Walking in the Vegas Wonderland

(To the tune of “Winter Wonderland”)

Neon lights, they are glowing,
Slot machines, they are going;
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight,
Walking in the Vegas wonderland.

Over here, it’s exciting,
Everywhere, so inviting;
You can’t beat a trip,
Hangin’ on the Strip
Walking in the Vegas wonderland.

I know what you’re thinking: how can we be back in Vegas after being there six months ago?  There’s a very simple answer to that question….

MGM Grand made me an offer I couldn’t refuse:  a room rate of $59.  (For enquiring minds wondering what a $59 room at MGM looks like, look here.) It’s really not that great a rate for Vegas these days since we paid only $35 for Flamingo in July.  And that $35 was still available for this trip too.

But…that MGM rate includes unlimited access to their buffets all day (and night) for Susie and me. Now that’s a deal!  Just breakfast and dinner would be $80 if we paid for it.  So my math says MGM is paying us at least $21 a day to stay there ($56 a day if you use only the $24 increment from Flamingo’s rate), hoping that they might make that $21 (and more) back from our gambling.

But they’ll lose that bet.  Because we don’t play at MGM.  Never have.  Susie likes the slots at Orleans.  I play poker tournaments at Mandalay Bay, Hard Rock, and a few other casinos but not MGM.  So we’ll be rude and just eat and run…well, walk.  😉

We’re probably not even awake yet if you’re reading this before 10 AM (Eastern).  We arrived Saturday after an early morning flight which put us into Vegas around noon.

Our first order of business was to satisfy the need for Filipino food – some pancit bihon (thin rice noodles with bits of meat and veggies), lechon (roast pig), and, for dessert, turon (a “banana egg roll” topped with sugar and/or honey or sometimes chocolate) and bibingka (sweet rice cake).

Susie prefers her dessert to be the Filipino “milkshake” of shaved ice, ice cream, sweet beans and fruits known as halo-halo. (She was in heaven at one reunion where we had a “you build it” halo-halo table that was a good ten feet long full of various ice creams, fruits, sweet beans, etc.)

Since we’re not paying for our meals, I believe we’ll be restrained in the “quantity” department.  I envision my breakfasts to include a bagel with a base layer of cream cheese topped off with lox, onion and tomato.  Since MGM is one of the top hotels, I expect there’ll be some pickled herring in sour cream and I’ll have a few bites of that.  Then, I’ll finish off with some sort of eggs (perhaps an omelet) and bacon and/or sausage.  And of course some wicked pastry.  Finally, some fruit to “balance” all those evil other items!  😉

Susie will fill up on bacon, her favorite breakfast item.  And since my New Year’s resolution is to put 10 pounds on her 95-pound frame to get her closer back to her “normal” weight of about 110-115, I’ll encourage her to eat as much bacon as she can.

When we return for dinner, which may be early or late depending on whether we’re catching a show, we’ll probably have an appetite from walking much of the day.  I’ll limit meat to a small portion of prime rib and some lamb or duck, if they have either.  Then, I’ll pile up on the pre-split crab legs and enough drawn butter to make a cardiologist faint.  Followed by the large shrimp, which used to be pre-peeled but isn’t these days.  A small salad focusing on olives, mushrooms and tomatoes.

If we’re not going to a show and have an “early” dinner, I can wait a few hours and re-enter the buffet just before it closes for a late evening dessert and coffee.  If we’re in the area around lunch, we can pop in for a sandwich.  Hopefully, I won’t gain too much weight.  😉

The big “new” Vegas attraction this trip is City Center, which began opening last month.  At about $8 billion, it is the largest private development in U.S. history to date.  When completely open, it will generate some 12,000 jobs from its retail, hotel, condo, casino and entertainment components covering 16.7 million square feet on 70 acres on the Strip between Monte Carlo and Bellagio, where the eye-sore Boardwalk casino used to be.

The retail component includes about 500,000 square feet of retail space, with high end shops such as Prada, Tiffany (the third one on the Strip I believe), and Mikimoto. The 61-story Aria Hotel and Casino Resort has 4,000 rooms (compared to MGM’s 5,000 rooms).  There’s also a Mandarin hotel, I understand.

The dining and entertainment will include two restaurants owned by Wolfgang Puck and a new Cirque production.  This one is “Viva Elvis” and chronicles Elvis’ life using his songs.  I forget just how many Cirque productions there are in Vegas now.  Let’s see… Mystere;  O;  Zumanity;  Love;  and Ka.  So that’s at least six.

We caught Mystere years ago but I’m not an acrobatics fan so we’ve not seen any of the others.  Since “Viva Elvis” may not be principally acrobatics, I may be interested in that when the price is right.  Until then, there’s always “Big Elvis” for free at Bill’s.  Besides an impressive voice, Big Elvis has an impressive personal story: losing 500 pounds by diet and exercise alone.  (Watch Big Elvis perform.)

I’m hoping this is the trip we get cheap (relatively speaking) tickets to Jersey Boys, the musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  In July, all we could do was 35% off and even then it was over $100 each.  I paid $75 each for third row orchestra seats to Phantom but Jersey Boys is nowhere near the level of Phantom so I’m certainly not going to pay more for less.  I can wait them out….

The plan is to play one daily “deep stack” poker tournament (4,000-5,000 chips instead of the typical 2,000), graze the  buffets, and otherwise just wander the Strip in the lazy way that comes with having been to Vegas about 25 times.  It’s a totally relaxing vacation because we’re not “on the go” as we are when we visit other destinations, especially a destination we’ve never been to before.

We’ll have some company too.  A high school classmate and his wife are flying in from Vancouver to hang out with us.  Steve, who I first met in my fourth grade class and who was also born in Manila, had looked into staying at Caesar’s as part of a package deal but decided to splurge and upgrade to the brand new Aria Resort at City Center.  He got airfare and hotel for 5 nights for about $700 for both of them, which is less than the room’s “list” price ($149/night) for the same nights.

We hope to see another high school friend who, after 20+ years with Harrah’s in Vegas, decided to transfer to their Memphis office.  He lost that job last Spring but is now back in Vegas working for MGM in a job involving the new City Center.  His wife will stay with her job in Memphis until the house sells.  She’ll be in Vegas this weekend as they look for a new home and maybe we’ll be able to get together.

Since this is a travel post, it’s appropriate that I note the latest addition to my blogroll: Andiamo.  It’s the personal blog of a travel writer who’s moving to Italy.  I discovered her when a post of hers about not having children was featured on the WordPress home page.

Whenever we’re in Vegas, there are two “must sees.”  Even though we’ve seen them so many times, we like to see them each visit.

First is the downtown’s answer to the Strip: the Fremont Street Experience light show known as Viva Vision.  Over a million lights on a canopy 90 feet above your head and some 500 speakers with 500,000 watts of power.  Different shows on the hour beginning at dark and until midnight.

Finally, I’ll leave you with my favorite Fountains of Bellagio show, which is best seen at night but which is difficult to pick up on video.  The show is every 30 minutes and features different songs.  This show starts slow but the last minute is quite spectacular.  You’ll hear the “ooohs” and “aahhs” …

Since this is a travel post, it’s appropriate that I note the latest addition to my blogroll: Andiamo.  It’s the personal blog of a travel writer who’s moving to Italy.  I discovered her when a post of hers about not having children was featured on the WordPress home page.

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3 responses to “Walking in the Vegas Wonderland

  1. I was so amused by your calculations of how much money you are “saving” by staying at MGM. I therefore have a new vow: besides wanting to be the person standing right behind you if a fight breaks out, I vow never to buy anything or take a trip until you have done the math 🙂 Wish I’d thought of that before I bought the new baby Toyota. Although that was kind of an emergency…Also, I bet the sweet and lovely Susie will fight you tooth and nail when it comes to gaining weight! I miss you guys…let’s go to a movie when you get home.

  2. I’m hungry now, having just read about all that delicious food, especially prime rib and crab legs. Having a little trouble with the idea of pickled herring for breakfast though. I didn’t know herring was a breakfast food!

  3. Here it is 0825 and I’m already craving prime rib. Enjoy your vacation.

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