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Food, Fun & Sun: Family Summer Vacay 7/30-8/4/17

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by M_ILIS, Aug 6, 2017.

  1. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,055
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    41

    My Trip Report

    Prelude: For approximately the last 18 months, I’ve been unemployed/self-employed, which has been simultaneously great (11 Vegas trips in that span!) and nerve-wracking (uncertain financial stability). Well, I recently landed a new full-time job and learned I’d be starting the second week of August, so suddenly the pressure to make the most of my remaining “free time” was amped up significantly. My wife and I started talking about the possibility of throwing together a quick Vegas trip if she could get a couple days off, but then she was able to get an entire week off of work, so we went full bore and planned a big, five-night family getaway.

    The planning began by choosing a one-night Mandalay Bay reward on my wife’s myVEGAS account and a two-night Mandalay Bay reward on my account. The available dates meant we’d need to travel home on August 3, which happens to be my birthday. So we decided to extend the trip one night with a super-cheap rate for the Plaza downtown that I found on Orbitz. We’d never stayed there, but the room pics on their website looked pretty good, and we figured it would be fun to try somewhere new. (We typically stay at Downtown Grand when downtown.)

    Because our trip wasn’t scheduled to begin until Monday, I then took advantage of a flier I’d recently received from CasaBlanca Resort in Mesquite. The flier offered two free nights Sunday-Thursday, but we only needed one night, so we booked Sunday night there to kick off our vacation a day early. All we had to pay was the $6.99 resort fee. We weren’t quite sure what to expect from this hotel, but the pictures of their pool looked great, and the fact the pool has a waterslide nudged us over the top. My wife already dislikes the four-hour drive to Vegas, but she was willing to endure an extra hour drive in exchange for an extra day of vacation. CasaBlanca also happens to have its own golf course, which I had never played, so I booked a 5:50 a.m. tee time for Monday morning.

    Finally, we chose a few other myVEGAS rewards and a Groupon to make the trip more economical: My wife and I each got the 2-for-1 entree ($35 credit each) for Nine Fine Irishmen and we also nabbed rewards for a free dinner at either the Mandalay Bay or Aria buffet. On a recent trip we’d enjoyed a great Groupon deal at a sushi place called Sushi Ko, so we purchased that same deal again for one dinner.

    We threw all these plans together in just a couple days, and a few days later it was already time to go. Come along for the ride!
     
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  2. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,055
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    41
    Day One: Sunday, July 30, 2017
    A bunch of pre-trip household chores delayed our departure a bit, and we left our Orange County home around 10:45 a.m. on Sunday. Traffic was a bit heavy and the drive felt long. As we hit our traditional stop at Barstow Station McDonald’s right around lunchtime, the parking lot was a madhouse and I didn’t feel like dealing with that chaos, so we chose to look elsewhere for a quick bite. We hit the first jackpot of the trip when we stumbled upon one of the special, Barstow Del Tacos right up the street. We’d heard about these locations having higher quality food and different menu items than typical Del Taco locations, but I never knew exactly which Barstow location people were talking about. Apparently it’s all three of them. (Del Taco was founded in Barstow, hence the connection.) The cashier explained that their taco meat is cooked from scratch on location, and that their tacos are also larger than normal Del Taco tacos. Cutting to the chase, we ordered a bunch of ground beef tacos and they were all really delicious. They actually reminded me of fast-food tacos from when I first moved to California in the late ‘70s. Anyway, that was fun and a nice change of pace to begin our trip.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_131050111 by Mark, on Flickr

    We then proceeded all the way to Mesquite, which is about 80 miles past Vegas. Around the Nevada border it was pretty stormy out over the mountains, which was cool.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_150825143 by Mark, on Flickr

    Almost exactly six hours after leaving home, we arrived at CasaBlanca Resort. There was no one in line to check in and we were assigned to room 5062 in no time. The room was basic but clean, and it had a nice view of the great pool complex.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_163748298 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_163840478 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_165305465 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_165809737 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_165819731 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_165321099 by Mark, on Flickr

    Needless to say, my daughter was ready to hit the pool as soon as possible, but we unwound in the room a bit and had some snacks and drinks first. Eventually we made our way out there and she absolutely loved the water slide. It’s shorter and slower than the one we experienced last year at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, but still a lot of fun. The whole pool was really nice with a big waterfall cascading down a rock formation vaguely reminiscent of the Mirage volcano. We enjoyed the late afternoon hours at the pool before retreating to our room to get ready for dinner.

    [​IMG]2017-08-06_03-10-50 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_175313490 by Mark, on Flickr

    Having done a little pre-trip research, I knew there was a Mexican place in Mesquite that got great Yelp reviews and sounded good. But after a filling Del Taco lunch, we didn’t really feel like more tacos for dinner. (Sacrilege, I admit.) Instead we opted to stay in the hotel and try the Casa Cafe, which was surprisingly packed with people when we arrived. We got seated in minutes and all quickly found menu items that sounded good. I went for chicken fried chicken, while my wife and daughter took advantage of all-day breakfast with pigs in a blanket and the “Deuces” combo, respectively. My daughter’s “Deuces” combo came with two eggs, two pancakes, two bacon, two sausage PLUS hash browns, all for $4.99! We were all very satisfied with our meals, which were all tasty, huge and filling.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_204739224 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_210214672 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_210227435 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_210248058 by Mark, on Flickr

    (BTW, Casa Cafe also offers a Chinese menu, and every time they delivered a Chinese dish to a nearby table, the aroma triggered a strong sense memory of Chinese food from my youth. So if you’re longing for Americanized Chinese from yesteryear, this might be the place.)

    After dinner we played a few games in the small, somewhat disappointing arcade and then proceeded to Scoops, the resort’s ice cream parlor. The flier I had for the two nights also had other coupons on it, including one to save $2 on ice cream here. We got a waffle cone of cookie dough ice cream for dessert, which we all ended up sharing.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_213930719 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_214959913 by Mark, on Flickr

    We then went back to the room. My wife and daughter were ready to get in bed and watch TV, while I was ready to gamble. Another coupon from the flier was for 250 bonus slot club points if you earned one point, which equated to about $11 in freeplay. I quickly found a DDB nickel machine, sat down and slid in a $20. After a bit, I was dealt this:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170730_223336606 by Mark, on Flickr

    Unfortunately, that was the lone “picture worthy” hand of the night. I lost my $20 plus about $12 in freeplay. After a long day on the road and a 5:50 tee time looming, I was ready to call it a night.
     
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  3. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Day Two: Monday, July 31, 2017
    I woke up around 5:15, quietly got ready and slipped out the hotel room door without waking up my wife and daughter. Mesquite is full of great golf courses in close proximity, but I chose the CasaBlanca course because I figured it would be nice to just walk over to the course from my room. It turns out the course is actually about a mile away from the resort, so I had to fetch the car from the valet and drive a minute over there. On their website, my 5:50 time seemed to be the first time of the day, but as soon as I arrived the player’s assistant guy gave me a little attitude, saying there were already people out on the course and that my options were to play with a threesome or as a single directly behind the threesome. I opted to play with the threesome, but it somewhat shattered my plan to play a super-quick round and be back at the room by 8:30 or so.

    It turned out I played with three really nice local seniors who were fun. I enjoyed the course quite a bit, too. It was really beautiful as the sun came up over the span of our first few holes, and then there’s a stretch of demanding holes in the middle of the round that play around several lakes. Here are some pics:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_055410949 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_060416008 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_060831069 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_061313150 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_071106510 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_080012847 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_092543310 by Mark, on Flickr

    I finished around 9:35 and made my way back to the hotel. I requested and received a late check-out (12:00) and grabbed a coffee for my wife and a hot chocolate for my daughter at the coffee place in the lobby. I made myself a Bloody Mary in the room, and then a few minutes later, we hit the pool.

    Again it was a lot of fun, and my daughter was either ascending the stairs or descending the waterslide practically the whole time we were there. After about an hour, we needed to head back to the room to get ready and check out. We got the car from the valet and said goodbye to CasaBlanca, having thoroughly enjoyed our time there. I’d love to get another offer to stay there again.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_123225888 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_123355576 by Mark, on Flickr

    CasaBlanca’s lower-end sister property, the Virgin River Hotel/Casino, has a bowling alley that offers super cheap $1 games on Mondays before 4:00. So we headed over there next and bowled two games each. That was fun.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_130910619 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_132204297 by Mark, on Flickr

    We considered eating lunch at Virgin River’s buffet using a 2-for-1 coupon from that flier, but lunchtime ended just as we finished bowling, and they were closed until dinner. So instead we took advantage of a Hebrew National hot dog cart set up between the casino and the bowling alley, offering 75 cent hot dogs. It made for a good, cheap and easy lunch before hitting the road for Vegas.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_141353712 by Mark, on Flickr

    We made one last stop in Mesquite, driving over to Wolf Creek Golf Club to show my wife and daughter one of the most amazing courses I’ve ever played. They were impressed, even as disinterested non-golfers.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_143913566 by Mark, on Flickr

    Traffic was smooth and the drive to Mandalay Bay took just about an hour. We self parked and encountered a giant check-in line that probably took 30 minutes to navigate. Check-in was handled professionally and we were given room 32-128. The last time we stayed at Mandalay Bay was a couple years ago when only some of the rooms had been refreshed, but we got an old one. (Which wasn’t bad, but just not the new decor.) Now, the room renovation is complete, and we absolutely loved our room.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_170631773 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_171249317 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_170731438 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_170748532 by Mark, on Flickr

    Our room faced directly out toward the Strip, so this was our view:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_170650048 by Mark, on Flickr

    We had brought our own floaties for the lazy river, so while we unpacked and settled in, I blew those up and then we made our way down to the pool. My daughter immediately fell in love with the wave pool this time, and she actually learned how to bodysurf. We spent a couple hours switching between the lazy river and wave pool, and only left because the pool complex was closing.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_184446690_HDR by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_194026470_HDR by Mark, on Flickr

    We decided to use our Nine Fine Irishmen rewards for dinner tonight, so we got ready and took the tram from MB to Excalibur, and then walked over to NYNY. We redeemed our rewards pretty quickly at the Mlife desk and were seated right away at NFI. They gave us a table upstairs, which was different for us. A band was playing and it was very loud in there.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_214044267 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_214035479 by Mark, on Flickr

    The first thing I noted was that the dinner menu is much more expensive than the lunch menu, and several items such as the delicious NFI Burger aren’t available on the dinner menu. I chose a jalapeño bacon wrapped meatloaf that came with mashed potatoes and peas, my wife went for a horseradish crusted mahi mahi, and our daughter got the kids fish & chips. We also split a wedge salad. All of it was pretty good, but my wife’s mahi mahi was definitely the standout.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_215215025 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_220114571 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_220130755 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170731_220156573 by Mark, on Flickr

    We would typically order the delicious bread pudding here, but we were too full and decided to pass. Also, maybe I’m paranoid, but I think our waiter intentionally ripped us off by not applying the $70 comp value in the computer. In the past, whenever we’ve used myVEGAS comps at NFI, the comp removes the comp value as well as taxes on the comped value from the bill. This time, the guy just wrote “-$70 comps” on the bill in pen, so he probably pocketed another $6 or so once he actually applied the comps in the computer. I wasn’t sure if I should call him on it or not. What would you do?

    After dinner, we walked through the Hershey store for a bit, where my daughter got a handful of Kisses. I got myself a chocolate shake from Shake Shack, and then we took the tram back to Mandalay. I think at that point my wife went to do her first gambling of the trip. She lost $20, iirc, and I didn’t feel like gambling so then we all went to bed.
     
  4. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Day Three: Tuesday, August 1, 2017
    After a restful night’s sleep in the ultra-comfy Mandalay Bay beds, my daughter and I headed across the Strip to pick up some breakfast and coffee at McDonald’s. On the way back, we walked through the garden area on the northeast corner of the property, which I’ve always wanted to do but had never done.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_095925481 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_101533894 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_101659730 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_101809825 by Mark, on Flickr

    After breakfast, we hit the pool for a couple hours, claiming three lounge chairs on the beach section directly in front of the wave pool. It was very hot, and we felt we shouldn’t stay out there too long, so after a while we returned to our room and just hung out for a while. Then we decided to go repeat some activities we’ve done on past trips, starting with lunch at Port of Subs inside a gas station off Koval and Flamingo. Here’s our extra large No. 1 (Italian):

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_160424029 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_160902614 by Mark, on Flickr

    Next we headed over to the Pinball Hall of Fame, which we’d visited a couple years ago and had a lot of fun. We spent probably an hour there again, which cost us maybe $12-$15 in quarters. I was sorta bummed the Track & Field machine I was so happy to see last time was no longer there. I really enjoy the artwork on some of the vintage pinball machines, so I spent as much time admiring those as I did playing games. And of course, my wife loved the chance to play her beloved Ms. Pac Man.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_165223959 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_165234906 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_170626733 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_171456724 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_173423864 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_173526799 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_174325510 by Mark, on Flickr

    We eventually returned to our room and my daughter and I headed back out to the pool while my wife chose to gamble. Both were successful, as we had fun in the pool and my wife recouped her losses from the previous night when she caught a bunch of Wild symbols on Coyote Moon.

    With the pool open until 8:00, we kept getting late starts on dinner. We enjoy eating late anyway, but many restaurants don’t stay open past 10:00. Tonight’s dinner destination was Fat Choy inside the Eureka Casino off Sahara. I’d heard really good things about this place and we were all excited to try it. We arrived around 9:15 to find one waitress seemingly serving the whole restaurant while also acting as hostess. She was really nice and doing a great job.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_211302649 by Mark, on Flickr

    There seem to be some consensus favorites here, so I definitely wanted to sample those. We ordered two orders of the Pork Belly Bao and one order each of the Peking Duck Bao, the Shortrib Grilled Cheese, Grandma’s Potstickers and a House Salad. My wife also got a Lucky Buddha beer that came in a cool green Buddha-shaped bottle. Results were mixed, but the highs were really great.

    One thing we didn’t realize is that each order of the Bao includes two sandwiches. The Pork Belly Bao was simply amazing, with a thick slab of tender pork belly garnished with pickled mustard greens, cilantro and crushed peanuts. The Peking Duck Bao included cucumber, scallions, daikon sprouts and Hoisin sauce. I had never eaten Bao before, and I feared the bread would be sort of gummy. Thankfully, it is not. It was light and delicious. The Shortrib Grilled Cheese was served with a thick marinara-like tomato dip, which was delicious and intended to suggest a “grilled cheese and tomato soup” vibe. The House Salad was fresh, huge and delicious.

    The problem areas were the two fried items – the potstickers and the french fries that accompanied the grilled cheese were poorly executed. The potstickers didn’t seem like they were steamed at all, just cooked in oil until crispy and served. The french fries seemed to be fried at the wrong temperature. As a result, both the potstickers and french fries were drenched in oil, but luckily the highlights definitely outweighed those lowlights.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_213838803 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_213843633 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_214021884 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_214130628 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_215157134 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_215230371 by Mark, on Flickr

    My daughter rounded out the meal with a cone of rainbow sherbet, and we basically closed the place down. Definitely worth a visit if you’re willing to venture off Strip a bit for a tasty and affordable meal. It’s very likely we’ll return here on a future trip. (My wife even suggested we go back a couple days later for lunch, although we didn’t do that.)

    After dinner we stopped in the giant Bonanza Gift Shop for a while, where we got our son a souvenir and bought a few other trinkets. Then we returned back to Mandalay Bay and called it a night.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170801_222028634 by Mark, on Flickr
     
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  5. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Day Four: Wednesday, August 2, 2017
    I woke up early Wednesday and descended down to the pool to reserve some spots along the lazy river. I got three lounge chairs that I figured would be shady in the afternoon. I then decided to explore the pools and swam through them all – took a spin around the lazy river, West Lagoon, East Lagoon and the wave pool. One interesting note is that the chaise lounge chairs around the East Lagoon pool seem to all be padded. Maybe those pads will be expanded to the entire pool area?

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_083836660 by Mark, on Flickr

    Once my tour was complete, I returned to the room and then my daughter and I repeated our McDonald’s walk from the previous morning. On this day, though, we just got a hash brown, a drink and a coffee for my wife.

    After breakfast – surprise, surprise! – my daughter wanted to go to the pool. We all went down and followed the previous day’s schedule with a morning pool session before lunch. However, we knew today we wanted to eat lunch earlier than the day before in order to make room for the Aria buffet for dinner. My daughter kept learning new tricks in the wave pool each day, and on this day her favorite thing to do was take waves at the far left edge and let her momentum whisk her around the corner into the adjacent kiddie pool. It was really funny watching her slide on her stomach through the shallow water like a seal.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_111225348 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_123250175 by Mark, on Flickr

    For today’s midday excursion, I talked my wife and daughter into a trip to see the “Sunset Stampede Laser Light and Water Show” at Sam’s Town. Neither of them had ever visited Sam’s Town, and I hadn’t been there since the early ‘90s, although I always have favorable memories of it. We arrived just prior to the 2:00 show, and my wife was immediately impressed with the beauty of the hotel atrium, Mystic Falls Park.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_135226081 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_144945906 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_145407747 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_145511755 by Mark, on Flickr

    The show itself was decent, but I guess either lasers can’t be seen in daylight or they are no longer part of the show. In other words, there were no lasers. Otherwise, there are animatronic animals, water fountains, soaring, inspirational music and faux rock outcroppings among the lush vegetation of the atrium. The show was maybe 10 minutes long, and even at that length, it felt a bit too long. Not a lot happens during it, especially lasers. They don’t happen at all during it. (If you can’t tell, I was disappointed by the lack of lasers.)

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_140714617 by Mark, on Flickr

    All in all, the show itself isn’t worth going out of your way to see, but the atrium itself is really cool and a unique Vegas experience. We ate some lunch at the food court (Roberto’s taquitos for my wife; McDonald’s for my daughter and I) and then explored the rest of Mystic Falls Park. I’ve got to say this is absolutely the coolest hotel registration desk I think I’ve ever seen.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_145316803 by Mark, on Flickr

    When my wife and daughter ducked into the restroom, I put $5 in a nickel DDB machine and lost a dollar over the course of the next few minutes. Then we stumbled on their arcade, where we played a few games while my wife gambled a bit. My daughter won some tickets which she exchanged for a few small toys.

    We made our way back to Mandalay Bay and returned to our spot at the pool, only to find the lifeguards evacuating everyone from the lazy river. It turned out a young girl had fallen and hurt herself near our seats, and they wanted everyone out of the lazy river for some reason to tend to her. Eventually she was taken away in a wheelchair. Hopefully she’s ok.

    We enjoyed another late afternoon pool session, which turned especially fun when the monsoon weather rolled in and it became extremely windy and tropical feeling – perfect for Mandalay Bay’s theme.

    Again the late pool time left us scrambling a bit to make it to dinner, but we made it over to Aria around 8:30 and then had to redeem our Mlife rewards at the desk and stand in line for the buffet. I sure love Aria’s decor:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_205340765 by Mark, on Flickr

    We were seated around 9:15 and started chowing down, with the 10:00 closing time fast approaching. I figured as long as we were in prior to 10:00 we’d be fine, but at 10:00 the staff really started closing up shop. Luckily we were almost done by that point, but if we’d been admitted later, I’d be pretty pissed they were putting things away so soon after taking my money.

    Anyway, the buffet was pretty good. I forgot to take pictures of some of my plates, but the best thing I had was prime rib, followed by Grandma’s spaghetti and meatball served in individual portions. Other than my pistachio gelato, my desserts were all sorta blah.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_214243480 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_220935151 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_220940727 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170802_222702695_HDR by Mark, on Flickr

    We headed back to Mandalay Bay for our last night there, and I’m pretty sure we were all in bed and asleep by midnight.
     
  6. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Trips to Las Vegas:
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    Day Five: Thursday, August 3, 2017
    Knowing my daughter wanted one more trip to the fantastic MB pool complex, I woke her up around 9:15 and urged her to get up. She and I headed down and spent one last hour playing in the wave pool and circling the lazy river. Then we headed upstairs to pack up and check out.

    After checking out, we started racking our brains for somewhere interesting to eat lunch. Tacos el Gordo? Nah, too busy at lunchtime. Ellis Island? Nah, been there enough lately. Rollin’ Smoke BBQ? Nah, wasn’t as good last time there and too filling anyway. Finally it hit me – Umami Burger at SLS. Despite living in the home of Umami Burger – Southern California – we’ve never been to one, so this seemed perfect. I thought it was a counter-service place, but it turns out the one at SLS anyway is a sit-down restaurant with a sports theme. It’s also a little more expensive than I wanted to spend, with burgers in the $13 range and bottled root beers for $4.50. Anyway, we settled in and dove into the menu.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_120930279 by Mark, on Flickr

    I chose the original Umami Burger, my wife opted for a Hatch chile burger and our daughter went for a plain burger of just cheese and meat. We also got an order of truffle fries to split. Our friendly waitress, sensing it was our first visit, brought us a sampling of three sauces to accompany our burgers and fries – jalapeño ranch, an extremely hot sauce, and a garlic aioli. Here’s my Umami burger, with the trademark U branded into the bun and the parmesan cheese crisp concealing the beef. Also, truffle fries.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_122235427 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_122228185 by Mark, on Flickr

    I’m not sure what to make of this meal. I enjoyed my burger in the moment, but I feel there’s no way it was worth $55 for lunch for three people. The burger definitely offered some interesting flavors, but I didn’t love it nearly as much as I hoped I would. Same for the truffle fries. I tried my wife’s burger and it, too, was good but nothing wow-worthy.

    After lunch while walking through the casino I finally saw the hologram bar. On each previous visit to SLS, I’d forgotten to look for it, so that was satisfying to check that one off the list. It’s very cool looking. Here are some glass slippers with text reading something like “I don’t think you’re in Kansas anymore” scrolling above:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_124959627 by Mark, on Flickr

    SLS has a new slot club since the last time I visited, so I got an updated card and checked for any promotions. It turned out they gave me $3 in birthday free play, so I sat down and played that on Double STP nickel DDB. I actually hit a 10X multiplier 3-of-a-kind, so I cashed out for $10.

    I knew I had five bucks in free play at Stratosphere as well, so we drove over there and I ran inside real quick to play through it. It only netted $3 in cash, but better than nothing. With $13 in gains, I was almost back to even for the trip.

    Then we made our way to the Plaza, hoping for the best. We saw signs for the valet area near the South tower, which was very dicey looking. It turns out I should have used the valet at the end of Fremont for check-in, which is right near the registration desk. Once we arrived at the desk, I announced it was my birthday in hopes of some sort of free upgrade, but that wish clearly wasn’t granted when we opened the door to room 1732 in the South Tower. It wasn’t necessarily a bad room, just one of the most nondescript accommodations we’ve ever experienced. This lone vintage photo of the Plaza is the only decor on any wall.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_135725975 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_135736802 by Mark, on Flickr

    The bathroom was tiny:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_135804405 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_135810397 by Mark, on Flickr

    Our Strip view was pretty cool, though:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_135748900 by Mark, on Flickr

    If our first impressions of the Plaza weren’t so positive, soon things took a turn for the better. I really enjoyed the retro-cool vibe and decor out at the 5th floor rooftop pool complex.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_145322878 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_145627152 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_152106175 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_165709581 by Mark, on Flickr

    They played great music pretty loud, and I had a great time. We used a 2-for-1 coupon from a fun book received at check-in for drinks at the pool. I got a gin and tonic and a beer for my wife. We also got a virgin Strawberry slushy for our daughter. Despite the myriad amenities of the Mandalay Bay pool complex, I commented that I actually felt more relaxed here, where things were smaller, simpler and far less crowded.

    After a while, we went back to the room and got ready for my birthday dinner at Sushi Ko. We arrived around 8:15 and were seated right away. The Groupon-specific deal includes sake or soft drinks for two, a standard roll, a specialty roll, combination fried rice, two orders of nigiri sushi, and a fried banana/green tea ice cream dessert. It’s an absolutely phenomenal deal. In addition to that, we also ordered shrimp tempura for our daughter and ended up getting an additional specialty roll and another sake. Absolutely everything we had was delicious. I highly recommend this place.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_203553438 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_203602374 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_203730690 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_204317591 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_204439712 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_210628164 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170803_211951326 by Mark, on Flickr

    After dinner, we retreated to the Plaza and my wife went to do some gambling so I could go out later and have the rest of the night. It turned out my wife was losing but enjoying a live band, so she ended up stopping gambling and went and danced for a while. She then returned to the room and I headed out.

    I hadn’t gambled at the Plaza for many years, and it turned out most of their nickel VP required 10 credits for max pay. Fortunately I found a multi-line STP machine, on which I just played single line nickel DDB. I started out with a $13 TITO my wife had leftover.

    I got things started with a couple of 5X multiplier Full Houses:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_244602319 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_245518189 by Mark, on Flickr

    Eventually I lost that $13 and had put $25 more cash into the machine before I started making a comeback.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_012815691 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_013032819 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_013722210 by Mark, on Flickr

    After these three quads, I figured I had enough credits to guarantee a decent session, but I hit a cold spell and those $50 in credits soon dwindled to almost nothing. That’s when I hit Aces Kicker for the second trip in a row!

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_021839722 by Mark, on Flickr

    Exactly 30 minutes later, I hit this 5X multiplier quad:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_024819998 by Mark, on Flickr

    I played some more, and despite those two big wins, I only profited $82 on the session.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_030929269 by Mark, on Flickr

    I hadn’t paid any attention to the time while playing, and when I finally got up from my seat, it was 3:10 a.m. I then walked over under the Fremont Street canopy, where everything was completely dead. I went in Binion’s to use the restroom and I think I might have been the only person in the building. It was almost eerie. There was some construction going on in the former Las Vegas Club space:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_031220839 by Mark, on Flickr

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_031224181 by Mark, on Flickr

    Also, I caught the Golden Gate right after they’d washed the sidewalk, which resulted in this cool photo:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_032201419 by Mark, on Flickr

    I went back inside the Plaza and found this cool banquette and photo collage in the lobby:

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_032606358 by Mark, on Flickr

    I then stumbled upon a 9/5 DDB nickel progressive that was at a point where it was over 100% payback – 10 credit minimum, though, for a $795 Royal. I took a flier on it and ended up donating $20. I was dealt three-to-a-royal several times, however, which was sort of exciting.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_035654236 by Mark, on Flickr

    Around 4:00 a.m. I returned to the room and fell asleep, up $75 for the day and up $54 for the trip.
     
  7. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Orange County, CA
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    Day Six: Friday, August 4, 2017
    Again I woke my daughter up shortly after the pool’s 9:00 a.m. opening to squeeze in one last pool visit before our 11:00 check-out time. We had fun and then headed back to the room to pack up. After checking out and fetching our car from the valet, we again started trying to think of somewhere good to eat with one caveat: I wanted one last meal that wasn’t available at home. We considered Munch a Sub, which I learned about from westie’s restaurant review posts, but then ultimately settled on Shake Shack (even though there are some in L.A., but none near us that I know of).

    For convenience and cheap-skatedness, we parked at Tropicana and ducked inside to check out the menu of Robert Irvine’s brand new Public House restaurant (Isn’t that the same name as the place at Luxor? And maybe Palazzo?), but it didn’t appeal to me for lunch, so we continued over to Shake Shack at NYNY. Like Umami Burger the day before, it’s very difficult to remain economical here. We each got a sandwich – Chick’n Shack for me, plain burger for our daughter and a Shack-ago Dog for my wife – an order of cheese fries to split, a beer, a shake and a Coke came to $40. It was all pretty good, but not that great of a value. I sorta wished we had tried Munch a Sub instead.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_120833955 by Mark, on Flickr

    On our way back to the Tropicana parking lot, it started raining pretty hard, which was fun. My wife really loves warm rain, so she relished every raindrop.

    [​IMG]IMG_20170804_124754219 by Mark, on Flickr

    We then hit the road and made our way home in a little under five hours due to Friday afternoon traffic. All in all, I think we accomplished what we set out to achieve – a really relaxing, fun trip as a last hurrah before returning to the full-time workforce next week.
     
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  8. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Orange County, CA
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    Random notes and observations:
    • We seemed to spend more time than usual just relaxing in our room on this trip. Especially at Mandalay Bay, where our room felt so luxurious. I kept forgetting we were at Mandalay Bay because the room seemed so nice. The most recent room renovation/refresh was very successful in my opinion. The hallways, the bedroom, the bathroom, the shower are all very beautiful.

    • Overall, my perception of Mandalay Bay improved greatly during this trip. While I’ve always liked the hotel, I’ve always felt it’s too big and takes forever to get anywhere. Getting to the pool was quicker than I remembered, however, and we never walked back near the food court or Border Grill area, so we avoided those ridiculously sprawling hallways this trip. Self-parking was pretty easy to access and it’s easy to get in and out of their lot.

    • I had planned to play golf in Vegas as well, but my plan to play Bali Hai on a cheap afternoon rate was derailed when I learned they just aerated their greens on Monday.

    • I didn’t gamble one cent at Mandalay Bay or on my Mlife card at all this trip. That wasn’t by design, but just how things worked out.

    • I would’ve liked to take my wife and daughter to Circus 1903 at Paris, but even the $39 Travelzoo rate seems a bit excessive to me. The show sounds interesting, but not $120 interesting.
     
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  9. Richard Alpert

    Richard Alpert LOST

    Joined:
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    Awesome report, @M_ILIS !
    Great family trip! :thumbsup:
    Thanks for the TR!

    Best wishes on the new job! :D

    RICHARD
     
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  10. bshowell

    bshowell VIP Whale

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2004
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    Great report on a different type of trip. Sushi Ko looks amazing!
     
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  11. ardee

    ardee VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Great photos.
    Wonderful family trip.
    Your daughter is adorable.
    Thanks for sharing your fun time together.:)
     
    Anniversary Trip. Lucky 13.
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  12. Johnzimbo

    Johnzimbo Low-Roller

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2010
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    DFW
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    Great report. That course you played looks nice!

    Yeah, think you need to revisit Sam's Town at night for the full effect of that show.
     
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  13. thecarve

    thecarve Misanthrope

    Joined:
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    Always enjoy your detailed, pic-heavy reports and seeing your little girl ham it up for the camera! :thumbsup:
     
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  14. john1516inny

    john1516inny Low-Roller

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
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    Trips to Las Vegas:
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    Really wonderful trip report, could not stop reading it. You sure packed a lot of interesting things into the trip. Good luck in your new job.
     
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  15. Geogran

    Geogran Tea Sipper

    Joined:
    May 1, 2014
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    Sounds like a perfect family vacation with lots of pool time for your daughter - she's a real cutie! Enjoyed the pics of food and new places that you tried. Nice to see you finished VP on a high note the last night/morning. That pic of the glistening sidewalk outside of GG is really cool! Thanks for taking us along.
     
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  16. Stephiede1975

    Stephiede1975 Low-Roller

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2014
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    Location:
    Virginia
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    Great tr and pics. Your little girl is growing up so fast. My son is also a pool fanatic, lol.
     
    Fun With Friends!!
    Fun With Friends!!
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  17. mdm4sfest

    mdm4sfest Low-Roller

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    Good way to do Vegas on a budget with a small family. Your wife and daughter are adorable and I'm glad you enjoyed and shared your adventure.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. amk121

    amk121 High-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
    east coast
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    Great report, thanks for doing it! It sounds like you and your family had a really nice time
     
    Change of plans...
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  19. Retrobabble

    Retrobabble Tourist

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2016
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    Location:
    SF Bay Area
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    That sounded like an awesome family vacation! What a lovely memory to have; thanks for sharing it with the rest of us!
     
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  20. Big dan

    Big dan Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Thanks for taking the time to write this. I loved the pics.
     
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