Drove to Las Vegas from the San Francisco Bay Area, and it took 8 hours flat to get there. Not bad at all since it was the weekend. We checked into the Excalibur at around Noon, and as with all Las Vegas hotel/casinos, there was a line. Now this just seems out of the ordinary, but since I am a student studying hospitality management, Las Vegas is a very unique town when considering check-ins at the big hotels. In any city you go, you want the fastest check in possible when checking into your hotel, with the exception of Las Vegas, where waiting in line is expected and tolerated. Just a pointless FYI, but anyway, the wait wasn't too bad, only about 10-15 minute wait. We had a very good deal at the Excalibur, only $126 total for a Saturday and Sunday stay.

The room was just what you'd expect if you are trying to keep your trip within budget. The usual 25" TV bolted to the table, two comfortable beds, coffee, iron/board, etc but the bathrooom was pretty big than what I'd expect. The view wasn't much, the windows opened up to the inner four towers of the Excalibur, which is why the room charges were so cheap. The only thing I can see of the strip was the top of the MGM Grand. But I wasn't too concerned about the view anyway. Floor was very quiet and peaceful, no noise as far as I can remember, except for that one kid running down the hall and banging on every door.

We decided to go and walk down the strip to the Venetian. Just a word of warning, the walk from Excalibur to Venetian is pretty far, so if you can't walk a great distance, its better to find other means of transportation to get there. For me, the walk was pretty easy, but sometimes you have to dodge a lot of people not paying attention to where they are walking on the strip or deal with slow downs in heavy pedestrian buildups at intersections. Before, I'd used to love the properties on south strip (MGM, NYNY, Luxor, etc.), but after spending time at the Venetian, it is truely is a great place to visit. I thought the Bellagio was the best hotel on the strip, but now, by far the Venetian takes the cake. This hotel is just HUGE. The new Venezia Tower was already opened, with the second one just breaking ground. It was hard to believe that just 2 years ago it seemed so different then. The architecture is certainly impressive with so much attention to detail and the Canal Shoppes with the gondolas are just spectacular. We managed to see Mike Tyson walking around the property, the only thing missing was his 20 man entourage. We needed to get a bite to eat and we decided to eat at the Grand Lux Cafe. It was recommeded by one of my friends from a previous trip and decided to give it a shot. The food was just to die for, (I had a Turkey/Bacon sandwich with fries and honey mustard dipping sauce) but the wait was a little long because they switched servers on us (shift change), but I didn't mind at all. The ambiance was very relaxing with its dim lighting, and it was hard to notice that there were acutally a lot of people at this place. The bill came out to be $30 between the two of us, not bad at all. Believe me, I was just stuffed after that.

After that, went walking around some more and saw Steve Wynn's new hotel being built (next to Venetian, across from Fashion Show Mall). Its called Wynn Las Vegas or the Wynn Collection and used to be called Le Reve. That Steve Wynn guy is always up to something new. The hotel construction looked pretty extensive and the tower acutally looked taller than the Venetian's.

Started to walk back and decided to visit the Forum Shops. I have visited Vegas 4 times before and never manged to go here, don't know why. Now this place is just racking in the dough. I have never seen such a high concentration of high class shopes in one area before in my life. A lot of great people watching here and that MAC store had these two girls dancing on a stool to attract people. Nice marketing strategy!

We decided to goto the Palms because we never went last time we were here. I always hear the hype of the Palms and its the place to be so I just had to see it for myself. My first impression did not impress me. Yeah, so what, its filled with all the "beautiful people" and thats it. Maloof must pay those celebrities a lot of money to come to his hotel just to hype it up. Certainly it was a dissappointment for me. There were a lot of typical stuck up girls from LA (the "I'm pretty so therefore I rule the world" type girls) there and the gaming floor wasn't anything to write home about either so I decided to leave and goto Hard Rock.

Now if anyone is under the age of 30, the Hard Rock is the place to be. Now, yes, the clientele is almost the exact same as the Palms, but at least they know how to make a comfortable atmosphere. I like the bar in the middle of the gaming floor, its just cool to people watch and lounge around. If there is a place to gamble for the young crowd, this is certainly the place for it. The music is basically kick ass (so loud you can't really talk to anyone) and I just love it here. I played craps a little, table was cold so I left early.

Decided to go get some dinner at the Peppermill. I heard about it on the Travel Channel, where Penn from Penn and Teller is a regular and also from that Vegas guru Anthony Curtis. The establishment is pretty old, but thats how they like it there. The Peppermill is probably the only place where you can find Las Vegas of the old. The food is great, but the prices are even better. They gave me so much food, I felt guilty not eating all of it. They have a place called the Fireside Lounge in where they got fire burning on top of water (you have to see it to believe it). I ordered the Tuna Melt with fries, good stuff. Bill came to $23.

Went back to the hotel to rest up and went around the strip taking a million pictures on my digital camera. Went to the Desert Passage at Aladdin to see whats going on over there. Well guess what, NOTHING, ITS DEAD. Not much to see at Desert Passage. I knew that Aladdin LLC was going bankrupt, and the Desert Passage shows it well. I heard that the Aladdin is charging a huge amount of money for the leases in order to boost their revenues, only its just driving stores and people away. Waste of time to come here, but what the hell, its Vegas. Day one comes to a close.

The next day decided to goto Carrows to eat some breakfast and get some much needed coffee. The only problem was that there was a huge amount of people waiting. So we went to the Denny's across the street. Same story. So we went back across the street to the Monte Carlo and looked around for a cafe. Low and behold, it was called the Monte Carlo cafe (no surprise here). Not too bad of a place to eat, it was just breakfast, but $2.50 for coffee, plain robbery. The bill was pretty steep for a bowl of soup, coffee and a sandwich ($21). After that, went to the Fry's (electronics store if you don't know what that is). Fry's has a lot of cool stuff for the high tech crowd. Since I'm from the SF Bay Area (we have 5 of them here), I wasn't expecting much, but this Fry's had to be the best Fry's I have visited. A must visit for your techies.

I decided to avoid restricting myself to just the strip, so we decided to check out Lake Mead (about 20 miles out, take I-215 east), the Ritz Carlton/Montelago Casino and the Hyatt Regency. It was fairly easy to get there, not much traffic either. Stopped at Green Vally Ranch on the way, now that casino was just nice. Very quiet and relaxing, plus great view of the strip from the parking garage. Now Lake Mead has got to be the best kept secret of Las Vegas. The area is just spectacular, you almost forget that you are in Las Vegas, let alone the desert. The Montelago/Ritz Carlton is a great place to visit. They had just opened up a new open air shopping area there, the architecture was extremely impressive, but nothing was opened yet (except for Starbucks, or course). Just a word of warning, if you visit Lake Mead, BRING A CAMERA.

Decided to go eat at Lotus of Siam. Same story with Travel Channel/Anthony Curtis. I like Thai food a lot so I had high expectations for this place since everyone talked about it. I ordered the Pad Thai, and holy crap, that was probably the best Thai food I ever had. You have to go here and eat the dinner (don't get buffet). Price was average for Thai food (~$10/plate, $20 bill for the two of us, no beverages), but the problem was the location. I don't know why they have to be located in some crapped out (no pun intended), run down strip mall on Sahara Ave.

Went back to the hotel and walked down the strip again. End of day two, trip has now come to an end. Woke up the next day at 6:30am and left at 7, got back home at 3:00pm sharp, 8 hours flat again, not bad. My 2004 trip to Las Vegas has come to a close. Thanks for reading my review, I hope it helps you guys out there.

One more thing, everyone ALWAYS thinks Las Vegas will be hot year round. NOT TRUE. Remember, since Las Vegas is a desert, there is virtually no cloud cover and air circulation during the winter, so the temps drop to around 45 degrees or even lower (sometimes it snows) and the air is very dry. I brought a heavy jacket with me and it was still pretty cold. Also bring try to bring a scarf and chapstick. If you are out for a long time, your face will start to crack up and your lips chap up like crazy. I saw a lot of people on the strip wearig t-shirts and shorts and they were in for a surprise.