I went to Vegas for my birthday (Thanksgiving weekend). Overall it wasn't that good a trip. Mostly this was because I came down with a severe chest cold a few days before the trip and the worst day of that illness, when I was feeling like absolute death-warmed-over was smack dab in the middle. Walgreens got a lot of my money this trip as I attempted to drug the symptoms into oblivion and was only 30% successful. I was also fairly lonely/depressed this trip. Normally I can bull past that when on vacation, but my mental batteries where drained by the cold. Really, it was mostly bad timing there. These combined to put a big wet blanket over my fun while I was there. It didn't stop me from doing stuff, but often that stuff was in slow motion. Anyway, on to the specifics of the trip. The Hotel: I stayed at the Aria. The Aria is a very beautiful hotel, surrounded by a very beautiful mall and several other very beautiful properties - none of which fit with each other. The lack of an overall theme (and by this I mean a unifying vision, not your typical Vegas-theme like Paris being french themed or the Luxor being ancient Egyptian themed) made the whole place look like it was designed by a committee. I got the basic room but managed to score a minor upgrade to a strip view (in practice this means a view of the Veer towers) and a free bar fridge for no charge. This was all when I attempted the $20 trick. The lady at the front desk made it very clear that she would try to accommodate me and that the twenty dollars was not part of the equation (she tried to give it back to me when we were finished, but I insisted she keep it, thus firmly moving the money from the bribe category to the tip category). I quite enjoyed most of the green aspects of the room as well as the tablet console they gave you to control it. I expect we'll be seeing that feature in renovated rooms from now on. My only two quibbles about the room were the low water pressure in the shower and the brightness of the tablet. Neither of these would prevent me from staying at Aria again. The Food: Part of my deal with Aria was a $100 dining credit. This was a nice perk even if my first two choices for restaurants were closed for assorted reasons while I was there (barMasa and American Fish) and a third wasn't part of the promotion, possibly because it's brand new (Javier's). This meant I went outside my comfort zone a little. Julian Serrano had a very nice prie fixe menu and cocktails. As an Albertan I've avoided steakhouses in Las Vegas for the same reason a Parisian would avoid French Cuisine in London - what's the point travelling to get what you can get at home cheaper and better. Live and learn - Jean Georges steakhouse was simply delicious. The couple at the table next to me might disagree though - they did nothing but bitch about the meal. Either their standards are impossibly high, or the kitchen screwed up their order epically. To the restaurant's credit they did everything they could to make it right, up to simply not charging the couple for the meal. Me, I was quite satisfied. Rounding out the Aria dining was several quick bites at Jean Phillipe Had quite a few meals outside Aria too. Naturally I had to have the Earl's holiday turkey sandwich. It was, in fact, the first meal I had after I checked in. Tacos and Tequila at the Luxor serves a damn tasty burrito (as well as a nice margarita). Upon learning that it was my birthday the bar tender gave me the traditional salt/lime/shot of tequila. As I twittered at the time, I wasn't sure if he was trying to kill me or get a monster tip - no reason why they couldn't both be true! Killing time before my flight back home I had some truffle chips with blue cheese at Wolfgang Puck's Bar and Grill at MGM Grand. It's on my list of meals to repeat, so I did. The Shows: The Addams Family Musical at the Smith Centre This was really my birthday present to myself. I asked about it here earlier (in the context of whether Smith Centre tickets were available at discounters) and got a terse reply saying I should simply buy the tickets direct because they weren't. This ended up being good advice as the matinee was damn near sold out when I bought them months ago. I ended up being front row of the balcony. Here's an image of the stage from low-Earth orbit: The show was nicely funny in that Addams Family way (i.e. if you liked the movie with Raul Julia and Anjelica Houston, you'll like this), but as a musical it could have been better. A week later I don't remember any of the songs and that's not a good thing for a musical. The actors did a good job. After the show I got a photo taken with the actor who played Lurch. One last observation. Since the Smith Centre is a venue for showing "regular" shows, I imagine a lot of the people in the theatre were Vegas natives. Certainly it was the most kids I've seen in Las Vegas in all of my trips. Admittedly well-behaved kids of parents who can afford to take them to Broadway musicals, but kids nonetheless. It was an interesting change of pace from being in the tourist zone all the time. Fantasy at Luxor I wanted to see one of the burlesque-ish shows that Vegas is famous for and I decided to see Fantasy this time. Beautiful girls dancing in next to nothing, plus some decent comedy and singing. I quite recommend it. The dancing wasn't quite up to the standards of Crazy Horse Paris, but it was still very good. It helped that two of the girls had more than a passing resemblance to two actresses I've had a crush on forever: Kate Beckinsale and Jewel Staite. Yum. I was also seated dead center of row C, which put me at boob-level of the performers. They (the performers, not their boobs) were often looking directly at me! If I didn't have a couple of shots of tequila in me, I'd have likely turned bashful about that. Instead I just felt that this was the way the universe should be. However it was not my universe that night but Steve's universe. Steve was the guy in the front row who was brought on stage for some good-natured audience participation. He did pretty good taking the embarrassing banter. But then why shouldn't he? He was the luckiest man in the audience since he was getting fawned over by the performers and was there because his wife (Stephanie) decided to take him there. She herself was a knockout, so had nothing to fear from the girls of Fantasy. Damn they were a cute couple. Zarkana at Aria Zarkana is a surreal rock-opera acrobatic spectacular. I enjoyed the hell out of and it is now my second favourite Cirque show (After Love). Heavy on acrobatics, low on dancing make it the polar opposite of Viva Elvis (which it replaced). They did recycle a bit of Viva Elvis (the tumblers toward the end were nearly identical - I suspect the same performers), but not much. Sadly, the soundtrack i not yet available. I'd love to own it if only to have access to English lyrics (I've heard the lyrics were originally in English, but that was distracting the audience from the acts, so they changed them to "Cirque-ish" - i.e. nonsense sounds). I'm still wondering what the story is with the giant nightmare baby and the floating eyeballs. I guess I'll have to see it again someday. Terry Fator at Mirage Not my cup of tea, and really, it was my own damned fault. You see, I've never heard of Terry Fator (when I asked for the tickets, they corrected me on the pronunciation of his last name). I have heard of the Terry Fator theatre and the fact that a lot of headlining comics that I enjoy (i.e. Lewis Black, Bill Maher) perform there. I figured he was like them, only with puppets. Nope. This was a fairly inoffensive singing/imitation act aimed at my parent's generation (I'm in my forties and I was one of the youngest people in the audience). Also, it was Christmas themed and I wasn't quite ready to get into Christmas when it was still November. Anyway, Terry does his thing well, and people seemed to enjoy it, but his thing isn't my thing. Had I known, I'd have just watched Love again. The Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus If you're a hard-core Chuck Jones fan (like I am), then you'll likely enjoy this, though it is pretty sparse on value unless you make a point of inspecting everything in detail (like I did). Others will feel their twenty dollars was wasted. The staff was amusing in their apathy. I think if I wasn't there (I was the only person in the exhibit the ninety minutes I spent inside on a sparsely populated Monday afternoon) they'd have started to play Russian roulette, just so that they could feel something other than mind-numbing boredom. <strong>The Gambling:</strong> I mostly lost money, especially at Aria. Won some back at Mirage, and also made a point of picking up more $1 chips at assorted venues. I had fun but I wasn't into it as much as other trips. I also broke my rule, to my detriment; specifically the rule about walking away from the table when you've doubled your money. Had I done that, I'd probably have broken even overall. Oh well, live and learn - I didn't bet more than I was willing to lose, so I'm OK. Lessons Learned: 1) At no time were the tickets I got through the half price vendors worth the time or effort. I think next time, unless it's something I'm only so-so interested in, I'll just skip it and pay full price. Certainly that's the way to go with a Cirque show. 2) Don't get sick. Well, that's not 100% within my control, but if I could do it over I'd have cancelled the trip and gone later (It's a week after I've returned and I'm still not feeling 100%). Sadly I was locked in for anything less than hospitalization by Expedia. 3) Take someone with me. Loneliness was a bigger problem for me than illness. Given I could easily have afforded to treat someone, I'll definitely do that next time. I did hint that this may be possible to several friends; next time I'll skip the hints and move on to the two-by-fours. One final note: Thanks to the people who gave me advice in an earlier thread when I was still planning - I used a lot of it!