Monday, April 15, 2013

Las Vegas Trip Report - April 2-7, 2013 - The one with the Bachelorette party

For some reason I keep thinking of naming this trip report the way they used to name episodes of the TV show Friends. We've taken so many Las Vegas trips it is hard to differentiate them sometimes! According to my trip counts, I think this is my 16th trip to Las Vegas.

This trip started out as my friend Melissa W.'s bachelorette party trip with the girls and the list of attendees grew from there. John and his friends Sloneker and Ploof ended up coming out for a few nights, as well as Melissa W.'s parents and a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins as well. It was a busy trip for sure! Too bad we never really had an event that got everyone all together at once. The closest we got were the afternoons together at the pool on Thursday and Friday.

John and I departed MSP on Tuesday night after a long day at work. We headed to the airport a bit early to grab something to eat at Shoyu at the airport. It is one of those new restaurants that you use iPads to place your food and drink orders at the top of the G gates. We started with some pork belly pot stickers, that were crispy and excellent, though I forgot to take a picture of them.

tuna burger and fries- very good!
dynamite roll and hamachi sashimi - spicy but fresh tasting

The food and service at Shoyu was very good, but on the expensive side, as airport food and drink often is. With great airport dining choices like this, I don't know why anyone goes to Chili's anymore. 

Our flight to LAS was pretty uneventful aside from the fact that I was next to a very large guy on one side of me, which made the flight feel even longer than normal even though we landed right on time. Once we arrived in Las Vegas, our bags came out quickly and we were off to find a nice short taxi line. It was a quick ride to downtown as it was after 8pm at this point. 

There was a very short check in line at the Golden Nugget when we arrived, but it took some time to get to the front. It was worth the wait though, because we were given a free upgrade from the budget-friendly Carson Tower, to the same room more or less, yet closer to the casino, Gold Tower, even though we did not book our room though the Landry Club card. The front desk agent did remind us that normally we would have to book our room at regular prices to get the free upgrade from the Landry card, which we knew, so we were very surprised and pleased to get the upgrade. 

We dropped our bags in the room, freshened up a bit and headed down to the Rush Lounge to meet up with John's friends Sloneker and Ploof. We had a drink there and then we all headed over to the Golden Gate for some blackjack. I had a terrible outing and threw in the towel around 2am.  Golden Gate, why have you stopped being my lucky casino? 

The next morning (Wednesday), we slept in as long as we could, which was about 8:30am and headed to breakfast at the Bellagio buffet. We have both been playing the MyVegas Facebook game and I had earned enough points for several awards- the first being free buffet for two. We also got a line pass, but it was not that exciting to use because not that many people were in line at 9am on a Wednesday. The food was quite tasty and the quality and variety seemed good. I think it has been several years since we visited this buffet last and we will definitely return. 

outside Bellagio buffet
Butterfly house in the Bellagio conservatory with actual butterflies inside. Too bad you can't go in it! 
After breakfast I decided to go to the North outlet mall (Premium Outlets) and see if there were any handbags with my name on them. I found some other goodies instead. John went out to Sam's Town with his friends for a poker tournament. I took my bags back to the room and checked in with John. They were still playing so I decided to support cabbies in Las Vegas and go back to the strip. I wandered around the mall at Planet Hollywood awhile and did not find anything too exciting.

Next, I headed over to the Cosmopolitan to gamble a bit and maybe grab some lunch. I after playing a few slots, I ended up sitting down at Book and Stage and enjoying some drinks and playing video poker. The bartender on duty was Heather and she was tons of fun. I ended up chatting with her and other patrons for awhile. This drink was listed first on the current drink menu. It had muddled blueberries and I forget the rest.

I think she said this was called the Stunning Man drink and it used to be on their drink menu. It had something to do with blackberries and ginger beer. Amazing. Heather was asking me what types of drinks I liked, and we discussed the wonders of ginger beer, so she suggested this one. The video poker went ok, I even had a four of a kind that I should have taken a picture of and stopped gambling then and there, but I kept playing because I was having fun. After a couple drinks I decided to hit the road and see what John was up to. He was done playing poker at Sam's Town so I decided to head over there. That was a long cab ride- I swear it was not much farther to where the mountains started. But Ploof won the poker tournament, so that was exciting. We tried to get a cab back downtown, but there was a line and no taxis in sight, so we just took the shuttle bus back to the Fremont. It actually did not take too long on the bus. And it was free. I don't think we will go back to Sam's Town, since it was so far from everything. But I can say I've been there I guess.

Up next, martini happy hour time at the El Cortez. Then, the bad news. No more 2 for 1 martini happy hour. We tried to order and the waitress said it had been discontinued that week. Worst news ever. I hope they bring it back soon! So I had just a single chocolate martini to drown my sorrows. I was to depressed to take a picture of the sad, lonely, single martini.

After martinis at the El Cortez, some responsible person in our party suggested that we eat something. Good idea I guess. We stopped at Radio City Pizza and ordered a large pepperoni pizza. This is some good pizza. I'd call it a New York style pizza. It had good crust, with just the right amount of breadiness and crispness. The sauce pretty flavorful as well. They had some interesting beers on tap too, other than just your standard light beers, though I can't remember the specifics. While we were here we also located a couple bachelorette party arrivals. Lisa and her husband Phil showed up and eventually Kristin and Paula made it too. I think everyone ended up ordering some pizza. I think they ordered pizza by the slice since it was ready to go. My point is, they have pizza by the slice too.

After eating we wandered down Fremont Street. I wanted to check out the Sigma Derby machine at the D. There were some openings so a few of us got some quarters and played a bit. I could have sat there for awhile, but I was soon out-voted and we moved on to the Golden Gate. I played blackjack for awhile and did just terribly again. Kristin was playing craps so John and I tried that for awhile and we were all doing ok, then well, then terrible. I think all my luck at the Golden Gate is gone.

Finally, our guest of honor Melissa W. arrived and we decided to head down to the Fremont for some $2 Coronas. We spent the rest of the night playing assorted slots and enjoying beverages. I think all of our enthusiastic cheering at the machines attracted some attention because we were all chatting with the security guy before long. He did not kick us out or anything, so I think he found us entertaining rather than trouble. By the end of the night we had quite a few winners on slots-- Melissa W. was up, John was up and Ploof was up. I think Sloneker had a couple big wins and gave it all back. I can only assume everyone else, myself included, lost.

Someone said they were hungry and John had the bright idea to go to Coney Island at the D. My chili dog was very tasty.
John's gyro
Melissa and Kristin had the chili cheese fires, I mean fries. Everyone said they were good, but they took digestive revenge. I had a couple and the fries were very crispy and addictive. I think we all went to bed sometime around 3am.

The next day (Thursday) I woke up to my phone vibrating like crazy with Melissa asking if I had gone to reserve pool chairs. So I did what any self respecting personal attendant would do and went down to the pool in my pajamas and secured a bunch of pool chairs for the bride-to-be and everyone else, on the third level of the pool in the adults area, the only chairs left. I waited around and chatted with some other hotel guests that were also from Minnesota and some local guy who was a ticket scalper by trade. Interesting conversation I guess.

waiting at the pool- nice palm trees

Once Melissa, Kristin and Paula made it to the pool I headed back to the room and got ready so John and I could go and have some breakfast. I think the girls went to the buffet at the Golden Nugget. I guess it was decent. We went to Hash House a go-go at the Plaza. 

I had the farm scramble with bacon, avocado, onion and Swiss cheese with crispy potatoes and a biscuit on the side. The scrambled eggs and potatoes were good, but the biscuit was really dry.
John had gigantic mushroom and Swiss burger and a garden salad with cucumber dressing. 

After breakfast I went to the pool and hung out with the girls all day. John and his friends wandered around on Fremont and played video poker at Main Street. There may have been a lot of pool drinks ingested mostly because the drink service was excellent. The weather was amazing throughout this entire trip- I think it was in the 80's every day. It was so nice to get some sun and warm weather since the weather in Minnesota has been cold and crappy all winter.

Kristin and Melissa's parents and an aunt and uncle had just arrived at the hotel so we had a bit of a poolside happy hour. By this time it was getting to be late afternoon, so I decided to head up to the room to get ready. 

All day long I had an evil secret plan to have dinner at the Chart House in the Golden Nugget, so I ate at the bar by myself. I was looking forward to a little peace and quiet. The crab cakes are awesome too.
I also had the bruschetta sliders- prosciutto & fontina cheese topped with diced tomato basil & balsamic drizzle. 

Before too long the boys found me and joined me for a drink. Then the rest of the clan showed up a couple people ordered drinks. No one else wanted to eat there so we headed off to the Fremont to grab a beer and then headed over to Hogs and Heifers at Kristin's request. It was a loud country bar with female bartenders that would dance on the bar and holler stuff over a bullhorn every so often. A few people wandered over to Triple George and ordered some food. A bunch more straggled in to help them finish their food. We ended up heading back to Fremont Street to watch whatever band was on stage. I soon got the itch to gamble after swearing it off most of the day and we ended up at Vegas Club for a bit. Of course, I decided it would be a good idea to close out the night at the Golden Gate. It was a terrible idea as they took all my money again. I love how the dancing dealer Tina throws the cards down, but she took my bankroll for the day. Usually, she adds to it. But it must not have been that bad, as I played there for a long time.

I'm not sure what happened to Melissa and Paula. Kristin and Lisa were playing pai gow for awhile and then we lost them later. Phil had too much fun at the pool in the afternoon and was passed out, but made an appearance much later on at the Golden Gate with Lisa. I think they ended up watching some 80's band on Fremont. I lost all my money and decided to go to bed around 2am or so. John stayed out until the wee hours. I think everyone else went to bed well before he did! He told me some story about playing $10 blackjack at the Golden Nugget the next day. Apparently there was winning involved too!

I was not feeling too hot on Friday morning, and luckily Melissa and Kristin's mom Karen went to the pool to save some chairs. I was in no condition. John and I went to DuPar's at the Golden Gate for breakfast.

John's favorite- eggs, hash browns, hamburger steak
bacon, eggs, hash browns
I love the sourdough toast and scratch-made jams

I went to the pool and spent the day drinking water and trying to feel better. Everyone else was more or less fine since they didn't stay up that late. John spent most of the day napping in the room. When I went back to the room in the late afternoon he was just getting going and heading out to find Sloneker and Ploof.

I took a shower and got ready and went down to the Grotto in the Golden Nugget for some food. The guys decided to show up and eat with me, as it was happy hour in the bar. I had the bruschetta and a bit of John's margarita pizza. The pizza was on happy hour, but I don't think the bruschetta was. I had the bruschetta on our last trip, and loved it, so there was no question that was what I was having.

margarita pizza

All of the girls plus Eugene and Karen showed up and they had dinner in the dining room at Grotto. I went back to the room to finish getting ready. It was bachelorette party night and we had to get all dressed up so they would let us into the club. Once everyone was ready, the valet suggested we take an Escalade to the Excalibur so the seven of us girls could ride together. Turned out to be a decent price and it was easier than taking two cabs.

Melissa, Kristin and I all had vouchers for free drinks at Octane, so we had to wait in line for those. The line went so slowly as there was only two employees working the M Life desk and tons of people in line. Octane is located right outside the Thunder from Down Under theater so it was the perfect place to hang out until it was time to go into the show.

We were not allowed to take photos inside the showroom, so this was the best we could do. The show was very fun! We found it to be more interactive than the Chippendales show. Though I think they stole a lot of their routines form the movie Magic Mike.

I was able to find a limo driver hanging around outside of the Excalibur after the show. So four of us got dropped off at the Palms and Lisa and Karen took the limo back to the Golden Nugget. I think Lisa and Phil ended up watching bands on Fremont Street again. I suspect Karen and Eugene played slots downtown all night.

The rest of us headed over to Moon at the Palms for a night at the club. We don't usually do the club thing in Vegas. We've only gone a couple times before, for my bachelorette party and for Kristin's bachelorette party. So it seemed fitting that we do the same for Melissa W. as well. It is always so stressful to get into clubs, I'm never quite sure they are going to let us in, until the last second. It was very fun, with decent music and the club was really cool due to the retractable roof and an outdoor patio with an impressive view of the strip from the 55th floor.

Free Redbull with our table? Don't mind if I do!
retractable roof- very neat actually and it cooled it off when it got hot inside
At our VIP table!
View of the other Palms tower
View of the strip- looking toward Mandalay Bay on the left
View of the Rio and the North strip

I think Paula disappeared at some point and took a cab back to the hotel. Somehow I managed to charge on until 4am or so.  They were actually closing down the club when we left. Who knew clubs in Vegas actually closed. Madness! I managed to round up the remaining soldiers and get everyone back to the Golden Nugget. I immediately went directly to bed. I think Melissa and her cousin Mychael stayed up gambling for awhile after that.

Saturday, our last day, I slept in as long as I could, which was only until 10am or so. Can't waste Vegas time! A bunch of us had bought tickets for reserved chairs at the Hideout pool, so it was nice to not have to rush down and save pool chairs. John and I went to DuPar's again for breakfast. I had sourdough toast as I felt like crap. Why order a full meal when you can't eat it, right? I also have decided to never drink Red Bull again. I wonder if that crap puts holes in your stomach. Sure feels like it. I had to charge on so I went to the Hideout pool with John, Kristin, Paula and Lisa. Melissa, our bride-to-be never made it. She was a bit under the weather, understandably so. So Phil used her pool chair instead. The Hideout pool was nice, but oddly, I think we had better drink service at the pool when were were in the other spot, by the adults only area. We found that unusual, since you'd think the service in the Hideout pool, where you pay for the chairs, would be better. We all had lunch by the pool too. John and I left the pool after 4pm to go up to the room to get ready for our night on the strip.

We both had redeemed a bunch of MyVegas certificates to use that night. I should probably mention what the MyVegas game is for those not familiar with it. It is a Facebook game where you play slot games, build a virtual Las Vegas Strip and, with play, you can earn real-life comps in Las Vegas at MGM resorts, restaurants and bars. It is a great deal really. To think you get free stuff for playing an online game you'd probably play whether or not there were awards available is pretty cool. I know it has certainly gotten me into playing Facebook games and on this trip anyway, it got me to visit MGM resorts I maybe would not have otherwise taken the time to visit.

We took taxi to Luxor and went to the M Life desk to get our certificates. The line went much faster than the line at Excalibur did. First, we stopped at Tacos and Tequila for two free margaritas. I believe the T&T top shelf margarita is the one we had to get according to the bartender and that was the one I would have picked anyway.

After T&T we played a few slots until it was time for our dinner reservation. Man, there are lots of douchebags hanging around at the Luxor. I always wondered who went to the Chris Angel show and now I know. Douchebags. I put my card in one of the slot machines and I swear it said "Welcome to the Luxor. Lower your expectations." I found this incredibly hilarious! I'm not sure what the message really said. Probably something boring and generic.

Up next, our MyVegas dinner at Tender steakhouse. I was not sure what to expect at this restaurant. I only picked it because the Circus Circus steakhouse award had blackout dates for our trip dates, which was a bummer because that was the one award I really wanted from the darn game. (And now it has been removed from the awards in the game! I hope it comes back again soon!) But I figured a free meal valued at $150 is a good deal, so we might as well try it.

dry aged bone in ribeye
8 oz. sirloin
sautéed organic exotic mushrooms
creme brûlée 

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the food and service at Tender. The food was perfect. Our steaks were cooked exactly as ordered, seasoned well and we found the quality of the food to be excellent. The waiter suggested add-ons, described menu items in detail and answered any questions we had. He never seemed too busy to talk with us or overly rushed. He brought the bill and when he saw I had the MyVegas award certificate, he suggested we order another drink to-go, since we were a bit short of the $150 award amount, which was nice of him, in my opinion. Might as well use the entire value. I am surprised I have not heard more good things about Tender. We were very happy and we would consider returning and paying for a meal on our own dime.  

Hope they don't take down the sphinx- not much Egypt theme left at the Luxor these days. 
Not in the gaming area anyway. I loved the themes and I wish that trend would come back! 

Ever feel like a walk down the strip is more of a death march than a pleasant walk? We intended to enjoy the nice weather and walk from Luxor to the Mirage and maybe gamble and drink along the way. But neither one of us was feeling that great, so it was definitely not as fun as I hoped it would be. We had an award for free drinks courtesy of MyVegas at the Signature at the MGM, but when we realized the Signature is about 100 miles from the front door of the MGM we abandoned that plan. John got a refund on his award when we got home.

It was very busy on the sidewalks and people were generally annoying me. Why can't people walk properly? Is it because there are lots of Brits wandering around? Do they walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk too? Or are people just drunk and don't watch where they are going? Rant over. Sorry about that. No offense to Brits intended either. Next, we stopped at Planet Hollywood and grabbed a couple beers thinking one for the road would help us along the way. The beer did not really help, but we did get to see a couple fountain shows at the Bellagio as we walked by.

We finally made it to the Mirage and got our certificates for our free drinks at Rhumbar. We got two free well drinks each and we enjoyed the DJ, the volcano show and people watching. Rhumbar really has a nice patio in a great location. I highly recommend it if you've never stopped there. I know we have walked by a million times and never stopped there before, but I think we might have to make it a regular stop.

There were some free country concerts on Fremont on Friday and Saturday due to the American Country Music Awards coming up that Sunday in Las Vegas. Saturday night the girls all went to Gary Allen. Apparently he is famous? I have not heard of him, but it was very busy downtown. John and I played blackjack at the Vegas Club for some ungodly reason. I guess because it was quieter and the crowd was down by the D. Their $5 blackjack is decent and it doesn't smell like a sewer in there anymore. I think it smells like stripper perfume, which is better than sewer smell at least. We were doing well playing with an older gentleman at first base, until another guy showed up and then it all went downhill. John and I accepted defeat around 1am I think. I think the girls managed to stay out and see the country guy. I just needed to get some sleep.

On Sunday, we got up, got ready and headed down to Eat for breakfast. I had read quite a bit about this place and its chef ahead of time and I was quite excited to try the food. It is a couple blocks off Fremont street on Carson Street, down toward the El Cortez.

started with the beignets- very light and fluffy
John had the BLT. It was huge! And it had avocado. Avocado makes everything better you know. John said there was too much avocado, which is probably impossible. The bacon was high quality. Not bad cruise ship bacon. (If you have read my cruise trip report you will know what I mean.) The waitress said the potato chips are made in-house. They were so tasty I had to ask about them.

I had the shrimp and grits. It was very tasty, though not quite as good as the same dish I had in Miami awhile back. The service was good and there was a small band playing in the corner, which was a nice touch, though not appreciated by me as my head was killing me. Vegas problems. I liked Eat a lot and I think it is definitely worth the trip. 

After breakfast we ran into Kristin, Melissa and Paula and we said goodbye to them. Their flight was not until late afternoon, but we had to hurry back to the hotel to pack our things and head to the airport. Our flight home was rather uneventful, other than the people in front of us arriving right before the doors shut, and on arrival at MSP, loudly complaining about Spirit airlines. You get what you pay for people. 

Other than the fact that we did not have much winning in the gambling department, we had great weather and lots of fun so it was a great trip overall. Hopefully, we can go back again in the fall for my birthday, if not sooner. 


  1. Sounds like a fun trip! Thanks for taking the time to post it!

  2. You win Trip Report of the Year! Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. I really enjoyed reading them.

  3. what a great review!!! The reader really feels like you are there!