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March Monster Truck Madness!!

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by coralrush, Mar 30, 2014.

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  1. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    My Trip Report

    My hubby and I ventured to Las Vegas for the Monster Jam World Finals which happens every year over March Madness. I'm a big circus fan and we caught some cirque shows as well. Wanted to share our experiences. I did not watch a single basketball game (or touch a single slot machine or gaming table)!

    An overview of what I'll discuss:
    Hotels: Best Western Plus Casino Royale (big plug for this!), MGM (awesome pool!), NYNY
    Shows: O, Mac King Comedy Magic Show, Monster Jam World Finals (Racing and Freestyle), The Quad Auto Collection, Rose Rabbit Lie, Mystere
    Restaurants: Mon Ami Gabi, Lotus of Siam, Burger Brasserie, Tacos El Gordo, Hash House a Go Go, American Fish Happy Hour, Jean Philippe Patisserie, Bacchanal Buffet, Earl of Sandwich
    Bonuses: MyVegas (1 free night at MGM, 1 free night at NYNY, Jean Philippe dessert, Sugar Factory cotton candy, Monorail ticket), SocialRewards (he had $80 worth and I had $60 worth)... all from free online play :)

    About us: We're a couple in our late 20's/early 30's. Like food and shows, non-gamblers. I used to dabble in circus arts so am fond of cirque shows. I like nice things but am always looking for bargains. Which meant trying to collect as many myVegas and SocialRewards points as possible to subsidize the trip. I'll post as many (approximate) prices and deals as possible in my trip report. He likes anything cheap. Which, yes, meant WALKING to Lotus of Siam in midday heat instead of "wasting" $30 on a taxi... Oh, and I like to ramble, so expect a long (albeit, detailed) TR...

    each day posted as replies
     
  2. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Day 1: Thursday March 20

    We arrived in Vegas in the early evening and checked into the Best Western Plus Casino Royale. I hardly see this hotel mentioned, but we had a great stay!! The best things: 1) <60 seconds door to door from our room to central-north strip (right beside Harrah's). Can't beat that!! 2) No resort fee! The rooms were newly renovated in the last 1-2 years. It was surprisingly quiet, but I've heard to request an odd-numbered room which faces away from the alley by Harrah's. Free wifi. I booked VERY far in advance, but the prices were around $70 on weekdays and $90 on weekends. With no resort fee! This was during March Madness weekend, where the QUAD of all things was going for over $125+ resort fee. I think the only things on strip that were cheaper at the time were Circus Circus and Stratosphere , and of course the location/rooms are crappy. So I'd definitely check this out as an option if you aren't loyal to mlife or Caesar's properties...

    Next, we headed to Bellagio to pick up O tickets for our show later that night (as well as Cosmo to pick up our Rose Rabbit Lie tickets for Sunday). Was a bit worried that our flights would be delayed and we'd miss the show, but everything turned out well. Then headed to Mon Ami Gabi for dinner care of my TotalRewards points. For this restaurant, you have to pick up a VOUCHER at the Total Rewards Desk for the amount of your dinner bill. They charged us tax over top of the voucher... and tip is not included. Still, a free, good quality meal. Our reservation was at 7:30, and miraculously, a patio spot was available right away... SCORE! what a great start to the trip!! We started with the frisee, kale and bacon salad (good but not amazing) and duck confit (yummy and really good value for the price), then shared the steak bordelaise (a solid and tender steak but not mind blowing or anything). The service was quick and good, and we had no problems getting out by 9pm (for our 10pm show).

    Since we had some time to kill before O doors opened, we walked across the street and watched a fountain show or two. Although it was great seeing it from the patio, I like hearing the music and feeling the spray of the fountains. Then we headed in the Bellagio and walked through the lobby and conservatory, before making our way to the O theater.

    What can I say about O... we bought the best limited view seats (section 203, row P, $98.50 each + service charge). They are right in the center section, and we are seated next to people who paid $57 more per ticket. The views of the show were great, and we got very close to some of the roving entertainers. There was minimal obstructed viewing of the lower outer quadrant of your field of vision in the form of metal handrails. I asked for a "booster seat" which they have for kids, and give you an extra 3 or 4" in height. My hubs (who is taller and took the more obstructed view) didn't mind and said he forgot about the railing as he was watching. However - I think this is just for the P row though - the O rows have more obstruction and might not be worth it. As for the show, we both thought it was very creative and unique. Wasn't a fan of the clowns which were just filler, but we enjoyed the show very much overall.

    After that, went back to the hotel exhausted and fell asleep (we both worked full days before hopping on the flight over!)
     
  3. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Day 2: Friday March 21

    Woke up and hubby asks what I have planned for today. I tell him about Lotus of Siam for lunch and how it's a $10-15 taxi ride each way, but worth it. We can afford it given how much we've saved so far! Nope, he wants to walk. But first, a pit stop to Fashion Show Mall for some retail therapy. The walk to Lotus of Siam takes 45 minutes from the NE corner of the mall. Good thing we also knew that there is no store front right on Sahara and you have to walk around to the other side. We arrive at 11:25 for the 11:30 opening and there are a few people loitering around too. By the time 12pm hits though, there is a small line forming. We order off the menu, asked for recs and try a couple of the "Northern" style foods - we have both travelled to Northern Thailand and Laos, and this stuff brought us back. Thai iced tea is great too!

    We then make the long trek back (gotta work off those calories!), stopping at Circus Circus as well as the Venetian and Palazzo shops, and head to Harrah's for the 3pm Mac King show. First stop is the Harrah's Total Rewards desk for a coupon for free ticket with purchase of a drink. The desk worker also gives us coupons for free admission to the Quad Auto collections. Total for show/drink/service fee is just under $15 each. The show- we LOVED it!! He was hilarious and even had some adult humor in there without being vulgar (great for both kids and adults), his magic tricks were great! What a great steal of a show!

    After the show, we head to Burger Brasserie where we have a Groupon for Dinner. It was $16 for $40 worth (I bought it on a weekend where everything was 20% off) of food. Had potato wedges, beet and goat cheese salad (this was really good!) and the Le Paris burger and sweet potato fries which were good. Hubby had a banana and nutella shake which I couldn't stomach - it tasted like syrupy artificial banana- yuck!

    Then back to toward the Quad to take the shuttle buses to Sam Boyd Stadium for night one of the Monster Jam World Finals! We arrived at the bus depot at 5:50pm or so to a HUGE line. We get on a coach bus within half an hour and head to the stadium. By the time we found our seats it was just after 7 and the trucks had started coming onto the field for a pre-show parade and fireworks. Didn't miss much. Tonight was racing and it was cool to see, but not as exciting as freestyle. Lots of really close races. There was one section where one of the overall favorite trucks (Max-D) got shut off automatically for hitting a wall so unexpectedly lost... but then they gave him another chance and he won that race. He got a lot of boos for redoing that race! Thank goodness he didn't win in the end or else there would be a lot of angry fans. Bring earplugs, the motors are loud (though not as loud as in a closed arena, as this stadium is open). With regards to seating, definitely get something along the length of the stadium (preferably near the center, even if it is further back). The show finished around 9, and by the time we walked out and got on the shuttle buses back (and we booked it out of the stadium, had to wait maybe 15 minutes for a bus), we were back at the Quad by just after 10. Then home and zzzzzz - we were pooped!
     
  4. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    sorry, duplicate post... how to delete?
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
  5. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Day 3: Saturday March 22

    Anyone who knows monster jam knows that there are pit parties prior to the shows. For the world finals, it is included in the ticket, and from 11-5, there is free entertainment, seeing the trucks up close and meeting the drivers (who are so uniformly awesome and gracious).

    First up though, we walk to Tacos El Gordo (15 minutes from Best Western) for an early lunch. We get our $2 tacos - lengua, pork adobada, pork shoulder and our horchata (free refills!) and eat them in the outdoor covered area before taking off. Awesome value and food! My hubby was REALLY happy about this deal and wondered why we didn't eat every meal here every day...

    Then we headed to the Quad bus depot just before noon for the monster jam shuttle - during the day there were no crowds and the bus left with around 10 people on board. We spent the afternoon looking at the trucks (there are massive trucks shaped like dogs, lobsters, bulls, ice cream trucks and just general awesomeness) and meeting some of the drivers. There were also interviews, fashion shows, fun races, etc. going on. Stations where you could make signs and face painting for free. There was a dinky zip line and ride alongs in monster trucks sold for $10. At 5, there was a mini parade of all the trucks there, and then we headed to the stadium to get a bite to eat (overpriced! Bratwurst and fries were $8, lemonade was $6) and get our seats. Freestyle this year wasn't as good as in past years... the organizers made the track too difficult, so there were a LOT of crashes. But when someone hit, it was GREAT... especially the winning freestyle by Metal Mulisha - filled with big air and backflips! I think the event finished up around 9:45, and home by 11.
     
  6. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Day 4: Sunday March 23

    Today is the day we had to switch hotels to MGM. Plan was to go to breakfast at Hash House and then the Auto Collections afterwards before checking out (we got late checkout at noon). We arrived at HHAGG at 8:20 and waited 5-10 minutes or so before being seated. A big crowd came after us, and the lines got significantly longer after we arrived. We knew to split an entree, but Hubby didn't feel like fried chicken, so we split a hash. It was good but not as humungous as I expected (compared to some of the other dishes). We shared it, but if we were really hungry, could have eaten 1 portion alone. The Kiwi Watermelon Lemonade was good. Didn't taste too artificial and syrupy, and loved how a big watermelon slice was sticking out of the glass.

    We then wandered around the Quad while waiting for the Auto Collections to open. We spent just over an hour there. There were a ton of Rolls Royces there. I've definitely seen better car museums/showrooms, and wouldn't pay to go visit this (we got free tickets at the Harrah's TR desk, see above). But it was kind of fun to read the car descriptions as they read like real estate ads (since most of the cars ARE for sale!).

    After checking out of the Best Western (would have stayed longer if not for the free nights at MGM and NYNY!), we headed via monorail (again, free myVegas ticket! But $5 per way otherwise) to the MGM. Worked out well as we didn't have to lug our luggage down the strip (and didn't have to pay for a taxi). The front desk is not too far from the underground shops entrance, a few minute walk (go down the escalator before leaving the station, in the opposite direction as the signs tell you to go!). That area has Project Pie and a Houdini Magic Shop there...

    We couldn't check in yet (but could pay $20 for early check in, ha guess if we did!?) so we hung out in the food court with our luggage. The desk clerk (who was unfriendly and mean) took our cell number and told us we'd get a call when our room was ready, check in time was 3. We took turns walking around, got the free myVegas cotton candy at sugar factory, and did some reading/work and 3 rolled around... still no call. Turns out, housekeeping still hadn't released our room that our keys had been programmed for, but they were able to switch it around to get another room. We had a room in the west wing as part of the MyVegas deal (the petite king rooms). Everyone hates on the rooms, but they are not THAT BAD. For the right price, I'd definitely stay in these with a partner (that I no longer have to impress with a fancy suite... ha!) Things are clean and modern inside the room. It is small and there is no closed off door to the bathroom, so the shower and toilet are behind glass doors that swing open. When you shower, if you don't have a towel down on the ground outside, water will leak to the toilet enclosure. We had a view north towards the Aria billboard. And yes, they charged a resort fee $28 with MyVegas deal.

    Anyway, we then changed into our bathing suits and headed to the pool complex! MGM said that the backlot river does not open until March 28 and I was worried because that was the main reason why I wanted to go to the pool and picked MGM... but it was open, yay!! Tubes were $16 but there were definitely some abandoned spares floating around that I scammed, but people were walking through the lazy river too. There was definitely a bit of a party vibe in that lazy river, it was fun to float through. We stayed for over an hour and a half in that pool only and then left to get changed for dinner.

    We got dressed and walked to Aria for the American Fish Happy Hour which is every night between 5-7. There are $5 small plates which are yummy. We each had 3 for a small dinner. The truffled mac and cheese is probably the best dish there. Hubs was complaining about the piddly amount of food there... everything was tasty though. Good value for a restaurant whose entrees are normally $25-40. Then we headed to Jean Phillippe Patisserie downstairs for the free MyVegas crepe. Because he was so hungry after our piddly dinner, we opted for a savory crepe (the smoked salmon) which was tasty and best of all, free.

    Next we headed to the Cosmopolitan (via bridge to Crystals) and went to Rose Rabbit Lie, which is located by the Wicked Spoon Buffet on the 2nd floor in the West tower. I posted a bunch more about the show in the shows forum. I used the Livingsocial deal with an extra $20 off code, for $114 for 2 people (including all service charges, taxes) for the 8pm Vegas Nocturne. While we were waiting, there was song and aerial entertainment in one of the adjoining rooms. You could go there and loiter at the bar (and not buy anything). We were soon ushered into the main performance space (see the show post for my seating recs, but I recommend being seated along the length of the stage that juts out, rather than in the center). The actual circus acts in the 8pm show were all great! The recurring characters we didn't really care for, but there always seems to be filler acts in these shows. After the show, we sat down for dessert in the Music Room and watched more of these acts come by every 10-15 minutes and perform for us before/after they went on stage for the 10pm show. The 10pm show was much racier and more vulgar than the 8pm show though. They also had a midnight show which we stayed for (it was included in our ticket) but since we had seen many of the acts earlier that night who were doing similar things, we left a bit early. The show turns into a club afterwards which I've heard was lots of fun, but we got bored and took off (I'd rather go clubbing with a larger group of people or with girlfriends!). Overall, the show was very good for the price we paid ($57 each all in) and it was neat seeing the acts (some of which were very unique) up close, but for full price, I'd probably rather see a (good!) cirque show.
     
  7. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Day 5: Monday March 24

    Originally, we wanted to hang out by the pool again this morning, but we slept in too much... oh well! We were able to get late checkout at noon, and headed across the street to NYNY where we got the bellman to hold our bags before check in. Then headed north in anticipation of a lunch (slash dinner) buffet at Bacchanal at Caesar's, and took a ride on the free trams (MC/Crystals/Bellagio, Mirage/TI) and wandered through the Forum Shops at Caesars. We arrived at the Bacchanal Buffet at 2:15 to a big line (took 15 minutes to get to the front and another 5 mins to get seated), but by the time we reached the front (2:30) the line had died down almost completely! After being seated and ordering drinks (the peach iced tea is amaaaaazing, but it's always a pain to drink too much at buffets!) The buffet was still good, but didn't have my faves from last time I went a few months ago (no mochi ice cream, watermelon mint gelato, butternut squash soup)... I feel like the seafood was better quality than the last time I was there though. Fav dishes this time included miso glazed cod, all the seafood (they put the crab legs out at 3pm), brown butter caramel ice cream, chocolate covered strawberries. I think it's a great deal to pay the lunch price ($34.99 with TR card) and stay for dinner... but dinner is $50.99 or something - probably not something we'd want to pay for.

    Headed back to the hotel to grab our bags and check in and get changed for the show that night. It took a while for the bellhop to gather our bags, so by the time we get up to the room (park avenue room, $22 resort fee) it is 5:50 or so. We leave the hotel at 6:10 and are booting it to TI (remember, we don't want to "waste money" on a taxi!). Walking up the strip to Mirage and then taking the tram to TI (tram stop at Mirage is at the front of the hotel, tram stop at TI was at the back near Mystere theatre, so it worked out well) we arrived at 6:50... phew! Wish we got here earlier though, there was some pre-show entertainment. It was a dumb clown throwing popcorn at people (can you tell I don't like clowns?), but free nonetheless.

    I really liked Mystere. It is traditional circus, and it had high quality acts with difficult tricks. Among the circus community, I had heard that Cirque shows were more about doing relatively easy tricks (that still wow the audience) and doing them with perfect form... but many of these tricks were of a very high difficulty level (especially the flying trapeze, which I have dabbled in in the past) and still perfect in form! Of course, I found the clowns really annoying, and more annoying than O, and would have rather seen actual acts in its place, but oh well. With regards to seating, I was in section 203, row JJ (back middle section) and paid $55+ tax/service fee for my ticket. I found the deal right on the Mystere website, but often look at smartervegas for promo codes. It was great to sit in the center, a bit further back.

    As for ranking the cirque shows (I've seen O, Mystere, and MJ one), it's hard to do. The 3 I've seen are so different and they all rock in their own ways. O is the most unique, Mystere has the best pure circus acts (from a circus aficionado's point of view - but for the general public the circus acts in O would be great too), and MJ one has little circus, but makes up for it in awesome music, dancing and special effects. Depends what you want.

    On the walk back, we stopped at Bellagio to watch another fountain show. We also picked up Garrett's popcorn at Miracle Mile Shops at ph to munch on while watching... perfect evening!! For those of you who don't know, it is a Chicago institution known for its Chicago Mix (mix of cheese and caramel popcorn) and is so addictive! I was so excited to learn it was in Vegas!

    Once I made it back to the hotel the plan was to go hang out in the bar at Times Square for its Dueling Pianos show, but there was already a lineup outside. I didn't expect the place to be so small. Plus, the crowd was a bit older than expected that night (lots of 40-50 somethings... which isn't a bad thing, but I heard lots of Billy Joel and Elton John rather than more 80s-2000s stuff which we'd prefer.) Granted if we loitered longer some of that music would have changed, but we just packed it up and went to bed.
     
  8. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Day 6: Tuesday March 25

    Departure day :( I tried calling NYNY front desk to request late checkout, but it could not be granted. Checked out by 11am and hauled my luggage up the strip (just had carry on) to pick up some lunch at Earl of Sandwich before my flight. Ordered a Philly Cheesesteak, but you can't go wrong with any of the sandwiches! Makes an easy to carry on lunch onto the plane, and yummier than what they serve for more $ in flight. Walked around the Miracle Mile shops for a bit before catching a cab back to the airport... and with that, our Vegas trip was done! Time for a vacation from this action packed vacation!

    Any questions, just ask :)
     
  9. Viva Las Vegas

    Viva Las Vegas Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

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    Excellent report - thanks for posting. I stayed at Casino Royale as they were remodeling. Their rooms were better than most 2-3 star + Strip offerings - very nice. Great if you are using points or if you can snag a great deal like you were able to.

    Never been to the Monster Trucks, but would consider after your posts. Do you ever gamble, or did you skip this trip due to all you had going on? A growing segment of Vegas visitors are non-gamblers, and hotels make more money from non gambling sources (rooms, food, bars, shows, fees fees and more fees).

    Also, never knew they had a Garrett's in Vegas (or anywhere else outside of Chicago). Pass it downtown at work all the time.
     
  10. sporty8705

    sporty8705 VIP Whale

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    We checked in on March 23 at the MGM too at like 10am, and the nice lady checked my mom in ( she was staying all 4 nights, the rest of us checked in on Tuesday) and combined all 4 nights and upgraded her for free to a Grand King. She was amazing.. surprised they made you wait
     
  11. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Nope, we've never been gamblers. We'd rather spend our money and know exactly what we're getting for it... we pretty much made the trip out FOR the Monster Jam World Finals. It has all the best trucks that pull out all the stops, and it's a large venue, unlike some of the dinky arenas where it happens locally. It's happening March 26-28, 2015 next year. It's pretty awesome stuff.

    Here are some examples of the awesomeness that goes on:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kuUHEyCV9g (last year's encore - fast forward to 5:00)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7W5BK7HmrA (this year's freestyle winner)
     
  12. coralrush

    coralrush Tourist

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    Hmm. it could have been because I had a free MyVegas room. And had no status. And was only staying 1 night. And didn't try the $20 trick. And had a crabby front desk agent. Oh well.
     
  13. sporty8705

    sporty8705 VIP Whale

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    Hmm, my mom had 2 myvegas nights and I gave her my two, so she had 4 nights. When I checked in my agent was mean too, so maybe it depends on their day so far, if they want to be nice, etc.. we didnt try the trick either,. maybe next time will be better for ya
     
  14. Viva Las Vegas

    Viva Las Vegas Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

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    Awesome indeed. Will strongly consider a future Monster Truck outing. Thanks!

    :beer:
     
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