Viva Las Vegas

Sunrise from our Penthouse window.©Jean Janssen

Sunrise from our Penthouse window.
©Jean Janssen

Woke this day to an amazing sunrise just outside my window.  Reminder to pull block out curtains if you want to sleep in.  My biggest question for the day is do I have room service breakfast or go down to one of the restaurants.  It is all equally expensive.  We opted for in-room at our private dining table with a view of the LV’s Eiffel Tower.  Wonderful eggs Benedict and the most expensive (but fresh squeezed) orange juice I have ever had.

Breakfast with a view of Paris.©Jean Janssen

Breakfast with a view of Paris.
©Jean Janssen

If you missed yesterday’s post, I am in Las Vegas with Rocky on a quick trip to get year-end airline miles and celebrate his 22 birthday.  This is his first time in Sin City.  We got a complimentary upgrade at the Bellagio and are staying in a Penthouse Suite.  I am still trying to figure out what famous person they have me confused with.

The plan.

We didn’t make reservations for a lot of things on this short trip, but we are going to see Brad Garrett (best known for playing Ray Morano’s brother on Everybody Loves Raymond) at his comedy club at the MGM Grand and having dinner at the Mon Ami Gabi along the strip in Paris directly across from the Bellagio fountains.  After our bird’s eye view of the fountain show last night, we’ll see it at eye level tonight.  This afternoon we will grab a picture outside after the show starts at 3 pm.  Mon Ami Gabi has a wonderful patio looking out at the fountains, but you can’t make reservations for those seats.  They are allotted on a  first come, first served basis.  Its too cold for the patio seating at this time of year.  Temperatures are in the 30s after dark.  I did request a seat by the window.  We’ll see what happens.  The restaurant is recommended for first time visitors to Las Vegas.

A rainbow over the Bellagio Fountains.©Jean Janssen

A rainbow over the Bellagio Fountains.
©Jean Janssen

First on the agenda is walking the strip and touring inside some of the hotels.  We will also stop by the MGM Grand to pick up our tickets for the comedy show and find out where we are going.  If I can work it in, I would like to do some shopping this afternoon.  There is an outlet I like to go to in Vegas, but don’t think I’ll make it there today.

The reality.

We got back from our touring with tired feet.  We walked the Strip from MGM to the Venetian on both the north and south sides.  The hotel lobbies for the large hotels are set way back from the street so there was a lot of walking to and from the Strip as well.

Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas©Jean Janssen

Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas
©Jean Janssen

We left the Bellagio via the front doors and used the moving sidewalks (also found at the Venetian) to get to the street.  We stopped first at the Cosmopolitan which is next door and admired their Chandelier Bar with crystals hanging down several stories from the ceiling. All these large hotels have shopping malls (at a price scale to match their clientele) just off the strip.  From an upper floor of the Cosmopolitan mall we accessed the elevated sidewalk. Many of the cross streets do not allow pedestrian traffic to cross at street level, so there are elevated walkways sometimes accessed by stairs and sometimes escalators.  Occasionally, there are elevators.  While individual resorts make facilities available for disabled visitors, a “walk” along the Strip is not really viable.  There are bus and tram options connecting some hotels; disabled visitors will need to explore their options.

Las Vegas also has a monorail which connects resorts on the north side.  It cost $5 a ride or you can buy a single day or 3-day pass.  If you need to go back and forth to the LV Convention Center, the monorail is probably the way to go.  The monorail travels from the back side (if you consider the Strip the front) of the north side hotels.  You might have a walk of 15 minutes or more through a crowded hotel just to get from the monorail to the Strip (i.e. the MGM Grand).

The Chrysler Building from Las Vegas Boulevard.©Jean Janssen

The Chrysler Building from Las Vegas Boulevard.
©Jean Janssen

After passing some boring and some beautiful south side hotels, which leave me little to say, we got to New York New York with its roller coaster and New York landmark facade-complete with Statute of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Chrysler Building.  You enter the hotel through Broadway marquee-covered doors and the theme follows you in.  You can walk the New York streets (and sample “American” cuisine) and visit Times’ Square.  This would be a great place for kids if you really want to bring them to Sin City.  I don’t recommend it, but there are children all over even at night.

Walking the streets of New York, the Vegas version©Jean Janssen

Walking the streets of New York, the Vegas version
©Jean Janssen

Leaving New York New York you can see the established Luxor and Excalibur, which had little to draw us in. We crossed here, over Las Vega Boulevard, to the MGM Grand.  They are doing facade work here leaving the “famous” gold lion somewhat diminished.  We were most disappointed with this hotel, not because it is the worse, but because we expected so much more.  The hotel lobby is a serious hike from the the Strip and the walk through the casino was pretty ho hum.  This hotel is more of an entertainment venue than a place I would consider staying in.  The multiple ticket offices we were promised were hard to find and mostly not open.  At this time of day (around 1 pm), your only option was to stand in the extremely long line for the concierge.  We went underground to find the Comedy Club so we knew where to go this evening.  There were fast food and snack options in the “basement” as well as monorail stop access.

The bumblebee character from Transformers was ready to take his picture with you along the Las Vegas Strip.©Jean Janssen

The BumbleBee character from Transformers was ready to take his picture with you along the Las Vegas Strip.
©Jean Janssen

The north side of the Strip allows for more street level foot traffic and has a plethora of fast food options.  There are lots of buskers and those looking for a hand out.  Two of the more clever ones were the guy asking for money for a penis enlargement and the guy who would allow you to kick him in the balls for $20.  You can have your picture taken with any number of characters from the sexy policewomen, to Zach Galifianakis’ character from The Hangover in speedo-sized underwear and complete with baby in a chest carrier, to a variety of copyright-infringing Disney characters.  There are also lots of people handing out “business cards” advertising speciality services; they offered these only to Rocky.

The resorts we did go into on the north side were nothing special for someone here on a scenic tour.  The facade for Paris was really the first one we came to with any intrigue.  The vehicle entrance circles around the LV Arc of Triumph which was sporting long banners advertising Gordon Ramsey Steak (for all the Hell’s Kitchen fans).  There is an Eiffel Tower replica complete with a ride and restaurant.  (For kids of all ages who enjoyed Despicable Me, the tower is back.)   We found the entrance for Mon Ami Gabi, our dining spot for this evening and noted that there were plenty of diners who found the daytime temperatures suitable for an alfresco lunch. No view of the fountains though, start time is not until 3 pm on a weekday.

These booths at the Margaritaville on the Strip were cleverly made to look like fishing boats.©Jean Janssen

These booths at the Margaritaville on the Strip were cleverly made to look like fishing boats.
©Jean Janssen

Since our dinner reservations had to be for after the show-there are at 10 pm-and we had a huge breakfast, we held out until 2:45 for lunch.  We stopped at Rocky’s choice of Margaritaville.  This place has a great Jimmy Buffet theme.  I particularly liked the booths which looked like fishing boats.  We had a couple of frozen drinks-Rocky’s Don’t Stop the Carnival” was good, my Havana Banana was not-and lunch.  My crab-mushroom-cheese signature dip served with toasted bread was pretty good (although more crab meat would have been nice), but Rocky’s fish and chips was of the frozen variety and was pretty bad.  Periodically, you get a volcano alert and the indoor version erupts.  Jimmy Buffet videos and other old videos play on large screens.  This location has more atmosphere than the Margaritaville we saw at Universal Studios City Center in Florida.  Bottom line is go if you want fun or clever decor, but not for the food or drinks.

A singing Gondolier drove his passengers along the Grand Canal in the Venetian in Las Vegas.©Jean Janssen

A singing Gondolier drove his passengers along the Grand Canal in the Venetian in Las Vegas.
©Jean Janssen

We plugged on to the Venetian, once again enjoying the moving sidewalks into the hotel.  Having been to Venice many times, I am really impressed with how they carry the theme through this hotel, complete with a “Grand Canal” with singing gondoliers.  The shopping winds through the streets of Venice periodically requiring you to cross a bridge to get to the other side.  I love the Venetian’s painted blue ceiling with clouds which gives its all a more spacious feel in spite of being a small entirely enclosed space.  I stayed at the Venetian on my first trip to Vegas and can tell you the rooms are beautiful.

A New York skyline in Las Vegas complete with a Statute of Liberty and Roller coaster?©Jean Janssen

A New York skyline in Las Vegas complete with a Statute of Liberty and Roller coaster?
©Jean Janssen

After our tour of Venice, we crossed back to the south side of Las Vegas Boulevard to see the volcano at the Mirage.  I erupts on the hour, starting at 5 pm.  We were too early.  Rocky’s feet were killing him. NEVER NEVER NEVER break in new shoes on a walking trip.  We opted to finish with Caesar’s Palace and go back to our fine room.

The curving escalator and three story statutes at the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace Las Vegas.©Jean Janssen

The curving escalator and three story statutes at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas.
©Jean Janssen

Even if you are not into shopping, you need to take a walk through the Forum Shops.  I love the curved escalators by the three-story statues, the moving statutes (achieved through lighting effects), and the Atlantis water show.  All free entertainment and the shopping here is pretty good too.  We finished up in front of Caesar’s Palace and then walked though the connecting Bellagio shopping area to our room.  I can also recommend the rooms at Caesar’s.  Its a big place, allow yourself time to get from the room to the front.

We decided to catch the next fountain show-still light outside-from our room.  At 5 pm with it growing dark, I decided to take a nap.  Rocky thought I couldn’t sleep with the sound of the outdoor fountain show, but I was completely out for an hour until he woke me up.  After changing for the evening and having mapped our route, we went back to the MGM Grand for the comedy show.  We got there just less than an hour before show time and there were quite a few people already in their seats for the 90-minute show.  No difficulty picking up the tickets I purchased on-line with just a photo id.  There are three levels of tickets and you are seated by a manager on a first come, first served basis within your group.  Its not a big club, so you could sit just about anywhere and feel part of the action.

Rocky at the entrance to Brad Garrett's Comedy Club in the "basement" level of the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.©Jean Janssen

Rocky at the entrance to Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the “basement” level of the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
©Jean Janssen

Rocky and I each ordered one of the speciality drinks-he The Headliner, me The Heckler-and both were excellent if somewhat expensive at $12 each.  The only food served was gourmet popcorn, also pricy at $10 a bag.  (It is resealable if you want to save for later).  We liked the combo of caramel and white cheddar, a strange combination that was actually quite good.  Since we are staying at one of the family of MGM resorts, we were able to charge our drinks to our room.  Popcorn purchases require cash.

One of the reasons we chose the Comedy Club was that Brad Garrett was there for the evening.  He opened the show, introduced each of the comics, and closed as well.  You must be 21 to enter the club; the servers don’t have to worry about carding and the material is clearly for adults.  Anyone is fair game, but if you want to be the subject of Brad’s (and the other comics’) performances, buy one of the tier one tickets and ask to sit in one of the first few rows.  The first row guests were just pelted.  One of the comics even commented on how nice it was to have a mixed first row instead of all the white faces of the previous nice.   Brad was unrelenting and absolutely hysterical.  Of the five comics performing, I thought all but one were perfect.  The other just wasn’t my style of comic.  I was a little afraid the Rocky might feel uncomfortable about laughing at some of the material in front of his mom, but he was clapping and howling throughout.

View from our Penthouse Suite in the late afternoon.  We could see the mountains in the distance silhouetted  against the sunset.©Jean Janssen

View from our Penthouse Suite in the late afternoon. We could see the mountains in the distance silhouetted against the sunset.
©Jean Janssen

We were a good audience and the show was already running a little long (and we had no time to spare to make our dinner reservations in Paris) when Brad came out to close,  but he just kept going and we stayed.  We were told it was a 90 minute show; we got 155 minutes, missing our reservations by an hour.  No regrets.  Clearly we got our money’s worth.  After our popcorn, we didn’t feel compelled to beg to get in late at the restaurant (who knows when it closed; not sure they would have seated us at 11:05 anyway).  We grabbed some fast food and went back to the room to enjoy the final couple of fountain shows from our Bellagio Penthouse Suite.

The Bellagio Fountains as seen from room in daylight.©Jean Janssen

The Bellagio Fountains as seen from our room in daylight.
©Jean Janssen

In the Bellagio.©Theodore Crane

Natasha in the Bellagio.
©Theodore Crane

Tonight I am closing the blackout curtains.

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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