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Golden Nugget June 10 - 15 Trip Report - Lots of Info

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by kevthegrad, Jun 26, 2015.

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  1. kevthegrad

    kevthegrad Tourist

    Apr 20, 2015
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Trips to Las Vegas:

    My Trip Report

    Las Vegas Trip Report – June 10 – 15 2015, Golden Nugget

    This was our first trip to Vegas in 5 years – a complete eternity to me.

    Previous trips had always had stays on the strip, but this time we decided to try downtown and stay at the Golden Nugget. I’ve struggled on how to convey this trip report for a few reasons. Rather than chronological story telling by day, I am going to try writing this based on topics/locations and edit after if it feels too choppy.

    *Fremont Street – OUR Experience*

    I visited Fremont years and years ago and remember finding it kind of grungy and lower class in comparison to the Strip. Having read about the development of the Fremont Street Experience and talked with friends who had stayed downtown, we decided to give it a try.

    Fremont Street from 6pm to 1am is quite the experience. Crowded, street performers all over the place, multiple stages set up featuring live acts and DJ’s…it’s a great big party. With that said, I tired quickly of the constant tripping over people, moving left and right to walk in a straight line. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. But between shops selling things and street bars and the booming noise coming from each Casino, mixed with the noise and excitement all over the street itself, it surely can become a little overwhelming and like you’re coping with sensory overload. The casinos are all in such close proximity that with them each playing their own music, really loud, the output is a giant wall of noise where you have trouble hearing one thing over the next. Let alone talk to the person you are walking with. And I wanted to be talking to that person a lot.

    The Fremont Street experience is still neat. They must vary up the presentation every so often. While we were there they were featuring The Who, then the next night it was a 60’s tribute with some really great music selections. Both were put to great customized (The Who music playing to images of the Who….) visual presentations on the canopy and I do enjoy taking in the experience.

    I didn’t do the zipline (one of the few major regrets from this vacation) across Fremont but it just didn’t feel like the trip for it. There are two versions of the zipline, one high up that goes all the way from one end to the other. Then a lower zipline that runs about half the span of Fremont. Both look fun. Next time.

    Fremont Street the rest of the day (2am – 5pm) is exactly what I love about Vegas. It’s not over crowded. You can walk in and out of all the casinos without it feeling like an NFL running back trying to break through the line of scrimmage. Plenty of empty tables greet you, other than at the Nugget which always seemed to have full tables other than the $25 blackjack ones. You can hear and see things clearly. The sidewalk bars out front of each casino are easily accessible. The staff normally seem friendly and the drinks are always large and strong.

    I’ve clearly aged since I began going to Vegas 20 years ago because I was kind of dismayed to see parents parading their kids around Fremont Street until very late at night. This isn’t wonderful in my opinion based on the language and behavior you see all over the street itself. But it’s also not wonderful because there’s an awful lot of nudity and damn-near nude people just kind of standing around waiting for pictures to be requested. Men in tooth floss bathing suits wearing banana hammocks, women with nothing but paint or duct tape covering body parts…I know I sound like an old fart (I’m 42, and like to think a young 42) at this point but I just found it disturbing to see the number of kids being dragged up and down Fremont until the wee hours of the night given the things happening on the street around them. I’ve never stopped believing that Vegas is an adult playground, not for kids. I wish people would just opt for Disney or the beach rather than drag kids to this place.

    The proximity of all the casinos on Fremont and Main Street make it great to be able to take in multiple properties within a reasonable walking distance. Trying to hit a bunch of properties on the Strip in the same way just leads to really sore feet by days end.

    *The Golden Nugget – Our Hotel*

    I can’t say enough about the experience at the Golden Nugget. Which is bizarre because as you read on you will find I did very little actual gaming there.

    Upon check-in we attempted the famous “$20 trick” which I learned about here on the message board. Sadly the gentleman we had checking us in explained he wasn’t able to accept tips. This then led to him asking us repeatedly what we had in mind. I had a hard time articulating that I read this thing on this message board and thought I’d get a free upgrade and tried it because others said it worked and blah blah blah JUST CHECK ME IN! We had booked our airfare and hotel (Gold Tower) via Expedia. We were booked for a normal Gold Tower room meaning we would have to pay the resort fee daily, and pay for water in our room, as well as pay for coffee if we used the Keurig K cups (we love our Keurig!). He ended up selling us on the idea of upgrading to the 16th floor in the Gold Tower. Sort of a junior suite or a deluxe room. What this meant was $10 more per night than what we had agreed to pay. But with paying $10 more we got unlimited Keurig coffee, unlimited bottled water (we drink a LOT), no resort fee, free wifi, and everytime we got off the elevator there was a table set up with bottled water (fresh coffee before 10am), and 4 giant bowls containing Peanut M & M’s, Chocolate Covered Raisins, Trail Mix (which we never even looked at), and Jelly Beans. This was beyond awesome.

    Nice room (1612) with a view of the D and the mountain range, and the top of Fremont Street. Big bed, a huge TV we never turned on, a couch and table with a big mirror, and a nice sized bathroom. The odd thing was the closet being in the bathroom itself. But overall we were very very happy with our room and the 16th floor at the Nugget.

    The Golden Nugget is clean, safe, and by our observation the classiest place downtown. The casino smells good, signing up for a players card was quick and easy, and regardless of which front desk you used (we used the one off Carson Street) you have a nice classy setting.

    Our first stop was the bar just outside the famous Poker Room at the Nugget. The 4 sided bar is the same as most you will find in Vegas. A video terminal set up in front of each seat allows you to play video poker of all sorts, or blackjack with bets ranging from .25 up. Our first bartender explained quickly that if we popped in a $20 and were playing regularly enough, our drinks would be comped and they were. We played $1 video blackjack quite a bit and very quickly fell in love with Video Poker Jacks or Better (I’ve looked down my nose at video poker for 20 years) after hitting my first 4 of a kind. Two servers in particular from this bar made us feel so at home and relaxed: David and Robert. If you are near the bar and see either, sit down and have a chat. They’re engaging nice guys and the type of people that make Vegas my favorite vacation destination.

    The casino floor is well laid out, large, and a lot of table games to choose from. As I had been warned about, I couldn’t find any $5 blackjack tables at all during our trip. I will share disappointment at this. 1) I’m not a huge gambler, I love blackjack and betting $5 per hand is great for me. 2) Downtown was at least at one point a haven to escape the high table limits and “look at me” feel of the Strip. 3) I’m not alone in wanting $5 tables. I can’t tell you how many empty $15 and $25 tables I saw. Constantly. Why not drop these table limits a little and get more people separated from their money?? Anyway, I won’t pontificate here about that, but suffice to say the Nugget and most places should offer ample $5 tables.

    The pool at the Nugget was crowded, as warned, with a lot of kids, as warned. We still enjoyed it. The water slide through the shark tank is pretty cool. You’re going so fast you don’t have a lot of time to absorb the sharks beside you but that’s probably a good thing. The pool offers ample shade, the waterfalls are nice, and the temperature was definitely not too cold (I loath a freezing cold pool). The bar served pretty expensive but very yummy drinks, easy to charge to your room, and if you are just patient you can end up finding sun chairs throughout the day. We didn’t visit the private pool but while in line for the slide all I could see was the pool looks not much bigger than a bath tub and the seemed somehow out of place to me. Glad we didn’t pay the $20 or $25 each to access it. And it can’t be that good of a “hideout” if you have dozens of kids and teens standing in line for the waterslide directly at the entry looking in.

    The lone complaint I had about the Nugget from the entire trip was that Saturday night (the cursed drive to The Strip) we finally made it back downtown around 1:45am. We pulled into the Carson Street entrance to valet park and were told….that since we were Gold Tower customers and not in the Rush Tower, there was no valet parking available. Um…what?! I have been using valet parking in Vegas for 20 years and have never, and I mean ever, been told they are full. I’ve never been turned away, let alone from the very hotel I was staying at. My brain literally almost exploded upon being told I would need to do self park. OK….self park isn’t the end of the world and somebody who seeks out all the $5 blackjack games in town can’t be looking down his nose at anything, let alone self parking. So off we went to self park …. Where we arrived and were told they were full. Um…what?! She told us to go park at The Plaza down the street, pay for parking (um…WHAT?!) and the Nugget would reimburse us. This all just felt bizarre, like I’d been removed from Vegas and put back in….Toronto….or some city without enough parking?!!?! Anyway we had had a long and unenjoyable night, which is a sin in Sin City. I was done. We pulled *back* into the Nugget Carson entrance where I got out and explained to the valet dude that I have stayed on the Strip for 20 years and I finally make the choice to stay downtown and my introduction to downtown is being told I have to park at a hotel a block away and asked if he was aware of how this was all sitting with me. He handed me a Rush Tower valet ticket and explained it may take him awhile to get our car inside but that he’d take care of it.

    *The Gaming*

    I touched on this a little bit in the previous section, but one of the draws for me to try downtown for a change was the availability of low stakes gaming options. $5 blackjack tables, $1 roulette, $5 Let it Ride, and not just one lone table for dozens of dozens of people to choose from. I hadn’t been to Vegas in 5 years, but in reading this message board and talking with friends, it sounded like The Strip would be a difficult place for me to find $5 blackjack tables anymore. I can’t convey enough sadness at this! Let alone tables with good options for the player like single deck or BJ paying 3-2. So Fremont Street it was.

    On our first trip to Vegas we stayed at T.I. on the Strip but seemed to constantly gravitate to the Imperial Palace, Casino Royale, Riviera, and Sahara. It appears we really like staying/sleeping in a nicer place, or a certain level of safety, cleanliness and class in the hotel we sleep in….but when it comes to gaming, we seem to like the smaller more intimate places. Well that continued on this trip, so read on.

    In this section I’m going to just try to touch on some gaming experiences I had at different properties to give you a glimpse into our experience there. As you will see, the personality and engagement level of the staff/dealers play a huge part in my gaming enjoyment/experience.

    El Cortez

    If you had sat me down before this trip and told me the place I would fall in love with the gaming experience at and associate as my favourite haunt for this trip was the El Cortez, I’d have told you you were out of your mind. It’s at the end of Fremont, kind of away from the excitement and insanity of the Fremont Street Experience. It’s old and doesn’t look like the nicest property. We were told during our tour of the Neon Museum that the El Cortez is now the oldest consecutively operating casino in Las Vegas. I love the history of the city, so I told Cathy I’d love to check it out. On our first visit we had an amazing time. We found single deck blackjack, paying 3-2, with this crazy $1 side bet where if you get a suited first two cards, you get paid 3-1. Unless it’s suited and a King & Queen, in which case it pays 10 – 1. Cathy won *constantly* with this side bet. I mean constantly. Some players we saw would sit down and bet $10 and $15 in that side-bet area while only betting $5 on the actual hand of blackjack.

    The drink service was quick and frequent. The blackjack dealers were predominantly friendly and fun (a few exceptions) with special mention going to Wyatt, “Crazy Ricky”, and Emily, all of whom were a lot of fun to play blackjack with. The pit bosses were friendly and willing to let us take pictures. The cigarette ash trays were emptied constantly. The air conditioning was cranked up. The music playing was a mix of 50’s to current “pop hits” and I always knew the music and enjoyed it. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my time playing at the El Cortez. I wish I was sitting there playing single deck right now. We managed to win money every single time we sat down. We’d buy in with about $160 or $180 between us, play for 2 – 4 or 5 hours, and always walked away with more money than we started with. We weren’t alone in staying elsewhere but doing the bulk of our gaming at El Cortez. The majority of the people we talked with at the tables (that’s one of the things I love about Vegas and about blackjack, the comradery you develop with other players) were all staying elsewhere like the Nugget, the California, the 4 Queens, or the D, but claimed they just loved the atmosphere and gaming experience at the El Cortez. The combination of the history of this property, combined with the fun staff, the good rules, the quick cocktail service…it was such a welcoming environment. Given what I’ve read on this board about the hotel and the location and age, I’m not sure I would stay there. But I will sure be back to do the bulk of my gaming there.


    Another place with a lot of history. We had hit/miss luck with finding $5 tables that weren’t over crowded. On Thursday June 11 they were still doing “Throwback Thursdays” and had 4 $1 blackjack tables from noon onward. These tables were always full with 2 to 3 players waiting to get in on them, so we didn’t stick around. This was the first place we visited other than the Nugget after we checked in, and it was the first place we discovered the ‘new’ Vegas trend of half naked dealers on select tables. I’ll rant about that elsewhere, as I come across as an old fuddy duddy and can’t believe I feel the way I do about this.

    Our highlight was meeting “Jim” at Binions. In Canada we have a TV show called Casino Confidential that Shaw TV went down to Vegas and shot at Binions, probably 4 years ago. I think they produced 16 or 18 episodes after shooting at Binions for 4 or 5 months. It’s a reality show. As a result, Jim is a minor celebrity to Canadians. The show was never picked up in the USA but in Canada it’s on pretty much daily, to this date. So when Jim heard we were from Canada he gave me an autographed players card (without me asking) and I got a photo with him. Nice guy. If we were more patient to get on one of the few $5 tables I’m sure we’d enjoy the gaming here.

    Fremont Casino

    I enjoyed darting in and our of all these core places along Fremont, but the truth of the matter is none of them held a candle to the gaming experience at the El Cortez. The Fremont … like most of the Casinos along Freemont Street, has a natural air of excitement because you can see and hear the activity and fun taking place out on Fremont Street while you are enjoying the gaming. We only played blackjack here for about 2 hours. They did have a single deck game, but it paid 6-5 instead of 3-2. The staff were not anywhere near as friendly or engaging as at other places we visited. Extremely slow cocktail service we essentially had to beg the pit boss to arrange for us. Whether you are a smoker or non smoker, you need to be prepared for smoke in and around Vegas because people do still smoke. If it bothers you that much you move to a new table. One dealer here seemed to lay it on pretty thick when somebody at our table lit up a cigarette. She began sputtering and coughing, often to the point of it seeming put on and fake. Anyway, things like that are mood killers and impact the gaming experience.

    The D

    I find myself writing carefully in this section as my fellow Vegas junkie and all around brother from another mother Metal Rich stays here religiously now and loves the place. The D is small, intimate, and fun. The clientele all seem to be young and hip, and the upstairs has ‘classic’ Vegas games like the horse derby game and classic slot machines. I enjoy the D. Quick and frequent drink service while in the gaming area. It clearly wants to have a fun and youthful atmosphere and I think they’ve established that. The staff were friendly on the table games, and the bartenders were nice and entertaining with their bottle flaring. I found playing blackjack there challenging a) because I picked their nutty 22 Push game to try which drove me to drink and b) the noise of the casino was significant and that was at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. When we walked through after 8pm I couldn’t imagine actually gaming there. I am not sold on the necessity of half naked women dancing on platforms above the table games. And that’s not just a critique of The D. And I know it’s more about me at this state in my life than it is about Casino Marketing. The Golden Gate, Binions, and The D all seemed to have women in different states of undress either dealing the table games or dancing behind the table games. I didn’t enjoy it…doesn’t create a setting I feel like gaming in. I get it – some people want that setting but it’s not for me. Not a setting I feel like gambling in, let alone sitting down with my girlfriend to play blackjack in. I know Vegas is sin city. Sex is sex. Nakedness is fine. I just don’t need the fusion of that aspect of Vegas directly *with* the gaming.

    Palace Station

    The Station casinos are all well managed and enjoyable properties. We stopped in after having picked up our rental car and before heading off to Red Rock Canyon. While I played some single deck blackjack with favorable player rules, Cathy enjoyed some cosmos served in *real* martini glasses. Fast and frequent drink service. About 90 mins later we were on our way out to the desert with more money than we walked in with and a really positive gaming experience in our pockets.

    Main Street Station

    This place has a beautiful casino. The décor is beautiful. We played some fun $1 roulette making $65 last about 2 hours and had a fun dealer and fun players to sit with. We were both novices when it came to roulette and enjoyed this time here.

    Sunset Station

    We landed here during a quiet afternoon Friday and the staff didn’t really have the energy or personality we look for, but we still left with more money than we walked in with. Nice blackjack play in here regardless and a huge casino floor.

    The Golden Nugget

    We didn’t play much here other than at the bar outside the poker room where we played video poker and video blackjack. We found the Wheel of Fortune Slots (.25) tight and my only other gaming experience was going into the Sportsbook to make some Superbowl bets. Looks like a nice but small sportsbook and I’d enjoy taking in an NFL Sunday there some day.

    *The Food*

    You go down to Vegas with so many plans. As a Las Vegas Advisor (www.lasvegasadvisor.com) subscriber I was armed with my pocket book of values which gives about a billion 2 for 1 food options. Then you get there and just get lost in days/time. I don’t know about all of you but I can’t seem to eat more than twice a day in Vegas. Too busy doing stuff. Or doing nothing. Either way there wasn’t a single day where we had “3 square meals” and it was a struggle to get the 2nd meal in often.

    American Coney Island Chili Dogs – The D (http://www.americanconeyisland.com/home.htm )

    Had the coney dog (dog with chili, cheese & onion …. Held the onion though) and coney fries (fries with chili and cheese) and they were delicious. Not much to report here. It’s a good hot dog franchise serving good hot dogs and fries if you like that sort of thing. An inexpensive “fill the hole in y our tummy” option in The D.

    Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse – The Golden Nugget

    This place was just beyond amazing. Thanks to this message board, I had printed out the $49.95 pre fix menu. (http://www.vicandanthonys.com/pdf/menus/las-vegas/distinctive-dining.pdf ) To order this stuff off the regular menu would normally run you $75 to $100 per person. So the special is just amazing and absolutely worth printing and brining. A world class wine list. We had a lobster bisque to start that was among the best we’ve ever tried. Flavorful and full of lobster meat. We each had a filet mignon that was among the best we have ever had. Tender and seared crispy outside. Just so good. Our sides were the creamed spinach (hands down the best we have ever had) and the green beans (hands down they were absolutely green beans…ha…my partner Cathy enjoyed them a lot). To finish the meal I had a creame brulee that was just ridiculous. The best I’ve had. Ever. EVER. Cathy had the chocolate mouse which didn’t seem to suck at all. So a major thumbs up for Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at the Nugget. Well worth enjoying and they do not make you feel like a street vagrant at all coming in with the printed pre-fix menu. Remember each guest requires one!

    The Golden Nugget Buffet

    We had the coupon from the Las Vegas Advisor and normally the breakfast buffets in Vegas are what I look so forward to. Sadly we slept a little late and arrived just before 10:30 and they were already taking the breakfast items out and putting in the lunch items. I was 2 people away from being served when they ‘removed’ the bacon. I asked them to bring it back and they obliged and I became a hero to those in line also desperate for their bacon fix. The omelette station was great and made me a beauty. Some fresh fruit looked like it had been out. We missed it. So I can’t really judge because we got there at a weird time. I will say what we did have was fine and I’d visit the buffet again.

    Pizza Rock – Next to the Downtown Grand ( http://pizzarocklasvegas.com/main.html)

    Wow. Wow wow wow. I can’t say enough about this experience. The best Caesar salad I have ever tasted. The dressing is so garlic filled and full of flavor it’s just incredible. Not one of those cheap “lemon” filled dressings. The “garlic garlic bread” is named accurately and also just insanely good. And the pizzas are prepared in a number of different ways in wood burning stoves, at different temperatures, with really unique toppings. You can still get traditional pizza toppings like pepperoni, mushroom, green pepper….but you also have access to a bunch of stuff you likely have never considered putting on a pizza. Whatever route you go, just trust these guys to serve you up a pie that will blow away just about everything you are used to ‘back home’. And as the restaurant name suggests … they play a lot of Rock. While we were there (two different visits) it was predominantly 90’s rock and grunge, with a little 80’s sprinkled in. Enjoyable for me. And relatively good service too. We visited on a Wednesday night around 8pm and on a Friday afternoon around 12:30pm, and did not have to wait for seating at all. Go to Pizza Rock! It’s that simple. Have the Caesar Salad!! Have everything!!!

    Roberto’s Taco Shop – Boulder City (http://www.robertostacoshop.com/ )

    This is one of those times I think being from Canada my perception may be entirely off base. In Canada the Mexican options are few and far between other than Taco Bell, which we won’t talk about. But here’s what I can tell you. We stopped at Roberto’s in Boulder City after having visited Hoover Dam. It was incredible. I visited it once ten years ago with three of my friends and it was like a religious experience. Once again it did not disappoint. The food is just beyond fantastic and I suggest this stop to anybody coming or going from Hoover Dam. Such good food.

    Magnolia – The 4 Queens (http://www.fourqueens.com/pdf/magnolia_menu.pdf )

    I managed to reach the age of 42 without ever walking out of a restaurant in my life…until I tried to have lunch at Magnolia at The 4 Queens. Pretty impressive distinction to hold, I know. They must be proud. We were staying next door at the Nugget and the Queens looked nice, so we thought we’d give it a try and hadn’t really spent any time in there. We attempted to have lunch here on a Monday afternoon, around 12pm. A small line greeted us and within a couple minutes we were seated by a very unfriendly and disengaged hostess. We were seated in a booth overlooking the entire Casino floor, which was really a nice view and the lone positive I can report. I was armed with my 2 for 1 coupon from the Las Vegas Advisor which made this look like an attractive deal. Tom Petty has a song that talks about the waiting being the hardest part. I NOW GET IT! We waited no less than 8 minutes for our server to come to our table. But this was not our real server. It was some little lady they hadn’t empowered to take orders, so she was only able to take our drink order. Fine….two waters, two diet cokes. That shouldn’t take long, right? 6 or 7 minutes later our drinks show up….and finally our server, for the first time, shows his face. Essentially 15 minutes into being seated we finally see the face of the person who is going to serve us. He did not apologize for the long delay. He did not seem friendly or remotely pleasant. He took our orders for two simple sandwiches and disappeared. Cue the music….”the waiiiiiiiiting is the hardest part…..”. Nearly 30 minutes later, without having seen our server come close to our end of the restaurant, I looked at Cathy and announced that I was walking out of the restaurant in 6 minutes if our food was not delivered. 8 minutes later I made good on my threat. It is beyond me in a city like Las Vegas that is entirely built upon good customer relations and service that The 4 Queens and Magnolia conduct business like this. And it was consistent….the hostess….the water/diet coke lady….. and our server….all miserable and slow to serve us. Sorry, not worth settling for in a city like Vegas with a billion options with good service.

    Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville – The Flamingo

    We had a cursed trip to The Strip on Saturday night and ended up eating here as the eating options seemed limited somehow. I enjoyed the live band playing songs I knew and I’m not complaining about noise because that’s to be expected at a place like this on Saturday night. We ordered a plate of Nachos which may be the best Nachos we have ever had. We also had some jamacian jerk chicken bites I really enjoyed. When in Rome…..well……you order a Margarita. They brought Cathy a Margarita in a plastic cup. At a restaurant called Margaritaville. Does anybody else think that’s a bit bizarre? Not to mention the expensive price of said drink (and the food was also very pricey). Anyway, on another night when it hadn’t taken us over 90 mins and a walk the length of 3 football fields to get to, I would have enjoyed this more.

    The Heart Attack Grill – (http://www.heartattackgrill.com/ )

    This place is just silly. Fun. We had left The 4 Queens annoyed at having wasted nearly an hour of our last day in Vegas and with a full day of blackjack and fun ahead, we wanted SOMETHING in our stomachs. Well, this was quite the choice. If you weigh 350 lbs you eat for free. I clocked in around 220 and had to pay. Ha. The Menu is extremely limited, hamburgers that span “big” to “really huge” to “no human should eat that”. Fries and onion rings in huge quantity that brag about the lard they are prepared in. And a hot dog that is the size of a toaster. Just massive . I opted for the hot dog with bacon and chili. I finished half of it. We also had onion rings that were delicious. Cathy opted for fries with chili and cheese, which were as good if not better than the Coney Island ones. Our server was a midget dressed as a nurse, all the servers are dressed as nurses and the people who bring out your food are dressed like doctors. To eat here you must wear a hospital gown, no exceptions. If you order wine it comes to you in an IV bag and long straw to drink it from. This place is just silly fun. We enjoyed it although clearly shaved 2 to 3 years off our lives with the food we attempted to consume. Oh yea, and we tried to order diet coke and got told off. They do not serve DIET anything at the Heart Attack Grill. Nice work owning the brand here…great marketing at work.

    *Driving The Strip*

    We drove the strip twice. Once on Thursday afternoon when we picked up the car. Once Saturday night after dark, I’m guessing 8 or 8:30pm. It’s always enjoyable to look at and see everything. But driving the strip on Saturday night is completely stupid….if you want to get anywhere. The 10 minute drive from the Golden Nugget to the Flamingo took us more than 90 minutes because everybody in a 300 mile radius apparently wants to be on the Strip on Saturday night too. Anyway, when we finally made it to the Strip we couldn’t get valet parking at The Linq, as it was full. We did self park at the Linq which felt like a very long journey back to the strip. The walk through The Linq was neat as we didn’t know it was so pet friendly and it was nice seeing dogs a few times.

    I haven’t been to Vegas since the Imperial Palace was closed and the Linq was put together. So it was very eye opening for me to see the changes. Seeing O’Shea’s swallowed up and part of this bright glitzy Linq was …. Interesting. Not sure I liked it. And not to sound like a broken record but I didn’t see many $5 tables anywhere at The Linq as we walked through nor the Flamingo when we finally got there. Everything just seemed loud and chaotic but it’s Saturday night and I guess to be expected.

    I’ve been going to Vegas for 20 years and primarily stayed right in the epicenter of the Strip….this area of The Flamingo, Harrahs, Imperial Palace, Ballys…this used to be my haunt. And I didn’t even recognize it. A lot can change in this city in 5 years, the longest period I’ve ever had between trips. I will return to the strip and try to take it in during the daytime. I seem to enjoy gaming during the day more anyway. But I will say this visit to the Strip on a Saturday night solidified my choice to move downtown to Fremont and if somebody made me choose tomorrow where I will stay forever during Vegas trips, Fremont Street gets the nod.

    *Other Stuff We Did*

    The Neon Museum – Neon Boneyard (http://www.neonmuseum.org/ )

    I have nothing but good to say about this. If you care about Vegas history you will find this interesting. For gods sake take them up on the umbrellas! It gets hot even at 9:30am! Take the photos quick as you take the guided tour because you won’t be able to walk back to your fav signs alone afterward. The staff are very knowledgeable and if you can answer some of their trivia about Vegas history during the tour (which I did) they seem to genuinely appreciate the participation and enthusiasm. I consider myself pretty “in the know” about Vegas and history here, but I learned plenty of new things.

    Hoover Dam – Boulder City

    A relatively short drive through some gorgeous landscape, taking in Hoover Dam is fun. It is huge. You cannot grasp the size of this until you are standing on top of it looking down at the Colorado River picturing the poor guys back in the 19-teens who worked to build this thing. The free parking over near the Arizona border is quite a hike back to the Dam and gift shop, so invest the $10 for paid parking in the shade and save yourself a little exhaustion. The low water levels demonstrated by the white portion of rock on the Lake Mead side of the dam really lets you know how low the water is. I can’t fathom what it would look like if the catch basin off to the side started accepting the overflow. I also wonder what wildlife has decided to venture down that tunnel in the catch basin!!

    The Mob Museum – Vegas

    Just a short walk from Fremont Street across the street from The Downtown Grand, you will find this building. We were disappointed in it. A great concept and great topic, somehow they managed to make it feel boring to us. 3 full floors of Mob stories, timelines, artifacts….and way too many videos. In the day of social media and specifically youtube, I don’t feel like paying to go on a self guided tour where every other room is a “sit and watch this video” option. It feels lazy. Anyway, mob enthusiasts should at the very least check out the website and consider this. You can also book a combo ticket of this *and* the Neon Museum which gets you a nice discount and might make it worth your while.

    Free Comedy Show @ The Downtown Grand – Vegas

    Every Thursday night they have a free stand up comedy show at The Downtown Grand. We read about it in the Las Vegas Advisor and it sounded like a no brainer – 3 stand up comics with no real drink minimum, for free. Sounds great right? Well, we can’t tell you. You see the comedy room they use next to the piano lounge is perhaps the smallest comedy room in all of Las Vegas. So we foolishly had ordered a snack in the piano bar just outside at 7:30 when they opened the doors. We plowed through the food as quick as we could, paid our bill, and as we entered the comedy room at 7:45….we found…..no seats left. :/ Sucky. I’d be amazed if this room seats more than 50 people. It’s very very tiny and was very disappointing to miss out on. But the fault is ours for not getting in when they opened the doors.

    Red Rock Canyon (http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/ )

    You can leave dead-centre strip (or Fremont Street!) and just pop over to Charleston Avenue and head west. 20 minutes or so later, you find yourself in the desert. Gorgeous sand and cactus and mountains surround you. It blows me away that you can be in the heart of excitement and madness and party and within 20 minutes be surrounded by natural beauty that will rival anything on earth. Another 5 minutes and you hit Red Rock Canyon. You pay about $5 for your car to enter a 13 mile one-way scenic drive. There are rest stops about every mile and you can pull over, get out of your car, and take photos climbing around some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. The fact this is a mere 20 miles from the Strip makes it a must see for anybody visiting Vegas. Don’t miss out. We had a great time although the earlier stop at Palace Station had one of us feeling a little under the weather after a cosmo-induced heat stroke! Lol. We still loved it and I am sure will return again.

    Container Park – Fremont Street East (http://downtowncontainerpark.com/ )

    This is a neat little section at the far east end of Fremont Street where they have a number of storage containers converted into shops, restaurants, and cafes. Live performances in the centre….it’s cute and worth checking out.

    *Car Rental – Dollar Rent A Car & Hotwire.com*

    We like to rent a vehicle when we go to Vegas because there is just so much to enjoy off The Strip and away from Downtown. Getting individual quotes from the car companies can be a real pain, so I utilized Hotwire.com and was totally pleased with it. They search *all* the car rental companies and websites for you and return the quotes for you to compare. So we selected that we wanted a convertible, and what they found us was amazing. Budget, Enterprise, Avis…they were all charging double or just less than double what we ended up paying at Dollar Rent A Car (which they also found for us) for the exact same vehicle. Why pay double for the same car!? Hotwire.com won me over with this.

    *Westjet* - Canadian Airline

    Cathy was mortified when she saw we were not flying with Air Canada. Up here we pretty much have a monopoly when it comes to national airlines….Air Canada is it. There are smaller charter companies like Sunwing, Westjet, and Air Transat that you can get to Vegas on. The package I booked on Expedia gave me the option of picking departure times and arrival times that we liked and it just so happened it was Westjet we went with.

    The staff were fun and playful, unlike any Air Canada staff I have ever dealt with. I also found the check in process online ahead of time and then the passoff of the luggage at the airport just about the smoothest I have ever experienced. I have nothing but good to say about Westjet other than the seats were cramped, smaller than Air Canada from what I could tell. But overall Westjet gets a big thumbs up from me.


    We booked the whole thing on Expedia. I’ve used expedia a few times before and I just think it’s so simple and easy to use. It allowed me to select core dates I wanted to be in Vegas and then, bit by bit, compare package deals I was able to build based on whether we wanted Strip or Downtown, change which property to see where the better room rates were, and finally choose the right departure and arrival times of my flights and whether I wanted direct flights or minded having stop overs. It is really a great user experience and with the ability to customize your preferences makes for a great tool for booking travel. I see no reason not to use expedia in future.

    So I think that’s it. This is WAY longer than I intended it to be and I think I’ve come off as sounding far older than I feel with the comments about noise and nudity and casino marketing ploys I don’t enjoy!

    Las Vegas remains my favourite vacation destination because you can make it whatever you want. A lazy pool vacation….. a shopping vacation……entertainment vacation…….gambling vacation…..hiking and natural site seeing…….or a combo of all of the above. This was a unique vacation for us as it came on the heels of some challenging developments at home. I think the city helped smooth over some of the rough patches and calm frayed nerves. A city that has always been so special to me somehow became more special because of the important part it played for us this trip. I already think ahead to when I can come back, and I can tell you it won’t be 5 years. Thank you Las Vegas….you are the best.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015
  2. Corinne

    Corinne Low-Roller

    Apr 25, 2012
    Bucks, UK
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    What a great report. I agree that Vegas can be anything you want it to be which is why we all love it. Lots of information so thanks.
  3. NCISfan

    NCISfan Low-Roller

    Nov 28, 2009
    Longview, Washington
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Outstanding trip report. I so look forward to our next trip.
  4. Electroguy563

    Electroguy563 Over-Fried Gambler

    Apr 26, 2011
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great report! Thanks for sharing. I really like your honest assessment of what you like and don't like about Vegas. And even when we all differ in tastes, Vegas has something for everyone.

    I love your ending: "Thank you Las Vegas....you are the best."
  5. kiwigreg

    kiwigreg Tourist

    Mar 17, 2015
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great report. I'm off to Vegas from New Zealand with 5 other mates for the first time in August and already have my Vic and Anthony vouchers printed! Can't wait!
  6. vegasvette

    vegasvette Low-Roller

    Mar 11, 2010
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Very nice summary of your trip. I was happy to read your opinion. Glad you enjoyed your new experiences downtown.
    Annual Golf Trip
  7. jtf

    jtf Low-Roller

    Jun 8, 2015
    I absolutely loved reading your trip report! It gave me some ideas to go by for my upcoming trip.
  8. gambler

    gambler VIP Whale

    Feb 7, 2012
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Thanks for the write up Kev, it had lots of info! I like the way you broke it down too.

    I'm not a big fan of Magnolia's either although there's nothing wrong with it. I just think there are better choices. The service you had sounds unusual to me though, they are usually pretty fast. Can't blame you for leaving though, that's a crazy wait. You might want to try The Chicago Brewing Company at 4 Queen's instead. Good food and great staff. They treat me like an old friend every time I return there.

    I always enjoy reading downtown reports since there is always something new to learn. For me, I was thrilled when you said you had the best Caesar salad EVER at Pizza Rock and that it was loaded with garlic. You sound like a Caesar connosseur like me. I have a great garlic recipe I use at home (happy to share if you're interested) but am on an endless quest to find similar Caesar salad dressing in Vegas. I've only had pizza at Pizza Rock but agree with you that it's delicious. I'm looking forward to my next trip even more now just because of that one comment you made about the salad. Thanks for the tip!

    Sounds like you had fun at The El Cortez. It's dated for sure but there is something about that place that makes it work. Must be the low limits and good music. We've stayed in their tower rooms a number of times and always enjoy it.

    It was interesting to read your comments on The Mob Museum. Most people here who report on it say they really enjoy it and spend around 3 hours there. I've often wondered if it's worth a visit but after reading your comments, I think I would have the same opinion as you. It's the viewing of video that doesn't appeal. I can do that at home. Maybe I'm just not that into mobsters as some others.

    That was a great report with lots of detail. Thanks for sharing.
  9. MikeOPensacola

    MikeOPensacola VIP Whale

    Sep 26, 2012
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Now that is a solid trip report. Thanks for all of your effort in sharing your info. I'll be at the GN in a few weeks and can't wait to be back on Fremont Street again. As a downtown veteran there are a few things in your TR that I haven't done yet but I will definitely check out while I'm there. Thanks again for your detailed TR. Well done. :peace: :beer:
    Christmas at Cosmo!!!
    Summer Fun!!!
  10. bswim

    bswim High-Roller

    Jan 22, 2013
    Western WA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Had the same horrible experience at Magnolia's. Can't pay the waitress, have to go up to the counter as you leave. Took us 15 minutes in line just to pay.
    I left a review on Yelp or Trip Advisor, they replied back and told me to let me know when I'd be in town next. I told them not to bother, I wouldn't eat there again if it were free. I've got better things to do in Vegas.
  11. FullBoat

    FullBoat VIP Whale

    Oct 19, 2013
    Austin, TX
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Nice report. Downtown will always be my "home" in Vegas. A more relaxed place to gamble, and people watch.
    Yeah, the people at Magnolias do seam to be just going through the motions most of the time, but I've never had to wait that long.
    Next trip, you should try Dupairs in Golden Gate. Has that old time feel to it. And, good food. I keep saying I'm going to get a slice of pie to go, but I'm always too full. :)

    And, from what a friend told me Pizza Rocks lasagna is the best she ever had. And, the pizzas are pretty good as well.
    Hawlloween Downtown
  12. Kkirk777

    Kkirk777 Tourist

    Oct 31, 2013
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great report. Thanks for the info on El Cortez! I have gone to Vegas countless times and never went there. Sounds like fun. I also want to try Vic and Anthony's thanks to your report.
  13. pphold

    pphold pp Park Place Degenerate

    Mar 23, 2013
    Dallas Texas
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    great report Thanks for all the information

    I notice you Canadians really explore Vegas.
  14. mb12848

    mb12848 Tourist

    Mar 23, 2010
    Keller, TX
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    great report!
  15. vidpkr2222

    vidpkr2222 Tourist

    Jul 11, 2013
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great trip report with lots of information. Plans for our next Vegas trip is September - we usually stay on the strip for most of the days but also have 2 days off the strip. Plan on going to the Neon Museum, Red Rock, take in a show and a trip downtown. Thanks for all your info from your report.
  16. northerngirl

    northerngirl High-Roller

    Jul 3, 2007
    Northern Minnesota
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Wow.....one of the best downtown reports I have read. My sister(s), son, etc., stay exclusively downtown every August. We have made the CAL our home casino due to the location of being slightly off the beaten path of the crowds on Fresmont Street in the evening. Thanks for the information regarding the comedy club at the Grand on Thursdays. My sister and I are staying there this coming trip for the first two nights (remaining seven nights at the CAL) so will try to check it out.

    Most of your report I felt like I had written....from the crazies on FSE, the availabiliy of $5 blackjack tables, the noise level at the D, dancers in the blackjack area, etc. Every trip we go at least one time to the Cortez and vow we will not be coming back. For some reason, we just can't win there....despite their really good blackjack rules. You convinced me to try it again.

    Wow...your review of Vic & Anthony's had my mouth watering. Pizza Rock is for sure on our "to do" list.

    Thanks again for giving me my downtown fix to tide me over.
  17. Dr Nostron

    Dr Nostron Low-Roller

    Jul 12, 2014
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great report - not a big fan of downtown but may give it another shot now
  18. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

    Jan 21, 2013
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great detail about downtown! Good to know about this!

    As for the strip issue, that's why we usually stay away from the strip on the weekends until about midnight if we have a car. Unfortunately you also picked some of the toughest garages to get a spot. Mirage and TI have been better choices for garages, ime. Nice access off of Spring Mountain and Mel Torme Way. Monte Carlo's garage is still pretty good even with nearby arena construction. That may change when they get an NHL team though.
  19. Riders

    Riders High-Roller

    Aug 29, 2012
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Great report. Definitely made me look at going downtown a little bit on my next trip.
  20. tcocona

    tcocona Low-Roller

    May 16, 2007
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Truly a wonderful trip report by someone with a down to earth perspective on Las Vegas.Thanks for your effort in preparing a gem!!!!!!!
    December College Basketball
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