8/2 - 8/7 TRIP REPORT -- Pre-trip planning and Day 1

This is our (my wife and myself) fifth trip to Las Vegas, and second this year. As usual, this board has been of great help in tips/resources to make our trip great, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

First the Pre-Trip planning: Airfare was Frequent Flyer travel on Continental from Cleveland to LV. Hotel was 2 nites at the Golden Nugget (Wed & Thur) at the Summer Breezes special of $39 per night with a $25 food/bev credit. Remaining nites were at the Stratosphere, using a summer room offer of 2 free weekend nights and $49 for Sunday night.

Car was an Alamo rental reserved through Travelnow.com (the Car Rental link on the main forum page). I reserved an intermediate (Grand Am) for $21.75 per day. Also applied for Quicksilver through the Alamo site.

Final planning step was a big one, as suggested by gehrig. My wife and I were absolutely going to see the Rat Back Is Back show at the Sahara, as it was not there on our last two trips. I had seen it on a solo trip in April, and I knew she would love it as well. As gehrig has mentioned various times on this board, I went to the KSHP AM Radio web site www.kshp.com and found the many things you can purchase through their radio show. I ended up buying the following

- 2 tix to Rat Pack Show ($80 value)
- $30 certificate for theYukon Grille @ Az Charlies W
- $25 certificate for the Pink Taco @ Hard Rock
- 2 tix to Mdme Tussauds Wax Museum ($27 value)
- 2 one-hour horseback rides in Red Rock Canyon ($50 value)
- $20 certificate for Tenaya Creek Brewing Company
- 2 tix to Speed The Ride ($14 value)

I purchased all of these for only $99! Not bad when you consider the $80 I was going to spend just to see the Rat Pack show anyway. The only problem was buying it via mail order. I bought the first 4 early in July and had no problem getting the certificate via mail order. I bought the last 3 on July 19, and mailed the money order. As of our departure date, I still had not received the certificates! So I called them, and they had just received my money order and said they'd hold the certificate for me. I guess LV mail is notoriously slow.

Day 1 - Wednesday 8/2

Our flight doesn't leave until 7:45 p.m., so I can put in a full day of work. Right! My wife and her grandfather pick me up at 5:30 and he drops us off at the airport. Checking in with E-tickets is so easy on Continental, and I move our seats up from row 21 to row 7. Flight leaves on time and is relatively smooth. Fantastic views of a lightning storm below in northern AZ and surrounding LV area as we land 1/2 early at 9:15 p.m.! Pay homage to the RNG gods, get our bags (after waiting forever) then go outside, and are confronted with the heat as we walk to the Alamo shuttle stop. Alamo shuttle arrives at the stop as we do, and we and 3 other couples get on. As we arrive at the Alamo lot, we walk to the Quicksilver room, run my Visa card through the computer, print the contract, get into our Grand Am and get out of there in LESS THAN 10 minutes!! I swear it was probably only 5. I pull out of the lot onto Bermuda Rd. and pull aside to put in our home-made Las Vegas Music Tape. This starts with Elvis singing VLV, then has a ton of Frank, Dean and Louis Prima on it. Oh no! This is a 2000. No more cassettes, only CD's! So our tradition of listening to Elvis as we drive by the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign is broken.

We drive by the sign anyway, and what's this?? Its not lit up?? Now we're nervous at these 2 bad omens. I drive on to Tropicana Ave, and get on I-15 to go to the Golden Nugget. No time for a strip drive, as traffic is bad. Valet park and check in with no line at about 10:30. I was going to offer $20 for an upgrade, but we were helped by a trainee and the Training Manager. He asked me if I still wanted 2 doubles and I said "If I can get a better room, I'll take a King," He said sure, so I thought cool I won't need the $20 afterall. We get up to our room, and it's a nice room, but a standard room, facing the parking garage and the Plaza. It's a South tower room on the 4th floor. No matter, we ran down to the casino to sign up for their slot card before it closes.

We quickly lose some money, and move on, because they were recarpeting the entire corner of the casino (by the 4Q entrance). This limited the amount of available machines. Went to the 4Queens, and got a temporary card. We both gambled for quite a while on our money, and I hit for 100 quarters on a Pinball machine with my first 3 quarters. I got free T-shirt and my wife a shot glass with our temporary card points. We then cross the street to Binions for the $1 frozen margaritas and daquiries and watch the 12:00 street show before retiring for the evening.

Day 2 - Thursday 8/3

Arise early, 8:00, ready to take on our first full day of Las Vegas. As it turns out, the GN room has a real loud air conditioner unit, that doesn't work very well at all. It was so loud, I didn't sleep well the first night. The shower water pressure was also very weak. The rest of the room was nice, though. We walk over to the Cal to get their slot club card, and inquire about the Slot Tournaments there. Unfortunately, our schedule will not let us enter, but we drop some cash there anyway. We get the car from valet to drive to the KSHP redemption center to get the rest of our certificates. Stop on the way for bottled water, Powerade (for hangovers) & snacks for the room, then pick-up our certificates. Then drive to NYNY, self park in the NYSlot Exchange parking area, and walk to Excalibur for Krispy Kremes. While there are KK's in Cleveland, none are close to where we live, so this has become a Vegas ritual for us. There is a long line, but no line is too long for a KK hot, glazed doughnut.

After KK's we call home, then head over to Mandalay Bay on the tram. I needed to play a Top Dollar machine that was very generous to me on my last visit. I ordered a Corona while playing (it's happy hour somewhere!) I get up to walk to the change booth for more quarters - about 10 feet - and the waitress walks by with my beer. I figure she'll come back and find me, they always do. A minute or two later, I look and she's giving my beer to someone else, and as she's doing it, she sees me looking at her then comes over to apologize saying she thought I walked away. Me walk away from a FREE beer! Not likely. She promises to come right back with one. Another 10 minutes, and a different waitress comes by asking if I want a coctail. Why yes I say, what happened to the other waitress with my Corona? Oh, she's not serving this area any longer! Real nice. This waitress senses my futility and promptly brings my beer and I tip her well. I think the other one new she wouldn't get a tip, so why bring my beer?

Well we leave MBay lighter in the pocket, as my wife just can't get anything to happen for her on the slots. I'm at least get a lot of play for my money. Take the tram to Excal and cross to the Trop. Free spin nets us nothing, but we use the coupon for the $1 margaritas. Lose a little here and walk over to MGM. I'm immediately excited because Jimmy Seaton is playing. He's the Elvis impersonater I've read positive things about on this board. We listen and play for a while and then decide it's time for lunch. My wife thinks Jimmy wasn't good, and I think he does a very good job. I think my wife would only be happy if Elvis himself were singing up there.

We went back to NYNY for the car and drove to the Hard Rock for lunch. Lunch was in the Pink Taco. The margaritas there are very good, albeit a bit sweet, but the food was rather mundane. My wife had the enchiladas and I had the carne asade & an enchilada. The carne asada was very good, but the enchiladas were not. Service was great though, as my wifes first order came back incorrectly and they happily took it back for another one. All in all, you can get better Mexican food in LV. After we ate, we hit the slots, and I hit a small bit before we left. This was unusual since my luck at Hard Rock is normally non-existent.

From there, we drove to the Desert Inn to collect a chip. How sad it was. There was 1 craps table open (no one playing though), 1 roulette table (also empty) and 2 21 tables with less than 4 people playing. And this was 3:00 in the afternoon. Checked out the gift shop, but there's nothing left worth going there for. Drove back to the GN, and my wife hit the pool while I walked over to Main St. Station for some good beer. Being a homebrewer for 10 years, I always seek out good beer wherever I go. Had 2 happy hour beers ($2) then walked to the tables for some $5 double deck 21. Played for about 1 1/2 hrs and left down $5. Went back to the GN to clean up for dinner.

Drove to Arizona Charlies West for dinner, but made 8:00 reservations at 6:30 and signed up for Charlie Cards and we each got a very nice high-quality Az Charlies baseball hat. Then I went to the tables, while wife hit the slots. I proceeded to get the beating of my life at a 21 table. I left one table after the dealer had 5 straight hands of 20 or 21. The next table was just as bad. Decided early (thank goodness) that I'm better off at the bar and my wife soon joined me to wait for our dinner reservations. Dinner at the Yukon Grille was good. Our server was not very open, actually rather shy, and acted more like an order taker. We both ordered the small prime rib, and soup for my wife and salad for myself. My wife said that her soup was salty, but the bread and crackerbread were very good. The prime rib was good, but not the best I've had. We were both full and the bill (with one Becks Dark) was $31. Used our KSHP certificate and went to the Fiesta.

On the way, we drove by Siegfried and Roy's house to check it out. Talk about a compound! At Fiesta, we both played slots a bit but got tired quickly so we decided to leave. First I wanted to use my LVA $5 matchplay coupon, so I found an empty DD 21 table and put down my $5 and the coupon. Got a Blackjack, and tipped the dealer and walked out the door and drove back to the GN.

We arrived just in time to see the 11:00 LV Legends show, but I thought I remember that they started this with Elvis' Viva Las Vegas, but they played a different song by Elvis instead. Is it my imagination? Anyway after that, we went to bed.

Day 3 - Friday, August 4

Check out day at GN, and I woke up early feeling a bit sick and a bit hungover. My wife wants to hit the pool, and I figure the hot tub will help, so we go to the pool, but stopping at the Carson St. Cafe first for breakfast. I had the All American - ham, eggs, toast & hash browns - and it was very good and hit the spot. The piece of ham was huge and everything cooked perfectly. My wife opted for the GN French Toast. It's Hawiian sweet bread French toast with pecan syrup. My wife said it was fantastic and wanted me to be sure to include that fact in our trip report so others can enjoy it as well. We then spent the next 2 hours by the pool, enjoying a rum runner when the sun peaked over the north tower into the pool area.

Back to the room at 11:00 to shower and pack, and check-out was only 2 minutes at the South Tower desk. Checked into the Stratosphere at 12:30 and the line was only 3 or 4 people long. I requested to get the Players Suite for our nights (the offer was a players suite for 2 weekday nights or a regular room for 2 weekend nights.) The clerk did check , but could not do that, but offered a mini-suite instead. We opted for a high Strip view regular room instead. We got a room on the 19th floor, 15 feet from the elevators, overlooking the strip south. The room was exceptionally clean, and very well laid out. There was an armoire for the TV with drawers, a table and 2 chairs, king bed with 2 night stands. The bathroom was much larger than the GN's and had marble floors and shower walls. The in-room safe was huge compared to the GN's, and the only negative I could find was a small area of a carpet seam which was coming up. Sure you get plastic cups instead of glass, and the soap is not oatmeal soap, but this was a room that was on par with Treasure Island, where we stayed our last two visits.

After checking in, we hit their casino. I played 21 for a few hours while my wife donated to their slots. She was so generous on this trip! I found the pit personnel and dealers at the Strat to be very friendly, telling jokes and even stories. They allowed a guy at our table to use my strategy card (better to lend him the card than have him screw up the game), and the drink service was very good. I left down a little, and met my wife who was starting to get depressed at her lack of luck. We decided to visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum at the Venetial. Drop the car at the Venetian Valet, and then gambled a little on their slots. My wife actually came out even, when we decided to tour the Canal Shops and then go to the Wax Museum.

Entry to the museum was with our KSHP certificate. We enjoyed it very much, taking a lot of pictures with the figures. I recommend this highly, and was surprised how few people were touring it. Afterwards, we walked to Harrahs where we've had reasonable luck on their slots. My wife actually cashed out ahead for a change, which made her happy. I took 4 quarters from here while waiting in the cashier line, and put them in a Little Devil game and won another 100 quarters on the second play. Cashed those in right away because we had to leave. I like winning before I have to leave, as it prevents me from putting the coins back into the machines! We stopped by Casino Royale for their free drink (frozen margarita and strawberry daquiri) and walked back to the car. I must agree with the other person who posted about the smell in Casino Royale! That's unbelievable. I wonder if they even notice it. Valet at Venetian was very fast, and we went back to the Strat to get ready for the Rat Pack show.

We showered and changed and went to Holy Cow for dinner. This is a MUST on each trip we make. Holy Cow has great beer and the food is very good too. I used the free beer coupon from their web site (holycowcasino.com) for a hefeweizen and it was truly great. Very fresh and one of the best German wheats I've had in America. (The best is DeGroen's from Baltimore Brewing ). Next I had the India Pale Ale which is their other great beer. We were very hungry not having had lunch, so we got the sirloin sliders as an appetizer, they were good and large too. For my wife had a burger (their burgers are very good) and I had a Philly cheesesteak which I was dissappointed didn't have too much meat on it, but was still very good. With each meal, they give you each a token for a VP machine which dispenses coupons for merchandise depending on what hand you get. I got $2 off a T-shirt, which was cool since I was buying a T-shirt anyway.

Then to the Rat Pack is Back show. We got there at 7 to pick up our tix. Since they were from KSHP, they were already paid for, and they said "comp" where the price normally is. We got in line to get good seats behind about 25 people, when my wife says can't we use the invited guests line? She was joking, but that's when I remembered that the tickets said "comp" so I tried it. I checked and the maitre'd said "Bring your party here". I also gave him $10, and when the usher came, he pointed out that we were guests of the hotel and muttered some code which I'm sure meant "he tipped us $10". The usher put is in excellent seats, first row behind a few tables, with a great view of the show.

The show itself was great. I was a bit dissappointed that Frank's portrayer was the stand-in, as I had seen the lead on my last visit. The 12 piece Lon Bronson orchestra is great, and the stand-in for Frank was a great singer. He had Franks styling down and had a great voice, it's just his voice was not as close to Franks as the lead actor. I was also impressed that they did a few changes to the show and Hiram Kasten's (Joey Bishop) material had some fresh jokes. A very enjoyable evening, and a HUGE recommendation for any Rat Pack fans.

After the show, we hit the Sahara casino, but not for long. The machine selection is poor and the tables were full of $1 players. We got the car and headed south, but remembered that the Brittany Spears concert was tonight, so decided to stop at the Stardust instead. We finally got some luck here, as my wife hit for 720 quarters and I hit for 160 within 10 minutes of each other, 2 machines apart. We ended up leaving up over $200 and happy that we had at least some luck. Back to the Strat, where we played a bit more, and I hit for 500 quarters on a Wild Cherry machine before heading to bed.

Day 4 - Saturday, August 5

We awoke early today, as we were planning to go horseback riding in Red Rock Canyon. My wife was anxious and excited to do this, so she was the first one up. We packed some bottled water, sun screen, hats, and put on jeans and closed toed shoes. Drove to Texas Station for the breakfast buffet, using a 2-1 coupon they sent us in the mail. Turns out the breakfast buffet on weekends is actually a brunch buffet, which is just a combination of breakfast and lunch offerings. I started with the great corned beef hash, steak and eggs, and finished with HOT chili, ribs, pizza and chicken wings. All this at 8:00 a.m. seemed odd, but what the hell, that's why I go to Vegas. We then drove to Bonnie Springs ranch, where the KSHP certificate was good at. It was a good 20-30 min. drive, and we got there just in time for the 10:15 ride. Bonnie Springs has a motel, ranch, petting zoo, restaurant/bar, and a old Nevada town with gunfights and hangings. (bonnie springs). We checked in at the bar and paid for the ride, then put the sunscreen on and headed out to the ranch. There are a lot of forms you need to sign to do this, no doubt caused by lawyers and insurance companies, but it was worth it. Our guide took us (there were four of us on the ride) for an hour ride, explaining lots of desert and historical facts, pointing out the different plants and cacti, and even a few lizards. That was the extent of the wildlife that we saw. Turns out that the lightening we saw on the plane in started a fire in Trout Canyon, on the other side of Red Rock. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, and to enjoy it on a leisurely ride on a horse was truly relaxing. The horses didn't need to much instruction either. Halfway through, our guide took some pictures of us with our camera and the canyon as a backdrop. We left there have truly enjoyed it, promising that we will make this a standard part of all future Vegas vacations.

On the way back to the Strat, we stopped by the Gamblers General Store on Main St. What an unbelievable selection of LV books, gambling books, new and used chips & cards, and slot machines, craps tables, etc. If you like to gamble at home, make sure you stop by here to get your supplies. We ended up walking out empty handed, but I did bring their catalog home for mail order purchases. Back to the Strat to shower and change, and we had a message on our machine. A friend of a friend called to say he could get us into Lord of the Dance. He's a dancer in the show, so we knew what we were doing that night. We decided to hit the Flamingo, and the valet area was mobbed. I ended up self-parking in the garage, which also was full. We didn't do well at the Flamingo, and walked over to Paris. We played quite a bit on our money, and decided an late lunch/early dinner was in order. We had to be at NYNY by 7:30. We decided to use our KSHP coupon at Tenaya Creek Brewing Co. Tenaya Creek is located north of LV off of Cheyenne. Take I-15 north to I-95 to Cheyenne. Take a left on Cheyenne and the first street on the left is Tenaya. It's a very nice, new brewpub/restaurant. The food here was absolutely fantastic. My wife had the Garlic, Mushroom, Chicken Alfredo and absolutely loved it, and I had the BBQ Beef Short Ribs that were boneless and they too were great. The portions were HUGE, and the beer was very good too. Not as good as Holy Cow, but very good. I recommend this place highly. It might be out of the way for visitors, but locals sure should try it out. We drove back to the Strat (only 15 min) and took a quick nap before meeting our friend at NYNY for the Lord of the Dance show.

We were escorted into the show free, getting 12th row center stage seats. The show was excellent, and the performers danced flawlessly, which is hard to believe as you watch them. I enjoyed this show more than I thought I would. We headed back to the Strat and gambled some more there before going to bed.

Day 5 - Sunday, August 6

Our last day! The only bad thing about our room at the Strat, was that you could see the planes taking off from McCarren Airport. I don't know about you, but seeing those planes take off depresses me because I know I'll soon be on one, and it will be too soon. Our flight tomorrow leaves at 6:00 which means a 4:00 wake-up. So we slept in today to help recover a bit. We decided to go to Sunset Station first, to get credit for a 3,000 point bonus coupon we received, and to get Fatburgers for breakfast/lunch. As usual the Fatburgers were great. I used my LVA coupon for a $115/100 buy-in, and found a DD21 table that was going well. My wife went to go lose at the slots. I think I chilled the table, as I ended up playing through my chips, down $30 and PO'd at how bad the cards were treating me. We decided to hit the LVHilton, as we always have good luck there on our last day. My wife played for quite a while ending up +$10. I started by putting in two quarters (my change from Fatburger) into a machine in the front by the main entrance. I hit for 40, and continued to play for 2 hours on that money. I was up as much as $80, before I played it all through, leaving down that $0.50. Before leaving, we tried 3 spins at Megabucks and got our cash back from the slot club.

Then we went to the Rio. We bought numbered tix for the buffet, one thing we haven't tried in our 5 trips, and went to gamble, knowing we can avoid the buffet lines that will come later. We gambled and had a few drinks, and headed into the buffet. I was somewhat impressed by the buffet, especially the stir-fry. The food was good, not great, but then again I've not found too many buffets with great food. Afterward, we saw the Sky show for the first time, totally unimpressed.

Drove to Bellagio, to check out the conservatory and a few fountian shows. We saw the Pavarotti and Bocelli shows, and walked to Harrah's to generate some luck. About this time, I hit the wall. Fatigue, lack of sleep and the heat sapped my energy. We lost $20 each at Harrah's and walked back to the car taking lots of pictures. On the way back to the Strat, we stopped at the big souvenir store on Sahara & the Strip, and while my wife shopped, I hit Holy Cow for one more hefeweizen. As I headed back to the souvenir shop, I noticed quite a few undesirable people hanging out, lending credence to the warnings of "don't walk north of Sahara at dark" that I've heard.

Back to the Strat, where we relaxed a bit, and then headed down for our last gambling venture. We split our last $80, and my wife headed for the slots and I sought a DD21 game. I bought in with my 40, tread water for a while, down to 25 up to 50. I was having fun, drinking only water, and the dealers and floor people were very friendly. Apparently they are short some people because the Aladdin opening has taken a lot of them. I sat down with 3 other people, and little by little they left, leaving me head to head with the dealer. I normally shy away from those situations, but ended up kicking his a** winning 3 of every 4 hands. It didn't last long, though as 2 blackjack newbie couple walked up and stood (not sat) and played. They had no idea of strategy or double-deck ettiquette, and the dealer had to help/warn them constantly. They weren't obnoxious though, rather friendly, and took my strategy advice. I initially sat out a few hands, but then joined back in and they didn't do too much damage. They did stop my head-to-head hot streak, but they didn't turn the table cold either. The girl got about 6 blackjacks in the 15 minutes they played. After they left, I upped my bets again, and others joined the table. Then the dealers changed and so did my luck. I got red hot, winning quite a few hands, after I upped my bets to boot! I wanted to just stay up all night, as it was 12:30 and my alarm was set for 4:00. Then my common sense got the better of me, as did 4 losing hands in a row, and I decided to call it a night. I ended up with over $180 from my $40 buy-in. My wife had long since gone to bed, losing her share.

Day 6 - Monday, August 7

Up at 4:00 and out the door by 5:05. Check out was easy, and I sped to the Alamo lot. Dropped off the car, got a reciept and on the bus in less than 3 minutes! Way to go Alamo!! Flight was America West (code share with Continental) and stopped in Phoenix before heading to Cleveland. Flight was delayed 1/2 hour, and was full of very angry customers who's flights were cancelled the night before! Got to Phoenix and our plane had a problem which required 10 hrs of maintenance. Thank goodness they found another plane, and we were on our way, albeit 1 hour late.

Trip Highlights
Horseback Riding @ Bonnie Springs in Red Rock Canyon
Alamo Car Rental - Less than 10 minutes total for both pick-up and drop off. I'll never use anyone else.
Stratosphere - A very nice hotel, much better than I thought. I didn't try any of the restuarants, but the casino was nice and the parking garage is close.
Tenaya Creek Brewing - Best meal of the trip
Holy Cow - Best beer of the trip.
Rat Pack is Back show
Krispy Kremes

Not So Highlights
Unbelievable amount of kids. I guess I should've known since it's summer. Las Vegas itself was very crowded and busy, but the casino's really weren't. Didn't get to do Speed the Ride