I’m back from my first trip to Las Vegas, and man, what an adventure. After the way everything turned out with the election last week, I was more than happy to escape reality for a long weekend and spend some time with no responsibilities or concerns.
Five people, including me, made up our party, and we all met up in Vegas on Friday. Our pilot announced that it was 72 and sunny when we touched down, and I welcomed the opportunity to walk around in shorts and flip flops with open arms. As it turned out, the flip flops may not have been my brightest idea (they were SuperFeet flip flops, but still didn’t provide the ankle support I need right now as I continue to recover from whatever I did to myself during the Chicago Marathon and left me pretty sore and booted for the next day or so), but regardless, it felt so nice to have the sun on my face and warm air against my skin.
Three out of the five of us ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon, which was the whole point for the trip in the first place. I had planned to run, but after getting injured dropped out of the race. When I registered, I chose to buy the refund insurance policy, and I’m so glad I did. I received all of my money back, including fees and all of that extra stuff (aside from the $10 or so I spent on the policy in the first place), and while I was still incredibly bummed to not run, getting my money back took a bit of the sting away.
After filling up on appetizers at YardHouse, we went to the Las Vegas Convention Center for packet pickup, where I cursed myself over and over again for getting hurt and not being able to run. We spent 45 minutes or so there before returning back to the Strip area. While three people from our group stayed at Excalibur, I stayed a block off the Strip (which sounds a bit closer than it actually was – a Las Vegas block is much longer than a Chicago block!), so after swinging by where I stayed to change out of flip flops and into jeans, since the temperature was quickly dropping, we headed over to Excalibur.
I expected to see all sorts of things I don’t normally see in my day-to-day life in Vegas–opulence, excess, public drunkenness, near-total nakedness, etc.–but what I did not expect was indoor smoking. I was absolutely shocked that you can smoke inside a casino, and somewhat hilariously, I think I found this more offensive than anything else that happened during the entire trip. I’m old enough to remember when restaurants had smoking and non-smoking sections, and to remember the days when bowling alleys smelled like ashtrays, but it’s become so normal for smoking to be an activity that only takes place 15 feet or more away from a door that to see people smoking indoors felt as archaic and bizarre as it would be to walk into an office and find only typewriters instead of computers.
I quickly learned that I have no interest in gambling (hardly a surprise, considering I have a hard time talking myself into spending more than $25 on just about anything even when I knowI’m getting something in return, like food, clothes, an experience, etc., so naturally I’m not particularly keen on spending money to play a game that might get me more money, but most likely will not), so the time we spent in casinos wasn’t the highlight of the trip for me. My highlights, rather, fell under the “Food” and “Sightseeing” categories.
While in Vegas, we ate at:
– The Paradise Buffet (located inside Flamingo)
– Hugo’s Cellar
– Pantry (located inside The Mirage)
– Johnny Rocket’s (located inside Excalibur, though probably other places as well)
– Amorino Gelato
– Serendipity 3
Of these, I particularly liked Hugo’s, Pantry, and Serendipity 3 all for different reasons:
Hugo’s, because it was, hands down, the fanciest place I’ve ever eaten, and I was treated like a freaking princess. I got a rose as soon as I walked in the restaurant, the host pulled out my chair for me, the wait staff took my order before anyone else’s, and I absolutely loved it, because I’m the most hypocritical feminist of all time. But beyond that, the whole dining experience itself was top notch. They make your salads table side at Hugo’s – as in, the roll out a cart with all the ingredients you could want on a salad and ask you which specific ones you want while they build it for you right there. We got raspberry sorbet between the salad course and the main course for “palate cleansing” and hot towels at the end of the meal to clean up. It. Was. Awesome.
Pantry, because it was really cute, our waitress was the nicest human you’ve ever met, and the pancakes were delicious.
Serendipity 3, because it allowed me to live out all of my Gossip Girl dreams. I read most (all?) of the Gossip Girl series when I was in high school, and I can’t tell you how many times they mentioned the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity in those books. I’ve dreamed for the better part of a decade of eating there, and while the Las Vegas location is obviously not the New York location, I’ll take what I can get. The frozen hot chocolate, in case you were wondering, was absolutely delicious.
Fortunately, our trip involved a lot of walking (my step counts were 22,370 [9.47 miles], 21,438 [9.11 miles], 27,230 [11.52 miles] and 16,917 [7.16 miles] on the days we were there), so I didn’t feel at all bad about my insane overindulgence for four straight days.
While in Vegas, we saw:
– The Strip (obviously)
– The dancing fountains at Bellagio
– The High Roller at Linq
– Cirque de Soleil’s KA at the MGM Grand
– Fremont Street (“Old Vegas”)
– The Hershey Store
– The M&Ms store
– The flamingos at Flamingo
– And a billion hotels/casinos, including Excalibur, New York New York, MGM Grand, Aria, Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, The Mirage, the Flamingo, Harrah’s, Linq, Four Queens, The Venetian, Planet Hollywood and Paris.
Of these, I particularly liked…well, everything.
Seeing the Strip lit up at night was breathtaking. All of the lights are unlike anything I had ever seen, at least until we went up to Fremont Street, where those lights put the lights on the Strip to shame, in my opinion.
I saw three dancing fountain shows: This Kiss, Hey Big Spender, and Viva Las Vegas (which was, without question, the most appropriate final show to see of the trip). All of these truly were a sight to behold. The choreography of the fountains to the music alone was cool, but what really impressed me was the height of the water. I’ve never before seen fountains that shoot water so high into the air, and it was so, so cool.
The High Roller is the world’s tallest observation wheel (a Ferris wheel, basically), and reaches 550 feet at its top. We went on Sunday evening after Rock ‘n’ Roll ended (we got on at about 8:15), and there wasn’t even a little bit of a line to buy tickets or get on the wheel. I really don’t think you could pick a wrong time to go on the wheel, since you’ll either get to see the mountains during the daytime or the lights during the nighttime. I would love to go on again sometime during the day, but night certainly wasn’t half bad.
It was breathtaking. The whole experience improved 100 times when we noticed that we could see the fountain area at Bellagio after we crested the top of the circle, and I checked my Fitbit to find out it was exactly 8:30. Bellagio fountain shows run every 15 minutes starting at 8:00 (it’s every 30 minutes before that), so within a few seconds we were treated to a Bellagio show from 50 stories up in the air. The only bummer with that, of course, was that you couldn’t hear the music, but it was still cool to watch, and really provided a unique perspective on how high the water gets during the shows.
We went to KA on Saturday night, and I enjoyed the parts of it I actually manged to stay awake for 😦 Even without drinking, Vegas was a crazily exhausting experience, and if you put me down in a chair and didn’t put food in front of me, I usually passed out pretty quickly. The show was stunning and inspiring, but I dozed off several times and missed almost the entirety of the last scene 😦 The acrobatics that I saw, however, were simply incredible, and I’d really like to see the show again sometime…maybe with a bit of caffeine in me beforehand 😉
We wrapped up Sunday night with trips to the Hershey store in New York, New York and the M&Ms store on the Strip. I’ve been to Hershey stores before, so while I never mind being surrounded by chocolate, my excitement there could not hold a candle to the excitement I felt in the M&Ms store, particularly when we got to the second floor and discovered AN ENTIRE WALL OF M&MS FOR SALE IN BULK. That, friends, is what my dreams are truly made of. M&Ms are probably my favorite candy (I like quantity when it comes to food, so if you presented me with a serving of one chocolate bar or one bag of M&Ms, I’m going to pick the M&Ms every time), so that was basically all I’ve ever wanted out of life. They had every color of the rainbow–not just traditional M&M colors, but cool ones like silver and dark blue and maroon and black and pastels–AND, on top of that, they have every variety of M&Ms known to man (in November), including your standard specials like pretzel M&Ms or peanut butter M&Ms, but also seasonal flavors like pecan pie and candy corn and double chocolate and THREE different kinds of mint M&Ms, including regular mint M&Ms, holiday mint M&Ms, and peppermint M&Ms. I was beside myself.
Given my love for birdies, I obviously loved seeing the flamingos at The Flamingo, and may or may not have come home with a stuffed animal flamingo to commemorate the trip.
And walking through the hotels/casinos was quite the experience. I especially liked Bellagio with its Chihuly glass installation on the lobby ceiling:
and its seasonal room, all dressed up like fall:
But I also really liked Caesar’s Palace and how it looked (what I assume it looks) like in Rome:
Though perhaps nothing of the entire trip made me geek out more than visiting Planet Hollywood, former home to Vegas Week on So You Think You Can Dance. While I couldn’t poke around the entire hotel, you better I did my best to find places they showed on the show, including, of course, the driveway where they all pull up before Vegas week gets under way:
I had no particular expectations going into this trip, because I had never really imagined myself going to Vegas, ever. It did remind me a bit of when I went to New Orleans this year, what with the “adult playground” vibe both cities have in their respective entertainment districts, just without the historic architecture. I had a great time in Vegas, though, and really hope to go back next year — this time, without an injured foot/ankle and a half marathon on my schedule.
Have you ever been to Vegas?