After re-reading this post, I can't believe how much I can ramble. If you finish this TR, god bless ya!! Thank you for reading, and please don't hesitate to post a reply or email me with any questions about my trip! Solo Trip 12/19-12/23 Plaza and Rio This trip was planned with a friend of mine, who had to drop out on me due to some family illnesses/issues, so it became my first trip to fabulous Las Vegas alone (my fifth trip in all). It also became the second of two trips in the month of December, the first being the week before with my mom to see Celine Dion (check out my other trip report for details about that trip). The first two nights (Friday and Saturday) were spent downtown at the Plaza for $13/night from hotelkingdom.com. I agonized over the last two nights (Sunday and Monday), booking and canceling at least 5 different Strip hotels, before settling on the off-strip Rio for $29/night through i4vegas.com. Because I was on my own, this trip became vastly more frugal than it would have been with a partner in crime! Friday 12/19 Arrival, Downtown Flight and shuttle to the Plaza were uneventful. After the down payment to hotelkingdom, my rate was showing up as $10 per night on their computer, so the desk clerks started â€œgiving me the businessâ€ about my weekend rate. After BSâ€™ing with them for a while, they ended up giving me a pretty large standard room on the TOP floor, nonsmoking, king bed, and a good viewâ€¦..more than I could ask for at $10/night!!!! The Plaza definitely does have that odd smell to it that others on this Board have mentioned, but it didnâ€™t bug me too much. After checking in, I walked to the only three downtown hotels that I still had not visited yet: Lady Luck, Gold Spike and El Cortez. The Lady Luck seemed pretty inviting, with friendly people and surroundings. The Spike was a bit scary, and the El Cortez seemed nice enough. However, I did NOT feel comfortable walking from the Spike to EC. I then walked to Neonopolis for the first time. Besides the movie theater, there isnâ€™t really anything in there of any interest! That whole complex seems really out of place, and there werenâ€™t many people walking around in there at all. I went and ate my first shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate and sat down at a $3 BJ table for a while. My first â€œrealâ€ meal was at the California where I tried out their $6.95 prime rib special. The cut was kind of fatty, but it wasnâ€™t a bad meal for $7, which included the salad bar, potato and cherry desert. I followed the meal up with a couple good microbrews at Main Street Station and walked back to the Plaza to catch the comedy act that night. The show only cost $20 and the headlinerâ€™s name was Eddie Gossling, who I know has appeared on Comedy Central. I actually thought he was pretty hilarious, but unfortunately his material is geared more towards the younger crowd, and the venue at the Plaza was probably 90% retirees that night. Tough luck Eddieâ€¦..he pretty much bombed. After the show, I roamed around Fremont Street for a few more hours, making hit-and-run appearances on BJ tables (usually doubling a $50 buy-in and leaving) and people watching. One thing I noticed about â€œpeople watchingâ€ under the FSE is that I would routinely run into other â€œpeople watchersâ€, who I guess would watch me, since I am people. I once saw a show on National Geographic where both crockodiles and alligators (one a fresh water animal and the other from salt water) would meet on rare occasions in the Florida Everglades. They would seem interested in each other and size each other up, but it was obvious they just werenâ€™t compatible. Thatâ€™s how I felt at midnight on a Friday night under the Fremont Street Experience. Including the flight and time change, this day was getting pretty long, so I headed back to the Plaza and crashed after the midnight FSE show. Saturday 12/20 Samâ€™s Town, MSS Buffet, Blackjack at the Fitz Per Mikeyâ€™s reports, I felt the need to try out Bennyâ€™s Natural at Binions for breakfast. Unlike Mikey, I was able to finish every last crumb! Thatâ€™s a nice little 24 hour diner that Binions has tucked downstairs! Iâ€™ll probably be back in the future. After breakfast, I decided to catch the free shuttle from California to Samâ€™s Town on the Boulder Highway. This was my first trip to any of the casinos out there. I really liked Samâ€™s Town! It has this huge glass atrium that makes up the entire middle of the complex and goes all the way up to the top of the hotel, and it was decorated very nicely for Christmas. I made a couple successful hit-and-runs on a wheel of fortune slot and a couple blackjack tables before going to see Lord of the Rings at their movie theater. Why watch a 3.5 hour movie in Vegas when I can do that anytime at home? Because I was on vacation,â€¦..and I felt like it!!! I am also a nerd! If you are not a Lord of the Rings fan.....or a nerd..... please skip this paragraph ! All-in-all I really liked the third installment of LOTR. However, my favorite is still the Two Towers. I know they were trying to follow the books as closely as possible, but they really strayed from a few of the main characters in this movie, most noticeably Legolas and Gimli. Why develop characters like this if they wonâ€™t be featured in the last trilogy? Also, the cheese factor showed up a few times in this installment! When the armies encountered overwhelming forces, Aragorn simply found this massive army of dead guys in the middle of a mountain to fight for him! Having trouble with those troublesome ringwaithes? Bring on those convenient huge Eagles that seemed to come out of nowhere!! Perhaps the extended DVD version will shed some light on these issues! I also found the numerous fake endings at the end to be a little annoying, and I know those werenâ€™t in the books!! Okay, sorry about that. Back to real life, which is Las Vegas, which isnâ€™t like real-life at all!!! After catching the shuttle back from Samâ€™s Town to the Fremont, I walked over to Main Street Station for their dinner buffet. This was my first ever buffet experience downtown, but I can see why many people consider this to be the class of the downtown buffets! Most of the food stations were very tasty, and the desserts were excellent! After dinner, I found a nice $3 blackjack table at the Fitz where I played for just over 6 hours! I almost never stay at a table that long, but I was breaking even the whole time and enjoying the players and dealers a lot! Overall, Iâ€™d rank the dealers at the Fitz as the friendliest dealers of my trip, with a guy named Steve being awesome! Around 3am I headed back to the Plaza and crashed. Sunday 12/21 Moving day, Blackjack freak-out at LVC! Ellis Island, 2nd City at Flamingo I woke up around 10:30, checked out and left my bags with the bellhop. I used a few comp $ at the Fitz from the night before to eat breakfast at their cafÃ©. The food was decent, but the service was poor. I probably would not eat there again unless the meal was free. I then ate my last shrimp cocktail and made a few hit-and-runs at blackjack tables in the Golden Gate, Binions and Fremont. Finally, I sat down at the Las Vegas Club at a $5 single-deck game to play heads-up with the dealer. I WON EVERY HAND OF THE FIRST DECK, which has never happened to me before. However, while the dealer was shuffling, a lady sat down to the left of me and plopped four green chips into the circle! Iâ€™m thinking â€œgreat, there goes my streakâ€. I also get pretty nervous when big bets are on the table, since Iâ€™m most comfortable being a habitual low-roller. Needless to say, Iâ€™m out $5 on the next hand and sheâ€™s out $100! But instead of taking off, this lady whips out 5 Benjamin Franklins and plays the cash in the circle! I am officially freaked out at this point! Iâ€™m just trying to mind my own business and this high roller decides to show up and ruin my fun! Well, I end up winning that hand, and of course, she loses the $500! She plays another $200 on the next handâ€¦.and loses it while I push my measly $5 bet! She just lost $800 on three hands of blackjack, on a $5 table, in the Las Vegas Club. I realize that kind of thing happens everyday in Vegas,â€¦â€¦..but Iâ€™M GONE! I take my $50, which I earned and cherish, and hit the road, officially freaked out! After recovering my senses, I get my luggage back from the Plaza and make my way to the bus station. My plan was to take the 301 to Harrahs, and then take the free shuttle to the Rio! Unfortunately, I did not know that luggage was not allowed on the shuttle, and I ended up having to cab it from Harrahs to the Rio! It was a little inconvenient, but I was in a decent mood. After checking into the Rio, I made my way up to my roomâ€¦â€¦MY PALACE for the next two days. Yes, I had a standard Rio room in the Masquerade Tower, but this was probably the NICEST HOTEL ROOM Iâ€™VE EVER STAYED IN! Very big, with a big TV, fridge, great view, etcâ€¦â€¦.all for $29 a night! I can see why folks really recommend this place, even though its location is not the best! After getting settled, I took the shuttle back to Harrahs and walked through IP and the Flamingo. I also bought a ticket for the 2nd City show at the Flamingo for later that night, and took a stroll to the new Westin Hotel. The place seems pretty nice. Unfortunately, the blackjack tables are basically Strip rules, and there are not very many of them. I signed up for their slot card, played my free $10 in a wheel of fortune machine, and walked out $19 up. Then it was on to Ellis Island, where the $4.95 steak awaited me! YUM! I canâ€™t get over how great a meal that is for such a cheap price, with the $1 20oz. microbrews as well! After the meal, I half-heartedly put about $2 in a VP machine on the bar top while watching an NFL game. I broke even on that $2 while I drank TWO more comped 20oz. amber ales!! I love this place! I then spent about 45 minutes at the $5 blackjack table, won another $100, and bolted. I really love that place!! Seriously though, if youâ€™re looking for a really laid back locals environment, youâ€™ve gotta check out Ellis Island. At one point on the BJ table, I began to tell a story, and the other player, the pit boss, the dealer, and a dealer from another empty table just stopped what they were doing and listened for about 3 or 4 minutes, with NO hands being dealt at all! That would NEVER happen on the Strip, or even downtown I would imagine. P.S. Ellis Island has a $3.95 Porterhouse special on Thursdays only! Has anyone had this meal? Iâ€™d really like to try it out sometime! After Ellis Island, I made my way to the Flamingo and saw the 2nd City show. I donâ€™t know if it was the 5 20ouncers talking, but I thought the show was hilarious! Itâ€™s short sketch comedy along with some improvisation. Iâ€™d recommend it, especially since you can usually find reduced price coupons pretty easily to it. After the show, I just strolled the Strip for a while people watching, and finally caught the shuttle back to the Rio. My plan was to relax a bit in my room before heading downstairs to attack the BJ tables at the Rio, but I laid down on the couch to catch up on the NFL scores, and the next thing I knew it was 5am and I woke up on the couch drooling all over myself! Needless to say, I crashed! Monday 12/22 BJ at Gold Coast, Met Neon from T2V, Orleans/Hockey Game When I finally woke up around 10:30am, I decided to walk over to the Gold Coast for breakfast, since I knew the food would be cheaper there and I was going to meet NEON from this Board there later on. The omelet at the cafÃ© was nice and good valued. I then killed some time at a $3 table for a while until NEON showed up. While his wife was off shopping, we attacked a double-deck $5 table for a couple of hours. I was having moderate luck, but NEON wasnâ€™t catching much. To change the luck, we decided to take a break and putzed around the sports book and the bar for a while before heading back to the table. We definitely had better luck the second time around, which helped NEONâ€™s cause, and made me a few extra bucks! NEON also asked for, and got a dinner buffet comp for us and his wife, just for playing on a $5 table for a few hours! Iâ€™d like to see someone ask for a comp like that at the Rio for that amount of play! NEONâ€™s wife, Chris Ann (sp?) met up with us a while later and we enjoyed the Coastâ€™s buffet. It wasnâ€™t really anything to write home about, but the food was solid...and it was free! We then walked back to the Rio, where NEON and Chris Ann caught the shuttle back to their home base (Harrahs) while I changed and caught the shuttle from the Coast to Orleans for the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey game later that night. Once I got to the Orleans, I dropped some $ in a wheel of fortune slot, but won it back on a $5 table before heading to the game (a midnight face-off). The game was really nice! The arena was exquisite for a minor league hockey venue, and my seats were right on ice level! Once again, I can go to a minor league or college hockey game anytime I want to here at home, but this was a great way to get away from the tables for a few hours while having some relatively cheap fun! The Wranglers, with former BGSU star Greg Day, beat Bakersfield in overtime, 3-2! After the game, which ended around 3am, I plopped down on another $5 table in the casino, where I was later joined by a couple of players on the Bakersfield team! It was pretty cool chatting with these guys, but I stayed there way too long as I eventually lost my $100 buy-in. That was my cue to exit, as Vegas probably had enough of me at this point. I cabbed it back to the Rio and crashed! Tuesday 12/23 Departure Nothing to report on this day. I slept in until nearly check-out time, showered up and headed to the airport. The Terror Alert level had been raised to orange the day before, so I stopped at the Rio gift shop for a minute, and cabbed it to the airport 3 hours before my flight. The flight back sucked (never connect through Oâ€™Hare if you can help it) as I did my first OJ Simpson impression through the terminal (Hertz commercial) and avoided an overnight stay in Chicago by about 2 minutes!! My luggage made its way to my apartment around noon the next day! Final Thoughts: - The only money my hotels made from me was the room fee! I never ate or gambled at either property! - I enjoyed my first solo trip, but if I go alone in the future, I will probably stay 1 or 2 days LESS than this one! The trip kind of dragged on at the end. - The Plaza isnâ€™t the Ritz, but also isnâ€™t too bad for $13 a night!! - The Rioâ€™s main draw has to be the free shuttle and the excellent rooms, because the food values and gambling opportunities are not very good IMO! The service was also very friendly! - I really enjoyed my first Board meeting as I met up with NEON, who is a really cool guy! He and his wife definitely made my trip more enjoyable, even though we were together for only a short time! - If I lived in Vegas, Iâ€™d probably weigh 500 lbs!! I love those cheap meal specials!! - I paid everything in cash during my trip (food, shows, transportation) and with my gambling wins, I only spent an average of $10 a day! Not to shabby!