It’s been almost 30 years since my aunt and uncle took my 2 cousins and moved from Southern California to Las Vegas. Almost 30 years of visits long and short has taught me my way around the city and provided enough fodder to fuel a blog or newspaper column dedicated to the Vegas experience, but I’ll leave that to Robin Leach.
I can’t count the number of trips I’ve taken to Las Vegas over the years, but if I had to guesstimate I would say I’ve been there somewhere close to 100 times. This makes me a bit of a hypocrite, because I lambast people who travel to the same places over and over again. I have not been able to understand why people return to the same destination over and over again only to stay at the same hotel, eat at the same restaurants, and do the same exact activities over and over again instead of aspiring to try new and different things to broaden their horizons.
In all the years that I’ve been visiting Las Vegas I’ve ensured that each trip has exposed me to at least one or two places or experiences previously unknown to me. As a child visiting with my parents we stayed at the Hacienda, Tropicana and/or Flamingo. They took us to Circus Circus and later when it opened, Excalibur which quickly became my favorite. I have patronized my fair share of arcades, buffets and on trips where we would stay with my aunt and uncle we would go bowling, roller skating, to the movies, or just stay home and swim in their pool, play monopoly for hours or watch Mickey Mouse Club.
When I got older, my friends and I began taking trips and staying at the Aladdin, Mandalay Bay, Rio, Bally’s, The Hotel, The Westin, Encore, Hard Rock, Aria, Wynn, Red Rocks we even tried out Trump Tower once (wince). I also began attending concerts, shows and getting familiar with the food and drink scene.
This past weekend, in the spirit of seeking out new experiences, we decided to try using AirBnB to find a pet-friendly rental. We’ve only taken our dog to Vegas a handful of times because apart from my aunt’s house we haven’t a pet-friendly place to stay with our furry family member. The pet friendly, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom townhouse we rented through AirBnB was about $100/night, in a gated community and right down the street from my aunt’s house. The unit we stayed in was immaculate, quiet and had the most amazing bed. We slept like logs. On Saturday we even left our dog there alone for a few hours and he did great. We set up a doggie cam (yes, we’re neurotic and like to check to see how he’s doing) and we saw that he was comfortable enough in the peaceful house to relax and take a nap. Something tells me we may be renting this place again when we don’t want to board our dog.
The reason for our visit was my aunt’s birthday so we went to Manan Bakery to pick up a cake even though she had told me they had picked up Ponchiks (type of donut popular within Russian and Armenian communities). I used Yelp to find an affordable bakery and we drove over. Imagine my surprise when I realized we had just walked into the same bakery where my aunt had picked up the Ponchiks. We purchased a Strawberry Shortcake since that’s my husband’s favorite and we try them everywhere. It was super light, airy, fluffy and delicious!
Saturday morning we hopped on the 215 and went into Henderson to check out Bad Owl Coffee, a Harry Potter themed coffee shop. I love that my husband humors me and goes along with my childish obsession with Harry Potter. I loved this place and was as happy as a clam here. The decorations were subtle yet perfect! We shared the croissant breakfast sandwich, he had a coconut latte and I had an iced pistachio coffee. My husband loved his drink and we scarfed down that sandwich so this place was winner.
We had to head to downtown to purchase a gift certificate at the new Eclipse luxury theater (it’s a 21 and over fancy pants movie theater with a full bar and food) While we were there I wanted to show my husband the Container Park that my girlfriends and I visited back in March, but we were turned away because we had our dog with us. I find it pretty offensive when places like this don’t allow pets but welcome children. I mean, what’s the difference? Children piss and poop and scream and yell and dogs piss and poop and bark… Same thing in my book!
We had a late lunch/early dinner a few hours later at I Love Sushi, also in Henderson. My cousin had tipped us off about this place and I trust her judgement so we decided to give it a try. This place is legit. It’s actually a very large restaurant with a lot of tables and booths. They have a huge u shaped sushi counter with a lot of sushi chefs and there are tables and booths on either side of the sushi bar. The names of some of their sushi rolls are bit out there, but the freshness of the fish and other ingredients and the flavor and texture pairings were spot on. I know a lot of people harp on Henderson and I was never a fan either, but between Bad Owl and I Love Sushi I have to say… Henderson has some hidden gems that are worth the trek.
After a quick round of bowling with the family at The Orleans we were off to the strip to cross off a few more things off our “to do” list. Although valet parking at the strip isn’t free anymore, you can still get your parking comp-ed with certain levels on your player’s cards. Since our destination was White Castle for the New Jersey husband to get his fix, I opted to park at the Linq High Roller Valet because most people don’t know there’s a valet under the High Roller so it’s never busy. As we were walking through the Linq promenade I spotted a Honolulu Cookie Company store! My coworker who is from Hawaii had just given us all some of these cookies for Christmas which she told us she picked up at the Honolulu Cookie Company store in the Canal Shoppes. I loved the cookies, but I dread going into any of the malls on the strip so I figured it would be years before I got to have these cookies again. WELL…. I was wrong. I went in and assembled my own box of 5 cookies for $5.95!
As we continued on I saw a Wyndham timeshare guy starting to approach us with his opener. I quickly threw out a “we live here” and he turned away. Motivated by my fib, or hoping to carry on with the charade, when the White Castle employee asked where we were visiting from my husband responded with “we live here” so the guy gave us a 10% locals discount. I personally don’t get what the appeal about White Castle is, but watching my husband devour his sack of 5 I could tell he was enjoying his nostalgic meal.
On our way back to the car we walked through the Linq hotel which I quickly decided is right up there with Palazzo and Venetian on my list of hotels with bad signature smells. Every hotel in Vegas has a signature smell and these 3 hotels smell like old lady underwear drawer! You know what I’m talking about! Old ladies put satchels of potpourri in their drawers that have an overly floral scent.
My husband had also never been to the Flamingo so we ducked in there to use the restroom. We stayed at this hotel a lot when I was a child we even got comp-ed suites overlooking the strip and we even got placed in the Presidential suite which felt more like a villa since it wasn’t attached to the main building. I used to know every nook and cranny of this hotel, but it’s changed a lot. It’s a shame that this place has gone downhill despite the remodel. Our little pit stop allowed us to peek in and see the actual flamingos. Gotta love these pink creatures!
After jumping back into our car we were off to the Cosmopolitan to search for Secret Pizza. The queue to pull for the Cosmopolitan valet was absurd so we opted to valety at Aria and walk over to Cosmopolitan through the high end mall that leads you to the outdoor walkway above the strip connecting the two hotels. It was a quick walk, and after exploring around we located Secret Pizza. The line wasn’t long but it moved slow. My husband loved his pizza and I was just happy he got to cross yet another place off his to do list.
The next morning, we went to breakfast with my family which has become a Sunday morning pre-return drive tradition. We used to go to Eggworks or Egg and I but my family has been going to Black Bear Diner lately which is hilarious since they recently opened a location here in Orange County and we have been going there lately. It was like our two worlds were colliding.
All in all, I would consider this a successful first 2017 visit to Vegas. A few places on the “to do” list for our second 2017 visit include:
Have you been to any of these? Know of any Pet-friendly Vegas Hotels that you would recommend? What are some of your favorite things to see and do in Las Vegas?