First a little about us: We are in our mid-40's, reside in a Chicago suburb and have made several trips to Vegas, almost always in the fall. We have stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton, Ballys, the Rio and several times at the Gold Coast. We are low rollers; I play nickel and quarter slots/video poker and my husband plays $1-3 craps and bets on college and pro-football. Our last few trips have been on Breeder's Cup weekend so he bets a few horse races too. We go to Las Vegas mostly to gamble and to see what's new since we last visited. This was our first time to rent a car. We departed Chicago Friday afternoon, very impressed with the security at Midway Airport and Southwest Airlines. Our flight was a little late in leaving Chicago so they gave us complimentary cocktails on the plane as an apology--I can't remember the last time that happened! Arriving at McCarran we checked in at Hertz and boarded the bus to get our rental car. Totally painless. We encountered a little traffic near UNLV but then moved quickly up Paradise to the Sahara ($1 craps and blackjack tables), where we would be staying. There we encountered about a 15-20 minute wait to check in, not unexpected late in the afternoon on a Friday (lots of biker dudes in the check-in line). I asked the clerk if there were any upgrades available and had my $20 ready with my credit card. Before looking away from the computer screen he started to say that the hotel was full and nothing was available, but then he noticed the $20. He said that perhaps he could check if anything had become available. We got a room in the Tangiers Tower, which was the only tower with air conditioning that could be controlled by the guest, according to the clerk. We got a large room, looking out at the Stratosphere Tower. It included a full-sized ironing board/iron and a hair dryer in the bathroom. It was not luxurious by any means, but comparable to our previous hotel rooms and certainly fine for the amount of time we spend there. We went downstairs and had dinner at Paco's Hideaway, the Mexican restaurant in the hotel. They have a salsa bar with several interesting salsas and dips but their tortilla chips were the red, green and white ones out of a bag so were nothing special. The service was not great because they seemed overwhelmed by a couple large parties, and the food was just ok. Afterwards, we gambled a bit before turning in--no winnings. Saturday morning we had delicious coffee from Jitters, the coffee bar in the hotel. We got in the car and headed for a Breeder's Cup party at the Orleans: free food, drinks and t-shirt with a $20 bet on the race. We gambled a bit there, again with no luck, even losing our race bets! We drove over to the Gold Coast to see how their remodeling had turned out (they're still working on it). We gambled a bit there and broke even. My husband had a taste for Vietnamese food so we found a restaurant called Saigon on Sahara near Arville that was very good and the staff was very friendly. After lunch we drove out to the Suncoast--this was our Coast Casino tour day! It was there that I had my only slot jackpot of the trip ($60 on a Tabasco nickel machine so I still have my job!). It was a coinless slot and issued me a ticket for my winnings. I thought I would hate those but actuallly found them to be nice--no black fingers from the coins! We also went "across the street" to the Regent, which looked beautiful from the outside with the landscaping, palm trees and mountains as the backdrop. We weren't too impressed with the casino, but my husband liked the sports book which was knotty pine and felt like a club. After that we headed downtown and valet parked at the Horseshoe. It was a zoo downtown because they were filming something for MTV and the street was blocked off in spots. There were tons of people. We did enjoy the old neon/lighted signs along Fremont Street and down one of the side streets. I will put the rest in part 2 since I keep getting knocked offline before I can finish the whole thing!