Thursday, December 1, 2011

Las Vegas!

Here is a time appropriately written blog!  Cody and I went to Vegas over Thanksgiving, and I here I am a few days later writing about it!!  Yaaaay for being on the ball!!  This is the only time I'm going to have to write the blog, because my dreaded finals are coming up in a week or so from now!!  Yikes!  But anyways... back to Vegas!  We had a lot of fun and did a lot of different things there.  It was Cody's first time so he was really excited.  I had been to Vegas once before but only for a weekend.  I went for a business conference, and I really didn't have enough time to do much of anything so I was excited to go back.

 Here is the picture that we took when we arrived at the airport!!  We actually didn't have too bad of a flight.  I slept almost the whole time. Cody on the other hand didn't sleep quite as much.  He was still able to hold his own in Vegas though!  I think we were both ready for an earlier first night though.  We went to bed at like 10:30!!  I know that's crazy for Vegas... but what can I say... when you're tired... you're tired.  One cool thing about the Vegas airport is that it has slot machines that you can play there!!  I don't think that they pay out very well though...  Cody tried when we left and he didn't win anything...  and if he didn't hit a jackpot no one probably does haha...

The first thing we did was drive around Vegas when we first got there.  (We had a rental car for the duration of our trip).  We went and we drove down town and saw the old section of Vegas.  I had never seen this before so I was really curious about it.  I finally found out where all of the wedding chapels are!!!  And no.  We didn't get married!  It's funny how many people said that to us when they heard we were going to Vegas.  We had a really nice hotel room while we were in Vegas with a full kitchen so while we were downtown we decided to go grocery shopping.  Hrmm... talk about an interesting area.  I think there were more food labels written in Spanish than in English and let's just say that we were definitely in the minority there.  It was an interesting place to say the least... but it served it's purpose we got a little bit of food for the week that I think saved us quite a bit of money in the long run.  The picture above was quite challenging to get!!!  The sign is in the middle of a big road probably like 8 lanes to it.  The sign divides the road, and there are about 8 parking spots in front of it so that people can stop to take pictures... well... needless to say everyone wants a picture in front of this sign, and 8 parking spots was not sufficient. It took us quite a while to bully our way into a parking spot.  We even got stuck having to turn around once in the midst of a LOT of traffic!!  I sure am glad that Cody was driving, because Vegas is a complicated place to drive!  Every road has 4 lanes on each side, and no one knows where/when they want to turn... so you constantly have people cutting across 3 lanes to turn or cutting you off so that they can get over.  Cody was a champ!

The one thing that I love to do while in any city is to go on a tour with a real live tour guide telling you about the places you are going by.  I love getting to hear all of this information and learning about the area.  I was really regretful that I didn't get to do this the first time I went to Vegas, and that is the main reason why I didn't write a blog about it before.  But here you can see this time we did it right and we got onto a tour bus.  They had two routes on our tour company.  One took you down the strip and the other took you to the downtown old Vegas area.

Here is Cody and I on our tour bus!  We wanted to go on a night time tour bus as well... and we bought the tickets to do it, but we were on the bus on Thanksgiving and apparently it wasn't running at night, and the woman was wrong for selling us the ticket.  That kind of put us behind a little bit, because we had to go back to HER to get the refund.  No one else could do it... so the bus dropped us off to deal with her and then left... so we were going to have to wait 20 minutes for the next one.  We ended up going to Caesar's Palace instead for sometime... and then later on we jumped back on the bus and continued our tour.  It was funny though, it seemed like we heard the same narrative 3 or 4 times because of that.  I still enjoyed it though!!  :)

Here is Cody in front of MGM.  We went into a lot of different Casinos and explored around them while we were in Vegas.  I was interested to learn that this was not the original place where MGM was built.  Years ago MGM stood where Ballys currently is, but it burned to the ground years ago killing 87 people.  I guess the fire codes in Vegas were not good then and they couldn't respond to the fire.  Since then they really tightened up their fire code regulations, and now Vegas is seen as having the top fire codes in the world and is often modeled after.

When we went inside we walked directly into where the lion exhibit is in the MGM.  At first I was wondering why MGM choose to have lions in their exhibit, because lions are the most boring creatures ever... they sleep 20 hours a day.  It doesn't really seem like a high excitement attraction to me... and I almost voiced this to Cody, but then I realized that the MGM mascot is a lion... then it made sense haha.  The highlight of the lion exhibit was that they had two baby lion cubs!  One they had out to take a $25 picture with, and the other was playing in it's room.  That's the picture we got!  But isn't he cuuuute!  Maybe baby lions aren't like adults... because this guy was up and at em...  he was playing and walking all around.  Maybe they just get lazy as they get older or something.  I wonder if MGM always has lion cubs??  It seems like a good marketing ploy, but at the same time... how could they always have babies and what would they do with them when they grew up?  They only had one male and female lion in their small exhibit.  Hrmm... I wonder.  Maybe I'll have to do some research.

Here is our guide again in front of Circus Circus.  Circus Circus was the hub of our tour.  It was where the red and blue lines started from.  I was really excited about going to Circus Circus and seeing the free circus shows there!!  :)  Finally on our last day we got to go.  Cody wasn't too interested in the circus acts, but I was excited because the act I got to see was actually two people that I recognized from America's Got Talent.  They were the quick change people and I thought it was awesome to see them in person!!  I'm glad that is the one show that I got to see!!  :)  What good timing!!

 Here is the big sign in front of Circus Circus... I liked it... so I took a picture and wanted to include it in here.  Originally Circus Circus was just a casino, but they had a hard time attracting high rollers into their casino so they added the hotel on so that those people would have somewhere to stay.  Personally I think that Circus Circus is a great place to go in Vegas if you have kids.  They have an inexpensive game room above the casino where kids can play games, and they have the circus acts.  If I ever brought a kid to Vegas that is where I would take them.

Here is a better picture of our first tour guide.  It seemed like every time we got until the red line bus he happened to be our guide.  I usually take a picture of all of my guides.  He noticed that I had my notepad and was taking notes while he was talking, and he was flabbergasted.  He couldn't believe I was taking notes on what he said.  He was a younger guy and I'm not sure how long he had been giving tours, because he didn't seem that well rehearsed...  I loooove getting tour guides of old men because they know all of the good stories, and not just the training they get from the bus company.  This guy wasn't too bad though, but I think all the old guys had the day off for Thanksgiving, because the next day or two when we saw the buses going by they had older men giving the tours... but whatever... it's ok.

Ahhh the Wynn.... this is one of the stories that I mentioned before.  It seemed to overlap on every tour we got onto.  I think we heard this story... about 4-6 times.  But this hotel is probably one of the fanciest hotels in the world.  It is 5 star and 5 diamond rated.  It's a gorgeous hotel.  Steve Wynn owns the hotel.  He worked his way up in Vegas working at different hotels, and now he's a billionaire.  He said that he was so proud of this hotel that when it was completed he stood on the top left hand corner of the building and signed his own name to the hotel. A few years later he liked it so much that he built the Encore behind it which is identical to the Wynn.  Rooms in the hotel start at like $300 a night or usually even more, and it's the most expensive hotel on the strip.  When we were there apparently Prince Harry was staying there, and I guess when Paris Hilton comes to Vegas she doesn't stay at the Hilton she stays at the Wynn.  The Wynn has one of 37 golf courses in Vegas, but it costs $500 to play a round of golf there... however you do get a complimentary golf cart if you choose to play there.  One more cool fact is that the Wynn has 24 private Rolls Royces parked outside for the use/rent of their special guests.

If you are curious about what the inside of the Wynn looks like look no further!  When I was in Vegas for the first time my conference/BG actually paid for me to stay at the Wynn for a couple of nights!!  I didn't realize at the time how nice the Wynn really was.  I didn't know it was the most expensive hotel on the strip, but I knew that it was heavenly and I've traveled enough to know it was an amazing room... by far the nicest I've ever stayed in.  Here is the entrance lobby.  Isn't it pretty??  The whole casino at the Wynn is set up for high rollers.  I think they had table with bets between $5,000 to $50,000 for a hand of blackjack!  How crazy is that!  Must be nice to have that kind of money to gamble with like that!!

Here is the inside of my room.  I'm always curious as to what the insides of the hotels I walk by look like.  I wish it was like apartments where you could view a model haha.  BUT anyways the room at the Wynn was a very large, mine had two beds because I was sharing it with another girl, and it had an AMAZING bath room! 

Here are the most comfortable beds ever!  At almost every hotel I've ever been to I've used my own pillow and blanket, but I can say that I did not do that at the Wynn. The bed was so comfortable and nice.  The pillows were just absolutely amazing!!  If you look real hard you can see my pillow forgotten at the end of my bed.

Here is half of the bathroom.  It was so big that I couldn't get it all in one picture.  You can see that we had a nice tub and a shower, then we had a whole vanity section... you can see more in the picture below.

I think this bathroom was bigger than my apartment bedroom is now.  Actually I'm almost sure of it.  Then next to the vanity area was the toilet.  I think the bathroom really adds a lot to a hotel room.  If you have a decent size bathroom chances are you'll like where you're staying.  Although that's not the only factor that matters...

Here is the view that we had of the Rocky Mountains.  You can't really tell from this picture but it was really pretty!!!  The coolest part of this room was how high tech it was.  On our alarm clock was a number of different controls for things that we could do in the room.  We could turn the lights off in the room from our bed, we could pull the curtains open or shut with a click of a button ( I think that was our favorite part.  We were SO excited when we realized that part!! ) and our door could be set electronically as to whether or not we wanted the maid to enter.  We just pressed a button and it said do not disturb or please service.  It was AWESOME!  Definitely an awesome hotel... and for getting to stay there for free it was the right price!  I would like to stay there again, but it's going to be a while before I'm going to cough up that much cash to stay there!!

Here was another story that we heard numerous times.  This hotel was started in 2005, but in 2007 after spending over a billion dollars the owners went bankrupt.  It was then sold on pennies on the dollar to another buyer for $150 million.  The building is currently under construction.  As you can see there are windows missing out of the building.  This is because of the extreme heat in the area, and this building doesn't have air conditioning yet.  Without the missing windows all of the windows would bust out!  Which would not be good for the current owner of the building... it looks like it's all glass!!

Here is a better view of the missing windows.

Now here is an interesting story.  Donald Trump decided that he wanted to build a hotel that was bigger than the Wynn, with bigger lettering than the Wynn, and with gold windows. Well when Trump was going to get his gambling license... guess who was on the gambling board??  Steve Wynn.  And it seems like Steve Wynn practically owns Vegas.  So Donald Trump was denied his gambling license, and is not allowed a casino in his hotel.  When this happened he wanted to take his name off of the hotel, but people had invested in the hotel because it had his name on so he couldn't take it off.  I guess that shows that you shouldn't tick off the wrong people!!

Here is Cody and I at Circus Circus waiting for a bus to come!

 Here is a picture of the Venetian Hotel.  It was decorated for Winter in Venice.  You can kind of see the tree that lights up really pretty at night, and they also had a ice skating rink outside.

 My blog wouldn't be complete without a view of Caesar's Palace.  I was really bummed that I wasn't able to see Celine Dion.  I've ALWAYS loved her and I would love to go to one of her concerts someday.  She usually plays in Vegas but she wasn't there while we were.

Here we are in front of Caesars.  That darn Vegas sun!  I think I'm squinting in every picture we took outside!

Here we are inside of Caesar's Palace in front of the talking statues that talk about the fall of Atlantis.  It's kind of corny, and we had to wait like 30-45 mins for it.  Probably wasn't worth it... but Cody hadn't seen it before, and I wanted to walk through Caesars anyways so oh well!  We got to see all of the various high ticket/name brand stores in Caesars.  They say that Caesar's makes an income of  $1500 per sq ft in a hour there!!  I don't doubt it! 

Here is our second tour guide named Debbie.  You might remember her from America's Got Talent... she was the lady with the parrots!  Pretty neat!

The Stratosphere is the 5th tallest building in the US at 1,100 feet high.  It has the tallest rides in the world, because it has rides that you can go on on top of it.  Originally Cody and I were going to do that, but we decided to scrap it in the end.

It's funny but downtown Vegas is ACTUALLY Las Vegas.  The strip or what everyone considers Vegas is actually a township.  The original Las Vegas was in the downtown area and it was run by mobsters.  There were so many restrictions in this area that the mobsters decided to move to the township next to Vegas and that is where they developed the strip.  It's kind of ironic that the strip was built by mobsters, because now a days due to all of the video cameras and registration people do with their licenses in Vegas more criminals get caught there then anywhere else in the world. Vegas's cameras are linked to the FBI database.

Here is one of the hundreds of wedding chapels in Vegas.  This one is famous because Dean Martin and Brittney Spears got married there.  It's funny some chapels even have "drive thru" windows so that you don't even have to get out of your car to get married.  A typical wedding license costs $60 and then the wedding costs about $100 but you can find better prices than that apparently.  Approximately 300 weddings are held in Vegas everyday, but I guess on 11/11/11 most of the chapels conducted 300 weddings each!!  Yikes can you imagine how quick those were!!  Cool date though!  You have to be 16 years or older to get married in Vegas so a lot of kids run away and get married there.  On that note divorces cost $550 in Vegas and there are tons of little houses converted into lawyers offices right around this area.  I thought it was funny to hear that Vegas has the most churches in the world, because each little chapel is considered a church.  That's kind of ironic.

Here is the famous Fremont Street.  Cody and I got to go to the "Fremont Street Experience."  It was pretty cool they basically have a gigantic tv above you that plays music on the hour every hour, and there are a lot of neon signs and casinos that you can wander into. The actual street was closed in 1995 so no cars are allowed on it only people, but there are quite a few places to park for free to get to Fremont street, and actually most parking was surprisingly free in Vegas.  We never had a pay to park, I think that is a way for the casino to get you to come in... so they just let you park for free.  While we were on Fremont Street we got to see a street magician named Adam Flowers.  He was pretty good!!  He did some cool tricks, and I'd have to say it was one of the coolest things we saw.  There are TONS of people on the streets in Vegas trying to make tips.  There are a lot of characters for kids to pose with... I saw elmo, minnie and mickey... among others.  For the older crowd there was a guy dressed like a transformer and people dressed up like Johnny Depp in various movies.  But really there was a wide variety.  The only "street people" that I didn't like were all of the "pimps" trying to pass out hooker cards.  Prostitution is legal in Vegas and baseball like cards of practically naked girls litter the streets of Vegas.

The Cleveland Clinic is everywhere!!  Even in Vegas!  Here is a brain research building... the building is supposed to look like your brain.  I guess I see it... maybe...

See I told you it was the Cleveland Clinic!

Here is the biggest golden nugget in the world weighing 61 lbs and 11 ounces!!  Can you imagine how much that sucker is work??  Holy Cow!  We saw it in the Golden Nugget casino in downtown Las Vegas.  The hotel/casino itself seemed pretty nice, but it's kind of a long way away from the strip.  I think a lot of the old hotels down there were being refurbished and updated to draw more people into that area of Vegas.  One cool thing about the Golden Nugget though is that they had an ATM that distributed gold!  You could buy all different sizes of gold up to a one ounce gold krugerrand coin.  You had to pay in cash though!!  Pretty cool idea though!

 Here we are in posing in front of the golden nugget.  People were making jokes that it was time to cash that sucker in!!  Especially with gold being worth more than a $1,000 an ounce!  That's a fortune right there!  Too bad for the guy that originally found it.  He sold it for $1 million!

Here we are in front of the Pawn Shop.  This was actually one of the first places we visited in Vegas.  We were driving down the strip heading to downtown Vegas and we ran right into it.  It's not that far down the strip at all.  Considering it's the number 1 show on the history channel I had to get a picture of it!!  Not to mention how often my dad and I watch it!  It was pretty cool getting to go inside of it.  I didn't think about it while we were in there but we were allowed to take pictures from the inside!  Darn!  Oh well... you see what it looks like when it's on TV anyways.  They just leave out the section with their gift shop in it....  no doubt to try to hide the prices of the gift merchandise inside!!  Talk about a rip off!!

Here is the front.  The guys from the TV show don't actually work inside of the Pawn Shop on a day to day basis.  They hire workers to handle the store.  I guess they usually come in on Fridays to tape their show.  When we were in there... tons of people were inside, but when they film the show they make people stay outside during it.  That is why the shop never looks over run while they are tapping. 

Here is Cody's favorite place!!  Haha!  Margaritaville!!  Cody's favorite drinks are margaritas.  So of course when he saw this place he had to get one...

A giant one!  I think it was 48 ounces!!  It was a whole pitcher full!  He drank it like a champ... I think this was how much he had left by the time we walked across the street to the Bellagio to watch the water show.

Here is an example of how the water show looks at the Bellagio!  It's pretty cool to watch, but every time that I see it... I desperately want to go to Disneyland to watch The World of Color. It is a water show that is similar to Fantasmic, but it shoots different colors of fountains everywhere... it looks gorgeous!!  That is for sure on my list of things that I want to do next!!!  :)  BUT anyways... back to Vegas... where was I?  Oh yes... the Bellagio.  It was funny while we were here a homeless man came up to us and was just chatting away with us for the longest time.  He was telling us about how he likes to drink and gamble.  He said that he likes to get the champagne that the limo drivers through out and drink it.  And he pulled out his bottle of Tequila and offered to spike Cody's margarita.  We were like... ehhh no thanks...  haha.  Luckily once the water show came on he left and walked off somewhere.  Cody and I stayed at the water show for a while.  We liked watching it.  It happens every 15 minutes and it isn't overly crowded so we were able to hang out for a while to watch it a couple of times.

Remember how I said that the Bellagio wasn't crowded and it was an easy free show to watch?  Well... I can't say as much about the volcano that erupts at the Mirrage.  We were pressed just to make it there no time to see it.  The strip zig zags and is soooo long!!  We were both hurting by the time we got done power walking there!!  It was pretty cool to see though!  We ended up missing the Sirens of TI show.  Not that I really minded.  I stayed at TI for a night when I first came to Vegas and I saw it then... and I guess you can say I wasn't too pressed to go back.  It was just a bunch of icky girls dancing around... nothing too great.

Cody and I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Here is the view that we saw from up there.

Now I really liked the view... but I was pretty interested in a couple that was next to me.  This man probably in his 50s or 60s was running his game on this girl that he had up there with him.  It was pretty funny to listen to him, and me being nosey... of course I listened in and giggled at them.

Ahhh and here is the reason why Cody probably really wanted to come to Vegas over Thanksgiving.  His favorite basketball team the North Carolina Tarheels (previously ranked #1 in the country) were going to be playing in a tournament here.

Here is Cody once we got into our seats. We had decent seats... it wasn't that large of an arena and we were pretty much surrounded by North Carolina fans.  Cody was happy to get to cheer for his team without being the villain or the guy at the home arena cheering for the away team like he usually is...  The only downfall was that we had a STUPID guy behind us that was a heckler... he was just being obnoxious the whole time, but oh well...  I swear I think I almost smacked him during the second night we were there.  A guy even moved his seat next to mine so that he wouldn't have to sit in front of him during the game.

Here we are!  Cody lent me some of his NC gear.  I don't know if you can tell or not, but there were quite a few North Carolina fans there.  We played University of Nevada Las Vegas so there were a ton of people from Las Vegas there.  If you're curious as to what they are called... it's burned into my memory.  They are the Rebels... or so they kept chanting...  Rebels... Rebels... Rebels... 

I think everyone was expecting NC to win, but alas... that was not to be.  The Rebels hit amazing shots... mostly threes.  It was like they couldn't miss.  It was crazy... their fans were going nuts the whole game.

And when they won they all rushed the court and kept on chanting.  It was pretty sad for the NC fans.  I know Cody was bummed about it... and I swear we went to our apartment afterwards and I could still hear the chanting in my head!!  Rebels... Rebels... Rebels...  UGH!

So what is outside of Vegas you might ask??  Turns out not so much.  We were trying to go shopping at an outlet mall that was 70% off everything in the outlet mall.  But I guess it was a LONG ways away from Vegas.  We were driving literally in the middle of no where for 15 minutes with nothing really behind us or in front of us... so we decided to abort the mission and turn around.  I guess that 80% of Nevada land is owned by the US government and doesn't have anyone living on it.  It's pretty much just a bare desert.

We stayed at the Desert Rose Resort which was just off of the strip kind of near the Tropicana/MGM.  It was literally right next to Hooters.  It was a nice room.  We got a suite.  Here is our dining room table  (silly us we didn't think to take pictures until the moment we were leaving).

Here is our living room.  I really liked the layout area of the sofa.  I've decided that I must get a couch with the extension in the future!

Here is our dirty kitchen.  We bought drinks and some food for our stay.  I think it saved us a lot of money! A bottle of water on the strip can be anywhere from $4-$5!!!  CRAZY!  However if you look hard enough you can find some places with decent prices but they are a hike.  So having our own drinks and food was nice.  I think that's why we were able to go out to nicer dinners while we were there!  We went to one place imparticular that I just LOVED!  It was the Carnival of the Worlds at the Rio.  It was the LARGEST buffet I have ever seen.  It just kept going on and on with food.  Most buffet places have about 30 main courses to choose from... this place had 300!!  It had an Italian Bar, a Seafood Bar with tooooons of crablegs!  Like an entire bar full of crablegs!  They had a Japanese section with a stirfry, then they had Chinese area, and an American section with your normal buffet food... and a lot of other stuff.  It was just amazing.  They had everything you could want.  They had the crab legs, shrimp, turkey, chicken, duck, lamb, mahi mahi, mussels and clams, roast beef... and then all kinds of great sides.  I was only partially around the buffet when my first plate was already packed full of food.  It was such a great place.  I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone going to Vegas.  It didn't even taste like buffet food at all... it was all really really good, and for Vegas it wasn't really that badly priced either.  You can by a ticket on the strip for $2 that gives you 25% off.  So it's for sure worth it!  If you're in Vegas you should go there... I think you'll be amazed.  Cody is upset that I didn't mention the Cosmopolitan buffet that we went to during our last day in Vegas.  It was another buffet.... it was his favorite.  They had stations manned by chefs that were in charge of making a few dishes to keep onto the buffet.  Most of the dishes had cheese mixed in them so I guess that might be why I didn't mention it at first, because the Rio was my favorite.  The Cosmopolitan was really modern and nice it's the newest hotel and buffet in Vegas.  Most items had individual containers for people to take at the buffet you could take as many as you wanted, but I think that is how they handled people wasting food which is a good idea.  They also had great crablegs!!  They were already peeled for you!  Even cody ate some and he usually doesn't.  All you had to do was scoop them out of the shell... I was pretty excited about that and I ate quite a few of them.  I liked the Cosmopolitan too, but I have to say that the Rio has my heart!

Here is our big king size bed.  I liked the size of the bed, but I wish I had brought my own pillows!!  Their pillows weren't too comfy, but we were so tired most nights we just feel right asleep anyways.

Here is our bathroom.  You can see where the sink and mirror was at, and then the tiny bathroom at the end.  But it still served it's purpose.  Overall we liked it, but I think we both decided that if we come to Vegas again we want to stay somewhere about halfway down the strip for convenience.

Well I hope that you liked my blog about Vegas!!!  We had a great time and got to do a lot of things.  We spent a lot of time in various casinos.  I didn't win... ever... I had awful luck, but Cody usually did pretty well or at least he would hit before he lost all of his money.  I think he usually broke even.  So it was a good time and we had fun.  Vegas is definitely an interesting place that is full of things to do.  I can't say that about every city I've been to!!  It's not a place that you could never do everything you want to in one trip.  Kind of like Orlando!!