Vegas VacationEd: Sadly the pictures are lost in the ether.
Last Thursday night, The Family drove down to the homestead to unload The Kid. To bed and awake again at 2:30 to catch a five o’clock flight from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis to Las Vegas. We arrived in the city at 8:00 or 8:30 and we had the day in front of us. Getting a round-trip shuttle to the hotel was easy. Checking in was pleasant, though we did need to check our luggage for a couple hours while our 24th floor room in the Monte Carlo was prepared. Off we went to catch the Aladdin Spice Market Buffet and look for some 1/2 price show tickets. On the way out of the casino we played our first ever slot machine with the lone nickel in my pocket. We did not win.
The Aladdin was our first of many experiences in taking in the ridiculous excess of Vegas. It was quickly apparent that our hotel was one of the relatively low-key hotels on the strip. A middle-aged gentleman greeted us at the Monte Carlo entrance.
“Where are you folks visiting from?”
“Minnesota? You don’t say. Do you know Eagan? I bagged my first buck there. Didn’t even use a gun, but it totaled my car. Let me get you some free tickets to a show.”
The middle-aged gentleman took us into the casino entrance and handed us off to another middle-aged gentleman. He grilled us about what kind of shows we would like, etc. Then the other shoe dropped as he explained his need to sign us up for a tour of their new facility. A free show and dinner buffet would be included if we just spent two hours touring. Heck, they’d even give us breakfast with the tour. We kindly declined. He looked crestfallen.
Finding the buffet stuck between meals, we trekked around the Aladdin’s ridiculous shopping area (above), complete with painted sky and thunderstorms. Halfway through the mall we found ourselves face-to-face with a girl from Alexandria that was going to school in Vegas. She introduced us to her friend who would like us to tour a different facility for a free show or $100 gift certificate for shopping. We declined again. He was disappointed.
Eventually we made it to the buffet, and it was pretty dang good. I gathered small plates from the seafood, salad, Italian, Asian, Mideastern, Mexican, and dessert sections. The only area I missed was the American section. I overate to be sure, but I didn’t feel too horrible afterward. I also learned that I may not like many Mideastern foods.
We next had to take a nap. The time change and early morning were a bit much for us. After waking up, we began the walk further north on the strip. We were sure to take in the water show at the Bellagio (below), which I must admit is very entertaining. I believe we watched it two or three times during our walk Friday night. We also put a dollar in machines here-or-there, being sure we could say we had gambled in the Bellagio and the Mirage, etc.
We stopped at Harrah's to pick up our Mac King tickets from will call. Then we hunted for tickets for a Saturday or Sunday night show. We were willing to spend money on Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, or perhaps Penn & Teller. Cirque du Soleil’s O was our first choice, but unfortunately the availability was sketchy. The availability for the other Cirque shows didn’t pique our interest either, so we moved on to the Venetian and Blue Man tickets. We secured “cheap seats” in the back of the theater for Sunday night.
Supper was hardly necessary, but we did stop at Margarittaville in the Flamingo. We split a burger and had a couple drinks. It was good enough, but we were spent and ready to sleep. After catching the tram from Bellagio to Monte Carlo, we threw a couple more dollars down the tube and retired to our room.
Ready to go in the morning, we went out in search of some more half price tickets, but we were rebuffed again. Really, there weren’t many worthwhile shows available at these booths. Second City was the only one we considered with any seriousness. We ate a late breakfast at the Monte Carlo cafe. It was pretty good, but the most interesting part to us was the multiple Keno boards to allow gamblers to continue playing while they ate.
Keno intrigued both of us, so we played a few cards each to practice. Between us I think we “spent” $15 and “made” $7. Yet that didn’t seem to deter us because on Sunday we spent $15 on Keno to win $1. All the while, I was jumping between the Keno lounge and sports book, checking out the miraculous Vikings score. And to think I strongly considered putting some money against them that morning.
Back to Saturday, we popped up to Mac King. Great show, especially for the price. By the end of the weekend, I think we both found his show to be refreshing in its relative sparseness. It certainly doesn’t feel like a Vegas production. While the show was inexpensive, we still felt ripped off as the ladies next to us had free tickets, including a free drink. They said the tickets were garnered from their hotel when they simply asked “Do you have any tickets available?” at the front desk. The next day when we asked our desk, they were able to resist laughing at us. Maybe money needed to secretly exchange hands, but the Monte Carlo staff swore they sold tickets, they don’t give them away.
Several hours were available to Casino hop while we waited for our five o’clock reservations at Samba in the Mirage. We stopped into Treasure Island and immediately happened upon a Playboy sponsored $250,000 Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament. A decent number had congregated around the 8 tables still remaining. Strangely, The Wife found herself picking out the playmates while I found myself looking for the professional poker players that must be in the mix.
Shortly after we arrived, a player was eliminated and lit up a big ol’ cigar. The announcer called him “Amir” and I knew he was a pro. From what I can tell he also may have been knocked out by the resident playmate of his table. Anyway, it was a story I could bring back to my friends and coworkers who are more poker starved than I. He’s pictured below wearing the white t-shirt in the middle of the picture.
Walking away from the tournament, we happened upon some spaghetti ropes at a club entrance (Tangerine, maybe?). Judging from the adverts in front of the club, Stacy's mom was going to be hosting the party that evening. We somehow managed to avoid being starstruck.
We pumped a couple more dollars into the Treasure Island slots and also happened over to the Mirage. I’m sure the casinos on Vegas were very thankful for our dollar-at-a-time gambling technique. Walking through the more ritzy casinos, we were probably most impressed with the sports books. The vast screens and ticker boards are quite a spectacle. I was also impressed with the minimum limits on the gaming tables. I think I saw one $5 minimum blackjack table the whole weekend. Granted, I could have researched which casinos were more affordable, but meh. I could have also learned how to properly play craps, roulette, and limit Texas Hold ‘Em.
Eating at Samba was our first Brazilian steakhouse experience. Pretty good. We both chose the rodizio, which is an all-you-can-eat selection of nine meats. I’m glad we mad this choice because we received quite a variety. In reality, though, there were only two meats that I actually had any desire to consume more of. My expectations were perhaps too high, but I was mildly disappointed. The Brazilian version of a margarita, a caipirinha, was certainly tasty, though. Perhaps because there was a whole lime cut up into it. Me likey limes.
Blue Man Group was an expensive ticket, even though we sat in the last row of the theater. Again, I found myself mildly disappointed. I liked the show, but for the price? There wasn’t as much percussion work as I expected. It wasn’t really as messy as I expected (at least from what I could tell). I can’t say I’d recommend Blue Man for the price Vegas wants to charge.
After the Blue Man Group, we stopped over at Treasure Island to see the pirate/siren show. It was extremely overcrowded, The Wife didn’t see a thing, and claustrophobia was pretty much in high gear for the duration. Silly all around. On the way back to the hotel we did watch the volcano blow (below) at the Mirage. Elvis watched with us.
Sunday was our cooldown day. We grabbed some McDonald’s for breakfast. We walked south on the strip, checking out MGM Grand; New York, New York; and the Luxor. I actually liked New York, New York’s casino. Very open. Appropriately we caught the tail end of the Vikings win over the New York Giants at a sports bar in the casino area. We were cheering along with a Redskins fan, who would be royally disappointed later in the afternoon. Interestingly the New York, New York architecture includes only a single twin tour. Hmmm…
We hit our hotel pool, which was impressively warm considering the low 70‘s air temperature and the shaded location. After grabbing some supper we did a little more gambling. I focussed on $.25 blackjack while The Wife enjoyed penny slots. We decided to head over to MGM Grand and check out their casino. Their lion was roaming around and their sports book was massive, so we were quickly impressed. I also liked the layout of their casino. The pathing was straightforward whereas other casinos liked to wind you around, probably to distract you. Ultimately it just lead to bottlenecks and awkward stop-and-go walking.
By this point, The Wife was worried about her oncoming gambling habit. Keep in mind we had lost probably $25 the entire trip, including $15 on three Keno cards. I felt spending some money on gambling, with limits, would be equivalent to hitting a show or a nice meal. Eventually she agreed, we decided on a limit and began our only true gambling stint of the trip. Picking a dollar amount allowed us to play a few $.25 slots as well as multiple lines on the nickel slots.
The good sign was when we grew tired of the gambling before spending even half our limit. We headed back to our hotel, stopping for the dessert we promised ourselves at Rainforest Cafe. Stepping into our hotel around 10 o’clock (we were just barely getting acclimated to the time change), we gambled a little more. I lost another $5, but The Wife earned back $15. Far from breaking even, but a nice way to finish the trip off, and finish it we did.
So really nothing too exciting, I must say. Yet it was a fun trip and it was great to get away. The flight back was extra special. Nonstop to the tiny airport in Sioux Falls makes travelling a breeze. If I lived in Sioux Falls I’d have trouble limiting myself to one Vegas trip a year!