Viva Las Vegas, Part 1
A few months ago, I was doing something I typically do on Thursdays; a Skype date with my bestie, Caitlyn. We were both not having a great day and so we were in a weird mood. The topic eventually came around to concerts and she lamented about being unable to attend one in her home town that week due to work. We scrolled through the tour dates talking about how awesome it would be to go together when we discovered a potential location that just might work. We thought it was just fantasy but then Kevin was walking in the door and we were booking tickets, flights, hotels, and in the fraction of an hour it was done. We went from not sure when we’d see each other next to just a few months time frame. To say the day ended on a better note than it had started would be an understatement. Since that day we have been counting down each day and finally it arrived. We boarded planes within hours of each other and arrived in,
This was my bestie, Caitlyn’s and my second time to sin city. My previous time in the city was as a 12 year old for less then 24 hours with my family on our way to Disneyland. It was a minor blip of an experience on that trip and I’ve always wanted to head back to this city to see it as an adult. We arrived knowing two things; one we get to visit and two we wanted to see lots of shows and eat good food. None of us are big party people or drinkers so our expectations of the city were a little different from the normal Las Vegas traveler. This is part one of our journey.
We arrived late Wednesday night and had enough time to grab dinner, check in, and head to bed. Boring sure but exactly what we wanted to do. It’s amazing how exhausting flying can be and we arrived around 10pm Vegas time. With the two hour time difference we just wanted to sleep. We booked a lot of the things we wanted to do through expedia.com. Something I probably won’t do again. It felt a little messy and making any changes to the itinerary was frustrating. However it did expose us to events that we probably won’t have thought to check out if it wasn’t for the website.
Polo Towers by Diamond Resorts - Before arriving we had some frustration with the hotel and expedia. We wanted to add Caitlyn to the reservation so she could check in when she arrived two hours ahead of us. However neither the hotel nor expedia would allow us to do that. Once we arrived though, the experience with the hotel went from being iffy to fantastic. I think mostly due to cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with them. The customer service was fantastic and we were given a room with a strip view. The room also had black out curtains so when we did sleep we didn’t have flashing lights frustrating us all night long. The rooms were clean, well stocked, and exactly as shown online. We had the option of housekeeping cleaning daily or to do one clean during our duration. We choose to have them come on Sunday for the big clean and just drop by with towels when needed. Caitlyn having arrived much earlier than us had picked up groceries and we settled in. Having a kitchen was fantastic. It meant we could store leftovers and make ourselves breakfast. Allowing us to have very slow mornings, exactly what we wanted. Our rating ★★★★★
PBR Rock Bar & Grill - wouldn’t recommend this place, but it depends on what you are looking for. We arrived on bull riding night. Something we had no interest in. The man hosting it made cracks about our hair, service took forever. Food was actually good but music was far too loud and the host was obnoxious. Overall for a first pit stop we were unimpressed. However at the same time I understand his act, it can be hard to draw people in off the strip. So depending on your tastes this could be a good place to go and the food was good, which is what’s really important. Our rating ★★★
While the goal was to see lots of shows we didn’t actually plan this out except for Saturday. The only plan for this day was that I really wanted to see the Shark Reef Aquarium. So after a good breakfast we headed out that way.
The Event - Shark Reef Aquarium
I am a huge fan of aquariums (I’ve been to a few - Vancouver, Chicago, Minneapolis) and had high hopes for this one. It was underwhelming. Unlike the other aquariums I’ve been to, this was a personal collection built for profit and not for conservation and education.It was definitely overpriced for the size though the main tank is absolutely stunning. I would say it’s half the size of the one in Minneapolis and though it was smaller we still managed to spend a solid three hours there. I took pictures and we watched, sharks are fascinating creatures and it’s not often that you get to see the underbelly of one. They had a good variety of sharks with a good range of sizes. I just wished there was shark details included in the exhibit. Things I would have loved to have learned included; name of the sharks, how many of that kind they had, what they mainly eat, lifespan, endangered status, natural habitat. This like everything in Vegas was about the show and not really about the education. Our rating ★★★
Bayside Buffet - this was our first buffet and it was good. Breakfast was just ending when we arrived and we managed to grab foods both for breakfast and lunch. The selection wasn’t the most amazing out there, but we aren’t sure if that’s due to our arrival timing or the buffet. The set up was great and the service was excellent. By far our favorite layout for a buffet. The price tag however did have us wondering if all the prices in Vegas were so over the top. Our rating ★★★
Chilis - maybe Chilis’ isn’t the place one goes to for good food, however we were tired and just wanted food and it was easy to get to. Our server was fantastic, the food was delicious and we left happy. There was a screw up on my steak but when brought to their attention they fixed it and it was delicious. Our rating ★★★★★
Krispy Kreme - I have never actually had one of these, I got a lemon filled glazed donut and it was delicious. Our rating is complicated because it’s a krispy kreme donut, enough said. For donuts that weren’t hot of the grill they were surprisingly fresh for 11:30 at night.
The rest of our time we spent exploring the strip and chatting. At the end of the night we saw the Bellagio water and light show. This show made me wish I had a wide angle camera lens. It was well done. This show is definitely something everyone should see on the strip, it’s free and easy to access and runs frequently. Ironically the bathrooms at the Bellagio mall section were some of the worst bathrooms I found myself in while exploring the strip. For a place full of high end shops, I was not expecting to be worried about what I was walking in.
We woke up early and spent the morning getting sunburnt in the hotel pool and chilling in our hotel room eating breakfast. Eventually when we did head out it was down the strip to the Hershey’s Chocolate Store, where we discovered their brownie section. Now finding this section was something we probably could have done without but then we would have missed some interesting treats. We enjoyed them so quickly that I forgot to take a picture. A little pricey for what they were, but it’s not everyday one gets to get marshmallows covered in chocolate and reese’s pieces. We also managed to pick up all the souvenirs that we wanted to get on this day. I’ve always heard that shopping in Vegas was cheap and maybe it was our location but the prices weren’t anything amazing. We did however have fun picking out what we wanted.
The Show - Blue Man Group
In our exploration on Thursday we discovered the Blue Man Group were playing and decided to get tickets. Caitlyn had seen them many years ago and said it was worth it, so we went. It is definitely an interesting show, very loud and interactive. The jokes were excellent and the ones I thought weren’t the greatest are only because I don’t enjoy joking about eating food. They have a very distinct and unusual act, I am unsure how I feel about the marshmallow tower ending up in someone’s purse. They also called out and embarrassed people arriving late in a very fun way. I wish more shows called out people disturbing the show, maybe people won’t be so terrible with time. Our rating ★★★★★
Hotel Room Service - we ordered a pizza for lunch. I like our hotel, the room service less so. Technically they don’t have a kitchen on site so it’s a different company that comes in and does it. The pizza came from Palermos and it tasted like a cheap five dollar pizza from Cesears. We were unimpressed. Our rating ★★
The Buffet at Luxor - I want to say this buffet was muh. But I can’t. While the food wasn’t as hot as I like, the lady that brought us drinks was fantastic. When she realized we were cold she offered us tea in to-go cups, so we could walk with it. It wasn’t just any tea, it was a soft citrus blend that we could add honey and lemon too. The addition of the honey and lemon just enhanced the flavor so much, that I want to make this at home! We also had the best mashed potatoes I have had in ages but otherwise there wasn’t much selection. There was crab but it was served cold, which was odd and overall it wasn’t the most amazing buffet. Our rating ★★★
Today’s events were the reason this whole trip came into being. Caitlyn wanted to see the Goo Goo Dolls and they were playing at the Hard Rock Hotel. Now I haven’t really listened much to the Goo Goo Dolls but I enjoy rock music and figured it would be a blast. We walked to the hotel far earlier than was necessary but that was alright because we had more than just the concert planned. First was a little gambling. We spent around $60 and left with $33 in our pocket, not a terrible loss but also not something I would ever do again. I would much rather play cell phone games than gambling in a smoke filled, flashing lights, people everywhere building. To be honest this is the worst part of Vegas, the smokers are everywhere, in and out of buildings and it is exhausting.
Part way through the day Caitlyn and I had an appointment at Hart & Huntington.
If you didn’t know this is a tattoo parlor. When originally booking this trip this was the thing we booked after concert tickets and flights. We met with Mike Zimmer and he got to work inking our calves. This was far less painful than my rib tattoo and it healed a million times better. In fact I would say this parlor was the best I’ve ever been to and also was the best work I’ve had done. Our rating ★★★★★
The Show - Goo Goo Dolls
Around 7pm we headed to The Joint, which is a room located within the Hard Rock Hotel and began waiting for the concert to start. And waiting… and waiting… and waiting. Finally 45 minutes late, it began. Our seats were decent but the second the music began everyone stood up and our ability to see the stage drastically went down. This place definitely needs better seating and also maybe a limit on the alcohol. We saw no fewer than 5 people being held up and escorted out by security before the show started. I am undecided on how to categorize this show. I enjoy it, I knew about half the songs and of that half I knew the lyrics. However it is definitely a show that shows it’s time, they are not showmen like you find today. They are rock stars, jamming to their tunes with lights. They even made fun of the fact that they are elevator music now. I do wish that I hadn’t worried about security and cameras and had brought it along so I would have had the potential of better pictures. Our rating ★★★
Fu - Such yummy food. We split some crab cakes, cashew chicken, and pork fried rice. It was cooked perfectly, was light but very filling. The cashew chicken was not what I expected, I was thinking like a cashew curry not veggies, chicken, and cashew nuts on top, but it was still good. We also got my favorite dessert, that until seeing it on the menu I had forgotten about, deep friend bananas with vanilla ice cream. It was amazing. Our rating ★★★★★
Nacho Daddy - this is a terrible name for a restaurant but a place I highly recommend when you want nachos. It was huge, over the top, and delicious. Not a single chip was missed in the topping delivery. No nachos will ever compare. Our rating ★★★★★
This day came far too fast and soon enough we were standing outside the hotel waiting for Caitlyn’s cab to arrive. Time with my bestie was over far too soon and I can’t wait until next time I can get a physical hug from her. Our time in Vegas however, was far from over and I’ll continue on Wednesday.