Monday, January 23, 2012

Las Vegas - Round 2

To take advantage of a three day weekend (thank you, MLK), Matt and I took off for a quick trip to Las Vegas -- our second trip there in less than 6 months!  A lot of people told us it wouldn’t be fun with just the two of us, and that it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as it was the first time…and you know what? They all wrong!  This trip to Vegas was a total blast!  We are currently referring to it as "best weekend ever," actually! :)

We left work early on Friday and my mom took us to the airport (the usual for our trips). 

After an easy non-stop flight in to LAS, and a not-so-quick wait in a ridiculous cab line, we made it to our hotel/casino:  The Aria!  It’s a new one in the City Center
, and I hadn’t ever been there before.  (Matt got a really reasonable deal for it on Priceline.)  Once we checked in, we excitedly ran to our room…and when we opened the door, the lights came on, music on the tv came on, and the blinds opened up to reveal our pretty sweet view of Vegas.  We both stood there with our mouths open like, “Whaaat just happened??”  His name was on the tv screen, and there was a cool touch-screen thing (kind of like an iPad) that you could control EVERYTHING from.  It was all just so cool!

That silver thing is "art" in the shape of the Colorado River.

Curtains automatically opening...

The view from our room
We didn’t have much time to eat and get ready for our night out on the town, so after some debating about where to eat, we ended up just grabbing a sandwich from a quick deli down in the casino area called Jean-Philippe Patisserie.  It really wasn’t bad, and it was about all we had time for.  Oh, and of course we had to try some of the pistachio gelato that just happend to be right next to Jean-Philippe! 

Dinner, Night 1
After quick showers and Vegas nightlife attire, we set off to check out a new nightclub:  Marquee at the Cosmopolitan – which was right next door to Aria.  We walked over (it was CHILLY in my little dress) and found quite a line – which surprised me because we went early.  Well, a little after 10, which is pretty early for Vegas standards.  Luckily, we were already on a guest list for that night, so we got a little slip of paper and walked through a couple of lines, up some stairs, and in a back way to the club without too long of a wait.

In the elevator

Our guest-list pass

Waiting in line...
Ooohhh how I love the nightclubs in Vegas!!  As soon as we walked in to the black room with blaring music and a dance floor, I think I started giggling and clapping out of sheer excitement! But before we could start dancing, we had to check out the entire club.  The first floor (where we walked in) was called The Boom Box – a fairly small room with a dance floor, a bar, and loud music (more rap-ish). 

This was the first thing we saw when we came up the stairs...

The next floor up was just called Main Floor and IT. WAS. AWESOME.   The DJ was amazing, and there was a huge outdoor area around a pool/waterfall with heat lamps – and of course bars everywhere.  It was just a really cool party scene.  We hung out under a heat lamp for awhile around the pool and had a couple drinks. 

Under the heat lamp outside the main floor

The top floor, The Library, was closed for a private party until 11, but when we made it up there, it wasn’t near as cool as the first two floors.  It’s a much more chill kind of lounge area with a pool table and no loud dance music.  (No thank you!)  Needless to say, we spent the vast majority of the night on the main floor just dancing the night away. 

Unfortunately, we started getting tired around 1 (which was 3 our time – and we had worked all day).  We were both kind of bummed about leaving the club and debated it for awhile, but we eventually called it an "early" night and walked back to our room.

Walking home from Cosmpolitan.  We just jaywalked across that street!
Saturday morning came early!  We managed to roll out of bed around 10:30, got ready for the day, and decided to walk through Crystals shoping center and take the tram to Bellagio and eat at their famous buffet for lunch. 

The view we woke up to

Yea, right.  The line was so ridiculous at that buffet, and it would have easily taken us an hour I bet.  We were hungry and didn’t have that much time to waste, so we ended up walking across the street to Planet Hollywood to try out their buffet.  (Weather was just gorgeous the whole time!)  No line at all there, and the food really was pretty good.  I’m sure it all is at those Vegas buffets.  Oh, and they even had COTTON CANDY in the dessert area.  That’s an automatic winner for me (even though I was too full to get any by the end).

A very blurry picture of the cotton candy!
(It was close to Chinese New Year when we were there, and I have lots of pictures of the cool smoke-breathing dragons in the lobby of Bellagio, but since I have over 400 pics from the weekend - and because Matt hated the dragons - I'm leaving them off of here!)

After lunch, we race-walked back to Aria, while stopping for a few pictures, to try and make a sports bet on the NFL game that day, but the line was too long (again) and we didn’t have time.  We had to get to the lobby BY 1:45 to meet our bus for a HELICOPTER RIDE OVER THE GRAND CANYON!  We saw this deal on Travelzoo last month, but decided it was just too much money to spend on top of everything else for the weekend (flights, hotels, food).  But my mom came through with some $$ for Christmas, so that’s what we decided to do with it!  Merry Christmas to us! ;) 

He was on the phone taking bets...

 We rode on a little bus out to an airport about 30 minutes away (napped on the way), watched a short safety video on helicopters, and our names were quickly called for our turn!  There were seats for 6 people (+ the pilot) in the helicopter:  4 in the back, 2 in the front.  The pilot assigned us our seats (based on weight, supposedly), and of course Matt and I got the FRONT SEATS!!  I’m not going to lie, I would have been pretty disappointed if we were in the middle in the back!  We wouldn’t have been able to see anything!  But instead we had amazing views all around us in the front.  I was in the middle, right next to the pilot, and Matt got the window seat.  (He hadn’t ever been in a helicopter before, so this was even MORE exciting for him!) 

The views really were just breathtaking – even on the way there as we flew over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead!  But once we got in to the canyon – wow – that was just amazing!  It’s SO big and you get such a different perspective from flying THROUGH it!  It was about 20 minutes out there, we flew in it for about 30 minutes, and then another 20 minutes back.  Totally worth the money and we were both really glad we did it!  Such a cool experience!

Hoover Dam

Training sight for pilots

Tried out a new panoramic app on my phone

I edited this on my iPhone - it almost looks fake!
As soon as the bus dropped us off back at Aria, we immediately caught a cab to make it to 5:30 mass at a nice Catholic church, Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, just off the strip (walking distance to Mandalay Bay).  We knew we weren’t going to want to get up tomorrow morning and go, and it just worked out perfectly for us to go Saturday night timing wise.  The message was good and we were glad we went.  It was getting dark (and cold) by the time mass was over, but there weren’t any cabs around, so we decide to walk to Mandalay Bay to try and catch one.  But as soon as we walked on to the main street, a cab just happened to be driving by and pulled over for us!  Score!  We always seem to have such good luck…

(just snapped a few pics in the cab back to Aria...)
We were again a little pressed for time before another night out on the town, so we walked over to Crystals shopping center
(basically connected to Aria) and ate at Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina, a little Italian restaurant.  Our appetizer – calamari – was good, but other than that, the food wasn’t too great.  I had ravioli and Matt had some sort of pasta dish, but we weren’t impressed with either of them.   

We watched these tornadoes while we watied for our food...

Calamari appetizer

Dinner, Night 2
We hustled back to the room for quick showers, and hopped in a cab to TAO Nightclub at Venetian.  That was our favorite spot when we were there in August, so we just had to try it out again.  And it was even MORE amazing this time around!  I seriously love that place.  The music and whole party scene is just incomparable to anything else in my opinion!  We had to wait in line for quite awhile, but ladies drank free until 11pm – which meant I was going to different bars to get drinks for Matt up until that point!  (Side note:  it really was a pretty cheap weekend!  I only had one drink at Marquee, and two at Tao – one of which was free!  Matt’s bar tab was slightly higher than mine, however…) 

I was too tired to do my hair that night.  It's awful - I know...


The view from the bathroom upstairs...

So anyways, we danced and danced at Tao …(And we did some people watching: drunk Asian birthday girl with toilet paper hanging from her super short skirt, bigger girl at the bar who could more her butt unlike anything I’ve ever seen…)  …until 3am.   I don’t even know how we did it.  That’s ridiculously late – 5am our time!  But the confetti falling, people screaming and jumping, music pounding, and girls swinging from the ceiling probably helped.  J  We were both getting kind of worn down, so we left to head back to Aria for the night. 

DJ Vice - he's amazing

View from the balcony right before we left
**Random side notes about the music:  Every time Ni**as in Paris started playing, the whole place went nuts.  I had heard it before, but it's not THAT popular back in Kansas yet.  We Found Love was a pretty big hit, too.  The DJ's really do amazing work.  When I Get A Good Feeling was playing, we always danced in slow motion like we were in The Matrix during the slow part in the middle.  But the song that we had the most fun to was definitely Stereo Love.  Whenever it played, Matt pretended to play the accordian and clarinet and whatever other instrument possible as we danced around like Irish idiots.  It was pretty awesome, ha!

While waiting in the long line in front of Venetian for a cab, we found out that the couple in front of us was also going to Aria, so we agreed to share a cab with them.  Why not save some money, right?  So when we made it to the front of the line and a cab pulled up, I hopped in the front seat, while Matt and the other couple got in back.  Our cab driver was from Romania, and he was driving like a bat out of hell – literally.  I was squealing and clapping in the front seat, egging him on, and said something to the effect of, “It’s like we’re in a race car!”  That’s when the cab driver said, “Oh, I used to be a race car driver back home, and I’ve only been here in the states a year.”  A few seconds later, after weaving in and out of lanes flying down the strip, we saw the police lights flashing in the rear-view mirrors.  Oh yes, we got pulled over on the strip at 3:30am.  The best part was that our driver pulled over in a bad spot, and for some reason, thought the cop was waving him on to move forward to a better spot, so he started driving again!  Well, the cop was NOT waving him on, he was getting out of his car already, and was NOT pleased that this guy tried to drive off!  More flashing lights and sirens and a few feet later, and we were pulled over again – and I was dying laughing now.  The big angry cop walked up to my side of the car and said, “SIR – WHAT is going on!?  Do you know what we call it when you drive off?  EVADING.  And do you know what you get for evading?  JAIL TIME.”  I definitely did not have a straight face throughout any of this, and it went on for awhile.  Our driver couldn’t find his registration – or didn’t know what it was, really.  So the angry cop just grabbed the whole folder out of his glove box and took it.  Oooh my, was it fun.  The poor driver was nervous, but I think us laughing and cracking jokes and telling him it was going to be okay made him feel better (or maybe not).  At some point, I asked the cop to just give him a warning (while Matt was telling me to “lock it up” from the backseat), and he clearly was not amused with me.  But he did just give him a warning in the end!  We eventually were allowed to leave, and we did not speed the rest of the way to the hotel.  He drove very well, and tried to give us a free cab ride, but I think we actually paid him double just for the entertainment!

Pulled over on Las Vegas Blvd.

Matt and I were still high on adrenaline when we got inside Aria for some reason, so we decided to dance in the lobby and then made a tunnel for our new friends (from the cab) to walk through with our glow sticks from Tao.  Ridiculous, I know.  Since we weren’t tired anymore, we had the brilliant idea of sitting down at the Black Jack table…at 4am.  The dealer was also from Romania – go figure – and she was SO much fun.  I didn’t play (I refuse to gamble), but Matt whipped out a hundred dollar bill, and bet $20/hand.  And every time he won, the dealer gave the chips to ME and I hid them from him, ha.  NO WAY was I letting him lose any money…I’m way too tight for that!  Once in awhile I would be nice and give him another $20 to play with, but my little plan worked!  After 30 minutes or so, we walked away with $300!  Hmmm…maybe I should start gambling?  That’s not a bad return for 30 minutes of fun!

I noticed this when we got back to the room...real classy.
By 5am, we decided we should retire for the night.  All the sweat and smoke from Tao was not a good combination for sleeping - but after a quick shower, we were both out like babies and slept until around 10:30 Sunday morning.  I can’t sleep in much longer than that because I get too hungry!  So off we went for another lunch buffet:  Aria’s this time.

I could get used to waking up to this view...

Aria's buffet
breakfast / lunch,

Our FOUR desserts
After we stuffed ourselves on sushi, cheese (lots of cheese), biscuits and gravy, and desserts, we had some time to kill.  I had heard the Shark Aquarium was something to see, so we took a cab down to Mandalay Bay at the south end of the strip to check it out.

The projection on the wall moved like water when you walked by it!
The aquarium really was pretty cool, but maybe slightly misleading I felt like.  I mean, I really did enjoy looking at all of the fish and snakes and crocodiles and jelly fish, etc...but I was definitely expecting a big SHARK, and there were just a few small ones. 


To make up for that slight disappointment though, we got to touch stingrays!!  There was one huge one (that we ever-so-nicely gave the nickname "big fatty") that was really working the crowd.  He would zoom all around the shallow water, right up and over other stingrays, and flap up on the side where peoples hands were.  We both got to feel him, and I thought he felt like cold, squishy pancakes. :)

Another reason we went down the Mandalay Bay was because we didn't have dinner reservations for the night, and we wanted to see if we could get in at Mix, at the top of THEhotel (connected to Mandalay Bay).  It's supposed to have the best views of the strip in Vegas, and the menu looked pretty good, so of course we were excited to eat there.  Unfortunately, we found out they didn't open until 6, and we had tickets to see a show at the other end of the strip at 7.  That wasn't going to work.  We sat down in the lobby and flipped through a brochure of all the restaurants trying to find someplace that looked good AND opened at 5.  We finally settled on The Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris - mainly because they could get us in at 5:15 and it was in between our hotel and the show at Mirage (and I've always wanted to see the view from up there)!  So with that finally settled, we took our time walking all the way back to Aria, and stopped in some souvenir shops along the way.  (We also found out that you can buy discount tickets to alot of the shows right on the side of the street... Not cool since we had already paid full price for ours.)

We got back to Aria late afternoon, and had just enough time to relax for a minute before getting ready for dinner.  I was again too lazy to do my hair, which helped us make it out the door in perfect time to catch a cab to Paris for our 5:15 reservation.  (We should have walked.  It would have been quicker since it was so close and traffic wasn't moving!)

When Matt called to make the reservation at Eiffel Tower, they asked him if it was for a birthday or anniversary celebration.  It was close to our 5 month anniversary, and that was kind of what we decided this trip was for (ie how we justified a random trip to Vegas), so that's what he told them.  Man, did that pay off!  When we walked off the elevator (took us awhile to figure out how to get up) and in to the restaurant, the view was just amazing.  It was dusk, and all the lights from the strip looked so cool.  And then they sat us at literally the best table in the entire restaurant.  Seriously.  We had a perfect view of the Bellagio fountains just across the street...which I had been dying to see the entire trip.  And then our cute little waitress (who just moved to Vegas from Oklahoma) greeted us with, "Happy Anniversary!"  Of course the fountains went off shortly after we were seated...and I think I squealed like a little girl, I was so excited!

View while waiting to be seated...

We finally figured out what we wanted to eat, and when the watiress came back to take our order, she informed us that they have a souffle for dessert that takes 30 minutes to bake, so they always ask ahead of time to find out if you're going to want one.  Of course we had to try that.  Anything that takes 30 minutes to bake has to be delicious.  I ordered braised short ribs over egg noddles, and Matt had venison chop (I think).  They brought us some sort of cold celery soup for an appetizer, unlike anything I'd ever had.  My ribs were ridiculously good.  Easily the best I've ever had.  And Matt enjoyed his dinner, too (it was way to undercooked for me to try).  The fountains went off a few more times throughout dinner, and it was all just so perfect!

Cold celery soup appetizer

Braised ribs over egg noddles

Venison chop

Pistachio souffle = AMAZING

By the time dinner was over, we didn't have too much time to make it to The Mirage for our 7:30pm  The Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil show.  Instead of sitting in the ridiculous traffic on Las Vegas Blvd - and wasting $$, we opted to walk (RACE walk) all the way from Paris to Mirage.  Our waitress told us it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes and it was a nice evening out (temperature wise), so off we went.  Boy did we did some serious speed walking.  It was actually easier for me to jog in my heels than it was to race walk, so, yea.  We jogged/race walked down the busy sidewalks, dodging people the whole way, and we seriously made it to Mirage in 5 minutes I bet.  No joke.  I'm sure we looked ridiculous, and I was sweating by the time we got there, but hey, we saved time AND money.  That's all that matters, right?

Once we found where the show was and picked up our tickets from the box office, we realized we had a couple minutes to spare (shocking, since we just RAN there).  We both needed some water, so we walked back to a little bar we found by the entrance.  Well, there just happened to also be a candy store right across from the bar.  You know I can't pass that up!  So while Matt went to get us a cup of water, I started filling a bag with candy...and wasn't quite done yet by the time he got back.  Candy selection is an important decision - it can't be rushed!  Matt started getting slightly antsy and kept looking at his watch, but he did (impatiently) wait for me to check out with our candy, and then rushed me back to the line for the show.  We were STILL early, and for the recod, he really enjoyed that candy during the show!

At our seats inside.  No cameras allowed so I had to sneak my phone out!
The show was totally amazing.  The actors were VERY talented dancers and acrobats, and the music was really fun.  I'm not a huge Beatles fan, and I really didn't think I would know any of the songs, but it turned out I knew almost all of them.  At one part in the show, they pulled a big white piece of cloth over our heads.  Matt and I were just on the edge of it being over us (he got us GREAT seats close to the front), so I'm not sure how cool it looked for everyone else.  I snuck my camera out for a pic of that. Stuff was falling from the ceiling, people were flying around on a trapeeze, guys on rollerblades were flying off of was all just really cool, and I would definitely recommend the show to anyone going to Vegas!

Under the sheet!

After the show was over, we raced to a bathroom (I had been holding it for a loooong time because I didn't want to miss the show), and then I remembered hearing about a volcano erupting outside of Mirage!  Well of course I had to see that!  We only had a few minutes to make it out front and find it, and I was FREAKING OUT that we were going to miss it.  Mostly joking around, but I really did want to see what this volacno was all about.  There were TONS of people lined up along the sidewalk with cameras out waiting for it to start.  I just knew it was going to be amazing.  The dramatic music started and crickets started chirpping (we named them lava crickets), drums beating, and then...some water came out of some rocks like a fountain.  It was colored with light to look orange, but come on!  I burst out laughing, and was slightly disappointed in the "volcano spewing flames 100 feet in the air."  Yea, right.  See for yourslef in the pictures... (The fact that I got so excited to see that made the whole experience just hilarious!)

Once the amazing "fire show" that I just HAD to see was over, we decided to head to Palazzo for a drink and to check out the new night club there, Lavo.  It's ran by the same people that creatd Tao, we we just knew we were going to love it!  Matt had already gotten us on the guest list for the night, too.  Unfortunately, after the long walk there, we were told the line doesn't even form until 10pm and the club opened at 11 (I think).  It was only 9, haha!  We really just wanted to get in and see the place - we didn't have the energy to party another night.  So we sat down at a bar/restaurant and decided to have a drink and see if we could wait it out.  Fail.  We were just too tired.  I was falling asleep at the bar, and Matt had a headache and wasn't much better.  Apparently two nights of up all night dancing is enough for us.  We're getting old.  I wsn't happy about it, but we walked out and got a cab back to Aria to call it a night.  After all, we did have to get up at 4am to make it to the airport for our 6am flight back home.  (That flight was my idea to save some money.  I think it was worth it.)
Our last picture inside the elevator at Aria
Our flight back was non-stop and we both slept through most of it.  Getting up so early really wasn't that bad, and it was nice to be back in KC at a decent time to relax at home before the work week began.  I think if I had to do it over again, I'd still choose the 6am cheap flight!