Our latest trip to Vegas began on December 19th, which you may remember was the start of the latest blizzard of the century. Our drive to the airport saw the roads get progressively worse. When we finally arrived at the airport, all flights after 10am were cancelled; our flight at 8:25am was still going. The check-in rep was none too optimistic, though I was. We got on the plane and got in line to be de-iced. Two hours later we found ourselves on the de-icing pad when the pilot told us that the runways were closed . . . to be plowed; the plane that just got de-iced was now screwed since theyâ€™d have to get back in line to be de-iced. The runways opened, we got de-iced, and somehow we got off the ground, though three hours later than we were supposed to. Still though, we felt lucky, and really whatever winnings we would or would not get in Vegas would be gravy frankly. After another hourâ€™s delay in Pittsburgh, we arrived in Vegas four hours late and slightly stir crazy after being on a plane for over 10 hours. We grabbed our rental car and headed to Palazzo to meet friends Sara and Chris and check in to our two comped rooms (we were originally going to be at Mirage, but after getting a last-minute offer from Palazzo, we switched. We were both shocked to get the offer because our gambling doesnâ€™t really warrant the offer, but we werenâ€™t going to point that out to them). After a successful $20 trick to get us both Strip views, we dropped our stuff, saw Sara, Chris and friends Andy and Irene for a quick drink at Carnevino before heading down the Strip for our traditional amble. We dropped in at Oâ€™Sheaâ€™s for craps, Billâ€™s for some Blackjack, and Planet Hollywood for slots, we finally made it to the just-opened Aria at the still-opening CityCenter. The place is nice and has some great spaces and design, but I found the casino area too dark for my tastes. We met up with Sara and Chris, who had gone to a preview of the new Elvis-themed Cirque show (which they thought was very rough), and attempted to get dinner at Julian Serrano; I say â€œattemptedâ€ because after a few minutes of being ignored by the six harried hosts at the desk, I decided that was a bad omen and so we cabbed back to Palazzo where we had a tasty dinner of tacos at Dos Caminos. After some brief gambling, we headed to bed since we were ti-red. The next morning, we walked over to what would be my home forever were I to have as much money as possible: Wynn. We played there for a bit before heading down to Mandalay Bay where we had lunch with everyone at RM Seafood (my review). After an interminable time in the Forum Shops being part of the group instead of doing what I wanted to do, Rick and I headed to the Diamond Lounge for a deserved drink. After that, we toddled back to Palazzo, grabbed a backpack with a change of clothes and headed downtown where we were spending the night at the Golden Gate. Yes, we were staying at Palazzo, but right before we left, I got a deal for a room at the Golden Gate for $9.99 through Las Vegas Advisor. Comped is one thing, but a room for $9.99? Come on! The room was small, but clean, nicely decorated, and even had a flat-screen TV. It was also on the top floor right next to the Fremont Street Experience canopy, but more on that later. We then commenced our tour of downtown with stops at Golden Gate for funbook coupon fun (matchplays! margaritas!) and Goldfish 2 slots, Golden Nugget for Jokers Wild slots (joker! joker! joker!), Four Queens for video poker, Fitzgeralds for blackjack with some seriously drunk middle-aged Midwestern cigar smokers, and El Cortez for more video poker. We were finally hungry, so we went back to Bay City Diner for a coupon-reduced grubbing meal of meatloaf and chicken-fried steak which completely hit the spot. We were still awake so we went to Main Street Station and found a new-to-me We Will Rock You! Queen slot machine and then played some great craps (great meaning that the crew was cool and not bored, and great meaning that I won). After a slightly depressing turn at blackjack at the Plaza (the place was depressing, not the blackjack) we headed to bed. They were testing the New Yearâ€™s Eve show as we turned in, so it ended pretty quickly, but had we wanted to go to bed earlier, thereâ€™s no way we would have been able to, the noise and lights were so present in our tiny canopied room. So, hereâ€™s a takeaway: if you want to go to bed before midnight at Golden Gate, request a room away from the canopy. The next morning we took advantage of another coupon and got a 2fer breakfast at the passable Golden Nugget buffet. Feeling up for more gambling, we hit Main Street Station for more video poker and then Golden Gate for some entertaining play on some Ann-Margret Viva Las Vegas slots. We then headed back to Palazzo to shower, where we met up with the gang. They were in search of lunch, so we walked with them to Encore, where they ate and we gambled on some slots, and I miraculously hit a good amount on Wizard of Oz slots, which I never do. Chris is a fan of the show Pawn Stars so we drove there and gawked along with everyone else and then headed to Whole Foods for supplies after determining M was likely too far to get to with the time we had. Back at Palazzo we got ready for dinner and then met for a pre-dinner champagne before cabbing down to dinner at the extravagant, insane, and wonderful Joel Robuchon (my review). After our 330-minute meal, Rick and I walked back to Palazzo. Along the way, we were propositioned by one lady of the evening and at least six strip club promoters, likely due to us being dressed well. One particularly pushy promoter would not leave us alone, so when he asked us if we didn't want to see some "titties," I finally had had it and said, "dude, we're gay." That got rid of him. The walk back also cemented something for me: I don't really like the South Strip. OK, yes, the space between MGM and PHo is not exactly representative, but I just don't find anything down at that end all that great. And, let me remind you that I stayed downtown and love it, so I'm not one to need to have a Wynn experience to have a good time. I don't know what it is, but I'd take downtown over South Strip any day of the week. Before heading to bed, we gambled a bit at Palazzo. I tried to put in my Club Grazie card, but the machine wouldn't read it â€“ and as I looked further, it seemed like none of them were working. Undaunted, we put some money in and played a bit until we got bored/too tired and decided to cash out the $80 from the $100 I put in. The machine starting dinging and said that I was to get a handpay. Huh? I looked around and saw that there were tons of people wandering around with the same look. After a few minutes, luckily, a worker walked over to us and started to pay us. When I asked what had happened, she said that everything was down. The machines still worked, but none of them were paying through tickets. I wished her luck with what seemed like a nightmare and went to bed. The next morning we headed to Bellagio to take our Xmas card pictures and gambled a bit before taking a more extensive tour of City Center, which I think is pretty impressive, though not very pedestrian friendly. The public artwork though on the whole is pretty cool, and I found even more interesting design elements. We finally headed over to Mandalay Bay to meet the gang for lunch at Burger Bar (my review), after which we bade adieu to Andy and Irene. We then trucked up to to Mirage where we went to the Siegfried and Roy â€œSecret Gardenâ€ where there were dolphins (fine), lions (loud), and, most importantly, tigers, including two baby ones. They were insanely cute and wonderful and I want four of them. I'd never been to the Secret Garden and I think it was worth the $15 â€“ it was a nice place to spend some time. After that, Rick and I headed back to Wynn to gamble, because, to review, weâ€™re addicts. I managed to win for a change, thanks to getting four deuces on Deuces Wild, which was a nice $250. We met up with Sara and Chris for drinks at Double Helix at Palazzo and then dinner at Enoteca San Marco (my review), which was followed by a fancy champagne drink at Laguna Bar, oddly placed in the middle of the Palazzo, which itself is oddly designed. After all of that drinking, some greatly inebriated gambling ensued to round out our trip â€“ we'd sort of been constantly drinking since 3 or so, and by this point we were rather recklessly gambling. But that's what one does. It was another great trip to Vegas. That being said, this is our fifth trip in a row where we were with friends and/or family who are not the Vegas fanatics we are. As much as I love these people, they do cramp my style a bit: I feel compelled to hang out with these wonderful people, whom I often don't see for months or even years at a time. Thus, as much as I loved spending time with my friends on this trip, I also missed doing things I always do -- EI egg nog, adult lemonade from the kiosk outside Caesars, spending hours in front of a video poker machine, sitting in Parasol Up people-watching, In N Out â€“ and things I have yet to do â€“ Peppermill (I KNOW!), M Resort, Fontana Bar, Double Down. So, since Palazzo is giving us another two free nights in March, and Southwest gave us $150 credits for our trauma getting to Vegas (yes, Southwest is just that great: they did the best they could and still they felt bad for us), Rick and I have decided go back in March (though early, over my college's spring break) with just us so we can gamble, drink, and eat how we want. I'm looking forward to it.