We’re battered, we’re bruised, and we’re broke…
…but we survived and loved every minute of it (well, almost every minute of it ;)
We’re battered, we’re bruised, and we’re broke…
…but we survived and loved every minute of it (well, almost every minute of it ;)
More paragraphs, this is too hard to read!!!!
Mrs. Gator and I spent 6 nights in Vegas over the New Year. This was our second New Years Eve in Vegas, so we sort-of knew what we were getting ourselves into. Our first New Years trip, however, was the year of the Monte Carlo fire when the fireworks went off from the ground… major dud! We wanted so badly to see the Vegas fireworks in all their fantastic Vegasy glory as they were intended to be seen, so when the opportunity presented itself for this year’s trip, I jumped on it.
As I typically do, I’ll post this day by day as I write it – 7 days with titles – and I’ll try to post helpful tidbits throughout the narrative. This report will include reviews of The Signature, Caesars, Foundation Room, Olives, Trevi, El Segundo Sol, the meal at KGB Burger that never was and never will be, Spago, The Palm, Bradley Ogden burgers, Grand Lux, and The Henry.
It will include my impressions of new experiences, like attending the New York New York Bridge Bash, exploring the Cosmopolitan, exploring the New Tropicana, and meeting my Las Vegas mentors and forum royalty – Mr. and Mrs. TexasTJ.
It will include a story that may make you scowl at me say “I can’t believe Gatorfan did that” and smile at Mrs. Gator and say “Wow – she’s a cool wife” all in the same breath.
And , of course, to make the report complete there will be the stories of strangers and new friends who made our trip different than all the others – mostly for the better. You know who I’m talking about, right? The people who, whether they intend to or not, make Vegas the place where I long to spend my precious vacation time. The people who make Vegas unique, fun, and worth returning to with such frequency and child-like giddy Christmas-morning excitement. The people whose spirit I can’t quite describe, but who embody the answer to the oft-posed question: “Really, why would you want to go to Vegas again, Gatorfan?”
Yes, we survived – no actually, I take that back - we lived. This is the story of our New Year in Vegas…
Yay!!! We are back too and broke but had so much fun!!!
They were setting up the fencing around NYNY as I was driving out of town on Thursday. Interested to hear how it went.
Glad you're back Gator. Very much looking forward to the TR.
Eagerly anticipating this read...
Day 1 – We’re Not in Kansas [City] Anymore (Thank Goodness!)
I know you hate to read about flights. But this will be (kind of) quick, I promise.
After waking up at 6AM to catch the shuttle to the Tampa Airport, and an on-time Southwest flight, we found ourselves wandering through the Kansas City Airport in desperate search of a nice place to eat lunch and have a beer. After all, we had 2 hours to spare there.
I must tell you, this has to be the worst airport on earth to spend a 2 hour layover - no restaurants or bars anywhere on the secure side of the terminal (just makeshift kiosks – I swear my high-school cafeteria had a better set-up). So after spending an hour wandering out of security and back through security, we found ourselves sitting on the floor, sharing a Quizno’s sandwich, drinking Bud Light. At least they’d let us wander with the kiosk-purchased beer (as if there were anywhere else to sit and drink it). Seriously, I hear Kansas City is an awesome place, but this airport is the pits. Avoid a layover here if you, like me, enjoy spending your layover actually having fun.
[Sorry Ducky – I still think you’re awesome, just not your airport ;)]
Never was I so happy to have a flight take off on time - we were off to Vegas! We scored seats near the front of the plane next to a lovely woman who lives in Vegas. I watched a movie (the Hangover, of course), while Mrs. Gator chatted. About 2 hours into the flight, I got up to use the restroom and politely ask the flight attendant for my third Bud Light (drink coupon ready to reduce any inconvenience to said flight attendant).
Gatorfan: “Pardon me, but may I please have another Bud Light. Here’s my coupon.”
Stick-in-the-mud Flight Attendant: “You can have one more, but after that I probably won’t bring you more so you can either pace yourself or you can have it now.”
Gatorfan’s thoughts: “B*t@#, no you didn’t. I’m a grown man and I’ve had 2 beers in 2 hours - Bud Lights! By the way, you were the same flight attendant on my flight from Tampa to KC - you served me Sprite and water all morning. You know I’m not even close to being one of *those* passengers. By the way, we’re on our way to VEGAS BABY! Hello?!?! Seriously - you should go wok for Delta. You’re not worthy of the Southwest uniform. What kind of Bull$#*t is this?”
Gatorfan’s words [terse]: “I’ll take it now.”
Shortly thereafter, we were on the ground, thirsty for some VEGAS!
Mrs. Gator waited for the bags while I went to the MGM Check-in desk at the airport – very convenient, by the way. I had told Mrs. Gator we would be staying at MGM Grand, but I had a little trick up my sleeve (not uncommon on vacation).
You see, this trip was actually conceived in June when I got an e-mail from the MGM Signature offering $99 rooms on “select dates.” When I went to check the dates, however, every day was $99! So I quickly booked New Years, and immediately called them to confirm that this was not some terrible mistake. They confirmed the rate, and I was a happy camper. (Incidentally, a day or two later, the rooms were showing between $200 and $300 per night.)
As I walked away from the MGM Check-in Desk, Mrs. Gator said “Well at least I know you’re not surprising me with the hotel this time since I just watched you check-in to MGM”. Hee-hee…[sneaky smile].
Two minutes later, inside the cab, I made Mrs. Gator eat her words by saying “To the MGM Signature, please”. Mrs. Gator shook her head, chuckled, smiled, and gently slapped my knee. “I can’t believe you did it again, Gator”.
This place is nice, really nice, and it was actually our second time staying there. I requested and we received a Jr. Suite with a balcony (in Tower 2) with a view of the Strip. We could see Excalibur, NYNY, Monte Carlo, a bit of City Center (mostly blocked by the Marriott Grand Chateau), most of Cosmopolitan, PH and the PH Tower(s), and part of Bally’s. Pretty nice as far as views go in Vegas. And having the Balcony was the absolute best.
[Helpful tidbit: Not all Jr. Suites at The Signature have balconies, so request one in advance and reiterate your request to the check-in clerk].
These rooms are relatively new, immaculately clean, and all have a refrigerator, microwave, small stovetop, large flat-screen TV, dimmer lights throughout, couch, dining table with 2 chairs, large bathroom with separate toilet, TV in the bathroom, and a Jacuzzi tub big enough for two (even two post-holiday Gators who are currently unhappy with letting themselves go for all of football season and gaining “we’re scared to know” amounts of weight ;)
Seriously, the only con to The Signature is the walk to the Casino (or any casino), but frankly, we could use it, so it was just a minor inconvenience. (I timed it – from room to MGM Casino Floor – 10 minutes at a normal pace). Overall, the tradeoff is well worth it and I would certainly stay there again.
After quickly dropping our bags, it was off to grab that beer that Stick-in-the-mud Flight Attendant had so callously denied me. We grabbed a spot at the Zuri Video Poker bar, where we both ordered a Sierra Nevada (Yes, I do drink other beer besides Bud Light!)
A quick recap for the benefit of those that have never read or just don’t remember my trip reports: I am a bar-top video poker and Bud Light wh0re, with a capital W. I just love sitting at a video poker bar drinking gallons of Bud Light and making friends (sometimes imaginary friends, but friends nonetheless).
I love other beer, particularly a good IPA, but I’ve found that Bud Light is the only one I can start drinking right after the last sip of coffee in the morning all the way through until my last 5 quarters disappear into the deep abyss of video poker dreamland late at night – all without completely ruining the next day. Bud Light is what got me both into and through my 10-year quest for a Royal Flush. And since that quest thankfully ended in August, why not vary the routine, right?
But I digress…
After a couple of Sierras, we were feeling fine and in need of a walk and some supplies, so we made our way out to the Strip and to the new ABC Store on Las Vegas Blvd just north of Gameworks and under the new Hard Rock Restaurant in the Showcase Mall.
[Two helpful tidbits: 1 - You cannot buy anything in a glass container anywhere on the Strip between 6AM on New Years Eve and 6AM on New Years day, so get your champagne bottles early if you want them; and 2 - To walk to the Signature from that ABC Store, just make an immediate left on MGM Road, pass the movie theater on your left, and walk all the way back until you cannot go straight any longer. Cross the Street and go into the door that says "Cristophe Salon". It’s actually an entrance to MGM that I had never seen and it leads to the escalators at the MGM Pool and the entrance to The Signature. This will save you 15 minutes versus going through the West Wing or Strip entrances and backtracking through the Casino].
After stocking the supplies and getting ready for dinner, it was time for our first dinner of the trip – The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay.
THE FOUNDATION ROOM
Wow – the view from this place is absolutely stunning! If you have an opportunity to go up there, for any reason, go check out the view.
The Foundation Room is connected with the House of Blues and used to be a private club at the top of Mandalay Bay. But now, they have vouchers available on Restaurant.com for peons like Mrs. Gator and me to go up and enjoy the view and zen-like hipster atmosphere. And enjoy we did :)
We arrived early and ordered a cocktail at the bar before our reservation. We also were able to go out to the outdoor patio and take in the amazing view (in spite of the high winds and biting cold). Words cannot do this view justice – you just need to go check it out.
We wandered around marveling at the different dimly lit funky rooms, all with plush comfortable couches and chairs. Think New Orleans meets Vegas here. The vibe throughout was really mellow - perhaps a bit too mellow, as Mrs. Gator, still on east coast time and tired from very little sleep the prior evening, put her head on my shoulders on one of these couches and dozed for 30 seconds before the hostess found us to seat us.
The dining room is intimate and follows the mellow theme of the rest of the establishment. Mrs. Gator ordered the pan-fried snapper special, which she absolutely loved. I unfortunately ordered the filet – bad choice. It was cooked to the right temperature, but just had this extremely charred taste to it that was not befitting a $45 steak in a place like this (and actually, I’ve had delicious steak at the casual House of Blues downstairs before, so I was quite disappointed).
In spite of my disappointing steak, this overall experience was fantastic and I would recommend a visit to this place. Just do yourself a favor and don’t order the filet.
After taking in the spectacular view and cold wind one last time, we were off to check out the New Tropicana and test the waters with the Gambling gods.
THE “NEW” TROPICANA
The New Tropicana is so much nicer than the Old Tropicana. But at the end of the day, it’s still the Tropicana. I really do applaud their efforts to put some much-needed capital investment into this old lady, and wish them the very best. And I’m sure I’ll find myself in here doing some low-limit gambling again (perhaps as soon as March Madness), but I doubt I’ll ever go far out of my way to spend any time here.
In an effort to get new players in the door, the Trop now has a promotion where they will reimburse your gambling losses with free play up to $200 (half that day and the other half the 3rd day of the following month – good for up to a year). I thought this would be a brilliant plan since I would still be in Vegas on the third day of the following month, so we went in there with $200 to burn.
Mrs. Gator wanted to sit while I waited in the short line for the player’s club card, so she took a spot at the machine nearest the club. About a minute after getting in line, I looked over and she was dozing again. Poor Mrs. Gator…too tired to stay out, but too early to go back to the room (it was like 9PM).
After getting my card, I scooped her up and asked if she wanted me to walk her back to the room. She gave me the death stare that I know so well – the stare that says “Don’t you even think about dropping me back off in the room to sleep this early on our first night in Vegas, Mr. Gator!”
So it was off to the Video Poker bar to grab a drink and play, where we each took our allotted $100 and went to work. But the machines weren’t good to us and the bar was not fun at all, so we got up relatively soon thereafter, and I took a very tired and mildly intoxicated Mrs. Gator to go find a machine to burn the money remaining on her ticket. We ended up at some penny machine with all types of lines and symbols, and I honestly cannot tell you want type of machine it was.
But here’s what I can tell you. This penny machine quickly went into bonus spin mode, and Mrs. Gator got over 20 free spins. These spins went on forever, loudly adding up the credits while we laughed and high-fived and cheered the machine on. When all was said and done, Mrs. Gator was up $150! :)
And since Mrs. Gator is the most responsible gambler I have ever met, she hit the cash-out button without so much as a follow-up spin... no lie.
When it was my turn, we found a Monopoly slot, but the luck was just not there, and I lost about $50 before Mrs. Gator was ready to call it a night. But we were still up almost $100, so no future free play for us. That went even better than we had imagined! We were both smiling on our way out of the New Tropicana. She had treated Mrs. Gator well.
After depositing Mrs. Gator in the room with a good-night kiss at 10:30, I was off to wander on my own for the evening…not unlike I have done many times in the past. In spite of the fact that I like MGM Grand well enough, I have never really had much luck or personal service there, so I wandered over to NYNY – the first Vegas hotel we stayed at and set foot in almost 5 years ago and a place I visit on almost every trip to Vegas.
After playing video poker and dancing with myself in my seat for long enough at the Center Bar (hopping bar), I found myself a little hungry and ever so slightly intoxicated, so I went to my favorite pizza place in the world – Sirrico’s at NYNY. If you need a late-night slice of pizza to make your drunken world better at 2AM, I promise, promise, promise you will love, love, love this place. Ahhhh, Sirrico’s….
By 2:30, I had been up about 24 hours and probably had imbibed as many beers, so I wandered through the still jumpin’ NYNY casino, back over the still populated MGM-NYNY bridge (one of my favorite views in all of Vegas), back through the still alive MGM casino, and back into the ever-so tranquil peace of my Signature Suite.
Before crawling into the peaceful bed I looked at Mrs. Gator, smiled, and snuck out to the balcony for one last moment alone with my Vegas laid out before my eyes. I took a deep breath of the chilled air, gazed out at the lights of the Strip, and smiled from ear to ear.
I felt like Mrs Gator and I were the only two people in Vegas and the lights of the Strip had been put there for our enjoyment, and ours alone. I was back in my happy place.
Damn' - it felt good.Edited: 08 January 2011, 03:00
Fabluous trip report Gator, as always, waiting for more.......
HOoray! So glad to have you back, first of all, but sooooooo happy to have a Gator report in the works. I've been very much looking forward to this.
You know I felt the same way (although later in the afternoon) about the KC airport...but, again, if you're ever back, you should exit, get in a car and go find barbecue. It'll make the airport's suckiness not matter anymore. ;)
I can't wait to read all about the adventures of Mr and Mrs Gator!
Saving this to start reading tomorrow but just wanted to say cant wait!