Friday, June 18, 2010

The Best of the Best: Vegas Edition

Some time ago, I mentioned that I would eventually write about my best Vegas trip ever. More recently, I wrote about my best trips ever, and my best Vegas trip was, not surprisingly, one of those top three. And now that a fourth Vegas trip looms before me, I figured that it was about time to wax reminiscent about how this particular trip became tops in not just one, but two categories.

Our trip began bright and early on a Thursday morning--Thursday, September 4, 2008 to be exact. But this wasn't just any Thursday morning, or any September 4th--it was my baby sister Jenny's 21st birthday, and around 7:30 AM she, our other sister Christy, our cousin Katie and myself all piled into the car for the hour and a half drive to the Charlotte airport.


Me, Katie, Jenni (the birthday girl!), Christy & Lauren waiting for our flight

We got there early, met up with our friend Lauren (who was flying from Connecticut) and after a [very early] lunch, settled in to wait for our flight.

One thing about traveling is that if you have bad luck with the flight portion of your vacation, that can pretty much throw you for a loop and mess everything up. But from beginning to end, this trip was destined for greatness--despite the fact that we were flying on one of the worst airlines (US Airways) and from one of the top ten worst airports [for on-time departures] in the country (Charlotte, NC). We had a smooth trip out to Vegas, landed on time and didn't even have to wait for a cab.

Vegas tip, here--be a geek and talk about your past Vegas trips as soon as you can, once you're in a cab. Whether it's calling someone on your cell or striking up a conversation with your driver or fellow passengers, just do it. I don't even care if you've never been to Vegas. If you haven't, lie. Two out of my three trips, this saved me from getting screwed over by a cabbie who decided to take "the long way around". I won't get into that third time and how this bit of mine failed, because that's another story for another entry.

Check-in at the Mirage was quick and painless...or so we thought. The one complaint I had from this trip is that they couldn't seem to get our room keys right. We had five girls in two rooms and at one point or another, anywhere from one to three of our keys just wouldn't work. Obviously we traveled in a pack for the most part, though, so this was more of a mere annoyance than anything.

As we made our way through the casino to the elevators (those Vegas tycoons sure know how to build a place that draws you into gambling!), we were stopped by some Mirage employees. We were, after all, a group of young and attractive women, so of course we were blessed with free passes to Jet (the Mirage's nightclub) and Bare (the Mirage's adult--a.k.a. topless--pool).

The rest of Jenny's birthday was a blur. Food and yard margaritas and a free shot of tequila for her at La Salsa in the Shops at Caesar (love that place!). Cab to downtown Vegas for $5 blackjack at Binion's and shopping for cheap souvenirs. (Speaking of which, oops--don't take a cab to or from downtown Vegas in the late afternoon/early evening on a weekday. Like any city, there is such a thing as rush hour traffic there.) Dinner at the Mirage buffet, which was probably the worst decision of the trip. Despite it being rated one of the top ten Vegas buffets, none of us was impressed with the selection or the food itself, and this solidified my anti-Vegas-buffet stance...at least in regards to dinners. Those champagne brunches are still a big GO in my book ;o)

La Salsa!
After a nap and some time to freshen up, we made our way to Jet. Free admission and free drinks for our first hour? Yes please! Unfortunately, Jet is apparently not the place to be on a Thursday night. The crowd was practically nonexistent and the music was only so-so; sometime before 1 AM we decided to find other nightlife options. Except Christy, Katie, and Lauren all made the decision to go to bed, leaving Jenny and I to either shell out money for a cab on our own, or to simply remain at the Mirage.

Jenni and I with our "Cali Boys" at the Mirage lobby bar
 So we stayed at the Mirage. In fact, we spent the rest of the night--until after 4 AM--drinking at the lobby bar, which is apparently considered a "lounge" as it is called Kokomo's Lounge. And that was probably the best night of any trip I've ever taken to Vegas. Drinks were far cheaper than they would have been at a club, the bartender was great and we even chatted it up with some guys from California who turned out to be pretty damn cool.


Katie and I with our Eiffel Tower pina coladas...yum!
Our first full day in Vegas got off to a slow start. We walked down the Strip to Fatburger, but it was hot and Jenny was sick and we ended up making our way back to the hotel immediately after what can only be considered lunch (considering the time of day we ate and the fact that it was burgers and fries and the like).She and Katie decided to take a nap; Christy, Lauren and I donned our bathing suits and made use of those free passes to Bare, which made for quite an interesting afternoon. The drinks were ridiculously overpriced, but the music was great and I'm at least glad we decided to check it out.

The rest of that day was spent eating an absolutely amazing dinner at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris, viewing the Bellagio fountains and grabbing some gelato before heading back to the Mirage for an early bedtime. Jenny, Katie and I had tickets to a tour of the Hoover Dam pretty early on our second and last full day, and we didn't want to be exhausted for it.

The view from our table at dinner at Mon Ami Gabi
 We were actually really glad that we did the Hoover Dam tour. It was neat to see the Dam itself, and even though our tour guide was somewhat annoying, he was at least informative.

The one tip I have is that if you go through the Hoover Dam Tour Company (which we did)...just do the regular tour. The stop at Ethel M. and its "botanical gardens" (really the only actual addition when doing the deluxe tour) is really nothing to brag about...that was just time that we would have rather had as free time.

Katie, Jenni and I at the Hoover Dam
We followed the tour with a late lunch at Lombardi Romagna Mia at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. The food was good, but I don't doubt that there are better Italian restaurants in Vegas. We even caught the Siren show at TI--amusing, but definitely cheesy and not something a person needs to see more than once. Then it was back to the Mirage to get ready for our last night in Vegas.


The girls all dolled up for our last night in Vegas
We chose Body English at the Hard Rock for our Saturday night excursion, and it was great. We were chosen out of line when we arrived, which meant no waiting and no cover--so yes, that probably helped our experience. Regardless, it was a great club filled with beautiful people and rocking an awesome DJ, which meant that we partied 'till the wee hours of the morning and stumbled back to the hotel for just a few hours of sleep before our flight back home. (Which was thankfully another easy trip.)

Back in our matching t-shirts, running on fumes after an amazing trip!
As I mentioned in my best trips entry--there are many things that go into making a trip one of the best. In this case, we had an amazing, fun place (Vegas), the perfect mix of people (there were always at least two of us who wanted to partake in the same activities, and when the five of us went out together...), and we just did our own thing(s) and had fun. I truly believe that there is no better way to see Vegas than with a group of fun-loving girls! And that is how this trip became not only my best Vegas trip to date, but also one of the best trips I've ever taken, period.

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