Las Vegas, 11/12-15: Bests and Worsts

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Monday, November 17, 2003 1:50 PM
In lieu of the traditional chronological trip report, I'll just list some superlatives from my trip to Las Vegas, Nov. 12-15. I was with my wife, my brother and his girlfriend. Fair warning: Before you read, know that roller coasters were a very small part of this trip. :)

BEST FLIGHT
Vegas to Columbus red-eye. Smooth sailing and I barely woke up until the final "ping."

WORST FLIGHT
Columbus to Vegas. Headwinds made it a 5-hour flight, the cabin was sweltering and I had a migraine.

BEST VEGAS ROOM I EVER STAYED IN
Between Harrah's in 2001 and Luxor this year, Luxor wins by a long shot. I had been warned to stay in one of the tower rooms, because the pyramid rooms supposedly sucked. But it was just as nice as about any hotel I've stayed in, with a beautiful bathroom, plenty of space and comfy bed. We were on the 26th floor, steps from the "inclinator" (like an elevator but at a 35-degree angle due to the pyramid shape) and with a great view of the airport. The only (very small) complaints are low water pressure and a key/lock mechanism that took about five tries each time to open it.

BETTER VIEW THAN THE ONE OF THE AIRPORT
The one from inside the building, where you can look straight down 26 stories on the casino and food court.

BEST FOOD
The butternut squash tortelli at Olives restaurant in the Bellagio. It was like sweet, sweet autumn in a bowl.

SECOND-BEST FOOD
Krispy Kreme Donuts that are everywhere now. I counted four shops on the strip, and the one at the Venetian actually makes the donuts there.

BEST FOOD I COULDN'T EAT
The gigantic basket of Nathan's Famous corn-dog nuggets that we got in the Luxor food court after we got off the plane. My stomach was still messed up from the flight, so I could eat only a couple of them. :(

WORST FOOD
Burnt Quarter Pounder at a suburban McDonalds. Close second: crusty Cinnabon at the airport.

WORST BREATH
Mine, after eating the extremly garlicky pizza at the Venetian food court.

WEIRDEST FOOD
Found some lime/chili pepper flavored Fritos at a gas station. It's strange to taste sour and hot at the same time, but addictive.

WEIRDEST FOOD-RELATED PHENOMENON
It's surprisingly hard to find cheap fast food (i.e. Wendy's, Burger King) on the strip and in the suburbs. We kept getting off the interstate in Henderson looking for fast food, but not finding any.

MOST OVERPRICED FOOD
Olives restaurant. $154 for four entrees, a salad, two desserts and two (n/a) drinks. Plus tip. And one of the entrees was a pizza. Which, according to the eater, tasted exactly like Papa John's.

BEST GAMBLING
Bellagio. We usually stick to slots and video poker, and we seem to have the best luck here - not to mention, it feels a lot classier than most of the other places. Also, it seemed most of their machines were newer, with touch screens rather than buttons, and comfy chairs. Second place goes to Buffalo Bills, 'cause it's huge and we won there, too.

WORST GAMBLING
I don't think I won a single cent at the Luxor.

CREEPIEST GAMBLING
Binyon's downtown. It's where they hold the World Series of Poker, but we were the youngest people in the place by about 40 years.

BEST ALMA MATER MOMENT
Catching the fourth quarter and overtime of the OSU/Purdue nail-biter in the sports betting room at the Venetian and hearing the cheers of all the OSU fans (and/or bettors).

BEST ROMANCE KILLER
The pricing system for the gondola rides at the Venetian forces you to pay $50 if you want a gondola by yourself. Not wanting to pay that, we conceded to all riding together.

BEST NUMISMATICAL FIND
As change at the gondola place, I got relatively rare 1969 and 1981 $20 bills. Sweet.

OLDEST COCKTAIL WAITRESS
We saw one who had to be at least 65 at the Sahara.

BIGGEST SIMPSONS-RELATED DISAPPOINTMENT
We had made plans to visit the "Simpsons house," a replica of the house from the show that was built in Henderson in the late 1990s as a contest prize. It originally was painted yellow and had lots of cartoony props inside and out. But when we got there, it had been modified and now looks like all the other houses on the block. D'oh.

BEST. OUTLET STORE. EVER.
A gambling/casino outlet downtown that sold everything you'd need to start a casino, from chips to craps tables. We picked up some used decks of cards and dice for half of what the casinos themselves were selling them for.

BEST DRIVE
The curvy road between Boulder City and the Hoover Dam. Watch out for mountain goats!

MOST HILARIOUSLY PATHETIC INTERSTATE EXIT
After visiting Buffalo Bill's on the NV/CA state line, we decided to cross into California, so my brother could say he's been there. We turned around at the first exit in. The exit consisted of a two-lane road that went off to the north as far as the eye could see with nothing on it, and dead-ended immediately to the south into some sort of tiny abandoned farm. It's places like this where people disappear and are never heard from again...

COOLEST SIGHT
Seeing Buffalo Bill's and Desperado at 12 miles away, watching it grow continuously larger for 10 minutes.

COOLEST SIGHT II
Watching the fountains at the Bellagio launch water 200 feet into the air.

BEST PHOTO-OP
Taking a photo of my wife walking down the curving Bellagio stairs - the same stairs Julia Roberts walks down in Ocean's Eleven.

WORST THING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED
"Sirens of TI," the god-awful "show" outside Treasure Island. Thirty minutes of crappy acting and double entendres straight out of sixth grade.

BEST CASINO POOL
Bellagio. It was closed, but the setting was so romantic, my wife shed a tear just walking around it.

BEST CASINO ARCADE
Luxor by far. It had a pretty big selection of classic games (Donkey Kong, Frogger, cocktail Asteroids, Galaga/Ms. Pac Man and several more) plus all the Konami MoCap games (including the sword game which I had never seen), a mini-bowling alley, a billiards/mini golf hybrid called "Skilliards"... and just a huge selection of games... probably as many as my local GameWorks if not more. The DDR could use an update though (it's the ancient USA mix), but at least it was generous at 5 songs for $1. They had Pump It Up, too, which seems more ghetto every time I play it.

WORST CASINO ARCADE
Bellagio. Tiny and crappy, but I expected as much from an adult-oriented hotel.

BEST CASINO ARCADE I REGRETTABLY DIDN'T GO IN
Buffalo Bill's. Just by glancing in the door, I could see they had a TON of music games, some that I haven't even seen before, including Beatmania IIDX, Drummania, Guitar Freaks, etc. But we were in a hurry to get back to the city because of our dinner reservations that night, so I had time to play only one game. Stupidly, I chose to play the DDR Extreme outside the door of the arcade, which I can play at at least four locations within 10 minutes of my house. The addiction is too strong. As punishment, I failed Stoic. :|

BEST GAME OF DDR
Extreme at Treasure Island's arcade. It wasn't fully unlocked and the volume was down, but I convinced my wife to play with me this time. :)

BEST NON-GAMBLING WIN
A palm-sized SpongeBob Squarepants four-square ball from a redemption game at Treasure Island.

BEST CELEBRITY SIGHTING
About an hour before we were going to leave for the airport, we were all out of cash and just chilling in the lobby at Treasure Island, when I saw someone recognizable stroll by. No one else saw him, so I followed him down the escalator into the casino. He stopped to check a football score on a casino TV, and I came up beside him and said his name. He turned around and sure enough, it was Ray Romano. I asked how he was doing and shook his hand, and he said "fine" and gave me a weird stalker look. ;) I returned to my family in the lobby and told them what happened. About 5 minutes later, he walked by again, and he was kind enough to stop for a photo with my brother's girlfriend.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for:
BEST COASTER IN VEGAS
By far, Speed the Ride at the Sahara. Every element of this ride feels incredible, from the overbanked turn and giant hangtime-filled loop, to the second launch, lightning-fast S-curve and vertical climb. Too bad the cost has risen 250% since 2001. ($10 for one ride, vs. $8 for two rides in 2001).

ALSO GOOD
Manhattan Express - sure, it's rough. But the twist-and-dive is amazing, the views are great, and it just looks so pretty. I like the helix and the bunny hops as well. Steep price at $12 at ride.
Desperado - still think it's better than Magnum. The three bunny hops are insane, and the helix around the log flume is awesome. A bargain at $7.

SNUBBED YET AGAIN BY ME
Canyon Blaster at Circus Circus and High Roller at the Stratosphere, also not ridden the last time I was here. Circus Circus just looks too creepy, what with the pinkness and clowns, and High Roller doesn't interest me.

REGRETTABLY MISSED
X-Scream. We just didn't find time for it. :( Although I saw it operate once and it looks neat.

Thanks for reading.

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Monday, November 17, 2003 3:44 PM
Your TR is precisely the reason Las Vegas is cool... it would be very difficult to run out of things to do. Having only been there for about 36 hours myself (and sleeping less than 8 of those), it's like you don't want to miss anything. As long as you can stay awake and have cash in your pocket, you just keep going. It gets a lot harder when you're drinking though...

Good to hear about Luxor. We were thinking about staying there next time we go, or perhaps at Ceasar's. Truth be told, we'll probably go where we can find the best deal. We got a thing in the mail for $28/night at Imperial Palace, but the place was a little too ghetto for us. Not a big deal on a short trip like ours, but next time we intend to enjoy our hotel and take our time, so a nicer place is required.

Food is weird in Vegas, because you can find some real scores and some serious rip-offs. I personally want to eat on that air-conditioned outdoor patio at Paris just to watch the fountains at Bellagio. Only in Vegas can you find the outdoors being air conditioned.

I don't think anyone is going to see the TI show for the acting.

I can't like ME. I just can't do it. I agree the twist-and-dive is cool, and the helix isn't bad, but it beats the hell out of you the rest of the time. It's just those damn restraints.

Speed is the best ride, and it demonstrates creative use of the land you've got to make something simple, but fun. When we were there in July it was $10 for unlimited rides. Was that not the case for you?

Las Vegas was the first place I've been to that I wasn't that excited about, but man does it just suck you in. Can't wait to go back.

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Monday, November 17, 2003 6:36 PM
Nice Tr- you captured the essence of Vegas pretty well. Your right about the butternut squash tortellini- Im not a huge fan of squash or tortellini but that stuff rocks.

You are the second person I've heard that has absolutely hated the new TI show which is pretty bad for a show having scantily clad women.

I cant believe they were charging 10 for 1 ride on Speed. That was the price for all you can ride. (Your right it is a really good ride – but after going on the thing five times in a row after having some complementary beverages, I felt like a fear factor contestant).

Im surprised you liked Desparado so much. When I rode it this summer it was the only hyper coaster I've ever hated.

I can understand no high roller but no big shot?

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Monday, November 17, 2003 7:43 PM
Awesome TR Den!

Just a few things I will keep in mind when I go out there next Spring.

The last time I was there was in 1995 before a majority of the coasters were there, but it's impossible to get bored, even if you are not into gambling like me. There is so much to the city.

Glad you had a great time!

-Tina

(Who has THREE must do's or die: X-Scream, bunjee jumping, and "Thunder From Down Under". ;-)

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Monday, November 17, 2003 8:24 PM
Gotta go see that new Treasure Island show. I drive by there most days but never stop and Ray Romano was in town for a couple of shows at the mirage in case anyones curious.
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Monday, November 17, 2003 8:39 PM
Nice Categories! What do 1969 and 1981 twenty dollar bills look like? Too bad you missed X-Scream. That looks insane!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003 2:08 AM

MOST HILARIOUSLY PATHETIC INTERSTATE EXIT
After visiting Buffalo Bill's on the NV/CA state line, we decided to cross into California, so my brother could say he's been there. We turned around at the first exit in. The exit consisted of a two-lane road that went off to the north as far as the eye could see with nothing on it, and dead-ended immediately to the south into some sort of tiny abandoned farm. It's places like this where people disappear and are never heard from again...

Funny you mention that. That's the road we have to ride on for 3 hours to get to Vegas from Palm Springs. It's seriously scary.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003 10:07 AM
About Speed: the Ride pricing - All the sign said was, "Speed the Ride, $10." I asked at the counter, "Do you still get two rides for one price?" and the clerk said, "No." So either she was wrong or the price has gone up. At any rate, it's moot for me, because we just wanted one ride anyway.

About the TI show: The women were indeed scantily clad, but as far away as we were standing, it didn't matter. That show draws a *huge* crowd.

mutly23 - I don't know why I like Desperado so much. My brother and his girlfriend both hated it. Maybe it's just the setting I like. As far as Big Shot, I rode it in 2001 and thought it was OK. I did want to go up there this year but like I said, we didn't have time to do everything.

Tina - thanks! I only saw one bungee jumping tower (at Circus Circus). I know there used to be one east of the strip near the curve, but I didn't see it this time. Oh, I had to avert my eyes from that "Thunder from Down Under" poster numerous times. {shudder} ;)

Sean - those $20s look the same as the old-style $20s that they stopped making in 1995. I'm a collector so I get excited about such finds (whereas the average person probably wouldn't even notice...) :)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003 1:24 PM
Great TR. Thanks.

I love the Luxor; especially the pyramid rooms. It's true the tower rooms are larger but they're not as cool looking and you're not in the room that much anyway.

My lovely wife prefers the MGM Grand which is my second favorite. True, it's extremely large but that's what also makes it great. Saw the Backstreet Boys gambling there one night. Not too exciting but it was interesting to watch these guys, who are adored by little girls, drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.

For some of the best gambling on the strip, try the Casino Royale. It's a little place across from The Mirage (I think). They have roulette for as little as .25 and blackjack for as little as .50. Of course, there's only 1 table for each of these but there's plenty of other low denomination ($1, $2, etc.) tables, too.

A decent place to eat is the restaurant in the MGM that overlooks the casino. It's fun to relax and watch the action. Also, they have a deli by the sports book that makes killer corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. Not too expensive either.

I have to agree with Jeff about ME. Way, way, too rough just to experience the dive.

Anyway, thanks again for the TR.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003 2:33 PM
Nice TR, Den.

I will echo what others have said: I have sworn off ME. Way to expensive for what amounts to a torture chamber on wheels. Speed is, of course, the best coaster in Vegas.

Everyone says that you need to arrive at TI at least an hour early to stake out a good spot for the new show. The acting might be poor, but the price is right. :)

Can't wait until my next trip, in May.

Jerry

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003 3:01 PM
Unique TR, love the format. I will be in Vegas for Thanksgiving weekend (W-Sat)and can't wait for my first rides on Desperado, Speed and X-Scream. Last visit Speed had not open to the public yet.
Thanks, your TR will help w/ the planning!
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003 8:10 PM
Fun TR Den...thanks...now my Vegas bug is itching again. I went for the first time ever in June (for a conference) and then again in September (for a friend's birthday). I love that place! You snubbed the High Roller, no biggie, but please tell me you've ridden the Big Shot? I will do that every time I'm in Vegas...it's a "blast" ;) . And creepy as Circus Circus is, I think Canyon Blaster is worth it at least once...nice and smooth. Then when you leave...you can hit my favorite strip dives, Slots-O-Fun and Westward Ho for loose slots and surprisingly good 99 cent margaritas.

http://www.travel2vegas.com/messageboard.html

This site is about the best Vegas resource I've found...and the TRs are fun to read...there's even one I wrote about my September trip if you dig around enough. :) *** Edited 11/20/2003 1:13:19 AM UTC by dawnmarie313***

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Thursday, November 20, 2003 12:33 AM

Jeff said:Food is weird in Vegas

Buffets! I am not a big fan of buffets in a normal town...but in Vegas...they're a meal and an experience. The buffets at Aladdin and Bellagio are both exceptionally good.

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Thursday, November 20, 2003 3:57 PM
Great TR, only thing you left out was Best Urinals! Any guys that have used the one's at ST:TE at the Hilton knows how cool these are!

I believe Computer's analysis registered a slight dehydration, so I had to go back out to the casino and drink more beer! *** Edited 11/20/2003 11:17:57 PM UTC by jomo***

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Thursday, November 20, 2003 5:30 PM

dawnmarie313 said:
Then when you leave...you can hit my favorite strip dives, Slots-O-Fun and Westward Ho for loose slots and surprisingly good 99 cent margaritas.

Loose SLOTS? ;) Ummm... ok.


*** Edited 11/20/2003 10:30:54 PM UTC by nasai***
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Friday, November 21, 2003 11:45 AM
Dawn - I did not ride Big Shot this time, but did in 2001... see my second post. ;) I never did like the S&S rides, and I didn't think BS was any better than the others. It was at night so the sparkly lights looked the same from 1,200 feet as they did from 1,000 feet.

About buffets... didn't hit any this time, but we ate at the Harrah's buffet last time. Any buffet with an all-you-can-eat omelet station is good for me. That's also the last time I drank alcohol for breakfast (99-cent mimosas).

jomo - analytical urinals?? dang, if I had known about those, I would have made a special trip, no kidding. I didn't notice anything special about any of the urinals I used the whole time.... no newspapers hanging above, no targets, nothing. :)

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Friday, November 21, 2003 6:13 PM
Yeah, it's pretty cool how even the bathrooms are themed to Star Trek. Gotta give props to Paramount, they really did a thoroughly amazing job with ST:TE.

Did you by chance check out any of the slots just outside ST:TE? Also very well themed, with your choice of pulling the handle like regular slots, or a very cool motion sensor zone where you pass your hand through, which starts the wheels spinning.

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Monday, November 24, 2003 7:43 PM
Den,

Great TR! Sounds like you had a great time.

I have had a flight with a migraine before as well. Pure hell.

I do love that drive to Boulder City as well. Justing seeing that terrain near the Hoover Dam was incredible. For some reason, I love the drive from Vegas to L.A. as well.

Seeing Buffalo Bills that far away is strange because it is so clear, yet so far away. I have a feeling you would love the drive from Albuquerque to Denver.

As far as the DDR at Buffalo Bills, I didn't care much for it. It kept freezing up on me. I had to get an attendant to fix it.

I also agree with you about Speed. I can't get enough of that ride. I ended up getting a wristband and riding it 30 times in a row before leaving (no joke). I did the same with Big Shot. To me, it's the strongest S&S I have ridden and provided scary airtime when I rode it in August. Yea, the height doesn't really change but I still think it is an amazing ride.

Manhattan Express on the other hand is something I have no desire to ride again. I rode it a couple of years ago and had no problem with it, but when I rode in August, it wasn't fun. Add that to the absurd ticket price and you have a recipe for me not wanting to return anytime soon.

I can't wait to go back to Vegas. I am planning on going in February sometime and hope to ride X-Scream.

-Sean

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Wednesday, November 26, 2003 1:07 PM
Nice TR, Den. Makes me realize how much I want to get back to Vegas. Still haven't ridden Desperado, Speed, or X-Scream. Maybe after Solace?
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Wednesday, November 26, 2003 10:19 PM
MMmmmm Vegas! That was a great read Den, I love the Simpsons references, too.

At this point it looks like Vegas is in the card for 04, as a side trip from the BIG california trip. 04 seems like a great time to hit the Golden State, too, with all of the new attractions opening!

Joe "I bet Vegas is more fun after you turn 21" C.

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