A Vegas Vacation

Lauren and went to Fabulous Las Vegas over the weekend with some friends to celebrate some birthdays and generally take some time off. Even though Lauren and I travel quite a bit, it is rarely for fun, so we were really excited to have some time to have a good time without having to think about work or getting to the next show.

We stayed in Caesars Palace, which was surprisingly convenient. We have stayed in the MGM a few times, The Golden Nugget and The Stratosphere and Ceases was by far my favorite. It seemed to be right in the middle of everything and it was pretty nice to boot.

If you’ve never been to Vegas, there is an interesting dichotomy on the strip and to a lesser extent downtown. Among the high class, gaudy super hotels like The Bellagio and Caesars there are some old, cheap casinos like Casino Royale and Bill’s that seem out of place. Much like the downtown hotels, they reflect the traditional feeling of old school Vegas. They are kind of dirty and run down with lots of mirrors and classic western appeal. The ceilings are low and reflect a no-nonsense approach to gambling. You go to play and not to gawk at statues or to see a show. Fortunately, my favorite places to play, Casino Royale, Bill’s and O’Sheas were all right across the street from Caesars

One advantage of the older small casinos is that they often are a little looser and offer lower limits on table games. I’ve relatively consistent luck playing machines in the older casinos on the strip and downtown, where as the large casinos seem to always steal my money. This trip my favorite game to play was craps and the old casinos all had low limit games, which made my education a much cheaper process. I also found out that many of the cheaper casinos also allowed betting larger odds bets, which helped me out on a few big wins.

Outside the typical gambling we also ate some great food. We had a 13 course meal at a place well off the strip called Abriya Raku that was phenomenal. It was a mixture of homemade tofu, rare winter mushrooms, raw and cooked fish along homemade soy sauce. They also had a slick Japanese toilet in their water themed bathroom, complete with bidet and heated seat. Needless to say, I want one.

On our last day we ate at Lotus of Siam, which is easily the best Thai food I’ve ever had. It is also pretty reasonably priced, which can be a nice surprise after losing a bunch of money over the course of a couple days.

Consistent with my theme of enjoying old school vegas, we hit up the steak house in the El Cortez (one of my favorite casinos). It was classic Vegas and while the food was relatively standard, the inside looked like one of the dining rooms in the original Oceans 11. Another old school steak house we ate at was at the 4 Queens called Hugo’s Cellar. This is a truly great steakhouse serving traditional steaks cooked to perfection. We had eaten there before this trip and both experiences were amazing. It is a lot of fun to head into the basement of an old casino for a great steak with some wine.

After our steak we headed out to play some games downtown and managed to catch High on Fire after hearing some brutal heavy music coming from Beauty Bar. They are a great heavy band that we were really lucky to see in such a small club with a tiny crowd. To think that I saw them open for Mastodon and headline in Austin to a sold out crowd, it was really cool to see them play a small intimate venue.

We really had an awesome trip. It was first time in a very long time that coming home wasn’t a huge relief. We wanted to stay another day and secretly hoped we missed our flight so we could priceline a room downtown and have one more night of fun.

One negative of Vegas is that it can be rather seedy at times. There are tons of people clicking cards of questionable moral material. Also, it is sad when you see people gambling who probably should avoid it. Vegas is definitely a place where people can make poor decisions.

Personally though, I enjoy the games and glam. It is kind of silly and amazing at the same time. Visiting allows us a chance to live like money doesn’t matter for a few days. You might blow a couple hundred dollars in an hour or two and it is easy to chalk it up to dumb luck. Some might think that is extremely wasteful and I can’t really deny that, but at the same time, money isn’t everything and being able to experience that lack of concern makes me really appreciate the things I do have.

One of things I really liked about craps was that there were a whole table of people having fun playing together. It was fun to watch others be obnoxious or wear some gaudy outfit. High fiving a person you just met or throwing a few bucks to the person who rolled the dice and won you some money is a communal experience. The money your up or down is not going to change your life, but spending time enjoying the company of others just might.