Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Guide to Vegas!

Last week my husband and I took an early anniversary vacation to Las Vegas!  Now, knowing me as a sweet southern gal, that doesn't drink or gamble, you are probably wondering, like my sister was vocal about, why in the world I chose to go to Vegas of all places.  Well, first of all the flight was direct and cheap.  Allegiant Air has flights for less than $100 a person, each way; and it is a direct flight from Arkansas to Vegas.  They fly in and out on Fridays and Mondays; most people leave Friday night and return Monday evening.  We had the flexibility to go during the week, so we left on Monday night and returned Friday evening.  This helped make the hotel room more than half the price than it would have been on the weekend.  Plus, there are plenty of things to see and do in Vegas that don't include drinking and gambling.

My husband, J., left the planning up to me.  I've never really planned a vacation before, he planned our honeymoon and the vacation we took last year with some friends of ours, so I was in a little over my head.  I noticed there weren't a lot of good articles/blogs/websites for newbies to Vegas so that's why I wanted to blog about it.  Maybe I can help another sweet, southern gal that doesn't know what she's getting herself into. 

First of all, I researched like crazy.  I started planning about 2 months before we left, and by the end I could tell you the names of all the hotels, and what they had to offer.  You can still research even if you don't plan it so far in advance.  I like to have a plan and know what to expect.  I'm not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl.  So, knowing all that I could helped me feel prepared.

I picked Treasure Island, or as it is called now to seem more 'modern' I guess, is TI.  They had one of the cheapest prices during the week, and good reviews.  I joined their mailing list and received a percentage off.  It seemed like any hotel would be a great choice and they all have perks and special offers.  If you have some time before your trip, join mailing lists and you'll get plenty of emails with deals. 

We spent 4 nights and basically just 4 days since we got there around so late on Monday night.  I had an idea of what I wanted to see and do, which is important if you are going to sight-see.  I knew what was more important than others so I could be selective.  Nerd Alert: I typed out a list of all the hotels, in order of how they are lined up on the strip, and listed out what they had to see, do, or eat at.  It came in helpful when our feet were dragging and we weren't sure if we wanted to take the time to go in a certain hotel/casino.  We didn't have the time/energy to see everything I had on my list.

We ended up walking around and exploring during the morning hours, having lunch, then heading back to the hotel and napping for a couple hours before heading back out for dinner.  We weren't used to walking that much in a day, especially J. since he sits at a desk all day, so we were exhausted after our first morning of walking. 

Awesome places to see:
  • KA or any Circque du Soleil show.  We saw KA at the MGM Grand and it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.  I would definitely recommend sitting as close as you can and towards the middle or on the aisle.  The actors flew above us and came into the aisles.  It was incredible!  
  • The wildlife habitat at the Flamingo. I love flamingos and you can see them up close and in person here along with lots of other birds and fish, plus it's free!
  • Fashion Show Mall. There is a 2 story Forever 21 store that you will need plenty of time to walk around in and on the weekends they have fashion shows every hour.  The stage and runway come up out of the floor- it's fun to see. 
  • The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace.  There is a 3 story H&M store- plan even more time for this store than Forever 21.  Plus, the ceiling in the mall is painted to look like clouds and the lighting changes to make it look like morning and evening.  There is also a fun show every hour with animatronic people and water/fire features that tells how the fall of Atlantis happened.
  • The Crystals Shops between the Vdara and  Aria hotels.  Everything was WAY out of our price range but it is still fun to window shop, guess at prices (J. about had a heart attack after seeing a pair of $1,500 shoes that looked 'completely uncomfortable' as he put it), and of course dream. :) 
  • The Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian/ Palazzo.  The interior looks like you are walking in Italy.  So beautiful!
  • The Bellagio hotel- of course the fountains are gorgeous!  Plus, inside there is a conservatory and botanical garden that smell incredible and are beautiful to look at.  There is also this amazing, huge glass piece of Fion di Como art work in the lobby.  
  • The Mirage hotel- the volcano is super awesome and the atrium is beautiful.  Don't forget to check out the massive aquarium behind the front desk.  
  • Ross and Marshalls- I have to go in them, even in Vegas! The Ross is 2 stories! 
  • The people!  There was plenty of people watching to do.  Whenever you sit down to eat or rest, be sure to get a seat with a view of the strip so you can people watch.  You will see all kinds! Also, there are plenty of people dressed up in costumes that take tips if you want a picture with them. 

A few tips I have are:
  • Wear comfortable shoes- seems obvious enough right?  I was nervous about bringing tennis shoes because I didn't want to look like a dork in my shorts and tennis shoes but after about a block I could have cared less.  
  • Bring a back-up pair of comfortable shoes- my feet were killing me after the first morning of walking, so I was thankful for another pair to switch.  Everything looks so close because the hotels are so huge, but it is really not.  We could see Mandalay Bay, which was 2 miles away, but it doesn't seem that far since you can see it.  
  • Comfortable shorts- I bought a new pair of denim shorts for the trip, and didn't wear them any ahead of time.  Maybe it's because there is no thigh gap between my legs or because the shorts were new, or because of all the walking we did but I got sores on both my thighs from my shorts rubbing.  It was awful!  The only other pair of shorts I brought were white and cotton which helped, but they still rubbed after a while.  So, I suggest bringing another option, or testing your shorts out before the trip.  
  • Swimming Pools apparently aren't for swimming- our 'plan' was to walk around in the mornings, then during the heat of the day come back to the hotel to hang out at the pool.  1) the pool was full of people, literally, there was hardly room to get in and if you did, all you could do was stand.  2) The cushioned lounge chairs could only be rented, and I'm not about to pay for a chair (if you are there to spend a whole day at the pool and party, then go for it, but we weren't). So, you'll end up sitting on a towel on the edge of the pool.  3) There was a DJ and he had the music loud and thumping.  Nothing against that, but I'm more of a country girl, and the rap/hip-hop music wasn't my taste, but then again I knew where I was and what the crowd wanted.  
  • Nothing opens until 10 AM- We were 2 hours behind our regular time, so when we were waking up at 8 AM (Arkansas time), it was really only 6 AM- 4 hours until anything was open.  We aren't party people, so we were in bed by 10 or 11 Vegas time, and woke up early- the opposite schedule of most, I know.  The good thing about this is that it is a great time to walk around and take pictures without a bunch of strangers in them.  
  • There is lots of noise.  Coming from small town Arkansas, we are only used to hearing crickets at night, this is not true of Vegas.  Even 18 stories up, we could hear everything from the street it seemed like.  Cars on the road, motorcycles revving their engines, trash trucks in the morning, the DJ at the pool and people cheering in the afternoon, everything.  You can kind of tune it out, but it takes some getting used to.  
  • It's smoky- but not like you would think.  I was worried about smelling cigarettes everywhere, but really, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Most of the hotels have awesome filtration systems so you can't smell it, and I'm convinced the Mirage had vents with air fresheners throughout the casino to give it a pleasant smell.  
  • Everything- and I mean everything- is more expensive than you think.  The restaurants are more expensive than we are used to so J. and I ended up sharing a lot of meals, which was plenty for both of us and was a good idea since there is no place to keep your left-overs.  It also leaves you some room for ice cream or another dessert later.  The stores are either super high-end (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc) or cheap (Forever 21 or H&M). 
  • Don't bother with downtown- the Fremont Street Experience.  Maybe it is different at night, we went at 9 in the morning and I was nervous walking around.  It is neat to see the old, vintage Vegas signs and casinos but it's a whole different breed of people down there.  I've heard the lights at night are neat to see, but from what I saw there isn't much else down there to see or do. 
  • There are homeless people and promotional flyer hand-outers everywhere.  Coming from Arkansas I was always taught to be polite to people, but you have to ignore and be a little rude while walking around.  This was weird for me because I'm not used to people yelling at me on the sidewalk or asking for money or trying to sell me something.  The homeless people (I'm assuming- people asking for handouts/tips) had all kinds of signs I guess to try to get your attention.  Some crazy ones we saw were 'Will smoke your weed for food' and 'My wife got a sex change and ran off with my girlfriend.'  They don't say much so we got pretty good at just looking the other way, but the 'promotional flyer' people were a little intense.  There were basically 2 types, the kind on street corners handing out cards for 'dates' to put it politely as I can.  I think legally, they can't say anything, so they flick the cards so they catch your attention.  Just keep your hands full or shake your head 'no' when you pass them to keep the cards out of your hands.  Then there were the people trying to get you go buy show tickets or handing out coupons for shows or clubs.  I tried to be polite to these people but they hassle you, so I ended up giving a short, 'No, thank you' and just kept walking.  I wasn't ever scared but if you aren't used to that kind of thing it can be a little much to handle.  
  • Relax- and have fun!  Don't stress with trying to keep a schedule or see everything- it's impossible- just have fun and enjoy the time with the people you are with.
  • Wear comfortable shoes- once again because it is so important and because blisters are no fun.

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