Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trip report: March 16-20, 2010: Hayley's first trip to Vegas

I promised I'd post my trip report when I got back, so here it is! (It's long, so get a cuppa and have a pee before you start reading.)

Hayley’s Mom and Hayley in Vegas
March 16-20, 2010

This trip report might be boring to some of you, as there is not a lot of gambling in it at all. It was all about the shows, shopping, and the food. I wrote this one like I write most of my trip reports – chronologically. Read on if you dare – it’s about 7,400 words long.

Tuesday, March 16th:
The girl was excited, and I was glad to see it. She was a little bit nervous, though, because she didn’t know what to expect. It seemed to take forever to get there – more time than usual, but that’s just because I wanted to see her reactions to everything. Her mouth dropped open when she saw the size of Mandalay Bay and Luxor as we taxied to the gate in Vegas.

She was surprised at how crowded McCarran Airport was, and was overwhelmed by the crush of people more than the ringing slot machines. Excitement got the best of her, though, when she saw our limo driver, John, with her name on a placard. A nice older gentleman, he was the sweetest thing and paid her all kinds of compliments while we waited for our bags. Our limo was a nice champagne color, but not nearly as big as the last one we had. We were chatting on the way to the hotel and didn’t notice that he took the back way instead of heading down the Strip. Oh, well – we were almost to the hotel by the time we really noticed it and didn’t bother to say anything, but I did take away part of the tip I was going to give him because he didn’t even ask which way we wanted to go and got us to Harrah’s in less than 15 minutes. I paid for an hour and got a total of 25 minutes of his time? Sorry, man.

Harrah’s Hotel
Check in was immediate – there was no one in line at 3:00 p.m., and we walked right up to the desk and were placed in the Mardi Gras Tower, rooms 1748 and 1754, with a Strip view. Hayley was happy with the view from the room and liked the space she had to put away her tons of clothes, makeup and accessories (unlike Disney World, where there’s no armoire and three of us shared a rack and a shelf in the bathroom). We had only one sink basin to share in this deluxe room, but it wasn’t bad because we got ready at different times each day. (I got up early, showered, dressed and went down to gamble for a little bit while she slept in, and then I brought her hot chocolate to drink while she got ready. She took her showers at night so that she could get ready more quickly in the mornings. It worked for us!)

We changed clothes and met my mom downstairs by the statue in the middle of Harrah’s (she had some sports bets to place) and proceeded to walk down to the Venetian by way of the Casino Royale walkway. Boy was that area packed! There were lots of big strapping boys with their college t-shirts on, already in town for the March Madness games of the week, and you had to make your way through a crush of people to get past the area. Hayley zoned in on Sephora, so we had to stop in there to smell stuff and get samples, and finally made our way into the Venetian.

Venetian and Palazzo: window shopping
Here she stopped dead in her tracks. She looked UP, and I held her arm so she wouldn’t trip while she was looking at the paintings on the ceiling. We finally got her to look down so that she could get onto the escalator, but we were once again holding her arms while she looked up, down, and all around in the lobby. Unfortunately the strolling Venetian performers had just finished, so we missed them. We picked up our tickets at Will Call for Phantom of the Opera and headed through the Grand Canal Shops and the Shops at Palazzo doing some window-shopping. Back in St. Mark’s Square, Hayley spied a gelato vendor and we decided to have a little snack before the show. Hayley had chocolate, I had almond, and mom had tiramisu. Yummy! We watched the gondoliers while we ate and ended up buying Hayley a new pair of sandals because the ones she had on were rubbing between her toes (oh, no – don’t listen to mom). We headed back towards the entrance and made a stop by Blonde’s favorite shop, Shemoni, and got Hayley a toe ring to go with the new sandals. After that we parted ways with my mom and headed for the theater.

Phantom of the Opera @ Venetian
They opened the doors early, and we were glad they did because the waiting area was FREEZING! The theater itself was comfortable, and Hayley and I took our seats in the Parterre section, row HH, and settled in for the show. She loved the theater, but after the performance she said she enjoyed the traveling version we saw in San Antonio a lot more because they did the entire play and didn’t rush through scenes, like the Phantom taking Christine down to the catacombs or the Phantom and Raoul fighting over Christine at the end. These were things I didn’t really notice because I don’t watch the movie version four or five times a week (like she’s been known to do), but she noticed everything. She liked the set – and the handsome guy who played Raoul in particular – but was a bit underwhelmed by the show overall. Oh, well; that’s why I put this show first. I didn’t know how she’d compare it to what she already knew, and the other three shows we were seeing would all be brand-new to her.

Dinner @ Grand Lux, Venetian
We met mom outside of Grand Lux and everyone was starving. Hayley got a club sandwich and fries, and mom and I split and order of calamari and some Philly steak spring rolls. Mom and Hayley somehow managed to split a dessert, but I was way too full to even try it. They had something called a Cupcake Collision: three chocolate brownies with chocolate mousse frosting set on top of warm chocolate sauce, topped with chocolate drops that Hayley described as “crunchy, like a Nestle Crunch bar”, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and more chocolate sauce. It looked good, but there was no way I was going to be able to eat any of it.

We caught the volcano at the Mirage just as we were leaving, and I wasn’t all that impressed with it. I can cross it off my list of things to see, and I don’t feel the need to see it again.

Back at Harrah’s
We managed to roll ourselves back to Harrah’s, and Hayley was fading fast at that point. She had been awake since 3 a.m. Texas time, and she was starting to get light-headed and dizzy from lack of sleep. I was a bit concerned, so I took her up to the room and had her shower and take some Advil (her back was hurting her, too – dang volleyball injury coming back to haunt her). She lay down and was asleep in less than 5 minutes. I had told her previously that I would go downstairs for awhile if she was able to sleep, but would stay with her if she weren’t feeling well, so at 11 p.m. I was headed down to gamble with mom for a little bit before turning in. I was tired, but I couldn’t see myself going to bed without even a *little* bit of gambling, could I? I played Quick Hits and turned my $20 into $100, and I put $40 back into Lobstermania and Gold Fish before I decided to quit. I was back upstairs and in bed by midnight – a first for me in Vegas!

Things we missed on Tuesday:
I didn’t get to try my Asian Nachos at Grand Lux because mom wanted to share food and wasn’t interested in trying them. Next time…

Wednesday, March 17th:
I was up at 6:30 – I just couldn’t sleep anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more than 4 hours of sleep in Vegas before. This was weird for me. I got ready as quietly as I could and went downstairs for some early morning coffee and gambling. It was dead at 7:15 a.m., and I played Wizard of Oz, Hot Hot Super Jackpot Penny slots, and Hot Shot slots (losing $60 in the process) for about an hour before taking hot chocolate back up to Hayley. She actually managed to get up and get ready in less than an hour, and she was feeling much better after the rest. Good, because today is another day in Vegas!

Breakfast at Harrah’s Café: rude = tiny tip
We met mom downstairs for breakfast at Harrah’s Café, and it took a LONG time to get waited on and an even LONGER time to get our food. It was a little crowded, but not too bad (nothing that should’ve warranted almost an hour’s wait after we were seated until we actually received our breakfast), and the waitress’ tip reflected her lack of concern about our table. She didn’t come back to check on us at all once we received our food, except to bring our check and ask us if we wanted anything else about 40 minutes later. Not good service at all. I let Hayley pick 3 numbers for Keno, and she won $2 for her efforts out of a total of 3 games. Better than me – I only won $1. I do believe she has become a Keno addict, because she asked if they had Keno everywhere we ate.

Adventures with Will Call…and a little shopping
Mom and Hayley went to walk around the shops inside Harrah’s and in the Carnaval Court area while I went to pick up our Terry Fator tickets from Will Call at The Mirage. Here’s where I got tired fast: I quick-walked all the way back to the Terry Fator box office near the back of the hotel (next to the doors to the pool and the Secret Gardens) only to find out it was closed, and then I turned around and quick-walked BACK to the LOVE box office to stand in a 40-person deep line to pick up the tickets. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t had on sandals with a little bit of a heel on them. Trying to hurry like that made my feet hurt, and I was sure I was going to trip and fall flat on my face more than once. The good thing was that I also picked up our tickets for Friday night’s LOVE performance, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone and not have to worry about standing in another line on another day! Anyone who’s going to see Terry Fator take note: you are only able to pick up your tickets from Will Call on the day of the show, whereas you can pick up LOVE tickets on any day, any time prior to 1 hour before show time.

Tickets in hand, I went back to find mom and Hayley. Hayley had managed to find a new sign she just had to have for her room during the time she waited: “Redneck Blvd”. Grandma bought it for her, of course, so we had to go stow it in the room before we headed out to MGM via the monorail.

Several conventions were in town all week long, but I never was able to read any of their tags. They were everywhere, day and night, still dressed in their business attire. At least they weren’t rude, like some of the regular tourists who pushed past us to get off the monorail at the MGM station or the ones who pushed pass me as they were going across the bridge to New York/New York while I was trying to take Hayley’s picture. Apparently we weren’t moving quickly enough for them, and we were off to the side.

Leprechauns everywhere!
Yes, the little person at O’Shea’s was dressed as a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day, as were three other little people we saw on the Strip: one at The Mirage (Rhumbar), one outside Casino Royale, and another one outside of Bill’s. Hayley wanted to give them all hugs. She’s odd that way.

MGM Lion Habitat – ooh, look at the cute cubs!
We got to see the lion cubs at MGM – so adorable! There were three of them, about 4 weeks old. Two of them were cuddled up together in a little bed by the window, and another was being wrapped in a blanket for one of the $200 cub handling photography sessions. For anyone who’s interested (and going to Vegas very soon), the $200 is for a 5-minute session: you sit on the floor and are allowed to hold a cub (wrapped in a blanket) while a trainer sits right beside you. The fee does not include a photo or anything else, and the opportunity will disappear in the not-too-distant future once the cubs become too large to be held safely anymore (possibly mid- to late April, one of the handlers told me). There is a sign at the entrance that says that they are limiting the photo sessions to ten a day, so those who can afford it (and want to do it) should act earlier in the day if they’re interested in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I couldn’t see spending $200 for 5 minutes of holding a cub, but I’m sure I would’ve shelled out the cash if Hayley had said she wanted to do it (she didn’t).

Manhattan Express Roller Coaster at NY/NY
After taking our time ooh-ing and aah-ing through the lion habitat (and taking photos of the lion and lioness “lion around” above our heads), we headed across to NY/NY. Mom’s hip was starting to bother her, so she was ready to sit down and gamble while we headed to the Manhattan Express roller coaster. What a maze to get to that thing! The cost is currently $14 per person, or $25 per person for an all-day “Scream Pass”. We considered it because we weren’t sure if we’d want to ride again, but then decided once would probably be enough since we really had no idea what to expect and didn’t want to make ourselves sick. As a roller coaster ‘afficianado’, I would give this one a 2.5 rating out of 5. It was good, but not great, and certainly not as exciting as some of the other roller coasters I’ve been on. Hayley said that at one point during the ride, she closed her eyes and suddenly felt like she was back in San Antonio – something about the sun and breeze and the effects of the coaster. I have no idea.

More shopping…
More shopping and wandering at NY/NY followed. I took Hayley through the somewhat realistic restaurant and food court area and we stopped for a drink “on Broadway” while we people-watched. We perused the shops both upstairs and downstairs near the Strip, buying a few little jewelry trinkets for ourselves to wear to Terry Fator show. We heard a band playing U2 cover songs on the patio outside Nine Fine Irishmen and went outside to listen to them from the upstairs walkway. Not bad, but we weren’t going to pay $25 per person admission for seating at the “Celtic Feit” as it was called (not that we would’ve been able to). The weather was perfect for it, though, and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. From the signs I saw, the $25 included a drink and a St. Patrick’s Day necklace or hat so you wouldn’t get pinched.

Kilts ahoy!
Let me also say right here that I’ve never seen so many men walking around in kilts than I did on this trip! There was one who was going either to or from his wedding (his tuxedo jacket and the lady in the wedding dress holding a bouquet - and his arm - were a dead giveaway), a couple of guys wearing rugby shirts and kilts were spotted outside of MGM, a man we saw coming out of Phantom was wearing a nice kilt and knee socks next to his beautifully attired female companion, and three younger guys wearing kilts and argyle socks were seen heading into Caesars Palace as we were headed back toward Harrah’s on Thursday afternoon. Interesting sights, indeed.

Time to chill
Hayley was already pooped, so we ended up grabbing a cab back to Harrah’s for a little relaxation before dinner and the show. Hayley called to check in with her dad (who told me not to tell Hayley that her dog, Mia, was really depressed because she wasn’t there), and I was able to catch up on some trip report notes before we met mom for a late lunch/early dinner at Flavors Buffet at Harrah’s.

Harrah’s Flavors buffet for dinner
I had a 2-4-1 coupon for Flavors Buffet, so it was $21.99 plus tax for the two of us for dinner. Mom insisted on buying her own meal because I had insisted on buying dinner last night at Grand Lux. Fine – we’ll work it out again by the end of the trip. New foods that Hayley tried: a couple of sushi selections and some spicy General Tso’s Chicken, which she loved but found to be pretty hot (it was, but it was good). They had linguine in clam sauce that was also really good, but it was actually kind of spicy, too. I’ve never had spicy linguine in clam sauce, but I think I like it! We sat and chatted for awhile, since there was no real rush to head over to The Mirage for the show. Our waiter, Paulo, was from Argentina and very sweet and attentive to us. He was the polar opposite of the Café Nazi we encountered that morning. For some unknown reason he gave us each a deck of Harrah’s playing cards, but it was something we actually had on our list to get for a friend, so it was a welcome gift.

The Mirage and Terry Fator
We walked Hayley through The Mirage to see the humongous fish tank behind the registration desk and to see and smell the wonderful flowers in the atrium. They had some beautiful arrangements there – I wish I could recreate them for Easter, because they just seemed to fit the mood of the season. Just gorgeous! We also checked out all the shops in The Mirage while we were waiting for the theater doors to open, and Hayley found a Beatles t-shirt in another shop that was more reasonably priced than what they wanted for a similar shirt at the LOVE shop – only $28 vs. $44. It was a much better deal, and I’m guessing they made a pricing error, because everything else was priced similarly to the LOVE gift shop next to the theater.

Terry Fator was a new kind of show for both of us. I’d seen one of his performances towards the end of “America’s Got Talent”, but really didn’t know what to expect. We had seats in Section 103, Row LL, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the entire performance. His DJ/dance master was fantastic pre-show entertainment (we loved his take on the “Evolution of Dance”, modeled after the YouTube viral video of a couple of years ago), and we laughed throughout the entire show. It’s one thing to be a ventriloquist, but to be a ventriloquist who can sing through his puppets while impersonating famous singers? That’s a whole other league. He certainly deserved to win AGT, and he seems to be a very humble and self-effacing man. He encourages photos and video taping (not the whole show, but “your favorite parts”), and has a lot of audience participation. He also donates all proceeds from the sale of souvenirs in his shop to military families, which I think is an absolutely wonderful thing to do. The show lasts about 1 ½ hours, and the time seems to fly by. Hayley was *almost* the youngest person there: I saw one girl who was probably about 7 or 8 years old, but the audience was made up of mostly middle-aged and more “mature” adults. No matter the age of the audience members, it was certainly a show for almost every age, with a few risqué comments, but nothing offensive and no foul language at all.

We headed back over to Harrah’s for the evening. Mom was already out of her daily gambling allowance and headed up to the room in a semi-depressed state. Hayley ordered a club sandwich from room service because she was suddenly starving, and we ended the evening playing cards and watching Dog the Bounty Hunter on A&E. How’s that for an evening in Vegas?

Things we missed on Wednesday:
The Elvis Exhibit at IP, Titanic Exhibit at Luxor (I’ve already seen it myself)

Thursday, March 18th:

Revenge of the sandwich
Hayley woke up at 6:00 a.m. feeling like she was going to throw up. So much for having late night room service, huh? It wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t eaten the ENTIRE room service meal just before midnight: a whole club sandwich, all the fries, a pickle, and a Pepsi right before bed. Second lesson of the trip learned (the first being to always wear comfortable shoes, because listening to your mother is important). I sat up with her for almost an hour until she finally felt better, and then she was ready to go back to sleep again. I tried to go back to sleep myself but couldn’t, so I got up and got ready.

Wizard of Oz smack down
I went downstairs and played Gold Fish and Lobstermania for awhile, then tried to call mom and see if she was up yet to tell her our plans for the day were changing a little due to Hayley’s early morning upset stomach. I couldn’t get any dang cell phone service in the back of Harrah’s casino and went back upstairs to pay her a personal visit while I checked on Hayley again. It turns out that she was ready for coffee but wasn’t really hungry, so we could start the day waiting for Hayley to catch up on some much needed rest and head out for lunch instead of breakfast. We grabbed some coffee and I took her to the WOZ machines to show her the fun bonus rounds. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t played these before! Her machine wouldn’t hit anything, though, while I was visited by Glinda twice, went to see the Wizard three times and had flying monkeys coming after me five times. So, I got smacked by my mom every time something happened. I was having flashbacks of the Vegas trip with my Aunt Mina (who smacked me every time I got a bonus or a good hit), and it became obvious to me that smacking runs in the family – I just hadn’t been lucky enough to experience it yet. We kept watching the time and checked back in on Hayley, and she finally got up at 9:30.

My mom apparently lost too much of her gambling budget the night before, so she came up and chatted in the room while Hayley got ready. She wouldn’t tell me how much, only that it was “a lot”. We finally left the room totally ready for the day at 11:00 a.m. and headed down the walkway to Paris.

Paris, Mon Ami Gabi, the Eiffel Tower Experience and the Bellagio fountains
We decided to head to MAG for lunch since it was too late for breakfast. We put our names on the list for patio seating and took Hayley for a quick tour of the Paris bathrooms, the registration area and the shops while we waited out the 20-30 minute time period they quoted. We had just walked back up to the restaurant as our buzzer went off and took a patio table away from the railing that was still in the shade. It was perfect weather, with a high temperature of 81 degrees that day.

I was surprised when Hayley ordered the Steak Classique for lunch, but she loves red meat. (“I love cow!” is what she actually said.) Mom ordered the open faced seafood salad sandwich with frites, and I went ahead and ordered Gaby’s Fish and Frites because I really like it. We were all surprised when the Bellagio fountains went off a few minutes later, since they don’t usually start until 3:00 p.m. The first song of the day: “Luck Be a Lady”. Hayley enjoyed the show and had a few “Whoa!” moments when the big booms came around at the end, but her eyes got really big when they brought her plate of steak and frites. She described the steak as “freakin’ awesome” and wanted to talk her dad into trying to re-create it for her at home, so I think lunch was a success. We were also treated to a second ‘bonus’ fountain show when “Hey, Big Spender” played about 15 minutes later. It was a fluke that we caught two shows, but it made it easier to plan other things when we didn’t have to worry about heading back to the area to see the shows at a later time. Mom picked up the lunch check, and Hayley and I headed for the Eiffel Tower Experience while mom donated some more money to HET.

It was very nice at the top of the tower, with no wind and beautiful blue skies all around. I think City Center looks better from up there because it doesn’t appear to be as overwhelming as it does from the ground. We took a few photos and headed back down to meet up with mom for some shopping. By the way, the current prices for the Eiffel Tower Experience are $10 for adults during the daytime hours and $15 for adults during evenings and weekends. Attached to each ticket is a 15% off coupon for the Eiffel Tower gift shop, and the coupons do not have an expiration date. Also, if you decide not to take the ride to the top of the tower immediately (or something comes up), the ticket is good for one year from the date of purchase. Hayley found a mini Eiffel Tower and some perfume she had to have in the gift shop, and we finally made our way over to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.

Hayley’s Miracle Mile shopping spree at Max Rave and minor shopping for us
We didn’t get very far into the MM shops when Hayley discovered a shop she’d never seen before: Max Rave. They had fantastic prices, and she went on a whirlwind shopping spree. For $192, she got a dress, a black bomber jacket (not leather), three skirts, two button-down tops, a pair of shorts and 8 t-shirts and tank tops. Not a bad deal, but she decided to send a text to her dad with the total instead of calling him to tell him. His response was one word: WOW.

We walked the rest of the shops and my mom only found one shirt for herself, and we were ready to head for Bellagio.

Bellagio Conservatory dressed for Spring
I was underwhelmed by the Spring display in the conservatory, but Hayley thought it smelled really good and she loved the tulips (her favorite flower). I took a few photos, but it was so crowded that you couldn’t do any real good shots without being bumped. I did manage to get a photo of Hayley for her scrapbook, but she was not feeling the love and was ready to find a seat. We admired the gelato at Jean Phillipe but decided not to partake of any since we were still full from lunch, and we people-watched from our perch near the windows by the pool in the Bellagio hallway. Mom placed a bet on the Big 6 Wheel for my cousin as we were leaving but didn’t win. Also, I was unable to check on the Jasmine brunch reservations for April because the restaurant doesn’t open until 5:30 p.m. during the week and it was only 3:00 p.m. I will have to follow up with them later this week.

Hayley was pooped again, so we headed back at a leisurely pace to our room at Harrah’s. Besides, she wanted to admire all of her purchases, and I still needed to pick up tickets for Legends in Concert that night. We had some Starbucks coffee and muffins while playing more card games, but we also invented a new game called “Bird or trash?” when a storm blew through the valley and sent trash, trees and small birds in all directions. It was a different sort of Vegas entertainment, to be sure.

Legends in Concert
I picked up my free tickets at the Concierge Desk, but mom didn’t have a free show offer in her HET account and decided against paying $65 for her ticket. She opted to do some more gambling while she waited for us. Show time was at 7:30 p.m., and we had seats at the back of the theater, row QQ, and shared the booth with a nice older couple from Chicago. The theater at Harrah’s is not very large, and every seat has a good view of the performers. You don’t have to worry about not hearing anything, either, because they apparently wired their sound system for all areas of the theater. The impersonators for the evening were Jay Leno, Cher, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis. We were wowed by the Michael Jackson impersonator most of all – he was absolutely awesome and spot-on. My mom had seen him perform on a previous trip, and he certainly lived up to her review. All in all it was a very good show, but I would’ve liked to have been seated up a little bit closer because our aisle was the one that was used by everyone to get to the bar, so there was a lot of foot traffic back and forth throughout the show. Hayley gave the show thumbs up and had a good time.

Dinner at the Café
We met my mom in the Poker Place area and decided to have a late dinner at the Café, since Pennazi was closed for the evening. The most ANNOYING woman was seated at the next table with a wedding party, and we were glad when they finally left. I don’t know how she was related to the newlyweds, but she announced – in a very loud, drunken voice and very often – that they were “just MARRIED”, “married TODAY”, “aren’t they ADORABLE?!?” It got old after about, oh, 5 seconds. Hayley was threatening to go over and stab out her eyes with a butter knife after about 10 seconds. There’s so much love in our family isn’t there? Other than that we had a fun meal and talked over what she enjoyed about the show and made plans for the next day, which would be mom’s final day in Vegas for this trip.

Hayley and I headed back up to the room so that she could “shower and chill”, and, of course, play more cards! Mom headed back out to do more damage – I mean, gambling – before she had to quit and head home.

Things we missed on Thursday:
Gelato at Jean Phillipe Patisserie in Bellagio

Friday, March 19th:

Hash House a Go-Go

We changed our plans and let Hayley sleep in a little on Friday morning to try and have her start the day a little more rested, so we didn’t get started until 10:00 a.m. We made our way over to IP to try out Hash House a Go-Go and were greeted with a looooong line. We asked about the wait and were told it would be at least an hour, so we started to walk away. Mom noticed that they have a separate line for Diamond and Platinum players, and walked back up to the hostess to ask about it. Wait time for Diamond and Platinum was 5-10 minutes. Okay…we’ll take it!

Interesting restaurant, that. I didn’t know what to expect, but I wasn’t expecting the farm references with a motif that was more leather seats and aluminum-topped tables. I liked it, though, and we all enjoyed the biggest dang pancakes I’ve ever seen. I had their most popular specialty pancake: banana and brown sugar. It was basically a pancake cooked with sliced bananas and brown sugar in it so that everything caramelized together like Bananas Foster. Topped with maple syrup, it was really good, but I didn’t even eat half of it. Hayley and mom both had plain buttermilk pancakes, but mom didn’t realize the size of them and ordered hers with eggs and bacon. Needless to say we were stuffed when we left, and we waddled our way over to Caesars.

Shopping at the Forum Shops
We left mom at some VP machines near the entrance to the Forum Shops and made our way through the shops at a leisurely pace. Hayley managed to spend some money in Express, Victoria’s Secret (on PINK, the brand for teens, so get your minds out of the gutter!) and Bath and Body Works. We walked the entire mall, window-shopping and riding the circular escalator from top to bottom to see everything. We finally went back and found mom, who was actually doing well for her last day, and headed back to Harrah’s to take Hayley’s purchases to the room. We thought about stopping for gelato at Trevi, but we were still a little full from breakfast.

Fashion Show Mall - and nothing was purchased!
Hayley and I left mom at Harrah’s to pack up her things and to play some more VP with her Caesars winnings before she headed to the airport, and we enjoyed a pleasant walk down to Fashion Show Mall in the gloriously warm sunshine. We tried to find things at Macy’s, Dillard’s, and a couple of other places, but nothing was catching Hayley’s eye. As we were leaving, we noticed the floor in the middle of the mall starting to rise up and realized we were witnessing one of their daily fashion shows, so we sat down to watch it before we headed out. It seemed so random to have the floor – including a full dressing room – rise up out of the floor in front of us, but they had really comfy couches to watch from, so we didn’t question it and sat down to rest our tired feet. We saw some cute outfits and wondered why we couldn’t find the same stuff in Macy’s, but we were too tired to go back there and try to find them.

Wynn and the buffet…with Hayley’s opinion
Hayley decided she was hungry again, so I suggested we head to the Wynn buffet before we walked back down to Harrah’s. There was only a small line at 3:15, so we waited and enjoyed the entertainment being provided by the four crazy college guys from Wisconsin standing behind us. They were quoting lines from The Hangover while they waited, and Hayley and I just kept laughing and shaking our heads at them.

While she liked the sheer number of choices at the Wynn buffet, Hayley was not impressed by their desserts or their pizzas. Some things were too sweet or tart for her liking, and she said the pizzas on the Harrah’s Flavors buffet were much, much better. She did enjoy the salads, though, and she went back for five or six plates of different salads before she finally decided she was done.

She wanted to do more looking around Wynn, but it was extremely COLD in there! We practically ran back to the Strip and the warm sunshine.

Aaahhh…rest and relaxation at last!
That was probably the most walking Hayley did on any one day in Vegas, and her poor feet and back were paying the price. I propped her up in the room while I went back down to check on tickets for Mac King on Saturday, and I was disappointed to hear that he would not be performing due to a family emergency. Too bad – I was finally going to get to see him. I think I will make an extra effort in April, because this has been going on too long.

Back in the room, I had Hayley start organizing her clothes and start part of her packing, since it would be late when we got back from LOVE and I didn’t want her to stay up too late trying to do all of that AND wait until the last minute to start packing like she does when it’s time to go home on every other vacation. I was planning on letting her sleep in for a while on the last morning, too, since we would have no place to go to rest (or play cards) before we headed to the airport at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday. After that we played more cards and watched NCAA basketball games on TV and volcano shows out of our window while getting ready for LOVE.

All you need is LOVE – and it’s true!
LOVE…what can I say? You all know it’s a good show, so I don’t have to say that. Our seats for this performance were in Section 209, Row O, and I do believe these seats are perfect: they are right in the dead center, not too high and not too low (not that there’s a bad seat in the house). Up until this point Hayley had liked Terry Fator most of all, but her opinion of the show was that it is “fantastic”, and she said it way outdid the others. I couldn’t agree more. I think they made a couple of minor changes to LOVE, but nothing that someone other than a ‘repeat offender’ like me would even notice.

We were so glad we’d already packed our bags earlier in the day, because we were both exhausted when we got back to the hotel. It was a very good day overall, but a very long one, too.

Things we missed on Friday:
Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3

Saturday, March 21st:
I got up early for my last gambling session, and the casino was already crowded. There were lots of people already occupying space in the Sports Book, the Sports Book overflow at the Piano Bar, Starbucks, most of the table games, and quite a few of the machines. I played WOZ and Gold Fish for quite a while before finally joining the sea of humanity in the Starbucks line for Hayley’s morning dose of hot chocolate, but the line went fast and I was grateful for that. Once she was ready, we stowed our bags at the Bell Desk and headed out for Hayley’s last adventure in Wonderland.

Touristy stops at the Venetian and The Mirage
Our first order of business was to head back to the Venetian so that Hayley could have her gondola ride. The cost was $16 per person, and our gondolier’s name was Donatello (he said). He sang 3 songs for us during our ride and was very entertaining in general, so he got a nice tip for his efforts. In the end we purchased a photo set that cost us $29: it included an 8x10, 2 wallets, a keychain and a magnet. The whole ride experience lasts about 12 minutes. It was a pretty day, so it made the ride very pleasant. Hayley had an extra good time because the boat assistant (the guy who held the rope at the dock) was an adorably cute guy who looked like Taylor Lautner (look him up if you don’t know who he is).

The next adventure was Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The total cost for 2 people was $50 (YIKES!), but it was worth it because I told Hayley to go hog wild with the photos and she delivered. I was crying the entire time because I was laughing so hard at her poses. My two favorite photos from the museum were the ones she took with Tiger Woods and Barack Obama – check them out:

Once we finished touring the wax museum we headed over to The Mirage to visit the Secret Garden of Siegfried and Roy. The cost of admission is unchanged at $15 per person, and we were lucky enough to get extra entertainment from the dolphins when two ladies came out with the trainers as participants in the “Trainer for a Day” program. We spent almost two hours in there, going back and forth from the four-legged animals to the dolphins, and we enjoyed just relaxing in the warm sunshine. Hayley was surprised when I reminded her that the Strip was only a couple of football field lengths away – the fact that it is so quiet there always amazes me, too.

We wrapped up our tourist trip with a snack of Coke Floats at Ghiradelli’s. Wonder Boogie just started their first set of the day in Carnaval Court a few minutes earlier, so we got a little extra free entertainment there, too. We finally gave up trying to find things to do and headed to the airport about 15 minutes earlier than we had planned.

Things we missed on Saturday (but not our fault):
Mac King

Final thoughts:
It was nice to show my favorite city to Hayley, and we had a great time everywhere we went, but I don’t think I’ll be taking her back again before she’s 21. The sheer amount of walking involved to get from one place to the other doesn’t suit her, and she saw the shows I wanted her to see. She said she understood why I loved Las Vegas (and it now made sense to her when she thought about how tired I was every time I came home), and that it had some really fun parts, but she couldn’t imagine anyone spending too much time there if they weren’t old enough to gamble. Those are my thoughts exactly. I think she’s done talking to me for the next week, too, and I probably won’t see her outside her room other than to take her to and from school and to get her dinner.

Hayley’s favorite show: LOVE

Hayley’s favorite hotel: The Venetian

Hayley’s favorite place to eat: Flavors Buffet @ Harrah’s

Hayley said she wishes she would’ve decided to go to Excalibur to see it when she had a chance. Everything else was as she wanted it, but she regretted not going in there to at least check it out because the thought of going through a castle, no matter how fake, was “intriguing”.

We did most of the things on our list, which may surprise a lot of people. If Mac King hadn’t had an emergency, we would’ve done even better.

I will not take a laptop with me again. It was great for writing and editing my trip report (I did most of it in the room while waiting for Hayley to get ready each day and at the airport before we came home), but it was a PITA to lug it through the airports on both sides. Good gravy, that thing is heavy! Now I’m actually debating whether or not I want to take my new camera next month, because I’m afraid it’ll be almost as bad, and I do not like carrying around heavy stuff all the time. We’ll see.

The weather was perfect every day. Cool in the mornings, warm and sunny in the afternoons. That’s how Vegas SHOULD be enjoyed.

So, now I wait for April to come. I’m already working on my new list of things to do, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, either.

If you’ve made it to this far, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re finished. And so am I. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,
Hayley's Mom

Monday, March 15, 2010

Leaving Tuesday morning for a 5-day trip...reviews to follow!

Just finished my packing for tomorrow's Vegas trip with my daughter, Hayley, and my mom. It will be Hayley's first trip to Vegas, and I hope to have a lot to report on when I get back.

We'll be seeing four shows: Phantom of the Opera at The Venetian, Terry Fator at The Mirage, Legends in Concert at Harrah's, and LOVE at The Mirage. I have some pretty great seat selections for Phantom and LOVE, both of which I've seen before, because I'm really looking forward to Hayley's reaction to them. I've also seen Legends in Concert before, but I can't make seat selections until I go to pick up my two free tickets at the box office on the morning of the show. Terry Fator will be a new show for both of us, and I have seats reserved almost dead-center in the theater. I've heard great things about this show, so I hope it doesn't disappoint.

We're also doing some shopping at the Fashion Show Mall (across from Wynn and Encore), The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, and the Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood. In addition to shopping, I'll FINALLY get to ride the Manhattan Coaster at New York/New York, since Hayley is a fellow roller coaster buff. Throw in the MGM lions, the Titanic Exhibit at Luxor, the Secret Gardens of Siegfried and Roy at The Mirage (as well as the newly renovated volcano), a gondola ride at The Venetian, and a trip to the observation deck on the Eiffel Tower, and I think we're pretty well covered as far as entertainment goes.

Hayley has informed me that she thinks buffets will be the best things for her to try food-wise, since she tends to be picky (hey, at least she's honest); that way she can sample what she likes and go back for more of the same if she wants to. I had already planned on taking her to either the Wynn buffet or the Bellagio buffet because they are both SO GOOD, but I believe we'll be visiting both of them now. Who knows where else we'll end up?

Five days, four nights, four shows, lots of shopping, eating and touristy stuff.

A full reporting on what we saw and did when we return - with lots of photos, too!

Happy Spring Break, everyone!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Link to site: McCarran Airport

Thanks again to Bonnie from LV4E for finding a link to the McCarran International Airport site: http://www.mccarran.com/

The site includes separate sections for flight information (international and domestic), a guide to the airport, and ground transportation, among other things. Great idea to check things out before you head out on your next trip, eh?

Link to site: Airport Wireless Internet Access Guide

If you've ever wondered which airports have wireless Internet access available for their passengers, here's a link to TravelPost.com's Airport Wireless Internet Access Guide:

It lists the access areas by terminal and/or area and what fees, if any, the airports charge for connections. It also includes the time limits that may apply for each usage, so be sure to check before you connect!

Thanks, Bonnie, for finding that link.