Vegas, December 2017

This was a trip that was planned sometime earlier this year (I forget when, exactly), when we got a mailer from the Wynn for some screaming deal – two nights, two buffets, and two tickets to Le Reve for $400. Depending on how you look at it, we either ended up getting the stay free or the show/meals free.

In any case, we flew out to Los Angeles early the morning of December 4th to grab B’s car and drive to Vegas.

Monday, December 4:

Our flight was super early and we didn’t really eat much prior (well, B; I had eaten more), so we grabbed a bit more food when we landed as well as some coffee. We then started the drive to Las Vegas.

We took a small detour just outside of town to see the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation, which apparently has been around since May of 2016 and will be on display until May of next year.

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It was a bit windy and cold, but still super neat. I would recommend checking it out before it ends, as it’s a quick and easy drive outside of the city. I don’t know Uber/Lyft/taxi rates, but you could seriously rent a car for an hour and go.

Our next stop was the Wynn, where B dropped me off with the bags and then went to go park the car at the Mirage, the closest MLife property (free parking). I hung out waiting for him. We then got checked in and quick ran across the street to Fashion Show for a bite to eat. I tried a new lobster roll in Luke’s Lobster.

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Close-up.

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With the bag.

Spice blend was a bit weird – it reminded me of the shrimp/spices Noodles and Company uses on the Buttered Egg Noodles and Parmesan – but it definitely wasn’t the worst lobster roll I’ve ever had. Proper bun … I’d put it about average.

Snack eaten, we wandered around the Wynn a bit before doing a quick workout.

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Some of the holiday decor.

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View from the room.

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Room.

We weren’t too terribly hungry, so we just grabbed a snack waiting for the show to start – a very expensive beer and popcorn that we split.

Le Reve, however, was AMAZING. A bit abstract for sure, but visually stunning. I wish I had seen they allowed photos (just not flash) as I would have taken a few, but on the other hand, I’m also glad I didn’t as it really allowed me to be immersed in the show. Both of us highly enjoyed it. It is an expensive ticket for sure, but totally worth it.

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End of the show.

Ate: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the Delta Sky Club in DIA, plane snacks, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwich, road trip snacks (including tasty doughnuts at some random place in Hesperia, Calif.), Luke’s Lobster lobster roll, half a Jamba Juice, popcorn and beer.

Tuesday, December 5:

The original thought was to run in the morning – north side of the Strip, could run without all of the stupid stairs and bridges – but Las Vegas was actually kind of cold this trip (silly desert) and we neglected to bring proper running clothes. Oops. So we figured we’d get our workout in later when it warmed up.

So, first things first, we hit up the Wynn buffet.

Visually, it was gorgeous.

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Inside.

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Close-up of one of the displays.

However, the food? Actually fairly mediocre. I’ve eaten at enough Vegas (breakfast) buffets to know that a regular salad bar is usually a thing; not at the Wynn (unless I wanted a Caesar salad, which no.). So that was disappointing. The eggs Benedicts were very hit or miss in terms of the ham/Canadian bacon on them (I picked up one to try it; no meat; had to grab another one); the bagels were tiny and since they toasted them for you, got kinda burnt; desserts were terrible. Very glad we got it free and didn’t pay for it. You should not finish a buffet feeling full yet terribly unsatisfied. Ugh.

Walked over to Fashion Show to get coffee afterward (Starbucks for me, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for B) and since it was still too early for anything to be really open there, grabbed the car and headed to the Gamblers General Store, a place B wanted to hit up. Not entirely my scene, but it was still pretty cool. Want to buy a full-sized craps table or just some playing cards/dice/chips for the house? This is your place.

Headed back to Fashion Show after to officially walk around since we never (I have, but years ago) have officially OFFICIALLY walked around.

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USA Hockey has a store there!

We were debating on what to do for lunch and ended up deciding on Ra Sushi. Nigiri was great, as was the cucumber roll. The shrimp tempura roll? Something was off about it. The hot green tea was also some of the worst I’ve ever had. Would not recommend; would not go back to.

Felt like death afterward, so moved the car back to the Mirage and headed back to the hotel to chill a bit.

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Holiday dolphins in the Mirage.

After things settled a bit, we headed down to the Wynn fitness center again (which is AWESOME I might add) to get in a quick mile or so on the treadmills and then a lift. We were initially going to meet up with a pilot friend of B’s (and his wife) for a drink before they headed to the Golden Knight’s game, but they were running late so no meet up for us. We still got ready for our (late) reservations because we wanted to walk on down to the Bellagio.

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The Wynn has a baby fountain choreographed to music … competing with the Bellag?

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Conservatory at the Bellagio. Love the little detail like the hook.

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Stunning as always.

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B and one of the polar bears. I think Coca-Cola was a sponsor …

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Frolicking polar bears. I think I like the murderous penguins from a couple years ago better …

Dinner that night (December’s date night) was at Prime Steakhouse. We had kind of hoped for patio seating (out by the fountains), but would have had to wait an extra half-hour for it. Since it was pretty cold out … we decided we’d pass and just grab a table. We got led to the table … and it wasn’t officially ready, so we got herded back to the bar area. A few minutes later, table is ready, we go back for good … and got free drinks for the inconvenience? Which, given that the glass of Pinot Noir I ordered was $20ish, I’m not really complaining about, but I feel was also unnecessary as seriously, shit happens.

We essentially ordered the same thing – filet mignon – with Yukon gold mashed potatoes to split as well as Brussels sprouts, and the Market Tomato Salad to split.

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Essentially a twist on a Caprese salad, it wasn’t bad. A bit too much arugula for my tastes (so. peppery.) and the burrata cheese was a bit too smooth (?)/off texture for me, but the tomatoes? Delicious.

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Potatoes, steak, sprouts.

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Close-up of the sprouts, with pears, bacon, and chervil.

Okay, so the main course. If I’m going to eat at a ridiculously schmancy steakhouse (and pay $68 for a piece of meat), I expect the quality of that piece of meat to be way up there. I’ve eaten at enough ridiculously schmancy places* (thanks, dad) to know that a properly well-cooked piece of beef? Should not need sauces to make it taste good. We think it was under-seasoned, for one (where’s my salt crust pre-cooking?), and secondly, the parts that were more well-done (we ordered it medium-rare and it was cooked properly, but the outside bits are more done; you know how it goes) didn’t taste of high quality beef and rather had the texture of something you’d get at more of say, a Texas RoadHouse or something. Which yeah, is good, but not at that price point.

The potatoes weren’t bad (and quite good when eaten in combination with the filet)(even though I make a better mashed potato) and the sprouts … well, let’s just say that B ate most of them. Not cooked well, too mushy, bacon needed to be crispier, and the pear, which took the texture role, was too sweet for how they were prepared.

(I think I watch too much Chopped.)

Dinner took a bit of time to come out, but I wasn’t too worried about it since these schmancy steakhouses tend to do that. However, our waiter and like two other people came to apologize about the wait (or say that the food was coming right out or whatever). In apology for the wait … we got free dessert (and coffee). Um, okay?

(for you keeping track at home, this means that our drinks and our desserts (that we probably honestly weren’t going to order as it was) were going to be free, and not due to anything on our parts. we said absolutely nothing and honestly didn’t care about the slight delays.)

We got two desserts – a molten lava cake made from Valhrona chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream and a New York style cheesecake with cranberry sorbet.

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Made me think of D Bar’s “molten cake thingy everybody has”. Pretty dang delicious.

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Didn’t eat the sorbet/cranberry stuff (don’t like cranberries), but the cheesecake was really good.

Dinner, in short, was ass expensive, but it could have been a lot worse. Would I recommend Prime? Maybe. Depends on if you like dropping a lot of money on food. While I don’t like frequenting those types of joints often, I’d be intrigued to see if say, Fix, is better.

Walking home was really nice after that dinner. Urp.

Ate: Wynn buffet, Starbucks/Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Auntie Anne’s, Ra Sushi, Prime Bellagio

Wednesday, December 6:

We woke up and legitimately had a food hangover. Oh dear lord. I did something I don’t really ever do and worked out without eating food first. I am very much a creature of habit and like breakfast FIRST THING. This morning? Nope. Sweating a bit made me feel a bit more human, which was nice.

I had a couple options for coming home as B started a trip later that day, with, ironically, a Vegas overnight. I could …
– head back home on a flight that morning
– stay in Vegas by myself for the day, spend the night with him down at the Signature, and leave on a flight the next morning
– drive back to LA with B and catch a flight home that night while he goes off to work.

We ultimately decided on option three, which was nice since I usually always have to take the first flight out of places. So, we packed up, I hung out while B grabbed the car, and we popped over to the Peppermill for some breakfast, because as much as we didn’t particularly feel like eating ever again, we knew we needed breakfast.

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My type of breakfast.

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Love this place.

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B likes getting pancakes the size of his head.

We grabbed coffee and some Christmas presents at Starbucks on our way out of town (and I had a conversation about dinosaurs with one of the baristas) and settled in for the drive back.

I bought a cookie at Starbucks just in case … and I eventually ate it sometime in California … but my stomach was still not happy with me from the vast amounts of food I had consumed the day prior. As a result, dinner ended up being snacks (cheese, cucumber, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, and ramen) in the Delta clubs. I got home super late, but it was worth it.

Ate: Peppermill, Starbucks, Delta Sky Club noshes, plane snacks

We did talk a bit about the stay on the drive back to LA, and we determined that while the Wynn was nice, it’s not the place for us. It was also a bit too far north – we love our Bellagio, basically. Definitely worth the experience, though.

*While I am familiar with eating at the “high rolling” places, mostly from my relatively extreme youth, it does not mean that I am comfortable at them. That’s for the rest of my family. Typically the more expensive the place, the stuffier it is … and I just don’t do stuffy.

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2017’s September Road Trip: Part Two

So, initially, when I started this story (on the trip itself), I figured I’d have three posts – the previous one, one on Santa Cruz/Monterey, and then one on Las Vegas. However, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures in Las Vegas as I thought I would … so we’re wrapping this up in one longer tale. Good? Good.

Friday, September 8:

Friday morning, we woke up, ate breakfast at our hotel, and then drove the few hours from Sacramento to Santa Cruz. We didn’t stop driving until we hit San Jose, when I needed to fill up my tank. I don’t know where we stopped, exactly, but it was not the nicest area and the people driving around seemed batshit crazy … so we snagged a less-than-ideal lunch in Wienerschnitzel (mmm, corn dogs) and got back on the road.

We checked into our hotel, the Ocean Pacific Lodge, which we thought was maybe a few blocks from the race? Well, it was a few blocks from the race start, but literally across the street from transition. Like I could see the bike area from our room window. We wanted to check in for the race right away, so we went ahead and did that, as well as bought a few race items.

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Hotel. Transition would be to the left.

After a short ride to test out the bikes and a shower, we headed out for some dinner. Since lunch was so greasy, we decided on some nice sushi for dinner at I Love Sushi, which hit the spot.

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The Friends Roll, one of the ones we got.

Bellies full of delicious sushi, we walked around a bit to explore.

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Because a.) why not; and b.) he calls me his siren.

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Rides wouldn’t be going until the weekend.

Saturday, September 9:

We woke up fairly early Saturday morning as we had to drive back into San Jose to find a Chick-fil-a so as to get sandwiches for bike food (we eat pickle juice-soaked chicken patties on the bike. don’t ask …) as well as a few extra chicken egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches so as to eat something for breakfast the next day. We also hit up a Target for some bottled water to prep our race bottles with.

Back in Santa Cruz, we dropped our bikes off and went for a short run to shake out our legs, stopping by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, because why not.

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Inside.

It was super simple. Not sure if I’d recommend it.

Post-run, we showered and then went off to drive a bit more of the bike course, grabbing lunch along the way in Davenport, Calif.

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Whale City, our stop.

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I had the North Coast Chicken Sandwich – grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed leeks and mushrooms on a fresh bakery roll. It wasn’t too shabby.

Drove back to the hotel to prep everything for the next day and to just relax. We left around 5ish to get our nails done at The Nail Club (no website; not the best mani/pedi I’ve had, but totally not the worst) before grabbing our typical breakfast-for-dinner at the Santa Cruz Diner. Fantastic meal except for the bacon. Mediocre bacon. Sad, sad day.

Sunday, September 10:

… was race day, so the vast, vast majority of the day was spent doing that.

We did grab dinner at the Seabright Brewery, which was a letdown. I think we just need to realize that neither of us particularly like the food at brewpubs. I might have had the worst fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life. Pretty terrible.

Monday, September 11:

We woke up, packed up the car, checked out, and headed toward Monterey so we could hit up the Aquarium.

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Roadside fruit/vegetable stand we stopped at. You can sorta see B inside. Some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had in my life.

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Monterey.

We hadn’t been to the Aquarium since our engagement trip back in 2009, so it was nice to revisit.

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Super friendly bat ray we were petting.

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Cuddling up in a giant clam. We have a similar picture from ’09.

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Jellyfish.

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Gorgeous sign in the cafe area.

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Cute little crab.

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B outside.

We ate lunch at the restaurant inside the aquarium, which was actually really tasty. I had mussels while B had a much better fish and chips.

Post-food, we spent a bit of time wandering Cannery Row.

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Pier.

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Kidlets looking out over the water.

We also got a bit of a treat at Ghiradelli.

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Brownie Sundae. *drool*

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B with his hot fudge sundae.

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Spotted this on the way back to the car. Oh Monterey and John Steinbeck …

We took ourselves and our stuffed bellies back on the road. Our original plan was to drive to L.A. to stay at B’s crash pad for the night … but he forgot the keys back at home. So, we decided to give ourselves an easier drive to Las Vegas the next day and made Bakersfield our stop. It was better than Wendover, let’s just say that. It had a Hooters near our hotel, though, and wings and salad made for a great dinner.

Tuesday, September 12:

We took a somewhat leisurely morning in Bakersfield, hopping on the hotel treadmills for a tiny bit and eating breakfast before getting back on the road. The drive from Bakersfield to Las Vegas wasn’t one of the more exciting ones I’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t Utah, so there’s that.

We got to Las Vegas, I dropped B off to check in to the Bellagio while I parked the car (and got the greatest garage parking spot ever so we just decided to stay in it for the entire stint). I met him inside and then we went to get the rest of our stuff and get settled. As soon as the bags were in the room, we went right back out to snag the In-N-Out burger we’d been wanting since the moment the race ended for lunch. It was delicious and totally hit the spot.

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View from the room.

The rest of the evening (since we ate lunch pretty late) was spent mostly relaxing with a little bit of gambling. I had a pretty good night at the slots, actually winning for a change. We did eventually wander back out for a bit more food, which we got at PBR Rockbar. We got a spinach/artichoke dip (meh) and some of the best potato skins I’ve had in a really long time.

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Food consumed, back to the Bellagio for a bit more gambling and watching the fountains from the privacy of our own room.

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Dinosaurs watching out the window.

Wednesday, September 13:

We had maybe thought about waking up early to go ride our bikes in Red Rock Canyon on this day … but that didn’t happen. Instead, the day went a bit more like this:
– Starbucks for coffee.
– Room to change.
– Bellagio Pool Cafe for brunch.
– Bellagio Pool for a few hours, sitting out and playing some cards.
– Room to change and … other things.
– Out and about toward the south end of the Strip, grabbing snacks and booze along the way.
– MGM Grand to play the Sigma Derby horses for a couple hours (and drink).
– Back to the room, grabbing a few more snacks in the process.
– Room for … things.
– Eventually back out to Mon Ami Gabi for a loose dinner, more hooch, and profiteroles.
– Room for the night.

Thursday, September 14:

We weren’t in as rough of shape as we might have feared the next morning – luckily we spaced out the drinking enough. Woo! (we don’t drink much usually. the previous day was abnormal for us.) We were, however, thankful that we had our free breakfast buffet that we were using that day. Oh beautiful delicious salad. I may have been on vacation but I can’t go that long without you anymore.

Post-breakfast, we wandered the other way up the Strip, stopping in the Venetian for coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Post-coffee, it was window shopping time! The Venetian shops are great for that, clearly, as well as they are for loose food (the Lobster Me lobster roll isn’t doing it for me anymore, though, so sad day). We did the same thing over at the Forum Shops over at Caesars, and eventually ended up back at the Bellagio. Where I got myself a crepe at Jean-Philippe Patisserie.

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Nutella crepe, obvs.

A little more gambling was also done before we got ourselves our second In-N-Out of the trip, because it sounded delicious and we were on vacation, damnit!.

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We also decided to do something new in the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM.

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No, seriously.

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Ain’t technology grand?

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Actual cupcake? Frosting was better than the cake; cake was a bit dry, actually; and too many sprinkles. I know, I know. I wish I had known about the seasonal pumpkin cupcake on the ATM, as I totally would have gotten that instead.

Friday, September 15:

The greatest thing about driving to and from Las Vegas is that you don’t have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to try to catch a flight out so you can actually have a leisurely breakfast. Whaaaa?

So since we weren’t originally planning on driving straight through back home, we had a nice meal at the Cafe Bellagio and were able to see them putting together the Conservatory (which was actually closed for the duration of our stay. womp womp.).

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Peacock!

We checked out and hit the road. We were thinking of hitting up some national parks in Utah on the way … but we couldn’t figure out which park and how to make the timing work and a place to stay … so we just decided to press on through the whole way. Which was mostly fine, except for the lightning that either hit the car or right next to it just outside of Rifle, Colo. Eek.

All in all, though, it was another great road trip adventure!

Vegas: June 2016

With this being the double-Ironman year, we weren’t sure we’d be able to get to Vegas much, if at all, this year. Luckily, we were able to swing a super quick trip in late June. We headed to one of my cousins’ wedding in Indianapolis and then jumped a plane (after a lengthy delay in O’Hare …) to Las Vegas. The delay meant we got to the Bellagio around 2 or 3 in the morning – not ideal. We convinced the front desk to give us a room that we would happily vacate for our regular reservation the next day just so we could get some glorious sleep.

Sleep … was had. So was some pampering at the spa (new thing for us). I didn’t get pictures from the spa because they’re kind of not allowed, but … why have I never done a spa in Vegas before? So awesome. We got massages, hung out in the saunas/steam rooms/hot tubs … pure bliss. Totally going to be a thing for us from now on. We did a little gambling, a little eating, a little window-shopping, a little pool time, a little walking around … it was a good mini vacation.

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I talked Brandon into going to Madame Tussaud’s while we were waiting for our actual room to be ready. I hadn’t been since I went to the London location way back in … 1998? and Brandon had never been. Since, you know, Vegas, here’s a picture with him and the two “Ocean’s Eleven” stars.

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Because The Rock.

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Boxing fan had to get in on this.

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With Grumpy Cat (a.k.a. Tardar Sauce).

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I don’t remember why there was a cop car in Madame Tussaud’s (something to do with “The Hangover,” maybe?), but I had to get a picture in it.

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With margaritas at Margaritaville.

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Ocean display back at the Bellagio Conservatory!

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Chilling at the pool.

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Living the life.

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The new park outside of Monte Carlo/New York New York.

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Awesome sugar/chocolate display outside Jean-Philippe Patisserie in Aria.

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So the secret pizza place inside the Cosmopolitan? Exists. The pizza is no T. Anthony’s, but it’s good. And awesome. And no, it doesn’t actually have a name, nor am I going to reveal its actual location. But it’s easily found, if you know where to look.

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Fishy display at night!

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View from our room.

#VegasSeason

The Las Vegas tourism department bills the summer as #VegasSeason. This is ostensibly to get people to travel there despite the fact the days get into the low-100s. Yes, it gets hot.

After our trip last November, we weren’t planning on heading back for almost a year until October 2015, when we race Ironman 70.3 Silverman. Plans changed, however, when the stupid Bellagio decided to sucker me in with a harmless tweet. I am a sucker for aquarium/fishy type things. (see: blog theme) We decided to call and see how long the exhibition was going on – until September, they said. So if I wanted to see it, I had to go out before our race.

As luck/fate would have it … we got a few days off together (the few days after the concert in the previous post, actually), so we said “screw it” and decided to go.

We went out early Wednesday morning, stayed the night, and left late-ish Thursday afternoon. We also tried out a new MLife property – the Mirage.

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Next to a siren statue in the lobby.

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Anchor Bar, the official buffalo wing inventors, now have an outpost in the Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian. As it was National Buffalo Wing day, Brandon got them for lunch.

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Flamingos at the Flamingo.

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Happy to be in the Bellagio Conservatory with aaaallllll the fishies.

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View from our room at the Mirage.

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Thai shrine thingy outside Caesars by Serendipity.

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Poolside.

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I’d say working on our tans, but we prefer our paleness, so just hanging out?

November Vegas Trip: Part Two

Friday morning dawned and we were ready for another day of adventures – most of which I’ll put here, except for the Neon Museum, which deserves its own post.

The day, in photos.

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Blueberry Hill, a local diner chain we hit up for breakfast. Very good.

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Brandon looking down at his breakfast. You get a sense of the decor here, too.

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Nelson hates “Pawn Stars,” and therefore is cranky we’re driving past the pawn shop.

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Dinosaurs in a dinosaur footprint outside the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

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Dinosaur sculpture.

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Buffalo. Pretty sure all the animals in this museum were real and taxidermied …

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Sting ray. We are the ray whisperers, it’s kind of awesome.

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“Carrying” “water” like an Egyptian. It’s heavy.

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Brandon made a design. He’s proud.

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Tribal hut.

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Picture taken for the Englestad name (also associated with Fighting Sioux hockey).

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T-Rexes and a sign about themselves.

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Nelson and the T-Rex.

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On a shell seat, in a submarine.

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Brandon in the sub.

From the LVNHM, we checked in to the Bellagio where we’d be staying most of our visit.

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Room at the Bellagio.

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View.

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Oh yeah, race expo.

After the expo, we took our realtor and local TV/radio personality Susie Wargin around to grab a bite and then help her get to a studio so she could do her radio show from Vegas (she was out running the full marathon). From there, it was off to the Neon Museum (next blog!) and after that, dinner at the Peppermill.

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Just like I remembered …

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Me at the Peppermill.
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Fountain view with the fountains going.

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Ceiling between Bally’s and Paris. Never knew this was there …

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Hey thanks, Planet Hollywood/Miracle Mile Shops!

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Bellagio conservatory.

We also went to Tao Nightclub that night, but no pictures. Honestly, it was kind of a disappointing experience …