I'd never been to Vegas before, and a couple of months ago, faecat was talking about her and pyran's upcoming trip to Vegas, and she said "and you could come with?" And I thought about it, and said "Okay!"
When it came time to get my tickets, it was cheaper and faster to drive down to Charlotte and fly from there, even with gas and parking, than it was to fly out of GSO. So, I got up very early Thursday morning (my flight was at 8) and drove myself down to CLT. (Powered by Mountain Dew. Yes, it was a theme, that week.) Time from pulling into the long term parking lot to getting through security? 22 minutes. I was incredibly impressed.
I got a smoothie for breakfast and found my gate and got loaded up on my plane. I slept most of the way. I got in a couple hours before Ari and Ginger, so I got some coffee and took advantage of the free wireless at LAS and got yet more work done.
Eventually, they arrived, and there was hand waving and hugging. We grabbed the shuttle bus to the rental car place and got picked up by Ginger's dad (her mom and dad has also come along too), and we drove out to the timeshare, by way of the grocery store. We dropped off stuff and picked up her mom, and headed back to the Strip. This is the point at which my eyes started bugging out and didn't stop for the rest of the trip.
We picked up our tickets for the 3 attractions for $54 thing, and then began to discuss lunch, eventually deciding on Burger Bar.
Ari and I had totally opposite orders: "Yes, please, meat, bun, cheese, no vegetables, no lettuce, no tomato, meat as rare as you can." "I'd like the Vegas Vegan, please." The vegan "burger" - which I neglected to take a picture of, but bob bless the internet, someone else did, is constructed entirely of roasted vegetables. I'm sure the Burger Bar would have been happy to make me a meat burger sans bun, but at that point, I was pretty desperate for some vegetables in my diet. And it was very, very tasty. The fries were good too (and they have a dedicated fry fryer, separate from the other deep fried goodies.)
After lunch, we hit up our first attraction, which was the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Smaller than a lot of aquariums I've been to, but, very very good. Also difficult to get good pictures in. However, the sharks were amazing, the octopus was very cool, the dude talking about the piranhas informative, and a touch pool with stingrays. So. cool.
After that, we did some wandering around and people watching, and Ari and Ginger and her dad rode the roller coaster at New York New York. (Her mom and I do not roller coaster.) We also stopped by the cats at the MGM Grand, where I just about died of squee and cute.
Dinner that night was at Nine Fine Irishmen, which was really, really really good. Really good. AND they had a dedicated gluten-free menu, and it had actual choices on it. Lots of choices, not just one dry chicken dish and one dry salad. I should have taken a picture of the menu. :) I ended up with a seafood stew and a side of goat cheese mashed potatoes, and if I'd realized how big the stew was going to be, I would have skipped the mashed potatoes. :) Most of them went home and got got munched on over the next couple of days. There was also a Magner's hard cider, after a quick Googling to make sure it was gluten free.
After dinner, we headed back to the time share. There was some talk of checking out the casino next door, but travel and food comas quickly caught up with everyone and we all fell over.
Friday morning, Ginger and I were awake at 7:00, because that's how we roll. Alas, no one else - including the city - would be up for awhile. So we ate yogurt and fruit out of wine glasses for breakfast (as you do) and internetted and reveled in being in the same place at the same time. :) Eventually, everyone else got up and moving. Ginger's mom wasn't hungry yet, but the rest of us were, so we headed over to the casino next door for their lunch buffet (where I proceeded to each my weight in steamed seafood, setting a pattern for the rest of the weekend). After that, we headed into town and got on the monorail to our next attraction...
Except that we discovered that Ginger's dad had left his tickets on the dining room table, 15 minutes to the south. Sigh. :)
So Friday turned into a wandering and people watching day, which was totally fine too. We tried to see a fountain show in Caesar's, but it wasn't operating, so instead we oogled the fountain and the ceiling and the small aquarium, with the most photogenic stingray ever (no lie, he posed), and so forth. Dinner was food court, and then we went to our show for the weekend, Phantom of the Opera.
I've seen Phantom before, but it's been years. This was very, very good. Ginger said they abbreviated the show a bit, but I wouldn't have known if she hadn't said. We also had amazing, second row seats - which proved to be a little too amazing when they started in on the pyrotechnics and we all had to check to make sure we still had eyebrows. :) The special effects were awesome, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Back at the time share after, Ari and Ginger's dad went out to the casino next door. I had some work to get done, and then we talked about going over, and then we realized that we were drooping, so we played some Zombie Dice and got some sleep.
Saturday morning, Ginger's folks had a timeshare presentation to go to, and Ari was still asleep, and Ginger woke up craving a big pile of carbs, so we went and did brunch buffet while everyone else was still occupied. :) Ginger got a sub-par pile of carbs and a tasty pile of protein, and I got more seafood, and we were both happy.
When Ginger's folks got back from their presentation, Ginger's mom was not feeling good at all, so she told the rest of us to go on and she was going to stay at the hotel and relax. So, we went into town. First up was the CSI Experience, which was well done and fun (though not worth $30, so I'm glad we got a deal on it).
Lunch was food court (Ginger and her dad and I had ice cream for lunch, because it was vacation and we could). Then we did the Titanic Exhibit, which I wish I could have taken pictures inside of (not allowed), because wow, it was amazing. Definitely one of the best things we did all weekend. (That would have been worth full admission, but getting a deal was even better). The chunk of ship wall they had was sobering, and the recreation of the grand staircase and cabins - wow. You felt like you could actually be there. The exhibit was well laid out, too - you came around a corner and didn't know the staircase was going to be there until you saw it, so it was a surprise, increasing its impact. There was also a recreation of one of the decks, and you got an idea of how dark and alone it would have been out there on the Atlantic at that time.
So, so cool.
We headed towards the M&M store at that point, because they wanted me to see it and because Ari and Ginger wanted, well, M&Ms. Next, we headed into the Coke store, to get tasty beverage, and discovered that they were doing a tasting of international sodas - 16 samples for $7, and it was a lot of soda. (That I seem to not have taken a picture of. Ginger?) So we did the soda sampler, and it was seriously one of the coolest things all weekend. Some of the sodas were great - I think Ginger has our notes - and some of them were vile (though Ginger's dad and I finished the anise from Italy, which started out vile and grew on you). That was cool.
Afterwards, we split up - Ari went to go play poker for awhile, and Ginger and her dad and I walked up to the Bellagio to see the fountain show. Along the way, I got my picture taken with a boa. :) The fountain show was awesome, as was the lobby of the Bellagio afterwards.
We dithered about what to do about dinner, but since we were headed to Fremont Street anyhow, we decided on the buffet at the Golden Nugget. Since it was Saturday night, they were doing a seafood buffet, including crab legs. (Ginger looks over at my plate and says "Isn't that like, your fifth set of mussels this trip?" "Yes, yes it is.") So I was in seventh heaven, and everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves too - until the wedding party next to the buffet started getting very drunk, very loud, and very obnoxious. Then we scooted out into the street.
Fremont Street is blocked off, so it's only pedestrian traffic, and there's casinos and shops and such, just like the Strip, but it was less crowded and less full of obnoxious drunks than the Strip, so I was pleased. We watched the free shows (including a big hair cover band that made up for what it was lacking in talent with enthusiasm, and they were pretty good, actually). The big hair band was singing all of the songs of me and Ari and Ginger's childhood, so we enjoyed that. :)
Fremont Street's big thing is that it's covered with a roof that has huge video screens, so every hour on the hour they do a music show - similar to a laser show, but with videos instead. We saw the Doors and saw Queen, and that was lovely. Ginger's dad got the parking validated and work $15 in a slot machine on like, 3 spins (I want that kind of luck), and we wandered south. There were hugs, since Ginger's parents were leaving at o'gosh early the next morning, and then there was sleep.
Sunday morning started early with Ginger's mom calling to say they'd missed their first flight because of taking forever to get through security, but it was okay because they'd gotten rebooked and they needed to run now. :) We got up and got packed up and checked up and caught the shuttle to the Strip. We checked our luggage at the Mirage (they were very nice) and went to go do the Secret Garden (dolphins and baby tigers, what else do you need? :)
Again, it was a small habitat, but what there was was very good. There were above ground and below ground dolphin viewing areas, and the cats, including, as stated, baby tigers. :) Who were so cute and so playful - they had a trainer out, so he played with them and answered questions, and it was so cute.
Next up, we did Denny's for lunch - it was there, we had coupons, and breakfast is always the answer. :) Ari went off to poker some more, and Ginger and I wandered a mall. It was there, it had AC, it didn't have smoking inside, and it was low-key - just right for our last afternoon in Vegas.
We all got back together and caught a cab out to the airport. We were there crazy early anyhow - they'd remembered their flight time incorrectly - and then their flight got delayed by an hour and a half, so we got some dinner and played Zombie Dice and Grandma's Game, a rummy variant that Ginger's family plays.
Eventually, I had to put them on a plane, and then I made for my own gate. Where I read. And waited, because our flight was supposed to be boarding and wasn't. Finally, when our flight was supposed to be taken off, they announced that there were some broken luggage bins that they were fixing. So we waited.
Finally, we got on our flight. I slept like a sleeping thing. When we got to CLT, it was 6:30 Monday morning. I got my car out of long term parking and make it up 85 to home by virtue of caffeine, Eminem, and Ira Glass.
It was an awesome trip. :)