January in Vegas: Sick AGAIN???

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Caesars Dragon

Caesars’ Dragon in honor of Chinese New Year

I had high hopes for my trip to Vegas in January. I really felt like I needed a do-over since I got sick on my June trip and wound up not having as much fun as I’d planned. Well, I got a do-over, all right: I got to get sick all over again.

When it comes to Vermont germs, my immune system is made of Teflon. I’ve been exposed to every Vermont germ that exists, so I never get sick at home. Put me on an airplane, though, and it’s a 50/50 coin toss as to whether I’m going to pick up somebody else’s illness. Damn those alien germs.

But I did go to Vegas, and I did do some cool things while I was there. Here’s the recap:

I arrived in town late Saturday night (around 9pm) and caught the Super Shuttle to Harrahs, where I was staying. Along the way, I got to listen to the friendly shuttle bus driver misinform the other passengers about “The Boardwalk” (he meant The Linq) and told two others who were also going to Harrahs that Flavors buffet is a Bobby Flay restaurant (!!!).

I nearly bit my tongue in half trying not to correct him–because nobody likes the know-it-all who constantly corrects someone else’s mistakes. But sheesh. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, SHUT UP, shuttle driver! Can you imagine how horrified Bobby Flay would be to be linked to such a mediocre buffet??? (And believe me, it is still mediocre. I know, because I ate there one night when I was too sick to go anywhere else.)

I had dinner at KGB at Harrahs. I’d never eaten there before, and figured since I was staying there, it was a good time to try it. I was seriously in the mood for a cheeseburger. What a waste of time and money that was. I should have known what I was in for when I walked in at 9:30 on a Saturday night and the place was practically empty.

I had hoped to have the energy to head down to the Cosmopolitan to check out Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox either Saturday or Sunday nights, but I couldn’t get onto West Coast time fast enough, so I completely missed out on any kind of nightlife on this trip. Boo. 🙁

Sunday dawned sunny and warm (in the low 70s–squee!), so before brunch, I wandered out to the Strip to take some photos. I immediately ran across the following scene in Carnaval Court:

A couple of panhandlers (man and woman) with two dogs on leashes, having a screaming match with a homeless man (about whose panhandling turf it was, apparently). They kept getting closer and closer to me, and it looked like the fight was going to get physical, so I moseyed along. Where I then saw a homeless woman shaking a homeless man who was lying on the ground, unresponsive. She scurried off to get a couple of guys on bicycles with yellow tee shirts who were some kind of police. They also had difficulty waking him. It looked like a possible overdose to me. Right there, in Carnaval Court at 10am on a Sunday. I kept walking, so I didn’t get to see the outcome of that drama, and they were all gone when I returned.

Can you imagine if I had been a first-time visitor, what my impression of Las Vegas would be after that? This is definitely not the Las Vegas it was when I first started visiting back in 2001.

One of the highlights of my trip was having a terrific brunch with my friend Joyce at the new Border Grill location at Caesars. It doesn’t have the stunning pool view of the Mandalay Bay location, but the food and service are just as good. Highly recommend.

Afterwards, I wandered down the Strip to check out the Chinese New Year display at the Conservatory (on display until March 14), which is awesome–do try to check it out if you’re in town while it’s still up. I’ll post more photos soon to tempt you.

On my way down the Strip, I stopped to check out the progress on the Bazaar Shops at Ballys. Looks like they’re almost done. It definitely changes the whole appearance of the front of Ballys. What used to be this:

Ballys entrance

The people mover at the entrance to Ballys from the Strip.

Is now this:

front of Ballys

Bazaar shops and Ballys entrance from the escalator

I’m not sure it’s an improvement. But we’ll see when the shops are open.

The buskers and panhandlers continue to multiply like rabbits on the Strip. There were two bare-chested buff guys who looked like Chippendales dancers stationed in front of the Miracle Mile Shops taking photos with women there. A guy with a three-card monty game blocked foot traffic at the top of the escalator to the pedestrian bridge near Ballys. There were two yellow Transformer guys–one positioned on either side of the crosswalk between Mirage and Harrahs. Are people really that desperate for a photo with a Transformer we need to have one every thirty feet????

I purposely went to the Miracle Mile shops to see what merchandise Ink & Vector had in stock. . . only to realize the store is no longer there.

The trip wasn’t a total loss, though. I found a good backpack to replace the one I had brought with me. (Two of the zippers broke during my trip to Vegas because I was trying to go carry-on only and it was way too heavy. How the hell do other people travel carry-on only when they have to bring a DSLR with them??? That effing thing is like a bowling ball in my backpack.)

I headed back up to the Mirage Lobby Bar to meet a reader from Texas who was only in town for a couple of days. Nice meeting you, Warren! On my way back to Harrahs, this happened:  

A bunch of us were yelling “Hurry up! Lady, get out of the way!” The truck driver was honking his horn at her (but not slowing down!). She never looked up, never changed her pace, never showed any sign she heard anything. This is why there are so many pedestrian fatalities in Las Vegas: Because people are stupid and careless with their lives.

For dinner, I decided to check out Ruths Chris Steakhouse, another Harrahs restaurant I hadn’t tried before. I had a fantastic meal at the bar, with a superb view overlooking the Strip. The bartenders here are a great. More on this place in a future blog post, I promise.

Ruths Chris

My view from the bar at Ruths Chris.

On Monday, I had breakfast at Fulton Street Food Hall (the restaurant side), which was to be a pattern for the rest of the week. I also grabbed a quick dinner there one night. Overall, I have to say I was underwhelmed by this place. It looks nice, but the food is not impressive.

After breakfast, I took the monorail up to SLS to check it out. That turned out to be an hour of my life I’ll never get back.

(Almost immediately after my visit, the Griddle Cafe closed this location.)

I was sad to walk out the front of the resort and see that what used to be this

Sahara Sidewalk

Lush, tropical greenery that lined the sidewalks in front of the Sahara.

has been replaced by this


A desert wasteland

and this


I can’t even.

Dear God, WHY, SLS, WHY???? You’ve taken what was a green, desert oasis and turned it into a wasteland of weirdness.

The one bright spot from this visit was when I wandered up an escalator and found myself in this really cool little gallery of iconic photographs. It’s perfectly free, and entertained me for a few minutes. But it’s not worth a trip there just to see it.

Obviously, visiting SLS at 10am on a Monday isn’t a fair litmus test to how well the property is doing, but by comparison, Harrahs was busy every minute of every day that I was there. For every customer in the place there were at least 3 staff members waiting for something to do. And it was so quiet. It was extremely uncomfortable to be there. Part of the problem may be the location, part of it may be that it’s new. I really don’t know. But SLS needs some serious help.

That afternoon, I did something that has been on my to do list since 2001.

Big Elvis

Big Elvis at Harrahs

I have no idea what took me so long. I’d absolutely go back to hear him again and again. He’s got a terrific voice and really does sound like Elvis (maybe even better).

Monday night I had dinner at Giada. I’ll review that at length in a future blog post, but suffice to say, I can see why people rave about it. It was an excellent experience from start to finish. And that view! Wow.

I wish I’d booked a show on Monday, because as it turns out, that was the only night I felt well enough and energetic enough to see one. Because then this happened:

I woke up in the middle of Monday night/Tuesday morning with a wicked sore throat. I couldn’t believe it. I was getting another damn Vegas cold! NOOOOOO!

I actually felt a bit better Tuesday morning, so I convinced myself it might just be my sinuses acting up. (That happens sometimes for no reason, but definitely can happen when I’m surrounded by cigarette smoke all the time–and Harrahs is, I had forgotten, one of the smokiest casinos on the Strip.)

This was my big “Downtown Day”. I hopped on the SDX bus to Fremont Street and spent the day at the Downtown Container Park, the Beat Coffeehouse, up and down Fremont Street, and then took the SDX bus to the Arts District, where I got a private, hour-long tour of the District.

Retro Vegas

Retro Vegas, located in the Arts District

Again, more on this in a future blog post, but despite my own nervousness about the neighborhood surrounding the Arts District, my experience reassured me that this was a pretty cool, funky little neighborhood worthy of a visitor’s attention–if that visitor is sick of the fakeness of the Vegas Strip and/or wants to get off the beaten path and check out the “real” Las Vegas. If you want to buy unique, reasonably-priced souvenirs from your trip to Las Vegas (that are actually made in Las Vegas and not China), this is the place to do it.

After this, I returned to Fremont Street and headed to the Art Bar at Downtown Grand for a meetup with some of my local blogger friends, Marc, Scott, JoAnna and Cory. Thanks so much for coming to see me, you guys!

It seemed to me that the Grand was a little bit busier than it had been when I stayed there last year, though still not nearly as busy as it should be.

Art Bar

Art Bar ceiling

TIP: The happy hour at the Art Bar is a terrific value–I had 2 Jack and Cokes and a huge cheese plate (that I begged everyone to help me eat and we still didn’t finish it) and it only came to $12.41 before tip! That was less than the one cocktail I had at the Mirage lobby bar! Jeez Louse, people, go take advantage of this while you can!

By the time I parted company with my friends, I was starting to fade again and realized, nope this wasn’t my sinuses being irritated by cigarette smoke. I was sick. Dammit.

Wednesday morning, I had plans to drive out to Red Rock Canyon with my new friend Delma (who I met two years ago at my Vegas Solo meetup), a local. I texted her to warn her I was sick and give her the opportunity to back out, but she was game to do it anyway, so we went. And thank God we did.

This was my first time exploring Red Rock Canyon. We went on a perfect day for photos. The colors were amazing (and not just the red rocks). There were clouds hanging low over the peaks of the higher mountains and just the right mix of blue sky and clouds. It was a lovely drive, and so nice to get out of the city and away from the overstimulation on the Strip. If you’ve never gotten out into the Nevada desert, you simply must.

Red Rock Canyon

Driving the loop through Red Rock Canyon

Then Delma drove me through Summerlin. If I ever move to Las Vegas, I could see myself living there (assuming I could afford it!). It’s really cute. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant she likes, and then she brought me back to Harrahs.

By now, I was wicked sick. Sick enough to cancel dinner plans with my friend Joe and the Vegas Solo meetup on Thursday. I had a fever Wednesday night that kept me awake all night (but not the flu, according to my doctor). After it was gone, I went out for a little while on Thursday to take photos, but didn’t do anything worth talking about.  And that was the extent of my “vacation”.

To end this on a positive note, all I can say is: Just because I’ve had two sick trips to Las Vegas, I’m not giving up. I won’t be able to get back there for awhile, but I’ll go back. If I keep going back enough, then at some point I will have been exposed to all the germs in Vegas. Then I’ll be impervious to them just like I’m impervious to Vermont germs, right?



27 thoughts on “January in Vegas: Sick AGAIN???

  1. hetz7

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your dinner at Ruths Chris. We had a great meal there (all paid by Total Rewards points). Looking forward to the review.

  2. Jonathan

    Sorry to hear about being sick again. On this trip sounds like you had some fun anyway. I always say a few days in vegas is better than a few days at work anytime. Love the blog

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Gray,
    So sorry you were sick AGAIN, but you still managed a good trip it seems. Lots of things I’ve not yet done myself, so thanks for the good ideas (or warnings)! Looking forward to hearing more about your trip in the future!

    I’ll be heading out the weekend of March 14th, so I’m excited to potentially see two Bellagio Conservatory displays. Do you know exactly when the change over takes place? I think it closes for 24 hours to reset the display. Thanks for any info. you may have!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      You know more than I do, Anonymous, if you know it only takes 24 hours to change out the display. I’d have guessed longer, but I really have no idea.

  4. Jeff Broman

    It sounds like it was mostly a good trip. I don’t know how you can go for a week. I am good for 3 or 4 days max.

    I ate at the Griddle cafe and thought it was pretty good even though the pancakes I had could feed a family of 4. The SLS was an interesting change from what it was. I was there on a Sunday morning and it was mostly deserted except the sports bar where they were showing football games. I wonder what it is like at night.

    How was Harrahs? I have not stayed there in years.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      More like 50% a good trip, Jeff. 🙂 But see, this is why it’s good that I go for a whole week! I would not recommend staying at Harrahs unless you’re impervious to cigarette smoke. The casino there is smoky 24/7, seriously. It was awful. Otherwise, it would be a great place to stay–good price, location, short walk from your room to the Strip, always a lot going on.

      1. Jeff Broman

        I don’t know whats worse. The smoke or the heavy perfume smell that some casinos use to cover up the smoke smell.

  5. Jay

    Gray – I’ve never had a sick trip to Vegas, but I did spend a week last September in St. John’s, Newfoundland – a trip I was looking forward to – forever, and the night before we left I got a terrible cold. I spent 3 days in the hospital room, but each night I forced myself out and had little moments of awesomeness, and I can tell you forced yourself to do the same.

    Cheers to making the best out of what could be a very crappy situation!

    And cheers to another Vegas trip!

  6. Cindy Sherwood Boyer

    That photo from Red Rock canyon is one of the best I’ve ever seen – the curve of the road, the curve of the rock and the sky – fantastic!

    So sorry about the sickies – looks like you dealt with it in a reasonable fashion. Glad you got a few days in before it hit!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Wow, thank you very much, Cindy. That’s kind of you to say. I’m actually very pleased with the photos I took at Red Rock Canyon. I’ll post more in the future.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      LOL, thank goodness, Jay. I was wondering “Wait–they let you leave your hospital room every day to go do things and then come back???” 🙂 I had a lot more fun in June when I was sick than I did this time. This time, I really couldn’t do much of anything after I got sick, but I did try to squeeze as much fun out of the trip as possible. I always do.

  7. John

    That Mirage street crossing is worth checking out every time. The volcano is worth one or two
    looks, but grab a cocktail “to go” at the Sports Bar just inside the Mirage, and spend a half hour
    watching people jaywalk that crossing. It’s got all the right feature’s for exploiting stupidity.
    Lots of landscaping to obstruct sight-lines, the Vegas Blvd. “curve”, “no’man’s land” half way
    across. and drivers going like a bat out of hell ! Of course, seeing someone get splattered
    would probably take some of the fun out of it.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      John – Yeah, I think it’s safe to say seeing someone getting hit by a car would spoil the people-watching fun pretty quickly. It seems to be the Mirage exit that so many don’t take into consideration. The cabs can come out of there very fast.

  8. jennifer

    It always kills me to not correct people when they give misinformation about Vegas. I don’t want to be a know it all, but at the same time, I do know it all. Sigh.

  9. Edward Sparks

    I can only imagine what it must be like to be sick and in a smoke filled musty hotel. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun on that part. I dipped in Harrahs to see what it was like and left pretty quick.

  10. Warren

    Gray, it was nice meeting you and too bad a cold curtailed your activities. In my case the sore throat/cough didn’t kick in until AFTER I returned. However I have been fighting various symptoms for almost two weeks!

    You are right about the price of drinks at the Lobby Bar. Mirage charges extra for the location!

      1. Warren

        Thanks. It was a great trip in regards to meeting people (a friend from MO was also in town for a wedding). However, the tables were not kind!

        I ate breakfast at The Griddle Cafe Monday around that time you passed through. Glad I got to enjoy the place before they pulled the plug!

        1. Gray Cargill Post author

          Uh-oh. I’m sorry to hear gaming was not kind to you this trip, Warren. Better luck next time. That’s so funny that you were at the Griddle Cafe when I was at SLS. Wish I had known, I’d have said hi.

  11. Avril

    We were in Vegas almost at the same time! The 3 card Monty guys were still there on February 2, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that in my 5 years of going!

    I’ll have to put Giadas on my list next trip there, I do so enjoy reading your blog!

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