Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mom's Makeup Trip - January 15-18, 2014

Mom's Makeup Trip - January 15-18, 2014

It's so nice to leave on time.

In the middle of winter, it's a crap shoot as to what the weather in San Antonio AND in Las Vegas will be like, and you never know when they might delay a flight or even close down the airport, so mom and I were happy to leave on time.

Wednesday, January 15th

Mom and I left on her "makeup trip" after work.  I left early to pick her up, and we got back to the airport with 2 hours left before our flight, so we obviously had plenty of time to spare.  You would think that the 7th largest city in the U.S. would have a busier airport, but we really don't.  There was no security line at 4:30 in the afternoon, and hardly anybody in the airport.
A wing and the moon.
No cab line from the airport to Harrah's.  Our taxi driver asked us which route we preferred, and I told him to take the back route, Koval to Flamingo.  I appreciate it when they ask, and even though there was a lot of traffic, he followed instructions.  Because of the Linq construction, he DID have to go up to the Strip to enter the Harrah's drop-off area, which we didn't realize was necessary until we attempted to have my cousin Eddie take us back from dinner at Ellis Island on Friday night.  

There was also no line to check in at 7:30 p.m.  This might be the perfect time to land in Vegas!  I had booked a room under mom's name, and then got an e-mail offer for 3 free nights and 2 free Jersey Boys tickets from Caesars Total Rewards for myself, so I jumped on that.  I should have canceled mom's room but I forgot to, so we had 2 rooms down the hall from each other on the 10th floor, Mardi Gras tower - me in 1000 at the end of the hall, and mom just past the middle in 1036.  All was good with a partial Strip view, and NO CONSTRUCTION!!!!  (Yay!)  After my Flamingo construction hatred in October, I was happy to be facing the Strip, even if it was only partially.
View to the left
View to the right
We headed downstairs to Ming's for dinner.  Mom had the Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops, and I had the Tempura Roll.  Mom said her food had good flavor - HUGE scallops - but lacked the "pow" (little heat), and my sushi roll was very good.  I also had a flaming drink called a "Scorpion" - something I can mark off my list of 'Things to do in Las Vegas'.  It was potent, but not very flavorful.  Been there, done that now, so time to move on to something else.
It's a Scorpion!
Our first order of business was to walk down the Strip to Venetian and Palazzo.  I wanted to take photos of the Chinese New Year display at Palazzo for sure.  A bit of gambling at Venetian, and on to Palazzo for my pics.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed overall by ALL of the Vegas displays.  2014 is the Year of the Horse, and while they were pretty displays, they just weren't making me say "Wow!" like I did last year.  I think part of the problem (in other casinos, like Caesars and Paris) was that they didn't have all of their decorations up yet.  The Chinese New Year is officially January 31st, and I was in Vegas last year the day before the official New Year began, so there was a lot more going on.

Palazzo horses

After photos were taken, we headed back to Harrah's around 11 p.m.  I finally got a seat at the Twilight Zone slots!  They were...interesting.  I don't think I quite figured out the bonuses and the different options you have, like more frequent payouts for less money, or less frequent payouts for big money, and just found them more confusing than entertaining.  Well, I can say I tried them.  We both headed to bed around 1 a.m., because we'd both been unable to sleep the night before.  (Vegas anticipation!)

Thursday, January 16th

The Linq is almost ready...
Somehow we always manage to get up and be ready at pretty much the same time, even down the hall from each other.  This morning we were taking the monorail down to MGM for the MGM Grand Buffet.  I was redeeming a myVegas reward for 2 free buffets (for breakfast or the champagne brunch), and it was once again easy to do.  Just remember to read the fine print to know HOW and WHERE to redeem them.  For buffets, you take your confirmation number, ID and your player's card to the MLife booth and they put the credit on your card.  The breakfast buffet runs from 7 a.m. - 10 a.m., and the champagne brunch runs from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.   Trust me when I say they are sticklers for the time you enter as to whether or not you get the champagne, so choose wisely.  Our waitress was nice enough to give me a mimosa when my mom asked her about it at 10, even though we arrived at 9:15.

I'd never had the MGM Grand buffet before, and it was pretty darn good.  Our breakfast value was $17.25 each per our table ticket, so I'm sure the champagne breakfast is a bit higher value.  

I get small samples of food on the buffets I try so that I don't over-stuff myself and I can try more things.  Here's what I tried over the course of an hour and a half:

Steak and eggs - good
Ham and cheese frittatta - not good.  Bechamel sauce?!?
Eggs benedict - good
Ham and cheese quiche - very good
Cheesy eggs - good
Bacon - very crispy!  Just the way I like it!
Potato cheese bite - okay, but mom loved hers.  She said they were like "cheesy, cheesy, cheesy hushpuppies".
Breakfast flauta - good - filled with bacon and eggs and fried.
Pesto pasta - I failed to find the pesto - bland
Crab sushi - pretty good for a buffet
Cheesy grits - very yummy!
Chorizo hash - very good and spicy
Cinnamon roll French toast - this was delicious.  I had seconds.
Bread pudding - my favorite buffet dessert.  Very good!
Mom tried their double chocolate cake but said it was too dry.  
These are horrible buffet photos, I think. :(

They had tons of petite desserts, but we had seriously eaten too much, so we didn't partake of anything else.  Their coffee was also very good, and I appreciate it when they leave a carafe so that you can serve yourself instead of depending on a waitperson to refill for you.
Bread pudding and my free mimosa.  Thanks, mom!
After we finally rolled out of there, it was time to try some of the new slots I had seen on the way in.  I sat myself down at a Zuma slot I'd never seen before (right outside the buffet entrance), and proceeded to play that machine for over an hour on my $20.  I ended up ahead and didn't end up playing anything else because mom had lost lots of money in MGM and was ready to move on.

Advertising while you wash in MGM Grand - interesting...
Off to New York, NY.  I still love this casino.  I have good days and bad days here, and this was another good day.  After walking all around the casino, I finally decided to try the Dark Knight slots because I hadn't been able to ever get a seat at them before and one of my co-workers really enjoys playing it.  If you've never played it, you get to choose between Batman and Joker, and the bonuses change based on which "side" you're on.  I tried the Joker for a bit but found it kinda depressing, so I switched to Batman and played for a long time on THAT $20, too.  Mom tried a few things here and there but didn't find anything that let her play, so when we finally decided to go I was up and she was down.

We ended up walking back to Planet Hollywood.  I was a bit worried about mom and her hip, but she made it like a trooper.  I told her that the next time we try to do any walking like that we are taking a few rest breaks.  Since breaking her hip in September, she can't move quite as fast as she did before, and she needs to remember that.  (I know you're reading this, Mom - you know it's true!)

Planet Hollywood also has a love/hate relationship with me.  When I stayed there with Hayley a couple of years ago, I managed to do pretty well.  When I visited in October, I played the same Hangover slot for close to an hour and came out ahead.  This time I tried Wizard of Oz (damn Ruby Slippers!), The Godfather and Hangover.  They all hate me.  Time to move on to Paris.
The Cabaret faux front.
It was to be a long day at Paris.  We were here to gamble, pick up my Jersey Boys tickets, eat at Mon Ami Gabi, and then see the show.  I picked up the tickets just after 2 p.m. for our 7 p.m. show and saw the value was $67.50 each.  Not a bad comp!  I tried some Twister/tornado slots I'd never seen before, and I played my favorite Gold Fish machine for quite a long time before we headed to an early dinner at 4:30 p.m.
I love the Paris lobby.

Dinner on the patio at Mon Ami Gabi - what can I say?  It's one of the things we like to do.  I'd made a reservation through OpenTable, and we asked for patio seating when we walked up.  We got a nice table along the railing, although with the bit of chill in the air it might have been better to sit back against the glass, under the heaters.  Still, it was nice, and we did plenty of people-watching, including a group that was apparently filming some sort of reality bit right next to our table.  

We decided to share our meals and got Gabi's Fish and Frites and the Steak Classique and Frites to split.  I also got a half carafe of "sanfria", which equaled about 2 glasses of yummy, fruity goodness for me, and mom had wine.  I could do that sort of thing all the time...
A great dinner view.
Off to Jersey Boys at 6:30, and mom bought a souvenir program for $20.  We enjoyed the show, but I personally think I like Human Nature better.  If you've never seen Jersey Boys, it's like a play with music (but not a musical), and I enjoy just hearing guys sing, I guess.  There is some strong language, but if you realize going in that Joe Pesci played a bit in the formation of Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, you get past it.  Think "Goodfellas" without all the killing.  Still, it was an entertaining show, I enjoyed the story, and I can say I've seen that one, too.
Jersey Boys theater
The end of the show.
We walked to Flamingo and checked out the destruction of Bally's entrance earlier in the day.  I guess it's all in the name of progress - and I'll probably end up liking whatever shops they end up putting in the space, just like everything else they've done in Vegas so far.
Destruction before construction.
After playing for a bit in Flamingo (where I had NO luck), we checked out the new Linq area.  We did notice that the Linq was all lit up the night before when we arrived, but it was not quite ready for action, and was just a giant, unlit wheel that I will not be getting on, ever.
The Boardwalk to the Linq-and to O'Sheas
We discovered the new location of O'Shea's, as well.  It's not up at the Strip like it used to be, but back at the end of the Boardwalk, next to the Linq.  It is much smaller than it used to be, and it opens up directly into the back of The Quad on one side.  They had every Beer Pong table open and a live band playing when we went through, but I can't see myself spending any amount of time there because A) I don't play Beer Pong, and B) it was just too loud.
There it is!
Inside O'Shea's - that's about it...
Into The Quad, where I found a Haunted House machine I've never seen anywhere else.  Played on that for a bit before it finally took my $20, and then we checked out the rest of The Quad.  It has definitely opened up more since I was there in October, and they have moved the Dealertainers up to the front (at the entrance directly across from The Flamingo).  Some things have been moved around, but it's definitely got a very modern feel, lots of slots and table games for a fairly small space, and a zig-zagging line at the check-in desk, just like it did when it was Imperial Palace.  Some things never change!

Nighttime gambling at Harrah's to see how much damage we could do on our Total Rewards points and off to bed some time after 1 a.m. again.

Friday, January 17th
Day view - get up, get up, get up!
Today we had the Bacchanal Buffet as the first thing on the "to do" list.  I think it's my mom's favorite buffet in Vegas.  We were there for breakfast again, but there were plenty of good lunch items to be had, as you can tell from my list of foods (after almost 2 hours, once again - we like to take our time) - and I got small bites here, too:

Green beans in wine sauce - delicious!
Chinese vegetables - good
Sui mai - extremely yummy!
Shrimp Pad Thai - not warm, and just okay
Salumi - I had pancetta this time, very good
Pork dumpling - I could eat these forever
Tater tot casserole - very tasty!
Frittatta - not a fan at all!  It had hard edges, and a sauce that did not match.  Bleh!
Papas con chorizo - good flavor
Margherita pizza - nice crust, very flavorful
Crab Benedict - uhhhh...where's the crab?  No likey.
Shrimp and grits - possibly the best Southern food EVER!  Very good, with more of a roux/creole sauce than the version I had at the Wynn Jazz Brunch, which is still my favorite version.

I also had the bread pudding again - delish!  I also had a bite of cheesecake with blueberries, which was very cheesy-tasting and not to my liking at all.  Mom had a chocolate lava cake that I tried last time and loved, and a chocolate chip cookie filled with melted chocolate.  What's not to love there?  Next time we go to Bacchanal, I want to go later in the day - I saw some mini hot dogs as we were leaving that were so cute!  I wanna try some new stuff...
Random tree outside Bacchanal Buffet
We played at Caesars for a long time.  I found a "Miss Red" machine that I hadn't seen before (I later found out there was one at Harrah's, which I also played), and I managed to play on $20 for quite a long time before I finally lost it.  I also managed to hold my own on the Wizard of Oz Haunted Forest slots for a bit before I went downhill on that one, too.  I can't decide if I like the Haunted Forest slots or not.  The bonuses are okay, but sometimes it can be a long time between any really good stuff.
I played machines in 2 casinos and never got a bonus.

The ice rink at Caesars Palace is starting to melt a bit...
On to Bellagio to take pictures of their Chinese New Year display.  Once again, I don't think it was quite as impressive as I had expected it to be.  I did like the horses in this display better than the ones in Palazzo because I thought they were more lifelike and proportionate.  For some reason I thought that the Palazzo horses just looked too bulky.   One thing I wish I'd done was go back and take photos of the Bellagio Conservatory after dark, because I think the daytime light is too harsh for most of the displays. 

After photos, I had to go back and try my Phantom of the Opera slots again.  The Phantom was NOT nice to me on this trip at all, yet I still found myself returning to him again and again.  (I blame it all on Gerald Butler; he has that appeal and probably makes me do things I wouldn't do otherwise.)  I found that they took out the Hitchcock slots in Bellagio, and I think this was the last MLife property that still had them, unless I missed them somewhere in The Mirage.  But I didn't walk through all the slot areas in The Mirage on Saturday.  Anyway, mom and I both had blah experiences at Bellagio, so we decided enough was enough and it was time to return to Total Rewards casinos, since we get full comps there.

We wandered around The Quad for a bit before we went back to Harrah's.  The plan was to change for dinner, get a cab to Ellis Island, and try out some of their slots and take a look around before we met Eddie and Pam for dinner at 6 p.m.

The traffic was bad!  Three conventions in town, including the Shot Show, meant horrible traffic, especially anywhere behind the Strip.  Because of the limited access to Flamingo and Harrah's due to the ongoing Linq construction, it takes forever to get out of the properties and onto Koval.

We'd never been to Ellis island before, and it is definitely a locals' casino.  We signed up for slot cards and both got $10 in free play.  We had about 2 hours before we were supposed to meet Eddie and Pam, and I managed to only spend $10 of my own money during that time, which is surprising.  Ghostbusters, Monopoly Grand Hotel, and KISS slots I've never played (or seen) before - I was able to keep on playing.  Mom did not and ended up watching me play for awhile.  I also found something I didn't think they still had in Vegas - a cigarette machine.  I had to take a picture.
Old school Ellis Island
Mom wondered about the restaurant and whether they'd have a line or not.  Sure enough, they had a 15-20 minute wait, so we got on the waiting list and got a beeper.  Eddie and Pam arrived right on time, and our beeper went off less than 2 minutes later.  Talk about perfect timing!

I was determined to try the Steak Special, and mom and I both ended up ordering it with the steak cooked 'medium'.  Given the fact that the steak was so thick I think we should have ordered them 'medium well'.  It was a pretty good steak, and the green beans and baked potato were both very good.  Eddie had the 50/50 burger (half Angus beef and half bacon, topped with 2 strips of bacon and pepper jack cheese), and Pam ordered the fish and chips.  They absolutely loved the restaurant and plan to bring some of their friends back to try it out, too.  I want to try something different next time, but I think it's definitely worth it.  Mom picked up the tab, which she said came to about $47 for the four of us with wine, a beer, and two sodas.  Still a very good deal, and we spent about 2 hours there, just chatting and enjoying good company.
My Ellis Island IPA beer.  It's beer.  I drank a beer.  Well, mostly...

Steak special

Eddie and Pam fighting over the 50/50 burger
Eddie got to experience the crazy Koval traffic when he took us back to Harrah's.  I should say when he attempted to take us back.  When we saw that the Linq construction doesn't allow access to Harrah's on Koval (it's now called "Linq Lane" on that side), we told him to drop us off at Flamingo and we would walk back to Harrah's from there. 

Back at Harrah's for the night, we went up and changed into comfy gambling clothes (you know there IS such a thing, so don't doubt it) and headed down for our last night in Vegas.  I played Lobstermania2 and hit the light and middle progressive pots for $25 and $115, but I managed to spend lots of money otherwise.  I also played Wolf Run 2, which I hadn't seen before, and did pretty well on it for quite a long time before I finally gave all of that back, too.  That's why they call it gambling.  I finally lost all of my money and went up to the room around 12:30.  Mom said she played video poker until almost 2:00 a.m. before she gave up and went up to bed.  She didn't lose as much as I did.

Saturday, January 18th

Going home day for our short trip.  We both packed up and went to breakfast in Harrah's cafe', and got to play a little bit of live Keno to boot.  No winners.  I have only been successful at live Keno a couple of times, but I love it when I win on a $1 bet for my birthday numbers because that's a 'free' $42 while I'm enjoying breakfast.

After breakfast we checked out and checked our bags for later, and headed over to The Mirage.  I love the feel of this casino, but I don't typically do very well there at all.  Mom and I played Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers side-by-side, but we ran through $20 quickly and didn't hit a single thing.  She tried Deal or No Deal while I played Elvis, which let me play for a bit and hit several bonuses, but it was also a bust.

Back to Harrah's.  I proceeded to play the Hangover slots and get $20 up to $80, then lost it all after I took a potty break and fed the machine several more $20 bills.  Why?  Why do I do that?  I need to WALK AWAY FROM HANGOVER SLOTS, but I just can't do it.  Damn addicting machines!  I checked on mom, who was doing slightly better, then decided I would stick with an old favorite until we left for the airport: Gold Fish.  I managed to play for an hour and a half on $20 and cash that out at the end before we picked up our bags.  See?  That was common sense.  I just didn't have a lot of it during this trip.

Our taxi driver to the airport was crazy!  He did several illegal turns, dodged in and out of traffic, but he got us there whole and he was actually funny.  I appreciate cabbies who don't bitch about everything, and who talk just enough, instead of asking a thousand questions or being completely silent or on the phone the entire time.  I gave him a good tip because he was entertaining, and his driving reminded me :)


*** Maxi dresses on anyone bigger than a size 6-really, it's not flattering.  I hate them.

*** "Little" does NOT have to be the key word in "Little Black Dress".  Leave something to the imagination, or at least cover your business.

***Leave your family drama at home.  Nobody wants to see or hear you arguing or yelling and screaming in a hotel, on the Strip, or in a restaurant.  You just look like an idiot.  If you can't travel together civilly, then DON'T travel together.

It was another BIG losing trip for me, and mom's first losing trip in about 4 trips, but does that mean anything?  Absolutely not!  Our next trip is booked for mom's birthday, March 25-29.  It's time to start looking for my next freebies to redeem from myVegas rewards, and see if anything interesting pops up in my e-mails that I can't resist.

Viva Las Vegas!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Link to article: Bally's begins demolition on to make way for new shopping area on the Strip

I didn't even know they were thinking about this.

A recent article on talks about the soon-to-come changes to the front of Bally's on the Las Vegas Strip.
Demolition info

I've only known Bally's as BALLY'S.  It was the original MGM hotel, where the famous hotel fire took place on November 21, 1980 (link to YouTube video HERE, and photos HERE).  

I've not been a fan of the casino because I just don't care for the layout of the place, and it's very easy to get turned around in, but maybe the shopping space will make me want to visit.

I've seen many changes in Las Vegas since I started going in 1997, and I haven't always liked them to begin with, like TITO tickets vs. coins in machines, or changing Imperial Palace to The Quad, but I end up liking most things when they're done.  So, we'll see.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Link to article: Top 10 Adrenaline and Thrilling Things to Do in Las Vegas

This was posted over on LV4E (LasVegas4Ever), and I thought I might share it here.  It was originally posted on


Out of the entire list, I would only be willing to do the last 5, but I'm especially drawn to # 9 (Exotic Cars) because I LOVE to drive fast, and # 10 (Colorado River Rafting at the Grand Canyon) because I've always wanted to do that...and take pictures, of course.

Unless I'm on a roller coaster, I usually associate adrenaline with REAL FEAR, and I have no interest in being physically frightened while "enjoying" something.