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Trip Report Las Vegas trip report with teenagers

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We were a group of three families with 5 adults and 3 teenaged girls in search of fun and respite from our awful Canadian winter. And Las Vegas turned out to be exactly what we needed...None of us are what we would consider Vegas types - we don't gamble for starters - but we decided that it would be fun to go as a group. And we went with the philosophy that we would do it all since we would probably only go there once in our lives.

We arrived on a Saturday mid-day and rented a car. We found Vegas very easy to get around in and we were happy to have a car as we were staying off the strip. Free and plentiful parking at all of the hotels on the strip made the decision to rent a car a no-brainer.

We spent three days on the strip, exploring the hotels in sections. We started late on Day 1 so parked at Bellagio and caught the free fountain show out front (some snickered as it was set to the Celine Dion Titanic tune, but we all agreed it was impressive). We then walked up to the Fashion Show mall to get discount tickets to shows and then back to Treasure Island in time to catch the Sirens show. In summary, free but very cheesy (although we did enjoy the frat boys in front arguing over which siren was the "hottest"). We explored the inside of the Bellagio on our way back to get the car and were amazed at the glass sculpture ceiling in the lobby, the display behind the registration counter and the conservatory.

We were staying at a great timeshare resort, the Grandview, so BBQ'd steaks that night, had plenty of laughs and hung out in the glorious hot tub, enjoying being with friends, the balmy weather, and the absence of snow and slush.

Day 2, we were up bright and early to spend a full day on the strip. This time we parked at MGM, explored the lion habitat in the lobby (both adults and cubs on display that day) and then headed across the street to New York New York. Six of our group are rollercoaster afficionados so were delighted with the ride at this hotel. We then headed to Nine Fine Irishmen, the pub in the lobby with a great patio and live entertainment right on Las Vegas Blvd, for a wonderful pub lunch. I had a great potato leek soup, while the others had a very rich mac and cheese (the side portion is perfect), fabulous fish and chips, a wonderful smoked salmon appetizer that was a perfect size for lunch, etc.

We then continued our trek south to the Excalibur Hotel and then the Luxor. By this point, we were feeling the effects of all of the walking so were happy to take the light rail between the two hotels. At the Luxor, we all went to the Bodies Exhibit. I had seen it once before in New York, but wanted my kids to see it and it was just as fascinating the second time around.

We went back to our timeshare to have a swim in the pool, BBQ some burgers and get cleaned up for the Penn & Teller show that night. This show was at the Rio - again, very easy to get to with plentiful free parking. This is a great show and we were most impressed when both men came out into the lobby after the show to sign autographs and have photos taken with their fans.

Day 3 was shopping day (I did say we had 3 teenaged girls with us, didn't I?) We spent most of the day at Las Vegas Premium Outlets, including grabbing lunch at the small food court, and got some good deals, but by mid-afternoon we headed over to the Fashion Show mall to hit Forever 21.

After all that shopping, we were happy to have a soak in the hot tub and another communal dinner at our unit before heading off to see Rita Rudner. This was a very funny show as well, and we enjoyed exploring the Venetian before and after the show.

We decided that we needed a break from the action on Day 4 so we packed a picnic lunch (with champagne for the adults!) and headed out to Valley of Fire State Park. This was one of our favourite activities and it was just a short hour out of Vegas. We stopped first at the Visitor Centre which had washrooms, potable water and displays showing the various animals, birds and other things we'd be seeing. Then we found a great covered picnic spot at the Cabins. After eating, we clambered a bit up the rocks before heading off to the Hoover Dam on our way back to Vegas. The desert-scape was very different for us, and we loved the red rock formations. We decided to pass on the various Hoover Dam tours and just drove over the dam and parked in a couple of locations to wonder at the immensity of it. We particularly liked the "no spies" sign...too funny!

We headed back to our unit for a dip in the pool and to get freshened up for dinner at the Lotus of Siam. This place doesn't look like much and the area is a little sketchy, but the food was delicious and very reasonably priced ($65 for my group of 3, including 2 beer for me). With a party of 8, we were able to order and sample many dishes, and we really liked the special shrimp rolls, the yellow curry, the duck curry, and red chicken curry, and the mussel omelet (really, it was delish!). My vegetarian daughter said the pad thai was a life-altering experience - I don't know about that, but it was yummy for sure.

We then headed down to Fremont Street to take a peek at old Las Vegas and I must say we were not too impressed. The teenagers were a bit traumatized by all the male attention (ranging from harmless staring to openly admiring comments to the creepy Homer character that took a liking to our 14 year old and snuck up behind her on several occasions), but we enjoyed the people watching, in particular the people dressed up as various personalities (we saw Kid Rock, Brett Michaels, Ozzie and Paul Stanley that night along with many, many Homer Simpsons). I must admit that I liked the Queen and Kiss tributes that lit up the Fremont Street Experience ceiling from time to time. We had to leave before George Thoroughgood took to the heavens, but I expect that would have been fun as well. While we found the area to be pretty seedy and tired, I spoke to someone I met back at the hot tub who told me he had stayed at the Golden Nugget last year and thought the rooms were super-luxurious. And all of the old neon lights were fantastic.

On Day 5, we got up early to go to the Jubilee backstage tour at the Bally's hotel ($17 each). Jubilee is one of the last big showgirl productions in Vegas and, although our kids were too young to go to the show (it's topless so limited to 18 and over), we all thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Patsy, one of the current showgirls, was our guide and she was elegant and funny and perfect! After, wandered around the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace and discovered the magnificent pool area. No one seemed to care that we weren't hotel guests so we pulled up some loungers and took in the beauty and tranquility of this area for a while. We drove up to the Sahara so the rollercoaster lovers amongst us could get there fill, but the ride was closed on Wednesdays - drat! So we headed off to Circus Circus and took in a circus act over the casino floor and the rollercoaster in the Adventuredome.

We did a quick change in the car back at the parking lot at Bally's and met in Paris at Le Village, our one and only buffet experience in Vegas. I must say I was cynical about the buffet thing, but this one was very good, reasonably priced ($25 for dinner although the 18% mandatory gratuity for a group of 8 seemed a bit steep for a buffet!) and the foods all seemed to go together better than at other buffets. We enjoyed the cassoulet, the glazed pearl onions, the grilled lamb, the choucroute garni, the onion soup and so much more. The highlights, though, were the $10 bottles of red wine (seriously!) and the made to order crepes for dessert.

We rolled out of there 2.5 hours later, stuffed to the gills, and made our way across the street to the Bellagio to see Cirque de Soleil's "O". I have seen Cirque shows three times before, but this was the most spectacular of all and, in the end, worth the hefty price tag of $165 each. There was so much happening at once that was so interesting and quirky that it was hard to keep up and I imagine you would see different things if you went back again.

After "O", we wandered around the strip a bit to see the sights at night. The fountain show outside the Bellagio was better for me this time with a Frank Sinatra tune replacing Celine. We wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower, but balked at the hefty night-time price and the 1 hour wait. The girls even squeezed in a little more shopping in the Miracle Mile shops.

Day 6 was catch up day - we ran around to see a few last things on people's lists - the Town Square shopping centre which is a lovely outdoor shopping mall, the M & Ms store (we even caught the 4D movie there - cheesy but free), etc. We had lunch at the nasty looking Mexican restaurant beside the M & Ms store and I'm pleased to report that it was much better than we expected - decent nachos with real guacamole and chicken wings for reasonable prices. This was St. Patrick's Day and I have to say I was happy we were not returning to or staying on the strip that night - throngs of drunken people wearing green on the strip at 2 in the afternoon - I can't imagine how it must've deteriorated later that night... We had dinner back at our unit and then went bowling at the South Point Casino for something completely different. Very fun!

We decided to splurge and take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon on our last day. Heli USA seemed to be the only company that would agree to carry our group of 8 in 2 helicopters at the same time so that we could have lunch together while there. John, their very affable salesman outside the Fashion Show mall, recommended that we take the Ranch combination where we would land near the Canyon at a working ranch, be transported by horse-drawn wagon to the ranch for a BBQ lunch and then go for a short horseback ride before getting back on the helicopter and returning to Vegas. Sounded a little cheesy, but it was actually a lot of fun. And nothing really beats rising over the lip for your first view of the Grand Canyon. The helicopter pilots were great, pointing out sights along the way and chatting throughout the flight. Lunch was yummy ribs with a little corn on the cob and a quick beer. This trip only takes 4 or 5 hours so we had the afternoon to ourselves, to lounge by the pool and soak up some sun before it was time to get ready for the evening's activities.

We had extensive discussions about where to go for dinner on our last night since many of us had had bad last night experiences when travelling and we were determined to break that curse. In the end, we relied on recommendations here and in other sources and went to Rosemary's. Sounds a little boring, I know, and it is located in a strip mall in suburban Las Vegas which didn't help alleviate our concern. But once we entered the restaurant, we knew we were in for a treat! Once in, you would never know that you're in a strip mall (thank goodness). The wait staff was wonderful - exceptionally well-trained, knowledgeable about the menu and very accommodating of food allergies, food preferences and our time constraints. We each ordered the $55 prix fixe menu - an appetizer, a main and a dessert - and each person was delighted with their meal as well as with all of the samples we had of other people's meals. We found a delicious bottle of wine for a reasonable $50 although most of the wine list contained much more expensive wines. The meal was very well paced, with all plates presented at the same time with a flourish. Lovely. Our bill for 3 with tax and tip, including a drink and a glass of wine, was $265 - by far our most expensive meal of the week, but well worth it for the total dining experience.

Then it was off to the Jay Leno show - great opening act by a comedic do wop group from California, but what really impressed me the most was the man himself and his 1.5 hour stand-up routine - perfect timing, perfect delivery, hilarious!

Well after all that fun, it was finally time to catch our breath and return to reality (to say nothing of returning to work, to pay for the fun!). In the end, I think that we all enjoyed Vegas much more than we were expecting and were amazed at the range of things to do while there. A week was definitely not too long - had we had two weeks, we would have been able to have a few more down days to lounge by the pool and to explore the other local parks like Red Rock. We were impressed with the overall consistently high quality of food, as well as with the reasonable prices. We had perfect weather - warm and sunny most days while cooling off at night. In the end, while I'm not sure that I would return (been there, done that), the girls are already plotting their return when they are over 21.

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