which was served on a plate that looked like graph paper from high school and included some sort of chocolate mousse and what looked like a deconstructed s'more next to the REAL s'more. I had a bite of the 'real' s'more and found it to taste like a...s'more. Not much you could really do with that to make it different, but it WAS good.

I had the “Crispy Chocolate Eggrolls” - served in a Chinese takeout container and looking like regular, savory eggrolls, they were accompanied by two dipping sauces: creamy milk chocolate and a sea salt caramel sauce. They were fantastic, and the ‘banana fudge chocolate filling’ starting oozing out as soon as I bit into one. Again, there were 4 of them in the order, and that was too much for me. I finished one and a half, and took the other 2 to go. This was my second experience with sea salt caramel sauce, and I have to say that I really enjoy the sweet/salty taste combo. It makes the sweetness of chocolate a little less overwhelming, and I think you can actually eat MORE if you have a sweet sauce that includes salt in it. But that's my opinion.

I don't know the price of the entire meal because Claire picked up the tab for my birthday (which she didn't have to do, but I appreciate her sweetness all the same).

For the entire meal and experience, I rate Max Brenner's as a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. I would love to go again and try some different sweet AND savory items - they are just too good to pass up!

Max Brenner's hours of operation:
Sunday - Thursday from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Friday - Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
Brunch is served from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays
For reservations call (702)462-8790

Check out their menus at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

October 2010 Trip Report

Claire and I posing with some old sign in the Neon Boneyard - love it!

Once again, I am behind getting my full trip report posted. I will have a couple of the restaurant/attraction/show reviews posted separately with more details in the next couple of days, I swear!

A Very Harrah's Trip Report - Oct. 22-25, 2010

Friday, October 22nd

I scheduled this trip almost immediately after my April trip, and my LasVegas4Ever founder/friend Bonnie followed suit pretty quickly. After that, more LV4E people started booking their trips, and the Mega Meet III trip plan was born.

Using the $10 Early Bird check-in on SWA and getting boarding pass A19, I was ready to go. We landed in Vegas at 11:35 on Friday, and it was a beautiful 65 degrees. Coming from 90-degree Texas weather (weird even by Texas standards for late October), it was a welcome relief. The taxi line took about 20 minutes to get through, as the line snaked around and around and all the way back to the exit door near baggage claim. I had to wait for my bag about 10 minutes, and I have a feeling if I’d taken carry-on luggage only I would’ve missed most of that line, but who knows? I’ve come to love my checked baggage when staying more than my usual two nights, so I check it for anything more than a 2 night stay. Arriving at Harrah’s revealed an even longer queue for check in that snaked back almost to the Diamond Check In entrance (trust me, it's not that close), but it took less than half an hour waiting to get my Carnaval tower room (#1417) by 1:00 p.m. Still not too bad, since I had a feeling I’d be waiting for a room due to my arrival time and was pleasantly surprised when I was told I could go up immediately.

I brought my big Canon along for this trip, but I decided to skip the camera bag and just pack my lenses in my carry-on purse/bag/satchel and store them in my suitcase when I wasn’t using them. I really didn’t like carrying my camera bag around during my April trip, so I was determined to travel lighter.

After unpacking and calling home to check in, I decided a snack was in order, since the cup of coffee I’d had at home at 7 a.m. and the little bag of 100 Calorie Mini Cinnamon Rolls from SWA weren’t doing it for me anymore. A quick trip down to Harrah’s Café called for large amounts of soda and a bowl of soup.

I was eager to do a little gambling because my mom and my aunt Ruthie would be joining me on Saturday morning. I knew that once my aunt was in town, there was no guarantee of a quiet, steady gambling session. Unfortunately, I was unable to get anything to produce more than a couple of hits, including VP, Gold Fish, Wizard of Oz and Ruby Slippers. The crappy play on Ruby Slippers further solidified my low opinion of the game, and I decided to head down toward Bill’s for the 5:00 p.m. meet a little early.

I headed into Flamingo instead of using the sidewalk and decided to give Gold Fish 2 another try. I didn’t really care for it in April, but I was willing to see what I could do. Surprisingly I was able to play for quite awhile and actually cashed out $75 in the good. I was almost back to even. Take that, Harrah’s! Oh, yeah…same ownership…*sigh*…they’re still getting my money.

I walked into Bill’s and saw my board friends Mike, Pete and Dave already waiting there. What a nice surprise! Unfortunately for all of us, the seats were all taken for Big Elvis’ next show, so there was nowhere to sit, and the music was hard to talk over. We waited for a few more minutes and were soon joined by our friends Helen and Julie. After waiting a little while longer, we determined that we were the only meet attendees and decided to head back over to Flamingo and the much quieter Garden Bar.

We had a nice little meet in some very comfy chairs at the Garden Bar (located at the back of the casino, near the sports book and the buffet). Just so you know, it would be a great location to have another mini-meet if anyone wants a good, quiet area mid-Strip. And it was so nice to finally put faces to names for Dave and Helen, and get to meet Pete in the flesh after talking to him for almost 5 years online (yes, it’s true)! I’m so glad all of you took the time to make the mini-meet. I really wanted to meet Dave before he left town on Saturday morning, and I think he’s a really funny guy. Thank you, Pete, for not letting him drive over from The Orleans!

We all parted ways at about 6:30; Pete and Dave were hungry, and I was planning on meeting Claire for a small dinner or snack at Mesa Grill in Caesars. It turned out that Mesa Grill – like just about everywhere else in Vegas that weekend – was PACKED and/or BOOKED, and we hadn’t made a reservation because we hadn’t known we were going to do this. The earliest reservation they had was 10:30 p.m., and there was no way we were waiting that long to eat. Claire suggested we just walk through CP and see what we found. After passing a couple of other crowded and/or expensive places, she suggested Max Brenner’s, and I’m glad she did! It was DELICIOUS! We shared the “Really Cheesy – Really Crunchy Mac n Cheese” appetizer (with marinara, fresh tomatoes and bacon) and the individual serving of the “Chicken Bacon Cheddar Rolls” (with maple glaze and buttermilk) first. Our server was a great help to us and was cute and funny to boot, and his suggestion to get the individual serving (4 pieces) versus a larger portion was a good one. The food portions were too large for us to finish, anyway, and we had to have room for dessert if we were dining at Max Brenner’s! Claire ordered the “S’mores Concoction” and I had the “Crispy Chocolate Egg rolls”. They were served in a Chinese takeout container and looked like regular egg rolls, and they were accompanied by two dipping sauces: creamy milk chocolate and a sea salt caramel sauce. They were fantastic, and the ‘banana fudge chocolate filling’ starting oozing out as soon as I bit into one. Again, there were 4 of them in the order, and that was too much for me. I finished one and a half, and took the other 2 to go. Claire, thank you again for treating me to dinner – it was fantastic!

After dinner I took my camera back to my room and headed out on a trek to Palazzo. My plan was to do a little gambling there - because I usually bypass it due to bad luck at the slots – and wait for Bonnie and her son, Mike, to arrive later that evening. I took a walk around first so I could familiarize myself with the area and not get lost when I tried to meet up with Claire and the rest of the group that was heading to the Neon Boneyard at 9:00 a.m. the next morning.

I took a few random pictures and finally settled in to play some Gold Fish 2, since it was being nice to me. I met a nice guy playing next to me – I believe his name was Sumter – and we chatted for awhile before he finally ran out of funds. He left and I finally ran out my $20 and moved over to Star Trek. Boy, am I glad I did! I used “KIRK1234” and settled in, and I proceeded to get the machine up to $170 during the two hours I sat there, texting Bonnie as they made their way from the airport to Palazzo on the shuttle. I reluctantly cashed out, but I was tired and I planned on saying hello and heading back to Harrah’s and up to bed.

Young Mike is just as adorable in person, and he is such a nice guy, too! Bonnie raised a good boy there. I walked up to see their room at Bonnie’s invitation, and I must say I am very jealous of her freebies. I could LIVE in that bathroom, and you know that’s saying something coming from me! It was nice to get a little look-see around the suite in person, because I’m sure I’ll probably never see the inside of one again, LOL!

I gave my remaining dessert egg rolls to Bonnie, and they devoured them on the spot. I guess they didn’t get much food on the plane! (I had planned on giving them to Bonnie when I got them to go, so don’t think she grabbed them out of my hands or anything.) She quickly changed her purse and we headed back downstairs together. They were intending to only gamble for an hour or so due to our early trip to the boneyard, and I left them there to head back to Harrah’s and to bed. And, yeah, they didn’t go to bed after an hour, either.l

Saturday, October 23rd

I set my phone alarm for 7 a.m. so that I could be at Palazzo by 8:30 for the limo to the Neon Boneyard. I did not want to miss this – it’s the whole reason I brought my Canon along! I was out the door faster than I thought, so I had time to sit and gamble while I was waiting for the text from Claire.

I ordered a Bailey’s and hot chocolate from the cocktail waitress while I played more Star Trek (not winning like last night), and I was SHOCKED when she brought me a 32-oz. to go cup filled with the lovely beverage! I had the feeling that I’d be drunk by the time we got to the boneyard if I didn’t watch it, but it was delicious and I sipped and sipped on it until it was gone and we were already in the limo and on the way to our early morning tour.

Claire’s little party consisted of her, me, Bonnie, her son, Diana and Terri. Each of the ladies got a single red rose – so nice! We were dropped off across the street at the meeting place, paid our $15 entrance fee, and signed waivers stating we would only post our photos for personal use.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Neon Boneyard, but it was certainly worth the $15 admission. Our tour guide’s name was Paul, and he led a group of about 15 of us over to the museum area and went over all the safety precautions and warnings before he even let us in the gate. He gave us history on almost every sign in the collection, and there were many from places I’d never heard of. A few people asked questions as he guided us around, but a few of us die-hard photographers hung back to get some great shots while the others kept with the group and actually HEARD everything Paul had to say! We didn’t lag too far behind, but it was certainly worth not hanging on every word he said in order to get the good photos like we did. The tour took a little over an hour, and as Paul was wrapping up his spiel near the gate, I noticed a limo parked right outside (we knew we’d be getting a different limo and driver for the trip back) and asked Claire, “Is that ours?” I think we had the cutest limo driver in the world! And that accent! Diana got a good photo of him standing next to the limo. I was tempted, but I resisted. He opened the champagne for us and we all toasted our great morning. I only had one glass, since I was putting it on top of the 32 ounces of Bailey’s and hot chocolate I’d already consumed without eating anything.

My mom had already called to say they were at Harrah’s, and they decided to wait for me to eat. I walked as fast as I could using the secret parking lot walkway between Venetian and Harrah’s to meet them outside Harrah’s Café, and I was STARVING! Hugs from my aunt, who was taking this trip as her last vacation before back surgery in early November, and I dove into my club sandwich and fries as soon as I got it. Mom mentioned that they were the last plane to land before the airspace was closed and President Obama left Vegas, and she was glad because she didn’t want to have to shoot someone for not letting them land in Vegas on time.

Mom and Aunt Ruthie were ready to walk, so we headed out immediately afterwards. We headed over to The Mirage, Caesars and Bellagio, gambling, sightseeing and chatting as we went. If anyone remembers my trip report from October ’08 (when I went with my mom, 3 aunts and 2 cousins), you’ll know that my aunt has what I call “Gambling ADD”. I swear, the woman cannot sit at any single machine for more than 5 or 6 spins before she’s ready to move on! I’m glad I got some photos of the Bellagio Conservatory at that time, because I didn’t get back over there again for the rest of the trip with all her ‘flitting around’. I left mom and Aunt Ruthie at Bellagio at 3:45 in order to make it to MMIII by 4:00, and I was barely on time.

Much to my chagrin, I found a group of people waiting for me OUTSIDE Napoleon’s; a private party was underway inside, and we weren’t allowed in. This made me mad. Diana had called the week before to ask a question, and nothing about a private party was mentioned to her then. I had called to see if they had an updated hors d’oveurs menu two weeks before, and nothing was mentioned to me, either. Julie made a quick check to see if the Le Cabaret lounge (right off the casino floor) was open, and it was. By that time, all but two of our group had arrived, and we left a note on the sign outside the door and sent text messages to guide our missing members to the new location. (FYI, the private party was cleared out by 6:30 when I met my mom and aunt for dinner at Le Buffet. The timing sucks.)

I’m so glad we had quick-thinking board members there! We were able to make Le Cabaret work, although it was a bit dark and the table-and-chair configuration didn’t allow us to get close enough to talk to each other while seated. Most of us got up to mingle, and I was happy to put even MORE faces to names I feel I’ve known forever! There were 23 meet attendees in all - quite a turnout! I think we have the most successful meets of any online message board, considering there are only around 500 total members on the board (and they're not all active members, either). I still didn’t get around to everyone in turn, and I really wanted to talk to everyone. I’d finish talking to someone and get ready to find someone else, but I didn’t get to them all. I’m so sorry! It wasn’t my intention to ignore anyone.

NEWS FLASH: I think I am done with the meet planning. I say this because every time I’ve tried to plan one (other than the Jasmine Brunch), something goes wrong. The best meet we’ve had so far was MMII, organized and staged in Steve’s Palms suite by multiple people. I’ll be happy to attend if I’m in town, but I’m not even going to suggest a location anymore. It’s been very frustrating for me, and I’m so over it. I take it very personally when something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out the way I intend for it to, and I don’t like having things I organize turn out half-assed because that’s the OCD way I am. ‘Nuff said. I just want to put that out there because it’s been bothering me all week.

Back to the meet: Most of us stayed until 6 p.m., when people started peeling off to go to their dinner and show reservations. The last ones there at almost 6:30 were me, Claire, Terri, Diana and her husband, and Mike, and we finally broke up to go our separate ways. I was glad I didn’t have to walk too far to get to Le Buffet. I had done a lot more walking than my mom and my aunt, and they were already pooped, too!

We decided to get the 24-hour buffet pass and use it for our breakfast and dinner the next day, as well. My aunt quickly discovered that she was allergic to the plastic they used to make the wristbands, and we had to go back and get it removed before her wrist swelled up. Luckily there was no harm done, and the hostess wrote a note on her ticket and attached the wristband to it for the other buffet hostesses to call if there were any questions. After that, we were more than happy to take our time at the buffet and just enjoy the atmosphere, as none of us had ever been in Le Buffet before. I also spotted my friend Mike getting desserts near our table. He claims he was put in the back room where the “bad kids” are, and it's probably true.

As far as buffets go, it’s my second favorite HET buffet so far. I haven’t tried RIO or Caesars, but I still like Harrah’s the best. The way the buffet is laid out in Harrah’s is open and easy to navigate (Paris seems too crowded with the tables up close to the buffet serving area), and I generally like the food selections at Harrah’s more than Paris only because Paris had a lot of duck and pork dishes that I don’t care for. However, Paris does have the crepe station, and my banana crepe with nuts and caramel sauce on top was the highlight of my dinner. I don’t know how I finished it all, but I did. I bypassed the last of the main dishes and the dessert section altogether after I got that crepe; there was no way I was going to be able to eat anything else. It was SO worth it! The only thing that any of us had that was gross or inedible on the Paris buffet: the bread pudding. I don’t know WHAT they put in their spices, but it tasted weird, and not like bread pudding at all. Not like anything edible, either! Ugh, it was so disgusting!

To say we waddled back to Harrah’s would be an understatement. I think it took us over an hour and a half to walk from Paris, and I think we could’ve slowed down even more than we did. We decided to stick around Harrah’s for the rest of the evening because no one wanted to decide on anything. My mom and aunt were tired from their early morning flight, and I was just tired from all the walking, talking and food! I was more than happy to park myself at a slot machine for the remainder of the evening, and that’s what I planned to do. I lurked the people playing the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) slots over and over, and I finally gave up trying to get an open seat. I think that the people who play LOTR at Harrah’s have a signal for their cohorts when they’re done playing a machine, and they get there at just the right time (which was never the right time for me). I finally gave up and played other things, instead. I ended up down a little for the day.

Sunday, October 24th

I stayed in bed until 7 a.m., just dozing, but I was hoping to get up and get some REAL gambling in before my aunt was ready to hit the Strip and start flitting about. I managed to get about 30 minutes of gambling in before they were ready to head over to Flamingo for the Champagne Brunch Buffet.

Mike had mentioned that he got a mini bottle of Skyy vodka at the buffet a couple of days before, and we got them, too. I found out later that these were for the Bloody Mary bar, but we had no clue at the time and no one told us WHAT they were for. My aunt doesn’t drink due to all her medical conditions, and my mom only drinks wine, so I put all three mini bottles in my purse to take home. Waste not, want not! My aunt ordered champagne and gave it to me, which she didn’t really need to do since I had my own, and I ended up having three mimosas with breakfast. Apparently I was going to drink more than I do when traveling by myself whether I liked it or not!

After breakfast we headed to Bally’s so that mom could get her 2-4-1 tickets to Jubilee for the evening. She didn’t have any 2-4-1’s in her offers when we looked at her account online before we left, but Harrah’s gave her one on her coupon sheet at check-in – be sure to check yours for good offers! They ended up with VIP tickets in the 2nd row of regular seats, and they paid $104 for the pair. My aunt was happy with that, because she REALLY wanted to take my Cher ticket. I tried to find another ticket for her, but they were sold out by the time I booked their flights at the beginning of October.

We continued down to some of the casinos that my aunt hadn’t seen or flitted through on previous trips and mixed in some others she liked, too: Planet Hollywood, Monte Carlo, NY/NY, MGM, Tropicana and Excalibur. I have to agree with others about Tropicana’s transformation – it is so much brighter and nicer! The whole property just seems so much more inviting than it did before, when it was dark, dingy and kind of depressing. I will be back again to do a little more investigating…and gambling. With my aunt’s bouncing around, you can see why she doesn’t bother getting a player’s card anywhere – there’s no point when she can’t even sit still long enough to EARN a point!

She did manage to play for more than a few minutes on one machine: Deal or No Deal at Monte Carlo. She hit the bonus right off the bat, and she agonized about every ‘Deal’ offered to her, asking me, “What do I do? What do I do?” over and over. I kept telling her “No Deal!” ‘cause it wasn’t my money! She ended up with a really good bonus of $194 for her 40-cent investment, and she was a happy camper for the rest of the day.

Her gambling habits crack me up at times; she will talk lovingly to a machine (say, Gold Fish 2) when it’s being nice to her and giving her a bonus, but if it gives her a small bonus or stops paying her immediately, she will literally SMACK the machine and tell it she doesn’t like it anymore. Ah, that’s my Vegas entertainment!

A cab was in order to get back to Harrah’s from Excalibur; my poor mom’s legs were really hurting her. She got some sort of rash from who knows where, and her legs were painful to touch. She wanted to put her feet up for a bit before going to the show, and I was all for getting them back quickly and safely. I walked them up to their room and went back down to gamble a bit before I got ready to meet them for dinner at Harrah’s buffet. The LOTR slots were still busy, dammit! Okay, I give up.

We met for dinner at 5:30 to finish our 24-hour passes, and we enjoyed some yummy seafood dishes on the Saturday evening buffet. Okay, mom and I enjoyed them, but my aunt stuck to beef. She’s not a fan of seafood. The only bad thing on the buffet was some grilled chicken my mom got – it literally bounced off the plate, and she couldn’t cut it at all. Everything else was good, and I enjoyed some coconut macaroons for dessert. No alcohol for me, thanks. We separated for our shows: them to Jubilee at Bally’s, me to Cher at Caesars.

Cher put on a really good show. I used the 40% off link that my LV4E friend Frank posted, and I got one of the single seats up in the 2nd mezzanine (they should just call it a balcony, because that’s what it is) – Section 407, Row D, I believe, for $61. The show was completely sold out. I will say that those seats are a little high for performers who use the big screen behind them because their heads are cut off from view and the lights come up just about to that row and BLIND you when they’re trying to see the audience. She put on a good show, even though her extreme costume changes between every song left me wishing she’d pick a couple of similar songs and wear the same costume for awhile so she’d keep singing instead of letting all of her backup dancers take up the slack. I did appreciate the trip down memory lane with the video clips from “The Sonny and Cher Show” – they certainly made me laugh and recall good times. All in all, it was a good show, and I don’t know that this is truly her ‘final’ concert like she says it is; she likes being a Diva.

Speaking of Divas, I saw a billboard for Celine Dion – her first concert back at Caesars will be on March 15, 2011. I am determined that I will get to see her some time before she disappears again, but I don’t know when. No plans as of yet.

Lucky for me the others (read: Aunt Ruthie) wanted to stay at Harrah’s again, so I could sit and do some gambling without having to RUN to the next casino. I ordered another Bailey’s and hot chocolate and found myself extremely disappointed when it was delivered to me in a small, wrapped glass. *Sigh*…another 32 ounce sipper from Palazzo would’ve been a perfect way to end the night.

I ran into Julie twice during my wanderings around the casino. We chatted for a bit near the High Limit slots, and she cheered me on while I played Gold Fish and lost my last $20 before I finally gave up and headed to bed after a disappointing day of gambling.

Monday, October 25th

Breakfast was back at Harrah’s Café. The best thing about breakfast on Monday morning? We played Keno as usual, and I hit my birthday numbers for $42 on the first game. For a $1 investment, I’ll take it! It’s always nice to start the day out with a win.

I wanted to head to Imperial Palace to check out the King’s Ransom Museum, but when we walked over we found out it had closed at the end of September. Bummer! Not only had I missed my chance to see the collection, but I had to carry my camera around for the rest of the day until we headed back to pick up our luggage and leave for the airport. We decided to go back to Caesars because it was the one place that all three of us had luck on Saturday. No problem for me! I love gambling there, and it’s been good to me on my past few trips, so I’m all for crossing the Strip.

I was helping my aunt find some interesting slots she’d missed on our previous visit when suddenly I saw it: an empty seat at LOTR. Surely it was a mirage! I practically RAN across the casino to get to that empty spot before someone realized they hadn’t alerted their cohorts. FINALLY I was going to get some LOTR time!

First off I couldn’t remember the sign-in I’d created on the website, so that was a bummer. I had to create a whole new sign-in, which is probably better because it’s easy to remember (no, it’s not Hayley’s Mom). I soon realized why you can never find an empty seat at these machines: they are ADDICTING! I had several different people sit down next to me to play the other machine, but I just kept playing away, taking photos of bonuses and chatting with whoever stopped by. My mom and aunt both came by several times to see how I was doing, and they added their cheers to mine. Both of them knew I’d been itching to get on those machines all weekend, and they weren’t about to say, “Let’s go somewhere else.” I like that. I was even down to my last 40 cents at one point early on and thought I’d have to get out another $20 (I wasn’t about to give up my seat THAT easily!) when I hit a nice bonus that kept me playing. I hit bonus after bonus, exclaiming gleefully every time something new would pop up on the screen. My $20 gambling money was well invested on my minimum 40-cent bet: I played that machine for almost 4 hours before we had to go pick up our bags and head to the airport, and even then I *reluctantly* cashed out a $10 ticket. I think I‘ve found LOTR heaven!

We decided to eat at the airport so we wouldn’t be rushed, and Subway was just the thing. As we were ordering our food, all three of our cell phones rang at the same time. SWA calling to say our flight had been delayed from 3:50 until 4:35. That’s the first time SWA has ever called me about a flight delay, but it’s also the first time I’ve ever had a delay of more than 10 minutes. Even so, the pilot made up all but 10 minutes in the air, and we landed back in sweaty, 90-degree San Antonio before 9 p.m. as the pilot advised us that Tony Romo had just broken his collar bone in the Cowboys game. I’m glad I didn’t put money on that game, after all.

I came back from Vegas only $300 down, and I think part of that was breakfast cash, the Neon boneyard fee and taxis. Not a winning trip, but I have no problem losing so little money in Vegas.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my mom and aunt were both selected to go through the scanner at McCarran, and my mom was also given an additional pat-down by a female TSA agent including having her hands wiped with some sort of antibacterial cloth. They told her “she had a lot going on up here”, indicating her chest, and she was kind of freaked out. I didn’t see her get held back until they were already doing the pat-down, and she had a ‘deer in the headlights’ look on her face. She was convinced they saw something bad in the X-ray, and they were just doing a pat-down to make sure she wasn’t ‘packing’ anything, I guess. I guess a two-time breast cancer survivor has a lot of thoughts the rest of us don’t.

Meeting new friends (and old ones) at the Mini Meet and Mega Meet
Neon Boneyard tour (thanks again, Claire!)
LOTR slots at Caesars
Star Trek slots at Palazzo
GRANDE Baileys and hot chocolate at Palazzo
Spending time with my mom and favorite aunt
Beautiful October weather in Vegas!

Not getting to eat at Mesa Grill
Having to move the meets to alternate locations at the very last minute

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Link to site: Las Vegas History - check it out!

I was looking through my list of blogs and websites and found that I have NOT previously included my friend John's fantastic site on Las Vegas history, so here it is:

It is a very comprehensive site full of TONS of photos and historical information. Be sure you set aside time to peruse the site or be prepared to come back to it over and over again; it is chock-full of wonderful Vegas stuff, and I STILL haven't been through all of it.

John is a fantastic photographer and avid traveler, and he is a fellow Vegas fanatic to boot. I can only imagine how many times he'd visit Vegas if he lived in the U.S. instead of Great Britain!

Trip report: April 22-25, 2010 at Harrah's

It was brought to my attention (by my mother) that I hadn't added my April trip report to my blog. Silly me! I previously posted it on the LasVegas4Ever message board, but here it is in its entirety.

Thursday, April 22nd
When I landed in Vegas at 2:15 on Thursday, it was wet and COLD! We actually arrived 15 minutes early (thanks to a tail wind), and the taxi line only took about 10 minutes to get through, thankfully. I arrived at Harrah’s and found a short queue for check in, but I was still in my Mardi Gras tower room (Strip view room #1670) by 3:00 p.m. Not bad at all.

I’ll admit that I was still a little worried about carrying my big ol’ camera around during the entire trip, but I had outfitted my camera bag as a makeshift purse so that I didn’t have to carry two separate bags everywhere I went. I also made sure to pack a small purse in my suitcase so that I could move things over and just take what I needed when I intended on staying around Harrah’s for late night (or early morning) gambling.

After unpacking and making calls home to check on my family, I texted Claire to see if she still wanted to meet for drinks at Zefferino’s in the Venetian. If you’ve never been to Zefferino’s, it’s easy to miss on a casual walk through the Grand Canal Shops. It has an unassuming entrance near the front of the shops and doesn’t stand out at all. Our ultimate goal was to get a first-hand look at the “best bathroom in Vegas” and take some photos of our own to share with the board. We met and enjoyed a long chat over a glass of Zin in the downstairs bar area (thanks again for buying, Claire!) before making our way up to the super-secret bathroom located on the second floor in the back of the restaurant.

We disregarded the sign stating that no photos were allowed without management approval and took several. I must say that it is a very small bathroom, but I do like the fact that each individual stall has its own sink and mirror, and they even have mouthwash and lotion for their guests. The small size of the individual stalls made it somewhat difficult to take photos, but we did our best. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with the “best bathroom”, and I think the bathrooms at Palazzo, Wynn, Encore, or even Paris are just as pretty in their own way. Sure, they don’t have sinks in every stall, but they all have their charm.

Now that we had successfully completed our mission, we parted ways until the Mega Meet. Claire’s sister-in-law had just landed, and I was eager to get some gambling in since I’d missed out on my March trip.

I played for a while in the Venetian, finding both the Gold Fish 2 and Gold Fish 3 slots in the casino. I found that I was not at all impressed with either of these new slots and really enjoy the original Gold Fish slots much, much more. At least I can say I gave them a try. I found myself missing the fish food bonus most of all, and I feel like the 3-D effect on the reel slots made my eyes cross. I guess that’s why I don’t like the updated Wizard Of Oz (WOZ) slots, either – give me the original LED screens and I’m a happy camper.

My camera and I made our way over to The Mirage to take some photos, and the casino was really packed. I was surprised it was so crowded for a Thursday, and eventually decided to head over to my old stomping grounds at Imperial Palace based on the great gambling luck I’d read about in some recent LV4E trip reports.

As usual, not much has changed inside the IP casino, and I often wonder what changes HET might have in store for it in the future. I like the addition of Hash House a Go-Go (I had a great breakfast there in March and look forward to going back on a future trip), but HET really hasn’t done anything of note to the casino itself other than change out the carpet. Nonetheless, it was just as crowded as it ever was before, and everyone seemed to be having a great time wherever I went. I managed to get sucked into some Quick Hits slots and had a good, long run on WOZ and Monopoly that kept me occupied for almost three hours.

I headed back over to Harrah’s with the intention of getting the $29.99 24-hour buffet pass, but the line to get into the Flavors buffet was HUGE! I have never seen a line so long in there, and I was not going to wait in it for anything. There was even a line of people waiting at the Diamond and Platinum entrance, which I’ve never seen at the buffet before. I walked to the sports pit to see about getting a sandwich from Pepper Rose Deli (I’ve had it on my list for a while) and found a sign saying it was closed. FYI, I checked back every day during my trip and found Pepper Rose was still closed. Is it closed permanently? I didn’t see anything that said it was, but I don’t know. I decided a quick meal at The Café would have to do, and clam chowder hit the spot. (I have checked back since then, and Pepper Rose Deli has been closed. Nothing has replaced it as of this date.)

I managed to keep myself up until midnight and just couldn’t stay awake any longer. I ended the day down $140, so apparently I gambled a bit more than I thought I did when I found open seats at some of my favorite old slots: Gold Fish, WOZ, Dancing Dolphins Super Jackpot Party, and Village People Jackpot Party. Time to go to bed.

Friday, April 23rd
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and was totally wide awake. No amount of covering my head with the blankets would convince me that it was still sleepy time. Well, it looks like I’ll be starting the day a lot sooner than I thought! I got up, got ready, and was out the door by 7:00 a.m. Camera bag in tow, I headed down the Strip towards Wynn, taking photos as I went.

I took quite a few photos while I was making my way down the Strip, but I still had to wait for the Wynn breakfast buffet to open at 8:00 a.m. I didn’t realize they opened so late (“late” is all relative, isn’t it?). I did pass a few minutes in line with some fellow Texans discussing the beautiful wildflowers and fantastic weather we’ve been having back home, and I found myself wishing they were my buffet neighbors when a completely different couple was seated next to me soon after.

To say that the woman was probably the bitchiest person I’ve ever been around would be an understatement. First I thought, “Maybe she’s not a morning person.” Then I thought, “She was apparently sent by the devil himself to drive her husband to an early grave.” She complained about the weather in Vegas (it was cool and sunny), the weather back home (I believe she was speaking of Hell), and the speed of the waitress taking their drink order (“Two Bloody Marys, but I’ll have mine when I get my second plate, no sooner” – really? The waitress now has to watch to see when you’ll be back with your second plate and time the drink accordingly?). Her request for “warm, not scalded” milk for her coffee and the look on her face when the waitress told her there was no way for her to warm any milk other than the scalded milk that came from the espresso machine bordered on deadly. She complained about people walking too close to their table, the fact that her watch battery seemed to be dying (probably out of self-defense), the distance from one end of the buffet to the other, and she had a continuous rant about every suggestion her husband made with regard to what she should try on the buffet and where they should go on vacation the next month.

They were entertaining in their own way, but only because I didn’t make eye contact. If I had, I believe I would’ve been petrified as if confronted by Medusa in her lair. I fully expected to see snakes peeking out from her collar at any moment. I had complete sympathy for the waitress and left her an extra-large tip because I couldn’t imagine having to deal with the woman for more than 10 minutes without wanting to shove something large down her throat to make her STOP BITCHING. I had comic relief from my husband in the form of back-and-forth text messages, and his response to my belief that the woman probably carried her spouse’s private parts in her purse for safekeeping almost made me laugh out loud (and I surely would’ve been killed at that point). Thankfully, they left before I did and I was allowed to finish my breakfast in peace.

I just want to say here that I told the waitress afterwards that “good customer service” begins with a “good customer”. I think that’s very true, and I could see she was very glad to be rid of the annoying woman. I also believe I had a vision of what Hell could be like. I don’t want to go there.

After breakfast, I walked to Encore to take more photos to add to my collection. I found a new Monopoly slot with a boardwalk theme, but I don’t remember what it was called. I really enjoyed it because it had some of the same random-type bonuses as my beloved Gold Fish that seemed to be triggered by absolutely nothing at all, and I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure it out before I cashed out my original $20 and headed out to the Strip via Wynn.

Claire and her SIL found me as I was walking out of Wynn - she identified me by my camera bag from behind, don’t you love that? I made Claire pose WITH her sister-in-law for a photo in front of the waterfall against her will (all part of my evil plan, hehehe) before we parted ways again.

I spent the next few hours walking from hotel/casino to hotel/casino, taking photos in Palazzo, Venetian, Caesars and Bellagio before finally finding my way into CityCenter by following the walkway to the tram but deciding instead to make the walk to Vdara myself. I took a couple of photos there before I headed out to the sunshine again (I was afraid of getting lost in Vdara and didn’t want to chance it) and I found the strange canoe sculpture everyone has talked about. It wasn’t quite as large as I thought it would be. Maybe it just looks bigger in photographs. Meh.

I followed the walkway to Aria and found that it is, indeed, extremely dark in that casino. It’s far darker than Caesars ever was before they renovated it. I continued my photo tour and marveled at the delicious-looking desserts in their shops, but I decided that all I really wanted to do was head over to PH to finally try the Spice Market Buffet and activate the $29.99 24-hour deal. My plan was almost foiled when I got lost in Crystals – I encountered no fewer than five dead ends while I was trying to make my way to the Strip, and I finally gave up my attempt to get out via Crystals and headed back to Aria by retracing my steps and following along the side of the building until I FINALLY saw the Strip. Joy!

My feet were killing me – I’d pretty much been walking almost non-stop since 7 a.m., and it was now after 2 p.m. I made the long trek all the way around CityCenter to get to the Planet Hollywood crossover and made my way into the buffet entrance. My intent was to just sample some unusual items on the buffet so I could say I’d finally tried it. I was pleased that there was no line, and the cashier said I could either get a wristband or just put the buffet info on my HET card and swipe it every time I wanted to use it during the 24-hour period. I chose the card option because I don’t really care for wristbands, and I just had to present my HET card and ID when I went for subsequent meals.

The Spice Market Buffet offers lunch until 3:30 p.m., and I was severely disappointed that most of the dishes were empty at 2:20. Really? The buffet wasn’t crowded, and they still had over an hour on the lunch menu. I went back and looked at a few of the options again a few minutes later, but the few people who were in the buffet had descended upon the food as soon as it was placed in the warmers and they were empty again. I ended up trying a shrimp and pasta dish (very good), buffalo shrimp (not very good), antipasti salad (okay) and had a freshly prepared Bananas Foster crepe for dessert (awesome!). I was suddenly glad I wasn’t paying $18.99 for their lunch. Harrah’s Flavors Buffet is still the best of the HET buffets I’ve tried.

I got a call from my friend Mike right before I got my dessert and found out that he was in PH at that very moment looking around and gambling. Great! I told him I’d give him a call when I was finished up and meet up with him.

I noticed something about PH when I was trying to find Mike in the casino: there’s no line of sight above the machines. You know how easy it is in most casinos to stand up from a slot machine – or stand in the aisle – and see across to another area of the casino when you’re looking for something or someone? You can’t do that in PH. It made it hard to find Mike, and the fact that there are four casino entrances from the mall didn’t make it any easier. Still, we finally met up by the Star Trek machines (I had to ask a slot attendant to find them for me) and had a nice little chat. Mike, I still envy your ability to drive to Vegas so easily. I would be there every other weekend if I could make the drive that quickly.

Mike and I finally headed over to Paris together. I wanted to get a present for Hayley, and he was done with his tour of PH. We chatted a little while longer and I was really starting to feel the effects of too much walking, not enough sleep and definitely not enough water. I fully intended to head back to Paris to meet up with Mike and Bonnie later that night, but I was in need of water and a nap first.

I did my shopping and headed back to Harrah’s. Boy…that was probably the longest walk of my Vegas vacation history. I felt wiped out! I had already felt a bit light-headed trying to find my way out of CityCenter, but now I was really not feeling well. I managed to make it back to the room and lay down with a washcloth across my face. I know I slept for a while, but I have no idea for how long. When I woke up, I decided to just head downstairs for a little local gambling at Harrah’s and not do any more long-distance walking for the time being.

Less than an hour later I was back up in the room, really not feeling up to walking anywhere too far away. Bonnie had already texted me from the airport in Detroit, but I wasn’t sure if I could make it back down to Paris. I decided to lounge about in the room for a while, and I ended up deciding not to make the trip back down to Paris because I still felt really light-headed. I texted Bonnie and told her I wouldn’t be making it over there, and I TOTALLY forgot about calling poor Mike back and letting him know I wouldn’t be coming. So sorry about that again, Mike! I didn’t even think of it until I saw a text from him the next morning. What a dope I am!

I did head down to the buffet for some soup and salad at 9:30 p.m. because I was determined to use my 24-hour buffet pass, and I just kept it simple. There was no line when I walked up, but the line quickly grew behind me as all the last-minute buffet goers headed in before it closed at 10 p.m.

After I ate I felt a little better, and I decided to walk around a bit to try and get some gambling in. I played here and there, finally finding an open seat at some new Jackpot Block Party machines before deciding I was done for the day. I was out by midnight after taking some medicine. Oy, what a day!

Saturday, April 24th
I have never slept so long in Vegas! I woke up at 7:30 a.m., and I was feeling better, but my throat was sore and my head was a little stuffy. What a great way to start the Mega Meet day. Still, it was fantastic to be feeling better, and I headed back down to the Flavors Buffet instead of heading to my intended target, Le Buffet at Paris. I wasn’t going to push it.

After a good breakfast and a bit of people-watching, I went to the Concierge and traded my coupon for a free ticket to Mac King into an actual ticket to Mac King. Finally! I’d been trying to see him for years! I headed over to Caesars at a very leisurely pace to take more photos, make a run on the Gold Fish machines there, and to do a little more shopping before it was time to head to the show.

I spent quite a while walking around Caesars, just enjoying the fact that I was upright and not feeling too bad. I still wasn’t 100%, but it was a big improvement on how I felt the night before, and I drank a lot of water as I walked.

I made it back to Harrah’s for Mac King’s 1 p.m. show, and I really enjoyed it. It’s not a big-time magic show by any means, but he gets the entire audience involved and it’s quite entertaining. My favorite parts were the “cloak of invisibility” and the goldfish trick. I can’t even begin to explain what either of those look like, but I laughed pretty hard throughout the entire show. I really wanted some Fig Newtons, too (inside joke for those who’ve seen Mac’s show). The show lasts about 1 ½ hours, and it’s a great afternoon diversion. As I left the show, I found I had a text from Doris (Mike’s wife) saying she hoped I felt better and to have fun at the Mega Meet. Sweet Doris! I wish she could’ve been there.

I made the decision to take my smaller purse and my camera to the Meet because I really didn’t want to carry too much stuff with me, and I was glad I did because I also chose to wear heels – something I never do in Vegas, but I was determined to wear heels to the meet because I didn’t have to walk too far. I dressed and traded out my bag and headed out to meet Bonnie and Jack at Harrah’s Registration.

Bonnie was waiting at Registration, looking as sparkly as ever, and Jack appeared soon after to take his “two dates” to the Meet. Jack made a couple of comments to the taxi driver about the route he was taking (do they honestly think that no one pays attention to the route?), and we had a pleasant ride over to the Palms.

We waited near the Palms Registration, not knowing there was a VIP Registration nearby, and were soon joined by other members of the LV4E board. Our group was growing, and we were still looking for Steve, our suite host for the evening (he obviously gambles MUCH MORE than we do!). Luckily he found us and directed us to the VIP Registration area, where everyone else was already waiting. We made our way to the suite elevators as a very large group of chatterers, and you could feel the excitement beginning to build.

Steve, what a great suite you had! It was beautiful, and I think several of us could’ve lived in the bathroom for a few days. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I’ve posted photos, but they don’t do justice to the great view, great suite, and great people who attended the meet. It was so nice of your host to arrange everything for us, and thanks again to Steve, Terri, Michelle, Tania and V for all the work they did getting things together. It was very easy to move around and talk to people in smaller groups, and I tried to take as many photos of the meet itself and the slot pulls afterwards. I know I missed talking to several people, and I wish I’d taken fewer pictures and done more chatting, since that’s my real love.

Bonnie’s speech was awesome, the cake was delicious, there was too much food, too much wine, and not enough time to enjoy everything. Still, it was a good decision on Terri’s and Diana’s part to start the slot pulls early, because they did take a long time to finish. I don’t know how Diana managed to keep up her tweets during the meet, but she did, and I’m sure everyone following her posts was glad she was keeping them up to date on what we were doing. It was also great that Steve had his laptop up and running so that the whole LV4E board could be a part of the meet in some way – great idea!

Mike discovered that our view out the windows facing the Strip (with the Playboy Tower in view to the right) had a little surprise to it: those little “balconies” we saw on the top floors were not balconies at all, but were in fact pools that hung out into nothingness, giving the occupants a nice view of the entire surrounding Vegas cityscape. Very cool! That was the only time I wished I’d brought my zoom lens along to the meet.

When we finally left, Jack, Bonnie and I took a taxi back to Harrah’s. The look on the attendant’s face at the taxi stand was classic – Bonnie is tall to begin with, but to see her coming with a giant sombrero on her head must’ve been intimidating! I just followed along behind, listening to Jack laugh the whole way out at the picture Bonnie made, and we sent her on her way back to Paris in the taxi with all her goodies in tow. I still don’t know how she made it with all the crap she had to carry. Jack and Bonnie, I forgot to thank you both for paying for the taxi rides. You guys were too quick for me, and I wasn’t going to add my argument to yours.

Jack and I parted ways then; he went to find his buddy, and I went to change out of those damn heels! I was more than happy to dress comfortably and head back down for more gambling. I managed to find an open Gold Fish machine near the registration desk that was absolutely calling me. I wish I’d had my camera with me, because I got the best Kissing Fish bonus (Gold Fish players know what I mean) on my 35-cent spin and chose the oyster and got 40 credits for kissing. Well, Goldie proceeded to give out 5 kisses during that bonus, and I cashed out $152.14 from that one bonus round alone! I can only imagine what it would’ve been if I’d had more money in. That machine really was calling to me.

Sunday, April 25th
I woke up to a call from Bonnie. Wha? It’s not even 7:30! She was looking for our friend Lynn’s phone number, which I didn’t have. I suggested she call Terri or Diana, and reluctantly got up. My throat was still sore, but it was bearable. I didn’t care – I was headed to the Jasmine Brunch at Bellagio soon, and I wasn’t going to let a sore throat hold me back from my fun.

I packed up and went downstairs in search of Baileys and hot chocolate. It really is a great remedy for a sore throat, in case you’re wondering. The CW had never heard of it before. Strange - it’s the only thing I order at Harrah’s other than water because I like the Harrah’s version the best. Either she was new or I’d never encountered her before.

I had a couple of yummy drinks before I managed to find a Jackpot Block Party machine open. I actually made something happen on it, too. If you haven’t seen it, it’s yet another twist on the Jackpot Party machines. If you get the Jackpot Party bonus, you start out with one party. If you find a TNT plunger while you’re opening presents, you can open one, two or three additional parties. After that, any present you pick opens up the matching presents on all the active party screens, increasing your bonus exponentially. If you get a party pooper on the screen you select the present on, all your parties are ended automatically; if you reveal a party pooper on another party screen, only that party ends and your other parties continue. Plus, you have the chance to get a party saver for the party before it officially ends. I really liked it and hope to see more of them. They were very popular in Harrah’s.

After making my way up to $80 on my $20, I cashed out and headed back to the room to pack and check out before heading over to Bellagio for the breakfast meet and a quick meet up with another board friend, Tony. Unfortunately, Tony didn’t show, but the ladies began to appear for the meet and we were all chomping at the bit to get into the brunch when the doors opened at 11:00 a.m. There were 8 of us for the brunch meet: me, Bonnie, Michelle, Tania, Terri, Lynn, Lynn’s SIL Robbie, and Diana.

Thanks again to Diana for making the updated reservation at 11:00 a.m. and getting us seated near the window. What a beautiful view and what fantastic company we had! As soon as the doors opened and we headed down to our table near the fountains, they started their first fountain show of the day, and I got goose bumps. What a wonderful experience all around! We took lots of photos of the buffet before anyone got at it, and took lots of photos all around the restaurant, too. We managed to spend more than 2 ½ hours there, enjoying the conversation, the food and the atmosphere. Lucky Diana will be back next month. I would seriously go back next week if I could.

We had one of the girls (I don’t know if you’d call her a waitress) take a group photo of us before we left, and Bonnie got a beautiful little gift from the restaurant because we’d mentioned it was her birthday when we were seated. It was a great experience from beginning to end, and my part of the bill came to $83.00. It was definitely worth every penny. And having breakfast in Vegas with a nicer bunch of ladies in Vegas would be hard to do.

Terri and Tania, I’m glad you were both able to get up and out before the crack of noon to join us. Lynn, thank you again for the beautiful bracelet you gave me! I was right; Hayley was ready to steal it as soon as I mentioned Juicy, and she hadn’t even seen it yet.

We parted ways then, and I was off to take a few more photos before I headed back to Harrah’s for some last-minute gambling. I tried to get my Jackpot Block Party machine back (now it’s mine, ha ha!), but they were all full again. I did manage a bit of play on my favorite Quick Hits machine, but couldn’t get the 5 symbols to pop up so that I could win the minimum progressive bonus, so Harrah’s ended up taking back most of my Gold Fish and Jackpot Block Party winnings. Dang!

A few more Baileys and hot chocolates before I left, and a little more Gold Fish to boot, I headed for the airport around 5 p.m. to review my photos while I waited. I found I’d taken more than 350 photos over the past 4 days, but they definitely needed some sorting before I determined which ones would be used.

Well, that’s another trip down. I think I’ll be back in October, but have no definite plans yet. I know I won’t be carrying my camera around again, so it’ll be a lighter trip for sure.

Thanks again to Steve, Diana, Terri, Michelle, Lynn, Tania and Vlady for getting the suite, organizing the slot pulls, getting all the food and drinks together, and for taking care of Bonnie’s gifts. It was nice to be able to spend time in a relaxed environment where everyone could be heard. Steve, thank your host for us, too!

Final thoughts:
I think the porn slappers have re-located to a more center-Strip area for their annoying activities. I found most of them right outside of Harrah’s. And, is it just me, or is it as if they are only hanging around HET properties?

Other than the first day, the weather was a perfect mid-70’s in the day time, and lower 50’s to upper 40’s at night with sunny skies. Best dang Vegas weather!

The $29.99 24-hour buffet was a good deal, even as little as I used it. Three “meals” came out to $10 each, which is not a bad price for any quality Vegas buffet. I just wish I’d felt better and had been able to get to Paris for breakfast like I’d hoped.

I did not spend as much time gambling as I’d hoped because I got sick, and I wanted to make sure I took enough photos to satisfy my camera bug. I guess that just means I will HAVE TO take another trip!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Link to blog: lasvegasdaze

A fellow Las Vegas fanatic and friend of mine, Diana, has recently started her own blog: lasvegasdaze.

Diana travels to Vegas almost monthly when possible, and she has some great photos, reviews and trip reports from past Vegas jaunts that she is currently posting on her site for others to enjoy. Her reports are full of details with tons of photos, so they are a great way to get a feel for what you can expect from a particular restaurant or experience before you go. She does quite a bit more higher-end dining than me, so look to her for some great restaurant reviews that I will probably never do.

The blog address is: Diana also posts Twitter feeds during her trips, so be sure to check out her past - and present - trips to get the full Las Vegas experience.

Check out her site and find out about some really great things to see, do and EAT in Vegas that you might not think of otherwise.

Welcome to the world of blogging, Diana!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vegas in Motion: Time lapse of Las Vegas favorites by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (link)

I found a wonderful new thing on the Las Vegas Review-Journal's website: time-lapse photography taken in some of Vegas' most wonderful parts of the city! I just had to share it here:

Now this is a channel I could watch all day long!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Show seating advice from an expert: GREGRIO's take on 13 Vegas shows and the best seating options

I love a good Vegas show. Some of them more than others.

The thing is, I tend to see the same two or three shows over and over again when I DO add in a show because I love them so much.  

However, a fellow LV4E poster, GREGRIO, has seen lots of different Vegas shows multiple times and has tried out the different seating areas in many of them.  In fact, that's his reason for going to Vegas: to see great Vegas shows, and to see them again and again if he really enjoys them.  The gambling and food are secondary for him, so I think he has great insight for getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to shows - and avoiding the dreaded "partially obstructed" views and other problems you may find in some show venues.

Greg recently posted a list of the 13 Las Vegas shows he gets the most questions about, and he included his thoughts on the best seats in the house for each of them. Of course, I asked his permission to post the list here before I added it to my collection of great Vegas info. Thanks again, Greg!

First, some of GREGRIO's "Rules of Thumb":

*Upper rear seats are the best for Cirque shows.

*Down front and center is best for comedians.

*Mid-room locations are best for music - around the 'sound booth' (it's there for a good reason). Sound needs room to open up. Up close, the vocals will sound 'muddy' and 'muffled'.

*The far LEFT and RIGHT sections in 'most' theaters are pretty poor seats.

Maitre'D Tipping:

*They need at least 10 bucks per person in your party to re-seat you to a better location.
*Tipping and discount ticket brokers - On-line services like and have great ticket prices, but they're not always the better seats...even at VIP levels. Be prepared to tip your Maitre'D when you use these services.

Greg buys 99% of his tickets "rack rate" from the Box Offices (calling or arriving to see what seats are available for purchase). His biggest piece of advice? Do your homework and look at the seating chart. You need to have an idea of where you want to sit at the price you want to pay and CALL THE BOX OFFICE. Don't use the websites to book your seats and there won't be any disappointments.

Now, on to the top 13!

1) Mystere at ti (formerly Treasure Island) - 1.800.944.7444 or . Click on the Mystere photo to see the seating chart. Section 202, Rows AA-GG.

2) LOVE at The Mirage - 1.800.963.9634 or and click on the LOVE photo. Sections 209 or 200 anywhere. Greg prefers the upper/mid area. (I sat in Section 209 for my last visit and it was by far my favorite! Sorry - back to the list.)

3) KA at MGM - 1.866.774.7117 or Click "Entertainment". Section 202, Rows AA-GG.

4) O at Bellagio - 1.888.987.7111 or Click "Cirque du Soleil". Section 203, Upper Orchestra

5) Viva Elvis at Aria - 1.877.253.5847 or Click "Viva Elvis". Probably the most complicated seating chart in town, according to Greg. He suggests the middle seating choices, and Section 202 is center. If you prefer the front section with the 'comfy seats' and more leg room, sit in themid-section or back section. Right up front is too close to the action.

6) Zumanity at New York, New York - 1.866.606.7111 or Click "Zumanity". Sections 102 or 103, Rows A-D. Zumanity also has lots of seating choices: there are love seats up front, a balcony which is good, and sections on the sides of the stage. Because of the configuration of the stage, the side sections limit your view while performers are working the 'front' of the stage. You'll view their profile or backsides for some of the routines.

7) Jersey Boys at Venetian - 1.877.583.6423 or Place your pointer on "Entertainment" and select Jersey Boys. "Golden Circle" seating, Rows F-K or Section 2 center, Rows L-R.

8) Blue Man Group at Venetian - 1.877.583.6423 or Place your pointer on "Entertainment" and select Blue Man Group. Front Orchestra, Rows F-M.

9) The Phantom of the Opera at Venetian - 1.877-583.6423 or Place your pointer on "Entertainment" and select Phantom of the Opera. Golden Circle seating, Rows G-M. There's been a rumor that Phantom might be ending it's run. It's just a rumor at this point, but if you want to see it, NOW'S THE TIME. Probably some of the best costumes and stage sets in town. (I agree! Sorry, had to add that in there...)

10) Jubilee at Bally's - 1.800.634.3434 or Click "Events/Entertainment". Section C center, Rows A-F.

11) Carrot Top at Luxor - 1.800.288.1000 or Click "Entertainment". Mezzanine, Section 1, Row D. You want the theater seats...there are some folding chairs.

*Bonus show: Fantasy at Luxor (same info as above) - This is an adult topless show, and they use the same theater as Carrot Top.

12) Le Reve at Wynn - 1.888.320.9966 or Click "Entertainment". Section A or B, Rows G-K. Greg prefers the top row, which is Row K. The showroom is 'in-the-round' and the views are good throughout. IF there was a 'front of the stage', it's Sections A and B that the artists face. Section L is the VIP area. Great view, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, lots of leg room but a bit pricey. You even have your own video screen to watch the underwater action.

13) Penn & Teller at RIO - 1.888.746.7482 or Click "Events/Entertainment". Greg prefers the down front center VIP area for this show. (Note to everyone: Penn & Teller sign autographs and take photos after the show, so you can certainly get up close to them afterwards. Sounds like fun!)

So, there you go! A few ideas to get you started in your quest for the best seating at your next show. Thanks again to Greg for putting together such a great list.

Have fun making plans!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NMchop's AMAZING continuous LIVE trip report: Link

He's at it again.

Our friend over at LV4E, NMchop, is on another whirlwind trip in Las Vegas.

Last summer he made it 3 1/2 weeks in Vegas, hopping around from hotel to hotel, free offer to free offer, not paying for any rooms and showering us with wonderful photos and daily live trip report updates while he stayed alive financially as long as possible. It was amazing. I can't imagine anyone else even beginning to attempt a trip like this...even once in their lifetime!

This year he started out in Reno on June 17th for the National Bowling Championships and went on to Lake Tahoe with friends where he contemplated flying on to Vegas or going home. He chose to go to Vegas, and he's still there. As I write this, it's July 6th, and he's booked at Palazzo for the next 3 nights. Who knows how much longer this will continue?

He's doing a lot more low-rolling than he did last year, so he could make it for quite awhile if he sticks to his budget and can put together the free room and free play offers at each hotel.

Here's a link to his trip report on LasVegas4Ever - very interesting!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shopping in Vegas: Four malls I like for very different reasons

During my Spring Break trip with Hayley, I got to experience more of the shopping side of Las Vegas than I'm used to. It was part of the entertainment plan I had to keep her, well, entertained. She loves to shop in San Antonio, and I figured it'd be a great way to spend some early afternoon hours before our evening shows and meals. I saw more shops in four days than I've seen in all of my previous Vegas trips combined.

Normally, I don't go near a shopping area in Vegas unless A) I really feel like people-watching, B) I am eating at a restaurant located in or near the shopping area, or C) I forgot something very important at home that I can't do without.

Like most malls in the U.S., there are plenty of food court-type options available for those who need a break and a little sustenance from all the foot-pounding they endure. The four malls we visited have a few similar food stalls and options to things you might find at your local mall, but the shopping areas themselves have very different feels to them. Let's take a little visit, shall we?

Miracle Mile Shops - Planet Hollywood
These shops probably have the worst layout of any mall I've ever been in: set in a horseshoe shape AROUND the Planet Hollywood casino, it is literally a mile from one end of the shops to the other. There are two things that save this mall from going onto my "do not visit" list: 1) there are two entrances from the mall areas directly into the casino, so you can stop roaming the mall area if you so desire, and 2) they have a "cut across" so that you don't have to make the entire mile-long trek ALL the way around it if you know of a shop that's somewhere near the middle on the other side of the mall.

The shops within are a mix of upscale, like Versace and Hermes, and affordable, like Hollister and Guess for the teen set. There are more of the latter, though, so you don't necessarily have to break the bank to do a little bit of shopping in here. Hayley's favorite place to shop was Max Rave, a shop that can only be found at one of our malls locally, and they have some really great deals on clothing. In fact, she walked out of there with 26 items of clothing for under $200, so I find that to be a really good bargain, indeed.

The restaurants include Earl of Sandwich (one of our favorite places to eat a good sandwich) and Cabo Wabo Cantina, which is a hugely popular bar and grill in Vegas and is always busy.

This mall is easy to navigate, but the floors of are still covered in the uneven tiles left over from the previous Aladdin decor, and they are definitely hard on the feet. If you plan on traversing the entire area, be sure to wear comfortable shoes or be prepared to make a few stops along the way.

For a complete list of the restaurants, shops and entertainment available in the Miracle Mile Shops and to download a detailed map of the mall's floor plan, visit their website:

Fashion Show Mall (across from Wynn and Encore)
A truly typical American mall on a bigger scale, Fashion Show Mall has the major stores that probably anchor your hometown mall; Nordstroms, Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillards and Macy's are featured here, but a variety of specialty stores and truly "mall" shops like Kay Jewelers and Bath & Body Works are found here, too.

The problem with this mall is the sheer amount of open and wasted space. There are three levels of shops, and they are spread out with a lot of wall space in between. While this would be great in most places, in Las Vegas it's a bad thing for me, personally. I already walk a LOT when I'm in Vegas, and having to walk such a long way just to get to the next shop is a bit of pain. Add on a somewhat grumpy teenager who doesn't like to walk and it's even worse.

What do I really like about the mall? They have several live fashion shows that take place daily near Saks Fifth Avenue. The fashion show runway comes up from the floor, and there are lots of couches and tables placed around the runway area for your comfort. It was a great way to relax in between shops, and a nice way to check out some of the latest styles from some of their anchor stores. Very interesting.

Another great thing about Fashion Show Mall is the food. I don't mean the regular food court fare, either, but fantastic food from national chains Maggiano's Little Italy (so yummy!) and California Pizza Kitchen, plus a few more unusual choices to boot. For a place that really IS a big mall on steroids, their food choices are great.

So, while it's a lot of walking, the ability to take a break and see a fashion show before heading to dinner at a great restaurant on the property make it okay in my book. The fact that the floors are NOT made up of uneven, old-looking tiles is another benefit for my feet.

For a listing of shops, restaurants and other activities, visit their website:

Forum Shops at Caesars - Caesars Palace
A formidable pile of stones, mortar and quite a bit of plaster, the Forum Shops at Caesars is by far the most spectacular of the four malls in my opinion. Once again, the floors are made up of uneven tiles, and your feet can take a beating.

The Forum Shops are accessible directly from the Strip or from the Caesars Palace casino, so it's easy to find your way in and out. The recent addition in 2008 of 500,000 square feet (yes, I mean half a million) of additional shopping and eating space make it one of the largest in the country at almost 1 million square feet of retail spaces and restaurants. The newer addition boasts a three-story, spiral escalator while the original mall area can lay claim to another wonder: a sky that changes from dawn to dusk over the course of an hour. Check out the statuary and shows throughout the mall - where else will you see Elmer Fudd dressed as a Roman senator?

I am not particularly fond of the newer part of the shops because it is difficult to navigate the turns or find your way from one level to another without getting completely turned around and lost. The original area of the mall is set in a basic "T" formation, so you can backtrack easily to find your way to the casino or to the outside world.

As a whole, the Forum Shops contain a host of upscale shops that I can't even afford to walk into, including Louis Vitton, Chanel and Coach, but they also have a few "normal" mall shops like Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch. What I really like about the Forum Shops is the people-watching opportunities that you find at every turn. So many people from so many extremely different walks of life all over the world visit this mall daily just to window shop and gawk because of its central location and size, and just watching them react to the scenery and changing sky is interesting and very entertaining.

The restaurants here include Trevi (see my review from a previous trip), The Palm (where David Cassidy often dines) and The Cheesecake Factory, so there are tastes and price ranges for everyone.

The Forum Shops are located mid-Strip, and they are easily accessible by car, bus, taxi or on foot. For a complete listing of shops, restaurants and shows, visit their website:

Grand Canal Shops - The Venetian
Entering these shops is like entering Italy itself, with frescoes painted on the ceilings and strolling musicians and street performers wandering hither and yon. Like Caesars' Forum Shops, you can access the shops easily from the Strip and find your way into the casino with no problem at all, but the maze of shops and walkways heading to Saint Mark's Square can be quite intimidating for someone who is directionally challenged. The shops themselves wind around and follow the basic route of the indoor canal, and several bridges allow you to access one side or the other in order to get to the shop you've been looking for OR take a better photo of the gondoliers as they pass underneath your feet.

I would say that this would be the best mall for people-watching in Vegas except for the fact that the mall walkways are separated and you can't really position yourself to watch people effectively unless you're sitting in Saint Mark's Square, which is open but not conducive to watching people without being obvious. Otherwise, it's very much like Caesars' Forum Shops in both quality and quantity of shops. One has a changing ceiling, and the other has an river running through it. It's all about what you're looking for.

The Grand Canal Shops do have some really great options for foodies, including restaurants owned by Mario Battali, Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck (they all have restaurants elsewhere in Vegas, too, so don't get too snobby), as well as the restaurant with the "Best Bathroom in Las Vegas", Zefferino's (check out my restroom review) not too far from the mall entrance. The listings include Grand Lux Cafe' in the restaurants, but that is only accessible from the casino floor as far as I know.

This is the only place in Vegas you can find genuine Venetian glass or masks, so it's definitely the place to visit if you're looking for a truly unique collectible. However, like some of the other malls, it also has a floor that's hard on the feet. Why the owners of these beautiful, expensive buildings insist on laying floors with uneven tiles is beyond me! The same effect could be achieved by getting tiles that LOOK old, but are far less difficult to walk on.

For a complete listing of shops, restaurants and entertainment, visit their website:

So my shopping report comes to an end. My feet hurt just thinking about it!