Trip Report July 15 - 20, 2002 Background This was our second trip in 6 months. Prior to that neither of us had been in 17 years. We went in January, 2002 for 4 days / 3 nights, which was not enough time and decided to go back for a longer stay. July 15 was our 2nd wedding anniversary and seemed fitting for another trip. This trip was about seeing and doing everything we missed before. We are not gamblers. Day 1 We flew Southwest Airlines out of Midland. Plane was 30 minutes behind, but no big deal. Noticed that security had laxed some since January. No armed guards and no personal searches unless you beeped through the metal detector. We stayed at the Flamingo and did the check in at the airport about 4:00pm. This was great. Nobody was there when we were. Told the desk person it was our anniversary and asked for an upgrade. No upgrade. Indicated they had 2 rooms available - 5th floor with pool view or a higher floor with no view. Took the 5th floor. Some view though, just the tops of all the palm trees surrounding the pool. Used LVL to the hotel. Check in desk at the hotel had a very long line even that late in the afternoon on a Monday, so glad we did the airport check in. We thought the room was quite nice. Comparing it to Westward Ho, where we stayed in January, it was a definite improvement. Very conveniently located to the pool, outside doors and buffet/restaurant area. I agree that the bathroom is quite small and doesn't accommodate 2 people. Since it was our anniversary, we made dinner reservations at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris. Table for 2 over looking the Belliago Fountains. This restaurant was perfect to celebrate our anniversary. The food was wonderful, service was good, but could have been a bit friendlier. A little too snobby for me. The escargot, bone-in rib eye and crÃ¨me brulee was excellent. The fountain show was also great viewing. Will defiantly eat there again. Headed over to the Belliago after dinner for a closer view of the fountains and toured their conservatory. The landscaping and flowers are just beautiful. Day 2 Had the breakfast buffet at Ballys. Very good, but I thought expensive. The fresh seafood was a nice touch, but could have done without it and they could have lowered the price. Walked from Ballys to Mandalay Bay. Yes, it was hot. Went through the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. This was a nice exhibit. Really enjoyed the aquariums and loved the jelly fish display. Took the Tram to Excalibur. Stopped for a Krispy Kreme snack and then headed over to the Mirage. Toured the Dolphin Habitat, Tigers and the Secret Garden. Nice exhibit also. Really enjoyed the dolphins. I just love ocean life anyway. Went through several hotels that we missed on our first visit and played a few slots and VP. Went over the the Belliago and ate at Olives for lunch. After so many rave reviews, just had to try it. OK, the flat bread pizza is pretty good, but the price was outrageous. 1 pizza, 1 spaghetti (which wasn't that great) 2 beers and dessert = $70. Was not impressed with the food or service (the waiter was quite snotty) Won't be going back in the future. Had reservations at 8:00 for the Improve. Had planned on eating at Harrah's Fresh Market Square Buffet, but was running late and the line was very long. Ended up at their sport's bar for a quick sandwich. Food was good there also. One of the best coleslaw dishes I've had. The Improve was a good show. Seen better, seen worse, but enjoyable. Afterward, walked over to the Mirage and saw the Volcano show. Then down to Treasure Island for the Pirate show. Got there right before 11:00 and it was so crowded you couldn't see a thing. I've never seen so many people and they were spilling into the street. Very angry drivers. Went over to the Carnival court bar and watched their free show for awhile. Got some free beads also and then called it a night. Day 3 We had a Hot Air Balloon ride scheduled at 5:00 am, got up at 4:00 am, ordered room service and then got a call at 4:30am that the ride had been cancelled because it was raining and rescheduled for tomorrow. Darn! Went back to bed until 10:00am. Headed over to the Las Vegas Hilton for the Star Trek Experience. This is a great exhibit. I hope the rumors of its closing it just that - a rumor. You can tell a lot of time, work and ingenuity had been put into this exhibit. Lots of memorabilia and the time line from the real past and then their future meshed together is really great. The stimulation ride was really good and I liked how they "beam" you on board. Their Enterprise set-up looks exactly how it does on TV. We probably spent about 2 hours in there and we really aren't even die-hard Stark Trek fans. We checked out Quarks bar afterwards, but nothing seemed appealing, so we headed back to the Strip and went to NY NY to Gonzales y Gonzales for lunch. Their food was really pretty good. Not like the Mexican food you get here in Texas, but it was good. After lunch, we headed back to the Strip, it apparently had been a down pour rain while we were eating. The sidewalk and cross ways were flooded and most of the moving sidewalks and escalators weren't working. It was just lightly sprinkling then so decided to go ahead and make the trek back down to the Flamingo. Stopped a few places for the cheap souvenirs to take home and by the time we got to the Belliago, it was raining pretty good. Had dinner reservations at the Red Square at Mandalay Bay at 7:00pm. When we left the hotel it was still raining, so took a cab. This restaurant was wonderful and decently priced. Have read questionable reviews about their service, which I do agree with. First, we had a reservation. The couple in front us asked "if they had anything available" and was immediately seated. We had to wait 15 minutes. Assumed that since we had to wait, we'd get a good table - presumed wrong. Crappy table in the middle of the room, with all the wait staff having to squeeze by us to get through. I hate that. Would have like to had one of the cozy booths around the perimeter. Our waiter, again, quite snooty, but the food was exceptional. Smothered Belini (did I spell that right), Chicken Kiev, Beef Stroganoff, the best CrÃ¨me Brulee I have ever had, and Raspberry Martini's - Yum! Will eat their again. On the downside, this restaurant is very small and if you want to sit at the bar with the cool ice strip for your martini, you better get there when the doors first open. Standing room only. On our way out of the Mandalay we decided to play one of the oversized $2 slot machines. Playing $2 at a time, on the fourth pull, hit $72.00. We cashed out. Headed over to the Rio for the Masquerade in the Sky Show. We caught the 9:00 and 10:00 show. For a free show, it was pretty good and we got pictures made with one of the show girls. Played VP. Was up about $30.00 and quit. Had planned on going up to the VooDoo Lounge, but the line was about a mile long to get in with a cover charge, so decided to skip it. Went back to the Flamingo and decided to try Black Jack. Though neither of us have played before, we did pretty good. The first dealer was very nice and helpful, but the second dealer was not interested in our lack of knowledge, so we left. Day 4 Up again at 4:00am for the Hot Air Balloon ride. Ordered room service and headed down to the doors for pick up at 5:00am. We saw this being advertised when we were here in January, and this was the only thing DH insisted that we do. They advertised a 1-hour ride with champagne and picture for one price per person. A little deceptive. They booked 9 people for this ride. That means 4 people + the pilot in the basket and you only got 30 minutes per group. The basket is quite small and you had to be a little to friendly with strangers for room. No picture, but champagne with cheese and crackers after the 2nd group completed their ride. It was pretty cool, but we both agreed the helicopter flight we did on our last visit was much better. After being dropped back off at our hotel, headed to the famous pool area to soak up some hot sun. The pool was quite crowded, but we managed to find a place by the waterfall pool area. There is a guy at the entrance who is supposed to be checking room keys, but he wasn't interested in doing so and we walked right past him. If you want a towels though, they demand a room key. They had the pool grill going and we got hamburgers. Yum! Would have been better if they provided all of the fixings - no veggies, but the meat was good and the bun was fresh and soft. You can charge food and drinks to your room, which was quite convenient. About 3:00pm people started clearing out, which left plenty of room. Went and checked out the Flamingo and Penguin exhibit. Was able to watch while the caretakers fed the penguins. They are so cute with lots of personality. The caretaker gave an overview of their history and preservation efforts. Had reservations at Caesars Magical Empire at 7:00. This was very enjoyable. Really liked all the magicians with their comical/sarcastic flare. The dinner was quite good, but I think the portions were lacking. Had a couple of characters in our group, who were funny at first, but started to get on the nerves as we went. We had a couple of drinks at the bar and watched the skeletons play the piano. The tunnel was fun, but not a good idea after all the wine and beer we had. Afterwards, went through the Forum of Shops and did the Race for Atlantis ride. We did this last trip and had so much fun, just had to do it again. Then went to Cleopatra's barge. Really liked the atmosphere here. Laid back, older crowd, live band playing hits from the 80's and 90's. Again, quite crowded and not enough room to accommodate everybody. They charged $6.00 for a Corona, so we didn't stay long. Went to Caesar's 24 hour cafe and ordered beer and Rueben sandwiches. Very good, and called it a night. Day 5 Slept in 'til about 11:00am. After getting up at 4am the last 2 mornings, staying out late and walking, we were tired. Walked over to Monte Carlo and ate lunch at the Micro Brewery. We ordered the tasting micro beers. Not bad, but we are not beer drinkers either as I only drink Corona and DH only drinks Bud light, but for $7.00 it was great to try it. The food was quite good and DH made a comment that I finally took him to a restaurant that has "real" food and none of that fancy smancy stuff. This would be a great place to come at night. Finally a restaurant not the size of a match box, with plenty of room and tables. We walked around the shopping area and stopped to have a character sketch done. It was really cute of the both of us. We decided to check out Downtown. We walked only around the Freemont Experience and checked out all of the hotels. Did some more tourist shopping and played black jack at 4 Queens and Binions. The Freemont Experience was pretty neat, but nothing major. I can see way Downtown is having a hard time. DH really enjoyed it and stated that the next time we come, he'd rather stay down here than on the Strip. Ate dinner at Stefano's in the Golden Nugget. Very enjoyable. The wait staff was friendly and efficient. We had linguini with Alfredo sauce and 2 lobster tails on top. The portions were huge and no way we could finish it. If I'd known it was going to be that big, we could have easily shared it. The food was wonderful, and very expensive. Day 6 Time to go home. We ate breakfast at Lindy's restaurant in the Flamingo. Had the Huerves Rancheros. Very good. Service quick and friendly then headed to the airport. No problems with check in lines or getting through security. Much improved from our last visit. The flight was over filled and they needed 6 volunteers to give up their seats. Would have done it, but they next flight was routed through Austin and would take another 4 hours to get us home, so we declined. We had group boarding A. We really liked the new check in. You don't have to wait in line to check your luggage and then wait in line again to get the boarding pass. Just one line for both. Summary We had a great trip. Saw a lot of things, did a lot of stuff and just had a great time. The weather was not great, the crowds were terrible, there were hundreds of kids everywhere, however, none of the attractions we saw were full. It was hard walking down the street or through the casinos though and all the restaurants/bars were full to capacity. Ended up using taxis more than we wanted. Though every meal we had was quite good and enjoyable, we picked several expensive restaurants. Would like to try some lower end restaurants and more shows next time. We had another trip planned for the first week of November, but when we picked up the tickets for this trip our TA told us she just got an exceptional deal for Cancun if we were interested. Just couldn't turn it down, so we are going to Cancun in November instead. We've decided that Las Vegas in January or July is really not a good time to go because of the weather and the crowds. Looking at the end of April / first of May for next trip. Sometime after Spring break, but before schools let out for the summer. Hope that time of year is better. We are interested in spending time at Lake Mead and doing other types of tours like ATV's, rafting, Grand Canyon, etc. than just hanging on the Strip. Was hoping to add a picture link to this review (took 4 rolls), but Wal-Mart is being too slow getting them back to me. That's what happens when you live in the middle of nowhere. Will add the link later.