There’s nothing quite like the traditional Friday afternoon flight to Vegas. It’s perfect.
We got to the airport a little early, so we hung out at Grandaddy’s Bar, a Humphrey Terminal favorite. We’d just gotten another round as the gate agent came to announce that they were leaving early. We slammed our drinks and headed for the plane.
I will never be sure why Sun Country has Willie Wonka in their safety cards. Also, no SkyMall. What?
Right before takeoff, I looked up to see a large man in an amazing white wig grinning his way down the aisle. He was causing quite a stir, because it was Gary Spivey. The guy behind us yelled, “Hey Gary! Will I get lucky in Vegas?” Gary replied, “Only if you don’t gamble!”
We got to Vegas a little early, around 5pm, and took a cab to our hotel. We had a free place to stay at Polo Towers, courtesy of our landlord. This is the view from our balcony:
There was no bed in our room, and its location was not immediately evident. We finally realized there was a murphy bed integrated with a couch; it required removing all the cushions and lowering it from the wall. It took us so long to figure it out, I’m really glad we didn’t wait til we’d been drinking. We’d have ended up sleeping on the floor.
We had some time to kill, so we went over to one of our favorite bars at Planet Hollywood, called Yolos.
After a drink, we went back to our hotel to change into fancy clothes. Because I’d had managed to obtain some kind of foot injury in the previous week, to the point where I could barely walk and was on anti-inflammatories, we decided to take a cab rather than walk over to the monorail at Excalibur. I’m sure I looked awesome limping in a dress.
Our town car driver was fantastic. He told us about his favorite bars at Mandalay, and all about the great gambling at Hooters, interspersed with tirades about how much he hated his phone.
We went to Rumjungle for a cocktail before dinner, and were immediately in love. The place was huge and industrial-looking, and they had about 40 rums behind the bar. The bartender was rushed and sarcastic. The drinks were killer strong, and seemed to all be served in pint glasses.
We vowed to return later, and headed over to Fleur de Lys for our 9:30 dinner reservations. They ushered us into the bar, and the bartender made me some kind of delicious drink based on my vague specifications. It’s possible we were more than a little tipsy by then anyway. Then they led us to our table, and we ordered the tasting menu: vegetarian for myself, and the regular version for Matt.
It was nearly impossible to take photos in there, as it was dark and I didn’t want to use the flash. We mostly took them so we could remember how amazing it was, because it was honestly the best meal of my life. (Here are the rest of the photos from Fleur de Lys.)
I had six courses, and Matt had at least 8 or 9. Everything was amazing. He even got two dessert courses, and then we had after-dinner espresso while Matt was presented with a cookbook signed by Hubert Keller. We were so absolutely thrilled with that meal; it was worth every cent.
Dan and Kate, who had arrived the day before us, had just finished their show at New York New York, so we decided to go to eyecandy to wait for them. It’s the lounge in the middle of the casino floor, and had been recommended by the Bradstreet folks. There was a DJ and people dancing in the back, and a bunch of couches around the bar area. Dan and Kate joined us a bit later, and we hung out til Matt and I were ready to collapse. We finally grabbed a cab back to our hotel, and proceeded to do so.
We got up with plenty of time to make it to our pre-noon plans, which is always surprising in Vegas. We headed up the strip toward Caesar’s, figuring we’d have plenty of time to get there by 11:30, but we barely made it!
It’s possible I stopped to take a lot of pictures. At Caesar’s, we headed toward Mesa Grill to meet April and Kara for brunch! They’d driven up from San Diego the day before.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Bobby Flay just because of his personality on his Food Network shows, but I’m very glad we chose his restaurant for brunch. Everything was fantastic; I even looked up the recipe for the chilaquiles I’d had, and made them again at home with food from our garden.
After brunch, Matt and I headed off for another favorite Vegas tradition: hitting up the bar in the Forum Shops for a long island (it’s something like 47 shots, I think), and shopping. Though we went into my favorite store, Shanghai Tang, I managed to not need anything there. To make up for it, Matt got a really awesome shirt.
Post-shopping, it was time for more cheap gambling. We were in search of a blackjack table, but they were full across the street at O’Shea’s. We played video poker and blackjack instead, and enjoyed the amazing ambiance of the place. Classic rock and a beer pong arena? You can’t possibly go wrong.
There was a leprechaun outside yelling, too, but he disappeared before I could take his photo. Of course.
We set off in search of tables elsewhere, and eventually managed to find Pai Gow at the Flamingo. It was a $10 minimum, but it’s the kind of game where your hundred bucks can last a really long time. And if you get lucky, you’ll even end up winning:
After a couple hours of gambling, we decided we needed to find beverages. We tried to get to the bar at Margaritaville (for old times’ sake), but it was packed. Instead, we headed down to Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall to get us some dollar margaritas.
As I learned last time we were in Vegas, there’s a trick to the dollar margaritas: they fill the cup most of the way with overly sweet nonalcoholic mix, then pour a shot of Sauza on top. Drink the tequila off the top and throw out the rest of the drink. Who wouldn’t pay a buck for a big shot of tequila, anyway?
We decided it was probably time for some sports-betting, as it was something we were both very interested in, and had never done before. We walked over to Bally’s to get on the monorail, stopping to put a dollar in the giant slot machine. We won $10, cashed it out, and got our tickets.
We rode up to Harrah’s, and walked from there to the Venetian. It was hot… almost 100 degrees.
We had less luck playing $5 on Wheel of Fortune at the Venetian, but that was fine. We finally made our way into the Palazzo, and from there found the entrance to the sports book on a weird basement level. However, the sports book (called Legasse’s Stadium, after Emeril), was packed full. Something to do with a million college football games, of course. The girls at the counter said there would be a very long wait for a table, but we were welcome to pay a ridiculous cover charge for a VIP table. It amounted to having to spend about $100 total, which seemed unlikely for just the two of us.
We managed to find a table out on the patio and began perusing parlay cards. After 20 minutes or so, there was still no sign of a server. As we were starving by that point, we decided to get the hell out of there and find some food before we passed out. Sports could wait.
We crossed over to TI to check out a couple places that were on my potentially-awesome list. After walking around for way too long and considering just laying on the floor, we decided on Isla Mexican Kitchen. It was an excellent choice, and they had great vegetarian food. Also, who could go wrong with mas tequila*?
*Yes, that was a Sammy Hagar shoutout.
Revived, we started making our way back down the strip. We had plans to meet Dan and Kate later in the evening to celebrate Kate’s birthday, so we figured we’d head back to the hotel, change, and work our way towards Mandalay.
We rode the monorail with a bunch of people who were going to the fight at MGM. We had to wade through throngs of people near the MGM event center, but it was kind of fascinating to see. After changing, we made the somewhat unwise decision to walk to Hooters. It seemed really close (like everything in Vegas), but we soon discovered there was no direct route there. We had to circle the block our hotel was on, go down the back road behind MGM, and then got stuck trying to make our way past limos, buses, and security guards, all while sweating our asses off in the 90-degree (at night!) weather. We finally traversed a parking garage and found our way to Hooters. It took forever.
It took a long time to find a place to drink, get drinks, and decide what to do. However, the drinks cheered us up, as did the fact that the bartender comped them even though we went to the bar, because we were gambling (I think I put $5 in a video poker machine). We liked Hooters a lot better after that.
Dan texted to say they were done with dinner, so we headed towards Mandalay via the tram from Excalibur. Strangely, my limp was improving. I was on anti-inflammatories, but I’d expected Vegas to make my foot injury a lot worse. Obviously, it’s magical.
We met up with Dan, Kate, and a couple friends at Rumjungle. The $10 cover was surprisingly low for a really awesome club at 1:30am. I was really sad to not be able to dance, but it was great watching the dance floor. After their friends headed out (they had an early flight the next morning), I told Dan I didn’t think I’d be able to make it much longer. He did a small amount of arm-twisting, though, and we caved: to the strip club! We went out front, grabbed a cab, and headed downtown.
I should mention that we didn’t have a plan for the strip club at all; Dan just looked one up on his phone, checked reviews, and we were off. We chose well, too: the Girls of Glitter Gulch is legendary. Everyone knows the sign, at least.
There was a $20 cover, which included the first drink free. Our server, a stiff-but-friendly Russian lady named Dacha, led us to a round booth along the wall and took our orders. We watched the ladies dancing and occasionally had to say no to lap dance offers, but there was nothing pushy about it. Eventually, we all ended up spending time on sniffer’s row. I may be a little scarred from having cougar boobs in my face, though. I guess it was our fault for going up there just because the girl she was onstage with was really hot.
Somewhere between 4 and 5am, it was time to call it a night, so we shared a cab back to our hotels. The best part was when the driver just pulled over in front of the Monte Carlo, stopping traffic, and Matt and I had to jump out and run across the strip. Man, I love Vegas.
Sunday, we got up very late. Unsurprising, since we didn’t get to bed til after 5am. The surprising thing was that we weren’t terribly hung-over.
We walked over to Planet Hollywood, did some shopping at the ABC Store (it’s a tradition begun in Hawaii), then went over to Paris. We were waiting on Dan and Kate to have lunch, so we killed some time playing video poker there. I don’t remember the exact result, but I know at least one of us won. We were doing pretty well with the low-stakes gambling!
In Bally’s, we had to play the giant slot machine again. This time we won $10.
Dan texted to say they couldn’t make it, so Matt and I went to have lunch at Le Burger (“it means ‘the burger’!”). It was delicious, but neither of us was up for the Eiffel Tower of Power so early in the day. Plus you could only get beer in it. That’s just not great.
Instead, I decided to finally give in to my urge to buy a ridiculous souvenir glass at Paris. I’d been wanting one ever since the first time I went to Vegas, so it was about time. I got a margarita in a ceramic balloon!
Matt posing with the balloon
The balloon was a great idea until we got about halfway back to the hotel. It was maybe only half a mile, but it was ridiculously hot, we were tired, and I was well into my margarita. It got heavier and heavier, to the point where I was pretty sure it weighed 10 pounds. I survived, though!
We changed and went up to check out the rooftop pool. It wasn’t huge, but it was pretty much perfect.
We bobbed around til we were too cold to do so anymore, then headed downstairs to shower. Afterwards, we walked over to New York New York to get a pretzel to tide us over til dinner, because god knows when that would happen. We forget to eat regularly in Vegas, for some reason.
We had plans to meet Dan and Kate later on in the evening at the Stratosphere, so we decided to start working our way up that direction. We walked to the monorail at MGM, and rode all the way up to the convention center. Matt wanted to make a stop at the Peppermill, and without knowing exactly where it was, that seemed to be the closest stop.
Man, were we wrong. What felt like several miles later, we found our way into the Sahara. We still had no clue where the Peppermill was, so we figured we could go wander and find it. That usually ends really badly in Vegas, of course.
We did end up walking forever, but we managed to find the Peppermill past Circus Circus and the Riviera. Whatever you do, don’t get off the monorail at the convention center; there’s a stop right at the Sahara!
You know what? The long walk was absolutely worth it. Look at this place:
That’s a fountain with FIRE in the middle.
That’s Matt looking like this was one of the best days of his life.
We had a couple drinks there at the most gloriously oldschool bar in town, and spent time talking to the awesome bartender about sports. We’d probably have stayed all night (moving over to the Perkins-esque side of the place when we needed to eat), but responsibility called. We walked up to the Riviera and got a cab to the Stratosphere, where we found Dan and Kate playing video poker.
They were already totally worn out (understandably, considering the previous day), so we decided to pass on the rides on top of the Stratosphere. We played video poker with them for a while, and then went to find food when they headed back to their hotel. We decided on the tacky 50s-style diner nearby, because I’d eaten there before and knew they had vegetarian food. I had a salad, and I swear it was the best salad of my life. Or I may just have been hungry.
Matt won a bunch more money playing penny slots while waiting for me in the bathroom. Since our streak of luck was obviously continuing, we decided to head back down to the Sahara. Not only would we probably find cheap tables there, but we’d likely win in other ways: we’d seen a sign advertising $1 shots with a souvenir glass. SOLD.
Oh, and we stopped at the sex toy store along the way. It was sadly disappointing!
We had some delicious dollar shots, then went to find a blackjack table. That’s when my lucky streak ended, but that’s not surprising. I know how to play blackjack correctly, but I just haven’t been getting cards lately. That’s fine; it’ll turn around at some point!
After losing at blackjack, we went to play pai gow. That went better for us, or we were at least losing a lot more slowly. We wanted to stay and play longer, but we were too aware of the 10am checkout at our hotel. We decided to call it a night, and headed that way.
We got up bright and early Monday morning, only because we had to check out by 10. Nobody should have to see Las Vegas that early in the day.
We took our usual trek through Planet Hollywood and over to Paris, stopping for our traditional delicious European brunch at the cafe there. Matt had a bacon roll, and I had a cranberry roll with a cheese and fruit plate. We refilled our DIY iced coffees, and headed over to the sports book at Bally’s. There, we placed prop bets on Monday Night Football, and hopped on the monorail back to the Flamingo.
We stopped in at Sin City Brewing to pick up another shotglass (it’s one of our favorites), and then went off in search of a pai gow table. After passing time with video poker for a while, we found a couple of seats. Matt wasn’t having great luck, so he went to play blackjack instead.
We’d made plans to meet up with Dan and Kate before airport-time, so we headed back down toward MGM around noon. We stopped to get some much-needed pizza for lunch, then crossed over to Hooters to find them. We all wanted to take advantage of the much-advertised free $100 in slot play just for joining the players’ club.
The promotional slot machines were a joke, of course, but it was entertainment. We also got $5 free on the regular slots, so we took that over to the penny machines. Within a few minutes, I was up $20. I cashed out, and we went to play some blackjack instead.
Our luck had really turned at that point… the dealer had an awesome run and wiped almost all of us at the table out in fairly short order. Such is the way of Vegas.
Dan and Kate left to get their bags and go to the airport extremely early, so Matt and I decided to go over to a bar we’d heard about at the Bellagio. After much walking and heat and having to backtrack because the street was closed, we gave up on the plan and went to New York New York instead. One of the items on my to-do list was to have a yard, and we hadn’t done that yet. Plus we visit Gonzalez Y Gonzalez every time we’re there!
We had yards, and got talking to the bartender, who was clearly a terrible influence. That’s why that plastic dinosaur cup held a giant Patron shot. And I still have it, because why would you not keep that glass?
After sitting there for a while watching Nascar on ESPN, it suddenly seemed like a great idea to go make another bet. Matt took Mark Martin to win the Nascar season (the cup? I think?) because the TV told us to. Hey, it could still pan out! Then we crossed the street to Fatburger, where he went in to order while I stood outside with the drinks. I have a bunch of photos of the people sitting in front of Walgreens, and I really have no idea why.
We found a table at the Hawaiian Marketplace. A cover band was playing the greatest hits of the 70s through today; we ate and giggled at the incredible awesomeness of Vegas while watching tourists dance. They played ‘All Summer Long’ by Kid Rock (it’s obligatory), and then we swing-danced to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Pretty much the perfect way to end that particular trip to Vegas.
We walked over to Polo Towers, got our bags and a cab, and were airport-bound. There, we found Dan and Kate napping at the gate, and our plane all ready to go.
Til next time, Las Vegas! I’m sure we’ll be back soon.