Vegas, Spring 2017

Because I go to Las Vegas so much, it’s almost easier to do these posts just by when I go.

As it usually goes with us, we were originally only planning one Las Vegas trip this year – in September, post-IM Santa Cruz 70.3 as we drive back home. However, we know we need to try to stay Pearl (MLife reward level) and since B needed to drive his car out to L.A. anyway … why don’t we just turn it into a mini Vegas trip?

We left town on Tuesday, May 23, and drove straight through to Las Vegas. We took a bit of a circuitous route as I needed to drop my car off at the airport so I could find a way home. As we were taking B’s car … I didn’t actually drive at all, which is a rarity for me on road trips, but I don’t particularly like driving his car, so that’s why. We stopped for lunch at Jimmy John’s in Utah and then, because we were too tired to care otherwise, dinner was at Scooter’s Pub in the parking lot of our hotel.

The next morning, we got up, ate hotel breakfast, and headed off to Red Rock Canyon to get in a trail run.

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Afterward, we grabbed some coffee, showered, packed up, and then headed to a nail salon for mani/pedis. We got word our hotel room was ready soon after, so we drove over to the MGM Grand and got checked in. We dumped off our bags and then headed across the street to America in New York New York for lunch.

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We both had a lunch special chicken sandwich. It was pretty good. The fries? Were not.

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They had a giant 3D map of the country inside. This is Colorado.

We headed back across the street to actually get settled in a bit in our dungeon room with Swiss cheese on the walls.

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Word of advice: if you’re going to stay at the MGM, DO NOT STAY IN THE WEST WING. Ground floor, low ceilings … it was one of the worst hotel experiences we’ve had in Vegas. I put it only above the Pyramid at the Luxor, and that’s only because those diagonal elevators make me nauseous. Blah.

Later that afternoon, after gambling some at the MGM, we headed up to Fremont Street since we hadn’t checked out that part of the city in several years and B wanted to check out the Sigma Derby game at the D. He played the horsies for a little bit while I wasted some money in a slot machine. I also grabbed a lobster roll at the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck. I was going to get one while in town (either there or at Lobster Me in the Venetian) and since the truck was there, I took the opportunity. I think it ended up being cheaper, too, which is always nice.

Dinner was back at America since B really didn’t eat a solid breakfast that morning and he wanted breakfast food. I’d been having a really weird potato skin craving, so that’s what I had.

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They were okay. The sour cream drizzle was a bit odd.

We woke up fairly early the next morning in order to get to the pool as it opened, but also with enough time so we could eat breakfast first, too. We had some free buffets due to playing MyVegas slots on Facebook, so the MGM buffet was our stop. Not the best buffet, not the worst.

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Pool time.

After hanging out at the pool for about 90 minutes, we went back to the room to get dressed to wander around. We walked up the Strip as far as the Venetian, snagging some drinks at Margaritaville in the process.

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Sign in the Park Las Vegas (what the Monte Carlo is being rebranded to).

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New In-N-Out Burger on the Strip on the Linq Promenade. We did not go in.

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B doing his thing and riding the moving sidewalk.

While we didn’t stop at In-N-Out, we did stop at Wahlburgers in the Grand Bazaar Shops outside of Bally’s. I almost tried them when I was in Boston at the beginning of the month, but didn’t due to … reasons.

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It was pretty delicious, actually. Not comparable to In-N-Out or, say, a Five Guys, but good in its own way. We also tried the frappes (coffee and chocolate) and they were the best I’ve had since Boston.

(NOTE: a TRUE frappe is 100% TOTALLY DIFFERENT than a Frappuccino. Not even close. And so much more delicious.)

A little more gambling and chilling out back at the hotel before venturing back out for dessert (profiteroles!) and some mussels (slightly spur of the moment decision) and drinks at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris. Perfect way to end the trip.

Of course, the next day was an adventure and a half for me getting home … B dropped me off at McCarran before continuing on to Los Angeles. I was able to get out of Las Vegas just fine, but getting back to Denver? I’m just thankful we had some miles so that I could book myself a ticket home out of Salt Lake City. Needless to say, I got back to my car about five hours later than we had planned. Silly non-rev travel …

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.


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

November Vegas Trip: Part Three

Saturday began early-ish. We woke up and went for a quick run to shake out the legs. It was only at 9 or 10 in the morning, but for Las Vegas on a Saturday morning? That’s early. The strip was quiet, and you get to see the “behind the scenes stuff.”

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(Case in point – maintenance being done on the Bellagio fountains.)

After the run, it was off to the Bellagio buffet for breakfast/brunch and then to the Pinball Hall of Fame/Museum which was very cool and highly recommended.

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Walked in, saw this game, threw some quarters in … that was a good 10 minutes of entertainment.

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So many machines!

There were also quite a few very cool retro hockey games. I played them all.

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From the 1930s.

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This was a hybrid between air hockey and bubble hockey.

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After the Pinball Museum, it was off to Mandalay Bay and the Shark Reef Aquarium. It … was okay. By general rule, you typically want to avoid aquariums in land-locked states, and Shark Reef proved the rule to be true. Still, we got to play with sting rays, so that made the visit worth it for us.

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Brandon in the shark tank (he’s a nerd and likes the CNBC show).

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Splashy the Ray. He was awesome.

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Our friend, a fan of obscure Russian historical figures, in front of the statue of Lenin outside Red Square restaurant in Mandalay Bay.

After Shark Reef, we wandered around shopping a bit and then got ready for our second nightclub of the trip – Marquee at the Cosmopolitan.

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It … was okay. I don’t like crowds and climbing several flights of stairs in six inch heels and yeah. Like at Tao, we didn’t stay long.

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After we left.

Sunday was a lazy morning sleeping in and then not a lot of wandering around – after all, we did have to race.

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Playing with my pre-race sandwich.

The race … was okay. If you’re really curious as to how it went, mosey on over to the triathlon blog.

Monday was taken pretty easy. Brandon and our friend Mike played poker while I wandered around a bit. The most excitement that day was going to see Zumanity at New York New York. THAT was a cool show. I hadn’t seen a Cirque du Soleil show in years and this was one was just as awesome as the last one I’d seen. Again, highly recommended.

Tuesday … out of town and back to reality.

On The Neon Boneyard Park

One thing that I read about when researching Las Vegas was the Neon Boneyard Park (also found as the Neon Museum). I love the aesthetics of neon and own a neon light myself (custom made Avs logo – 16th birthday present) so when I found out about this place, I decided we had to go.

They do both day and night tours, but unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow for a night tour. Pity; just means we’ll have to come back and do the tour again at night. And again during the day for better lighting. Tours are $18/adult during the day, and $25 at night. You can also do a package bundle with the Mob Museum (something Brandon wants to go see, so for next time) as long as you visit the two places within a week of each other.

You see the signs only via a guided tour. The tour lasts about an hour long and is awesome in that you not only learn about the signs, but about Las Vegas history, too. For the history nerd in both of us, that alone made the tour worth it.

Obviously I took photos – over 70 of them – and narrowed it down to the 18 you see here. Enjoy, and decide to go next time you’re in Las Vegas (place is located on Las Vegas Blvd., north of the strip by a few miles).

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City Center Motel. Sign designed by the same woman who did the Welcome to Las Vegas sign (Betty Willis).

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Neon cactus!

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Pieces of the Desert Rose sign. This is their next restoration project.

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Brandon under one of the Binion’s horseshoes.

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Visitor Center – the lobby of the old La Concha.

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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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 …

November Vegas Trip: Part One

A few weeks ago, Brandon and I went to Las Vegas, N.V. to run the Rock ‘N Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon. Well, that was the official reason for the trip. Unofficially, we wanted to make it an awesome vacation since our last few trips to Vegas had been fairly meh. We were out there for a few days – and I didn’t take super fun pictures every day.

But I took enough.

The race was Sunday; we came in on Thursday. We also rented a car (convertible!), a Vegas first for us.

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Brandon driving.

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Convertible selfie.

Our first stop post-airport (besides a quick stop at a grocery store for a snack) was Red Rock Canyon. We were originally planning on running there, but ended up having too much fun hiking around instead.

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Outside the visitor’s center.

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I am like fire.

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Brandon’s like the wind.

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“In Red Rock Canyon the elements of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water weave together to create a dynamic tapestry of life to which you belong. Your thoughtful respect for these lands, the plants and animals that live on them helps hold these threads together.”

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Surfing (or swimming?) on a lizard.

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Brandon on top the rocks.

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Dinosaurs staring at rocks.

After Red Rock, we were STARVING, so we grabbed food at probably the most logical place for us:

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Mmm. In-N-Out.

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Ocean’s 11 Lounge. Proof that Vegas off-strip can be quite sketchy.

For dinner that night, we went to a place known for being “old Vegas,” Bob Taylor’s Original Ranch House.

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It was a non-fancy (but still pricey … and tasty) steakhouse. Definitely from a bygone era, but it was cool nonetheless.