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MGM Grand (and City Center impressions) – March 3 to 5

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by SoCalDude, Mar 15, 2010.

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  1. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Low-Roller

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    My Trip Report

    MGM Grand (and City Center impressions) – March 3 to 5

    Wednesday, March 3

    I dumped the dog at the kennel and hit the road. The clock said 10:10. Could this foreshadow success at the blackjack table? Unfortunately no.

    It’s kind of nice hitting the open road on a day most people are at work. Traffic was light and I was making good time. I used to love flying to Vegas in the pre-9/11 days. Back when you could walk right up to your gate with your carryon luggage 30 minutes before your flight, hop on and 50 minutes later you’d touching down. Now with security and checking luggage it’s easier to drive.

    All the way between Victorville and Barstow I conducted an internal debate – In-n-Out or one of the new Jack-in-the-Box deli sandwiches? In-n-Out won and 2 cheeseburgers animal style later I was back on the road. One more stop at the border to add gas to the car and subtract fluids from me.

    I rolled into the MGM Grand parking garage about 2:45. Lately I’ve been staying at the north end of the strip (Encore, Venetian, Palazzo) but the MGM offered me a $59 room and I wanted to be closer to city center so I could check it out. The check-in line was short and soon I was in my Grand Tower room. I was in the 100 hallway and my view was of the roof of the studio walk and the parking garage. Funny, I had the exact same view on my last trip at the Venetian. Different hotels, same view. Perhaps there’s a secret Vegas dossier on me that say “likes views of air conditioning ducts and parking garages.â€

    After a quick unpack I’m heading out for the strip but the MGM sports book beacons. My Chargers opened at 8-1 but are now up to 12-1. Perhaps because the Chargers had just released LT the odds went up? I don’t know but the loss of LT is really no loss at all so I can’t pass it up. I should get my money’s worth bragging all year about how much I’m going to win up until the point that they choke in the playoffs again. Maybe this year will be the year. There are a lot of strange movements in the lines. The Cowboys went from 15-1 down to the favorite at 5-1. America’s team I guess. The other laughable move was the Raiders from 200-1 to 100-1.

    From the sports book I head to Tixs4tonight to pick out a cheap show for tonight. I’m kind of leaning towards seeing the Amazing Jonathan. The first place I come to is some Tixs clone (Tixs4Vegas?). They are building a new trailer out on the sidewalk but until that opens they are inside a camera store. They have Amazing Jonathan tickets but they are only like $10 off so I’m not paying $60 (Jonathan can’t be that amazing). The rest of their selection is pretty weak so I keep walking until I get to the real Tixs4tonight. No Amazing J ticket so I pick what I think is a pretty good deal and that’s Carrot Top for $39. I leave Tixs and decide to head over to the Luxor to exchange my voucher where I get a 7th row seat on the aisle.

    Leaving the Luxor I head next door to Mandalay Bay. My game is blackjack and according to the Wizard of Odds they have some of the best odds for low stakes games. There are a bunch of 6-5 games full of people so I keep walking until I find what I’m looking for near the Players Card booth – dealer must stand on all 17’s with minimums ranging from $10 to $25. I play for awhile, breaking even, until it’s time to clean up for dinner and the show.

    For dinner I choose Fiamma. I sat at the bar and had a half bottle of Rex Hill Pinot Noir ($35) and I ordered the Lobster Gnocchi ($31 I think). Service was really fast and my Lobster Gnocchi was incredible. My only complaint was I had to ask for bread with my pasta (who doesn’t automatically bring bread with pasta?). It’s now several days later and I still have memories of that Lobster Gnocchi. Unfortunately the fast service left time to play more blackjack at MB before the show where I dropped $100 and then on to the show!

    The theater at the Luxor is pretty small and there’s this tiny, winding, uphill passage you have to navigate just to get there and the seats are on a sharp incline. For that reason I think the best seats are about row 4-5. In row 1 you would be looking at the performers shoes. I was in row 7 on the aisle and I had a great view. Some guy opened the show (didn’t catch his name) who was not funny at all. Luckily he was only on stage for about 10 minutes and there was no break before Carrot Top came out. Carrot Top was very funny. The first hour of the show was just rapid fire jokes, mostly his prop jokes and some sight jokes. If you didn’t like a joke don’t worry ‘cause there’s another one right behind it. However he ran out of jokes after about an hour. Around then he breaks out a bottle and gives shots to the crowd and pretty much does improv. Carrot Top you are a prop-comic, not a standup comedian. His encore of rock star impersonations was weak too. But given how funny the first hour was (and if you can get discount tickets) I highly recommend the show.

    Thursday, March 4

    Breakfast was Starbucks coffee and the $10 breakfast at Nathans. You got bacon or sausage, hash browns, toast or a biscuit, and your choice of pancakes, waffles, eggs, or biscuits and gravy. There’s a dollar off coupon on the tray liners for the budget minded.

    After breakfast I head out to experience city center firsthand. One of the negatives about staying at MGM is the long walk from your room to strip. Even though the sun was out when I got to the strip it was pretty cold. But rather than waste 15 minutes going all the way back to the room for a jacket I decided to tough it out.

    The strip view of City Center is really unimpressive. The Harmon and Veer towers are not open and there are still workers scrambling all over the place. First stop: Crystals. The first thing I see is this wondrous wooden tree-like structure growing from the first floor up to the second. At the base is the Concierge desk and on the second floor the Ocean Club restaurant has tables inside it. What a beautiful, unique, and practical architecture item. Unfortunately the rest of Crystals did not live up to my first impression. First of all, there’s the ridiculous “architecture by Escher†design.
    There are hallways that lead to dead-ends. There are stairways and escalators careening every which direction. And to top it off the fire alarm goes off while I was there.

    I headed out the back door of Crystals and into Aria. I liked Aria. The casino had a good vibe to it but the main selling point is the restaurants. I have heard nothing but rave reviews for Julian Serrano, Sage, Bar Masa, and American Fish. Even the coffee and pastry place looked awesome. I may never stay there but I plan on eating there.

    I went out the back door of Aria and over to Vdara. The canoe statue is here but it is in the center of the driveway so you really don’t pass too close to it. If you’ve seen a picture you’ve seen it. I don’t quite know what to make of Vdara. There really doesn’t seem to be any reason to go there if you are not staying there. They have one restaurant which I haven’t heard much about and no casino. I hope the rooms are nice otherwise I don’t see the point. I headed out the back door of Vdara and over to ride the tram. I’m not sure the point of the tram either as it seems like the reason to ride it is to get from Bellagio to Monte Carlo and by-pass all of City Center. It is probably faster to walk between Vdara and Crystals.

    My final stop was the Mandarin Oriental. The Mandarin Oriental seemed to be the least connected to City Center. To get to it I exited the tram at Crystals and then had to walk all the way out to the strip, cross a driveway, and then walk back to the entrance. Getting there from the strip seems easier than from deep within City Center. But once there I was immediately impressed. I rode the elevator up to the 23rd floor sky lobby. The view was awesome. Right next to the lobby is a tea lounge with great views (if you are willing to spend $12 on tea). There’s a bar at the end but it was closed off. Down the hallway was their restaurant Twist. Everywhere I went the views were incredible. The other thing I noticed was how polite all the employees were. Here I am walking around a 5 star hotel in Levi’s and a T-shirt and everyone I run into is treating me like royalty. Given their rates I doubt I ever stay there but I would like to eat at Twist sometime.

    Leaving City Center behind I stopped at Tixs4Tonight and picked up a ticket for Comedy Pet Theater ($20). From there I went back to Mandalay Bay for more blackjack. Unfortunately luck was not with me and I dropped another $100. Towards the end I had a guy sit at my table who refused to hit any hand where he might bust. I just don’t get that. Most of the time he sat there dead, a few times he passed up cards that would have helped his hand only to watch the dealer make their hand. I think it worked out for him once where the dealer busted. This got me a little irritated so I left the nice odds but losing BJ tables at MB behind and went back to the MGM. There I decided to sit down and play some more and I won back $100.

    By now the stomach was rumbling and I had decided I was going to have a really nice dinner after the show so I headed down to Nathan’s to grab a hot dog ($5). World famous my eye, there was nothing special about this hot dog. I should have gotten the fresh woked Chinese food which looked really good.

    Now it was time to fight my way past the porn slappers and head over to the Miracle Mile for my show. I got there a little early so I first cruised through the PHo casino. I checked the sports book and my Chargers are 6-1. What? 12-1 at MGM and 6-1 at Harrah’s? What a rip-off. I hated the rest of the PHo casino too. Way too garish and red. So I bailed on the casino and headed through the mall with a stop at the Sin City Brewery for a cold one. I wasn’t terribly impressed with my Sin City Amber. While better than a Coors it couldn’t compare to Stone.

    I made it to Comedy Pet Theater right at 4pm as it was starting. Being a dog owner and based on the previews I saw, I thought I would really love this show but it was just okay. It’s a weird mixture of pet tricks, juggling, and acrobatics. There were a lot of good things in the show but a few skits went on too long and fell flat. The show was an hour long.

    After the show I head back for a quick shower and change and then on to dinner. That night I decided to try Michael Mina’s Nob Hill. I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a half bottle of Pinot Noir ($40). I started with the chilled pea soup ($12). For my entrée I thought long and hard about ordering the Lobster Pot Pie ($85) but at the last minute I went with the Salmon ($26). Someone sitting nearby ordered the lobster and now I really regret passing it up. It looked fantastic. My salmon was okay but not special like the gnocchi from the night before. Nothing on the dessert menu appealed to me so I made a stop at Haagen-Dazs for a cup of cookie dough ice cream ($6). I had an early appointment on Friday I needed to get back for so I ran over to Il Fornaio for a loaf of ciabatta bread ($4) to munch on for the drive home.

    The next day I grabbed coffee and hit the road for home. Perhaps June might be a good time to return? Thanks for reading.
     
  2. domeboy

    domeboy VIP Whale

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    Nice report. Pretty much my agenda for my April trip (except for the kennel, I talked someone into staying with my dog). I definately want to see City Center also, but it doesnt sound like I need to devote a whole day to it like I was originally planning.

    I also am taking advantage of a discounted room at MGM, and I am really torn whether or not to ask for a West Wing Room to be closer to the strip. I think I am going to ask for a bungalow king and if they turn me down (which they probably will) I will ask for a West Wing Room facing North on an upper floor close to the West Wing Elevators. If they dont like my simple request, I guess I will take a Grand Tower Room ......
     
  3. DJ Ran

    DJ Ran High-Roller

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    Nice read, thanks for sharing. I have front row seats for Carrott Top in May. Though it would be great sitting in the first row but after reading your report, guess I'll be disappointed.
     
  4. Lorraine

    Lorraine Tourist

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    Nice report. Thanks for the show reviews.
     
  5. marcianofan

    marcianofan Low-Roller

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    Nice TR, tks for posting. I'll be at NYNY from 3/21-3/25 so this report around that area helps.City Center will be interesting to check out, how were the BJ rules(or did you mention those?) at Aria. Things sure seeem to change thru the years. NYNY use to have decent rules on BJ, not anymore according to the reports I've read. Now MB seems decent,not great, at least. The MGM use to be OK, now...... I'll see.
     
  6. SloppyJoe

    SloppyJoe Tourist

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    Nice Report. Looking forward to MGM in May.
     
  7. VegasDiva

    VegasDiva VIP Whale

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    Nice report , thanks for the reviews on the two shows :)
     
  8. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Low-Roller

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    Aria blackjack odds

    I did not check out the BJ odds at Aria while I was there. What I used is the Wizard of Odds Las Vegas Blackjack Survey (google it and you'll find it). According to it Aria has 8 really nice (.19 house edge) $25 BJ tables. But I'm mainly a $10-$15 player.
     
  9. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Low-Roller

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    I don't think you'll be disappointed, I just don't think the stigma of having FRONT ROW SEATS is as great in that theater. The other thing about the theater is the leg room is really small. Everyone pretty much has to stand up to let someone walk by and there's no center aisle. In the front row you might have more leg room (although I really couldn't tell from where I was sitting).
     
  10. Nancyb54

    Nancyb54 Low-Roller

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    I enjoyed reading your report. My daughter and I checked out City Center in Feb. and we weren't very impressed. Too much hype, IMO. Aria was too dark. Mandarin Oriental was really nice, though. I'll be going there again in April with my husband because he wants to see it. Who knows, maybe I'll like it better the second time.

    We also saw Carrot Top a couple of years ago and thought he was really funny. We weren't sure we'd like the show but are glad we went.
     
  11. goodkarma

    goodkarma Tourist

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    Thanks for sharing. I am going at the end of April and also staying at the MGM. Nice trip report. I'm getting ideas.
     
  12. garyz100

    garyz100 Low-Roller

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    good report,thanks for info on carrot top will check it out in april.
     
  13. Jinx

    Jinx VIP Whale

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    Great report, I have to agree with you, the restaurants in Aria did look very nice, and I don't see much point in Vdara if you aren't staying there. The only reason I could see using the tram is to get from Bellagio to Monte Carlo, but even then the walk through the properties isn't that bad (imo). I thought of trying the tram, but in walking through found it was just easier to keep walking and there's enough to see. Getting to the tram at Bellagio seemed to be the longest part.

    Did you have much luck on the Luxor tables. Have to agree, they do have some good rules for their games, although I could only find the double deck at $25/hand, plus it tends to get less walking traffic, so I usually played with only one other at the table.
     
  14. BigRoss71

    BigRoss71 Low-Roller

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    Very good report. When in vegas, go for the lobster. Don't settle for salmon.
     
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