Thursday, October 31, 2013

How To Celebrate Halloween In Vegas (Link to Article)

I didn't plan a trip to Vegas during Halloween this year, but I was there last year for the celebrations and it was...interesting.  I wish I'd taken more photos of some of the costumes, like the very creative girl dressed as the Three Blind Mice - all three of them.  Very clever!

Still, unless you're in Vegas right now (which several of my friends are), you are probably finding ways to have fun at home.  If you're not in Vegas this year, you could be there next year.  So here are some great ideas for how to have some Halloween fun in Vegas, compliments of

Trick or Treat!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Traditional Indian Wedding in Vegas - October 19, 2013

A traditional Indian wedding in front of the Bellagio hotel.  I couldn't imagine what that would look like - before.

My friend, Claire, texted me while this was going on.  She saw a simple post on Facebook, and I was actually across the Strip, in my room at the Flamingo, getting ready for the evening.  I wish I'd gone over to see some of this!

Here's a link to the Facebook photo album for the wedding - gorgeous photos, and I can't even begin to imagine the cost:


Monday, October 28, 2013

There and Back Again: A Human's Tale by HayleysMom

October 18-22, 2013

Note:  This trip was supposed to include my mom, but her freak accident while still IN Vegas in September kept her home, though not by choice.  She really, really, REALLY wanted to go with me, but with her broken arm still in a cast, it really didn't make sense, either, so she will be heading back with me in January 2014, instead.

Friday, October 18th

I worked a full day on Friday, and headed to the airport after that.  My first clue that this would be a bad flight should have been the 40 minute delay I got on my phone while I was still AT work.  They quickly made up the time and got the plane to San Antonio a bit later, and we were set to leave only 20 minutes late.  We got on the plane...and waited...and waited...and waited.  We finally left almost 2 1/2 hours late because a tiny light was not showing that the outer door was secure for takeoff.  There are lots of things I can do without, but a secure door during a flight is NOT one of those things.  My plane arrived in Vegas at 11 p.m. Vegas time, or 1 a.m. San Antonio time, which makes for a loooooong day.
Mom bracelets-represent!
I was staying at Flamingo for the first time, and I had called to let them know that my already "late arrival" would be even LATER due to the plane issues, but I was stuck with a "FAB" room on the 6th floor, directly across from the construction at Bill's Gambling Hall (soon to be the Gansevoort Hotel).  I was expecting the "FAB" room - it's what I had booked.  I just hadn't expected the construction view and noise.  I had room 6052, so if you're staying at Flamingo over the next few months, ask for a room ending in an ODD number to be sure you don't get stuck facing the construction.

Crappy view
The room itself was very pretty, with pink curtains, hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and plenty of storage space.  The bathroom didn't match the rest of the room, however; the single sink for a room with double beds never fits in my opinion (fine for me as a single traveler, but not good for sharing), and it looked like it had the original 1950's tile, and just didn't "fit" the rest of the updated room.
Much prettier inside!
I went down to the casino and only gambled for about 30 minutes before calling it a night.  I was absolutely trashed from the full day's work, travel, delays...and tomorrow was another day.

Saturday, October 19th

Waking up extremely early (even for me), I set out after my daily preparations to decide where I was going for breakfast while I walked.  Believe it or not, I really didn't have a solid plan.  My only real plans for the trip were to see LOVE with my free ticket from myVegas rewards, have dinner at Dragon Noodle @ Monte Carlo (also with a myVegas reward) and to meet my cousin and his wife for dinner one night.

My walking took me across the Strip to Caesars, my favorite place to gamble and hang out.  Ever since the casino was remodeled a few years ago it has become my #1 destination.  If only they would comp me some rooms...
Old school Vegas look
Using my miniature effect again...
Hello again!
I decided to go to the Bacchanal Buffet for breakfast.  Mom and I had been last year after it first opened, and we really liked it.  It was around 9:00 a.m., and there were only 6 people in line ahead of me.  Saturdays and Sundays are only Champagne Brunch (woo hoo!), which meant I also got unlimited champagne and/or mimosas for the $44.95 price.  (For a full listing and photos of what I tried, see my separate buffet review.)  That might seem like a lot of cash for a buffet, but they have such a great food selection, even early in the morning, that I think it's a really good deal.  My plan was to sit and chill for awhile, people-watching and drinking mimosas in between eating and texting my friends and family, and that is exactly what I did.  Four mimosas later, I think I was mimosa'd out.  But I like mimosa brunches!

I still like Vegas bathrooms.  This is the one right outside of Bacchanal Buffet.
After brunch it was time for a little bit of gambling.  I looked for my old Lord of the Rings (LOTR) machines, but they have all been taken out of every Total Rewards-related casino.  They DO have new "Return of the King" (ROTK) machines, but they are not tied into the old ones yet, so I have to play them like I'm a newbie and have no bonuses unlocked, etc. (which is annoying for someone who's played LOTR machines for the past few years and have tons of miles racked up on the old machines).  I'm still not sure what I think of the new ROTK machines; I will reserve judgement until they are tied into my old points and I'm able to access more stuff.  Says the nerd in me...

Next stop was the Mirage to pick up my free LOVE ticket for the evening.  It was my biggest reward purchase on myVegas (playing on Facebook - great for free rewards at MLife properties!), and I had to pick it up by 4:00 p.m. or forfeit the seat.  Ticket in hand, I was able to find another new machine I hadn't seen before: a new movie version of Phantom of the Opera, complete with multiple movie scenes involving Gerard Butler, mmm hmmm!  The Phantom machines at the MLife properties became my new best friends on this trip - I played them everywhere I could, and often.
It's a must have!
Bellagio called my name once again because I had not yet seen the Fall display on this trip.  It hasn't changed much in the past few years - they reuse most of the elements in different ways every year - but I always like seeing it and I try to find new things to take photos of each time.  I like that they reuse everything, really, but I would like to see some new elements used every once in awhile because it does get a bit repetitive.  My only consolation is that I can come back in January and catch the Chinese New Year, which will be guaranteed to look somewhat different for at least 11 years.  I took photos and made a mental note to come back and take more pics after dark because it always looks different with the changes in the light...and there are less people to contend with, too.

Bellagio Conservatory-daytime
It needs no introduction.

I like this shot.

An Ent - Middle Earth dwellers will understand...

I do love their use of the cornucopia.

Another pretty good shot.
Over to Cosmopolitan, I located The Henry restaurant, which wasn't difficult, since it's right inside the entrance when you come in on the Bellagio side, immediately on the right.  How did I miss this?  I had looked over their breakfast menu online several times and decided I would try it on this trip if it didn't look too hoity-toity, crowded, or difficult to find.  Being none of those, I made a mental note that Sunday breakfast would be here.  A few black-and-white-yet-still-sparkly Cosmopolitan photos and random slots later, it was time to move on to Planet Hollywood.
Cosmopolitan table games - I really like this shot, too.

Cosmo lights

A different view

Cosmo Noir - taken with my iPhone
I have a love-hate relationship with PHo.  When it's good to me, it's really good to me, and it makes me want to stay.  When it's bad, it's really bad, and I just want to leave.  Being a crowded Saturday, I was able to play a little bit of Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers before the Wicked Bitch Witch took my money, and I headed back to Flamingo to change clothes for the evening.

It was back to Caesars to find a place for dinner.  Really, I had no plan as to where I wanted to eat, but since I had no plan, I also had no reservation, and many things were too crowded for even a 6 p.m. dinner when you had Jimmy Buffet, a UFC fight, Jason Aldeen and an NBA game in town at the same time.  Serendipity 3 had a line that snaked down the steps, and I considered Central for a minute before I remembered how unhappy mom and I were with the service last time.  I took a little walk, didn't like anything on Spago's menu, decided against The Palm because it was too crowded, and finally picked Trevi, where I had antipasti and dessert with my mom and my cousin a couple of years ago.
Lotsa pasta!
A seat by the fountain was a great place to people-watch, and I had time to sit back and enjoy a leisurely dinner of Fettuccine al pesto con Gamberi - fettuccine tossed with shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and basil in a pesto-cream sauce.  With a salad of field greens, complimentary bread with dipping oil, and a coconut mojito, dinner set me back $46.15+tip.  The pasta was too much for me - I only finished about half, but I did justice to the shrimp.  The bread and salad were delicious, but I only drank about 2/3 of the mojito because it just didn't have a ton of flavor.

Sugar Factory at The Mirage had a good display.
Over to Mirage to do a bit more gambling before LOVE, and this time I tackled the Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers and Ghostbusters machines.  They were both nice to me and let me leave with more money than I came in with, which is unusual for Mirage slot machines.  Other than the Phantom of the Opera and Plants and Zombies, I really didn't see many "new" machines.  Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough, and I can say that I really stuck to the same area of the casino near the deli/sports book area than any other, but I didn't notice anything that caught my attention otherwise while I was walking around before the 9:00 p.m. show.
It's all I need.
This was my fifth time seeing LOVE at the Mirage.  It still is a fantastic show, and I would see it again in a heartbeat.  My free ticket from myVegas rewards was Section 206, Row V, Seat 4, and I think it is probably the ONLY seat in the entire theater that has a partially obstructed view, with a thin pole kind of a third of the way in front of the seat where the safety net above is attached.  There are only 8 seats in that entire section - 4 in front of mine - and I think I had the crappiest one.  Still, I enjoyed the show, and I'm sure I will be back again.  If I redeem another myVegas reward for a free LOVE ticket, I will redeem for the higher priced seat next time, so I know I won't have ANYTHING obstructing my view.

I gambled a bit in the Margaritaville Casino before I decided to head to bed.  The lack of sleep the night before was catching up with me, and I called it a night around 1 a.m.

Sunday, October 20th

As I promised myself, I had breakfast at The Henry in Cosmopolitan.  If you've never been, it's a small restaurant/bar, but it's surprisingly quiet even though it's open to the casino floor.  I had a small table facing the bar and got to do a bit of people-watching while I ate, which is always entertaining for me.

I had the Cinnamon Roll French toast, a side of bacon and coffee.  The French toast!  So good!  It doesn't need syrup at all because it is deliciously sweet and soft.  The six pieces of perfectly cooked crispy bacon I ordered on the side were just right for a sweet-and-savory breakfast.  The syrup and cream containers were almost identical, and I almost put syrup in my coffee more than once.  If I had, I would've been able to quote Buddy the Elf: "Syrup and coffee...mmmmm..."   Cost was $26.11+tip.

It was really, really good...
After that delicious breakfast, I took a nice, leisurely stroll down to Monte Carlo to redeem a myVegas reward for the evening.  I wasn't sure what I would have to do to get it and if I needed to make a reservation, so I wanted to be sure I had time to get it AND make a reservation if needed.  The nice lady at the MLife rewards booth said I didn't need to make a reservation, and the $50 food credit had to be used within 24 hours and could only be applied to one restaurant.  All fine by me.  I had already planned on going to Dragon Noodle, and if I needed to drink more to add up to the $50, then SO BE IT.  I  put a reservation for Dragon Noodle at 7:45 p.m. using the OpenTable app on my phone, just in case, and headed out for another walk down the Strip.

A glutton for punishment, I headed back to PHo.  This time I finally got a seat at The Godfather slots I'd seen the day before, but after $20 through the machine and hitting absolutely NADA, I decided that was enough of a donation to "the family" for now and went in search of other entertainment.  I headed for the Hangover slots, which is my other slotty weakness (besides LOTR), and I got a great run of bonuses that let me play for a long, long time on $20.  It's always good when I can put lots of Total Rewards points on my card!

I headed over to Paris to work on my "high limit play", where I'd set aside $300 just for playing the higher slots.  For me, that means $1 slots, which I never play.  I've literally had two dreams where I hit big bucks in Paris' Champagne Slots area twice now, but even with my $300 investment it was not meant to be on this trip, even though I did my darndest to make it happen.  I did, however, hit a triple Double 7's on a $1 machine with a $2 bet for $320 on a Double Gold machine right outside the Champagne Slot area, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a low-roller like me.  THAT money went home. 

When I finally felt like Paris had given me all she was gonna give, I headed to The Quad, because I haven't been inside since the remodeling.  It is mostly done - they still have a few little areas to work on - but I think it will look quite nice when it's all said and done.  It's definitely a small casino, and it's even smaller than it used to be, if that's possible.  Judging by the prices I've plugged into for The Quad's rooms in July 2014, they are expecting to really redo and price me out of them altogether.

The Quad from across the Strip
The Quad's sign is being tested and looks surreal...
Face lift of casino almost complete!
Not bad looking...
It was over to Harrah's and a walk around to see what had changed since February.  Quite a bit, actually.  They have redone the area to the left of the sports book and made it all one level instead of an up-down entrance and steps up to the slots.  Once again, they have taken out a few of my favorite machines, and the poker tables are all at the front of the casino where slot machines used to be.  I ended up taking $80 out of my favorite Reels o' Dublin machine next to the tables before a lady at the electronic craps machine finally drove me away with her incessant yelling for "HARD EIGHT" and random bits of information at 150 decibels.  I can only take so much...

It was on to Venetian, where I found the last of the original LOTR slots in existence (so it seems).  I had to play them.  I actually got to play for quite a while on my $20, and it made me happy.  It gave me hope that there is truth and justice in the world...

I walked back over to Caesars for a few Gold Fish slots, then back to Bellagio for more of the Phantom of the Opera slots that were calling my name.  I hit the "Don Juan" progressive on my first pick-$163-to make my afternoon.

I took the tram from Bellagio to Monte Carlo for the first time.  It is a bit of a long walk to the Bellagio side of the tram, but I was mentally playing things out for possible trips down this side of the Strip with my mom in January.  It is a nice, clean tram, and pretty quick, too.  End to end it took about 10 minutes, and there was no walking through Crystals' shops OR past crappy little shops across from Monte Carlo with random scary people hanging out and hawking things in an aggressive manner after dark.  Thank you, tram!

Dinner at Dragon Noodle using my $50 myVegas reward was great.  The reservation was not needed - there were about 10 tables occupied in the restaurant at 7:45 p.m., but I get 100 points on OpenTable for the effort, anyway.  

Mango Dragon cocktail
I started out with the Mango Dragon cocktail, which has shaved jalapenos in it, and it was very, very good.  The first sip was very spicy, but it was delicious!  I should've had another one.  Next was the Wonton soup followed by the Seafood pan fried noodles.  The Seafood pan fried noodles have scallops, crab and shrimp with broccoli, carrots and green onions in a seafood sauce. It was all very good, and way more than I could eat.  I left a lot of noodles and vegetables. Cost was $44.54+tip, so I didn't even use my entire comp.  Next time I will try the sushi, because it looked delicious.  The hostess had advised that all sushi is half price if you sat at the sushi bar, but I was trying to use the comp in full, so maybe next time.
Wonton soup

Seafood pan fried noodles.  I swear they're under there.
I gave my waitress, Penny, a $30 cash tip because of the rude girls at the next table.  The three of them split their meals and then balked at paying an extra $5 to split the bill.  They tipped her less than $1.  I told Penny WHY I was giving her the tip - to make up for rude young women.  She was very happy, and it made me feel good, too.

I took the tram back to Bellagio for some night photos, and played (you guessed it) a few more Phantom slots before I walked back to Flamingo.

Bellagio Conservatory - night shots

Random shot in Bellagio, but I like it.

Chocolate witch at Jean Phillipe Patissiere 

I really like this chocolate sculpture!
I played for a bit at Flamingo, but couldn't find anything that would give me any bonus rounds.  I couldn't even find a seat in the Margaritaville casino, so that was out, and I finally gave up around 2 a.m., down quite a bit for the trip outside of my "high limit" win that I was keeping separate.

Monday, October 21st

Happy 45th birthday to me!  It's 6:50 a.m., and the workers are in place next door.  Time to get up and get going. 

The pre-breakfast of Vegas addicts everywhere!
A cup of Baileys and hot chocolate paired with some Gold Fish slots at Paris started the day, but no wins there, sadly.  I had already decided breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi was in order.  The only thing I hadn't tried off of their breakfast menu yet: an omelet.  A mushroom omelet, hash browns, thick toast and fresh made strawberry jam with a side of bacon, add in a cup of coffee and peach Bellini, and it made a great birthday breakfast.  Out of all of that, I didn't care for the bacon.  I don't know what they put on their bacon, but I don't like it.  It's probably some maple syrup or something, but I only ate half of one piece and left the rest.  I used Total Rewards points (and picked up my credit voucher from the rewards desk before breakfast) for most of it.  A $30 comp covered the $24.38+tax.
My breakfast table view at Mon Ami Gabi.
I got birthday phone calls from Hayley and my mom, and texts from several of my friends while I was eating, so most of my breakfast was filled with family and good friends, even though I was technically eating by myself.  

After breakfast, it was time to head back to Bellagio once again - for more Phantom slots, what else!  This time I got to play for quite awhile before I finally lost my money and gave my old friend Hitchcock a try.  I love those machines.

I continued on to Caesars, Mirage, and then Harrah's and The Quad for my day of random play.  I would play for awhile on $20 here and there and finally lose it, never really gaining or losing much of anything.  Phantom of the Opera, Gold Fish, Reels o' Dublin, Hangover and LOTR Return of the King were the usual suspects, keeping me entertained until it was time to get ready for dinner, since my cousin and his wife were picking me up and taking to their favorite fish and chips place.  

Crown and Anchor's Fish and Chips
Dinner with Eddie and Pam was at the Crown & Anchor Pub off of Paradise Drive.  $49.02 for 3 people, unlimited fish & chips (plus tea, soda, and 2 non-alcoholic beers).  Ask for extra crispy fish, as I was instructed to do.  If you don't, the fish can be a bit mushy.  The fish and chips are served with your choice of regular or mushy peas.  I should have tried the mushy peas that my companions had because the regular ones were cold, and they obviously loved every bit of theirs.  Of course, I was talking quite a bit, and the thought of mushy peas made me think of The Exorcist.  There was a lot of food on a plate, and they got seconds of fish.  The generous portions meant only one piece for me.  The cost of dinner was taken care of by my mom, who wanted to thank Eddie and Pam for all they did for her while she was in the hospital.  They had intended to take me to dinner for my birthday, but I turned the tables on them, muahahahahaha!  It was great to see them.

After dinner, it was back to gambling at The Quad and Flamingo for the remainder of the night.  I really enjoyed gambling at The Quad - even with such a small casino - because they have great drink service and it was never too loud or too crowded.  I just couldn't find my groove at Flamingo and didn't enjoy gambling there on this trip.  I finally gave up around 1 a.m. because I was leaving for the airport pretty early in the morning.  Counting my money back in the room, I found that I had...not so much...

Tuesday, October 22nd

Because I was up early again, I was packed and headed to the airport extra early.  Too bad there are no seats at the B gates if you're not gambling!  I played two $20's through a 25-cent video poker machine for a bit and decided I'd lost enough money on this trip.  At least my flight home was on time.  I'm not used to coming INTO Vegas at night and LEAVING Vegas during the day...

On the way to "B" gates - a portal?

See?  No seating!
Some final thoughts:

The Quad drink service is awesome-so is Free play on Hangover slots!  Doubled my money and walked away - for awhile...

Electronic craps players are annoying.  The machine at Harrah's is right behind the Reels O' Dublin machine I love so much, and the lady yelling on every spin ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE finally annoyed me enough to leave.

So are people who announce every spin on Gold Fish and Hitchcock machines.  The Gold Fish ladies at Caesars were extremely positive ("Go for Nemo!  Go for Nemo!  You got him!  Yaaaaay!") while the Hitchcock ladies at Bellagio were doom and gloom ("Why does he have to scare me?  I don't understand why he has to scare me.  I'm going to have a heart attack!  I don't even like candy bars!").  Apparently they don't get the idea of Hitchcock in the first place.

Don't think I will be back to Flamingo.  Nice room, but the construction noise, small bathroom and casino were less than stellar.

My next trip is 79 days away!  Hope mom is ready!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy Hours in Vegas!

I drink a LOT more in Vegas than I do at home. 

Could be the change in scenery, the fact that people are bringing me free drinks every time I turn around, or the fact that it's just Vegas, baby.

Here's are a few links to some of the Happy Hour specials you can find the next time you're in Las Vegas - and it's not just for the drinks, either: - Updated Ultimate Guide to Happy Hours - Sept. 2013 - Happy hour specials at 115 bars and restaurants around Las Vegas

Cosmopolitan specials - several of Cosmo's restaurants offer some good deals - the go-to source for the latest and greatest of the Las Vegas Happy Hours

Bottoms up!  Have a good time and celebrate safely!