Vegas has been on our bucket list for a while now. It has always been a place we knew we wanted to visit before we had any kids.
I was able to score a pretty cheap flight and hotel room at Caesars Palace about 6 months ago. Since then I had been fretting about the decision. While it was a great deal, I worried I had been too cheap… The airline, Frontier, is a no frills, charge you for everything airline. Plus I booked roundtrip red eye flights.
And while I booked a room at Caesars, it was their lowest quality room in their oldest tower…
We left for Vegas on Mother’s day. Our plane didn’t depart until 9:40PM so we had the day for last minute packing, cleaning, and anxious tummy aches (What? Am I the only one who gets sick from excitement?)
After doing some research, I found out that Frontier charges for checked AND carry-on baggage. Get this – it was cheaper to check a bag than to carry one on: $30 vs $40 (respectively). Ohh – beware, we heard from another passenger that they will charge that fee again if you have a connecting flight! Good thing ours was non-stop!
Hubs and I decided to pack both of our things in one large suitcase and check it. This required some more forethought when packing, I really needed to analyze everything. This combined packing method worked well for us. One suitcase was easier to lug around than two, but a note of caution if you decide to do this – Frontier weighs your luggage. It must be less than 50 lbs or they will charge you another fee. Ours was close – clocking in at 44.6 lbs.
I had hoped to be able to sleep on the plane. That didn’t happen. The seats had almost no padding, they didn’t recline, and you were left with about 3 inches of legroom. Other than that, the flight was nice – we departed right on time, the trip was smooth, and we made excellent time arriving in Las Vegas about half an hour earlier than expected. Plus the view of the strip from the plane was awesome!
Getting to Las Vegas ½ hour early didn’t seem to apply to our luggage though. We ended up waiting over 45 minutes at the luggage carousal. After what felt like an eternity, (it was 1AM Vegas time, 4AM our time) the conveyer belt moved bringing forth our plane’s luggage, only, get this, it was on another carousal than the one we were told….
Leaving the Las Vegas Airport
There are several ways to get to the strip from the airport:
- Rental car
We had no desire to drive in Vegas, so option 1 was out. Limos are awesome and somewhat reasonably priced (for a limo), but $70 bucks for a 10 minute ride wasn’t worth it to us. A taxi seems like a no brainer – however I heard horror stories about being long-hauled – taxi drivers choosing a longer route or taking unnecessary detours to jack up the price. Plus you are paying for every second you sit in traffic. That left option #4 a shuttle.
You can find shuttles easily outside the airport. It is a flat fee ($7 – $10 p/p + tip). If you have a larger group of people definitely choose the taxi – but for a couple, the shuttle is perfect. We liked not having to worry about being long-hauled or the meter ticking in traffic.
Although, I think our shuttle driver might have ripped us off a little (he said the fee was $9 a person, on the shuttle back to the airport it was only $7 p/p) nonetheless, he was entertaining giving good advice on what to do and even gave us a free Vegas magazine with coupons inside.
Another note about the shuttles is that they go to different hotels to drop everyone off (duh). If you are in a rush and need to get to your hotel immediately, get a taxi. We, however, enjoyed the longer ride getting to see more of the strip.
During our time spend in Vegas we explored almost every hotel on the strip. Almost without exception, the check-in line in every lobby was insanely long. Want a secret to avoid this line? Get there at 1:30 AM Monday morning. We still had to wait in line, but there were about 4 people in front of us instead of 35.
I had booked a non-smoking room with a King-sized bed in the Roman Tower (aka the cheap/old tower). When we got there they were all out of those rooms. We were given the option of a smoking, King-sized bed or a non-smoking room with two double beds. Not being smokers and hating cigarette smoke, the smoking room was out of the question. So we were given the double bed room. But for the inconvenience, we would be upgraded to a room in a better tower tomorrow (SCORE!).
As I said earlier, I was worried about the Roman Tower room. It was the cheapest and in the oldest tower…. However, we were pleasantly surprised with the room. It was nice. Nothing fancy, but it had comfortable beds, a nice enough bathroom, and a pretty great view of the pool. An additional bonus was that the elevators to this tower were very conveniently located – right past the lobby and close to the pool.
Our first day in Vegas! We slept in a little (I couldn’t help waking up earlier! It was 10AM our time and I was SO excited!) We walked around the hotel – Caesars is huge! Exploring the Forum Shops, checking out all the restaurants, and sizing up the casino. After we felt comfortable in Caesars, we headed out to the strip for more exploration and the goal of finding a place to eat breakfast.
The thing about Vegas is that it is a culinary experience. There are famous celebrity chef restaurants everywhere you look. However, these eateries come at a price – a high one…
We ended up eating at Giada’s, Food Network Star Giada De Laurentiis’s first restaurant. And while we paid over $70 for breakfast, I have no regrets. This was one of the best meals I had in Vegas, but it wasn’t just the food – it was the whole experience and ambiance. The restaurant was beautiful, set high up over the strip with large open windows allowing the warm breeze to blow in though the long curtains. The ceiling was high, covered in wooden beams highlighting the stainless steel and wood ceiling fans. Everything was detailed – from your placemat and napkin featuring Giada’s name, to the lights with “a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything” etched in them. It was comfortable yet refined.
I order a polenta waffle with pancetta baked inside, eggs sunny-side up, a vanilla maple syrup (which was to die for – I could literally just drink this syrup and be happy), and a béchamel sauce.
I’m anxious to try to recreate this dish. It was truly wonderful – I savored every bite.
Nick ordered a carbonara flatbread. It too had pancetta and sunny-side up eggs on top. It was also great – just not quite as good as my meal.
Stuffed from breakfast and with jet-lag creeping in, we went back to the hotel for a nap and later some pool time.
Around 3 we were told that our new room was ready so we re-packed and headed over to the Forum Tower. WHAT AN UPGRADE! While the Roman Tower room was nice, it was just your average hotel room, but the Forum Tower room was awesome!
The room was decorated with deep purples and lime green, a plush king bed, a large flatscreen TV mounted to the wall, and curtains that opened and closed with the push of a button! We even had a view of the strip and could see the Mirage’s volcano erupt!
The bathroom was even more impressive with a huge, tile shower that featured two shower heads – a large rainforest one and a smaller regular one. The bathroom mirror even had a TV inside it!
That night we went over the Venetian to eat at Mario Batali’s restaurant Otto. I got bread gnocchi, basically gnocchi made from dough not potato, and Nick got spaghetti and meatballs. Both dishes were excellent, although a little on the small side…
Otto is located within the Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. These ceiling within these shops is painted like the sky and light projected upon it imitate the time of day. It was like we were eating outside a café at twilight! We were also lucky enough to have perfect seats at our table to see a little show the Venetian put on.
For dessert we couldn’t pass up the homemade gelato. I got the lemon meringue pie – Lemon Gelato with meringue, shortbread cookies, and fresh raspberries. Nick got a Sundae with vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio gelatos in a pizzelle cup. Again, both were amazing.
After dinner we had tickets for Penn and Teller. Harrah’s offers a free shuttle to the Rio where the show is. Pro tip: get there early – a long line formed pretty quick and not everyone was able to fit on the shuttle.
Penn and Teller were magical. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen. Not only was it artful and thought-provoking, but I loved how funny it was as well.
A few weeks before we left I came across a Groupon for a Big Bus Tour. It was pretty cheap and would give us a ride to downtown so I decided to purchase it. The tour bus picked us up from Ballys and headed down the stip. We saw the Las Vegas sign and learned great tidbits about Vegas. It was pretty interesting and a great way to see everything.
We hopped off the bus at the Coke-a-Cola Store. For only $8 we were able to try 16 different colas from around the world. This is a must if you have never done it before. It was so much fun sampling everything.
Our favorite – The first one, it kind of tasted like cream soda. The worst? The last two – Beverly from Italy and a Mint Version from Djibouti. Out of those two Beverly was definitely the worst. In a review we found, someone described it as “like drinking grapefruit juice with milk, vomiting it into an ashtray, then drinking it again” I think it describes it perfectly. The mint one was pretty bad too, tasting like mouthwash, but after Beverly it was pretty tolerable.
After the coke store we jumped back on the bus and headed to Downtown. We got off again at the Pawn Stars shop. I was expecting there to be a long line to get in, but there wasn’t, we just walked right in. Of course, none of the famous cast was there (we learned they only film for 1 hour a day – that’s probably the only time the cast is actually there). Seeing the shop in person was really neat – it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and there was more memorabilia promoting the show than there was of actual historical / pawned items.
We jumped back on the bus for a tour of downtown Fremont street. The biggest regret I have from this trip is that we didn’t get off there and explore, but at that time we were so tired we just wanted to go back to the hotel and rest.
We ate dinner at the Bacchanal Buffet within Caesars. It was pretty pricy @ $51 p/p but pretty dam delicious. Pro Tip: sign up for the Total Rewards card. It’s free and will get you a small discount at restaurants within Caesars and its sister hotels.
The buffet was ginormous! With a large seafood selection including crabs legs pre-cut to easily get to the meat. They also had a craving station with delicious prime rib, turkey, and sausages cut to order. Other stations included: Italian, Chinese, Dumpling, Mexican, Soup, Salad, and Juice. I’m sure I probably forgot something in there as well….
The best part was the dessert bar. It was overflowing with cake-pops, macaroons, cakes, fruit, pudding, and gelato. Some of my favorites were the macaroons, cookie gelato, and carrot cake boats filled with cream cheese frosting.
We woke up early on day 3 for our Grand Canyon excursion. Why we had to catch a shuttle at 7AM for a plane ride that didn’t leave until 10AM still confuses me. After waiting forever, we were finally told we could board our plane, a small ten-seat death device. I have never been afraid of flying – that changed. Sure the plane ride offered great views of the mountains, Hoover Damn, Lake Mead, and Colorado River, but they are kind of hard to appreciate when you are convinced you are going to crash to your doom at any second. Before we boarded they warned us about strong winds – they weren’t kidding. They tiny plane was rocked back and forth and up and down. Every drop sent my stomach lurching. It was like being on a roller coaster ride that kept continually dropping and going back up again – only it lasted an hour…
After debarking the plane (convinced that my constant prayers were the only thing keeping us safe) I realized I had made a drastic error in judgment in regards to my wardrobe. Silly me, I thought that being the middle of the desert would be hot. Apparently a tank top and shorts is not the right thing to wear… So, shivering and with my stomach in knots I went into the gift shop and bought the only sweatshirt available. It wasn’t cute, but at least I’d be warm.
The Grand Canyon was amazing though. Beautiful and breath taking. It was a nice break from the lights, noise, and pollution of Las Vegas. We had an amazing tour guide who clearly loved his job and not only knew everything about the canyon, but helped all of us get great pictures as well.
We went to dinner that night to a restaurant called Trevi. It was located in the Forum Shops near a replica of the Trevi fountain. Like the Venetian, the Forum Shops also have a painted sky ceiling, so it felt like we were truly in Italy enjoying great pizza and pasta.
After three really full days we were finally able to sleep in and spend the day at the pool. Caesar’s has really beautiful heated pools all named after Roman Gods.
We ate lunch at Serendipity a wonderful restaurant famous for their frozen hot chocolate. If you go to Vegas this restaurant is a must. The frozen hot chocolates are incredible and come out in a huge bowl topped with piles of whipped cream. I got a pulled pork sandwich with pineapple and a ginger slaw on pretzel bread. OMG it was heavenly. This is another dish I am definitely recreating.
That night we had tickets to see Blue Man Group. I highly recommend this show. I didn’t know much about the show before so I didn’t know what to expect… but the show was really interactive. The way they interlaced color, music, paint, pipes, and comedy is spectacular.
This was our last day in Vegas, but our plan didn’t leave until midnight. We checked out of our hotel at 11, had the bell hop hold our luggage, and went to eat at Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay’s restaurant. For an appetizer we ordered his famous Corn Tamale with Tiger Shrimp in a roasted garlic sauce. We had first seen this dish on the Food Network show “Best Thing I Ever Ate” and were really excited to try it. It didn’t disappoint. It was absolutely delicious and we cleaned the plate.
For our main meal Nick order the Salmon Club which he loved and I got the Chili Relleno – which was beautiful but tasted kind of meh… It was stuffed with eggplant, which I usually love, but somehow the eggplant was really chewy and had kind of a weird texture.
The rest of the day we wondered around various hotels and casino that we hadn’t yet had the chance to visit. We went to the Flamingo Habitat, Carlos’s Bakery, and gambled a little. We ended up back at Caesar’s Forum Shops where Steven Khan famous celebrity photographer was doing photo-shoots. After buying $75 worth of Smashbox makeup you got your make-up professionally done and a photo shoot with Steven. It was so much fun, I felt like a celebrity!
After my makeover we headed to Beijing Noodle for some chow mein and dumplings. This restaurant within Caesar’s is truly unique. You enter though a hallway of large fish tanks filled with goldfish then enter an all-white room with silvery cut-outs. The food was pretty amazing as well.
Finally, at around 9 we hopped on a shuttle and headed back to the airport. Our plane was slightly delayed due to a MIA flight attendant, but the pilot was able to make the time up in the air. We landed in Washington Dulles at 8:00AM Saturday morning going on over 24 hours with no sleep. Needless to say, I was so glad we had two days to recuperate before work again on Monday.
Las Vegas was an awesome trip. While it may not have been the most relaxing vacation it was pretty exciting: sight-seeing, gambling, the shows, the strip, restaurants!
Are you thinking about going to Vegas? Do you have any questions or concerns? Let me know!