TR, 09-16-13 to 09-20-13, Girls Trip, Aria.
Prep Work/Background: I planned our trip to Vegas for almost a year. My husband and I were married in Vegas, at the MGM Grand, about 8 years ago in July. July 11th to be exact. I had not been back in 8 long years.
My husband doesn’t like LV (I know, I know…). He says there’s nothing to learn there. I say, it’s really SPARKLY and GLITZY. That’s all I need to know. Me and the almost 40 million people who traveled to LV last year…we all love us some Vegas.
In 2012, I had some fairly serious medical problems. I decided, once it was all done, I would return to LV. My husband said, “I know you are planning a trip to LV, but I don’t want to go.” Said he did not want to go so much, he could not be gracious if he did go and would ruin the trip. He suggested I ask my dear friend, we’ll call her Sierra for the purposes of this story, to go with me.
Sierra had an equally difficult 2012 and the girl works too damn hard all the time. She is a MANIC about work. I am a worker, love it. But she has me beat. Gist being: Sierra really needed a nice vacation. She had been to LV once before, but it was with family and well, that didn’t really count. They went to the Hoover Dam for Christ’s sake! (Please note, I am not a dam hater. Have been there myself. But, once you’ve seen it, well, it’s been done and it was a repeat visit for Sierra and the family.)
So, we settled on a week in mid Sept (16th-20th), arriving Monday leaving Friday. Kids back in school, still warm, but not baking an oven hot. Sierra is not a gambler; she is more a lay at the pool with beer in hand kind of gal. So, we had to go when we could be sure of pool weather. Dates were set and the insane planning began. Daily reading: TripAdvisor, Vegas Message Board and Vegas Chatter.
Tripit: After reading about online trip planning tools, I settled on Tripit. It’s been a great resource, allows me to store all the trip information in one place. Although the automatic adding feature (where you simply forward the confirmation emails and Tripit adds them to your itinerary), was a little unreliable, it is free. Maybe it always works if you cough up the annual fee. Nonetheless, I didn’t mind adding activities, etc. manually. They have an app you can download for the phone.
Flight: Our rented limo picked us up at home and delivered us to the airport. Our local airport is so expensive to park, it was not that much more to rent a limo for the one way transport. My LV hating husband was picking us up so I didn’t see paying for a car to sit at the airport for 5 days. Parking for five days $50. Limo was about $85. Chillin’ in the limo instead of worrying about taking the right exit, looking for parking, etc. = Priceless.
Once we arrived at the airport, Sierra (the mostly always effervescent), proclaimed to security, “We are going to Vegas!” One of the TSA agents said, while checking our IDs and without cracking a smile, “Well, let me get a good look at you so I’ll recognize you when I see you on the news.” Good to see they maintain a sense of humor at airport security.
SW flight, nonstop. (I won’t bore you fine readers with the long tale of how I scored the airline tickets, but know it involved applying for the SW Chase credit card and lots of paying my bills with the card. In the end, it was worth all the effort. I redeemed rapid reward points for the tickets and it cost us $5 bucks a piece to fly. Great deal, they were normally $525 each. Yikes! We needed that savings because we had limos to rent, fancy meals to eat, pricey shows to see – all a matter of priorities.)
SW had lured us into a false sense of security re: on board entertainment when they sent emails promising free wifi and movies on board. The emails stated, “Make sure your devices are charged up!” So, with fully charged devices, we were all set for movies and net searching….but none was to be had on the smart phone or tablet. Meaning we were left with no reading materials with the exception of the sky mall catalog and spirit magazine! OMG! How long could one flight be! (God love all those who travel from the UK, I do not know how you do it!)
After 2 hours of trying to placate ourselves, Sierra carefully reading each and every word of the sky mall catalog, we finally erupted in laughter/madness. In response to the outburst, another passenger offered us two Women’s Health magazines. Something that wouldn’t ordinarily hold our attention, we were so very thankful to our fellow passenger! We both declared her a lifesaver and vowed to come equipped with People, Cosmo, etc. for the return trip home.
Limo at airport, Presidential: As we’d both taken the shuttle on prior trips to LV, Sierra and I decided that a stretch limo was the only way to go. I received a text from our driver, Ricardo, as we landed. He was standing right by baggage claim with a tablet indicating my name.
Cannot say enough good things about Ricardo and the limo service. The car was great, we got champagne, water, roses, it was all wonderful. A fabulous way to start the trip. We swung by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, he masterfully had us stand to the side of the sign for a quick picture (bypassing the long line) and we were off to Aria. The only bad thing I will say about the limo service and Ricardo…It has ruined any other form of ground transportation for me. I don’t see how I can ever travel any other way now when visiting LV. It was that special.
Check in and room, Aria. I picked Aria primarily for the location and it did not disappoint. We arrived about 5:30 ish in the afternoon. It took, maybe, 5 minutes to check it. I’ve read many reviews here that said the check in line was long so I don’t doubt that it can be a long process, but it was quick and efficient for us. I asked for, and received, a room close to the elevator. We both had standard rooms and they were very nice. Some of the best I’ve stayed in. Although I struggled with some of the in room technology, Sierra said her’s worked perfectly. As others have said, the bed was VERY comfortable. Loved it, would definitely stay there again.
Dinner, Mon Ami Gabi, Paris. Had 8pm reservations, it was a very nice dinner and a great way to start the trip. I had shrimp cocktail, steak with fries. Sierra had same, but with crab cakes. We both enjoyed the food, atmosphere and service. Good price for the strip and a fine (heavy handed) pour on the wine.
Gambling, Aria: I found the slots of Aria (and Bellagio the following day), to be very, very tight. Cocktail service was good, but with such tight slots, I was moving around a good bit to play various machines.
After dinner drinks, the View Bar, Aria. Not much to report, but it had a nice atmosphere, good drink/service and great people watching.
Day two, Gambling: Given I was so excited; I was up and out by 5:30am. Sent Sierra lots of texts saying..Great shower, Going to Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, Might get crepes, blah, blah, blah. Sierra said when she woke up about 11am, she thought me quite insane as we’d just gone to sleep about 1am. Mental status aside, I was off to the Cosmo, Bellagio and CP. Continued to have awful luck everywhere with the exception of CP, which left me in a real conundrum…I love the Mlife properties, MyVegas game (even with all the issues) but the slots at Aria and Bellagio were not kind to me.
Lunch, Sushi Roku, CP: Even though I’d read where the restaurant was located and that it can be difficult to find, I wondered around for looong time trying to find it. When I finally found the damn place, the hostess said, “We don’t really open until 12 (it was about 5 till), can you just come back?” Oh, oh. Given my exhaustion at this point, I decided to sit and take a breather. When I returned, I had pot stickers and sushi for lunch. While I liked the atmosphere of the restaurant (given it’s basically in the mall at forum shops), the food was just ok. I LOVE sushi, but it was a little seaweed tasting for me. I much prefer the sushi in my home town at half the price.
Dinner, Hash House a Go Go, The Quad. Funny, when the valet helped us into a cab at Aria and asked, “Where are you two headed?” and we responded, “The Quad.” (Sierra decked out in a little sparkly dress, size 4 and high heeled glittery shoes. Me dressed in a much larger size nice pants and top.) The valet said, “Oookay” and his look seemed to say, “Why?...”
Nonetheless, the HHAGG (and the following show) were both well worth the trip. Even though the HHAGG doesn’t accept reservations, at 6pm on a Tuesday, there was no line. We walked right in and were quickly seated. Sierra ordered the ever popular chicken and waffles. I ordered a hamburger stuffed with mashed potatoes and bacon. When the supersized food arrived, one of our fellow diners said, “I want to see you all eat that.” While we could not eat it all, we did put quite a dint in the food because we were mentally prepared and knew HHAGG meant BIG food. The food was great, the waiter had a good sense of humor and it was an extra good value considering prices on the strip. It’s not fancy food, just plain diner food. We could not have enjoyed it more.
Given that we were seated and served so quickly at HHAGG, we had about 2 hours to kill until the show. The lighting in the Quad seemed more than a little bright to me. While it might be the preferred destination for many (there was a good crowd in the casino and a super long line at check in), we decided to walk over to the Bellagio to use the MyVegas reward for vodka and caviar tasting at the Bellagio.
MyVegas reward, The Pettrosian, Bellagio. The bar was extra classy and they were busy. The vodka, well, it all tasted like vodka to me. The caviar, Sierra tasted with me and we could both tell a difference in the various types. It was a great experience. As others have said, not something I’d pay $105 for, but it was a good deal with the reward.
Show, the Divas, the Quad. Full from supersized HHAGG food, vodka and caviar, we returned to the Quad. Arrived about 9:15 for Frank Marino’s Divas. Gosh, what a line to enter the theater. But, it moved quickly enough and we were soon inside. As others have mentioned, the theater and buffet seating…poor and laid out in the worst way imaginable. But, we had 2 seats at the front of a table and had a great view of the stage. We both thought the show was great. Enjoyed all the performers except Reba. The guy who played Madonna, Lady Gaga, Brittany, all excellent.
Day Three, Gambling and Lunch. Given the hard day at Bellagio, I started out at Paris and had a great run. Played and enjoyed attentive cocktail waitresses and drinks. In fact, I played so long, I finally just had to quit for food. I returned to Mon Ami Gabi and it was just lovely. Sat on the patio while I ate onion soup, a repeat shrimp cocktail (it was that good) and a salad. Loved it.
Dinner, Julian Serrano, Aria. We had dinner reservations for 5. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was wonderful. Service was attentive, professional but not stuffy. We each got 3 dishes and liked sampling everything. Sierra got sliders, fried calamari and brava potatoes. I had mussels, chicken croquetas and beef and cheese. It was all great with the exception of the chicken croquetas, just weren’t my cup of tea. (Yuck) For dessert, Sierra had molton chocolate cake with blood orange sorbet and I had the churros with a spicy chocolate sauce. If you eat there, do yourself a favor and get dessert. Yum, yum, yum.
Show, MJ the One, Mandalay Bay. We arrived just as the show was starting and had great seats, third row from the stage in the center. The show was amazing. Sierra and I had both seen Mystere, but enjoyed this one much more. Didn’t exactly understand the misfits in the story, but it didn’t matter. We were dumbfounded once it was over, there aren’t words to describe it. Would highly recommend.
After dinner drinks, Mandarin Oriental. Took a cab up to MO for after dinner drinks. The view from the bar was amazing and the service was good. As others have said, drinks were more than a little pricey, but what the hell, you are in Vegas at a swanky hotel – it’s not going to be cheap. As with most posh places, the bathroom should not be missed, way cool. As much as we enjoyed the bar, I cancelled our reservations for the tea lounge the following day. We agreed that we had already soaked up all the swank we could from MO in just one visit.
Day Four, Gambling and Lunch. As Paris was the only place I’d had much success, I decided to pay a repeat visit. I was able to play a long time, but wasn’t able to recreate the good mojo from the prior day. Walked down to MGM and had lunch at Grand Wok. Nice atmosphere, but just ok Chinese food. I didn’t really mind those on the strip, it’s like any big city, just more entertaining.
Dinner, Prime, Bellagio. Prime was way fancy and a little stuffy. Sierra ordered crab cakes, peppercorn New York steak, macaroni and cheese and posh French styled potatoes. I ordered tuna ribbons, bone in ribeye, mac and cheese and tempura fried green beans. The waiter casually mentioned something about did we want to share an order of mac and cheese. We assured him we LOVED mac and cheese and wanted two orders.
Well, when the food came, it was really BIG food and we were not mentally prepared for the task. In fact, Sierra’s steak looked like a damn roast. And the mac and cheese that we’d wanted so badly, was very, very rich. To top it all off, it was very expensive. Oh, oh, oh, oh.
We ate what we could. My green beans, virtually untouched. It was all I could do to try and eat the steak and mac and cheese (which I could not finish).
Sierra was initially very determined (as she normally is) and then got really quiet. The food had beaten us. The waiter came over and with a grin asked, “How’s that mac and cheese working out for you?” Yes, it was all very funny for him, given he wasn’t the one with a table full of food and a big bill.
He even came by and asked if we wanted dessert. Now that was too much. We said “Hell no, we don’t want dessert! Don’t you see all the food left on the table?” He reminded us that he’d issued a warning and we declared it was not a strong enough caution about the portion sizes. We were all laughing, but oh, we were too full to do little else.
To make the whole thing even more pointed, a couple to our left had shared sides and when asked about dessert, the husband kept saying “I don’t know where I’d put it.” Really, dude?
To Prime’s credit, the food was good and the restaurant was beautiful. I would not go there again given the price, but if I did…I would definitely share one side!
Show, Purple Reign, Planet Hollywood. Sierra loves Prince and this show was a must do for us. On the night we were at PH, maybe it was the pending I Heart Radio concert, I’m not quite sure...but there were lots of drunk 20 somethings there.
While we were waiting in line to enter the theater, Sierra said, “I think that sign says no peeing on the floor.” I said surely not, that’d be an odd sign for them to have. We discussed the theater goers would have had to routinely urinate on the floor if management went to all the trouble to have a sign made to dissuade the practice. But, looking at the gaggle of very drunk girls and their male companion (who was the drunkest of the drunk), the sign might be a really good idea.
Just then, one of the employees came out and covered the dos and don’ts of the theater, “No camera or recording devices, no smoking and no peeing on the floor or walls (glad he added the bit about the wall).” In fact he went into great detail about why theater goers should not pee on the floor, said it stuck up the place and pointed out where the bathrooms were located. OMG.
I’d already told Sierra, given the amount of mac and cheese I’d already consumed, I might not make it thru the entire show. The no peeing on the floor speech, drunk girls/guy in line, made it seem like an early close was coming for me.
We had great seats. Front row at the end, closest to the door. The inebriated group were in the second row, but towards the middle of the theater (Thank you, God.) All of the girls had on little dresses and we looked for one of them to fall off their shoes, out of their dress, etc. In no time, they were out in the asile, dancing and generally annoying others around them based on the looks they were getting.
We were both impressed that didn’t they remained up right given they were way smashed in line and continued to drink once inside. Their male companion was not so lucky. While he rallied towards the end of the show, he spent a good bit of time laying on others in group and half passed out in the chairs. We did not realize this was a 2 or 1, buy tickets for the music and get the comedy show for free.
Oh, BTW, Jason Tenner and the band were great. He really looked and sounded like the real thing. They played all the hits with attitude and lots of spice. Even given the unruly few in the audience, the no peeing sign/lecture, I would highly recommend it. It was a great value for the amount of entertainment we got.
Had a great time and would do it all again (minus the mac and cheese overload) anytime! It might have been my BEST vacation ever. Good company, great place, wonderful surroundings. The laughs we had about mac and cheese, the PH sign, etc. reminded me that while limos and swanky places are fun, it’s the simple things in life that are often more fun. Long as the simple things happen in Vegas .