I haven’t written a trip report in quite a while, but I thought I’d do one for this last trip since 1) I met some VMB people there and 2) there was some cool/unusual stuff downtown I wanted to share. This trip was really about celebrating Scott’s (i.e. Sh0ck’s) birthday in Las Vegas. Originally planned for MGM Grand, my girlfriend and I got a room across the street at NYNY, because we’d never stayed there but always kind of liked it, and last time we had a good time at the upstairs slushy bar (Pour24 now). And we were happy with it overall. With the America café right by our elevators it was convenient for breakfast or just coffee and donuts in the morning, Stupidiotic was good for some offbeat gifts, and the shower water pressure was very strong. No, I don’t rate places on their water pressure, but it was pretty fierce, and every morning I thought “I bet there’s somebody on Trip Advisor who would be really impressed by this”. The room was mostly just a good room, not opulent or anything, but nice enough. Nine Fine was good for a pint, but the center casino bar was kind of dark and vibe-less, despite otherwise looking clever and stylish. Oh, and we partook of the resident Cirque show, Zumanity; if you want to see a booby show, and she wants to go to Cirque, this is your compromise, because it’s not really as acrobatic as other Cirque shows, but hey, boobies. Unfortunately for us, Scott’s party moved to Cosmo at the last moment. Good for him, because he got a great deal on a great suite with a wraparound balcony. And we had a great time hanging out there pretty much all day Saturday. I was looking forward to seeing my peeps and I was not disappointed. Brought back memories of some of the Imperial Palace suite craziness of prior VMB March Madness trips (it was called T2V back then, and you had to walk uphill on the strip, both ways. In the snow), but minus the visits from security. The only unfortunate part was I wasn’t smart enough to rebook to some place closer, because that walk got old after a while, and MO looks really nice. But I got to spend some quality time in Crystals, which if you’re in retail (which I am, kinda-sorta), is a pretty impressive place. And we also got to spend some quality time in the Chandelier bar (still one of my favorite places on the strip) including the VMB meet on Friday. Nice to meet some folks on the board, like whitecoat73 and BeeJay and … someone I’m only remembering as the LVA guy from California. Sorry, I’m crap with names. Thank you Sonya for hosting the party, but it would have been far better if you had been there! After a couple of days on the strip, I quickly relearned what I already knew – damn it’s expensive to drink on the strip. So Sunday we headed downtown, which is where I was planning on doing most of my gambling anyway. Dropped in on the Downtown Grand first, and that’s a really nice looking place. I could definitely see staying up there if/when I come back in February with a buddy. Thing I quickly relearned downtown – you call that a drink glass, I call it a thimble. But that’s easily corrected by heading over to MSS and the Boar Bar, which is what we did next, enjoying some brewas and playing VP. I was willing to put some play on my BConnected card, but the slots had no love, and even video poker only tolerated me (which beats the outright contempt shown me later by the El Cortez blackjack table). Also disappointing was that the Flame at El Cortez was closed, so no prime rib at Jackie’s for me. Actually, as someone who has previously enjoyed downtown a lot, I just didn’t feel it this time. I’m not a fan of the Slotzilla, but I have to admit it fits the scene. I knew about the t-shirt vendors taking over LVC (sad and terrible) but was surprised to find they had also landed at the back of Binions. I’d stayed at Fremont hotel before and it’s a decent hotel, but I increasingly don’t like that casino, or Four Queens. Didn’t help that we went through the Tix4Tonight line twice – should have had a backup plan in mind before finding out Absinthe was sold out, then again, if their scrolling sign had been updated I would have known in advance. Plaza is nicer in a number of ways, but still doesn’t do it for me. Golden Gate was dramatically nicer than I remember it, but at the cost of the old deli and the 99 cent shrimp cocktail (shrimp, or was it krill? About that size anyway). And dang is that line at DuPars slow. The best part of my downtown trip was East Fremont. The first block after Neonopolis is night and day better than it used to be, but the Container Park was amazing. I’d heard about it, but as soon as we walked in, I was struck by a palpable sense of community that clearly was missing out on the street (not to mention in the noisy casinos). Kids playing, friends talking, music playing, food, shops, lights, etc. This was really the find of the trip for me, like Springs Preserve was on a prior trip. We sat outside and had dinner at Perch, by the stage and the grass lawn, and it was excellent (note to other blond/bland minnesotans: watch out for the undisclosed angry sauce in the seafood pasta dish!). Slightly more on the weird side of the weird-to-wonderful scale, the old Western casino had been scrubbed, scoured, and made into a Zappos pop-up shop, with some cheap but clever interior decorating; and outside there was a “winter wonderland” park with Christmas trees, and trucked in snow for a mini tubing hill. I wasn’t personally keen on the wintery reminder, having paid good money to escape it, but it’s a good thing for the community, and I appreciate what they’re trying to do. So that’s about it. One last note, I was reading a story a week or so ago about how flying is going to get worse for coach class, but better for first class. Well I was a plebian on the way out, and tolerated it, but I upgraded to landed gentry for the way back and it’s crazy in just how many ways different it’s a better experience. Assuming you don’t get some big ginger from Illinois sitting behind you – oh hi Marty! P.S. – highly recommended airplane page-turner: The Martian, by Andy Weir. Kind of an Apollo 13 story about a future Mars mission. Reads as though written by Hurricane Mikey, if that means anything to you.