Sunday May 10 - Saturday May 16, 2009 Here's a little trip report. I prefer the step by step style of trip reports as it lets me re-live my trips later on. It will be long but hopefully it'll share some tidbits as well. HOTELS: Harrahs, Mandalay Bay SHOWS: Love, Mac King, Carrot Top , Jay Leno RESTAURANTS: Grand Lux Cafe (3 times), Margaritaville, STACK, Diego, Sirrico Pizza (NYNY), Carnegi Deli, Mandalay Beach Grill, Burger Bar, Verandah, Cheesecake Factory BUFFETS: Bellagio (L), Mandalay Bay (B) May 10: Had an early 5:30am flight. Flying on points so had to take whatever flight was available. Was up at 3am after going to sleep at 1am. Knew this was gonna hurt me later on but right now, I was running on adrenaline. Flight was uneventful and touched down in Vegas at 10:45am. Debated on taking a taxi or shuttle. I was by myself so shuttle was more cost efficient however I knew it may take a little longer. Friends weren't coming in for another few hours so I thought I had a few hours to kill anyways so I took the shuttle. 3 people on it. We took off after about 5 minutes of waiting. I was the first stop at Harrahs. The other couple on board were seasoned travelers but it was their first time to Vegas. They didn't know how close the airport was to the strip and they asked a lot of basic questions of the driver. I went out of Terminal 2 so I guess they get less passengers on the shuttle. I was expecting to wait for an hour before we left but we were gone after 5 minutes with only 3 people on board. My friend got a shuttle later on out of Terminal 1 and he had to wait 20 minutes before the shuttle filled up. Got to Harrahs and checked in after about a 30 minute wait in line. Got a room at 11:30am and took a breather in the room. Nice to be back in town. Rooms are on the smallish side but still a good clean room. I wasn't expecting anything great for the price I paid but these rooms actually surpassed my expectations. I was hungry but decided to take a nap before the others arrived. Got the text at about 1:30pm from the first friend to arrive. Got another text at about 3pm from the second friend. Still waiting for the fourth to arrive at about 7pm. So while waiting for the 4th, we took a walk towards the Venetian and Palazzo. I don't think we ever walked past Casino Royale without stopping by for some $1 drinks. Got some beers and went into the Grand Lux Cafe at the Palazzo. It was about 4pm at this point and nearly all the tables were empty. Realize it was in between meal times but it was shocking to see Vegas so empty. We started with the Asian Nachos which were tasty. I had the Chicken Parmesan which was also good. Seems like they don't have a bad thing on the menu and it's all reasonably priced. Our plans were to walk over to the Wynn and Encore but we were feeling tired at this point so we went back to the rooms at about 6pm to wait for the 4th to arrive. Got the text soon thereafter that the 4th was in the lobby. He got up to the room and although he was ready to rock and roll, I was just about to fall asleep. We got out of the room and got some more beers at Casino Royale. We headed out to take a look at Encore. It was very quiet but it was a Sunday night. We quickly walked through. It was nice and fancy but it lacked a vibe to it. The only thing I really remember was walking by Sinatra and taking a look at the trophy wall. Wished I brought my camera with me as I don't think I've been that close to a Golden Globe or Emmy before, let alone an Oscar. We made our way back to Harrahs as we were all tired from traveling. Thought we'd all get a good nights sleep. May 11: Spent the morning walking around, taking in all the familiar sights and sounds. Ate lunch at Margaritaville. Had the Cheeseburger in Paradise. It was ok, just a burger. We sat on the patio which is something I've always wanted to do. View was ok, overlooking Caesars. We got the waitress to take a group photo which I think is the only picture we got with all 4 of us in it. Did some more walking around. Picked up our tickets for Love at the Mirage box office. At that point, we split up so some could go back to the pool and some could do some more exploring. I walked by the Harrahs pool and would put it right up there with my neighbor's backyard pool. I didn't even think of spending 5 minutes in there. After a while, we went back to the room to rest before going to dinner. We had reservations for STACK. I saw their $29.99 prix fixe menu on their website and thought this was a good deal. The waiter gave us a different prix fixe menu to begin with. This menu was priced at $59.99. We had to ask him several times about the $29.99 menu and he kept asking if we were staying at the Mirage. We kept saying no but we had the $29.99 menu special emailed to us before we came. He went to see his manager and came back saying we could get the $29.99 menu. Even at that, at first he said we would have to share the appetizer and the dessert but after one more fuss, we each had our own appy and dessert. Everything was good after that and it was a good deal at that price. I had the BLT salad as an appetizer, the strip iron steak and creme brulee for dessert. I tried the calamari off my friend and I wished I had gotten that instead. It was delicious. We had about 30 minutes before going into the Love theater so we walked around the Mirage for a bit. Had a few drinks and then went inside. We bought tickets at 40% off before we came and got seats in the third last row. Still, the views were very good and there isn't a bad seat in the house in a Cirque show. I'm not a hardcore Beetles fan so a lot of the interpretation was lost on me. Some of it was obvious but some of it wasn't. You can still enjoy the show if you're not a Beetles fan but you'll enjoy it much more if you are. My favorite piece was 'Here Comes the Sun', partly because that was one of the songs I knew and partly because it's such a peaceful song. Well worth the price of admission. After the show, we thought about going into Jet but one of us wasn't dressed for it. We tried telling him before going to dinner he should put something on other than beach shorts and flip flops. He didn't listen to us and now he couldn't get into Jet. So we went to Harrahs piano bar to have a few drinks. This would be the first of 3 nights there. It was very entertaining and we stayed there until they closed down at 2am. Lots of Canadians must be visiting Vegas as every time, they played up to the Canadians in the audience (at the NYNY bar as well). We ended up going to the Grand Lux Cafe at about 3am. I got the Short Rib Sloppy Joe and it sure hit the spot at 3am. Another good meal at the Grand Lux. Had a few more beers at Harrahs before hitting the sack at about 5am just as the sun was rising. It sure is great to be in Vegas. May 12: Up at about 9am. My morings usually consist of walking the strip, exploring the hotels and having a few drinks. I usually drink either screwdrivers or Baileys and coffee in the morning but this trip, it was always Baileys and coffee. The Starbucks in Harrahs is pretty darn convenient. Right by the elevators and still priced pretty decently. The Starbucks on the 2nd floor was also handy if the lineup on the 1st floor was too big. We walked around the Forum Shoppes and Caesars before going back to Harrahs to meet up for lunch. Went down to the Bellagio for their buffet. It was just before 1pm and I was expecting to see a lineup. We were there the day before at about 11am and it was lined up right out the door. Maybe it was everyone trying to get in before they started lunch prices. The buffet was good as always. I still like Wynn's buffet better and their room is classier. I didn't pig out as usual and only had 2 desserts. Everything I ate was delicious. Well worth the $19.95 price. At about 2:30pm, we booked it back to Harrahs to catch the 3pm Mac King show. I finally got those free admission with a drink coupons to see Mac King. Never saw those coupons before but I guess I just ignored anyone handing out anything on the strip before. Got in just before the show started. Price is still about $13 with taxes. The show is kinda corny and sappy and Mac King looks like he could use a 5 hour energy shot or at least a couple of Red Bulls, but you can't complain about a show that costs $13 and comes with a drink. Still, I'm glad I finally saw his show. We took a breather back in the room until dinner came along. We took the monorail down to MGM and ate at Diego. I'm not particulary fond of Mexian food but this was ok. I had the enchiladas. 3 mixed ones, 1 beef, 1 shrimp and 1 potato. I liked the potato one best. After that, we went to NYNY and into Coyote Ugly for about an hour. Had some drinks and once the dancers and MC went on a break, we left and took a cab to the Rio. Up to the VooDoo lounge. This has always been on my hitlist and I'm glad I went even though it was pretty dead in there. They closed off the lower section to force more people inside and on the first level to make it seem more crowded. It was still worth the $20 cover and $10 drinks to get the view. We were supposed to go to Moon and the Playboy club at the Palms afterwards but one guy wanted to go back since they were getting an early start the next day to go hiking at Red Rock and Hoover Dam. Back to Harrahs and the one guy packed it in around midnight. We stayed down at the piano bar and this time, the twins were playing and they seemed like they chugged an entire case of Red Bulls. Lots of energy and they had the crowd into it. Very fun, very entertaining. We sat in perverts row and were about 2 feet from them. It was neat to see their boxes and they can pull out music and lyric sheets if they don't know a particular song. This rarely happens though as they know most of the usual requests. I'm surprised some of the tips they were getting. Some were $20 or $10 but most were only a buck or two for song requests. We gave $10 for a Billy Joel song and they played it from start to finish, not just half the song like they do sometimes. Stayed until they closed and called it a night. May 13: While two in the group decided to wake up early to go to Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon, two of us stayed back to keep walking the strip. I've done those other things before so didn't feel the need to see it again. I'll probably go back to those places on my next trip as it does give a nice break from the strip. We took the monorail down to the MGM. It was funny cause my friend and I had stayed there back in 2007 but he didn't remember of any of it. Not that they've renovated anything, he just couldn't picture any of it until we saw the Rainforest Cafe. Walked over to NYNY and got some pizza at Sirrcos. I like the pizza although it gets a lot of negative reviews. It's really greasy pizza but really good after a late night out. We got an entire pizza as we were going to get 2 slices each anyways and it would have been the same price. Eating the pizza straight out of the oven is delicious. Did some more walking around and walked back up the strip. Did the hotel hopping thing. Can't believe there was nothing in the Bellagio conservatory this time. I've never seen the place under construction before so it was real disappointment to see only construction workers in there, getting the new display ready in time for Memorial Day weekend. Stayed at the Harrahs sportsbook to watch some baseball and basket ball games before the others got back from Red Rock. Went to Carnegi Deli for dinner and ordered the Woody Allen. I can eat a lot but I barely put away half that thing. It was a monster of a sandwich and when I say monster, think Godzilla conquering Tokyo. Really good but next time, I'll skip the experience of ordering one for myself and get someone to split it with me next time. I've always wanted to eat here so I'm glad I got this one one off the list. Hung around the Mirage sportsbook for a while to wait for another friend. Watched a baseball game that went into extra innings and ended when one hit a grand slam. Good game to watch. It was one buddy's last day so he couldn't leave without watching the Bellagio fountains. Saw 2 shows and then went to the piano bar inside Paris. Very stuffy atmosphere. Lots of suits sipping brandy and smoking cigars. Way too stuffy. So we stayed for half an hour and decided to go back to Harrahs. The twins were playing again and we stayed until they closed. They've got the best piano bar show in town hands down. Do yourself a favor and don't just stand in the window looking in. Grab a seat and get into it. It's so much fun in there. At one point, a handful of drunks started a congo line and by the time it went around the bar, about 30 people had joined in including one of the twins! May 14: Two in the group were headed home today. The one guy had left before I had woke up but texted me afterwards that his plane was delayed until noon. We cleaned up and checked out of Harrahs. Grabbed a cab down to Mandalay Bay. Just the drive up to their porte cochere, you get a luxurious feeling. You walk through the front doors and you know you ain't in Harrahs no more. Check in was a breeze and up to our rooms we went. I was on the 32nd floor looking down the strip. What an amazing view. Room was great too with a large bathroom with 2 sinks with separate shower/tub. Big bed with a big pillowtop padding. Love the fact there's a couch in the king bed rooms so you can sit and watch the strip view if you want. Went downstairs by the pool to get something to eat. Ate at the Beach grill that overlooks the pool and had the Animal Burger with fries. Not bad but I'd only eat there again if I was staying at the pool area and didn't want to leave. Mandalay has a huge pool area! Wish I spent more time down there. Our one friend had to catch a flight in the afternoon so we saw him off and after that, we went to the 1/2 price ticket booths up near the Coke bottle to see what was playing. Got Carrot Top tickets. I wanted to see Anthony Cools but my friend really wanted to see Carrot Top so we got tickets to see him. CT is funny but this is now my fourth time seeing him. Surprisingly enough, each time I see him, more than half of his show is brand new material. Carrot Top can have up and downs as I've seen shows at both ends. This was one of his up shows. Lots of energy, playing with the crowd. You can tell if he had a good time himself if he does his rock 'n roll encore performance. Out of 4 shows, I've only seen him do it twice. It was a fun show and we enjoyed ourselves. We had dinner at Burger Bar. The American Kobe beef burger is still one of my favorites. Topped it up with a fried egg and cheese. Had the zucchini fries which are also amazing. So good but it is pricey for a burger. After that, we went to the NYNY Times Square bar to see the dueling pianos. They have that standing room only section which in my opinion, takes away from the show as it's hard to even see the performers. You can watch them on the TV's at the top but even those camera angles are pathetic. The open space encourages people to dance but it's hard to just enjoy a drink in there. We stayed for an hour or so then headed back to Mandalay Bay. Off to sleep I went while my buddy went into the Minus5 bar for a nightcap. I probably sat by the window in the room for half an hour just watching all the lights. Went to sleep and was rudely awakened by the crazy lady next door shouting at the top of her lungs. She went on complaining about something that had happened in the bar. There were other voices in the room but hers was the only I could make out clearly. I had thought about getting up and pounding on the door but I just shoved a pillow over my head and it went away enough to fall back asleep. May 15: Last full day in Vegas. Got up at 10am and headed down for breakfast at Verandah in the Four Seasons. Breakfast was so good here. I had the corned beef and pastrami hash and it was superb. No hash I've had has ever tasted like this. Very good and very cool atmosphere overlooking one of the pools. I want to try their weekend brunch one time. That will be a must do for me. Walked over to the Coke bottle again to see what tickets we could get for that night. I still wanted to see Anthony Cools but my friend really wanted to see Jay Leno so we got tickets to see him. I tired to exchange the vouchers for tickets at the NYNY box office but they said because I had the vouchers, I'd have to go to the Mirage box office to get the tickets. So I took a leisurely walk up to the Mirage to get the tickets. Stopped by the Forum Shoppes on my way back to get a slice of Strawberry Original at the Cheesecake Factory. Delicious as always. I love how fresh those strawberries taste. On my way back, I was actually craving a burger and thought about In and Out Burger. I knew it was across the freeway but once I saw there wasn't a sidewalk, I said a Mickey D's Hot 'n Spicy inside the Luxor food court will tide me over just fine. Took a quick nap in the afternoon before starting our night. Went up to the MIX lounge for quick cocktail and to enjoy the view from the 60-something floor on the balcony. Everyone's gotta go up here even if it means paying for an overpriced drink. I tried going here on my last trip but wasn't allowed up because I was wearing shorts. Prepared myself this time and got up without a hitch. Passing by all the Lion King signs made me really want to see this show. I would have seen this show if I had picked all the shows myself ahead of time. Took a cab to the Palazzo to eat at the Grand Lux Cafe again. Had the Sunday Night pasta dish which is a spaghetti dish with steak and short ribs bits in a gravy pasta sauce. Very good as always with the Grand Lux. Walked down to the Lamborghini showroom. Because there was a private event going on, we could only stay on the top floor which only has about 6 cars in there. Downstairs apparently has another 10 or 12. She brought us in for $5 for both of us as we could only stay upstairs. Got some nice pics but then had to leave to go see Jay Leno. On our way into the Mirage, we walked past this girl in a nice dress...looked like she was getting ready to go to a club or something. My buddy stopped and said, you know who that is? I didn't know but he said it was ......., from American Pie. I've never seen those movies so even when hearing the name, I still don't know who it is but he swears it was her. I was like ok it was her, let's go get some drinks. EDITED TO ADD: My friend emailed me the name of this actress and it was Shannon Elizabeth. I went to Norm Clarke's LVRJ column and guess who was sighted at Blush (along with her bf from Dancing with the Stars). Looks like my friend wasn't so drunk. I only remember she was wearing a light, almost white, dress with a flower print on it. She definitely stood out as even most girls wear darker dresses. Stopped by the Rhumbar inside the Mirage to get a frozen yard margarita. Brought it inside the theater. Had great seats for buying them at the 1/2 price booths. We were 13 rows from the front in the middle section. A music group, Mosaic, started the show. They do acapella songs and do all the "beats" with their voices. Very cool show and I'm glad Leno uses them instead of another comedian as a warm-up. Leno came out and did his thing. Basically a longer version of his monologues on TV. I always thought those cartoon charactitures of him with his big chin was an exaggeration. I am here to say, it is NOT an exaggeration. His chin is HUGE, but his hair is even BIGGER! It was a funny show and I'm glad I went to see him because he's Leno and his show ends in a couple of weeks (although his new show will begin in a few months). We cabbed it back after the show but took a cab from across the street at Harrahs since the Mirage had a huge taxi line. Love had also let out shortly before Leno's show. I called it a night and spent the last couple waking minutes watching the view from the room. Definitely the best view I've had in Vegas out of any room. May 16: Woke up at 6am. Packed up and got ready. Ate at the Mandalay Bay buffet for breakfast. Not bad for $15. Wynn is still way better but I've read a lot of bad reviews for Mandalay's buffet. This was only breakfast but it surpassed my expectations. Saw my buddy after breakfast for a few more minutes and watched the view out of the room. Made it back to the airport and by this time, I was ready to get home. Had lots of drinks and did lots of walking. Don't have a countdown yet for my next trip but thinking possibly about the Fall time.