Thursday, July 12, 2012

Las Vegas - June 15-19, 2012

We managed to find the time and funds to fit in a summer Las Vegas trip this year and we could not have been more excited! As usual, I spent quite a bit of time planning and researching on Trip Advisor for the latest and greatest things to do.

We departed on Friday, June 15th, 2012, at about 5:30pm from MSP. Before departing, we ate dinner at the airport at the new outlet of Chick-fil-a. I should've taken a photo. I love Chick-fil-a and have eaten there often on trips down south. I had the regular chicken sandwich and waffle fries. The sandwich was fine, but you had to apply the mayonnaise from a packet, I think normally it comes on the sandwich. The waffle fries were OK, maybe a bit soggy. I guess for an airport outpost it was OK. I'd probably eat there again.

The flight started boarding on time, but apparently they switched equipment at the last minute so some people had issues with their seat assignments (two people booked to a seat, etc.). Finally everyone just grabbed a seat and we were off. We left a little bit late, but we made up the time in the air so we arrived at LAS on time. Our bags came off very quickly and we made our way out to the taxi stand, which went surprisingly quick for a Friday night. (I was afraid the lines would be long!)

We arrived at the Golden Nugget very quickly, no major traffic issues. There was not even much of a line to check in at the front desk. We inquired about upgrades, but the cost was more than we wanted to pay, so we settled for a Carson Tower room this time. The room was fine as usual. I think we were on the 5th floor. Not much of a view, but we were barely in the room anyway.

Awesome view from our room. There's a palm tree at least!

After checking in, we headed down to the casino and started off with a few slots at the Golden Nugget. We also checked out the new bar in the casino, but did not get drinks there. Next, we headed down to the Golden Gate to redeem an offer John received in the mail for some free play. We played that away in short order and then settled in at the blackjack tables for awhile. I did not do so well. We wandered down Fremont and decided to try blackjack at the D. They have lots of new dealers and it does get incredibly loud at about 9 or 10 pm. It was so loud I could not talk to John right next to me. The Golden Gate is not this loud. Ever. After losing my money to yet another dealer in training we decided to wander a bit more and ended up at the Downtown Cocktail Room. Once we figured out how to get the door open we enjoyed some wonderful craft cocktails. I think my drink was some variation of a Moscow Mule. Very nice atmosphere and a DJ.  No cover too! Isn't downtown great?!
Photos of our drinks at the Downtown Cocktail Lounge.

After leaving the Downtown Cocktail Lounge we headed down to the El Cortez. For some reason we thought a martini would be a great idea. We played a bit of blackjack here and tried out the bubble craps machine. I don't recall any winning here either unfortunately. At this point it was late, maybe 2 or 3am and we decided to call it a night.

After sleeping in as long as possible Saturday morning, we went to DuPar's for breakfast. John had gotten a food comp in his Golden Gate mailer so we put that toward breakfast. Apparently, according to the GG we barely gamble at all, but we did get what amounted to one free entree basically.

John had scrambled egg whites with hamburger steak and hash browns. He loves the hamburger steak at DuPar's.
I had an omelet with bacon, cheese and avocado with hash browns.
Toast. I know toast is not exciting, but the jams they serve with it are homemade and really good!

After breakfast I decided to hit the Premium Outlets for awhile. I got a neat Vegas themed key chain at the Coach store and some lotion at the L'Occitaine store. John stayed downtown and played blackjack at Main Street Station while I shopped. After shopping I met him at Main Street and we had lunch at 777 Brewpub.

John had the mushroom burger and fries.

I had the ahi tuna salad. Very good! 

After lunch, we wandered over the the California and played a bit of blackjack, redeemed some free slot play at Las Vegas Club and played some blackjack at Golden Gate. After going back to the room to freshen up, we played bubble craps at Binion's for awhile and decided to go have dinner at Triple George. The food and service were quite good and we had a certificate, so it was a good deal. Not sure if we would return since there are so many choices around though with way more memorable food. Everything we had was fine it was just not outstanding for some reason.
I had the steak sandwich. 

John had the shrimp scampi. 
Sorry for the bad pics, it was really dark and I did not want to use the flash. 

After dinner we wandered around looking for a $5 blackjack table, but everything was full at the Fremont and the Las Vegas Club, so we ended up at the Plaza. We played for quite awhile with another couple from Minnesota who were very fun. We had to make up fake professions and turn down lots of offers for shots! Oh and my new favorite cards are in the mid-to-low teens. ha ha! I think we decided to turn in around 2am, or so or was it 3am? Either way, I wanted to be in tip top shape for our brunch on Sunday.

Sunday morning we slept in and made it to Border Grill for our 11:30am reservation with plenty of time to spare. We had a certificate, but were unable to use it since it was Father's Day. It was not a big deal, we will use it next time, but something for others to keep in mind. Even if it is not an official holiday, you might not be able to use the certificate.  Overall, this was an awesome brunch and we enjoyed it a lot. I'd go back for sure. We had a really great waitress, who encouraged us to take our time and try lots of different items.
Empanadas with guava. So light and fluffy and wonderful! 

Skirt steak and egg- very good. 

another type of empanada, might be plantain.
This one was not as good as the first empanada, kinda soggy.

breakfast enchilada in background and huevos rancheros, both good. 

machaca chilaquiles- just OK

chorizo and egg taco- very delicious!

crispy potato taco- really good!

short rib hash and egg
This sounded great, but the meat was dry and unappetizing.

pancakes, churro tots and bread pudding french toast
The churros were really good as were the pancakes as they had a coffee flavored syrup!  I forgot to take a photo of the shrimp and grits which were one of the best items we sampled. The sauce the shrimp were served in was very spicy, but very flavorful. 


We wandered down the strip through Mandalay, Luxor and Excalibur staying inside as much as possible since it was about a billion degrees outside. It is pretty easy to avoid the hot weather in Vegas though, as long as you know the indoor shortcuts to take! We only had to go outside to cross streets via walkways really. We signed up for Tropicana's slot club and got some free play there. We also wandered though MGM and New York New York. Nothing too exciting overall. I don't think I'd been inside Tropicana since I stayed there on my first trip back in 1998. It seemed smaller than I remembered and pretty nice with the remodel finished too.

We decided to go to The Pub at Monte Carlo for a beer. they had a Four Square check in deal where you can get happy hour prices for checking in at any time of the day.
Sliders and french fry trio from the Pub.

We played a few slots at Monte Carlo hoping to encounter the great cocktail service we found on our last trip, but no such luck this time. Not a drink or waitress in sight.  We continued wandering the strip and visited Planet Hollywood, Paris, Bally's and Bill's. Nothing too exciting to report, played a few slots here and there and tried some blackjack at Bill's and we headed back downtown. We decided to have appetizers at the Chart House and a couple martinis. 
crab cake-- quite good, lots of crab, I could've eaten a few of these! 

After our snack, we went to the Fremont and the Golden Gate for some evening blackjack. At one point we were playing blackjack with a bunch of crazy British guys, who were pretty fun, but their play was questionable at best. I suppose no one wants a blackjack lesson from me so I kept my mouth shut and just tried to have fun. I'm not sure what time we turned in for the night, but I don't think it was very late (maybe 1am?) as neither of us were feeling that great. Too much walking around in the hot sun I think. 

Monday, our last full day. Sigh. We started off with breakfast at Hash House a Go Go using a certificate. A solid breakfast, as usual. 

I think we both had the same thing, just had our eggs prepared differently.

Next, we headed off to the pool at the Golden Nugget. We had reserved loungers at the Hideout pool, but it was quite windy and they were closing for the day just as we arrived. We got a refund and headed downstairs to look for pool chairs elsewhere. We hung out for a couple hours, but since it was over 100 degrees that day it felt like sitting in a sauna with someone aiming a blow dryer in your face. Time to go inside for the pale people!

We decided to head down to the Strip and went to Sugar Factory since it was happy hour time.
The chicken fingers were really good as was the honey mustard dressing that came on the side.
I ordered the mac 'n cheese balls, which were just OK. They might have been better if the outside was crispier, but they were a tad soggy and I did not care for the flavor of the marinara very much.
For drinks, John had the root beer float drink and I had a grape drink that I can't recall the name of. Drinks were a great one get one free. It was fun to sit at the bar and watch the bartenders make the drinks too.
Next we headed across the street to check out the Bellagio gardens.

Next, we went over to the Flamingo to wander around and bit and play some slots. We both got some free slot play in the Margaritaville casino for some free slot pull contest. I actually did well on the free play playing some wolf slot machine. Then we went to Margaritaville to spend our Total Rewards contest winnings of $10 each in food credit. Well, we decided to drink our credit instead.
Hello, Loaded Landshark! 
This used to be O'Shea's.  I thought some of the TA folks might enjoy photos of the progress though.
View toward Flamingo pool

The IP needs a coat of paint. Might be the last time we see it looking like this! What will it be called next time we visit?! We did not even go inside.

We headed to Harrah's next and gave some crappy 6:5 blackjack a try. Thought I'd at least get some good drink service out of it. I think we each got one beer. And we did not do too well. Next, we wandered though the Mirage and kept going over to TI. We had a couple slushy drinks at Senor Frogs and each got a free shot playing a music trivia game they had going, which was pretty fun. Next, we joined the slot club at TI and I believe I managed to turn my $10 in free play into $50. Though details are fuzzy due to the slushy drinks. Next, we headed back downtown and played blackjack for awhile with some guys from Munich, Germany, who were very fun! I managed to do pretty well on this blackjack session actually! We had some free play at GG to use on John's card that I think we played on the Hangover slot. It was kind of late at this point, maybe 2am so we turned in.

We had breakfast on Tuesday at DuPar's before heading off to the airport. Good, as usual.
I had the bacon, eggs and hash browns.
John had his usual, the hamburger steak, eggs and hash browns. 

Trip highlights:
1. Brunch at Border Grill
2. Best drink service...still at Golden Gate!
3. Playing blackjack with Minnesotans, Brits and Germans.

We headed off to the airport a couple hours before our flight. The security lines went pretty quickly, we managed to score exit row seats and the flight home was uneventful. Overall, we had a great trip and did not get around to doing half of the things we'd hoped to do! This is why we have to go back to Vegas repeatedly. Adios Las Vegas! Hope to see you again in November!

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