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Vdara 9/25-10/2

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by Alhanalasa, Oct 6, 2013.

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  1. Alhanalasa

    Alhanalasa Low-Roller

    Joined:
    May 12, 2013
    Messages:
    114
    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    5

    My Trip Report

    Now that I've caught up on my sleep (mostly), time to post a report from my recent trip. I went with my husband, M, for a week. I'm not going to do a play-by-play report since we are fairly boring people. :D The biggest part of our vacation budget is for dining and shows, since dinner-and-a-show is our favorite thing to do.

    Flights - Southwest: We got the early bird for each segment both ways (no direct flights from Manchester, NH) and opted for a slightly worse schedule so that the connections were Denver rather than Midway or IAW. We booked the flights soon after the schedule opened for our dates, back in February, and no changes were made. Our boarding positions were B21&22 and A45&46 going out and B4&5 coming back (no plane change, just stopped in Denver). Great experience as always with SW. The flight DEN-LAS took a bit longer than normal due to high winds, but we were still pretty much on time. We flew over a thunderstorm on the way back, which freaked me out a little. Didn't seem like we were high enough over the storm to be safe, but M assures me planes don't have to avoid storms these days. ("Not since the Wright brothers", he actually said. Smartass.)


    Car rental - Hertz: We love having a car in Vegas, even if we don't use it every day. If you have to drive on vacation, you may as well drive something fun, so we usually go with something from the "adrenaline" collection. Past couple of trips we've had a Camaro and a Mustang. I had a Corvette convertible booked, but M decided he didn't want to try to struggle fitting in the luggage, so we went with a Mercedes E350 from the "prestige" collection. I am a gold member, so we got to skip a very long line at the regular counter and were soon on our way. There was a bit of curb rash on the back tires, but overall the car was in great shape, low miles and very comfortable. M says my 2005 4Runner has better acceleration, but that's a V8, and the Merc was in econo-mode the whole time, not in sport mode. So YMMV. I just liked the dual zone climate control. Usually either I freeze or M broils, so it was nice to be comfortable at the same time. :)


    Vdara Hotel & Spa: We had an executive corner suite booked. Checked in about 4pm. Didn't even bother to ask if an upgrade was available, but did let the rep know we wanted to be on the "non-Cosmo" side for a quiet room. Kyle came through with room 45.047. I tipped him $20 for being nice. A few minutes after we got to the room, he called to make sure the room was ok. I don't know if that is standard practice, but I haven't ever gotten a call like that before. We had a great view of the Luxor and Mandalay Bay to the south and the mountains to the west.

    There was a Keurig in the room. I never called to housekeeping for anything, but I did leave a note a couple mornings asking for extra non-decaf k-cups, and that was taken care of. Also, I left a $20 as a tip one morning (normally we leave $5) since I had gotten chocolate on the rug, with a note apologizing. The stain was gone when we got back to the room that afternoon. :thumbsup: I felt bad for spilling, but M figures they've probably had to clean up a lot worse for people who didn't bother to leave a tip at all.
    It was a nice, quiet room. No club/pool noise at all. The room was clean and well cared-for. It took a couple days to even notice small wear-and-tear type dings on closet doors and cabinets. Loved having the fridge (kept liquor and mixers as well as leftovers) and the filtered water dispenser in the fridge was very handy.

    I had a facial in the spa and a blowout and makeup application in the salon. The spa was small, but very nice (not quite as nice as the Encore spa, but fairly close). There was no one else there Tuesday morning, so I didn't mind the size at all. The treatment was great and really well-priced. It runs about the same at the spa I go to here in NH, and you get to hang out as long as you want and use the sauna/steam room/etc, which my local spa doesn't have.


    Gambling: I stuck mostly to the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship 3-reel penny slots. I did play a bit of VP - nickel 50 play bonus poker at Mandalay Bay and penny 25-play bonus poker at the Strat. I hit my first royal on the latter, but it was only a $40 win. I had hoped to hit my first hand pay, but not even close. Best win was a $702 bonus round on LotR. Just have to whine about the Aragorn bonus for a bit - I hit Aragorn at least 13 times. It's a multiple of next spin bonus, from 10x -30x. Only TWICE did it actually win me anything, since anything times zero is still zero. :grrr: Aragorn is my favorite character in the books/movies, but not so much in the slots. Overall it was not a winning trip, but I didn't lose my entire bankroll. That's because I didn't play as much as I thought I would, not because I was actually winning much.


    Roos N More Zoo (www.roosnmorezoo.org): This was the highlight of our trip. For $250, you can book a private tour of this adorable zoo in Moapa, NV for up to 10 people (additional people $10 each). It's about an hour from the Strip, exit 90 on I-15. The tour is two hours. It was just M and I, and worth twice as much as we paid. We got to interact with a caracal, fennec fox, baby roos and wallabies, a sloth (who thought I looked like breakfast), a boa constrictor (who was very happy at how warm M was), armadillo, camels, goats, mini horses, zedonk (cross between a zebra and donkey), red ruffled lemur, and asian small clawed river otters, and more. Seriously great experience, and well worth the time. Super kid-friendly as well, if that's a consideration. Would work well if you're planning to check out the Valley of Fire, too. If you at all like animals, you must do this!


    Shows: We saw Zarkana, Pin Up, and a show in the Cabaret Jazz room at the Smith Center. I wouldn't go back to Pin Up. It was well done, with a rockin' band, really great dancers and a singer with a really great voice. I like the idea of the retro look and (mostly) retro music, but Claire Sinclair doesn't really do anything other than prance across the stage a few times. :rolleyes2: If it had been billed without her as the headliner, I wouldn't have expected as much and probably wouldn't have been disappointed. About halfway through, the fire alarm went off. It was one of those "the alarm you are hearing has been taking care of, don't worry about it" alarms, but of course the house lights come up when the alarm goes off, and stays on till it clears, which was a good 8 acts later. The performers didn't miss a beat. It was fun, and not too expensive, but overall not a great use of my vacation time. For comparison, I enjoyed Jubilee and X-Burlesque much more.

    I did like Zarkana. We were in the front row, so nice comfy couch seats. I know lots of people don't like front row seating for Cirque, and I think it's valid for most people to avoid the front row. Theater was one of my majors in college, and I personally like to "see the wires" so to speak. I like the behind-the-scenes, technical aspects of the shows and even in a CdS production, you can see details on the makeup, costumes, set and tech elements that I find fascinating. M likes being able to see the performers up close, so he was happy with our seats. We've also seen Mystere and O in Vegas, and Alegria and Dralion of the traveling shows. I would see Zarkana again, but only after seeing Ka and maybe O again. I think it would be a decent option for a first timer to Cirque shows, unless they are a huge MJ or Beatles fan.

    At Cabaret Jazz, we saw Steve March-Torme. Yes, Mel Torme's son. It was a good show. He's got an amazing voice, and did some great standards and some original music as well. I can't recommend the venue enough. It's small and intimate, with drinks and small plates (we had a cheese and fruit plate which was a great nibble). Tickets were $44 each including fees and taxes. The Smith Center as a whole is stunning, and so worth a trip. Definitely check out what's going to be playing when you are in town. We got stuck in construction traffic on the freeway and arrived just as the show was supposed to start, but they were running a bit late, so we didn't miss anything. Allow plenty of travel time from the strip, but from downtown it's very easy.

    Still to come: food reviews.
     
  2. Crazycrue

    Crazycrue Low-Roller

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    189
    Location:
    Canada
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    5
    Great trip report. You covered alot of territory and had some great experiences. Thanks for sharing. Gave me alot of ideas for future trips.
     
  3. Alhanalasa

    Alhanalasa Low-Roller

    Joined:
    May 12, 2013
    Messages:
    114
    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    5
    Dining reviews - lunches and brunch

    RiRa at Mandalay Place: Our arrival routine is to land, get the rental car and drive to Mandalay Bay for lunch at RiRa. They have Guinness on draft for M and Magner's on draft for me, and the food is pretty yummy pub grub. We ate here three times this tip, since we were at the Barrett-Jackson auction. I had the Dubliner (lamb burger with goat cheese and curry aioli)with sweet potato crisps, Guinness BBQ Burger, and Chop Chop salad w/grilled chicken. M had Caesar salad w/grilled chicken, fish and chips and a pub burger with Irish cheddar. One day we split a Guinness Sundae for dessert. I would have any of it again, especially the sweet potato crisps. The portions are generous, service is friendly and I love the different bars/rooms. Lots of sports on TV as well, if you're into that. On Saturday, they were showing the Notre Dame game with the sound on. I'm kind of surprised they had the sound on for the American football game and not the other football (soccer) games, but the others may not have been live games.

    Todd English P. U. B.: Another favorite for lunch, Guinness on tap for M. In the past they've had the seasonal Woodchuck cider on tap, but apparently not this year, so Strongbow for me. It was really loud when we were there, and the server had a lot of tables to keep up with, so not the best experience we've had as far as service goes. We started with Onion Rings. I had the pastra-minis (pastrami sliders), and M had roast turkey from the carvery section. Looked excellent, and came with giardeniera, which I got, since M isn't a fan of any kind of pickle. We opted to get dessert elsewhere (gelato at the Jean Philippe Patisserie in the Aria). If you're looking for a party atmosphere, this is a great place, everyone was having a good time. Felt like college, actually. And the food really is excellent. We'll be back.

    Pub at Monte Carlo: I managed to get the $50 Monte Carlo dining credit from myVegas, so we went here for lunch one day. We'd been before and enjoyed the food. Guinness on tap for M, Woodchuck pear cider on tap for me. However, the server heard "Heineken" when M ordered. She brought the drinks as she was taking the food order, so in sorting out that mistake, she didn't catch that M wanted onion rings with his burger instead of fries. There weren't too many people there, and there were games on, but it wasn't nearly as loud as Todd English or even RiRa had been earlier in the week. I really don't know why we had such communication issues. I got the Little Boy Blue Burger (blue cheese, sauteed onion and bacon) which was yummy, but the fries were cold when they came out. When we got the onion rings, those were hot and good. I wanted to get one of the boozy shakes for dessert, but the server said they didn't have the right kind of ice cream so it wouldn't taste the same. That confused me, but I didn't press the issue. It came to just about $50 with tax, so we only had to pay for the tip. We probably overtipped, given the service, but we gave the server the benefit of the doubt. Not sure if we will be back. Maybe just for drinks, since I never see pear cider draft.

    Country Club Jazz Brunch - Wynn M isn't a fan of buffets, but we used to do Sunday Brunch at the Wynn buffet. Now we do the Jazz Brunch at the Country Club. At $65 per person (plus tax) it's pricey (though not too much more expensive than then regular Wynn Sunday Brunch Buffet), but worth it. Live music, lovely atmosphere, and top-notch food. I tried a bit of everything on the buffet, and the eggs Versailles from the small plates menu (included with the price). I also added the "Boundless Bubbles" for an extra $25. Mark stuck with coffee. Will definitely keep doing this every time we are in town on Sunday.
     
  4. Alhanalasa

    Alhanalasa Low-Roller

    Joined:
    May 12, 2013
    Messages:
    114
    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    5
    Dining reviews - dinners

    Tender Steakhouse at the Luxor: Had a myVegas reward for $75 off when spending $150. We started with a cheese plate - we got a goat cheddar, a blue and the truffle tremor goat cheese. The truffle cheese was nice goat cheese, but not very truffle-y. The other two were very nice. I had the heirloom tomato soup, M had the lobster bisque. Both very good. For entrees I wanted the wild game trio, but it wasn't available, so I had the lamb tasting. M had the 8-oz black angus filet. We didn't get any sides. For dessert, I had Grandma's old fashioned chocolate cake and M had creme brulee. The portions of the desserts were huge, even by Vegas standards. The creme brulee was as big as three portions anywhere else I've seen it. The cake was at least 2 slices worth. If you and your dining companion can agree on what to get, these are definitely sharable portions. M and I rarely are interested in the same things, so we don't split food much. Overall the food is very good, and for the price, it's a steal. The bill before the comp was $185 for all the above food plus 2 glasses of wine for me, a Guinness for M and coffee for each of us with dessert. That's just about what I would expect to pay for a dinner of similar quality here in NH. To me, that's a win, since normally the places we eat in Vegas are a lot pricier than what we can get here. If you can snag the myVegas reward, bonus! if not, check it out anyway. The atmosphere and service were impeccable, and it's an outstanding value.

    Jean Georges Steakhouse - Aria: This was one of my favorite meals of all time. We've eaten at Prime at the Bellagio, so we had an idea of what we were in for, food wise. The atmosphere is of course different than Prime. JG steakhouse is edgier, and darker. The music sounded like club music, but wasn't loud enough to be distracting or anything. We were easily able to carry on a conversation. I started with the Burrata Mozzarella Salad, which was exquisite. M had the crab cake, which he found impressive. I had the 10 ounce dry aged NY strip, and M had the 8 oz filet (yep, he's pretty predictable). We got the Black Truffle Mac & Cheese for a side, and it was to die for. So creamy, with a nice crunchy layer on top and tons of truffle flavor. Writing this up is making me crave it again. :drooling: For dessert we each got the strawberry rhubarb pie with pistachio ice cream. It's done in a small cast iron skillet, with a lattice crust and the ice cream on top. Holy cow, was this amazing! Not too sweet, and perfect for fall. M is hinting I need to find some of this individual sized pans and brush up on my lattice-crust techniques. With drinks and coffee, it was about $300 for the meal, on par with what I expect to pay for a nice dinner in Vegas. the server was great, lots of info on the menu, but not intrusive. I like the iPad for drinks and dessert. you select what you are interested in and show it to the server to actually place the order (or you can just tell him what you want). The 221B Baker St. style pattern on the walls and around the bar was a bonus, since I am, above all, a geek.

    Top of the World - Stratosphere : We've eaten here on previous trips, and were not disappointed since we knew what to expect. Basically, the food is decent, but the real draw is the view. I had the Pan Seared Foie Gras with Coco Nib Fleur de Sel to start, and it is the best foie gras I have ever had. M started with the lobster bisque, which was fine, but he said Tender's was better. M had filet mignon, and I had the Colorado Rack of Lamb with Moroccan Flavors which was yummy (I apparently was on a lamb kick this trip - no idea why). M had the Lemon Bar Cheesecake, and I had the Chocolate Lover's Dream. With drinks, it came to about $215 before tip. We'll probably come back (especially if you can book a table during sunset, it's totally worth it), but I'd recommend Tender over this for the quality of the food, value and service. The service here is a little slow. I think the pace is to allow for a full revolution of the restaurant, which takes 1 hr, 20 minutes, but I probably would have had a couple more drinks or glasses of wine if the server had come by more often. The water was kept full, but I was drinking the alcohol pretty quickly.

    SW Steakhouse- Wynn We were trying to decide whether to come back here, or go to Sinatra or Delmonico). We had such great experiences at all three, and not as many chances for dinner this trip due to Barrett-Jackson. We decided to come back here. Our table was the same as last time, a table against the wall facing the opening out to the patio, so we could see the waterfall and the different lights, but not the full lake of dreams shows. That is fine with us, it's actually a great table. Well, I'm sure many people disagree since there is a waiter station in front of it (off to one side, so doesn't really obscure the view). We were perfectly happy. It was gorgeous weather, so it was nice to have the patio open and get the fresh air, but not nearly as many bugs as if we were actually on the patio. Our servers, Nicole and Amanda were among the best we've had in Vegas (or anywhere, really). I started with a cocktail (The Dream, champagne, elderflower liqueur and a hibiscus flower), M was drinking vodka tonics. I had Steve's Chopped salad - so good! M had the crab cake. We both had a filet, and got the sauteed wild mushrooms and black truffle creamed corn for sides. For dessert, I had the warm dark chocolate brownie, and M had the Key Lime Pie. Everything was outstanding. M thought it was the best meal of the trip, if only because of the service. It was just over $300 before tip. Worth much more, considering everything.

    M started the trip saying we should go somewhere else on vacation next year, but the end of the week he was already reconsidering. :beer: We'll see what happens, but hopefully we'll be back soon.
     
  5. Pattie

    Pattie Low-Roller

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2012
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    Location:
    Maryland
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    8
    Thank you so much for writing this report. Your descriptions addressed a lot of thoughts I have been having about our upcoming trip. Glad you had a nice trip.
     
  6. win4me

    win4me Low-Roller

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2012
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    Location:
    Pleasanton CA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    20
    Great TR! Thank you. I will definitely check out the private tour at Roos n More Zoo- sounds fantastic.
     
  7. Alhanalasa

    Alhanalasa Low-Roller

    Joined:
    May 12, 2013
    Messages:
    114
    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
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    Thanks for reading it!

    Glad to help. :)

    It was fantastic! I am in awe of how much they do. I wish I was local so I could volunteer there.
     
  8. guapoxxx

    guapoxxx High-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Jersey Shore
    Trips to Las Vegas:
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    Awesome trip report! I took good notes for my trip next month :beer:
     
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