03 January 2010

Vegas Baby, Vegas!

First of all, Happy New Year to one and all! I hope 2010 is a great year for all of you out there reading my blog.

My New Years story is a bit involved - as mentioned previously, Andy and I had quite a trip planned. We left for Las Vegas shortly after Christmas as our Christmas/Anniversary gift to each other. Tickets were courtesy of his dad (and his massive pile of frequent flier miles) but everything else was up to us. Using the handy resources at priceline.com, we scored a great deal here:

The lobby at Caesar's Palace.

We arrived as scheduled around 2 or so and headed over there to check in. As this was my first time to Vegas, my expectations were based on TV and movies (mostly Ocean's 11 and The Hangover). Our reservation was for the most basic room they had in the "old/original" tower but it seriously didn't disappoint. Our room was bigger than Andy's entire apartment, bathroom etc. included. And it had a partial view of the famous Strip. Our first night in town, we walked around and saw some familiar sights:

The fountains at the Bellagio.

The Eiffel Tower at Paris, Las Vegas.

It's not actual size, but it's still pretty authentic looking. This was by far my favorite casino - Andy and I had three different meals there. We had the buffet our first day (a lack of lunch on the plane made us SUPER hungry) since it came highly recommended by a few sites I'd looked at before hand. We had breakfast the next day at the creperie and then lunch on our last day at Mon Ami Gabi, the most authentic of the three. I had mussels and they were DELICIOUS. Yum.

Anyway, on our second day we trekked over to Mandalay Bay to see their Shark Reef Aquarium. It doesn't rival something like Sydney, but it was very cool nonetheless. I particularly liked the pirate ship underwater bit where the fish were swimming all around us. We then proceeded to the MGM Grand to stop in on these guys:

Lions! at the MGM Grand.

There's a big fancy lion habitat at the MGM - it was put in sometime in 1999 and cost $9 million. They rotate 2 dozen lions from a ranch 12 miles away on a daily basis, and they are only in there for something like 6 hours a day. Not a bad deal if you're a lion if you ask me. Also, their trainers are in there with them the entire time, feeding them and playing with them etc. Scary. Our second night on the Strip we went over to the Rio to see Penn & Teller. I thought it was a great show, although I am not sure that Andy entirely agreed.

We checked out of Caesar's on New Year's Eve, rented a car and headed north towards Zion National Park in Utah. While driving we also passed through Arizona which means I get to add three new states to my travel list all in one trip. Woohoo! Anyway, Zion was unbelievably beautiful - lots of fun hiking trails which would have been even more fantastic if it had been just a little bit warmer - some of them were too iced over so we couldn't enjoy them fully. Still, here are a few photo hints. I'll post more on Flickr tomorrow:

Inside Zion, one of my favorite photos.

The landscape driving out of Zion, on our way back to Vegas.

We made it back to Vegas early in the evening and headed towards the condo that Andy's parents own. After stopping for some food and champagne, we did our very best to stay up until midnight, which we just barely accomplished. Midnight in Vegas is 2 am in Minneapolis you see. We were a little sleepy. But we did make it and toasted the New Year together.

The following morning we fetched his parents from the airport - we were due to have dinner with them at Del Frisco's, something of a Las Vegas institution. From there they dropped us off at our final hotel, the Stratosphere. In addition to being a hotel (not as nice as Caesar's, but still decent), it also has a giant tower (think Space Needle) which is the tallest building in Las Vegas and commands a great view of the Strip. Admission is free for guests at the hotel, so up the tower we went:

Las Vegas Boulevard, from Stratosphere.

Nice, right? There are even some thrill rides up there that Andy couldn't convince me to go on. This was to be our last night in Vegas though, so it was really nice to enjoy the view. Our last full day was spent wandering the strip, doing some gambling here and there and enjoying the nicest weather we had all week. In maybe our last hour or so, I managed to win upwards of $90 playing penny slots. Penny slots!! As a result, we were cumulatively up $40 (at least, regarding our bets) for the trip. Sweet!

We had a great time and I think we may go back - the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are definitely things I need to go back for. Tomorrow, reality returns. Have a nice week!