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Photo TR: First Time Trip to Vegas

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Hello guys!


Right off the start, this is my first trip report, so comments and criticisms are appreciated!


My girlfriend Kylie and I plus another couple, Eric and Corry, who we are great friends with, decided in late Fall of last year that we wanted to go somewhere over what would be Kylie's academic Spring Break. The rest of us are currently working, so we called off that week and once we decided on Vegas, I got to planning. Eric and Corry were mostly content to do whatever, so I was left in charge of the planning. I realized early on that you really shouldn't try to plan every detail, so instead of doing that, we settled on structuring our five days around a few hotels, activities, meals, or shows and went from there. A lot of the fun stuff that happened ended up being the unplanned things, though it certainly helped to have a game plan each of the five full days we had in Vegas.


Some tips for any first time Vegas traveler.


1. Stay on the strip the first time. If budget ain't an issue or you are splitting the hotel four ways, stay at a nice hotel, but honestly, there are a solid number of reasonable but nice hotels on the strip, like the Luxor, or Monte Carlo. I wouldn't recommend staying at the Stratosphere, or Circus Circus the first time as they are just a bit too far off the strip, but most anything else can work, depending on your budget. We stayed at the MGM Signature and got a pretty good rate for a nice room (more on that later).


2. DO a show or two, especially try to hit one Cirque show. There are so many rotating around the hotels. It seems like Beatles Love, MJ The One, and O are the three top tier shows. From what I've heard (we did Beatles Love), the other two deserve the praise they receive. These three cost slightly more than the rest, but be on the lookout for deals.


3. Use My Vegas: If you got some time to burn, use this app. The four of us did and managed BOGO tickets for Beatles Love (paid $60 for quality seats), a BOGO Breakfast Buffet, some Free Play, and BOGO rides on the Big Apple Coaster at the NY NY. You can fairly easily get enough points in the early goings to get some decent stuff.


4. If you stay on MGM Property, sign up for mlife to get discounted hotel rates. It seems as if you honestly get chepaer rates this way than using a third party website. Also, you can have your room upgraded much easier if booked through the hotel direct (more on that later).


5. If time affords, rent a car and do some stuff outside Vegas. It was really nice to break up the trip on the third day by renting a car and exploring the Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire State Park. After all the noise, lights, and walking, this was a much more relaxing day and we got to escape Vegas prices for a bit.


6. Pace yourself. We may have been a bit overambitious, but we never felt terribly rushed, and honestly, now that we've done a lot of the major stuff, when we go back, we will have a much more concise plan of attack so that we can really enjoy the things we liked the most the first time. As an extension to this, use UBER and Lyft. We got most of our rides free or discounted through these two apps and ended up spending like $15 each for all of our rides (including to/from the airport and Old Vegas).



Alright, let's get started with some pictures!


Day 1: After checking in, we set out to explore some of the hotels near the MGM Grand (the Southern part of the Strip). We ended up checking out Mandalay Bay, Excalibur, and the Luxor, before heading back for the night.


We flew from Pittsburgh to SF and then to Vegas. Our flight left around 7 am from Pittsburgh and I grabbed an ominous BK breakfast once we landed for our layover


Landed at McCarran!


Once we landed, we decided we were hungry and did not know when we would have a better chance to hit up an In-N-Out, so we Ubered our way to one that was about a mile from the MGM Grand.


I've had it before, but honestly nothing compares (fast food-wise).


Shame there are no real lions. Leo, you'll have to do.


So here's a little funny story about how we ended up on the 37th floor with resort credit. So check in was supposed to be around 3 PM. We arrived a bit before aroun 2:30 and my girlfriend checked us in. She utilized the " trick," slipping the check-in lady a and asking if there were any complimentary upgrades. She eventually offered us a Penthouse (same room style) with a Balcony facing the strip. She graciously accepted and the lady said it would just be a few minutes and the room would be ready. We waited for about 45 minutes and then went up to check and see (she had said she would call us). It was not ready yet. Eventually, we called back and more than an hour after checking in, the room was ready. They offered us resort credit for our troubles. It really wasn't ahuge deal, but we appreciated the gesture.


A quality vending machine, to be sure.


In advance, I apologize. I am absolutely no photographer. I don't really spend time searching for the best angle, and all that. Plus its just an iPhone.


Klassy as hell


The Luxor has elevators that actually run diagnol, which was less thrilling than we anticipated. It was worth a shot.


At this point, we split up and the guys did the Titanic Exhibit and the girls did the Bodies Exhbiit. We got discount tickets from Tix 4 Tonight (it was just barely worth the effort). They try to sell you on other things you aren't interested in. Very few things are actually hafl off like they advertise but a discount is a discount. We paid like for this and it was regularly (which would have been outrageous).


They recreated some rooms on the ship, and supplemented the exhibit with many first hand accounts and artificats.


This was the highlight, I guess this piece was only recently procured from the Ocean and has been on display in a few other places and will be moved from here once the exhibit moves in a few years.


We had a coupon for Slice of Pizza at Mandalay Bay, so we got some food on the cheap


One of three Signature Towers. I didn't really explain this, but you have to walk across a moving walkway from the MGM Grand to access your tower. From entering the MGM, its about 15 minutes to the far tower if you're walking briskly. This really isn't too bad, considering how expansive the MGM Grand is. That mostly wrapped up our first day.


Day 2: We woke up and ate breakfast in our hotel room (we had a nice kitchenette with a fridge and silverware, plates, and glasses), which was rather nice. Hopped in an Uber to start our day up on the Northern part of the Strip at the Wynn and Encore. These two hotels are rather unique in that they are not owned by CET or MGM, and do not necessarily have any one particular thing to draw you in (whether it be a Cirque show, or the Fountains at Bellagio or the Volcano at the Mirage). In spite of that, this hotel wowed us. It wasn't over the top or pretentious. It was just the perfect amount of classy and overall felt unlike any other hotel on the strip. We spent some time exploring and gambling in both towers (Wynn and Encore) before leaving and heading to the Venetian. We spent some time there, ate lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe. We then left and went to the Flamingo, explored there, and enjoyed the Flamingo Exhibit (I suppose it was nice.. really, the place was a bit poorly kept to no one's surprise). We returned back to the Venetian and shopped some more before heading to the Mirage for the night. We ate dinner at BLT Burger and saw Beatles Love (9 PM showing) and then my girlfriend and I kinda worked our way back to the hotel by foot, stopping at a few places along the way.



They do have some sort of show out on the lake every night..


Really wanted to hop on..


These next two art displays each cost somewhere around the $25 million mark. I suppose this is a small investment in the grand scheme of things..


I don't listen to EDM or anything, but I recognize these names, and find it just amazing how these large scale acts are all playing casually in one weekend.


Here is Mr. Popeye. That bit of spinach alone probably cost a few million dollars.


On our way to the Grand Canal Shoppes


There is an "indoor" area and an "outdoor" area. They are both stunning and although the shops are genearlly far too expensive, it is quite a nice place to people watch and explore.


They wanted like $70 for a private 15 minute Gondala ride or like $35 a couple if you were willing to share with two others. Neat that they have it, thankful people pay for it, happy I did not.


Grand Lux Cafe for lunch.. This place reeked of the Cheesecake Factory from the second I saw it and looked through the expansive menu. If you are looking for some reasonable food at a nice hotel like this, look no further. The cheapest meal we ate on the strip all week, really.


Leaving the Venetian.


We'll see you later.


Not you though. We have little interest in you.


A quick stop to the Flamingo!


Yeah, nothing much to see here. Let us move on.



It's getting a little darker around here now..




And here we are! This show exceeded all expectations. I have never seen a Cirque Du Soleil show before.. I will say that if you are really into the actual acrobats of it all, this show might not be for you. There was enough of it for me, but I could see people wanting more. The soundtrack and the story that is told is just wonderful and is a really powerful way to remember their music.


We checked out the Volcano show (I think it has like 2 viewings a night at 7 and 8 during the week and a few more on the weekends. It is worth seeing if you can make it work, though it really pales in comparison to the fountains. Free entertainment is good entertainment though..


Jumping around a bit, we ate dinner before Beatles Love at BLT Burger.. It was honestly pretty good, though absolutely not worth the price we paid. Before tip, it was $30 for a burger, fries, and shake. My girlfriend and I split, so we could save a bit of money.


Also, the place was closed down (dunno if it is still) due to a health code violation the following week. So we really killed it with this selection.


Yeah, no.


Did a little exploring on the way back that night!


We will see you later this week.


We will see YOU later this week, too.


The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan was really beautiful. My girlfriend had really wanted to drink a Cosmo at the Cosmo; however, at like $16 for a cocktail, she decided against it. She got one later that week for free for gambling at the MGM Grand.


Wrapping up day 2 with a shot down the strip. Thanks for reading so far. I wil post more here soon! Please comment and give feedback!

Edited by Taylor Finn
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^Hey, my pleasure! I know there are not many long trip reports to Vegas on here and I hope to change that here! Also, I think if I didn't do this, I would kind of forget all what we did and I know I plan to go back so this will be a good way to remember that.


Before I move on, I would like to just thank the people who helped me plan this trip here at TPR on the forums. I really got a lot of great advice and it came in handy!


DAY 3: Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, Bone Marrow, and a Hypnotist.


So, we decided early on that we wanted to have a day away from the Strip to explore the surrounding areas. Had we done Red Rock and the Hoover Dam in the same day, we would have had to drive thorugh the Strip twice, as they are on opposite sides of one another. That was part of why we decided on Valley of Fire instead, although from what I had read online, people suggested VOF over Red Rock. So, we left home early with our rental car and arrived at the Hover Dam around 10 or so. We walked around for a little while (didn't pay for any of the tours) and then went back into Boulder City nearby for lunch at Southwest Diner. We stopped at a grovery story for some provisions and sped off toward Valley of Fire. It is important to note that we did not necessarily know there would be a $20 fee to travel up to Valley of Fire the scenic way through the Lake Mead Recreational Area (Lakeshore and Northshore Rd), but we are happy we paid it (the pass was valid for a week, so we were good to come back that way too). We arrived at Valley of Fire, did the driving loop and stopped at the Visitors Center, where I narrowly avoided an encounter with a large spider. We talked to the park ranger and figured out a couple easier hiking trails to do and set off for them. We spent a good four hours there and then returned to the Strip the same way we came for a big dinner at the Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmopolitan. This buffet was something we had all been kinda psyched about. It really wasn't that much more expensive than the rest of the buffets in Vegas, but the quality and quantity seemed far and away better. Something spontaenous that happened the morning prior that I forgot to mention was me finding $15 tickets to see Mark Savard Comedy Hypnosis at Planet Hollywood. So we had our tickets bought for this night at 10 PM. The show turned out to be a blast and was definitely worth the price of admission.


I am sorry to bore with all this text, I am not a capitvating writer, I know! Thanks for reading and following along and here are some pictures from our day (mostly) away from the Strip. Please let me know what you think! Oh, and if someone can tell me how I can link to each update that would be great so people don't have to scroll!


Our lovely view for these mornings


And we've arrived!


At the sign. There was a kind, kind man here with a Welcome to Las Vegas jacket and large button on who was so generously offering to take everyone's pictures. He even ushered the line along and set people up in the poses that he thought were best. What a guy. He was totally legitimte.


Hoover Dam is definitely a place you should stop at, but I would not necessaily think to pay for a bus tour out here just to do this.


Anyone who has played Fallout: New Vegas will be very familiar with this whole area.





Hoover did not do a lot of things well. But I guess he does have a dam named after him.


More than 100 people died buiding this dam. And a FAQ section online made sure to clarify that none of them are buried inside the dam itself. Seems like a weird thing to even think about, but I guess we live in a sick world.


I remember having a hard time discerning just how high the dam was, but there were a few cars and people down below that put things in perspective..


Afterwards, we backtracked like 10 minutes to Boulder City for lunch at a diner I had found. The food was excellent. I got Mexican food, but people had breakfast and dinner entrees and all enjoyed them. It was nice to be reacquainted with cheap prices.




We've arrived at VOF


We did White Dome and Mouse's Tank... we weren't quite up for the more difficult ones..


The Driving Loop had a number of pull offs.


Signs. Important Information.



Throughout the whole trail, I worried that we would encounter a large spider.


And luckily, we did not.


We read that they are really most abundant September-November.


They migrate down South after that.


A stampede of large large spiders just casually ruining lives.


Speaking of which.. there was a wedding going on along the rode. it would certainly be more cost effective than renting out a hall. Good thing they did this in March and not June.




Petroglyphs. Never heard of the word before that day. Was excited the first time I heard it. Didn't know why.


Pretty cool, though. I see a questionable one somewhere.


So we parked our car at the Cosmo. And they had a little display that listed how many spots were available on each floor. Every spot had a green or red light over it to indicate if the spot was taken. You could easily look down a long row and determine if there was a spot. It was quite nice!


Alright, here is the Wicked Spoon Buffet. We splurged and went for dinner. We arrived at 6:44 and didn't have to be at our show until like 9:30 or so..


I think we were all just a bit overwhelmed by the place.


I took pics of pretty much everything that I ate (after I ate it, I went back up).




In addition to these desserts, they had like 30 different homemade gelatos you could have.



They had an asian station with sushi, and some more standard options.





They honestly had something for everyone. If you were vegan, you might have a bit of a hard time along the way, but they certainly made every effort to accomodate people.




Not so good. I am happy I tried it.. just a gummy texture. Could not handle it.


I think what made this place exceptional was the presentation. Most dishes were not something you scooped out of a container. It was all pre-portioned and presented in an appealing way.


Probably the highlight of the meal.



Duck Wings, I think?


I dunno really but it was still tasty.


That was just the kind of attitude we all had. It was kinda nice to just be able to try a bunch of things I've never had.


They had some pre-split crab legs, just for good measure.


And an expansive carving station.





The place is actually not all that large..


Thanks for reading, guys. I hope I didn't bore you with all these food pics!

Edited by Taylor Finn
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A few things...


Anyone that has never seen The Beatles: Love really needs to check this show out if they are in Vegas. Definitely one of the best shows I have ever seen - Cirque or otherwise. Of course it helps that I am a huge Beatles fan too.


It is quite staggering to see the white line of where the Lake Mead water line used to be at Hoover Dam. I was shocked the last time we were there at how it is literally being drained down to almost nothing. The beach at the State Park and Marina where I learned to swim as a kid has been moved five miles down the lake from where it was because there is no longer any water where it used to be!


That cheeseburger looked pretty pathetic for your $38 meal...I can see why they closed the doors!


Valley Of Fire is awesome. So many people miss this place when they visit and it is totally worth the drive. Tip - try to hit it later in the afternoon when the sun starts to go down - amazing. Other cool nature-spaces to check out are Red Rock Canyon and Mt. Charleston.


The buffet selection at Wicked Spoon looked amazing...as it should for $38! I'm not a buffet person, but I do like the ones that have selections from around the world to try.


That vending machine with pantyhose in it just seemed so Japanese (meaning completely weird and awesome), didn't it?



Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks for all the feedback guys! I really appreciate the warm reception, especially it being my first report!


^Thanks for all the little notes! The show really was exceptional, even to my girlfriend who wasn't a huge Beatles fan going in. We are seeing Paul later this year, so that should say something.


And yeah, BLT Burger just wasn't up to snuff..


We did stick around for a good while, but ended up catching the sunset on the way back across the Lake Mead Recreational Area (the long way back into Vegas). This was probably almost as good.



Food porn is always good!


Thanks for part 2. . . enjoyed it.



I've never been to Vegas, and it's never been high on my list but all the tips and photos give a great perspective on the city! Valley of Fire looks beautiful. Looking forward to to more photos and story!



I had such a hard time finding pictures of people's travels to Vegas, so I thought it be smart to do just that!


Wicked Spoon is worth every penny.

one of the best in Vegas (still).. glad you got to try it.

Considering just how long we stayed, just how full we were, and just how good it was, yeah... definitely worth every penny. Poor waiter had so many plates to take.

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I've never been to Vegas but so many of my friends and family members love it there. My brother moved there last year and wants me to come visit so I'll do that in the next year or so. I really enjoyed reading your detailed experiences and all the pictures = AWESOME! Seriously fun report, great tips and places to try out when I'm there

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Hello again! I'm back!


So our fourth day was another day spent mostly away from the Strip! We woke up and ate breakfast in our room again before heading to the MGM Grand pool. One of the things we had been looking for was this pool complex, mostly because there was a... LAZY RIVER! Which was closed. We ended up having a great time here. We are all students at Pitt, and the ACC men's tournament was going on at the time we were here. It just so happened that the Pac 12 tourney was being held at the MGM Grand so there were a lot of fans and students around and they had a pool party of sorts at the one pool, which was neat.


We grabbed lunch at Wolfgang Puck at the hotel before catching an Uber for Old Vegas (around rush hour). Our driver actually worked as a volunteer at the Mob Museum, which was our next stop for the day. He had a lot of insights into Vegas for us. Another reason why we really prefer Lyft and Uber to cab drivers. We got some discount tickets with our student IDs and spent a few hours here. It was a really nice little find. If you have an interest in what Vegas used to be like when the Mobsters ran it and the whole US, it is certainly worth checking out. We were considering doing the Neon Museum but decided to put that off for the next time.


After the Mob Museum, we went ahead and explored Fremont Street and saw the famous light show (really wasn't all that impressive, though it certainly doesn't detract from the experience of the whole place. We explored some of the old hotel casinos and my girlfriend and i split off for dinner at Le Thai, which turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. From there, we continued exploring and eventually ended up Main Street Hotel and Casino which is a must-see stop if you are going to be stopping in Old Vegas. This place was totally different from the other hotels in the area. The casino hall was beautifully antique and well kept. The men's bathroom has a large chunk of the Berlin Wall behind the urinals and there is a pool table that Winston Churchill used here as well. They actually have a little handout you can take to explore all the antiques in the place. We spent a while in Old Vegas and headed back to our hotel late that night.


Old Vegas is absolutely worth a stop if you can get down there. Sure, it's a little trashy, but the prices are much better, the casinos are looser and the Players's Clubs more generous. And with that, onto the pictures from our fourth day in Vegas! Enjoy.


We shared our $50 resort credit for a nice lunch at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant.


En route to Old Vegas we saw a ton of wedding chapels and Pawn Stars pawn shop. Not something we had atop our list, though there was no line!


I thought it would've been ironic if The Mob had been a top contributor. Nonetheless, this museum is relatively new and it showed. If you have been to the Holocaust Museum in DC, it is very similar in its layout.




Vegas Vic! My main man.


I am honestly such a great photographer. The steps lead to a zipline that runs above the whole street. People probably try to time it to fly during the light show. They actually had a lower and higher line to fly on, with different prices, which I thought was rather stupid.


The other side of Fremont Street. This side wasn't as popular toward the end, so we stopped once the crowds dissipated.


But not before we stumbled upon this gem of a place! We ordered Pad Thai.


And Korean Short Rib Fried Rice! Both were absolutely top notch and reasonable, to boot!


A crappy picture of what was some of the best Thai Iced Tea we have ever had.


Not as many people taking pictures in front of this sign.


Main Street Casino! We've talked and would actually consider maybe staying a few nights here on our next trip (splitting up between here and the Strip might be annoying but it could be neat and cost effective). The hotels in Old Vegas don't generally have the giant resort fee ($30+/night) that the Strip Hotels have.


We waited and waited and tried our hardest to find a chance for the ladies to enter the men's bathroom to get a peek at this wall. When we finally had a chance, a security guard noticed and told us he could've escorted them from the get-go. This is a common thing I guess. Either way, super neat that they have this here, and this seems like an appropriate residence.


Some old antique slots! The players club here offered $5 free play if you played $5, which was a nice little incentive to gamble a bit. Also, you got a deck of used cards signed and dated by the dealer, which was cool, I guess. Better than mLife.


The two biggest golden nuggets were at the Golden Nugget hotel. For the recent big winners, you could also invest in gold from a vending machine of sorts (seemed incredibly sketchy, though it continually updated the price of gold to the minute).


The whole place is neat in that the facades are kind of all situated underneath the lights and along the same line, but the hotels are nestled behind.





Here a bit too late, but they allow you to take pictures with a million bucks and keep the picture for free before a certain hour.


A better panorama of our view from the hotel (quite beautiful)!


Thanks for reading! I'll be back with our last day here soon! We'll return to the strip for a busy busy day!

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BLT burger was a decent place & priced around the same as the other Vegas burger joints---it never reopened after the health code violation. MGM took control of it and reopened it under another name (LVB Burgers & Bar).


Grand Lux Cafe is a fancier Cheesecake Factory.


I wouldn't call the casinos looser in Downtown...they like to advertise that, but your odds are still not that good. The one advantage to gambling downtown is that it is easier to find cheap blackjack tables and 3:2 payout instead of 6:5. Also more single deck blackjack for you guys who have memorized the strategy table. Better craps odds too. Hotel rooms are cheaper in downtown because they are generally a lot smaller and older.


Good call on Wicked Spoon. That & Aria are my favorite buffets. Caesar's is great, but overpriced.

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I wouldn't call the casinos looser in Downtown...they like to advertise that, but your odds are still not that good. The one advantage to gambling downtown is that it is easier to find cheap blackjack tables and 3:2 payout instead of 6:5. Also more single deck blackjack for you guys who have memorized the strategy table. Better craps odds too. Hotel rooms are cheaper in downtown because they are generally a lot smaller and older.


This. I love going to downtown for gambling and drinks. A buttload of hotels on Fremont Street have been remodeled completely, or at least have one tower that has been redone. On my last trip, I stayed at the Flamingo on the main strip. We opted for the newly remodeled room, and the price wasn't too far off the regular rooms (loved the remodeled bathroom and beds). I also liked that they have Margaritaville attached to the Flamingo. They have cheap drinks, $5 dollar blackjack tables, etc. I didn't have to catch an uber downtown to experience the perks.

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