This was mine and my wife's 6th trip to Vegas in 4 years, and we have a blast every time. This trip was no exception! (This is my first trip report, and it got a little long, so settle in!)

I agree with the person who just stayed at the Mandalay Bay....don't always assume that the best deal is an air/hotel package. We packaged our first trip to Vegas several years ago, and it was a good deal. But I have always been able to find a better deal on every trip since then. So explore both options when pricing.

I work third shift, and had to work the night before we left for our flight out of Chicago - Midway (ATA). I ended up catching some sleep on the 3.5 hour direct flight to Vegas, so that was good. We always dread the landing at McCarran due to the winds in the Valley that always seem to rock the plane so much (I don't care for flying a whole lot....ok, I am scared to death of flying!) But even my wife said this landing was extremely rough. We found out later it is usually a lot windier in the spring. So, we won't be flying to Vegas in springtime anymore!

We caught a cab to our first hotel, Luxor, where we met up with friends who drove in from L.A. We checked in with no problems (VIP check-in just for having the One Club players card!). We were all hungry, so we went to the Chin Chin Cafe at New York New York. We love chinese food, and these are some of the biggest portions we've seen! After that, we went to MGM to find some craps tables, but the min.'s were pretty high ($10-25), so we caught the CAT bus to the Stratosphere. I had been telling my friends about Crapless craps, and as far as I know, the Strat is the only place that has it. So we played there for awhile, and lost a bit. Then we walked back down the Strip, eventually catching a cab back to Luxor. We would've probably walked some more, but it was VERY cold and windy...mid 40's. We were depressed that it was a lot warmer back home. Vegas colder than Wisconsin.....go figure!

April 18 - Over the next few days, tho, the weather started to warm up, and the wind died down a bit, so good weather other than the first night. Today, we drove around off the Strip for awhile in our friend's car. Since we've been to the Strip many times before, but never rented a car, we, like most Vegas visitors, have never seen how "regular" citizen live, and what kind of housing. We drove around a few neighborhoods in Henderson, and enjoyed the Southwestern architechture. But we must not forget the main reason we came to Vegas! So we went to the Green Valley Ranch casino/resort. Very nice looking, and I wish we could've seen it at night....I'm sure the lighting adds so much more. This resort is right on line with Mandalay Bay or Bellagio...just not on the strip, and I can see why all the movie stars stay here. We gambled a bit, not winning, of course, and made our way back to Luxor and the Strip.

Our friends had to head back to L.A., so they left around dinner time. My wife and I checked out the new Mandalay Place (very upscale...similar to shops at Bellagio), then went to see Celine Dion. We are not huge fans, but we really enjoyed the show. Celine seemed like she really had a blast doing the show (it's not just a concert), and performed with as much enthusiasm as if it was opening night and this was the only performance! Very impressed with this show. Afterwards, we went to the 24 hour cafe at Bellagio. We overheard a movie producer talking to his friends at the table behind us. He said that he would be filming a movie tomorrow night at the Venetian. The movie is "Miss Congeniality 2" with Sandra Bullock. I knew that movie was filming in town, but didn't know where. In all my trips to Vegas, I never saw a celebrity, so I was excited at my chance to see an actual movie star!

April 19 - Checked out of Luxor today, as we had gotten a mailer for a great room rate ($75/night) at Mirage! We arrived a bit early, and they did not have a room ready quite yet. So we ate at the California Pizza Kitchen at the Mirage. Excellent pizza selection...not just your sausage and/or pepperoni varieties. We walked around Mirage and TI for awhile, and then returned when our room was ready. Nice room, but Luxor's was bigger. Anway, we walked around to a few properties around the north end of the strip, as well the site of the new Wynn Resort (looks like they are 4 floors away from finishing the exterior), as well as the Fashion Show Mall. That evening, we went to Venetian, in search of Sandra Bullock. Well, in a short time, we found the movie set...you couldn't miss the lights, the grips running around, the cables, etc. But we didn't see Sandra. Then, the Venetian security guards invited a few of us from the crowd to be in the background scene they were filming!! It was cool at first, but we got bored of standing around for 45 minutes or so (movie making goes real slow!) So we left the crowd shot, to go to the front where all the production was. Then, we saw Sandra Bullock sitting at a monitor, watching shots from presumably earlier in the day! Very cool to see a celebrity that close. We finished this day by going to Aladdin and Harrah's to play craps, and finally did decent.

April 20 - We continued to enjoy the resorts on the strip, playing some slots, but mostly craps. Never did very well, tho, but it's a great game. We had seen on the news the night before that the World Poker Tour was in town at the Bellagio, and that Ben Affleck was there! Perhaps another chance at seeing a celebrity? We had to find out. So in the afternoon, we headed over to Bellagio, and quickly found the crowd gathered around the poker room, where there were about 100 players at various tables. Someone in the crowd quickly pointed out Ben Affleck to us, and he was less than 10 feet away, with his back to us! My wife was extremely excited about this. I took her picture, and she began calling all her friends, telling them she was standing right behind Ben Affleck right now. I was secretly just as excited, but decided to not broadcast my phone conversation to the surrounding crowd. So I went a little father away, and called our friends who had just returned to L.A. As I was talking, Richard Carne, ("Al" from "Home Improvement") walked right past me, carrying a Bellagio shopping bag. Ok, now I'm seeing all kinds of celebrities! We stayed near Ben for about 20 minutes, then I was able to convince my wife to enjoy the rest of Vegas for the day. She went back to Luxor for a massage, while I caught the Sirens of TI show. If you are an MGM Mirage players card holder, or are staying at an MGM Mirage property, ask at the TI MGM Mirage Players Club booth for VIP viewing passes for the Sirens show...you'll be right in the front. The show was not as dumb as I had heard, but I still wish they'd bring back the "classic" pirate battle. We returned to the Venetian to the Grand Lux Cafe for late dinner, and then to bed.

April 21 - Sad day, since it is our last. We checked out of our room (don't even MOVE the stuff in the in-room refrigerator...if you even move it, a sensor tells the front desk to charge you for that item. Can you say big brother? I'm surprised they didn't charge us for 13 toilet flushes, and 1:39 minutes of tv viewing time!) We ate at the Caribe' Cafe at the Mirage, then one last shot at craps.(broke even) We caught a cab to McCarran, and left Vegas at around 3pm. We're planning another trip in Sept, and I can't wait! I hope if you're reading this, you're getting excited about an upcoming Vegas trip, and I can't wait to read about your trip here! Any questions or comments, feel free to email me! I love talking about Vegas!