Vegas/Tucson Adult Spring Break 2019

Thanks to Ironman training, I haven’t really traveled much this year. I’d had a couple trips tentatively penciled in (tagging along with the husband), but none managed to pan out.

Then, B and his dad were planning on going to the Wild/Knights game in Las Vegas in late March. I was thinking, hey, I want to go too … why don’t I drive down and bring the bikes? And maybe we can go to Tucson after? Well, the game didn’t pan out, but the trip did.

Thursday, March 28

Since the game didn’t work out, B decided to go up to visit his parents in Minnesota for a few days while I made the drive out to the desert. Instead of doing Denver to Las Vegas in one shot, I decided to split the drive and spend the night in Page, Ariz., hoping for Horseshoe Bend at both sunset and sunrise.

I left Denver pretty early Thursday morning and trucked on through to Fruita. My first planned stop was Colorado National Monument. I was ideally hoping to run there, but the massive death plague (… allergies? bronchitis? still a mystery …) that hit me put the kibosh on that. However, I still stopped in to see it.

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Totally worth the detour.

I also saw a sign for a Dinosaur Hill and I wasn’t not stopping there, either … so I did the small hike at the site.

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From there, I cut down at Crescent Junction/Moab in Utah and moseyed on down that way toward Page. I almost stopped at Arches, but decided to hold off.

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Driving.

I honestly don’t remember what I ended up doing for lunch this day – I think random snacks at a 7-11 somewhere – but dinner was a sushi place in Page that ended up being pretty tasty. Horseshoe Bend was ridiculously busy at sunset, but it was pretty.

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Didn’t get a picture of the dinos last time through.

Friday, March 29

Dawn at Horseshoe Bend was much better. And much quieter as things tend to be.

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After getting some photos, I headed back on the road to Las Vegas. I almost timed it perfectly to get in the same time B’s flight did, but not quite. I picked him up, we grabbed a simple and quick lunch at Chipotle, and then checked in to the Bellagio. Dinner ended up being at the buffet because we couldn’t really think of anything else and it’s an easy way to eat a lot of salad.

From there, we split up – B dropped me off at the Neon Museum, as I was FINALLY going back at night (… thinking that I’d need something to do while he was watching hockey) and he had a few errands to run.

The Neon Museum is awesome regardless of when you go, but I would suggest going both day parts, especially as they continue to restore more signs.

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I also got tickets to see Brilliant!, an art installation in the north gallery (a gallery I didn’t get to see last time I visited back in … 2014?). Brilliant! was AWESOME. In the next few photos, the lights you see are NOT restored; it just looks that way.

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Saturday, March 30

The original plan for this day was wake up, go for an early run, hang out in the spa, maybe by the pool, and gamble. A very low key, chill day.

Actual plan was a bit different. As I was still pretty sick – and coughing to the point that I was sleeping on the bathroom floor away from B so we could both get some z’s – I got forced to urgent care that morning in order for some definitive answers. I had puzzled out bronchitis with a nurse friend of ours … but urgent care people said allergies. I’m still unsure as to which it actually is/was.

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Bellagio conservatory earlier that morning.

Breakfast prior to urgent care was at Blueberry Hill off strip. Coffee post urgent care was, to no one’s surprise, at Cafe Lola.

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The cappuccino was probably the worst I’ve ever had there (booooo) but still pretty good. The pasteis de nada (Portuguese egg pastry) was delicious as always.

Post-coffee, off to pick up my medication, get a car wash, and back to the hotel. B still wanted to run, so he hit up the fitness center while I grabbed a book and hung out by the pool. He joined me after and we both decided against the spa. We ate lunch at the Pool Cafe and then decided to gamble some.

Most all gambling for me was TERRIBLE this trip, btw. After a couple good trips, I finally had another bad one. Booooooo.

Dinner was at In-N-Out, as it is.

Sunday, March 31

We left Las Vegas pretty early to get to Tucson as we had an important detour along the way. Breakfast was just crap at Starbucks, as it’s easy. And stupid.

Our detour was Grand Canyon National Park – somewhere neither of us had ever been to. We didn’t have/take the time to hike, but we will definitely be returning at some point.

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Such well traveled little dinosaurs.

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Lunch was at a KFC at some Route 66 town nearby (I forget which one) and then we continued the drive down to Tucson. Neither of us were all that hungry, so dinner was Cold Stone and french fries.

Monday, April 1

Since we were staying at the Doubletree Reid Park, we got free breakfast every day at the hotel, so that was food every day.

I think B made me do a virtual visit with another doctor this morning since I was still dying, but I don’t 100% remember.

We tried a new lunch place in Baggins Gourmet Sandwiches and it was really good. Have never tried them in Tucson before but we will definitely return. I tried running at Reid Park – got about a fifth of a mile in before hacking and dying. B continued on … but not me.

Dinner that night was an old Tucson standard – eegee’s and Lucky Wishbone.

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B wanted a bit of pool time so he did that and we both decided on a drink by the fire pit – beer for him and a glass of wine for me.

Tuesday, April 2

After breakfast at the hotel, we decided to forgo Starbucks for coffee (like we did the previous morning) and headed to Le Buzz over by Mt. Lemmon. I had hoped to get some time on the mountain this trip, but alas, that was not to be.

Post-coffee, we spent some time at Bookman’s buying books before heading to Choice Greens for salad for lunch. B got on the bike today while I attempted to blow up my giant T. rex tail pool float I bought the previous year. It took forever, but I was successful!

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I am also ridiculous, but you knew that.

After a couple hours in the pool, we headed off to dinner at our favorite Tucson Mexican food spot, Casa Molina … and ate a ridiculous amount of food. Oops.

Wednesday, April 3

Wednesday was hike around cacti day … which we are realizing needs to be way earlier in the trip. Like first night. It’s where we’re both the happiest.

The first stop of the day was at Saguaro National Park West over by Gates Pass … which we had never actually been to – we always hit up SNP East.

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We saw a snek! I’m pretty well zoomed in on this rattlesnake – they were off trail and still pretty calm. No rattling out of them!

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The desert was nicely in bloom.

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Saguaro blossom!

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Petroglyphs.

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We stopped back by the visitor’s center again after hiking to let them know about the snake and then got lunch since we were both starving. Food ended up being a lot of repeats – lunch at In-N-Out and yes, dinner was at Casa Molina again. Regrets we have? Zero.

I forget what we did most of that afternoon post-lunch – probably mostly packed – but I did want to get some sunset pictures over at SNP East so we did go do that before dinner.

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Desert skies are amazing, man.

Thursday, April 4

We were up super early to drive back home, since we’re in the time of year where Tucson/Arizona is an hour different (silly daylight saving time). Breakfast was at Waffle House since not much else is open that early.

The drive was mostly uneventful, which is nice, but we did get a killer sunrise.

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Lunch was at a Jimmy John’s in Albuquerque (that was highly obnoxious to get to) and dinner was pizza of fail when we got back home … since we didn’t have much food in the house.

*****

I would argue this was one of our worst Las Vegas and worst Tucson trips. Partially because I was sick and partially because we didn’t have the best plan going in. Or the plan got shifted so terribly because I was sick. Still, time in the desert is a good thing and I know I needed to get out of town.

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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.

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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See?

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 …

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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Sign.

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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.