Monday, June 30, 2014

Las Vegas Trip Report 6.13.14 to 6.17.14 - The one with tons of freebies!

We wanted to try and sneak in another trip this year and realized we could go for next to nothing since we both had enough frequent flier miles and  could get free hotels for the whole trip. These things are all hard to pass up for a Vegas junkie!

We departed after work on June 13th and made it through security very fast. Hopefully, this is a sign things are improving at the airport TSA lines from here on out.

Started with a 3 Gingers drink at Shoyu at the airport.
We had pot stickers and sashimi to start. We decided to go to Ike's next and had a couple beers and the twin mini Charlie's sandwiches. Our flight was full, but uneventful. Our bags came out pretty quickly in Las Vegas and the taxi line was really, really short!

I was afraid we would accidentally tell the taxi driver to go to the Golden Nugget since we usually stay there, but we got an offer for a couple free nights from the Downtown Grand and we wanted to check it out. We made it to the Downtown Grand very quickly as traffic was very light. Check in at the Grand went very quickly too. The agent was able to accommodate our request for a quiet room and we were in the tower across the street. We did not hear any noise form the pool or the bars, so that was great.
The room was very nice, very clean and everything was in great condition. The room is a bit on the small side, but it was decorated very nicely. John had gotten an offer in the mail for a free room for two nights at the beginning of the month, so we booked that. I never got a mailer, but once I added the Downtown Grand app to my phone I saw the same offers. Not a bad deal since we stayed on a Friday and Saturday night.

view from room
The half wall in the shower is a bit unusual, but we managed fine. 
DT Grand bathroom

After check-in we went to the Furnace bar to watch the end of the first overtime between the Kings and Rangers. We played video poker a bit, even though the paytables are not great, but we just wanted free beers. Next, we headed over to 4 Queens to play a bit more video poker and watch the rest of the hockey game. We caught the Bon Jovi light show on our way. Eventually we headed over to the Golden Gate for some blackjack for the rest of the night. John did pretty well, but I lost. I think we stayed out until 1am. Overall, downtown seemed pretty quiet, possibly due to the increased police presence, which was very noticeable, but OK with me.

Saturday morning we were up fairly early so we headed over to DuPar's for breakfast. It's pretty much a requirement at this point. 
I think we both had the usual selections. Predictable! 
After breakfast we picked up some supplies at Walgreens and headed down to the pool at the Downtown Grand for awhile. The pool area is very nice, on the rooftop, but there was only one lounge chair left, which I grabbed. There was other free seating in the grassy area with sofas, but that didn't look comfortable for the pool. I asked about chairs by the cabanas and the cabanas cost $350 per day. I was surprised at the high cost, but after awhile they were starting to fill up. The music volume level was fine when I arrived, but a DJ was setting up and right at noon the volume increased considerably. Too loud for me, so we left. Most people did not seem to mind that much. The crowd was very mixed with young people, old people and families with kids too. I'm not sure what demographic they are trying to attract with the expensive cabanas and loud music, but I'd assume they are looking for a younger crowd and not many were in attendance. Seems like there is a lot of squandered potential here.

The pool amenities were great with free lemon water, huge fluffy towels with a pocket than hooked onto the top of the chair and excellent waitress service. There are a couple of blackjack tables with $10 table with 3-2 payouts and a $5 table with 6-5 payouts.

John wanted to watch the end of the Uruguay - Costa Rica World Cup game, so we headed up to the room to get ready. He watched in the sports book and found the room nice, if a bit small.
Next, we headed over to Pizza Rock for a late lunch. We tried the margarita pizza and it was very good. Another plus in the book for Pizza Rock. We certainly plan to return.

Next, we headed over to Main Street Station for a video poker session. I had one four of a kind and John had two as well, but we each got only $2 on the bonus scratch cards. Rats. We went over to the Golden Nugget to redeem some free play and we stopped at the D and I played a Top Dollar machine in the second floor coin casino for a bit, winning a small amount.
 We made it to Nacho Daddy in time for happy hour so we had a couple drinks and a little snack.
John had the cheeseburger nachos.
I had the pork nachos. Both nachos were very good and very cheap at $6 each. 

We went over to the El Cortez and ended up playing blackjack for a little while. I think we both did OK, nothing amazing. 
We had bought a Groupon for Vanguard Lounge before the last trip and forgot to use it, and we were able to use it this time. I think I had paid $10 for $20 with of drinks. I know I had something to do with ginger beer. We had fun chatting with the bartender and a couple that had Minnesota connections, but lived in Las Vegas now.

We left in time to catch the Heart show on Viva Vision since John had been wanting to see that one for awhile now and we always miss it for some odd reason.
We stopped at Bier Garten at the Plaza and sat outside in the picnic table area with grass. I suppose the grass is a novelty to people that live in the desert. The service was good and there other tables were full. I forgot to take a photos of the pretzel when it arrived.  Her are the remnants. The pretzel was huge, and it had been warmed up, but it was still cool in the thickest sections. We had a couple of Anchor Steam beers a well. The beer selection is pretty extensive.

After leaving the Plaza we headed over to the Golden Gate to finish the night at the blackjack tables. John had a great session again and I think I ended even.

Sunday morning we could not decide where to go for breakfast, so we tried Stewart and Ogden at the DT Grand.
sorry about the partially eaten food photos
The food was OK, but the service was pretty slow and there was a bug walking on the table at one point.

We also collected our Downtown Grand gifts of the month, which were pub glasses from Mob Bar. I was oddly excited about these even though we have not found the new Mob Bar. Doesn't sound that great so we did not seek it out. I also played my free slot play before we left. John had done his right away on the first night I guess.

Next, we switched hotels and took a taxi to the Aria. It was a short taxi ride and we arrived pretty early, around 11 am I think. John tried the twenty dollar trick and were able to check in right away and we were upgraded to a city view room. We were both on a MyVegas comp, one night under each of our names. Leading up to the trip, John's booking was touch and go right up until the last moment as I booked one night and could not book a second night as it was the comp room award and not the bonus comp room award. I guess you can only book more than one comp room at Aria on MyVegas with the bonus comp room award and the bonus comp rooms were not available for our dates. So John, who does not play MyVegas nearly as much as I do, had to start adding friends and playing a lot more. Luckily he got enough LPs a few days before we departed for this trip, so we each got a free night. The front desk was also able to link the reservations together with no issues. We did have to pay the daily resort fee unfortunately. In the past, when we stayed at Mirage and Monte Carlo we were never assessed the resort fees.

The room was really nice and had automatic controls for everything from the lights to the curtains and the TV. The all off switch was handy for leaving the room and going to sleep.
the control pad for the room is on the left nightstand

view of entry, built in closets and drawers
huge shower and bathtub combination

our city view was not exactly a strip view as the building is set rather far back from the Strip
the huge floor to ceiling windows are nice though

We checked out the pool, because I wondered about the pool chair situation. There were plenty of open chairs around noon, so I figured we would be fine the next day as well. We wandered around the casino and the rest of the property and made a stop at the sports book so John could make a bet. 
We decided to walk over to the Cosmopolitan to see if there were any open chairs at Book and Stage. No such luck, but we found space near the bar by the baccarat tables and great drinks were available there as well.
We played Double Double Bonus poker since the pay tables on Jacks or Better are terrible. I had a couple four of a kind hits, but that was the best I could do.
We decided to find something to eat and wanted to try Blue Ribbon Sushi, but we discovered they didn't open until 5pm and it was around 3pm. So we went to Holsteins instead. John had the Steakhouse burger.
I had the ahi tuna sliders again, quite good once again. 

We went back to the hotel to change clothes and we decided to go to the North end of the strip as we had not been to any of those casinos in a long time. We took a cab to the Riviera, signed up for players cards and ended up playing blackjack for awhile. I lost my buy in eventually and John ended up $20. We used some match plays and both lost. I swear I never win when I use those things. 

We walked through Circus Circus casino and the Adventure dome. The Adventure dome reminded me of the amusement park at the Mall of America only it was far more loud and echoey. We played a Titanic slot machine and ended up turning $20 into $90, so we decided to go to The Steakhouse for dinner later on. I wish I would have taken a video of the win. It said Big Win on the screen and Celine Dion sang My Heart Will Go on for a REALLY long time! It was pretty hilarious and the lady next to us kept looking at the screen and at us. 
We were not quite hungry yet, so we walked over to the lounge at the Peppermill for a couple drinks. The old girl still looks the same and is kitschy as ever.

For some reason, probably because we were on vacation, we totally forgot it was Father's Day, but we got lucky and we were able to get a table at The Steakhouse at Circus Circus.
starter salad

We split the ribeye since we were half full of drinks anyway. They do charge a $15 split plate fee, but then each person gets their own salad, potato and vegetable. Our steak was very undercooked, we ordered it medium rare and it was rare. It was perfect when it came back though.
Sorry for the partially eaten food pictures, we were really hungry once the steak came back to the table.
We were offered free desserts by the waiter. I'm not sure if it was due to the undercooked steak or the two loud girls sitting at the table across from us, but the four flavored creme brûlées were delicious regardless.
When we stopped back at the room earlier we had a message waiting for us that they had tried to deliver a complimentary item to our room. We did not wait around, but this fancy box of rice crispy bars was waiting for us. No idea why we got these. Due to the $20 trick? Do all guests at the Aria get these? If anyone knows please let me know! Anyway, they were pretty tasty and made a nice snack at the end of the night.

If I recall correctly, we went to sleep pretty early on Sunday night. I was pretty wiped out from all of the walking and excited to sleep in the super fluffy bed at Aria. I think we had to play with the curtains and the TV for awhile with the bedside remote controls too.  (Side note: the bed at Downtown Grand was very firm in comparison to the Aria bed.)

Monday morning we were up pretty early and we went over to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris, via the Crystals/Bellagio tram.
Token picture of the Bellagio gardens for our friend Jenny. 

 The wait at Mon Ami Gabi for a patio table was only about 10 minutes and the view and food were very good there as always. 
Eggs Benedict with asparagus and peppers with breakfast potatoes
mmmm... date glazed bacon!
John had the breakfast sandwich on a croissant with egg, turkey, tomato, avocado and mayo.
breakfast potatoes
Grapefruit juice. John said the coffee there is really good too. 
Bellagio view

Our breakfast ended up being half price as we each had some Total Rewards comps from sending Facebook messages and tweets through the Social Rewards application. 

We went back to Aria and sat by the pool for a couple hours. This pool area is amazing. There are tons of chairs available spread throughout the three pools. No need to play the pool chair game here. There was music playing, but it was at a nice level, where you could hear it and still speak to each other and not go deaf. (I'm referring to the pool experience at the DT Grand, where the music was deafening.)

John was excited for the USA vs Ghana World Cup soccer game, so he headed to the sports book after the pool. I took my time getting ready and made it down to the bar outside the sports book to watch the game and play some video poker. The video poker here took my money and only game me once tiny token win in the process. Ouch.

We had both redeemed a MyVegas comp for a free slice of pizza and tap beer at Five 50 Pizza, which was right around the corner from where we were watching the game. The comp is not for the sit down part of the restaurant, but for the slices of pizza quick service line. The pizza was really good though. I had the forager pizza with white sauce, spinach, mushrooms, bacon and ricotta cheese. John had the Gotham pizza with pepperoni, sausage, salami and mozzarella and I did not get a chance to take photo of that one. We might have to go back and eat in the full service portion of the restaurant, but the slices were fresh and very tasty regardless.

Harmon Tower is finally being taken down. Lots of scaffolding along the sidewalk in that area too.

After the United States exacted their revenge on Ghana, we walked over to Planet Hollywood and then Paris. We played blackjack for awhile at Paris with an interesting crowd.   It was a $10 3:2, but it was a tough table and no one could win no matter what they did it seemed. Course the rude guy blowing smoke at the dealer's face didn't help much. After that bloodbath was over, we walked over to the Cromwell to check it out. Should have taken pictures. The casino is very nice with lots of lounges and tables games and a few slots. It was pretty dead early on a Monday night though.

We went over to Caesar's and decided to try Gordon Ramsay Pub for dinner. It is a large restaurant and while it looked pretty busy from the front, we were able to get seated right away.
The mocha martini I had was really good. When in doubt drink your dessert first. 
John had the fish and chips and they were quite good. 
I had the shrimp cocktail and it was just OK as the cocktail sauce was very mild and not very spicy.
We tried the famous sticky toffee pudding. It was really delicious, especially the carmel sauce and the ice cream.

We got $41 off the price of this meal as we used my Total Rewards comps for this meal, so another half price meal for dinner.

We were super tired, so we went back to the room and went to bed rather early. We just can't go crazy every night in Vegas lately and I wanted to feel halfway decent for the flight home the next day.

Tuesday morning we went to the Bellagio buffet for free courtesy of a MyVegas comp. I have more chips than I know what to do with, so I redeemed the lunch buffet for two. The buffet was great as always. I think this is probably my favorite buffet in Las Vegas right now.
The Greek yogurt parfaits at the Bellagio buffet. My favorite item! 

We headed to the airport around 11:30am and had a very colorful taxi driver who was telling us about all of the crazy experiences he had last year with people attending the Electric Daisy Festival, which was coming up a few days later. We learned if you pass out in a taxi in Vegas, they have to call the paramedics to revive you. Something tells me that might not be a free wake up call.

Our flight home as once again full, but uneventful overall. I felt bad for the MSP bound flight at the next gate that had been delayed since 7am. They finally departed when we did, around 1:30pm. On time flights are a win I guess.

Even though this trip seemed to be filled with lots of crazy people wandering around and lots of terrible blackjack players, we had a great time and had some great meals too. I hope the MyVegas, Social Rewards and hotel offers keep coming even though I don't think we gamble enough to support it. I think the funniest T-shirt I spotted was one that said "Love your Selfie" and worn by an older woman. As always, we can't wait to start planning our next trip again soon!


  1. Great trip report! Well worth the wait. I particularly enjoyed the Celine Dion story and the Paris bloodbath. So guys are so good at getting the deals! Can't wait to hear about the next Vegas experience!

  2. Oh my gosh a reader comment! Megan, hopefully you can make it to vegas this fall with us and I hope the Titanic slots are still around then! In the meantime, my heart wil be going on and on.........

  3. Brilliant! Great sights and sounds that beat the blinking landscapes, plus good eats that can't be underestimated. Glad that you were able to take that trip and didn't miss all its coolness one bit. Thanks to the taxi, which was definitely a lifesaver.

    Grady Mann @ Downtown Yellow Taxi

  4. I can't believe you don't have many more comments! I am enjoying reading all of your trip reports and I am still wondering where those rice krispy treats came from!?

  5. I can't believe you don't have more comments! I am loving all of your trip reports and pictures.....if only we knew why those rice krispy treats showed up in your room!!!