Um...this is super long. Plan accordingly. I’m splitting this up into days so I can remember. Pre-trip Saturday, August 31 I almost always go to my sisters’ in Philly so we can leave together. So I took the 1:05 PM Amtrak from Union Station in DC to 30th St Station in Philly. I would be spending the night at one sister’s in Philly (they live in the same building so it’s easy). Sunday, Sept 1 Up at 3:30 AM and then we called a cab and left at the ugly time of 4:45 AM and headed to 30th St Station. We wanted to get there in time for the 5:34 AM airport train (without running…it’s too early to run). As we were in the cab waiting at a light near the station we saw someone run on a fare from another cab. Apparently it wasn’t too early for HIM to run. We got our train ok and we were on our way to the airport with a few other sleepy souls. Arrived at the airport on time at 5:52 AM. For the flight in, we were flying United (or Unitednental as I termed it). Checked our bags and got through security in a relatively easy manner – any trip without getting my hair searched is a good one. We had a 7:17 AM flight – Unitednental leaving from Philly requires bags to be checked 45 mins before the flight instead of the usual ½ hr so that’s why we were a little early. The flight was uneventful and we arrived at our stop in Houston ½ hr early. We were hoping the early arrival theme would continue. So now instead of the slightly over an hour layover we had close to two hours. We leisurely made our way through the airport and stopped at the NASA store so one sister could buy rocks (seriously) and the other could buy a mug. And we figured now was as good a time as any for breakfast. It was close to 11 CST and lunchtime for our EST bodies so we headed to Cat Cora’s Kitchen. Breakfast was good though we had to wait til after 11 for mimosas and a Bloody Mary due to some weird Texas law. Our waiter was great and he serenaded us. Apparently he’s in a band. Our flight to Vegas left on time at 12:08 PM and we were on our way on a plane with the tiniest seats ever. As we were making our final approach, the flight attendants (or whatever the PC term is now) started handing out little purple packs of…something. They had the Cosmopolitan logo on it and I thought maybe they were packs of playing cards. Turned out to be something much, much better. Those packs contained stuff like 2-for-1 at Wicked Spoon and $25 free slot play. Cosmo wasn’t finished last time we went to Vegas (three years ago) but free will get me to visit pretty much anywhere. Well, our theme of “early” continued and we landed (and got to a gate) 40 minutes early. Yay tailwinds! We landed and then headed to Terminal 3 – the new one I guess? – to get bags. Yeah I don’t know why baggage claim is there, but whatever. Nice terminal. True to form, Leigh from Presidential Limo called me and said she would meet us. Even though we were super early, they of course were tracking the flight. By the time we got to baggage claim she was there w/our name on the sign. And bags were already on the carousel so we grabbed our bags w/in 5 minutes and off we went. For this first night we decided to try something new and picked Mirage. If we add an extra night (as we did for this trip…and the last…and…) we like to pick somewhere we haven’t stayed because why not? And it was only $95 for a holiday weekend night so again, why not? Leigh poured our champagne, took some pics for us, and took us on a great tour of the Strip. Staying that close to center meant we got a good ride. Usually we’re south and that’s like a 15 minute trip. So a longer one was nice and allowed us to see the familiar sights and the new sights (my God look at that wheel…why is that man dressed like a gladiator…we are DEFINITELY in Vegas). We got to Mirage and they told us we could check in even though it was 1 and check in technically doesn’t start until 3. We looked at the line and decided to come back later. We checked our bags at the bell desk and…decided to go to TI. Because…why not? We’d never been on the Mirage-TI tram and it was right there so ok then. And none of us could ever remember going IN TI. We headed there on the tram, wandered through, signed up for cards, and played for a while. And decided it was just ok but we probably wouldn’t be back. We headed back to Mirage where the line was still godawful, but decided to check in. Only because our phones needed charging. Check in went quickly, actually and we got a room overlooking the pool. The room was very nice. It was clean. Nothing was worn. It was a room. I called down for the bags and “Sure we’ll be right up. Would you like some ice?” *slow blink* “Um…o…kay?” And we had our bags…and ice. We recharged our phones for a little while and one sister decided she wanted to stay in the room. My other sister and I decided to head to Excalibur to pick up our tickets to that night’s Thunder From Down Under show (come on – if you’ve read my other reports you had to know that was in there somewhere). We decided against walking to Bellagio to tram it over to Monte Carlo and walk across the bridge to Excalibur, and just crossed the street to Harrah’s to do the monorail. We really, really, REALLY hate Harrah’s so that was a speedwalk through there. I’m not sure any of us have ever actually played there. We’re always going through it. Waiting for the monorail I got some cool pictures of the wheel. That thing is mind bogglingly massive. We took the monorail to MGM and remembered our way out to cross the bridge to Excalibur. Two things about MGM – dial down the scent and Hakkasan is huge. Since we were in there my sister redeemed her MyVegas reward for a free bottle of wine at Fiamma Trattoria. We were going there the next day for my other sister’s birthday dinner. Moving on. Picked up the tickets at Excalibur and decided to hit Luxor (which we also hate…it really feels like a tomb and we don’t like playing there) so I could redeem MY MyVegas reward for a margarita at Tacos & Tequila (I told you – free will take me anywhere). While at Luxor we decided we were hungry and decided Public House (I think) looked fine for a fairly quick meal. A check-in on Foursquare netted us half off drinks. Food was tasty and I boxed up the rest of my massive salad to give to my other sister. A check-in at Luxor itself netted us B1G1 drinks at whatever that bar is in the lobby. We didn’t want them right then and checked with them that it was ok to come back later. Which it was. So we trammed it back to Excalibur and reversed our trip back down to Mirage. Crossing from Harrah’s to Mirage we were momentarily stumped by two showgirls to one side and Bumblebee (complete with lights) in the bushes to our right. This would become a theme the whole trip. We saw no fewer than four Bumblebees (sometimes in the same night), two other Transformers, 8 showgirls, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Woody, and two Minions. Plus a gold man Downtown. Anyway, we headed back through the masses of people to Mirage and rested for a bit before getting ready for the 11:00 PM Thunder From Down Under show. Yes this was 2 AM EST at this point. And we hadn’t been to sleep. Doing it right this trip! We cabbed it down because…heels. After the show we hung out at the Octane bar for a while until a drunk Pole wouldn’t go away. So I “went to the bathroom” and called my sisters so they could say it was an emergency and escape. By this point my sister’s vodka cranberry(s), gin and tonic(s), and my 151 and Coke(s) had caught up with our lack of sleep and we were pretty much done for. We cabbed it back from Luxor and crashed by 3. After my sisters left and came back with $40 worth of snacks. What… Monday, September 2, Labor Day So this was my sister’s actual birthday. And moving day. We’d booked Rio when CET was having its 40% off Semi-Annual Sale or whatever. So we got the remaining 4 nights of our trip for around $200. Check out was at 11 and that is the ONLY reason we got up. We were moving pretty slowly. One cool thing about Mirage (I like tech stuff) is that you can check out on the TV, by text, or through an email link they send you. I had my phone in my hand and I was on my email, so I checked out that way and immediately got an e-receipt. Cool. We decided Mirage was a possibility to stay at again in the future, though for a limited amount of time. It’s almost TOO busy at that location on the Strip. We cabbed it to Rio and though my sister had prepaid for early check-in, it was still a little TOO early. So we checked our bags and went to American whatever to get some grease in us. After omelettes with cheese and potatoes, we were marginally revived. By that time our room was ready and we pretty much crashed until it was time to go to dinner. We had a room in the Ipanema Tower. Overlooking the pool. We cabbed over to MGM for dinner. The MyVegas reward got us a very nice white wine, btw. Two of us prefer red, but that white wasn’t a bad one. Our waiter was great and knowledgeable and pretty fun. The meals were fantastic. App was antipasto (prosciutto, salami, parmesan, fontina, pickled veg). Meals were raviolini (short rib ravioli, black truffle crema, red wine reduction) with sauteed spinach for me, potato gnocchi with grilled asparagus (lobster, cremini mushroom, leeks, black truffle crema) for bday girl, and trio of pasta tasting with grilled asparagus (gnocchi, agnolotti – beef, veal, pork ravioli, wild mushroom, veal demi, and orecchiette – spiced sausage, broccoli rabe, hot pepper, sun dried tomato) for my other sister. Dessert was torta al cioccolato (chocolate cake layered w/mousse, chocolate ganache and chocolate gelato) w/a bday candle and a bday song for bday girl, 3 scoops of sorbetti for me (I was stuffed and needed something that melted – limoncello, mango, mixed berry), and a cognac for my other sister. After dinner we decided to play “just a little” at MGM. We’ve always liked that casino. And spent 3 hours there. Winning. We still weren’t ready to head back, so we decided to walk the Strip a little. Headed out of MGM and through the construction zone in front of NYNY, passed a few porn slappers, and my sisters decided they were gonna get one of those yard long drinks. They’d always wanted one just because. I was still full and literally couldn’t fit anything else in my stomach w/out consequences, so I passed. Also I hate those yard long drinks. We eventually made our way to Cosmopolitan. And fell in love. Like immediately. We were only going through to get a cab, but ended up stopping for a bit to listen to a fantastic big band playing at Chandelier. Two of us wanted to stay but the bday sister wanted to go. And where one goes the others go. Power in numbers or something. -_- Tuesday, September 3 We’d decided we needed at least one pool day. And as is always our habit we were awake at dawn. Stupid time change. We were at the pool when it opened at 9 along with 5 other people and a half awake life guard. We chose the pool that had a sand bottom at the beginning. And two waterfalls. It was a perfect day for the pool. Hot and sunny (with random drops of rain?) with a bucket of beer and overpriced food. MMMM. We left the pool around 1 or so and showered out the chlorine. Then one sister decided to stay in (it’s ALWAYS the same one “I just want to stay in” hmph) while the other sister and I decided to hit the Strip. Because. We headed out to the free shuttles and chose the one for Bally’s. It was a quick easy trip and we were at Bally’s in no time. And through Bally’s in no time. I had no idea the casino was that small. It literally took a couple of minutes to walk through and hit Paris. I would probably play there. It seemed fine. We walked through Paris and continued across the street to Bellagio. We walked through there and made a mental note to come back later to see the Conservatory. We continued through to the tram because 1) lazy and 2) my sister had never been on it. We ended up at Aria and decided to see if we could redeem some MyVegas rewards. We didn’t know when we’d be using them and they said to redeem them the day were using them. We played for a little bit then walked through to Monte Carlo and got a quick bite at Sbarro in the food court. We saw these Crystal machines we’d seen in passing somewhere else the other day and they were both empty, so we decided to play them. Those things were SO MUCH FUN. The bonus round is awesome. And even if you don’t hit that then it does this chance thing that takes you to the bonus round. I turned $5 into $50 and my sister turned $5 into $100. We eventually dragged ourselves away and went outside (the scent in Monte Carlo though…turn it down). We ended up across the street at Excalibur again but only because we were taking the tram over to Luxor to redeem our B1G1 drinks at that bar (Aurora?...we’ll call it Aurora) from the Foursquare check-in. We got there and they literally gave us all our drinks at once LOL. It’s a nice little bar to sit down and take a breather. And where we got the worst attempt to be hit on EVER. Like it was laughable. Us: *drinking and discussing the situation in Syria* Dude: *breathing over the partition* Us: *drinking and discussing the future of the space program* Dude: Hi. Us: *blank stare* Yes? Dude: How are you ladies doing? Us: *silence* Dude: *disappears* At this point the sister in the hotel room got bored and had apparently cabbed it to Aria. She asked if we wanted to eat there and since it was dinner time we said yeah. She redeemed her MyVegas rewards for the free dinner buffet and free unlimited beverage pass while she was waiting for us. We made it over there ½ an hr later. Then my one sister redeemed her unlimited beverage pass and I redeemed my free dinner buffet and unlimited beverage pass. So we only had to pay one buffet. We got up to the floor where the buffet was and my sister discovered she’d lost her buffet pass and beverage pass somewhere between the time she redeemed it and the time we met up. So we waited by the nicest looking Starbucks ever for her to re-redeem. Then we could eat. I’ve heard some people don’t like this buffet, but us? Oh we loved it. We loved the food so much we barely finished ONE drink (a bellini and two Bloody Marys). Most of our choices were excellent (except the macaroni and cheese - bland and one of the potato salads – too much mayo). What realllly got us were the crab legs. They had both snow (hot and cold) and king (cold). And they were already split (THANK you!). One sister had two plates of crab legs ONLY. My other sister and I more modestly settled for half a plate at a time ;-). After forever at the buffet, I THINK we headed back to the casino to play. And I THINK we headed back to Rio after that. Possibly. Ooh. Wait. I know what we did. We went to Cosmo. To redeem those $25 coupons in free slot play from the plane. And sign up for the card. We stayed there so long I think we ended up putting over 100 points on the cards (unusual for us). Why? Oh because they had those Crystal machines there, too. If there’s a Crystal machine, chances are we will be there. And MJ machines. And QuickHits. We had WAY too much fun there. Wednesday, September 4 So this a.m. we decided to walk to Palms. We like Palms. During the day. It was an easy walk (but already kinda humid). I’d heard good things about the buffet so we decided to try it out. Um. After the Crystal machines. And Wizard of Oz. I think the lunch buffet (after 10 it was lunch) was like 8.99 or something crazy w/your card. It was small but very well appointed. We were really impressed. And will likely return. We skipped the crab legs this time, though ^_^. After the buffet we…look it’s not our fault no one was at the Crystal machines, ok?! We eventually pried ourselves away from the Crystal machines and TRIED to wait for the Palms shuttle to the Strip (I think it goes to Caesars?). We got bored waiting and just took a cab. Where did we end up? Cosmo of course. Where we spent several hours. Did I mention they have Crystal machines? I did? Oh. But we did explore the REST of the casino, too. My sister was very happy to find a NASCAR machine (she’s a big JG fan and my other sister is a big Jr. fan). We eventually wandered out of Cosmo and decided to see about that SDX downtown. We got our tickets and got the SDX near Paris and headed downtown. We were hungry and it looked like rain, so we went in The D. Looking good! We ended up upstairs in the café or whatever. And as was another recurring theme for this trip, we got a very amusing waiter. He and the other waiter were very impressed I finished my pancakes (forget the fancy name) that had bananas and coconut syrup. Apparently people don’t usually finish cuz they’re huge. Apparently I’m greedy. We would have stopped to play the actual coin machines (I miss that sound), but we wanted to get to The Mob Museum before it closed. After a stop to buy umbrellas (ours were back in our room), we headed for the museum. We got there about two hours before closing and if we timed it well, we’d be able to get in a good amount of time on each floor. We all loved it. And will return for a more extended amount of time. By this time, my one sister was having back problems and also wasn’t feeling well, so instead of finally getting my fried Twinkie, we caught the SDX back down to somewhere near Aria, I think. At any rate we ended up in…Cosmo. We sat downstairs at Chandelier so my sister could get a club soda to settle her stomach. She REALLY wasn’t feeling well by then and decided to go back to the room. My other sister and I decided to stay after telling her to text us so we knew she got back safely. Since we’d heard each level of Chandelier had a different drink menu, that’s what we decided to do. Bottom of the Chandelier – I got a Kaffir the Reaper and my sister got their unlisted Cosmopolitan. Top of the Chandelier – I got The Butterfly and my sister got the Spiced Apple Jack. And Inside the Chandelier (the “hidden” level) – we both got the famous unlisted Verbena (completely weird, undoubtedly awesome). Thursday, September 5 I have no idea how we started this day…oh I know. My sister redeemed her MyVegas reward for the two Bloody Marys at the café at Aria. I like the place. It’s nice and bright and airy and has the feel of an atrium. Food was good, too. My biscuits and gravy were done just right. Breakfast went pleasantly and uneventfully until… We paid our bill. Got up to leave. And my sister knocked her chair all the way down the little stairs. All we could do was stand and watch it roll. End. Over. End. What choice do you have after that except to laugh hysterically? One lady gave a “whoo hoo” and told my sister she needed the shirt I was wearing (which said “I Have Issues”). We made our escape from the café and decided to go to Bellagio to see the Conservatory. I stopped to take pictures of the lobby ceiling because I always do. I love Chihuly and that’s pretty much my favorite thing ever. It just makes me happy. I agree w/those who say the summer display at the Conservatory is their least favorite. I like it but I don’t LOVE it. There’s not a whole lot of “stuff”. There were, however, some really cute fluffy yellow birds in the giant bird…greenhouse? Atrium? Glass hut? Whatever – I wanted one. After the Conservatory we made our way over to Cabo Wabo outside of the Miracle Mile. Because it was there. And nachos and margaritas outside people watching (hey there’s Bumblebee again) is never a bad way to spend time. We headed back to Rio because we had those $2.50 9:30 tickets to see Véronic @ Bally’s and we wanted to use our 2-for-1 at Wicked Spoon before the show. My one sister was having stomach problems and decided to forgo Wicked Spoon and would meet us at Bally’s if she could. So it was just me and my other sister. My thought is that Cosmo really really REALLY does not want you to know they have a buffet because they’re far too cool for one of THOSE. It took forEVER to get to it. Like a walk of nothingness. We finally made it to the buffet and there was absolutely no line. Is it always like that? So we were whisked right in and got our table for 2. For anyone wondering, dinner is a little steep at $41 for a buffet but probably worth it. I mean come on – where else can you get roasted goat and octopus salad? Yes those ended up on my plate because why not. We also got a bottle of wine that was half off for $20. I actually had to take pictures of my plate cuz it was so pretty. Highlights were the itty bitty cute wittle sawads and the awesome macarons. Not so great was the gnocchi – it was a little dense for my liking. As we were finishing up, my other sister texted to say she was headed to Bally’s. We took the long walk back through Cosmo (stopping to get a picture of the giant black shoe and look at the cigarette machine art) and got to Planet Hollywood as my sister said she was almost to the front of the line (There’s a LINE? $#%*)@#_*). Before we got to Bally’s she had to get out of line. We eventually made it and got in the long line. Which moved pretty quickly and there were WAY more people behind us. We had seats in the first row of the back section (Celebrity I think it was), but the Jubliee showroom is small enough that it didn’t matter. What can I say about Véronic without giving it away? Um I would have paid FULL price to see that show. She is INCREDIBLE! She does unexpected things but we ALL found it all very entertaining. And decided that was a great way to end our trip. We took the free shuttle from Bally’s back to Rio. And I’m pretty sure this night we ended back at American whatever at Rio cuz someone was hungry. I’m quite certain it wasn’t me. So I, and one other sister just got something to drink. Friday, September 6 Sadly this was leaving day. I think it was the right amount of time. We were ready to leave. But not ready to leave at the same time. Check out was at 11 and our flight was at 2:30. We were taking Southwest (or SouthTran as I insisted on calling it) direct to Philly. We decided to just leave and eat at the airport. We ended up at Jose Cuervo Tequileria or something like that. We did not have tequila. Food was good – can’t really go too wrong w/things involving burrito-like objects and cheese. We hadn’t paid for Early Bird, so we ended up in the mid-B’s. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t awful. My sisters ended up w/window seats (we prefer these) but I ended up in a middle seat next to one of my sisters. Oh well. It was only a 4.5 hr flight. Right? Yeah not so much. We pulled back from the gate on time. And…waited. Because thunderstorms. Not on the ground but it wasn’t safe in the air. So we waited and waited and then we were cleared to fly but… Sorry folks, we used up too much fuel waiting – we’re headed back to the gate to refuel. That’s a new one. I’ve had to deplane, I’ve had cancelled flights, I’ve even sat on a plane through de-icing. Never done that one before. So we refueled (along w/a lot of other planes, apparently), and then got back in line for another 40 minutes. THEN we could leave. We were due back in Philly at 10:10 PM EST. We made it in at 11:30. Yeah…awesome. Fortunately we’d arranged for pick up from the airport from the cab driver that took us to the station before. After a food stop, we were back at my sister’s shortly after 1. So all-in-all a good trip. Some good deals b/t the Cosmo coupons, MyVegas, and Foursquare. We didn’t have time to use the MyVegas Tacos& Tequila or the MyVegas antipasto at some place in Aria. No time to use the 2-for-1s we got handed to Diablo’s or Dick’s. No time to visit Rx Boiler Room like I wanted. No time to do Buffet of Buffets and visit the Spice Market Buffet, Paris Buffet, or Bacchanal. Only had time for one Thunder show. Wanted to spend more time Downtown and didn’t get to do the Neon Boneyard. Didn’t get to Wynn or Venetian like we wanted to. And no time for another show like Blue Man Group. One day… Favorite place to spend time was Cosmo - love the vibe and like playing there. Really enjoyed the off-Strip location of Rio - away from the constant craziness of the Strip but close enough to easily go back and forth. Next trip is planned for May after my sister graduates from UPenn w/her MSW.