We arrived at 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon, Vegas time, and immediately checked into our hotel. I must say, it's a little overwhelming as a first-time visitor to Vegas to walk into a casino rather than a hotel lobby. Some hotels have separate lobbies, but ours, being one of the cheaper establishments on the strip, simply had a desk off to one side of the casino.
We immediately set off to find some food and explore the area. And really, all we did for the next few hours was wander around. I soon realized that in two hours, we only managed to walk through three hotel/casinos. And that was without stopping to gamble or drink. We did however, watch a man lose $5,000 in one hand of blackjack without skipping a beat in the conversation he was having with the guy next to him. In that casino, I was definitely out of my league.
After that, we sat and had a drink, found some dinner, and sat down to play some blackjack -- at much cheaper than $5,000 a hand. The night didn't go too bad, and we called it quits early. With the time zone change, and the fact that Austin had us up early that morning, we were exhausted.
The problem with going to bed early is on Tuesday morning, we were both awake early. Let me tell you, Vegas at 7 a.m. is a pretty weird place. It's so quiet, it's almost eerie. So, after breakfast, we decided it was way too early to play tourist, but not too early to play blackjack and drink cocktails.
Once the rest of the world woke up, we spent the day visiting as many hotel/casinos as we could. That was really what we wanted to do in Vegas this trip -- see as much as we could. We like to gamble a bit, but we wanted to see Vegas. And let's face it, we didn't want to blow our gambling budget right off the bat.
Many of the hotels we saw were just plain silly in terms of how big and over-the-top they were. We went up the tower at the Stratosphere, but opted not to go on the rides that hang you over the edge of the tower. (Thanks, but I don't really care to sit in a roller coaster car and face 100-stories straight down.) We then wandered around Circus Circus for a long time because it was just that big. You'd never know it was a hotel/casino, you're too busy wandering through the amusement park, the midway and food court and the circus performers ring. We then made a quick pass through Frontier, which, as you can see by the picture, has a bit of a different 'feel' to it than the other two places we had just been through.
We then hit the shopping zone (yay!) and a few other casinos before parking ourselves at an outdoor bar at Harrah's to drink a few pints and listen to a pseudo-Irish band. (Which, among their repetoire included an Irish version of TLC's Waterfalls)Later it was a cheap, but awesome, prime rib dinner and some more time at the tables.
The next day, we rented a car and drove out to the Hoover Dam. It's only about 40 miles from Vegas and is worth the drive. It's a really interesting place and Ryan, of course, took tons of pictures.
That night, we had dinner reservations at Mesa Grill in Caesar's Palace. It's one of celebrity chef Bobby Flay's restaurants, and it was definitely one of the best meals we have had -- ever. Afterwards, we wandered along the strip again -- this time to see some of the places all lit up.
On Thursday morning, we took the monorail to the other end of the strip and made our way through the the hotel/casinos we had yet to see. In all, over three days, I think we were in and out of almost every place on the strip. It's interesting to see the differences between them. Places like the Bellagio, Caesar's Palace and MGM Grand are really classy establishments -- and are a world of their own. There's really no need to ever leave the hotel. Places like Circus Circus, Excalibur are designed for families. Places like Paris, New York New York and the Venetian are really kind of over-the-top in terms of running with a theme. The casino floors are designed to look like you're walking through the streets of that city. And, well, places like Frontier remind you that Vegas wasn't always classy.
I guess that's about it. We didn't come home richer than we left, but we didn't lose our shirts either so I guess I can't complain. Actually, the gambling didn't go too badly, except for the time we sat down at a blackjack table with $100 and 10 minutes later, we were leaving -- out of money. That actually happened twice in one day, and after the second time we decided it wasn't our day and found a bar instead -- in my opinion, a much better way to spend money. (Especially since it was a duelling pianos bar, which was awesome!)
We flew the red-eye home, landing in Toronto at 7 a.m. Friday morning. Sounded like a good plan when we booked it, but in reality, it's really hard to look after an 11-month-old all day when you've only had a few hours of not-so-good airplane sleep.