The Burger Bar: It’s a Burgerpalooza!

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Burger Bar

The Burger Bar at Mandalay Place

Normally, I’m opposed to the restaurant trend of charging $12 or more for a simple hamburger. Unfortunately, in a city like Las Vegas it’s unavoidable (unless you’re willing to settle for a pseudo-burger at McDonalds). But if it’s going to cost me $12-20, it damn well better be a great burger and a great experience. Which brings me to the Burger Bar.

I’ve eaten at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas twice now. The first time, I was with friends, so I was totally focused on our conversation. I couldn’t tell you a thing about the food, service or atmosphere of the restaurant based on that meal. Instead, I went back on my most recent trip–solo this time, so I could really focus on the experience of eating here. Continue reading

The Atomic Testing Museum: It’s a Blast

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Atomic Testing Museum

The Atomic Testing Museum

It only took me 13 trips to Las Vegas to make it to the Atomic Testing Museum. That’s not too bad, considering the cabbie who drove me there, a Vermont transplant from Bennington, told me he had lived there nearly 20 years and had never visited himself.  Besides, a museum dedicated to a weapon of mass destruction wasn’t exactly at the top of my priority list, if you know what I mean.

But it was finally time to check it out this year. My motivation was that I wanted to see their Area 51 exhibit. The theme of my trip was to get my “geek fix,” and I’ve seen every episode of the X-Files. So I had to see this exhibit. Continue reading

Tea at the Mandarin Oriental

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Tea lunch

Tea at the Mandarin Oriental

A couple of years ago, I booked the Bellagio’s Afternoon Tea at the Petrossian for the first time. I was looking for an atypical activity from what people consider a “Vegas experience,” and afternoon tea fit the bill nicely. I went with the Bellagio’s because I’m more familiar with that property. But during my research, I heard very good things about the Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental, too. I promised myself that some day, I would try that one for comparison purposes. Some day finally came in June of this year.

The day of my appointment also coincided with the worst day of my head cold. That morning, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to put away as much food as is served in the Classic English Afternoon Tea (sandwiches, pastries and scones). So I phoned them to see if that was going to be a problem for them. They were very accommodating and reassured me that I could just have regular tea and order whatever plate I wanted.

Now all I had to do was find the place. I’ve been back and forth along that section of the Strip (between Monte Carlo, Aria, CityCenter and the Cosmopolitan) many times, but I had never actually laid eyes on the Mandarin Oriental. (You can tell it’s a pretty exclusive hotel when they make it hard for pedestrians to easily stumble across it.) I knew it was there somewhere, but where? I had to map my route from the Monte Carlo to the Mandarin Oriental on Google. Once I did that, it was easy to find. Continue reading

Feeding Sea Turtles at Mandalay Bay

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Sea Turtle

“Honu” is sea turtle in Hawaiian

When I was in Hawaii last January, I had booked a circle island tour that was supposed to go to the famous “Turtle Beach” on Oahu, but it didn’t. I was a bit disappointed by this, since I’ve developed something of a sea turtle obsession. I blame this on Crush, the surfer dude sea turtle in Finding Nemo, and on Hawaii itself.

On my first trip to the island, a local tour guide told us that the Hawaiian name for sea turtle is “honu” (pronounced “hoe” + “new”). He told a corny joke about them: “What would happen if you found a world that had nothing but sea turtles? It would be a honu world.” I groaned at the joke, but at the same time, I just loved the word “honu”. It’s so much sweeter than “sea turtle”.

So after my disappointment at not seeing sea turtles in Hawaii, I was very excited to read online that Mandalay Bay had developed some new behind-the-scenes tours at the Shark Reef–including one where you get to feed their sea turtles! I booked it on their website and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to on my trip. On the day of the tour, I went to the Shark Reef box office as instructed in my confirmation email.

Continue reading

Billy Joel at the MGM Grand Garden Arena

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Panorama

MGM Grand Garden Arena

This might be hard to believe, but in the thirteen years I’ve been traveling to Vegas, I’ve only ever been in town once when there were concerts I actually wanted to see (who weren’t resident headliners).  You may remember from my “sneak peek” post before my last trip that I had a smorgasbord of concert choices, and ultimately decided to see Billy Joel. Because….BILLY JOEL.

Billy’s Glass Houses album was one of the first I ever owned. I played it ’til I wore it out, long past the time when most people got rid of their record players and made the switch to cassettes. (I’ve gone digital now; I’m not a total dinosaur.)

Arena Crowd

Waiting for the show to start.

I waffled for awhile on the price, because I was trying to make this a cheap trip, but finally went for a mid-range seat for $162. As far as I knew, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see him. Once I bought my ticket, I started to get excited. Continue reading