Friday, October 10, 2014

Tips and tricks I learned from our trip to Vegas: Attractions


Tips and tricks I learned from our trip to Vegas: Attractions
(Third post in a series on things learned from our recent trip to Vegas.)

A few weeks ago, the hubs and I went on a week-long "bucket list" trip out to Vegas, where we stopped also at the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Red Rock, besides going all over the strip. We met up with friends who live in Vegas and shared a room/spent the majority of the trip with a friend who is currently living in Arizona- who also wanted to check out Vegas. After the trip, I vowed to write some posts to help out anyone who might decide a trip out to sin city.


Since most of our trip was pre-planned by myself, I made sure to try and plan our stops around the locations we were going to. For example, if we were going to the northern part of Vegas, we would see all those parts of the strip had to offer, etc.
Note: Scroll to the bottom of the post for the tips on seeing attractions in Vegas.

Here is the Attractions (that are not food) that we checked out on our trip- 
Breakdown of some Vegas attractions we went to (by location):

Places in Vegas not on the strip:
·         Freemont Street (Free to walk around- many other things here).

·         Penn & Teller show at Rio (Prices vary). Rio got rid of the free Masquerade show, though. Boo.



Central Vegas (around our hotel):
·         Flamingo wildlife habitat at the Flamingo (Free).


·         Eiffel tower outside Paris (Free to view from exterior- there is a charge to go in the tower).

·         “The Fall of Atlantis Show” at Caesar’s Palace (Free, every hour from 10am-11pm).

·         Fountain show outside the Bellagio (Free, every ½ hour from 3-8pm and every 15 minutes on weekends from 8pm-midnight).

·         High Roller ride off the Linq ($24.95 for day ride, $34.95 for night view, there is also variations that have bars in the cabin).



·         Floral display at Bellagio Conservatory (free, 24 hrs). They were in the middle of setting up the Fall display when we got there, so it was all blocked off- boo!
·         Beautiful glass ceiling at Bellagio (Free to view).

·         Wall/door art all along the Linq (Free).

·         Poloroid Museum along the Linq (free).


Northern Vegas:
·         Lake of Dreams at the Wynn (Free, every half hour between 7pm-12:30am) and free floral display.



·         Boats outside Treasure Island. They got rid of the Sirens of Treasure Island show! Boo. (Free to view from exterior).

·         Gondola Ride at the Venetian ($18 a person for 10 minute ride, between 10am-11pm M-Th, Sun and 10am-midnight Fridays and Saturdays).

·         Madame Tusseau’s Wax Museum at the Venetian ($20 a ticket, but many online offers for $5 off. Open 10am-6pm).

·         Mirage Volcano (Free, erupts every hour).



Southern Vegas:
·         Luxor Pyramid and Sphyx (Free to view from exterior).


·         Criss Angel Show at Luxor (prices vary).

·         NY/NY statue of Liberty (Free to view from exterior).

·         Excalibur’s castle (Free to view from exterior).

·         MGM lion statue (Free to view from exterior). I completely forgot to snap a photo of this. lol
·         The famous Vegas Sign (south of Mandalay Bay) Free- parking right next to it too.

·         Minus 5 bar (technically an attraction, but also a bar). Costs vary depending on package you get.

·         Liberachi’s car at the Cosmopolitan (Free to view).


Outside of Vegas (by car):
·         Hoover Dam

·         Grand Canyon




·         Lake Mead


·         Red Rock Canyon




·         Pahrump Valley Winery



Tips on Vegas Attractions:


 Pre-plan where you want to stop. We planned what “free attractions” we wanted to catch around the shows we saw. This saved us time and broke up the trip easily.

Pre-order tickets to the things you really want to see. We pre-ordered the tickets to the 2 shows we wanted to see. This saved us time, and again, allowed us to plan our path along the strip around those shows’ locations. If you want to take the chance, you can try to pick up tickets at any of the last minute ticket booths around the strip- sometimes you can get great deals, but I’d only chance that if you’re a gambling person. Lol. Don’t wait too close to before your trip to purchase tickets either (even online). I really wanted to go see the Neon Boneyard Museum, but sadly because I waited till it was closer to our trip, I never got tickets in the time slots I wanted. Poo! So pre-plan as much as you can!

Make sure to do your research (and make sure it is current). I originally planned to check out all these awesome free attractions- only to realize a good portion of them were either removed, no longer available, or off-season. Doh! When you do research on the attractions you want to catch- make sure the info is up to date. I had made a lot of our walking attractions around a few “free attractions in Vegas” lists- that happen to be a little old- only to find out half the stuff wasn’t there! (for example, the Sirens show at Treasure Island and the Masquarade free show both no longer exist) Learn from me- always check that it is there still, before you go out of your way to stop by the casino that had that attraction.

Think outside of the box. One of my favorite parts of our trip was our day trip out to Pahrump Valley Winery (See my previous post on food). I found the winery by looking up things to do outside of  Vegas, and was curious if any wineries existed out there (since going on a Wine tour was on my bucket list too). Yes, seeing shows in Vegas and going to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon were amazing, but the little attractions we hit up were just as cool. Try searching for things that are not the normal “tourist traps” and you’d be surprised just how much fun you’ll have on your trip.

Remember picture-worthy spots. Take lots of pictures, so you don’t feel obligated to buy the ones at certain attractions. We had sooo much fun at the Wax Museum (and I even hauled my good camera along with me when there) and took a boat-load of pictures. This made it a no-brainer when it came to the time to pass by the “paid photographers” pictures. I had so many pictures I took myself- I didn’t need theirs. I had the same thought when it came to the gondola ride in the Venetian- but sadly we planned wrong and sat on the very wrong side to take pictures with my good camera. Everytime I wanted to get a video or picture of the gondola boatsman, I had to turn around in my seat (he was behind us) and was so terrified I was going to fall out. We did get a few selfies with him, but it just wasn’t the beautiful pictures I wanted from that bucket list item. We broke down and bought the pro-shots from that attraction (partially because I really enjoyed the frame you got if got their “buy all 3 pics and get this cool picture frame” deal. Be forwarned though, there are some places that don’t allow cameras, so if you want their pictures, you have to pay for them (such as the Minus 5 Ice bar). When you’re pre-planning your trip, make sure to note what photos you 100% want and make sure you even can take pictures there.


If you aren’t big on tours, don’t waste your money. We were not really keen on spending the boat-load of money to go on scripted tours of places. We saved so much by just wandering around the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Red Rock- and could spend as long as we wanted for it. Now if you do not having access to a car, it might be hard to avoid going on a tour while still visiting those places, but if you have access to transportation- take advantage of the freedom of self-guided tours.  Luckily though, the Pahrump Valley Winery had free tours- so that was a bonus. Only pay for tours if you specifically want to know what they have to say about it or want access to certain locations not available to the general public, otherwise, tour places on your own.




Thanks for stopping by and reading my tips and tricks learned from our recent trip to Vegas.

Check out my previous posts on Vegas Hotels and walking around the strip and Vegas Food.
Have a great day!
-M

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tips and tricks I learned from our trip to Vegas: Food & Drinks


Tips and tricks I learned from our trip to Vegas:
Food & Drinks
(Second post in a series on things learned from our recent trip to Vegas.)

A few weeks ago, the hubs and I went on a week-long "bucket list" trip out to Vegas, where we stopped also at the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Red Rock, besides going all over the strip. We met up with friends who live in Vegas and shared a room/spent the majority of the trip with a friend who is currently living in Arizona- who also wanted to check out Vegas. After the trip, I vowed to write some posts to help out anyone who might decide a trip out to sin city.

We all need food to survive, so here is a bit of tips/advice, a few things learned while getting some grub in and around the big city of lights, as well as where we ate in Vegas.

Note: Scroll towards the bottom of the post for the actual tips.

Where we ate:
When we rolled into the airport at the late hours of 11pm Vegas time (2am Eastern time) we were starving (we took Spirit Air- who charges for EVERYTHING- including food, but I’ll save that info for my post on traveling to Vegas). We had an early dinner in the airport before getting to Vegas, but after being crammed in a tiny airplane for many hours, food was needed. We didn’t want a full-on meal, so we ended up grabbing each a foot-long hot dog from the hot dog stand in our hotel/casino (Casino Royale). I was hungry, so I ate the whole damn thing, but honestly- it wasn’t a very good hot dog.


We got coupons from our casino when we signed up for their casino card, so I was able to get me a Cinnabon the next morning for breakfast (woo). Interestingly enough- there was a Walgreens in the Venetian (next door to our hotel), so we stocked up on some snacks, beer/cider and water that night- so we wouldn’t spend as much elsewhere on the strip- this was a smart move on our part!

Day 2 in Vegas, our first full day in Vegas, we met up with some friends who are actually from Vegas. They treated us to the Peppermill Lounge, which was super packed on the Sunday afternoon we went. It reminded me of a mix of Atlantic City or Old Vegas casinos and the type of diners that are the norm in Pennsylvania. Hubs got one of their mimosas to start, which was great! I ended up getting a French Dip sandwich (I think hubs got a burger- I can’t remember) and then we split a Brownie Obsession- sooooo good. It was recommended by our friends- who said that we could get whatever we wanted to have for lunch, just as long as we saved room for that. Haha
I present to you, the Brownie Obsession:



Later that day we stopped by the Sugar Factory outside of Paris and shared a Lollipop Passion drink between hubs, me and our friend Juno. It was soooo cool to watch them pour it and the taste was great as well. The drink is quite pricy, but super fun to try. Check out my quick animated gif of the pouring of the drink!:



For dinner we were craving Mexican, so we stopped into the Venetian and had dinner at Taqueria Canonita Mexico City Soul Food.


I got the Santa Rosa Pork Barbacoa and hubs got some form of tacos, along with an order of chips and their famous guacamole. We were not expecting the portion size to be as big as it was when it came out though, lol.

Hubs' tacos
My barbacoa
One thing we quickly found out when going to Vegas: The prices of the meals are a little high/big, but so is the portion size. Most lunches were around $15+ and dinners $18-25+, but were quite large. We rarely ate more than 2 meals a day while on the trip. Haha

Day 3 in Vegas (2nd  full day), a Monday, our buddy Mike came to town. We snacked a lot that day after having a hearty breakfast at Harrah’s, so we skipped lunch and went straight to dinner when our friend arrived to town. Since it was kind of a rainy day, we wanted to eat at something close, so we ate at Chayo Tequila bar off the Linq.

I love the bottle chandeliers they had!
I had these awesome Enchiladas, where as hubs and our friend Mike shared nachos and a grilled sandwich thing.


Later that night we got some frozen yogurt while wandering around the Mirage.


Day 4 in Vegas- Tuesday, we hit the Central and Northern Vegas strip, as well as went and saw Penn & Teller at the Rio (which is not on the strip). We started the morning off with $5 mimosas from Paris.

Then had Thai food at Bally’s SEA: A Thai Experience.




We headed back to Paris to get Crepes from La Creperie- which we had a food voucher for, so we were stuffed after those. The crepes are amazing though.



When we got to Rio early, we hoped to get some dinner there- so we would already be right there for the show- however everything was either closed for dinner or WAY expensive there, except the All-American Bar & Grille we ended up settling on. I got a turkey burger (the boys got burgers too), though they did have great fries there.


Just be forewarned- not many reasonably priced options for dinner at the Rio.
Later that night before the show, we 3 split an Evening Call frozen drink to get us pumped for the show. Interesting enough- almost every casino/hotel or place on the strip has their own variation of Evening Call or FatTuesday frozen alcoholic beverage bars.

my Fat Tuesday drink I got sometime during the trip
Think a wall of slurpee/smoothie machines, but filled with margaritas, pina coladas, and other frozen alcoholic drinks.

Day 5 in Vegas- Wednesday, we wanted a hearty brunch, since we were road-tripping out to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon that day. We hit up the famous HashHouse a Go-Go at the Quad.


My scramble
Hubs got a giant pancake
Our friend Mike got a huge apple fritter pancake thing
Boy were those meals HUGE! Good too, since we didn’t get dinner till on our way home from Grand Canyon (after 8pm), where we stopped at the In-and-Out Burger.


Neither hubs, nor I had been to one, so it was a quick and cheap meal.

Day 6 in Vegas- Thursday, we were craving sushi for lunch. After a little googling, we found that there was a sushi place at Ceasar's Palace (so right across the street from our hotel!). Surprisingly enough, there wasn't a whole lot of sushi places in Vegas that were within our budget- there were a few really expensive ones though.


We went to Sushi Roku, which was quite good- I got a bento box, as I felt like a mixed pallet of foods that afternoon. haha.

I swapped the california rolls that came with the bento box with my hubs so I could have tuna rolls.lol
Later that day we decided to hit up the southern part of the strip, as we had tickets to see Criss Angel at the Luxor. Also, one of my bucket list items was to have a drink in an ice bar- where there is actually 2 in Vegas (Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay), so we ended up hitting that on the way down to the Luxor- we went to the Minus 5 Ice Bar in the Monte Carlo.


We had a blast there. The price was a little steep, but it was one of the only WE MUST DO THIS items that cost money (besides going on the gondola ride) when in Vegas. Overall their drinks were amazing- you had them out of a frozen ice cup.


 So cool- it also inspired us for the theme of our joint birthday party next year! After our frozen beverages, we wandered through NY/NY, Excalibur and Luxor before the show. We picked up some fries to hold us over till dinner at this little "Backstage Deli" within Luxor- right outside the spot to see the show.

After Criss Angel, we hit up the Excalibur, where we got one of the few chain-food restaurant meals on this trip- Buca di Beppo (the 3 of us wanted Italian food to complete our "food around the world" goal while on the trip. haha) As is usual Buca di Beppo style, 2 dishes fed all 3 of us easily.




We took a chance on their spicy Chicken pasta dish- which was fantastic and got traditional spaghetti with meatballs. My hubs wasn't a huge fan of the chicken pasta, but he doesn't like peas or spicy pasta either, though our friend Mike and I gobbled up that dish easily. I think one of the funniest parts of that evening was watching the massive amount of Bachelorette Parties going into the Chippendales (which were right next to Buca di Beppa) as we were waiting to be seated. haha

Day 7 in Vegas- Friday, we wandered outside of Vegas and hit up a winery. Yes, you read that right, we went to a winery in Nevada! It was one of my more favorite parts of our trip.


Pahrump Valley Winery is about 1 hour ourside of Vegas and one of only a few wineries in the state (wineries in the desert?!). We got lunch first when we got there- all 3 of us got their pulled pork sandwich, which had bbq mixed with one of their wines, and it was fantastic!


We also got a bottle of their Symphony wine with lunch.



Then after a brief tour of the winery, we tasted a bunch of their wines at their wine bar. We only purchased one bottle- as we had to somehow get it in our luggage (checked bag) and we knew our weight of the bag was already on the edge of costing more. I really wanted to buy more, but we couldn't justify the high cost of a heavy checked bag. Our friend Mike though, walked away with about half a case. haha. When we got back to the town after driving through (and stopping by) Red Rock, we crashed at our hotel till dinnertime, where we ended up going to the Outback Steakhouse that is upstairs from our hotel. (We were smart and made an online reservation for it too).


After dinner, we went in search of the only Jamba Juice (in the Fashion Show mall area), then wandered over to get cheesecake to go from the Cheesecake Factory in Caesar's Palace. We had a gift card leftover from our birthday (shows you that we don't go to the Cheesecake Factory all that often, lol) so we used the whole card to buy us 3 slices of their famous cheesecake. Doing this was so much quicker than the boat-load of people trying to eat dinner there. I only ate half of my cheesecake that night, since I made the mistake of getting a large Jamba Juice, though I did have it the next day after lunch. At the end of this day, I was so full, I thought I was going to burst!

Day 8 in Vegas- Saturday (our last day in Vegas) we were starting to get a little stumped as to where we were going to eat, as we hit up pretty much every style of food. I was craving comfort-type food, and found the Nine Fine Irishmen on my google search.



The Irish restaurant is in the NY/NY- so a decent walk from our hotel, as it is towards the southern part of the strip. All 3 of us got lunch meals that were in pots, so it was funny to see them bring out our lunches. I decided to get the Shepard's Pie, our friend Mike got the Chicken Pot Pie (that has a gigantic top crust shown in the below picture) and the hubs got the Irish Stew.


It was well worth the trek down there. After taking things relaxed when finishing packing up our stuff in the hotel, we decided later on getting dinner at Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen at the Quad, which was quite close to our hotel. The line was a little long for the early dinner, but it was after all, a Saturday. Once we got it, we knew this last meal in Vegas was going to be a good/big one. We got their fries appetizer (had all sorts of types of potatos/fries all mixed together with various dipping sauces)- mistake #1 on my part for this meal was loading up on these. I ordered the one type of Turkey burger. While we waiting for our main meal, hubs spotted this fantastic looking drink sitting on the bar. We hailed down the server and asked what it was. After some explaination- we decided to split it between the 3 of us, and thus the "Adios Mother ****er" drink made its way to our table.


It was amazing. Expensive, but amazing. Luckily, if you finish the drink, they give you a free t-shirt!
(bonus to the drink).

Then our food came out. Holy hell. I immediately was kicking myself for having so many fries before my main meal came out. I had to cut the excess Turkey from my turkey burger, just so I could eat it. haha!



Hubs got wings, and our friend Mike got the Mac & Cheese burger.


After this meal, we all felt like we would need to be rolled out of the restaurant. Thanks Guy Fieri, for topping off our Vegas trip with a bang.
That night, once we got on the red-eye flight, I knew I wasn't going to need any late-night snacks, after that meal. I wasn't hungry till late in the morning the next day. haha

So, on to the actual tips we learned from getting Food/drinks in Vegas:
If you can, pre-plan. Most of the restaurants we ate at, we decided upon before we left the hotel. This helped us budget accordingly. There is many little booklet guides around Vegas (many in the hotels themselves) that has a breakdown of restaurants in each casino- they also tell you the price range of said restaurants.


We had a set overall amount we could spend on the trip, so we would try to plan one slightly pricier place and one slightly cheaper place a day to eat at to say within budget. We never really ever needed to get more than 2 meals a day while on this trip, since most of the food is huge portions!

Prices and portions. Average prices of restaurants on the strip are a little higher but the portion sizes tended to be bigger (unless its a super-high-class place, which we never went to). We couldn't find a decent lunch for cheaper than $15 a person, but a single order probably would of served both of us, if we really were on a strict diet or budget. Be wary of dinner prices, as most are $18-25 easily. Most restaurants would jack the price up of the exact same menu item, just because it was dinner time. Most of the restaurants on the strip have their menus either online or outside of the door of the restaurant- so take note of the ones that are far more expensive for dinner. This is why we tended to hit up the more chain-food type restaurants for dinner, and the more unique ones for lunch.

Cheap Drinks vs. Expensive Specialty Drinks. We only had a few specific drinks we wanted to try on the strip, so we budgeted accordingly. But if you're a big drinker, scope out the cheap drink locations or happy hour spots. Our hotel (Casino Royale) for example, had $1 Michelobs all day long- so cheap beer spot. There is also a boat-load of frozen beverage stands littered across the strip (Fat Tuesday and Evening Call are the 2 I tried). We looked at the Purple Zebra, but didn't end up getting one in the end- they had the best selection of novelty cups though.


Many of them have discounts to future drinks if you buy their novelty cup (aka. discounted refills). Also, like I mentioned at our last place we stopped, you can even get free gifts when you get their big fancy drinks. Both the fish-bowl sized drink at Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen, and the Lollipop Passion drink from the Sugar Factory, gave us stuff other than the drink itself- Fieri's drink gave us a free t-shirt for finishing it, and the Sugar Factory drink had actual candy we could eat later.
Sugar Factory's Lollipop Passion
Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen "Adios Mother F***er"
Even thought the price is very steep for these drinks (think $37 minimum for it), for the amount of alcohol and size, it wasn't too over priced, compared to the high cost of drinks in Vegas in general. Here are some drink prices at Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen for some reference of prices:




Somewhere on our trip (I don't remember what day) the hubs got an Irish Margarita from the outdoor bar of O'Sheas on the Quad off the Linq walkway- (think a margarita with 2 extra shots of Jamison Whiskey mixed in). For this frozen drink alone, in a normal sized cup (like red solo cup size) it was $10, though the hubs claims it was worth it for how strong a drink it was. So think about your budget, if you're a big drinker. Splurge on the specialty drinks that you are determined to try, then stick to the $1 Michelobs or go stock up your hotel mini fridge with drinks from the gas station/pharmacy/convenient store outside of town, for a better price.
Also, many of the restaurants have bartender specials- these usually are much cheaper than the rest of the standard drinks. When we got dinner at Canonita in the Venetian, they had $5 bartender specials.
Bartender's special drink from Canonita
They were delicious, unique and much cheaper than if we had purchased a standard margarita from the bar. In Paris, Paris- they had $5 mimosas. The cup seemed a little tiny, but boy did those mimosas pack a punch if you hadn't had lunch yet!

There are cheaper drinks on the strip, you just have to search for the specials.

Unique vs. Chain Foods. Our goal when on this trip was to try new/unique restaurants, and try our best to avoid the chain food restaurants. If your goal is to be totally budget friendly, yes the chains tend to be a little cheaper, but you could get that food back at home. Like mentioned above, we would often try the unique restaurants for lunch (as it would be cheaper) and the chains for dinner when we could, but overall- I felt the unique restaurants would have way better tasting food overall over the chains. Weight what is important to you on your trip- trying something new, or just eating to hold you over while you are doing other things on the strip.
Two of the many places we ended up NOT eating at, but I thought I'd share their uniqueness:

Napoleon's at Paris
Heart Attack Grill off Freemont Street
Rarely get Appetizers. Unless your hotel room has a microwave, avoid the appetizers. More often than not, when we'd get an appetizer, we couldn't finish our meals, since the appetizers filled us up so much. I was so sad I couldn't take certain leftover meals to be heated up later, since we soon learned that the meal itself will fill you up- no need for an appetizer first. Also, most appetizers are overpriced compared to the amount of food you get with your meal, so save money and save your stomach from exploding! Unless you can eat a boat-load, avoid those apps!

Get non-microwavable foods to go! Many restaurants have fancy desserts that you are just dying to have, but after the huge meal you had, you couldn't eat it right then. Get the dessert to go and stick it in your mini fridge (if you have one) in your hotel. I did this for the cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, and boy was I glad I did. Since we didn't get dinner there, we could walk right up to the bakery counter, got our cheesecake, and walk right out- avoided all the lines and got just what we wanted from them- cheesecake!
Cute Cupcake ATM from cupcake bakery "Sprinkles" off the Linq
If you're feeling hungry late at night, better to just go to your fridge, then having to go out on the strip in search of a sweet treat.

Hydrate! When alcohol is at every corner of the strip, you have to remember to stay hydrated. It is super hot at times when walking everywhere, so make sure to stock up on water (especially if you have a mini fridge at your hotel). Stocking up ahead of time saves you money (so you don't have to buy the overpriced bottled water at casinos) and saves you from getting really sick. If at a restaurant, make sure to get yourself some water then too, as a glass of water is free there!

Overall, we had a fantastic food adventure while in Vegas- I certainly wouldn't say there is lack of good food there, since pretty much every meal I had while in Vegas, I enjoyed. Food and drinks were one of the main things we did in Vegas. Now granted, I gained over 3 pounds while there for a week, but it was well worth the memories of great tasting food. lol

Food coma almost every day on trip!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my tips and tricks learned from our recent trip to Vegas.

Check out my previous post on Vegas Hotels and walking around the strip.


Be sure to stop by and see the other upcoming portion of my Vegas trip tips and tricks: 


Have a great day!
-M