Work got out a little early and I was on my way taking my sweet time to the airport. I had gotten a full eight hours of rest the night before and hardly any butterflies were flapping in my stomach.
Why was I not suffering the usual symptoms of pre-Vegas? Maybe because I knew it would be nearly impossible to top my last trip where I spent time in one of Wynn�s Fairway Villas with friends of nearly 20 years. What I did come to realize during this quick getaway, however, is that a solo trip where you meet others in town at your own leisure is something special in and of itself and a different kind of fun.
(More after the jump...)
There I was, window seat near the front of a Southwest 737 when a cute girl asks me if the aisle seat is taken. I say no and she sits down. With no one in the center, she breaks the ice and says, �Are you going on business? I don�t know anyone who wears a suit on Saturdays.� What can I say? I love dressing up for Vegas.
We hit it off and as it turns out, she lives on the other side of the same city I do. She tells me her and her girlfriends want to hit Tryst tonight and I give her Jesse Waits� number (the manager there). Having never flown into town, she was a little lost at the airport and I also help her find her way around.
Since I was staying at Wynn (last minute change from my original Mirage reservations) and it�s somewhat on the way to Bally�s where she was staying, I suggested we share a cab and she was totally cool with the idea. The cabbie pulls up to the Bally�s port-cochere and I insist to my newfound friend that she put her money away; I�d be happy to cover the entire fare when it�s my turn to get dropped off. She was very appreciative, gave me a hug and her number, and told me to call her when we�re both back home. Damn, I felt like a freakin� stud for a moment having scored a number after only 20 minutes in town.
I�m dropped off at Wynn Tower Suites, gave the cabbie $25 for his efforts, and hand my luggage over to the bell desk where I won�t see it until the next morning when I check in.
It�s right back to another cab and straight to THEhotel to meet my friend Eric along with his friends Jennie and Ashley for drinks at MIX. The balcony was closed for a private function, but as always, MIX was a blast. Eric continually insisted that we charge everything to his account as his host would take care of the expenses.
After drinks, some other friends join us and we head to Red Square. Having never dined here before, I was really looking forward to trying it out. Again, Eric insists we order anything we like. I had my eyes on modest selections, but he orders caviar samplers and vodka flights to go around. The samplers included salmon roe (delicious, but not true caviar), sevruga (don�t remember the country [Russia?], but nothing too remarkable in my opinion), and American sturgeon (the best and most flavorful in the selection).
After a taste of the high life, I choose the Grilled Caesar Salad ($14) to start, the Chicken Kiev ($29) as my entr�e, and the Red Square martini ($12). I�m only listing prices for the sake of review as Eric �Don�t Thank Me, Thank My Host� took care of everything. The salad was fantastic as was the chicken�a breast stuffed with various cheeses over risotto. The martini might have been the best I�ve ever had and while I don�t give much weight to superlatives, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a connoisseur in that area giving me license to throw out a claim like that. Sweet and clean without a hint of bite, I might have to call the restaurant and ask them the name of the vodka and sweet vermouth they used. Service was superb, but my only gripe: when you serve bread that good, please don�t torture us with one piece at a time.
Afterwards, our party grows to eight and Eric gets us all into Foundation Room with comped drinks to go around. I don�t remember much, but it was an awesome time. Eric, I know you�re reading this and I know you�re probably sick of me saying it, but thanks again!
At around 2am or so, someone gets the brilliant idea to go downtown. In keeping with the high life tradition, we take a limo up to the Golden Nugget. Wow. The Nugget has come a long way and has lost any hint of seediness typically common to its neighbors. In fact, downtown as a whole has improved quite a bit. Maybe I notice it more since I only make my way up about once a year or so. In any case, I look forward to spending a night at the Nugget and visiting downtown more often.
We make our way over to Hogs 'n Heifers Saloon. My gawd. This might have been the worst dive bar I�ve ever set foot in� and I loved it! It took a while to get myself acquainted as I was totally and completely surrounded by bikers and overdressed for the occasion. You can actually see a visible layer of smoke as you enter and a wall of bras hanging in front of you, each being a sacrifice by the many women who have danced on the bartop.
The female bartenders continually scream out over megaphones, �We�re f***ing thirsty!� and expect the men to buy them shots. After a few they get on the bar and start dancing, their steel-toed cowboy boots literally inches from your face. I enjoyed it, nervous as I was to not get a heel through the teeth by a drunken bartender.
Later into the early morning, several of us head over to El Cortez. I�d never been, but again, this was another one of those joints that I fell in love with. Don�t get me wrong, the high-end strip will always be my home, but there�s a place in my heart for charming casinos where you can get your kicks on the cheap.
Several of us take a seat at a $5 blackjack table. I lose $60 immediately and sit out cheering the others on and milking drinks because at the El Co, cocktail waitresses won�t say a word as long as the tips keep flowing.
My friend Sin and I then make our way over to a $5 pai gow table. She�d never played so I explain the rules and hype the game as the slowest in the casino with lots of pushes. I play a hand and make her observe the three minutes it takes to complete. She then sits down and puts her bet in when suddenly the shuffle machine goes berserk and starts spitting out cards randomly and all bent out of shape.
The game is halted as they try to fix the machine. Meanwhile, the cocktail waitress is still making her rounds and we�re ordering drinks. Half an hour later and we�re only on our second hand.
�See Sin, I told you pai gow�s a slow game.�
We just about laughed our asses off.
Sin gives me the grand tour of El Cortez including �hell hall�, the most random hallway in the back of the casino. Clearly, much thought went into the masterplanning of this joint. There are a few vending machines there and while I�m used to seeing sodas and snacks among the selections, I�d never seen a freakin� comb next to a Snickers bar. Giddy and drunk as hell, I found this so funny that the security guard sitting in the tiny office on the other side of the vending machines looked most insulted. The tour ended with the grand finale: the most awkwardly out-of-place Subway in existence. I can never walk into the El Co without a serious case of the giggles anymore.
It�s about 6am now and most the gang heads over to a strip club. I had $1000 in my wallet that I�d saved strictly for a little baccarat action and with no intention on hitting any ATMs this trip, a strip club was out of the question for me.
I cab it back to Wynn and go up to the Tower Suites front desk. My friend Matt who used to hook me up all the time left his position there, is moving back to Philadelphia where he�s originally from to accelerate his degree, and then returning to a hosting position at CityCenter. I�ve got to admire his motivation and wish him the best. Little did I know I was gonna� have one last hurrah with him later on that night before he moves away.
There I was speaking to Monirah, a young and gorgeous receptionist, asking her when the earliest time is that I can check in. She said she could check me in now if there are rooms available. As expected on a Sunday morning at 6:30am after a sold out Saturday night, nothing was. I gave her $20 with a big smile and asked her to call me when a room was ready.
I walk into the high limit room and lo and behold, I actually saw the rumored $100 big table baccarat game at Wynn (it only took 10 stays out of me to finally see it). I buy in with the $1000 I had saved. I knew this wouldn�t last me long, but it was money that I wasn�t concerned with and that I had saved just for the game.
Nothing too remarkable to talk about on the action as I was sitting by myself. No natural eights beaten by natural nines, no tie bets won or anything of that nature, no superstitious whales demanding that the faucets keep flowing in the private bathrooms for good luck. I just slowly and inevitably watched my stack decline.
The cocktail waitress comes around and I ask for the oldest glass of The Macallan they can comp me. She says she�ll see what she can do. Seconds later, she comes back and says I�ve got a choice of 30, 18, or 12-year. My heart starts to race and I think I get a little pale. Will this be my chance to taste the sweet honey of 30-year-old, $1000 a bottle scotch? I ask if she can do the 30-year and hold a green chip in my hand waiting to tip.
The glass is set in front of me, my smile ear to ear, and she says, �That�s 12-year! Hope you enjoy it!�
I get wiped out and walk over to a $25 pai gow table where I buy in for $200. I hit a little bit of a winning streak when Monirah calls me to let me know my room is ready. A $20 tip goes a long way as this was only 7:30am. Since I was doing pretty well at pai gow, I ask her to hold it for me and she does without a problem. I come around 8am, check-in, close the drapes to my room, and pass out completely.
I wake up around noon, shower, and head down to Tableau for some brunch. I sit outside near the pool area and order the Tableau Breakfast�two eggs, bacon, two English muffins (from a selection I can�t exactly recall), and �Tableau potatoes� (little, bite-sized hash browns) with coffee and your choice of fruit juice. You also get a selection of small muffins brought to you as you wait for your entr�es. I won�t really bother reviewing in detail standard comfort food fare, although I can say it�s impeccably presented with wonderful service in a fantastic setting. Outdoor dining at Tableau is a must when the weather is cooperative and at only $26 for enough food that can hold you well into dinner, it�s one splurge I know I�ll be doing again and again.
After brunch, I head over to the roof of Wynn�s self-park garage to watch Encore�s construction. It takes a very special kind of nerd to find this stuff entertaining and actually trek over to the top of an empty parking garage to appreciate it, but I�m proud to say that nerd is me (and keep reading as it gets worse the next day). Encore seemed to have been coming along at blazing speeds up to floor 19 now, but I think it has slowed down a bit with focus going on putting up the glass and other phases. Sorry, no pictures for the fellow nerds.
On my walk back, I decide to call Tim and Michele of Five Hundy by Midnight�s voicemail line and leave a message. With $1000 down in the baccarat hole, I left a voicemail playing off the �Keno is bad� messages made famous on there. I don�t think it�ll be on for a while though as Tim and Michele don�t have a show this week.
Suddenly, I remembered Five Hundy talking about Gem�s Wild-Tiles when I immediately started getting withdrawals (I got slightly addicted to the free internet version of the game). So then I went in search for a machine. I looked through Wynn high and low to no avail. Then across the street at Treasure Island, I found one at last. The nickel machine was sitting there calling my name. I put in my $20 and there I sat for three hours often times �pressing� my slot winnings playing 20 lines at 15 cents a pop occasionally. This is one of those slots where you�ll inevitably lose, but it takes forever and so long as I�m getting drinks and the comps are coming, that makes me happy.
I cashed out up $20 and headed over to TI�s coffee shop to meet Mike_ch. I was still a little bloated from the huge breakfast at Tableau so I was only able to eat about half of my open-faced turkey sandwich. Mike shared some really neat tidbits on slot testing and quality control. Service at the coffee shop was terrible, but for $31 total, it was forgivable.
I make my way back over to Wynn and get a call from Matt. I'd left a message earlier telling him that I really wanted to see him before he moves back to Philly. He says he�s partied out and wants to do something mellow tonight. I�m all for something mellow and said I�d call him after I get out of Spamalot.
It was back up to the room for me to get ready for the show. I head down to the theater and walking through the hallway is a hoot in and of itself in what looks to be a medieval garage sale. For those of you who have been, you know what I mean. They�ve really done some incredible renovations to this theater since Avenue Q. It was previously much more minimal and elegant, but now the colors are bold, cartoonish, and every corner has something to make you laugh.
My seats are among the cheapest and towards the rear of the balcony. I was afraid my views would be obstructed, but with maybe an exception to the very end where the audience participates, I would still recommend them. The theater was packed completely and a little cramped�they actually added more seats during the renovation and I could sense that.
Overall, I enjoyed the show, though unlike Avenue Q where I was chuckling from beginning to end, this had some slow moments mixed in with musical numbers that had me laughing so hard I was literally wiping tears from my eyes. Some of the English accents aren�t as articulate as others and you have to listen closely during the dialogue to catch most the jokes. It didn�t help that I had a noisy, drunken idiot sitting next to me. Everyone around him made it so awkward and clear that his presence wasn�t wanted that he excused himself halfway through the show, fortunately.
Overall, I liked �Q� more, but Spamalot is definitely akin to a suitable Vegas show and will be more successful in the long run. I wouldn�t see it again, but I�m glad I saw it once.
After relaxing for a bit, I get a call from Matt. Don�t know what he meant by being �partied out� and wanting to do something mellow, but he said he had a comped bottle at Light and to meet him outside of there at 11pm. Can�t turn down free bottle service so off I went.
Partying tourists have nothing on the locals when it comes to industry nights. It�s a big networking thing and the rewards are obviously awesome. I recommend Light and your name to the VIPs at Wynn, you comp me bottles once a week. It works beautifully. The perks are so good in fact that I�m almost considering flying in once a week to mooch off my friends.
There we were, five in total, in our own little corner of the club not once stepping foot on the dance floor, but creating our own little party and dancing on the cushions surrounding the table. We had security, a waiter, and waitress constantly checking up on us and making sure we were okay.
As a courtesy, I offered our waiter and waitress shots with us. At most places I hear the typical, �Oh, my manager would kill me,� but at Light, they brought out seven shot glasses, looked around to make sure the coast was clear, and downed the liquor hard with us. It was awesome.
Two tables over, we see a guy by himself asleep! Security comes up and starts tapping his shoulder to wake him up and kick him out. His bottle wasn�t even half way finished and we tell our waitress that we�ll take the bottle. She assures us that we�d get first dibs.
The guy wasn�t budging so the bouncer tries to carry him out, but he must have been at least 6�3�, 230 pounds or so and the bouncer calls for help. With two huge guys under each arm, they manage to lift him up, but the guy literally drops on the floor and stays there. He was breathing, but had absolutely no control of his muscles. One bouncer forced his eyelids open with his fingers and shined a flashlight into each eye. No movement. It became obvious considering his size and behavior that he hadn�t just had too much to drink�he must have overdosed on something.
Suddenly, we didn�t want his bottle anymore as it could be possible he had something slipped in there. EMTs and the Clark County fire department were on the scene, a stretcher came through, and the guy was carried out. Our waiter said to me jokingly, �Maybe he roofied himself,� which caused vodka to shoot up through my nose in laugher.
In retrospect, I felt kinda� bad joking around. I really hope the guy was okay, but it was an experience for all of us. Even our waitress said that in her three years at Light, she�d never seen something like that.
To make it up to us for our �inconvenience�, (You kidding? That was entertaining as hell!), each VIP table near our end got free champagne on ice. We all toast with the other tables to good health and before we know it, both bottles are done by 2am. We�re out of Light and I part ways with my friends.
As I�m walking through the shops at Bellagio, I pass a couple walking slowly in the same direction as me. The boyfriend was on a cell phone crying his eyes out. I mean seriously soaking wet from tears and sobbing. The girlfriend taps me on the shoulder and says, �You�re probably thinking, �What the f***, right?'� Sure enough I was and I asked her what was wrong. Before she could speak, the boyfriend speaks between sobs, �I�m talking to her momma and I love her man! I love her!� and I told him he should as she�s quite the catch and then I told her that she�s very lucky to have a man who so deeply cares for her. The guy says, �Hey, you�re just one of those guys around here looking for a tip, aren�t you?� and I say, �No man, I�m just here having fun like you. Be safe, alright?� and literally the guy hugs me while crying on my shoulder. Let it all out man, but easy with the snot--that's Hugo Boss you're crying on.
I make my way through Caesars to see the Pussy Cat Dolls casino. Stupidest idea ever but this little pit will probably generate millions in revenue each month from little idiots standing in line at PURE. Can you imagine if one of those club-goers actually wins big? It�s straight to a doorman requesting bottle service and right back to the casino�s pocket. Gotta� admire Harrahs' business sense.
I grab an Arturo Fuente Exquisito (love those little stogies) at The Mirage and walk my way back up to Wynn. I don�t remember much at this point, but I think I just went straight to bed.
Morning comes around and I head over to Terrace Pointe for the usual lobster benedict and then on to the pool. Here�s where the nerdy side of me comes in again. The Tower Suites pool is never crowded and there were all these open seats on one side and a couple spots open on the other. In true awkward fashion, much like taking the urinal right next to someone in the men�s room, I chose the one open lounger between two guys only because it afforded a view of Encore�s construction. I think the guys realized that with my mojito in hand and my attention strictly to the building being built north, that it wasn�t anything to worry about.
I get freshened up after the pool and make my way over to The Mirage again to meet some fellow LVTalk members at Japonais Lounge. While I do have a nostalgia for the old Mirage, this place is way better than the Ava bar it replaced. The lounge during the day is drenched in sunlight and each seating area is provided a sense of intimacy and privacy thanks to sheer curtains on each side.
Time flew by before I knew it and then it was back to Wynn for me to pack my things up and check out. I took a cab to the airport and made my way to the Southwest gate, slept for most of the flight, and it was back home to reality.
A few final thoughts:
I think Wynn Tower Suites was taken by surprise with the award of the Mobil Five Star. The ratings are so stringent that I actually had some doubts myself whether or not they�d get it. Now that they�ve achieved the most prestigious award in the hotel industry, they�ve really stepped up their game to keep from the embarrassment of losing it. While I�ve never had a bad experience, I can always find things to nitpick. This time around though, everything was truly perfect. As far as I�m concerned, and sorry if this is a bold statement, but all the hype and attention of this hotel went into this side and they go through extra steps to show it. Eating at Tableau isn�t enough. Spend the extra dough or it�s impossible to grasp Steve Wynn�s true vision for the hotel.
Mirage is finally beginning to address their bare ceilings since the canopies are gone. They�re installing modern, more geometric fixtures on the ceiling, but still with a South Seas vibe (and fortunately not a Beatles one). Revolution Lounge looked nice, but I didn�t go inside. The bar just before the entrance seems a bit awkward to me. Sorry fans, but there�s just too much Beatles at this hotel. If I were a first-timer unknowing of its previous state, I�d think the Mirage was a Beatles themed resort.
Ask the cabbies about NBA All Star weekend. They love to tell you all about it.
This was the first trip I�ve taken where I wasn�t burnt out by the end. Don�t know what made it so different, but I wish I could have stayed an entire week.
The smoking ban looked to be in full force. It�ll take a while before patrons get a clue where you can and can�t smoke as it seemed some people still lit up where they�re not supposed to, but nevertheless, the difference in air quality is totally noticeable.
American Express Platinum pulled through again. $30 less than Wynn�s rate direct, $60 in food and beverage credit, and 4pm check out. I could have gotten a room upgrade too if I opted to wait longer, but after being awake for 24-hours, I�d take anything with a bed. Those freebies along with a few comps made me a happy man.
Thanks for reading!