This adventure started to be planned back in April. This trip was to celebrate a few things: Number one my 40th birthday celebration, Number two my daughters fall break, and number three renewing my wedding vows to the most wonderful woman in the world at the Kiss Hotter than Hell Wedding Chapel. Because we were taking our 12 year old daughter the trip needed to be planned. You can not take a child to Las Vegas without scheduling the trip around them so needles to say there was a lot of pre-trip planning for this year’s excursion to Las Vegas. The Players: My lovely wife, my 12 year old daughter, and myself. Flight: Booked our flights from Memphis to Las Vegas early to get the best options on my free mileage tickets. Delta seems to be getting pretty stingy on free tickets at the lowest level. I guess it is just another way they can gouge their frequent flyers. So after 120,000 miles we had three tickets for direct flights coming and going to Las Vegas. Hotel: I booked a Grand Luxury Suite at the Stratosphere since our daughter was staying with us. It is a two room suite that is about 1000 sq. ft. with a pull out sleeper sofa. If you have never stayed in one of these it is a great value. Other than the first night which was a Saturday night (175.00) the room was under 100 dollars a night (91.00) for the entire week. You can usually just catch these good deals on their suites through the website without calling anyone. Rental Car: Rentals were very expensive during our planned dates until I finally caught a break. Dollar had a Premium Car rental pop up at 106.00 per week. With tax and everything it came out to 186.00. First win of the trip. I checked again just before going and the same rental was 386.00 per week with tax it was 568.00. Show Tickets: We decided on seeing two shows during our stay. Wicked was at the Smith Center and my wife really wanted to see it again so I signed up for their presale notifications on their website and got three tickets in the upper level for 45 dollars a person. This was definitely another pre-trip win. For 135 dollars we get to see a full Broadway production show. A better value than any strip show I have ever seen. I recommend if you know your dates to check the Smith Center for upcoming shows and sign up for their presales on shows. You can catch some really great deals if you don’t mind sitting in the balconies. The second show was Excalibur Tournament of Kings. Our daughter loves this show and my wife and I enjoy it also. Again if you book the tickets when they go on sale you will get the front row of Russia pretty much all the time. Great seats and you even get some dirt on you during the show. Wedding Chapel: We decided to renew our wedding vows at the Kiss Hotter than Hell Wedding Chapel during out trip so we had to secure the venue with a deposit. For 99.00 we reserved our date of October 8th for our renewal ceremony and booked LV Gene Simmons for our minister. Gun Range Packages: Our daughter is a huge gamer and wanted to shoot some real guns. We looked around and decided on The Gun Store to do this. We went to their website and you can purchase prepaid packages and receive discounts for online reservations on the packages. We saved about 10 dollars per person and got a free T-Shirt for signing up online. Got three shooting packages for a total coast of 229.00. So with all the pre-trip planning done, we were all set to take our trip. Saturday October 6th, 2012 Got up bright and early to get to the airport for our 8:30 A.M. flight to Las Vegas. Our home is only 30 minutes from the Memphis Airport and traffic is fairly light in Memphis on a Saturday morning. We went to the Delta Skyclub to grab a coffee, water and some snacks before our flight. Flight was pretty non eventful. Got my daughter a day pass for the flight for internet to keep her connected. Arrived in Las Vegas at approximately 10:15 A.M. Went to baggage claim and all our bags arrived without a hitch. We caught the bus to the rental car plaza. Bypassed the huge line at the Dollar counter and went to the express. I still do not understand why more people do not sing up for the express. There is never more than a few people at the stand and the wait is minimal compared to inside. Just sign up free on the website and bypass that big line. We got a beige Crown Victoria otherwise know at the “Cruising Vessel.” It was a great vehicle to drive around in and very comfortable. My daughter thought she was special having the entire back seat to herself to be chauffeured around in. Got to the Stratosphere and checked in. Had a Grand Luxury Suite which is a one bedroom suite with a dining table and sitting area with pullout couch. It is very large and well worth the value if you can get on. They are usually running specials on these rooms most of the time. They do sell out rather quickly at times so make sure you book early. The only issue we had this time with this room was the pull out couch. I specifically stated in my reservation that we needed the pullout couch for my daughter to sleep on. The first room they gave us was a room with a ratty old couch without a sleeper that should have been on someone’s curb rather than a Las Vegas hotel room. I called and complained and they told me they could not do anything but if I would like to talk to a manager they may be able to help me. Amazing in the end how quickly the manager found us a room with a nice pullout sleeper. Wonder why they did not put us in there in the first place. Other than that little frustration check in went smoothly. After we got settled in we went to the Wall-Mart Market a little ways down on Sahara. We wanted to get some specific things so Walgreen’s was not an option. There is a small wet bar in the room with a medium sized dorm refrigerator. It worked out very well and we were stocked for the week after our shopping at the Wall-Mart Market. We decided to just stay around the hotel for the rest of the day until our reservation later that night at the Top of the World in the Stratosphere for my 40th birthday meal. Picked up a light lunch at McDonalds on the shopping level of the Stratosphere for lunch since we were having a big meal at the Top of the World Later that night. We arrived at the Top of the World at approximately 7:30 P.M. just after sunset. If you can time it up right get there just before sunset. The views are awesome with the transition form light to dark on the strip, mountain and city views. We were seated in a booth and ordered drinks. My wife ordered a Ying and Yang vanilla and chocolate martini, my daughter got a virgin strawberry daiquiri and I got a blood marry. All were excellent. My daughter loved the daiquiri and thinks they are the greatest thing imaginable to drink. We each had an excellent meal. My wife had the roasted duck, my daughter had the pork chop, and I had the Colorado Rack of Lamb. Overall I had a great birthday meal with my two special ladies. The ladies went back to the room and I went downstairs to gamble. I stayed even for the night. Usually I am down $200 by the end of the first day so needles to say I felt like I had one for the night. Sunday October 7 Sunday morning came early and I actually planned on going to church. I got up about 6:30 A.M to go out for a run. When I stay at the Stratosphere I usually run from front of the hotel all the way down to Fremont Street take a lap inside the Fremont Street Experience and then return to the hotel. In the early mornings you definitely see many characters along the way to downtown. Anything from hookers, crazy homeless people and people getting arrested by cops. It is always an interesting run. After the run I got ready for church while the girls were still sleeping. Found a church downtown to go to. The name was St. Joan of Arc and it is a couple of blocks away from the Golden Nugget downtown. Sunday services are at 8 and 10 A.M. The 8 A.M. was not too crowded. The church was about half full. If you are driving to the church park at the Golden Nugget and get the 2 hour free parking for validating the ticket at the casino cage. The church is less than a 5 minute walk from the Golden Nugget self park parking garage. The church is small but very elaborate inside with really neat stained glass. If you are looking for a Catholic Church to go to this would be the one. Check it out if you are up and moving on a Sunday morning and need some Jesus time in Vegas. After church I came back to the room to wake up the girls. While they were getting ready I played a few slots with not much luck. I was down about 80 dollars for that session. I went back to the room to see if they were ready. We went to the Rio Carnival Buffet for Sunday Brunch to meet up with a friend of mine I worked with while on the USS Carl Vinson. He is retired now and lives in Las Vegas so we do try to hook up when I am in town. The Rio Carnival Buffet is massive and on the Sunday brunch is excellent. My daughter loved the dessert bar with all the Gelato. We said good bye to my friend and we went and got our car at the Rio Parking garage. My daughter wanted to visit some Anime shops while in town so I did some research to find a few of them in town. We went to three of them Dark Tower Comics, Comic Oasis, and Tokyo Discount. The first two really did not have much of what she was looking for besides a few of the books she needed. Tokyo Discount is definitely the place to go for Anime items if you are looking for this type of item. They had a decent selection and our daughter found numerous figurines, trinkets, pillows, and stuffed characters to choose from. We returned to the room after driving all over Vegas on our Anime hunt to rest for a few minutes and get ready for Wicked at the Smith Center. We had balcony tickets at the Smith Center for Wicked. They were 45 dollars a piece and well worth the price. We bought them on a presale for being an e-mail subscriber. Highly recommend getting on this if you are all interested in seeing Broadway show away from the casino. The Smith center sits in slightly behind downtown and to the side of the downtown Prime Outlets. There is easy to access with plenty of parking. Parking is directly across from the center. The Smith Center if fairly new and looks beautiful inside. Once we got our seats I looked around and it did not seem that there was really a bad seat in the house. We were on an end aisle so it was easy to get in and out during intermission. Wicked was great. If you have not seen it definitely check it out if you can with a traveling crew or in New York. Leaving the Smith center was also easy after the show. Car lines moved quickly and we were back on Las Vegas Blvd. in no time. We decided to eat at the Peppermill for dinner. The Peppermill is a stand alone restaurant next to the Riviera and is open 24hrs. Parking is on site and is easily accessible from the strip going in either direction. The inside décor is purple and pink neon. It has a Rat Pack days feel to the place. The food is excellent also. I ordered the fruit salad plate which looks like the Chiquita Banana lady’s hat on a plate. For $14.95 you get a whole pineapple, banana, apple, orange, ½ cantaloupe, ½ honeydew, and ¼ of a watermelon. You also get a small loaf of banana nut bread with marshmallow sauce and a pint of cottage cheese. You can’t buy all that stuff for 15 dollars. When they bring it out to you everyone definitely looks at it as it passes buy other tables. My wife got a cheeseburger and my daughter who was not feeling well got a strawberry milkshake. She perked up a little during the meal and helped me eat some of the fruit. We took some of the fruit plate back to the Stratosphere to put in the refrigerator to eat for breakfast the next day. The Peppermill is always a great place to go. You may even spot Penn Gilette from Penn and Teller eating a late night meal there. He frequently goes there after his show at the Rio. After paying the bill we went back to the Stratosphere to call it a day. Monday October 8th Monday was our wedding vowel renewal ceremony at the Kiss “Hotter Than Hell” wedding chapel at Kiss Monster Mini Golf. I got up early and went running again then went to the fitness room at the Stratosphere. The fitness center is free and is open 24hrs. It has a few ellepticals, treadmills, and bikes along with assorted free weights and a few machines. Since it is free you get a lot of people who come in just to fool around and have really no intention of getting a work out in so there is some frustration for us serious workout people who just want to get in and out quickly. After working out back to the room to get ready for the renewal ceremony. We had a 10:00 ceremony scheduled which is the first one of the day. We had Las Vegas Gene Simmons as our reverend. He is a spot on Gene Simmons impersonator. He met us when we got there along with our wedding planner and discussed a few last minute items before the ceremony. A nice couple even came in to watch our ceremony before they played their round of golf. My wife and daughter walked in together from the back of the room which is all decked out in red and black and the alter looks like the cover of the Love Gun album. Las Vegas Gene Simmons and I were standing at the front. The renewal lasted about 10 minutes and was filled with numerous Kiss lyrics throughout the ceremony. My wife said “yes” again so I guess I am doing something right. After the ceremony you get to take numerous pictures with LV Gene and other pictures throughout the facility including on the golf course. If you are a Kiss fan or just rock and roll fan in general it is an awesome experience and done very professionally. The staff is very helpful and always answered questions through emails or phone calls. Highly recommend this for anyone looking to get married or having a renewal ceremony. We then proceeded to play our round of Kiss Monster Mini Golf which was included in the wedding package. This is an indoor mini golf course that is all in glow in the dark neon with a Las Vegas and Kiss theme. Course is challenging but fun and takes about an hour to complete the 18 hole course. To finish our Rock and Roll morning we had lunch at the Hard Rock Café across the street. The Hard Rock is not as busy as it used to be since they opened one up on the strip. The old one still does good business but you do not have to wait to get in during lunch like it used to be. If you want to go to the Hard Rock Café without the wait go to the one at Harmon and Paradise. After all the Kiss wedding excitement in the morning we came back to the hotel and changed out of our dress up clothes and put something more comfortable on. We were going to the Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus next. This is a collection of Chuck Jones animation artwork. It is a really neat collection of some of his classic work. It is just a walk through exhibit with some small interaction stations throughout to take pictures with Taz, Bugs, Roadrunner, and Daffy. You even get to learn the philosophy of Wyle E. Coyote and what they could or couldn’t do in the cartoons with him. It takes about an hour to walk through to see everything. At the end there is an animation studio where you can create your own cartoon or draw your favorite character. Another station lets you voice your own cartoon and hear it on playback. It was quite fun to do with my daughter. Overall had a great time here in a relaxed environment without a lot of people. After Chuck Jones we went back to the Stratosphere and had dinner at Roxy’s 50’s Diner. Neat old style diner with red vinyl booths and a lot of chrome. Food is primarily American fare. After dinner the girls went up to the room to get some sleep and I stayed down and played some slots and came out even for the night. Loved playing Paradise Fishing on the big screen but could never catch that big fish. Tuesday October 9th Got up again and worked out went for the 3.5 mile run and worked out again in the Stratosphere fitness center. Went back to the room and got ready with the girls. We had to go back to the Kiss Wedding Chapel today to view our pictures from the wedding. Our appointment was at 10:45. The pictures were cool but expensive but I decided to buy the entire package with video and the digital rights to all the pictures so we could use them any way we could without hesitation. They turned out awesome. After picking up our pictures it was off to Stateline. If you have never been to Stateline check it out. It is a short drive (30 minutes) from Las Vegas and you get to see some pretty cool views of the desert along the way. At Stateline there is a pretty good outlet mall there and a few casinos. The outlet mall is entirely indoors so no walking out in the heat here. They have all the standard outlet shops plus a Neiman Marcus Last Call. We usually find some good deals there. The other reason we go to Stateline is to ride the rollercoaster at Buffalo Bills Casino. It is a great roller coaster that wraps around the hotel that looks like a big barn. There is also a log water ride that goes directly through the casino floor. When it’s open the buffet is also very good at Buffalo Bills. The buffet is only open on weekends. Since we did not go on a weekend the buffet was not open so after shopping we decided to drive back to Las Vegas and eat dinner at Hash House A GoGo at the “M” resort. The “M” resort is a newer hotel/casino that sits on the outskirts of Las Vegas. It is a beautiful hotel inside. We went inside and got a booth at the Hash House. My daughter got the Sage Fried Chicken Benedict that was seen on a Man vs. Food episode. My wife got the Farmers Pasta and I got one of their famous Breakfast Hashes. When my daughter got her food here eyes about popped out of her head. The plate was bigger than her. Needles to say she barely made a dent in the food challenge. But it was fun seeing her try. This time food definitely won. After eating we decided to try out the “Pinball Hall of Fame” on Tropicana. This was the highlight of the trip for us. We did not know what to expect when we pulled up but was very pleased we came and went inside. The entire building is filled with pinball and arcade games from the past 70 years. Everything from early pinball machines to the latest ones. There were also plenty of old video games from the 80’s also. My favorite was the Kiss pinball machine which I had only ever seen pictures of. My wife’s favorite was The Lord of the Rings machine, and my daughter’s favorite machine was a bike game where you pedaled a bike to propel an air bike through mountains to hit different obstacles. We spent about 2 hours there playing on approximately 40 dollars. There are also sodas, candy, and popcorn machines there incase you want to snack. Brings back plenty of memories of the old arcades in the 80’s. Highly recommend this as a stop on any Vegas trip from now on. After they closed up at 11 P.M we went back to the hotel. The girls went to bed and I played and did not have much luck. Down $200 for the night. The fish were not biting again on Paradise Fishing. Wednesday October 10th This was our second to last full day so I took the day off from working out so we could get an early start. This was the History Channel day and we were off to see The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop and Rick’s Restorations. Pawn Stars is easily accessible right off of Las Vegas Blvd. but get there early because there is not much parking and the line outside can get kind of long at times. The line moves quickly. If you have never been there check it out. It does not look as neat and clean as it does on TV. It is definitely a pawn shop. You may catch a glimpse of one of the stars there but don’t count on it. We did see the Old Man counting money in the back one time when my wife sold some gold jewelry to them. We picked up a shirt and a lanyard and my wife bought a necklace. We then moved on to Rick’s Restoration shop on Commerce. It is easy to find but don’t miss the entrance. It is kind of hidden as you drive by. There is plenty of parking on site and tours of the shop are done every 15 minutes. You will definitely see everyone there. I have talked with Rick’s brother a couple of times. You may see Cowboy, Tyler and even Rick running around. This is the actual shop they do all the work at so you can see them restoring about anything. You can not take any pictures on the tour but you can take pictures of the shop outside and the bone yard. They may be filming at times so you may not be able to access some areas to take pictures. There is also a gift shop for t-shirts or any restored piece. We next went to the Gun Store also seen on Pawn Stars. They used the owner in early episodes to appraise guns for the store. We bought three packages online from their website. If you purchase online you get a small discount on the price. I got the Zombie package, my daughter got the kid package and my wife got the ladies package. When we got to the check in they asked us if we wanted the VIP range. Since we prepaid we got offered the VIP for only 50 a person. This is a semi private range with an instructor. Since this was my daughters first time shooting a gun I decided it may be better to have the instructor and less people around. The VIP includes a free t-shirt, eye protection, ear protection and free drinks in the range. We were immediately taken to the range. The normal range had a wait time of 2 hours when we went. We were taken to a range in which no one else ever showed up so we had a private range to shoot with your instructor. Our instructor was a former Marine and was very professional and did well in showing our daughter how to shoot her 22 pistol and rifle. She was smiling the whole time she was shooting at her zombie targets. My wife got to shoot a glock and a pink AK-47 rifle. I got to shoot a 1911, Uzi, 12 gauge shotgun, and another rifle that I can’t remember. It was an awesome experience for all of us. We took our targets with us to compare our shots. Definitely recommend buying your package online to see if you can get the discounted VIP treatment. Well worth it for the money and time it saved us. Also all the instructors at the store are great. We briefly went back to our room to change and drop some thing off and get ready for Tournament of Kings at Excalibur. We had front row seats in Russia. This is always a great value show. For 60 dollars you get a great show and decent dinner. For dinner you get a soda or tea, tomato soup, broccoli florets, potatoes, half chicken and an apple turnover for desert. The show has some interactive parts in it that make it fun for everyone of all ages. It has changed over the years mainly being shorter but is it still a great show. If you like medieval jousting and fighting this is for you. My daughter is a big World of Warcraft fan so she loves this show. After the show we went back to the Pinball Hall of Fame to play some more games. My daughter insisted we go back instead of playing the midway games at Excalibur. I had to agree on this one with her. We stayed until closing again and went back to the Stratosphere. Played some slots after the girls went to bed and was down another $200. Just could not get anything going. Thursday October 11th This was our last full day and it was going to be a Museum day. I got up and worked out and ran. The weather was nice in October it really never got too hot when I was running outside. It was actually cool at night also. After working out went back to the room to wake the girls up and get ready. Our first stop of the day was the Atomic Testing Museum. This is a lesser known museum in Vegas but still very interesting and cool. It is located off of Flamingo. The museum basically houses the entire history of the Nevada atomic testing site. Here you can see anything from Geiger counters to a simulation of an actual nuclear test. There was also an area 51 exhibit that was fun to walk through. If you have never checked this out look it up. Next we were off to the Mob Museum downtown. This is another don’t miss in Las Vegas. It opened in 2012 and is very well done. It is housed in the old post office downtown where they had the Mob Kefauver trials back in the 1950’s to address organized crime. You actually get to sit in the courtroom that the trials were held in. The Mob Museum is a three story building that is filled with information that takes anywhere from an hour to three hours to go through. I had bought a membership earlier in the year which allowed me unlimited free admission for one year and discounted tickets for everyone with me. The discounted price that Nevada residence gets and is approximately 10 dollars to get in instead of the normal 18 I believe. Check out their website for more information on becoming a member. Some of the more interesting items in the museum were the actual St. Valentines Day Massacre wall. You can see the bullet holes and blood stained bricks where a group of rival mobsters were taken out by Al Capone’s men. There are also numerous interactive stations, photos, props, artifacts all documenting the history of the mob in America. You can even get your photo taken in a line up at the beginning of the tour. It is a great place to spend a few hours and learn a lot about the history of the mob. The last meal we had planned was at Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens. If you have never been here you need to check it out. The food and service is outstanding. Upon entering every female receives a long stem red rose. The décor is primarily brick and plaster to resemble being in an old cellar with limited lighting. A great atmosphere for dining. We ordered some drinks, my daughter and my wife both had a Strawberry Daiquiri and I had a Blood Mary. My daughter again was very happy with her daiquiri. We each ordered some of our favorite items off the menu: my wife had the Sea Scallops, my daughter had the Duck A’ orange (sorry if I misspelled it) and I had Hugo’s Prime Rib. With each meal you get a salad personally mixed table side for you with the ingredients you want. The salads are great when made in this manner. After the salad you get a small strawberry sorbet to cleanse your pallet. My daughter thought this was an early dessert. My daughter had the duck which had to flambéed at the table. She though this was the coolest thing ever. We ended our meal with an assortment of chocolate covered fruit which comes complimentary with each meal. We were all very pleased with our meal. We returned to our room at the Stratosphere just before a huge thunderstorm came through. It rained for a good hour which caused some flash flooding alerts in Las Vegas. We packed a few things up for our trip home the next day and called it a night. Friday October 12th We had a 1:00 P.M. flight back to Memphis. I went downstairs at the Stratosphere to play a few more slots before our flight. I was up and down and in the end was down another $100. Went back to the room to finish packing with the girls. We checked out and returned our rental car which was great for the entire trip and a great value. Stopped along the way to get gas. Only issue with a big car is the big tank it has. It was nearly $60 dollars to fill it up. Arrived at the airport and checked in for our flight. The trip home when smoothly and arrived home in Memphis about 7:00 P.M. Final thoughts This was a busy trip but well worth the planning before hand. We did a huge amount of new things this trip and enjoyed all of them. The highlights were the Pinball Hall of Fame, eating at the Top of the World for my birthday, getting our wedding vows renewed at the Kiss Hotter than Hell wedding chapel, Mob Museum, and eating at Hugo’s Cellar. If you take an underage child with you definitely plan your trip. It will make things easier in the end. If you have a lot of down time they can get bored and that is not fun for anyone. Another great trip to Las Vegas. We are currently planning our trip for this year October 5-11. Already have our room at the Stratosphere again and our flights. We are still working out all the details but will definitely have another report for you in the fall. Thanks for reading.