Vegas for New Years!

My girlfriend and I stayed at the Red Lion Seattle Airport Hotel the night before -early departure on Alaska the next day. Red Lion has wonderful beds! Pillow top =a very restful night before my Vegas Vacation. And, as usual, we ate at Roasters for dinner in SeaTac. Good food and service. And really, the only good spot to eat dinner near the airport. If not, you've got your choice of 2 Denny's.
So, next day, we were up at the crack of dawn and off to catch our Alaska flight. Uneventful flight. In to Vegas on time. We were off to catch a taxi - I'm guessing it would have been an hour wait. But, surprise! We took a limo. The cost was about $90 to get to downtown, but no waiting for taxis was quite nice. I've waiting for an hour to catch a taxi at the airport and New Years weekend would have just been worse. So we got to the Golden Nugget. I didn't get a room in the north tower (which is above the casino). Our room was in the south tower. The south tower is a bit of a hike past the casino and the café. As we were walking to our room, I noticed a great view of the strip and Strat. Our view would have been really great, if our room ended in an odd number in the range of 19107 - 19115 (or something close to that). Our floor was 19th, so room 15107, 16107, etc would probably have just as good of a view. But, we were in an even number on the other side (view was of the parking lot and Freemont Street cover. So, the room was nice, clean, a bit older but nice. Bathroom had marble tile floor. There was lotion, shampoo, and conditioner in separate bottles with gold tops. Swanky! Bed was not great, felt the springs and after the pillow top bed at the Red Lion, a bit disappointing. So, it's a room like any other I've been in Vegas. (FYI, those rooms include Mirage, New York New York, Harrahs, and Flamingo). This room was older than the others, but again, clean, no stains on the carpet and a big TV.
We were hungry and its time for lunch. I remember having a good time at the Main Street Station 777 Brew Pub. So off we went. Walking Freemont is an experience. It feels like walking in New Orleans, with alcohol and gift shops everywhere and a bonus of gambling at a dozen casinos. (FYI, if you ever stay in New Orleans, stay at the Best Western near Harrahs -clean and inexpensive!) We made our way to the Main Street Station. What a nice casino! Plenty of the old Vegas charm here. Our lunch was good; brew pub burgers and decent beer. Checked out the buffet -and was very impressed by the dining room. I can see why people like it there so much. We walked across the sky bridge to the California. Again, old Vegas feel here. I noticed a Hawaiian Café and began noticing other ones (in other casinos) throughout the Freemont. So, if you have a hankering for Hawaiian food, you'll find a place to get some. We walked back to the Plaza Casino. Checked reservations for the Center Stage restaurant (call from a house phone) for the dinner the Saturday night (more on the Center Stage later). We walked to the other end of Freemont. Passing more casinos and cheesy gift shops. At the end of the Freemont are a movie theater (Neonopolis) and a Walgreen's. Past those are some scary looking areas. Basically, if you want to be downtown, stay near the covered part of Freemont, everything else looks like a hangout for thugs and bums. FYI, for frugal eaters, a McDonalds is located in Fitzgerald's and the Plaza.
So, that night we had dinner at the Rio. Why go all the way out there? We also had tickets for Penn and Teller. We ate at the buffet and were very impressed buy the selection and quality of the food. The Rio was a first for me, and I was blown away. I guess starting you vacation at Freemont and then moving to a mega resort does that. The Rio is definitely a must see. The party in the sky is worth a look. The casino is huge and again, the buffet is a good bet. We also had drinks and the Irish bar there. The girls looked like they came over from Hooters. The theme was OK. A nice touch was free pretzels. One girl had a fake boob job and looked like she was about to burst out of her shirt. Of course, guys were getting their pictures with her. Viva Las Vegas! No, my girlfriend didn't let me get a picture. So, the Penn and Teller show was fun. Our seats were in the second row, center stage. Anything farther away would have been too far. They are magicians and that is the kind of thing you need to see up close. After the show, Penn and Teller (and the guy that played piano) were in the lobby to take pictures and sign autographs. FYI, they were in the lobby that is outside the theater. If you want to time it right, be there about 10:30 p.m. and you can walk up to them (without buying a ticket to the show). But again, I would recommend the show. Worth the money and entertaining. The taxi ride back was fast (those taxi drivers drive very fast). The line to get to the taxi (at the Rio) was extra long. The driver said it was the rush after the Penn and Teller show. Back at Freemont was gambled at the Plaza (ok dealers), Vegas Club, and the Nugget. The Nugget seemed to have a bit higher limits. That night, we retired on our uncomfortable bed and prepared for New Years Eve day at Freemont.
The next day, we had lunch at the buffet at Fitzgerald's. I noticed more fresh paint and a fun atmosphere. It looked like a good place to gamble after lunch and indeed we did. FYI, lunch was $6.99 and worth no more than that. It just didn't compare to the Rio, but was much cheaper. We had reservations for Zax that night. Zax is in the Nugget. The biggest stand out there is the atmosphere. The service was OK, but it felt like coffee shop service. But, the menu was gourmet and prices were oh la la. The Asiago salad was outstanding! Creamy and cheesy. Just plain yummy! I had the Escolar and the girlfriend had the crusted halibut. Good, not great, but good. Overall, a Vegasy restaurant that had enough atmosphere to make it all worth it. We had New Years in the Street, rocking out to the light show and drinking way too much. I remember throwing craps at the Golden Gate, Vegas Club, then Golden Nugget. After that it was time for bed.
The next day we had planned to taxi down to the Stratosphere, but didn't get out of the room till late afternoon. We walked down to the Plaza to check on the reservation and to see if we could get a table in the glass dome room. I gave the guy a $20 but it sounded like if I were to just ask please, he would have given us a table in there. So, reservation was at 7 pm but we didn't get seated till 7:30 pm. Can I have my $20 back you jerk? But I let it go and proceeded to have a very Vegasy meal with the Freemont light show and old school service. The meal was good -I had New York steak and the girlfriend had the salmon. We later hit the comedy show there (at the Plaza) with a coupon I grabbed from the little books that are in the taxis. Good thing, the show was not worth $25 a piece (we had a 2 for 1). There were about 15 people watching the show and the room had zero atmosphere. (FYI a good comedy show is at the Silver Legacy in Reno -always a good time there!). So, that night we gambled some more. I was burning away my $500 and the girlfriend was going up and down on her $250 (yeah, we're high rollers).
We had our last night of fun and headed out to the airport the next afternoon. FYI, Golden Nugget to airport $22 and Golden Nugget to Rio $18. The Alaska flight was over booked so they called for volunteers to take the next flight. My girlfriend went up to the counter to check it out. The next flight was 5 and a half hours later and the payoff was 2 roundtrip tickets to anywhere Alaska flies. FYI, they fly to Mexico too! Well, we took it, hung out in the airport, eating Taco Bell and people watching, and then got on our later flight. FYI, they called for volunteers for that flight too. Nope, we already had our 2 free roundtrip tickets (which by the way, are worth about $500 each if you are traveling to Mexico from Seattle -which we are now going to do next month!)

Overall, Vegas at Freemont was fun. But on my next trip, I'll be on the strip at Harrahs.
Freemont and the Strip are separate worlds. And when I go to Vegas, I want to be blown away. You won't be blown away at Freemont, but you will have a good time at lower limit tables and looser slots.
Anyway, just want to take the time to thank everyone for their comments (on their Vegas trips). I like the details that folks provide. It gives me something to look for when I go.

When trying to kill time at the Vegas Airport, check out the shops in the "Mall" section. At the end of all of it, is the walkway over the baggage claim area. You can look out at a Hacienda plane hanging from the ceiling. You can check out a small "Vegas Airport" museum display, next to the Monte Carlo/Circus Circus gift shop. In the "Vegas Airport" museum display, check out the early beginnings of the Vegas Airport and some small airlines. It's fun stuff to look at while you burn 5+ hours and earn your free Mexico airplane tickets.

VIVA VIVA LAS VEGAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!