Vegas Trip Sneak Peek: June 2014

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Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Have you ever wondered how other people plan their Vegas trips? Well, step into my mind (It’s not that scary a place, really) as I walk you through a sneak peek of my upcoming Vegas trip–what I’m planning to do, and how some activities came off the list.

I know a lot of people just book flights and hotel and wing everything else once they arrive in Vegas, but I’m psychologically incapable of that. For instance, I had one unstructured day in Vegas on my last trip. I thought “Great, I can do whatever I feel like doing that day.” But when the day rolled around, I did nothing, because I am paralyzed with indecision when it comes to thinking on my feet. It was terrible. I wandered the Strip aimlessly and only succeeded in getting tired from all that walking. And trust me, that was not how I wanted to spend that day. No, it’s always better for me to have a plan of action.

This trip, however, was especially hard to plan. There are so many new things that have opened (hotels, restaurants, attractions) since my last trip in October, it was hard to squeeze everything in–and also make sure I have some rest and relaxation every day. (This is my vacation from my day job, after all.)

Here’s what made it onto my list, and what didn’t:

Nevada Desert

It’s unlikely I’ll get out of Las Vegas this trip.

What I Won’t Be Doing

Did you know you could book a day tour to go kayaking on the Colorado River when you’re in Vegas? Neither did I until a tour operator contacted me to let me know. Of course, once I looked into it, I really wanted to do it. But trying to squeeze a full day trip into my schedule along with everything else was impossible this time out.

The tipping point came when I considered the importance of photography to me. If I were going kayaking on the Colorado River, I’d want to come home with some amazing photos of desert landscapes, water caves, and bighorn sheep. Neither my cell phone nor my point-and-shoot take very good photos. Only my DSLR would do. But how do you bring a DSLR on a kayak without running the risk of it getting wet or winding up at the bottom of the Colorado RIver? I’ve spent way too much money on that camera over the years to allow anything bad to happen to it. So goodbye kayaking trip. Sob.

I also had my heart set on going to the Monday night Dive-In movies at the Cosmopolitan–until the schedule came out and I learned the movies playing during my trip are two that I have zero interest in seeing. So despite the fact that I think I’d love the atmosphere of the Dive-In movies, that got scratched off my list, too.

Boulevard Pool

I won’t get to see this as a pool OR a movie or concert venue on this trip

One of the hottest new show experiences in Las Vegas is Rose. Rabbit. Lie at the Cosmopolitan. I debated for a long time whether I should check it out so I could review it, but ultimately decided against it. For one thing, the show itself doesn’t sound like anything I would personally enjoy, and it also doesn’t sound like the most solo-friendly venue, either. But if any of you have done it solo and would like to report back on it, please contact me!

Would you believe that in 13 years, I have never been to a concert in Las Vegas that wasn’t a resident headliner show? The timing of my trips has never coincided with anyone I wanted to see in concert. But this trip? Holy moly, it’s a smorgasbord! So many choices.

The Neon Trees are playing the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool for a very reasonable $30 or so. I love their music and would love to check out Boulevard as a concert venue. . .but some Internet research told me that the average age of fans who attend Neon Trees concerts is about 20. The idea of being old enough to be the mom of everybody else there kind of dashed any thoughts I had of attending that concert.

I agonized about going to the James Darren concert at South Point. He’s from my parents’ generation, but I’ve loved him ever since he played Vic Fontaine on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (he sings like Frank Sinatra). Unfortunately, he’s playing a venue that is all table seating. I hate table seating. There’s nothing more painfully awkward for me than being seated like a fifth wheel at a table with strangers. (If I could be seated at a table with other solos, it would be fine, but that is usually not the case with these places.) I guess I’ll just have to rewatch my DSN DVDs when I get home.

I really wanted to book a massage at the Aria Spa. But damn, their prices are steep. Which would be fine if I weren’t shelling out so much money on shows and attractions during this trip, but I’ve got to cap the budget somewhere. So I probably won’t be booking a massage. (I might still get a day pass though and just enjoy the facilities, because their spa sounds amazing. We’ll see.)

The Strip

The Strip

What I Will Be Doing

I’ll be spending 5 nights on the Strip and 2 nights Downtown. (Don’t ask me where I’m staying; I’ll tell you when I get back. It’s generally a bad idea for solo female travelers to tell people where they’re staying, especially on the Internet, since you never know who’s reading.)

I typically only spend one evening Downtown (and not overnight), but this trip, I wanted to dedicate some significant time there because it’s changed so much this past year, with the opening of Downtown Grand and the Downtown Container Park and various new restaurants, stores and attractions–like Slotzilla. I want to check it all out–and I really wouldn’t be able to do that in the course of one evening. The Downtown stay should be interesting, since the Culinary Union is going on strike starting June 1. (This better not interfere with my eating habits, because I will hulk out on anyone who gets between me and food!)

Slotzilla

To zipline or not to zipline…hmm….

Shared shuttles are my preferred mode of getting to and from airports in other cities, but I’ve never used them in Vegas (because the airport is so close to the Strip and because I usually arrive after 9pm and just want to get to my hotel quickly). But due to my growing annoyance with longhauling cabbies, I decided it’s finally time to give this option a try. We’ll see how that goes.

One of the things I’m most excited about on this trip is attending the Billy Joel concert at the MGM Grand on July 7. I’ve been a Billy Joel fan since I was a kid (one of the first albums I ever owned was Glass Houses), but this will be my first time seeing him in concert. I’ve also booked a ticket to the new Mamma Mia! at the Tropicana. I never saw this show when it played at Mandalay Bay, but I saw the movie and have a feeling the live show will be even more fun.

Other things I’m looking forward to on this trip:

  • Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental (I’d like to see how it compares to the Petrossian’s)
  • Checking out the Linq and High Roller
  • Roaming through the Cromwell (since I can’t afford to actually stay there)
  • The Atomic Testing Museum and Area 51 exhibit (I can’t believe I haven’t done this yet!)
  • Revisiting Madame Tussaud’s for the first time in 9 years. (I have a very specific reason for this which will be revealed upon my return.)
  • The sea turtle feed at Mandalay Bay. (I became completely obsessed with the “honu,” or sea turtle, during my recent trip to Hawaii, despite the fact that I didn’t actually see any there!)
  • Trying a whole slew of new restaurants. (Because FOOD.)
  • And of course, the Vegas Solo Meetup! I hope a few of you may be in town who can come and hang out with me.
Bellagio Conservatory

I wonder what this year’s summer display will look like?

You can follow along on my trip via Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll try to post some photos while I’m there, but don’t expect blog posts while I’m on vacation. I’m giving myself a much-needed break and going on “hiatus” for the next couple of weeks.

Now, I have 2 questions for you and I would love to hear your answers:

1. What new slot machines have come out since October 2013 that you think I should try? (Keep in mind, I get most excited about machines tied to popular culture, like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.)

2. What new hotels, attractions, and restaurants that have opened up in Las Vegas in the past six months are you most interested in hearing more about?

Add your answers to the comments section below and I’ll do my best to check them out while I’m in town!

50 thoughts on “Vegas Trip Sneak Peek: June 2014

  1. Dave

    If you haven’t yet tried the Avatar and LotR: Retrun of the King slots, they’re worth taking for a spin.

    I’d live to hear what you think of the Linq and the High Roller in particular.

    Have a great trip!

  2. Jean Has Been Shopping

    I’m most interesting in hearing about Bobby Flay’s new burger restaurant. I’m so jealous of your time in Vegas! Although I live only 100 miles south, I haven’t been there for a while.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I’m so glad you said that, Jean, because I want to try Bobby Flay’s new burger joint! Here’s hoping you get to Vegas yourself before too long!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Okay, Dave, I’ll be having fun for both of us this time out! Sorry your trip fell through, though. Start planning for the next one!

  3. Brian

    While not new, if you’d like to listen to music in a smaller setting not overrun with 20 year olds, and enjoy some good food to boot, check out Culinary Dropout @ Hard Rock.

    I had dinner+drinks and enjoyed an acoustic cover band there a few weeks ago. The entire experience was great, and it wasn’t terribly busy on a Thursday night.

  4. Mrs Polley

    Love you blog so much, have great trip! I’m a planner too, so I thoroughly approve of your plans.
    We are visiting in September and looking forward to seeing The Cromwell, High Roller and Rio zipine.

  5. Lydia Wilson

    Being a fellow planner, I totally sympathize with your OCD need to not be spontaneous. I really want you to try BLT steak that just opened at Bally’s since I will be staying there in July as a solo traveler. And, I also see that the sterling brunch re-opened at Bally’s!!!! Excited about that. When I went about 10 year ago, it was to die for so I am hoping it’s just a good as it was then. Take your appetite with you for that one. It’s pricey but being a foodie, I think you will enjoy it. From reading the descriptions available Saturdays and Sundays.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Update: Okay, now that I see that Bally’s Sterling Brunch costs $90, I can say with 100% certainty I will NOT be trying it. I might try BLT Steak for dinner some night though.

  6. AccessVegas (@AccessVegas)

    I was hoping to make your meetup this year but unfortunately have an unbendable conflict. I am glad someone is speaking up and reminding people that there are things to do just a short ways away from The Strip.

    Most people seem to have this mindset that if they get more than a block from The Strip, they will vaporize or something and thus never see Red Rock, Valley Of Fire, The Dam or Grand Canyon (which is only a 1/2 day tour by air). It also does depend on length of stay. Europeans tend to come for 10-14 days and thus have the time to do tours. (Plus, there is no Valley Of Fire, Death Valley, or Grand Canyon in Europe).

    You can always tell the people (most of them) that didn’t do their homework or make some plans before visiting. They are the ones wandering with that lost look on their face. Don’t get me wrong, boozing and people watching with no destination can be fun. But, you don’t want to get home thinking of all the things that you didn’t do. You are trying to cram in an many memories as possible.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Aww, I’m sorry you can’t make it, Ted. Would love to meet you in person. I think you’re absolutely right about length of vacation. I’m usually in town a week, but it seems I’m in the minority. I often hear people say they’re only there for 4 nights at most. That’s not really enough time to get off the Strip (unless you do Vegas so much you’ve done everything on the Strip).

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I’ll definitely be reviewing the Linq and whatever else I can sample there, though I’m not sure I’ll get it posted before your July trip. Did you read my brother’s notes on the High Roller (with photos)? http://www.vegassolo.com/high-roller-open/

      That Vice article is so, so wrong. The title of that article should have been “Don’t Go to Vegas When You’re Depressed.” She clearly went into the experience in a depressed state of mind and didn’t have a good time because she wasn’t open to having a good time. Based on all the messages I’ve read over the years from other solo travelers who have been to Las Vegas, most of us have a great time by ourselves. Occasionally, someone will say, “It was fun, but I’d rather be there with my spouse.” (Which is probably not a bad attitude to have, when you actually have a spouse who also likes visiting Las Vegas.) Most people rave about the solo experience though. The freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want is bliss.

  7. Don Savelesky

    Love your blog! I will be in Vegas the week after you. Guy Fieri’s new restaurant recently opened. Just a quick short-cut through The Quad from the Linq. The menu looks good but haven’t seen any reviews on price or quality.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I have looked at Guy Fieri’s menu, Don, and it looks very creative. I’m also thinking everything on the menu probably has 1,000 or more calories. LOL. Who knows, I may throw caution to the wind! 🙂

    2. Andrew

      I was in Vegas last month and ate lunch solo at Fieri’s new place. I ate at the bar.
      The place was packed, and the food service at the bar was disorganized and slow. I was not totally surprised, as the place had just opened. The manager and the bartender/server were both apologetic. It did look like they were getting the food out to the tables in a timely manner, though.
      I will definitely go again.
      Food was very good (Mac and cheese burger, fries, soda)…and other stuff I saw coming out looked good, too.
      Prices moderate/high for the strip.
      The Linq is as described, and is a nice addition of space for us tourists in that section of properties. Lots of food and drink choices, though, so we shall see what pressures competition brings.

  8. K smith

    First, greeting from a fellow DS9 fan. Bobby Darren was in one of my favorite movies, The Gun of Navarone. The Atomic Testing Muesum, is a good choice. I went there a few year ago. Have you thought of going to the Pinball Hall of Fame. It is on East Tropicana not far from the Strip. The Clark County Muesum is cool,too.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Yay! Another DS9 fan! Happy to hear from you K smith! (Are Bobby and James related? I’ve always wondered….) I LOVE the Pinball Hall of Fame. I’ve been there a couple of times. Hey, I never thought about the Clark County Museum. I’ll look into it. Thanks!

  9. K smith

    Yea, I noticed the mix up I made between Bobby Darin and James Darren. I took a long day trip the day before. I was gone 14 hours plus.

  10. fraggle Rock

    1. The only slot I know about is the famous “Lion share’s” at MGM.

    2. This year I’ll try: the new Cromwell Deluxe Room , Nobu restaurant, Mandarin Bar, Hidden Pizza at the Cosmopolitan, breakfast at Bouchon (Venetian) , LEGO store (Fashion Maul), LINQ.
    As I’m afraid of high, I’ll skip on Ziplines (rio,downtown) and high Roller.

    It will be my 6th time in Vegas and I’ll stay for 14 days so I also need advice for new spots

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Ah yes, the infamous “Lion’s Share”. I’ve never played (and probably never will, if I have to wait in a line). Oh wow–14 days? That sounds great, fraggle Rock. I think if you’re here for that long, you definitely need to spend some time outside of Vegas. The desert is beautiful.

  11. Hardware

    I tend to do a lot of the same things on each trip… and I’m not quick to see/experience new things… it took me a few years to set foot on the City Center property, and I still don’t have much appreciation for what it is or isn’t.

    So I can’t speak to all the fresh, new and exciting things you should see or experience. The oldest thing on my to-do list is to go to a Las Vegas 51s game at Cashman Field, which is problematic since I am rarely in Vegas during the baseball season.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Yeah, but you never know, Mike, so you should keep it on your bucket list anyway. There are times when I’d love to go to Vegas and just do all my old favorite things, but then I’d have nothing to blog about!

      1. Hardware

        when i was last in Vegas during the baseball season, circa May 1, 2012, the 51s were out of town during my entire visit, which was a bit impromptu. some day i’ll get there.

        1. Gray Cargill Post author

          Mike: Personally, I keep thinking I’d like to see the roller derby when I’m in town, but it never seems to work out that way. One of these days….

    2. Andrew

      This might relate more to the quiet getaway subject, but the 51’s baseball game idea you mentioned is one I usually take advantage of during my longer stays in Las Vegas during the summer.
      For anybody that enjoys the game (Mets Triple A Team), it is a cheap and relaxing, and just north of downtown. Usually lots of room to stretch out, too. Kids seem to like it, too….
      Mostly locals with some tourists, and during the warmer summer weather, they run water misters over the covered seating. Food and drink are more affordable than the usual major league prices. Food is decent…and the view out to the northeast is nice at sunset.
      Real laid back and another quiet step away from the bustle of the strip or downtown, if you want to get away for a few hours.

      1. Andrew

        To add a bit more, if one has access to a car and the time and energy to boot, a late night drive around the Las Vegas Beltway (50 miles) is pretty cool. Another step away from the masses, so to speak. You can do less distance, though.
        I always preferred counter-clockwise, with a stop at (I think) the Lone Mountain exit.
        Again, shorter if you want to, but just make sure you drive the north and western sections. Mountains on your right, valley on your left.
        Allows you a great view of just how expansive and large the Las Vegas Valley actually is. The strip id dwarfed. The lights and vast area are impressive. Gives you a sense of perspective.

        My traveling companions have always asked me to point out on a physical map where we actually drove after we were finished each time I drove them around the loop.

      2. Gray Cargill Post author

        Thanks for the suggestion, Andrew. Glad to hear about the misting; I’ve always wondered how people could stand sitting there in the heat.

  12. Jon M

    First time reply from me (love the blog). Just got back from Downtown Grand short stay myself. If you haven’t stayed downtown before bear in mind that hotels are that bit smaller and older than the strip. Getting a room on a high floor is much more important than Strip properties (unless you like the noise – staying on the same level as the Fremont Experience I’d say is about equivalent to a TI room near the old pirate battle) so don’t forget to ask! Even in off-Fremont places like the Downtown Grand (pool noise – great pool though!) or Main Street Station (train noise) this is still important. Be interested to see what you make of downtown dining – so many good ones to try in such a small area; of the new stuff the one I was most impressed by was Triple George Grill. Loads of solo-friendly bar seating, great food, and the Downtown 3rd block has a really nice feel to it IMO. Loads of other great options on Fremont too! Can’t wait to read your report 🙂

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Hi, Jon – Welcome! I’ve only stayed Downtown once before (for 2 nights), and I do remember the noise being an issue. (But then, I’m a light sleeper.) What did you think of the Grand? I find it interesting that they’ll let anyone use their pool area for a price; pools are kind of desperately needed Downtown. Does it get crowded?

      1. Jon M

        I was there mid-week only, but even though the actual pool itself isn’t huge, the pool and the area wasn’t crowded at all, and, like you suggest, is vastly superior to anything else in the neighbourhood (I guess not many people stay Downtown if a nice pool is a priority for them) Downtown Grand in general? – they’ve obviously spent serious money on it. Great bar/restaurant options. Lovely staff, Room was very modern and spotless – and I stayed in a suite for about half the price of a mid-range Strip hotel’s smallest room for the same dates. Free (nice) coffee in the morning. Casino not overcrowded. Plenty of $5 min Blackjack with decent rules and friendly dealers – and seemed to attract a fun not-too-intense group of players too. Only bad bit was the Video Poker pay tables are very poor by Downtown standards – so a walk over to Main Street Station is still the way to go for that – sit at the bar there and you’ve got full-pay bar-top VP with great bar service and microbrew beers (if that’s your thing).

        But anyway, I’d say the pool, dining and quieter location mean that, for me, it now beats the Nugget for best higher-end Downtown place to stay. Guess it’s my new Downtown ‘home’ 🙂

        Oh, and the Mob museum opposite was pretty cool too.

  13. Butler

    We won’t be in town at quite the same time, but the meetup sounds lovely. I certainly wouldn’t say no to a visit to Chandelier.

    I’ll be happy to read any trip report. Some of the nightclubs and spas might be high quality but pragmatically beyond my travel budget. I’m curious about Yusho at Monte Carlo, since it sounds like a place I might actually try on my next trip.

    Did you consider the Panda show? I saw it, it was very good, but admittedly I had to be talked into it.

    (Since the Pinball Hall of Fame was mentioned – I rented a car only once, and I stopped there just before returning the car. I should have planned more time there, not understanding how many machines were actually available to play, and how much fun it would be.)

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Yusho is on my list, Butler, though I’m not sure I’ll get to it (so many great new places to eat, so little time!). I did not consider the Panda show. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. The Pinball Hall of Fame is the best!

  14. Vince

    A day late and a dollar short for the Annual Meet Up, lol. I hope this is not indicative of my luck in Vegas…. I just booked a solo trip for 11 June, and then I stumbled upon this site. I wish I had found this site a week ago. This is a great site.

    This will be my third time in Las Vegas, second time going solo. I am looking forward to seeing the sights on the High Roller, Rio Zip line and eating some good food. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve been back in Vegas, so everything will look new to me.

    Thanks for all the great info Gray!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Vince–and welcome! Oh my gosh, are you going to do the Rio Zip Line? You are braver than I am. 🙂 A lot has definitely changed in 4 years (but hey, a lot has changed in 7 months!). Have a great trip!

      1. Vince

        Thanks! The Rio Zip Line doesn’t look as bad as the Stratosphere Sky Jump. I think I will do all the Stratosphere rides too.

        The fine line between bravery and stupidity….. 🙂

        You said you were going to check out the Cromwell. I heard Giada has a restaurant there. I’d be interested in seeing/hearing about that if I don’t get a chance to see it myself. I am not a big Giada fan, but I’ve never actually tasted her food, so I could be swayed.

        P.S. Do know a good sushi bar for dining solo? I wish Morimoto (at the Mirage) were open already.

  15. Tim Sheehan

    Gray, I just love this site. Most of my trips to Vegas are solo, so lots of good info here! Will be in Vegas next week, and will try and stop by for the Meet-up. Have a Video Poker tournament during that time, so not sure what the schedule is.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Hi, Tim – Thanks very much! It’s always good to hear from another solo traveler. Please do try to stop by if you have time, I’d love to meet you. Good luck in the tournament!

  16. Mitch

    Gray, dont know if you’ve made it downtown or even if you’re in Vegas yet, but you’ll be happy to know that the strike doesn’t seem to have happened. So, you know, food!

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Mitch – LOL. No, I’m not in town yet, but I’ve been following the strike news very closely. Part of me is disappointed not to see a strike in action, but the other part of me (my stomach) is very happy to know my food options are vast again. 🙂

  17. Randy Robinson

    I understand what you’re saying about needing to plan ahead to make the best use of your vacation time, especially in a place like Las Vegas that has so many choices. It really helps to do research, read reviews, and check out locations on-line first before you get to Vegas, that way you don’t have to waste precious vacation time trying to figure out what to do and trying to find places when you get there. It’s much like an ironic saying I once heard: “You have to work hard at having fun”.

    What I really can’t understand is how you would choose not to go to a concert or show that you would otherwise want to see, simply because you have a particular speculation or reservation about the type of audience demographic that is going to be there. Why on earth would you let something as trivial as audience demographic prevent you from going to see a concert or show that you want to see? It’s going to be pretty hard to try new things and to have fun if you choose to look for every little detail that you think might bother you, rather than focusing on the main reasons of why you want to go to an event. I have attended many concerts by myself and I couldn’t care less what the audience demographic was as long as it was a safe & secure environment. I’ll give you an example: I previously went to see a Madonna concert at the MGM Grand Arena back in October 2012. As most people know, the two most common demographics at a Madonna concert are women and gay men, both of which I do not share much in common with as a single straight male. So why did I choose to go you might ask? Because I like Madonna’s music and I find her performances to be entertaining. Music is something that is universal; it does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation, marital status, or social status. The only thing that matters is whether or not you have a good set of ears to hear it. 🙂

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      You’re quite right, Randy, I shouldn’t care about these things, but I do. It’s a flaw. I don’t like to stand out in any way in social situations. I’m more comfortable flying under the radar. I likely would not have had the reservations I did if it had been a seated concert rather than a standing, mingling-type concert at Boulevard Pool.

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