It was my birthday, and what a better place to celebrate than Las Vegas! Joining me on this adventure was my mom. This is a bi-annual journey she and I have been making for the past few years, for my birthday and Mother's Day. We are toying with the idea of next birthday going somewhere more tropical, but I'll believe it when it happens. We seem to say that every year....and we end up right back on the boulevard. We stayed at the MGM Grand this trip. This was mom's first time on the south strip, and she was torn if she liked it or north strip better. She said she leaned more toward the north end at first, but confessed it was because she knew her way around a smidge better down there. By the end of the trip, she felt pretty comfortable with the directions. We had an executive queen suite, which was nice to have the extra room. The room had a living room area with a large L-shaped couch, two queen beds and an oversized bathroom with a separate shower and large soaking tub. We also had two big TVs in our room. We had a view of the airport, and got to watch the constant stream of planes landing and leaving McCarran. The thing that befuddled me most at check-in was that the MGM Grand has gone paperless. You now don't sign anything, initial anything about resort fees or get a printout of your room rates. I ended up going back through the check-in line and asking if I forgot to do something because they didn't explain this to me at all. One downside (to me at least) was that this was the first time my mom stayed in a hotel with a food court. And buddy, did she love that food court. We had many meals there and in the end, they probably cost almost as much as if we would've gone somewhere decent and shared. My mom enjoys getting a lot of bang for her buck, and Vegas prices can sometimes make her eyes pop out of her head. I'm sure mom would consider this a plus, but I did miss a few of our usual haunts that were subbed instead for a "quick bite". The "big dinner" for the trip (we usually try to do one) was at THE Steakhouse at Circus Circus. I was a little disappointed with the quality this time. In May, our meal was outstanding- on par with Prime and Cut. This time was not like that. The meat didn’t seem nearly as well seasoned or cooked. I didn't eat a ton of it, but I had enough to get sick and need to stay at Circus Circus and gamble. My new stand-out place was the pizza bar (Five50) at Aria. It was so delicious. Blanco pizza FTW! I actually ate there twice on my trip just because it was addictive. We had the Paris buffet for breakfast one morning. It wasn't terrible, it wasn't great. We were going to go to Bacchanal, but decided to just stop at Paris instead because we got lazy and decided for breakfast food, it would be good enough. And that's what it was, just "good enough". I did a lot of picking at my food, and mom enjoyed hers more, but she made wiser selections than I did. I think this is off the radar for me for a while. But, to be fair, most buffets other than bacchanal are off my radar lately. I'm just over the buffets because I eat too much and then feel like a sloth. We didn't each much the rest of that day because we were miserable. Mom and I were treated to a spa day as a birthday surprise from my gentleman caller. We both got massages, and mom had a pedicure and I had a haircut. Best. pineapple.juice.ever. This was mom's first visit to a Las Vegas spa and her first massage. I made the mistake of scheduling mom for a Swedish, when she probably could've handled a more aggressive massage. I forgot my mom is a tough lady and I didn't want her to hurt for the rest of our trip. I had a hot stone massage, which was a special treat as I usually go for more muscle work and just wanted to relax this time. I enjoyed mine a lot. I liked the whirlpools but mom said it was way too hot for her. It was such a great gift to get to spend that time with my mom and bring her into my world of what I enjoy doing. Sometimes she needs that little push, and it was perfect! Another first for mom was a visit to the pool complex. I completely pulled the "it’s my birthday and I live in the tundra, so if you love me mommy, you'll come with me to the pool"...and it worked! Now, because it was late October, only 2 of the pools were open. Mom and I staked out a good spot right by the lazy river and let the rays shine down on us. After about an hour, my mom said "Why haven't we done this before?” We made a second visit to the pool on a different day on the same trip. I think I have made mom a convert to the pool. My only regret is that I didn't order us some strawberry daiquiris when I could've gotten away with it on my birthday. (Well, maybe...) Gambling was pretty meh for me, but mom ended up having her best trip ever. She only lost 50 bucks over the entire four night trip we were there. She doesn't have much luck at all, typically. We played only slots, and bounced around all over creation. I couldn't get any real wins of substance, but not for a lack of trying. A great part of being at the MGM was that I was pretty close to the Lions Share. I think that machine has really built a following. I had to wait several times to get a go at it. Sadly, I didn't walk away a big winner, but I didn't see anyone else winning while I was there either. My mom got it up to 75 bucks and cashed out. She was thrilled with that win! Several of our favorite machines were harder to find this trip. I've written before several times about my mom's love of the "Elvis: The King" machine. We couldn't find many of them on the strip proper. We found a few downtown and at both Circus Circus and the Riviera. The new MJ machine really threw mom for a loop. The "inching diamonds" was also harder to find all over the place, as well as old fashioned Haywires. We saw a machine at Aria that I'm surprised is legal because it seriously looked like it could induce seizures. There was only one on the floor, and I’m interested in seeing how long it lasts. I wish I could remember the name now, but I'm blanking out completely. We did one night downtown, but nothing really of note to relive. We played our family favorite flip flop machines. It was really paying off, but for some reason, we didn’t try to up our betting amounts. It gets really really warm up in the D's vintage Vegas section. The buttons on some of the machines were so hot, I was worried it would burn some of the patrons, but the floor people seemed unfazed. We also had a deep fried twinkie. Mom says they weren't the real thing because they weren't as tasty as last time. I think it was just old and once the grease cools, I can't imagine it being a quality product. Mom and I discussed a trip to stay downtown, but she vetoed it rather quickly, because she says she would miss the strip too much. We did a good bit of shopping, but mom was really sad she couldn't figure out a way to stay late enough Thursday to get into see the new Marshall's store on their grand opening. We both agree, however, that we wouldn't go back out to the Outlet Malls again. We went to the North mall, and it reminds me a lot of the mall that’s about 20 minutes from my house. Similar stores, similar prices, same parent company. If I didn't live so close, perhaps I would be more enchanted, but I feel like it’s the same as in my back yard, whereas Ross isn't and it's right on the strip! I did find several new things, but had more success at Ross than the outlets. Departing was really stressful. I mis-calculated the time I needed to get back to the airport, and cut it way too close. There was a huge taxi line and the valet cab guy said "If you're going to the airport, go get on the shuttle, its leaving right now!" so mom's little ears hear shuttle and she's off...and then we load a shuttle and sit there while the guy fools around with loading all the bags and writing receipts and I'm thinking "OMG, I'm going to miss my plane!!" We eventually make it to the airport, and of course, the southwest line is HUGE! I had brought a giant bag that wouldn't even make it through a TSA scanner so I had to check it. I make it to the front of the line with about 3 minutes until the one hour cut off for luggage. I remark to the guy I know I'm cutting it close but I never dreamed the line would be this long on a Thursday morning. He makes some kind of smart comment about how the airport is always this busy. Listen, dude...I post on Vegas Message Board....I know the airport's not this busy on a normal Thursday at 9:45 am. We have threads about this kind of stuff! Of course, I didn't say that to him, I just hightailed it off to security. At the end of it all, it was a really great trip. Everything went smoothly (except my figuring out when to leave), we had fun being together, and mom did some of the things I really enjoy on my other trips and found out they weren’t so bad! The only thing that would've made it sweeter would've been a nice hit on a slot...or if I had won that Lion's Share. That's okay....there's always next trip!