Just returned from a Tuesday-Saturday trip, staying the first night at the Golden Nugget and the next three at the Downtown Grand. Here are some general comments/observations. The regular check in line was long and moving slowly when we arrived at the Golden Nugget mid-afternoon. My wife reminded me about VIP check in with the Landry's Card. Entering the VIP office, I was the only customer and was helped by the two women attending. I asked for about an upgrade (we'd booked the Carson Tower on the Golden Nugget's web site on the last day of the $5 "Fremont Street Experience" fee). They gave a pool-facing remodeled Gold Tower room. The remodel is very nice. I'll post some pictures of the room separately once I've downloaded them. Used to be I didn't think the Gold Tower rooms were anything special. Now they are. The final charge was correct - $5 fee, not $20. Last time for that! The GN has opened the new upstairs area you access via a fancy broad stairway just past the pool in the main hallway. It's got a bunch of large conference rooms as well as the wedding chapel. Very classy and worth a look if you're just wandering around. We moved to the DTG because my wife had the next three nights comped. Good deal for Friday, given normally higher rates and the fact that things got busy due to the NASCAR races over the weekend. It was totally comped - no resort fee. This was our third time staying there since the redo, and I still really like the place. The regular rooms are good-sized and bright and fairly quiet if you ask for the east side of the casino tower or west side of the west tower. Many VMBers mention the half doors in the shower. We don't find that as annoying as the fact that there's no shower caddy or soap dish, so the only place for the soap and shampoo is the shower floor. Small complaint, but seems like something they could easily address. The wifi at the DTG is included and is very good, a rarity in Vegas. They also give you two bottles of water a day, a free paper (at the front desk), and free morning coffee at the Commissary on the first floor of the west tower. It's good coffee and well attended since it's right next to their normal coffee counter. The place has a sort of "boutique" vibe that we find relaxing. Unfortunately, they continue to mess with their casino in unfavorable ways. The good news for all who have been sweating the 6/5 Blackjack is that it appears to only be the two-deck game. Everything else I saw is still 3/2. The bad news is that despite our mailer advertising "99%+ Video Poker" the only game we could find that's 99%+ (at least at the quarter level) is the 8/5 Bonus Poker, same ones they've always had. Also, they still promote their "Senior Thursday" where all food at the S+O Cafe is half price and those over 50 (like us) earn 5x points. The change since we played there in December is that they now make a big distinction between "base points" which don't vary with promos, and "bonus points" like the 5x ones. In December we racked up significant food and free play comps on Thursday. Not so last Thursday. Now they are earned only from "base points." Nobody at the Player's Club could tell me what the "bonus points" are good for anymore. I asked three people over the course of the day. WTF? Is the promo just for suckers? Is this common practice at Vegas casinos? The Fremont Street Experience is truly getting overrun with beggars and "performers" now that the weather's nice. During the day they often seemed to outnumber tourists. In the past we just walked past them, but this time we were approached numerous times and asked for handouts. I refuse to acknowledge them and was followed for some distance by one guy. At night they're so thick you have to weave your way through them in some places. My wife is about ready to call it quits as she just finds it too gross and disgusting. Too many "diaper" and "nut sack" guys and fat "show girls" and saggy "boob queens." So we ventured where we hadn't gone before - the shuttle to Sam's Town. What a find! A full-size luxury bus, not an airport-type shuttle, on schedule every time. We were impressed with Sam's Town. Great variety of stuff, some really good machines, and even a $5 Pai Gow table (no mas downtown). We ended up going there three afternoons. Comps at the Boyd casinos are indeed tight. I can see why regulars like Joe are getting discouraged. We played a lot at Sam's Town, California, and Fremont at the quarter level (which includes dropping $100 in about 15 minutes twice at the multi-hand Super Times Pay machines at the Fremont) and accumulated very little. I love those STP machines, but they hate me. When you get the 10x multiplier like I did Saturday morning and get nothing it hurts! The Plaza seemed a bit more active this trip. The scent in the casino wasn't as powerful and the sports book has been cleaned up. Didn't see any bums hanging out, maybe because they've removed the comfortable seating. Free play can't be used in the video poker machines and we didn't have much luck otherwise, so we only played there a bit one day. The short-skirted cocktail waitress who wears a ton of makeup and must be at least 75 is still there, and in fact was riding the bus with us to downtown from Sam's Town one afternoon. She said her car was in the shop. I can't imagine still having to go to the coal face at that point in life! The progressive at the Four Queens on the 10/7 Double Bonus machines got over $1400 last Thursday. People were banging 'em hard. We tried a couple of times when we could get adjacent machines, but just contributed to the jackpot growth. One guy was there every time we checked. He'd worked $100 up to over $1200 without hitting the royal Thursday. Someone hit it by Friday morning. As another VMBer mentioned, they just cut the points earned on those machines to something like 1 point for every $16 played, apparently about a week ago. Some of our favorite machines are the progressive Bonus Poker machines at The D upstairs bar, and the "best video poker machine in America," the nickel Dueces Wild machine nearby. We drank too much with a couple of fellow Seattleites one night at the bar while making a few bucks, and Saturday morning I continued my run of hitting the four dueces for $125 on the nickel machine. Seems I do it once every trip. My wife will play it and I'll take over when she needs a break. I'm the one who always hits it, though she's on it 90% of the time. And 7 years and counting, we're still awaiting her first royal. East Fremont is a good break from the FSE. If you want to check it out, there's often a Groupon for the Vanguard Lounge. $20 for $40 of drinks is the one we get. They are craft cocktails, so your $20 gets you four drinks. It's stark but relaxed. Every time we've gone, usually around 9 pm or so, Jackie has been the bartender. She's great at making complex cocktails and makes us feel at home even though we're older than the average patron. Others at the bar are often chatty too. We hang out for an hour or two to get the ringing of the machines out of our heads. Farther down the Container Park's tenancy seems to have stabilized, more focused on food and beverages and less on boutiques. It's a very safe walk and another nice break. The new grocery store along the way has great baked goods at good prices. What else? Slotzilla is operating at both levels. IMHO, a monstrosity that ruins the view at both ends of the FSE. The FSE stage acts continue to vary from great to just OK. I don't think they've ever found an act as good as Lady GoGo for the Main Street stage. She could really get the crowd going. The overhead light show sorely needs some new material. At this point after several years of staying downtown I think I know them all by heart as well as the order. Overall, a mixed bag, but of course, we'll be back!