I'll post each day as a reply, since it's long.
I'll post each day as a reply, since it's long.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 1
We touched down in Las Vegas around 3pm after an easy flight with Allegiant that included celebratory Gin and Tonics, the first of many on the trip. After grabbing our luggage we cabbed it over to the Aria (no tunnel after requesting "via Swenson"). DH stayed with the luggage while I checked in. The line moved quickly, and within 30 minutes we were in our 12th floor room with a view of a pool at the Cosmopolitan.
While DH tried to figure out how to operate the room with the tablet, I unpacked. I think the Aria rooms are hit or miss depending on your tastes. Some things in our room didn't work properly, like the two bedside lamps and changing TV channels. Fortunately we were not in Vegas to watch TV :). Both DH and I agreed the bed was way too soft, but I'll give a caveat that we both are fans of really firm beds.
In the interest of keeping up my recent Futon-to-5K progress, DH and I hit the fitness center first thing. The fitness center turned out to be one of my favorite things about the Aria, as it is state-of-the-art with a lovely wall of windows that overlooked one of the pools. Bottled water, towels, and apples are provided. After fulfilling my fitness obligation for the day, I was ready to kick back and relax.
For dinner I wanted to try paella at Julian Serrano, since I'd only had it a local restaurant and was underwhelmed. I used Open Table (highly recommend) to book a 7pm reservation. I loved the colorful tile in the dining room and the bathroom of the restaurant. We went with the mixed paella with lobster and mussels along with the octopus tapas as an appetizer. In one meal paella was redeemed in my book! The sparkling sangria was refreshing after the heat outside. We finished off the meal by sharing two desserts: the molten chocolate cake and some sort of pistachio cookie with ice cream. Both were delicious, but we agreed the pistachio cookie was the clear winner.
I was dead on my feet at this point, as my job requires me to work double-time anytime I'm going to be out of the office. After feeding $20 to a hungry Wizard of Oz slot machine, I called it a night and went up to the room to bed.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 2
Slept late...ahhh, vacation. Coffee was the first order of the day. Here's a tip: if you aren't married to Starbucks, Jean-Philippe has a small counter that serves only coffee and espresso. Although their pastry line was huge every morning, this counter was nearly deserted, and I had only two people in front of me at most on the three mornings I went. I grabbed some coffee and a couple of bananas and went back up to the room.
DH wan't feeling good that day, so we stuck close to home and hit the Aria buffet for brunch as I had received two free buffets with my booking. It was our least favorite of the three buffets we ate at, but it was still a solid buffet. I probably wouldn't pay holiday weekend pricing though. My favorite parts were the jumbo shrimp and a particularly tasty chocolate whoopie pie from the dessert section.
After brunch DH was feeling worse, so I left him in the room to nap while I went to Tix4Tonight to get us some tickets to Penn and Teller that evening. It was so, so, so hot walking on the Strip, and I ended up cutting through the Monte Carlo back to the Aria just to be in the air conditioning. I checked on DH, who was curled up in bed with not even his head visible. I left the poor guy in peace and checked out the pool. There were plenty of loungers available, so I grabbed one in the shade and kicked back with a pineapple mojito and my Kindle. I quickly decided I could get used to spending my time drinking, lounging, reading, and going for a dip in the pool whenever I get too hot. A little while later DH joined me poolside, but stuck with water as he was feeling better and didn't want to push it.
For dinner we grabbed two slices of the Forager pizza (mushrooms and rosemary...mmmm) from Five50. The crust was delightfully chewy. We also split some sort of antipasto salad, and DH sweet talked me into giving him part of my half.
To the Rio! We were early for the show, so I lose my daily gambling budget ($100) to some slot machines. Neither Life, nor Triple 7s, nor Princess Bride show me any love. At least the fantastic cocktail service helped soften the blow of losing my money. Gin and tonic, please.
Penn and Teller were entertaining, and provided some good laughs (and some uncomfortable moments - I was seriously worried Penn was going to staple gun his hand at one point). I'm glad I went with DH though, as he is a huge fan of Penn and was so excited to get his picture taken with him.
Back at the Aria we indulged in one of my other favorite things about the hotel: Jean Philippe gelato! DH had pistachio and I had pistachio and coconut. I won't say how many more times over the next four days I ate their gelato; let's just say it was more than once and leave it at that. After that it was off to bed to have sweet gelato and gin-fueled dreams.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 3
Spa day! I warned DH that he was on his own for at least the first part of today. I was wide awake at 7am (stupid adult work schedule haunting my vacation). My massage was scheduled for 11am, so I figured that gave me time to work out, clean up, and then use some of the spa facilities before my appointment. I grabbed a chocolate croissant and coffee at JP and then went back to my room to pack the stuff I would need to switch from gym mode to spa mode. After a brief tour of the spa, I deposited my stuff in my locker and hit the gym.
After cleaning up the in the spa showers (handheld showerheads for the win!), I spent some time relaxing in the ganbanyoku beds and shio salt room. The warm glow of the salt room was very soothing, and I felt even more of my work stress melt away. A lot of different drinks and some small snacks were included with the spa admission, so I enjoyed some pineapple juice and peanuts while I waited in the spa lobby for my massage appointment.
I had never had a professional massage before, so I didn't know quite what to expect and was a bit nervous. My soft-spoken masseur, Brandon, put me quickly at ease explaining about the entire process and how they use sheets to only expose the parts of the body that are currently being massaged. 50 blissful minutes later I made the decision that I would have to indulge in massages at home and not just when I visit Vegas.
I spent the next hour or so after my massage alternating between the hot and cold whirlpools, eucalyptus steam room, and cedar sauna. In case you couldn't already tell, I loved, loved, loved both the spa staff and facilities. The spa was my favorite thing about the Aria. I'm a larger woman, and the lady who gave me a tour totally anticipated my needs and asked me if I'd prefer an oversized robe. The facilities themselves were peaceful and super clean.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the need for something more substantial than peanuts and pineapple juice drove me out of my spa haven. I just had time for a quick solo lunch at Lemongrass before it was time to meet up with neglected DH at 3pm. The Drunken Noodles with Seafood hit the spot. Apparently I was in a seafood mood on the trip, and the squid, prawns, and scallops in the dish soothed the craving.
With still a few minutes before I had to meet DH, I purchased a blackjack strategy card from the gift shop and proceeded to have my first gambling session (video blackjack) ever where I came out ahead - kept my money plus got a gin and tonic.
Finally it was time to meet up with DH and head over to the MGM Grand for Ka. Due to construction we made a quick detour through NYNY, where I showed him the NYC streetscape inside the hotel. He agreed it was cool and worth a stop.
Once we made it inside the MGM my initial impression from my last trip was confirmed- that place is confusing. We walked in what seemed to be a giant U until we reached the Ka theater. One of our tickets was free courtesy of MyVegas, but I would totally pay full price to see the show again. The visual affects were stunning, and I was blown away by a part where they use lighting to make the stage look like it's underwater. The music was also rock opera-ish and cool.
After the show it was time to check an item off of my bucket list: nachos and margaritas at Margaritaville. DH didn't believe me that nachos would be enough for the both of us, so we added an order of fajitas. After the nachos arrived he agreed he was wrong, and that the nachos were enough for five people. I just smirked and ate my rather tasty nachos.
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 4
The day before while I was spa-ing, DH took a long walk north up the Strip. He had wandered through Paris and really wanted to try the buffet. Fortunately I remembered there was a Groupon, so after hopping on my phone I had lunch for two and a bottle of wine at a discount. We also wanted to go to the Atomic Testing Museum, so Groupons all around and a plan for the day.
We hit the museum first and spent a few hours wandering through the extensive exhibit. If you have any interest the history of nuclear testing, I highly recommend the museum. The movie that simulates what it was like to be near a nuclear test was particularly unnerving.
I purchased the package that included the new Area 51 exhibit, so we walked through that next. The best way to describe it was I felt like I was watching an episode of Ancient Aliens. Although that wasn't necessarily a good thing for us, it did lead to some interesting conversation about whether we thought aliens were watching Earth.
Time for the buffet at Paris, which was good, because I was starving. Highlights were the ham and cheese crepe, French onion soup, and beef bourgingnon. The decor was super cute, mimicking various styles of French street scenes. The included cabernet sauvignon was smooth, which was a pleasant surprise.
Back to the Aria for more video blackjack. After breaking even, I hit the Hangover slot machine and got the Doug bonus (my first major bonus ever). It was only like $60.00, but hey, when you're a low roller...
My euphoria was short lived, however, as I plugged my ticket into a Van Helsing slot machine. Believing the denomination to be set at $4.00 a spin (it was 400 credits), I nearly crapped myself when my first spin deducted $40.00. No, I didn't win anything.
I went up to my room with my tail between my legs only to be shortly joined by DH who had lost his entire $200 gambling budget for the trip in 45 minutes at a blackjack table. We consoled ourselves by watching bad TV in the room until bed, hoping tomorrow would be a better day.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 5
Another morning, another workout before hitting Estiatorio Milos at the Cosmopolitan for lunch. The meze plates, sea bass, and shrimp and cous cous we had were welcome after all of the rich food we'd been eating all week. We will definitely be back. The afternoon was spent poolside, reading and relaxing.
In the evening it was over the Mirage for Love, another MyVegas perk. Loved the "Here Comes the Sun" I drank (hello rum!), but had mixed feelings about the show. I felt there was a lack of a central focus in some scenes which was kind of overwhelming. There were some incredible scenes though, including some striking use of spotlights during "Come Together."
We got out of the show just in time for the 9pm "eruption" of the Mirage volcano, after which DH declared he needed Asian food soon. Off to Ming's Table at Harrah's. The hot and sour soup and his fried noodles were excellent; my pad thai not so much (not a lot of flavor). However, it filled us up and scratched the Asian food itch at a decent price, so overall I was satisfied.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 6
Moving day! We're leaving the Aria and heading Downtown. Checkout was quick, and we were soon off to the Wicked Spoon for lunch (another bucket list item checked off). Although the quality of food was excellent, I thought the selection was a lot less than both the Aria buffet and the one at Paris, so I was disappointed. The Korean spareribs and desserts (chocolate and Heath-covered strawberries...mmm) were highlights.
After a brief wander through the Cosmopolitan and the Bellagio it was time to say goodbye to the Strip and head Downtown to the Golden Nugget. My reservation was for the Rush Tower, and it didn't disappoint. Nice room, with a great bathtub big enough for two. Our stop in the room was brief, then it was off to Tix4Tonight to buy tickets for Mike Hammer. We hit Dunkin Donuts for the first of what would be three times over the next day or so (what can we say, we're fans and we don't have DD at home). We also took some quick pictures in front of the world's largest golden nugget, just off of the lobby in the Golden Nugget.
Mike Hammer was entertaining, and I thought he did a good job of staying on the right side of the line of being offensive when teasing people in the audience. DH and I had a good time trying to figure out how exactly he did a couple of his illusions. For $15 a ticket, I thought the show was a good value.
Dinner after the show was at the Fremont Mediterranean Cafe, ironically right next to the Heart Attack Grill. The beef gyro for me, falafel for DH, and baba ganoush to share hit the spot.
After dinner we returned to the Golden Nugget, and although the pool was closed, the hot tub was not. We spent an hour so lounging in the hot tub, sipping mojitos, which I still hold counts as a nightcap.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 7
Dunkin Donuts again to start the day off right, this time plus donuts. What better fuel for a pool day? The day was overcast, so I decided not to follow the original plan of renting some beds in the Golden Nugget's adult-only pool, the Hideout. We grabbed two loungers by the main pool instead and generally spent the day drinking, being lazy, and going down the waterslide.
Dinner was at Hugo's Cellar at the Four Queens, and it was my favorite meal of the trip. It started out with a delcious bread basket with four types of bread and butter in the shape of a rose. Our salads were made to order at our table and was followed by a sorbet to cleanse the palate. I had the Rack of Lamb which included a spicy peanut sauce on the side; DH had Beef Wellington. Both were perfectly cooked, as were the tender vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes on the side. We couldn't fit in any dessert except for the small pieces of chocolate covered fruit included with the meal.
DH still hadn't seen one of the Fremont Street Experience shows, so we wandered through some tacky souvenir shops until it was time for the next one. After watching Heart, we headed back to the Golden Nugget for some slots. A Big Ben slot machine called to me, and I managed to break even after playing for an hour or two, a solid end to our trip.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 8
A 10am flight had us up way too early. After one final stop at Dunkin Donuts, we headed to McCarran for the flight home. I was ready to come back to Vegas, and I hadn't even left yet. DH rolled his eyes at my pouting, which lasted until we finally unlocked the door to our apartment.
I thought a week in Vegas would be enough to give me my fill, but I was wrong. There is still so much I want to do, see, and eat. I can't wait to plan my next trip, which will unfortunately have to be early next year since we're entering busy season at my work. I still hold I don't have a problem and can quit any time I want :).
I really loved reading your TR. We were at Aria the same time last week. If you have never used the gyms of other strip hotels, I will honestly say that Aria has likely ruined you. No other strip hotel has a better or even equivalent gym. It's lovely. I went to the spa on Wednesday of last week and loved it as much as you did. It's very nice, though a bit small considering the size of the hotel.
And now for the part of the post that will get this post removed - you seemed very excited about the handheld shower at the spa. WHY?! I mean, there's only one reason I get excited about such things and it has nothing to do with being super clean. :-)
I really liked all of your details about food and the spa at aria. I've always been shy to go to a spa but you've convinced me that I might just have to give it a try when we stay at Aria this week!. Also, thanks so much for the tip about the coffee counter- I'm not a huge Starbucks fan but I NEED my coffee, so this is a perfect alternative!