May 142014
 

Saturday morning I woke up about 7:30am. I got a good solid 6 hours of sleep and apparently that’s all I needed!  Anna was still asleep so I got dressed and went down to the gym. The Bally’s gym was SO NICE! One of the best hotel gyms I’ve used (The Monte Carlo being my other favorite). They had half a dozen treadmills, about 7 ellipticals, some stair-masters, exercise bikes and TONS of weight machines and free weights.

I was one of three people in the gym that early. My friend Debby and the people she went to Vegas with were on their way to Red Rock Canyon for a hike (which sounded awesome to me). I warmed up on the elliptical, did some body weight exercises (burpees, jumping jacks, crunches, etc) went through the weight machines, did some free weight stuff and finished up with a half mile run on the treadmill.

My legs were tired from all the walking we did on Friday. I knew I should take it easy with the lower body cardio because we were going to do even more walking on Saturday. I got a fantastic workout in, burned some calories and then checked out the spa that guests could use. They had a body temperature hot tub, a hot hot tub, a dry sauna, a steam room with eucalyptus and then your typical spa services. The men’s and women’s spas were separate and there were a bunch of ladies in there waiting for massages. I told Anna that we should make good use of it (especially since we were paying $20 per night for the “resort fee” to use it) but sadly we ran out of time and didn’t get to it.


I got cleaned up and then Anna and I went out in search of breakfast. I was staving! We walked over to Paris (which is right next to Bally’s) and the fancy Parisian outdoor cafe was packed! The line just to get to the hostess to get on a wait list was at least 20 people deep. We decided to keep walking. Next door was something called The Sugar Factory and they also had a huge outdoor patio.

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While we waited we sat at their bar and got some coffee and Bloody Mary’s. :D Their coffee was AMAZING!!! The best coffee I’ve ever had. We asked the bartender, waiter, waitress and no one seemed to know what brand of coffee they served. I was disappointed because I totally would have bought some if I knew what it was! Their Bloody Mary’s were fantastically spicy. They used a spicy infused vodka in the bloody mix. The salt was huge, flavorful crystals that clung to the glass, there was a hint of lime and cucumber in the drink and there was a cucumber and olive garnish. So tasty.

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It took about 20 minutes and then we got our table outside. There was a gorgeous breeze and it was about 70 degrees so far. We were across the street from the Bellagio. It was a peaceful, relaxing time as we lounged on the patio. It was hard to decide what to get. I REALLY wanted the carrot cake pancakes but I knew the cream cheese frosting would just be too much sugar first thing in the morning. The blueberry pancakes sounded great and let’s be honest, so did the Fat Elvis Waffle (ok not really).


I decided to go for the croissant sandwich. It was ham and cheese and came with crispy potatoes (that were exceptional). The sandwich was big and honestly half would have been the perfect portion. The croissant was heavenly–flaky, buttery and perfect. Dang, I want another!

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After breakfast we walked over to the Bellagio and caught the bus to Mandalay Bay. We walked around the gardens, checked out their AMAZING pool (it was packed!) that had a lazy floating river, and then went to see the Shark Aquarium (which was kind of expensive so we skipped it). Then we saw MICHAEL JACKSON!! Woot!!! The street performer was great! He sounded, looked and danced just like the real thing. It was great getting a picture!

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We meandered down to The Luxor and then decided to take a gambling resting break in New York New York. Our feet, legs and calves were aching. I could have used a massage. :)

We decided to hop on the bus back to Bally’s (our poor feet). Thankfully our bus pass was still valid! I have to admit, we stopped for more $2 tacos at Bally’s (they were that good) and then went down to the pool. We stayed out fairly long and the sun was hot hot hot! It was around 88 degrees on Saturday. It felt like heaven. For months I’ve been craving that exact thing–sitting poolside in the sun with a cool drink and a book.

After the pool we got cleaned up and dolled up and we were ready for the night! First we did some gambling at the Bellagio and got lucky! It was nice! We had an hour to kill before meeting up with my friend Debby and her party at Excalibur for Thunder From Down Under!! Debby goes every single time she’s in Vegas and talks about it all the time so I said, sure why not? It could be fun. We liked the movie Magic Mike. :D

It was a huge auditorium packed full of women of all ages. There were a ton of brides-to-be with the veil and tiaras. There were a bunch of girls there for birthdays. There was this one girl that was called onto the stage because it was her 21st birthday and her mom had brought her! Awesome! Debby and her family were sitting over on the other side of the room and Anna and I were at a table with a bunch of adorable little old ladies that were doing Jello Shots. LOL!!! My friend Debby:

Hell ya we did Jello Shots! It’s been like 10 years since I had them. Haha! So the show…It was totally awesome. It was worth the money for the ticket and the guys definitely looked great–just like the photos. Afterward we could get pictures with the guys. :D We all got a free pass to a nightclub in the Luxor and free drinks til midnight but the line to get in was kind of long and I was starting to get tired (and blisters on my feet). Debby and her people ended up dancing til 2am! Anna and I walked back to our hotel, enjoying the nightly sights on the way.


Why I decided to book us a flight so freaking early on Sunday morning is beyond me. UGH. Coffee was needed. We had a few minutes to hit the tables before leaving and we both left winners! I got a hit on #29 and won $35 buckaroos. I was happy to leave after winning. Debby had rented a car (a bright blue mustang convertible) and she kindly offered to take us to the airport. It was so AWESOME riding through Vegas in a convertible! One of the highlights for sure.

Our flight was super turbulent — like the first hour of the flight I felt like I was going to barf and then die–and that sucked. The winds had started late Saturday night and Sunday was just as windy. I guess that was the cause of the turbulence. Dang it was not comfortable and I spent most of Sunday feeling nauseated. I was glad to be home and on LAND. Bella gave me lots of kisses, Fat Kitty gave me lots of love nibbles and it was so good to see Michael again.

I had a fantastic weekend. Everything was great and it was SO good to spend time with Anna. We were travel buddies for a really long time and then she moved to Morocco for the Peace Corp and was gone for about 4 or 5 years. We were still in sporadic contact (email and phone calls) but not seeing her for a long time made us drift apart a bit. It was nice to reconnect. And lay by the pool. And drink some umbrella drinks. :D

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Jun 082012
 

Las Vegas is a crazy place. Even if you aren’t a gambler, I recommend at least one trip in your lifetime simply because it’s such a wondrous, nutty, extravagant place. For example, my parents aren’t gamblers at all and don’t drink, but they’ve been to Vegas a few times (my mom checks out the art galleries and my dad golfs).

Vegas is what you make it. You can go there and completely avoid alcohol and gambling, and still have a fantastic time. There are amazing shows, decadent restaurants, cheap restaurants, and hilarious people watching. Besides, where on earth can you visit Egypt, New York, Paris and Venice all in one day?!

This post is about some of my recommendations and reviews from my experiences. I’ve been to Vegas four times and had very different trips each time.

Where To Stay

My advice: stay somewhere ON The Strip. Trust me, you’ll wish you were right in the middle of everything. First, it’s more fun there. Second, cab rides to the Strip are expensive and add up fast. Save money by paying a little bit extra to have a good location. I cannot stress enough how much of a difference the location makes.

Imperial Palace -

I stayed here the first trip to Vegas. I was with my cousin Anna for my 25th birthday.
Pros: Fantastic location! It’s on the Strip and right in the middle of everything, across from Caesar’s Palace. It was super cheap.
Cons: It’s old, the casino is rundown, smokey. The rooms were kind of like a Motel 6.

The Luxor -

I stayed here with my friend Robyn. Unfortunately the hotel was under major construction so it wasn’t that nice, the construction was loud and annoying and kind of a pain. I’d probably never stay there again.
Pros: Affordable, on the Strip, decent restaurants in the hotel, there’s a free tram that stops at the casino to make it easier to get around, the gym was really nice but you had to pay $25 a day to use it.
Cons: It’s kind of far from everything so there’s travel time, either walking or taking the tram. All those windows in the pyramid? Yeah–it made the rooms insanely hot. The gym was expensive.

The Palms -

Michael and I stayed here for free, otherwise we never could have afforded the place. The room was luxury suite, around $250 a night! Pricey but gorgeous.
Pros: The expensive room was amazing, the bathroom was bigger than the bedroom with an amazing Jacuzzi tub.
Cons: It’s off the Strip and an expensive cab ride every time, the casino was too expensive.

Monte Carlo -

Michael and I stayed here recently. It was a great place to stay.
Pros: It’s close to everything on the Strip, walking distance to MGM and NYNY. The rooms were decent but a bit dated. The gym was decent but small. The casino ventilation was fantastic–not smokey at all.
Cons: The pool area seemed to be in the shadow of Aria and City Center, which could be good or bad. The gym was supposed to be free, but we got there and there was a $20 charge to use it for the weekend, which felt misleading.

MGM Grand -

This was where Michael stayed for years. I think he’s been there at least half a dozen times. I’ve never stayed there but I saw his room.
Pros: Great location, lots of fantastic restaurants in the MGM, decent casino.
Cons: Rooms were old, they are doing construction currently to update the casino and the rooms. They got rid of the lions, which kind of sucked.

When To Go

My first trip was January and I’d packed all Portland weather clothing. When I arrived it was in the 80′s and had to buy a completely new wardrobe!

My second trip was in July and it was hotter than effing hell. So hot. Not quite miserable, but seriously, the heat was like a wall.

My third trip was in November. The days were nice and warm, high 70′s, low 80′s but the evenings were really cool–sweater weather.

My recent trip was in April. I had mixed weather–thunderstorms, humidity and rain for part of the trip but the weather was still warm. Two of the days there it was sunny, clear and 75-80 degrees.

Where To Eat

There are too many fantastic restaurants to go to all of them, even in multiple trips. You can eat well on any budget in Vegas, but my advice is to splurge at least once on a nice restaurant; it’s quite the experience. One tip: do NOT eat the pizza at New York New York; it was the most vile pizza I’ve ever eaten.

Craftsteak – I’ve gushed about this place too many times to count. It’s my favorite restaurant in the world, and probably always will be. Amazing meals. Expensive but worth it.

Wolfgang Pucks – I’ve eaten here for lunch and dinner and had great meals both times. This place has great food and is more affordable “fine dining.”

Tao – I have very, very happy memories of this place. I went here with my friend Robyn, Michael and his friend Jeremy. It’s a sushi restaurant and a nightclub. The atmosphere was romantic, trendy, modern and just totally cool. This is the place where I learned to love sushi. Expensive!

Luxor Buffet – I went here for breakfast with my friend Robyn. I remember the food being decent and the options were varied. Middle of the road in cost.

‘Wichcraft – It’s a sandwich place in the MGM by Tom Collichio. It was pretty good but not the best sandwich I’ve ever had.

Monte Carlo Cafe – This was a nice breakfast place. I liked it a lot and we ate there twice. I recommend trying the Cajun Eggs Benedict with andioulle sausage. It was delicious!

Margaritaville – The food wasn’t anything special or memorable but there is outdoor seating right on the Strip.

Hard Rock Cafe – Overrated. I felt like the food was basically a Red Robin and the service was awful.

 

Things To See/Do

Cirque du Soleil Show – I saw the Beatles Love show and it was breathtaking. What an amazing, amazing show. Wow.

The Wynn – It’s worth taking a peek at because it’s so new and beautiful. If you’re there, enjoy a cocktail “lakeside” next to the waterfall.

The Bellagio Fountains – It’s free! I love the Bellagio fountains. The show runs every 15 minutes or so and it’s beautiful and fun. I think they usually play Frank Sinatra music and the show is better at night.

Tournament of Kings at Excalibur – I did this the first trip and it was SO much fun! It was cheesy but I still liked it. At the time it was about $45 per person and it included dinner (that you eat with your hands) and the Knights of the Roundtable show.

Art – There is art everywhere and some of it is free. Definitely check out the Bellagio, The Wynn, The Venetian and Caesar’s Palace for some amazing art and decorations. The casinos themselves are art too.

Stratosphere Rides – Apparently there are rides, sky jumps and bungee jumping there but I will never do that. Eeek!

New York New York Rollercoaster - Not a fan of rides or heights, so I skipped it. My cousin Anna did it and loved it.

Venetian Gondola Rides – It’s on my “to do list” but I haven’t done it yet. There’s rides indoors or outdoors and it looks very romantic!

Fremont District – I’ve never been. Every trip I plan on going but don’t. It was the “first” Vegas.

Las Vegas On A Diet

Since this is a blog about weight loss, maintenance and exercise, I thought I would cover this topic. Someone asked me how I enjoy Vegas when I am trying to stay on my food and exercise plan. I understand how someone on a weight loss plan would be nervous about going. There is temptation everywhere.

You’re in luck. Vegas is a walking city. The casinos are an illusion–they are so massive that you think they are super close to each other and just a short stroll down the street. That is not the case; the walking you’ll do in Vegas will burn off your drinks at the blackjack table, trust me. Not only that, the casinos themselves are humongous, easy to get lost in, and take forever to walk through.

Most of the newer, nicer casinos have gyms in them but most cost extra money to use. I usually spend the money to get in a workout. But you can also take your fitness outside. When I stayed at The Palms I went for a run outside and had a great time.

Now, the food. The food is the hardest part because there’s so much good stuff everywhere you turn. I didn’t feel guilty about anything I ate because I was on vacation, I worked out first thing each morning and was walking everywhere. I’d be surprised if I gained weight.

Splitting entrees in Vegas with whomever you traveled with is a great way to save money and calories. And if you are in the middle of a training plan when you go on vacation, you can still find time to get your run in! Vegas mornings are really nice in weather and less crowded and fun to run outside in.

I avoid the buffets as much as I can. For a recovering binge eater, a buffet is not a good place for me.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite Vegas tips that I missed? Are you planning on going to Vegas someday?

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