Viva Las Vegas - August 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 7:22 PM
Why go to Las Vegas in August? Friends were celebrating their 10th anniversary. 10 years ago, she did all the planning and he just showed up. This time, he did it all – Vegas style. Elvis performed the ceremony and everyone had a good time.

We did a lot of stuff last weekend, but we made sure to save time for theme parks.

Adventuredome:
We used a $4/person discount coupon in our Circus Circus book.
Canyon Blaster – What a great ride! IMO, it’s the smoothest Arrow looper. Even in the very back seat, it was quite comfortable beginning to end. It was also well-designed into the Adventuredome terrain, with good tunnels and views of the park. Rim Runner – It’s not a coaster, but it is a very good water ride. It has good capacity, despite the fact it appears they have disabled the front and back rows of the boat. Everyone gets somewhat wet, but not drenched – most of the water spray goes out, not up. Also running were Sling Shot (not too scary) and Inverter (very fun). Chaos was down for the day. SpongeBob 4D was agonizingly bad. The line was deceptively long (they were running only one of the three simulators) and the show wasn’t in 3D like in PCW – it was a 2D wrap-around screen. Also good: free clown and juggler show and $2 beer (20 oz.).

Stratosphere Tower:
We had friends staying there and we used their coupon book for a $5 per person discount. We arrived just after opening, but we had to line up for tickets, for security, and for an elevator. There were no lines for any of the attractions, so we always got choice seats. But the signage at the top was confusing.
High Roller – boarding the front row was the most frightening part of this ride. It was a slow not-so-scary coaster, exactly what we expected. Big Shot – I tried to ride without hanging on, but failed. My wife wasn’t scared at all. She was disappointed that we only shot up, and not down too. X-Scream – Sitting in the front row, I managed to hold my hands up most of the time, but I gripped for dear life both times we dropped to the end of the ramp. My wife said, “That wasn’t scary at all.” Insanity – It lives up to its name. What a rush! This is the only ride on the tower where you can actually look straight down. I managed to pry my hands off the restraints after about 5 rotations. It felt great. My wife had her hands up the entire time, said it might scare her more at night. We planned to return later that evening, but when we left Bite (erotic vampire show), we saw the long slow line for the tower and bailed.

NASCAR Café
We didn’t find any discount, so we paid $20 for one ride-all-day package and $25 for a ride-all-day plus photo package. But it was the best ride of the trip! Speed – This launch coaster reminded us a lot of The Incredible Hulk @ IOA. The launch into the curve is great, and loop and turns were smooth. The final launch and the 90 degree vertical were breathtaking, especially when we returned at night. We tried the back row once, but rode in the very front the other three times. There were no lines at all, but the staff would only dispatch once every 5 minutes. CyberSpeedway – I’m not a racing fan, but this simulator was fun. The handling reminded me of the faster go-cart tracks I’ve tried. I came in 2nd both times. However, it isn’t perfect. The rear-view mirror display shown in the preview doesn’t exist. Some projectors were so out-of-focus that it was difficult to drive.

Manhattan Express
Wow, they rake a lot of money in here. The vast majority of the people we saw were paying $12.50 for their ride. We managed to find a $4 per person discount coupon. The line was 10 minutes. No seat selection – we got row 5. Manhattan Express is a tall coaster with good speed and a lot of potential, but it doesn’t live up to expectations. The track banking changes are abrupt and jarring, and the camel humps achieve zero air-time. In fact, the very large head-restraint whacked me on the back of the head several times going over the camel humps. I think the track is marginally worst than the train, but IMO, both need modification. However, this isn’t going to happen as long as the freaks and geeks keep forking out $12.50 to ride this mother. Canyon Blaster and Speed are both much better coasters.

*** coaster discussion ends ***

Imax 3D rides at the Luxor
We didn’t try these, but some of our friends did. They found them repetitive and boring.

Star Trek: The Experience
When my wife and I were off riding coasters, several of our friends took in this rather expensive Paramount attraction at the Hilton. The simulators were good and the actors were excellent. They didn’t find coupons, but half-price tickets were advertised at some ticket counters.

Other noteworthy attractions we saw:
Freemont Street Experience – ‘Downtown Divas’, ‘Speed, Smoke & Spinning Wheels’ and ‘Lucky Vegas’ were eye-popping amazing. ‘American Freedom’ was almost nauseating, but that is probably because we are not Americans. Downing a 24 oz. beer ($4) really helped the situation.
Sirens of TI – This is the busiest street-show on the strip. It blocks traffic for both pedestrians and cars. Unfortunately, it was a rather unremarkable show. The cannon-fire and exploding ‘closet’ were the most entertaining bits. We stood closest to the Sirens (female performers), who were quite boring. Bad lip synching made the show even worse.
Kahunaville bar at Treasure Island – This place was primed to party. The bartenders were juggling several bottles and mixing and pouring several cocktails simultaneously. The DJ had the crowd pumped, cheering on their favorite bartender. The drinks were unremarkable, but well worth the show.
Mirage – The volcano was spectacular, but not surprising. The aquarium behind the check-in counter was stunning. We also ventured back to see the white tigers, but there was only one and he was fast asleep.
Caesar’s Forum – We watched shows at two of the fountains. They were very imaginative compared to other mall fountains. A nice distraction…
Venetian – The street performers in St. Mark’s square were very talented.
Bellagio fountain – We watched two evening shows, and both were spectacular.
Desert Passage at Aladdin – The rain, thunder and lightning were believable.
MGM – The lions were active when we were there, gnawing on rawhide bones and marking their territory on the glass tunnel full of spectators. :)

Never again: We don’t recommend the Circus Circus hotel. They have no respect for their guests.
60 minutes queue to check-in on Thursday. (The line didn’t go away until Monday.) Door-woman told us it a cab downtown would cost $27 (not $11). Can you say “kickback from the limo driver?” Cleaning staff would smoke on our non-smoking floor.

Next time: We ran out of time to gamble. The casinos only got $20 from me, and maybe another $10 from my wife.

Other odds and ends:

  • While it was hot, it wasn’t unbearable. We wore more clothes in Vegas than I do on a typical theme park day in Ontario or New York.
  • Cabs hold a maximum of 5 passengers and drivers strictly enforce that rule. For 6-12 passengers, limos are readily available and the drivers are pros at loading everyone’s luggage.
  • We saw a lot of bad parenting in Vegas. I suspect many were unaware of the 9:00 pm weekend curfew and hoped to shuffle their teens and pre-teens off to the free shows or the Adventuredome while they gambled. There was a pretty sad bunch of kids denied entry to the Adventuredome on Friday night. Even worse were the babies, crying, strapped to their strollers, diapers covering their ears (no joke), breathing all the smoke, while their parents played slots.
  • Sin city? On the strip, we saw dozens of guys distributing prostitute calling-cards, as well as magazine-style prostitute menus. But they weren’t as sleazy as the suits pouncing on unsuspecting tourists and pitching time-shares disguised as free show tickets.

Best steak: The Steak House (Circus Circus)
Best hot dog: $1.50 for a ½ pound dog at the deli (Circus Circus)
Best burger: Las Vegas Cheeseburger at Cheeseburger in the Oasis (Aladdin)
Best sandwich: Oscar’s Barbeque Chicken Sandwich (Caesar’s Forum)
Best dessert: dessert combo Spago (Caesar’s Forum)
Best priced beer: $2 for 20 oz. in Adventuredome (Circus Circus)
Best tasting beer: Aloha Spirit at Cheeseburger in the Oasis (Aladdin)
Best margarita: the one I make at home. Las Vegas sells a lot of cheap but tasteless so-called margaritas and daiquiris. Downtown, they always run out of the $1 size cups, but will eagerly pour you a $7 ‘souvenir’ drink with the same 2 oz. of alcohol.

*** Edited 8/23/2005 11:23:51 PM UTC by greatwhitenorth*** *** Edited 8/23/2005 11:24:19 PM UTC by greatwhitenorth***

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 1:00 AM
Next time, if you're going budget, stay at Excalibur. Very nice, with the biggest buffet in Vegas (and the food was good).

Canyon Blaster is the smoothest Arrow...Right behind Tennessee Tornado ;). Speed was fun as well. Insanity was down when we were there, Big Shot and XScream ruled, but High Roller was very meh (except the scary/exciting part of actually gettin in the the train ;) ).

No Desperado? It was fun too!

Vegas is fun, I love it there, and hope to get back. Soon. Star Trek was def. worth it, and the $34 price is for ride all day. Quark's bar was also fun.

Goodness, you reminded me how much I want to go back, and for longer.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 1:42 AM
Are you 21? If so when you apply for a player's card at sahara you can get a $5.00 discount for the all day ride pass for speed the ride. Also, you can buy a discount ticket at the fashion show mall for Speed. I like the $1.50 strawberry shortcakes at the Ho and the BBQ combo for $6.95 at Ellis Island. Downtown I always check out the 99 cent food at Mermaids. The deep fried Twinkies are my favorite there. Trust me, there are no kickbacks between the hotels and the cabs. There are kickbacks between the cabs and the strip clubs. I met a number of cabbies when I worked the graveyard at a Terribles gas station. Also, the shark reef after 5 pm is a good deal. Friday, when I went to Madame Tussaud's at the Venetian, we were each offered a $10.00 discount. At $13.00 we found this to be a great time. It's interactive, meaning you can mess with the figures and have your photo taken with them. The fancy restaurant on the second floor at TI has great sundaes for $7.00 per person. Definately worth a try. The conservatory at Bellagio is beautiful. The time share pitches can be useful. I've gotten as much as $100.00 just for listening to the pitch. Just be firm and say no. Next big event for me is G2E. Can't wait. My friends and I love the 1/2 lb burgers at rum runner. 2.75 when you order the $1.00 drink *** Edited 8/24/2005 5:43:18 AM UTC by PointMan***
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 2:53 AM
I forgot to mention Mermaids! The drinks and the deep fried Oreos! Yum.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 7:53 AM
Mermaids and La Bayou have to rank as two of the sleaziest places downtown. In my opinion, a casino (or in this case, a slot joint) shouldn't have to beg passers-by to come in with "free Mardi Gras beads" or a free spin on a giant, oversized novelty slot machine. If the casino is a good one, like the Fremont or Golden Nugget, you don't need to have the shills out front. Four Queens is guilty of that as well. That's just my opinion, though I think I'm still bitter about the $1 margarita scam! ;)

And regarding greatwhitenorth's comment about Time Share Guy, I have to agree about them being more sleazy than Porn Guy. "Hi... where are you from? How long are you in town? Why don't you come over here and we'll get you some free show tickets..." Yeah, right. We've learned to just ignore them, or if they get too indignant, we just say we're leaving in a few hours and that they are causing us to be late.

Ray P. (who has 4 free nights coming to him at the Fremont... and now wants to use them!)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 8:29 AM

greatwhitenorth said:
  • Sin city? On the strip, we saw dozens of guys distributing prostitute calling-cards, as well as magazine-style prostitute menus. But they weren’t as sleazy as the suits pouncing on unsuspecting tourists and pitching time-shares disguised as free show tickets.


Yeah, I was amazed by this, the best ones are the sleazeballs that are like "hey are you married", no I just have on my wedding ring and am holding my spouse's hand.

I heard a good thing to do is when you go to the timeshare, just wait and out and then say you have just taken out a big loan on a house, usually they will shut up and give you the tickets. It always works for my father in law.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 8:30 AM
<-------- going back to Vegas in 37 days

Insanity, here I come!!!!!!!!!!!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 9:56 AM
Gambling update

Circus Circus was relatively dead. We gambled there one morning, but did not return once we saw what nice casino's are like.

Mermaids and Louisiana Bayou were ultra-cheesy hole-in-the-wall casinos. We did go into both. We tried (and later regretted) the deep fried twinkies.

Golden Gate has good shrimp cocktails (spicy sauce) and nice atmosphere with piano music and tables quiet enough to have a conversation.

Slots-o-fun (at Circus Circus) has $1 craps from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, but I never had time to indulge in my favorite game-of-chance.

For people who enjoy gambling, the downtown casino's have better table game rules (better odds at craps, single deck blackjack, etc.). However, the new casinos on the strip were much more comfortable to spend time in.

Watch out for strip clubs with no cover -- we walked into one only to be told that there was a 2-drink-per-person minimum and a beer cost $8.50. *** Edited 8/24/2005 1:57:25 PM UTC by greatwhitenorth***

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 10:00 AM

PointMan said:
Are you 21? If so when you apply for a player's card at sahara you can get a $5.00 discount for the all day ride pass for speed the ride.

Thanks for the tip! I didn't get the Sahara players card, but I signed up for several others. I thought the players cards were the cheapest souvenirs I could get out of Vegas.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 11:37 AM
Did you happen to play the Star Wars or Monty Python slots? I can't wait to get back to play.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 12:51 PM
GWN - You didn't like the deep fried twinkies? They're my favorite. Also, for good cheap beer, try the Ellis Island Casino on Koval, it's a locals favorite. they have a $.95 steak special at the restaurant and they brew their own beer and root beer. Don't forget on the strip Slots-O-Fun, the Tropicana and the Riviera also have free spin reels. San Remo's is converting to Hooters, signs are up and it's beginning. Aladin's will soon become planet hollywood. If you have transportation, check out Ethel M's Chocolate factory and Cactus garden, it's free.l Also, if you have the transportation, Desparado is just south of Vegas on I-15. Oh, Silverton has a free mermaid show.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 2:18 PM
Thanks for the TR. This is very handy because we are leaving for an out west trip, including Las Vegas, this Friday. I found a shuttle you can take from the MGM Grand that will get you to the fashion outlet mall across the interstate from Buffalo Bills(and Desperado).
We're planning on a pretty hectic two days in Vegas, with Desperado and all the coasters on the strip plus hopefully a show I'm not sure when we'll be able to gamble ;)
Greatwhitenorth, how was Bite? We'll be staying at the Stratosphere and I'd love to hear how it was......
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 2:33 PM
Strip clubs with no cover. That was Glitter Gulch Downtown. You really are from Canada, eh? Not like the "Runway' in Toronto.

You could have gotten cheaper beer at Slots O Fun, which also has the hot dog specials. Heck, that place even made the Food Networks hot dog show.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 4:44 PM
Nachos - I live out here in LV now. If you need any info, let me know Also, always check out www.reviewjournal.com before coming. *** Edited 8/24/2005 8:48:05 PM UTC by PointMan***
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 6:36 PM

On the strip, we saw dozens of guys distributing prostitute calling-cards, as well as magazine-style prostitute menus.

You mean those aren't trading cards!?

Now I know why they'd look at me so funny when I'd pull a stack out of my pocket and say, "Nah, I have that already. But I have doubles of this blond, I'll trade you for that big breasted brunette."

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 8:17 PM
We live in the Palm Springs area, and my grandparents are avid gamblers, so we drive over about 5 times a year. The only places we find acceptable are Belagio, Mandalay Bay, and MGM. Recently we've been staying at MGM because of its nice location and cheap rooms (definately not as nice as Belagio and MB.) The Venetian does not feel like a 5 star at all, and not a great location.

If you gamble, Mirage has the best payout by far for the strip resourts. It's the only place my family has made money regularly gambling.

Edit: Forgot to mention the Wynn, which we liked the looks of and have a couple of compted rooms coming up at. Definately looks to be a new favorite.
*** Edited 8/25/2005 1:44:18 AM UTC by GoliathKills***

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 9:30 PM
I recently stayed at Mandalay Bay, and I loved it. The beds were incredibly comfortable. I really want to go back. The Belagio also appeared to be very nice, but rather pricey.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 9:42 PM
LG, that was a priceless statement, I about peed my pants when I read that one.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 10:41 PM
Funny, Gonch :).

Ray, thats the great thing about those casinos, old time Vegas Sleaze! I didn't gamble, so I didn't have to worry about that, I just went for cheap drinks and food. I loved the older ones. It was a cheesy Vegas atmosphere, I loved it. Too bad +Danny couldn't go in with us till next year :).

But Barbury Coast was another fun one, on strip.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005 10:06 AM

macho nachos said:
Greatwhitenorth, how was Bite? We'll be staying at the Stratosphere and I'd love to hear how it was......

I'm sure there are better topless shows in Vegas. Most of the dancers are real, but one looked like an inflatable pool toy. My wife loved the music - lots of Def Leppard and AC/DC. I was disappointed with the music because they never played more than about 45 seconds from any one song. There was no dialogue -- just songs, dancing, vampire bites, and a bit of magic. The audience participation was fun, but predictable (it reminded me of the Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Disney-MGM Studios).

If we go back, we will probably check out a Vegas classic such as 'Folies Bergere'. Or maybe 'Splash' at the Riviera, which has a bit of everything: impersonators, Flying Elvis', figure skating, motocycle stunts AND topless dancers.

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