Viva Las Vegas!

TL;DR – Recap of fabulous, family vacation in Vegas

The family trip to Las Vegas was over 3 months ago, and it was not so subtly suggested that I write a post about it – so better late than never. You may also notice that I updated my blog format to make it more photo friendly partially because I have tons of Vegas photos (my scrapbook is already complete). For those that don’t know, my mom’s side of the family celebrated my uncle’s 40th birthday in Vegas near the end of June. This was his first trip to Vegas. Vegas is always a good idea, but a milestone birthday seemed especially appropriate.

Since my mom and I were coming from Phoenix and the rest of family was supposed to arrive early Sunday morning, we drove up on Saturday. PHX to Vegas is not a particularly exciting drive, but it was nice to have a car available during the trip (even though it spent most of the trip in some mysterious underground parking area). Supposedly we are in the midst of a transportation study regarding an interstate (I-11) corridor to connect Vegas and Phoenix. That would be mighty convenient and make the drive more pleasant. Anyway, we did not stay on the Strip that night, since it is quite expensive to get a room on a Saturday night. I tried to connect with an old friend, but he was unavailable, so we found a Fresh & Easy for a simple dinner and chilled in our room.

Note I said the family was “supposed” to arrive early on Sunday, but alas they did not. Their flight was delayed out of Detroit, so they arrived mid-afternoon. My mom and I entertained ourselves during their delay by finding the Las Vegas outlets (of course!). Finally we all met at the MGM Signature Towers where we were staying. My aunt found our suite on VRBO, and even though the pictures on VRBO were deceiving, it was still a nice suite. The two suites shared an entrance, but were otherwise separate. It was plenty of space for the 5 of us and we had a balcony that looked over one of the pools.

Once everyone was settled, we went in search of food (I was starving and I don’t think I was the only one). One of our first sights exiting the elevator was a guy with a horse’s head on (like this), which was just so typically Vegas that we couldn’t have timed it better. Once we finally got into the actual MGM Grand, we stopped at their relatively new pub – Pub 1842, but it was packed due to the USA World Cup game, so we kept looking. Some members of our party had a very specific idea about their dining experience, so we ended up back at Pub 1842. The hostess must have seen the desperate look of hunger in my eyes, because we got in much quicker than their estimation. The place was hopping due to the World Cup, which made for a fun experience – until team USA gave up their lead. Personally, I thought the food was excellent (this will be a recurring theme of the trip) – I had the pulled pork sandwich and a fruity mixed drink.


After satisfying our hunger, we ventured onto the Strip. New York, New York was the next closest casino when we came out of the MGM Grand, so we snapped a few pictures of the Statue of Liberty and crossed the pedestrian bridge. One of the trip’s goals was to see as much of the Strip as possible, and we made a lot of headway the first night. We had drinks in the Monte Carlo, snapped a bunch of pictures at the Cosmopolitan (one of the newest casinos that is quite extravagant), and got some decent pictures of the Vegas lights at night. The travel, relatively warm evening, and walking tired everyone out, so we hit the Strip’s CVS for booze, snacks, etc. and headed back to our suite.

Beam of Light

Monday morning we bought our monorail passes and headed for the center of the Strip – aiming for Hash House A Go-Go┬áin The Quad (which used to be the Imperial Palace). This breakfast joint was recommended by one of my mom’s co-workers, and it was clearly popular based on the full lobby. Sometimes I walk with a distinct sense of purpose, which was apparently the case this particular morning, because when I walked up to the hostess station they took me in for seating rather than taking my name. I quickly signaled for everyone to follow me since they had fallen back with the crowd to wait like everyone else. When they tried to seat me at a table for 4, I said I actually have 5 in my party. The hostess replied, “oh they told me 2, but we have this table over here,” – clearly not realizing I had just snaked someone else’s reservation. Needless to say, the family was impressed with my ability to snap my fingers and get what I want – even though they have been dealing with this trait of mine for 29 years. This moment was one of the highlights of trip, which might reflect poorly on the trip, but it was a moment when we beat the house and received some VIP treatment. And the food was superb – some of the best bacon ever made (probably because the pigs are fed slop made from Las Vegas buffet leftovers – see Dirty Jobs) and gigantic proportions.

With full stomachs, we explored the former Imperial Palace. I was in search of the “Dealer-tainers” (black jack dealers who impersonate famous musicians/celebrities). The Quad does still have them, but they must only come out at night (probably vampires). I played some video poker, which isn’t my favorite, but when in Rome… Being in the center of the Strip we were relatively close to Paris, Caesar’s Palace, Bellagio, and the new Cromwell, so we snapped more pictures and walked through the various shops and sights. In the Forum Shops at Caesar’s we stopped at the Fat Tuesday for some frozen adult beverages, which motivated us to continue walking to the Venetian. More pictures and some tired feet led us back to the monorail and MGM. The Tempe original, Cornish Pasty Company, recently expanded to Vegas, and it was David’s choice for his birthday dinner. We picked up Jane Jetta and ventured into “real” Vegas, although it isn’t that far from the Strip. The Vegas version was more “divey” than Tempe/Mesa, but the food was the same – excellent as usual! Also on the agenda for David’s birthday was a $12 Omaha tournament at the Plaza in Downtown Vegas. Can’t beat $12 for a poker tournament. It was a little odd, because it was completely electronic – no cards or chips. My uncle and I were the only ones brave enough to try the tournament. I was out at the first break before they merged the tables. My uncle actually won the tournament, which was pretty awesome. Overall, I was not impressed with Downtown Vegas – the excessive crowd made it difficult to navigate or even enjoy. I really didn’t understand why everyone recommended old Vegas – it was mostly annoying. People have since told me that there is better stuff off the main drag – good to know for next time.

The family at the Venetian

Viva Vegas

Tuesday morning David and I continued the poker theme by playing in the Excalibur tournament. The tournament was friendly and fun. I made it to the final table, but didn’t win any money. We noticed a tram on that side of the Strip, so we picked up the family and rode the tram to Mandalay Bay and Luxor. We worked up an appetite with all the walking, so we stopped at Greenberg’s Deli in New York, New York. Again, I thought it was quite delicious; I had a smoked ham and colby jack sandwich that had green chilies – yum! Rounds of the World Series of Poker were also taking place during our trip, so we took Jane Jetta to Rio to view the spectacle that is the WSOP. The number of people participating is somewhat staggering and we even spotted some famous faces (Doyle Brunson!). After Rio, we drove to the Riviera in search of $1 Blackjack. They only do 3 tables of $1 Blackjack, so I had to wait awhile for spot to open up. One finally did so I snapped it up. I should have quit when I was up $10, but I wanted to keep playing. I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose that much either. I earned a nickname of “Miss Malibu Rum” since they kept the Malibu and Pineapples coming. It was fun and a suitable substitute for the Sahara, which had $1 Blackjack before it was torn down. Everyone else was playing video poker and roulette, but eventually we got hungry again. The Riviera had a restaurant called Wicked Vicky that was decent – I had breakfast food with my cider and it was satisfying. Since it was our last night in Vegas, I booked it to the MGM Casino for another poker tournament. It was the worst tournament ever! I wasn’t the first one out, but it wasn’t fun because it was a “turbo” tournament that raises blinds quickly and uses antes. I didn’t get any good cards and the players were excessively aggressive. That’s not my style and now I know to avoid that type of tournament in the future.


World Series of Poker

The last item on the agenda was the Neon Museum, which we saved for Wednesday morning. This was something I really wanted to do and one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Neon Museum is a collection of old casino signs. It turns out that most of the Strip’s signs are owned by one company, which leases the signs to the casinos. When the casinos close or update their signs, the company stores them or adds them to the Neon Museum collection. The museum runs tours that discuss the signs and their relationship to Las Vegas history. The museum also restores some of the signs, which are lit up during the night tour. I enjoyed the tour, especially since it is an excellent spot for photo ops! The tour also discussed the Mob Museum, which will be on the agenda for the next Vegas trip.

Neon Museum

Repeating H Wall

After the Neon Museum, we found an excellent local coffee shop, called Coffee Pub, for brunch before heading out of town. A big advantage of having Jane Jetta was the ability to find some of these out of way, atypical Vegas spots. Overall it was an excellent trip and I think everyone had a good time!