My wife and I needed a break so where else to go, but the best place for adults - Las Vegas. I usually go to Vegas three or four times a year, but hadn't gone in over a year which made me eager to get back.

Flew in on Alaska Airlines via Seattle for $260 per person. The flight was packed both ways but we left on time and arrived a few minutes early.

Picked up our bags and walked over to the airport check in. No one was in line and we requested a non-smoking king bed facing the strip. The very helpful lady said one wasn't available so we agreed to a non-smoking room facing the strip with two doubles. Just when we were about to sign for the room, she said wait a minute and pulled out a room from the blocks of room that they have on reserve. Lo and behold a perfect room was made available to us on the 17th floor. It was very close to the main elevator and had an excellent view of the Bellagio fountains and Bally's and Paris. Perfect!! I gave her $10 for her help. The room was very nice, not old or worn looking, decorated in blue, it had a big desk and 27 inch TV with movies and tons of channels and a decent bathroom. It ain't Bellagio, but it was more than adequate. I have stayed in over 15 hotels in Vegas and we always stray back to the Flamingo. Cheap, central and good enough.

It was pouring rain when we landed, but with the ultra efficient taxi loading set up they have in the airport, the 100 people waiting in line went through in about 10 minutes. The driver was excellent and went directly to the hotel for $10 plus tip.

Walked straight up to our great room, unpacked, changed and determined that we were hungry. So, off we went at 6:00 pm to our old standby buffet - The Big Kitchen at Bally's. We had a 241 and had to wait maybe 15 minutes. I don't know what has happened, but the food just wasn't that good. The selection seemed to be down and the shrimp and crab legs were quite tasteless. The Chinese food was stock. This used to be one of our favorite places, but not anymore.

Off to Barbary and Imperial Palace where I played mostly three card poker and blackjack, losing around $100. The wife played some slots, hit for $50 in nickels and won a bit on quarters. Called it a day at midnight.

Next day, the wife goes to work out (a great workout room at the Flamingo with free soft drinks and a relaxing steam room) so I decided to try my luck at the $1 slots at the Flamingo. Here is my theory - I play quarters and nickels on occasion, but I might as well just throw my money away. I rarely win. We all know that dollar machines have a better payback percentage. So this time, I put in $100 in a one dollar double 7 machine and I played over the next hour hitting two $160, a couple $80 and a few of $40 jackpots. I cash out up $250. Now I am playing with their money, which is always better.

We head off to the Paradise Garden buffet brunch at the Flamingo on a 241. Great deal for a large selection of food and made fresh omlettes. Nothing extraordinary, but good value. Great selection of dessert so remember to save room. Rolling out of there it was shopping time.

We had deliberately packed so that we had half a suitcase empty because the selection and prices in Vegas are way way way way better than back home. We went wandering in the Forum shops and stumbled at the far end into a sports shoe store Just For Feet that had everything 30-40% as it was closing out. We bought four pairs of running shoes, a hat and a headband for $100. My wife's one pair of shoes alone cost more than that at home. Dropped the stuff back off at the room and decided to hit the casinos.

I wanted to see Fat Elvis at the Barbary and he was great! He sung Blue Christmas (I know, Christmas carols already), but it was excellent!! Played a bit of three card, lost $50, but the wife hit four 8s and cashed out $50 in nickels again. We wandered to the Aladdin as I wanted to do the $25 no risk slot tournament. We paid the money and I got like 2,700 points and the wife had 6,500. The highest one was over 12,000 point for the day. If you get over 9,000 points you get $50, over 10,000 points you get $100 and if you are the highest for the day you get to take a pull on every slot in the Aladdin. It's a no risk tournament as you get a $20 food voucher (or Aladdin labeled clothing etc.) plus $10 in free play. We took the food voucher as I had heard lots of good things about the Spice Market Buffet. We head downstairs to it and paid a whopping $2.27 after the coupons. It lived up to its billing. This is now our favorite buffet. Five types of foods including tasty mediterranean which I haven't had in any other buffet, flavorful shrimp and crab legs, raw oysters, fresh sushi, etc. We played our $10 and I hit for $25 in a quarter machine so I cashed out. The casino was pretty dead and I hope Planet Hollywood livens it, but please keep the buffet!! Worked our way back down to Casino Royale losing all the way. I like Paris, but you couldn't find a $5 BJ or Three card poker table. Ended up losing $200, so pretty well even for the trip.

Friday we slept in and went to the Victoria room at Barbary Coast for lunch. We had been there before, but always after midnight for their cheap, huge and excellent breakfasts. The room is a great room with old "leather" seats and stained glass windows. It is quite small though. We had burgers which were pretty good. I recommend a visit here.

More shopping - this time we hopped in a cab and went to the Boulevard mall (about 10 minutes away - $12 with tip). This is a large mall with JC Pennys etc. We intended on going to a few stores, but only need to go to JC Pennys as they had everything she needed on sale. Clothes for her and the kids. Everything ended up 50% off so another great deal as it was the One Day Sale (which was actually two days). From the mall we went straight to downtown Vegas. Stopped in the four corner casinos and ended up wandering all the ways down to the Plaza. I lost $100 in BJ and three card poker, but the wife turned $10 into $150 in BJ. That helped pay for the clothes!! I am not a huge fan of Downtown, but I liked it better this trip. It seemed cleaner and had a better crowd.

Went back to the hotel as we had made dinner reservation at Venuto the new Italian place at the Flamingo. I had the risotto and she had pasta in a very good basil sauce. At $50 it was worth it ($10 food coupon and $10 wine coupon), nice environment and great service. There are better places than this in Vegas, but it was good.

Being Friday night the town was hopping. On Wednesday and Thursday we thought we were in Laughlin. The average age seemed to be 60 years old. I didn't mind it as there are no waits and it is relaxing from the stress of work and kids. But it felt great to get revved up for a Friday night with tons on young ones out from college for the weekend. We went to the Imperial and the place was going crazy with the Celebrity pit rocking and the music loud. I lost $150, but had alot of fun doing it. Went to bed at 2:00 am.

Saturday morning - the last day. It's true about what they say about dreading to leave Vegas and going back to reality. The wife went down to the spa for a sea salt scrub ($40) and steam room so I went back down to play those Double 7 $1 slots. Put in $100 went down to like $20 pretty fast and then things turned around. I worked my way up with $100 and $80 wins so that I ended up the session up $150. I was back to even for the trip. Because I was playing dollar slots, I racked up some points on my Connection card so that I got $40 back - this is the first cash comp that I collected as I don't get rated on the tables as I play $5-$25 but not for hours on end. Met with the wife and went to Barbary where I won $100 in blackjack betting $10 minimums. Before I knew it, it was time to pick up our bags and head to the airport. I talked the wife into putting $100 into $5 slot machines and we lost that in 2 minutes - easy come, easy go. So, we just happened to be walking past those double 7s and I stopped and put $20 in - with the wife saying why do you give back all your winnings etc. etc. etc. etc. On the second pull, I hit for $160 and that ended her words. Cashed out, caught a cab and flew home.

Aladdin Spice Market Buffet
Flamingo for good cheap rooms
Cheap shopping
Big Elvis
Friday night at the Imperial
Dollar slots

Bally's Big Kitchen Buffet

I love Las Vegas. You can do what you want, when you want. It's safe, inexpensive, great for people watching, exciting and the only place that you can get away for three or four days of fun for a few hundred dollars. In fact you can even make money (as I have done a couple of times - not this time, but I was up $100 on gambling). I will be back and it won't be a year between visits this time. Thanks for reading. Cheers and good luck.