My wife wanted to go to San Francisco, so to humor me, she agreed to spend the first two days of our trip in Las Vegas. I would have rather ended the trip in Vegas, but since we were traveling Sunday to Sunday, it made more sense to book the Vegas hotel at the beginning of the trip instead of trying to find a decent weekend rate at the end of the trip. So we flew out of Dulles in Washington, DC on Sunday, July 28; had a stopover in Denver, but both flights were smooth and on-time. I had reserved a car from Dollar (full-size, $25 a day) and had joined the Fastlane club which helped me avoid the long line at the Dollar booth and simply get in their shuttle and get dropped off right at our car. The five of us (we brought our three kids, ages 14-22) got into the car for the short drive to Mandalay Bay. Since it was only noon Vegas time, we decided to take a ride down the strip before we went in to register. Although we had seen most of the hotels on TV, it was just spectacular to see them in person. The traffic was slow, so after we got to the downtown area we went over to Rt. 15 for a quick ride back to the hotel. At Mandalay, we used the valet parking and brought our luggage into the lobby. What a place! After years of staying at Days Inns and Econo-Lodges, the kids were amazed that their old man would splurge for a place like this. Actually, I had booked the rooms months before, and had a rate of $99 a room for Sunday and $89 a room for Monday (two rooms each night). I did have to add $35 a night for the third person in one room, a charge I could have avoided if I had known better (more on that later). I was in for a surprise when I went to check-in. The registration area looked like the ticket windows at the Kentucky Derby. There must have been 10 or 15 windows open with 15-20 people in line at each window. I figured I was in for a long wait, but I didnâ€™t mind because there were quite a few attractive ladies milling about. In fact, I hadnâ€™t seen that much cleavage in one location since the last time I saw Dolly Parton. It was one of the nicest 40-minutes waits I had ever had. Anyway, once up to the counter, I asked about an upgrade, but seeing the crowd, figured my chances were slim. The registration person said there were no upgrades available, and even if he upgraded me to a suite, I would only have one bed instead of two. I told him it was our first trip to Vegas, trying to elicit whatever sympathy benefits I could, and asked for a room in the Figi wing, high up. He said he was going to put us in the Figi wing and the best he could do was the 9th floor, but we would have adjoining rooms. So up we went to our rooms, and, I must say, they were quite impressive. The floor-to-ceiling windows had a beautiful view of the strip and also the mountains to the east. Since the windows are tinted yellow on the outside, we never felt a need to close the drapes in the rooms. After getting settled, the wife and kids went down to the pool while I headed down to my playground. Since I was only going to be there a little more than 48 hours, I figured I would just gamble at the hotel casino instead of looking for one with more favorable odds. I sat down at a $5 blackjack table (thatâ€™s me, the high roller) and played for about an hour and a half. The dealer didnâ€™t speak much English and almost took my entire $200 buy-in, but I fought back and ended up about $60 richer. At the cashier, I cashed in three dollar coins for dollar bills and on the way out, I decided to waste them in a dollar slot machine. The second pull won $25, so I cashed out and went upstairs with $85. I love this place! The others were back from the pool and were a little disappointed that the waves in the wave pool were not that great, but otherwise enjoyed themselves. Having heard good reviews on the forum about the Orleans buffet, we headed over there for dinner. For $10 a head, we had a great dinner. Some members of my family are picky eaters, but this buffet had something to satisfy everyone. The only minor complaint I had was that the shrimp were a little mushy, but there were so many other good choices, I didnâ€™t mind. My secondary reason for going to Orleans for dinner was to see the cocktail waitresses in the casino that I had read so much about. The ones I saw certainly didnâ€™t disappoint and I started to have impure thoughts. I wonder if anyone else has ever had impure thoughts while in Las Vegas? Anyway, I guess the eye candy was my dessert, and we headed back to Mandalay. Back at the hotel, we took the tram to Luxor and Excalibur and walked around. They were both nice, and we were amazed at the amount of money that went into these places. Before we went to bed, my oldest son wanted to play some blackjack, so I stood behind him and helped him a little bit as he won about $25. He was ecstatic and I was afraid I had created a gambling addict for life. On the way up to the room, we saw a small crowd gathered around one of the little cafes in the lobby. A band was playing and they had convinced Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid or Arnold from Happy Days) to sing a song with them. After the song, he raised his arms up and bent his hands in one of those Karate Kid poses. The crowd loved it, and it was a hilarious ending to a great day. Because the drapes were open and I was still on east-coast time, I awoke easily Monday morning at 5:45 AM and saw a beautiful sunrise over the mountains. We all got started early and took the tram over to the McDonaldâ€™s at the Excalibur for breakfast, somehow resisting the Krispy Kremes right down the hallway. Then we piled into the car and headed to the Hoover Dam. It was a very impressive site with a nice tour, and since we were there early, the crowds werenâ€™t bad. My wife walked across the state line so she could say sheâ€™s been to Arizona. After too much time in the gift shops, we rushed back to grab some lunch before hitting an afternoon show. A quick stop at the In-N-Out Burger was a big hit with the kids because we donâ€™t have them back eastâ€”another cultural advancement for the family. Then, it was on to the Stratosphere for the 2:00 Viva Las Vegas show. The coupon deal for this show was great, only $6.95 a person which included one drink, and the performance included a little of everythingâ€”dancing girls, singers, comedians, and magicians. Following the show, we rode back to the hotel, and once again, everyone went down to the pool while I sought to make Mandalay Bay pay me some more money for the privilege of having me as a guest. I looked around for a dealer that might speak my language and I found one that had no one at his blackjack table. He was very friendly and made nice conversation as he won the first eight hands we played, taking $80 from me in about five minutes. I started looking around for a dealer that couldnâ€™t speak English. But other people sat down at the table which enabled me to lose more slowly, and I finished down about $100 for the session. Disappointed that they had won this round, I met up with the family and we rode down to the Bay City Diner at the Golden Gate for dinner. Most of us ordered the prime rib special which came with a baked potato and salad, and the bill for the five of us was $39, before tip. Back in the DC area, itâ€™s hard to have dinner for two for $39. Leaving the car in the Golden Gate lot, we walked down Fremont Street and watched the light show after it got dark enough. I would have liked to have seen another display, but I was outvoted and we headed back to Mandalay, after a quick stop at the Venetian to walk along the canals (very impressive). Full of confidence, my son went down to casino to make some more money, but this time he was dealt a jolt of reality as he lost his profit and the rest of his big stake ($50). I couldnâ€™t stay away for long either, so at about 11:30 PM, I headed down myself. Betting $25 a hand against a nice non-English speaking dealer, I was up about $200 in a short period of time and decided not to push my luck. I took one last tour around the hotel, and I was amazed at the large crowd trying to get into the Rumjungle, despite the $20 cover. I felt a little out of place as no one in the group looked old enough to tell me who the original drummer for the Beatles was, so I went back upstairs and hit the sack. Maybe itâ€™s the adrenaline rush or the open shades, but after 5 hours of sleep, I was again up at sunrise. Because I wanted to give my son one last shot at winning a few bucks, I woke him up and we hit the tables at 6:30 AM. I lent him some money and we played $5 hands for about an hour. There were more people down there than I thought there would be, but at least it was no problem to get a waitress to get some coffee or juice. Our dealer said her shift went from 4:00 AM to noon, which enabled her to get home to see her preschooler when he got out of school. Still, it seemed like a pretty brutal schedule. My son won back a little money and I broke even, so he ended his stay feeling a little better. We trammed and walked to NYNY, thinking we would find a great bagel place, but instead only found a little cafe that offered a few bagels. After breakfast, the kids hit the pool one last time as my wife and I looked at the nice restaurants in Mandalay that we couldnâ€™t afford to eat at. Maybe next time without the kids. Finally, we checked out and headed over to the Hard Rock Hotel and lunch at Mr. Luckyâ€™s. I didnâ€™t see any of the beautiful people that I had heard hang out there, but maybe thatâ€™s only at nighttime. Most of us had the $7.77 steak special, and again our big meal was less than $50. It was a great ending to a wonderful couple of days. I was looking forward to going to San Francisco, but I knew it could never compare to this. Before I forget, on the topic of paying $35 for the third person in a room, the only benefit to the extra charge is that every person in the room gets a room key which you need to get into the pool area. Since I never went to the pool, it was a wasted payment in our case, but I didnâ€™t know that in advance. Something to consider if you make reservations there in the future. Sorry for the length of this report (good thing it wasnâ€™t a week, huh?). Many thanks to everyone at the forum because everything I did from the hotel choice to the show we saw to the meals we had came directly from advice gleaned over the past few months. You all made our short stay memorable and I canâ€™t wait to get back.