Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

All Bets Are Off: Mai Tai Tom’s 66 Hours In Las Vegas

All Bets Are Off: Mai Tai Tom’s 66 Hours In Las Vegas

Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 08:13 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,268
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
All Bets Are Off: Mai Tai Tom’s 66 Hours In Las Vegas

When we received an invitation to my niece’s wedding in Las Vegas (presided over by Elvis, no less), our only answer could be, “Thank you very much!” On our first busy afternoon and evening in Sin City, Tracy and I visited a museum dedicated to organized crime where our mug shots were taken, and I was both shot and electrocuted before having a secret cocktail in its Underground Speakeasy. We also checked out a large spherical object seemingly seen from just about everywhere in town and got lost for what seemed like an eternity near the canals of Venice. After a spectacular Italian dining experience off the Strip, we’d head over to the Bellagio to admire its botanical garden’s celebration of the Lunar New Year. Below is Day One of our 66 Hours In Las Vegas! Story with photos in link below - without photos below some photos.

All Bets Are Off: Mai Tai Tom’s 66 Hours In Las Vegas
Chapter One: A Mob (Museum) Scene & Lost In Venice
Day One: Is There A Sporting Event Coming Up?, Must Be A Sign, Pinball Wizard, A Night In Tuscany, I Think My Wife Did It, Hitting The Wall, A Shocking Development, Cocktail In A Book, Flipping The Bird, Married To The Mob, Sphere Of Influence, The Eyes Have It, Lost In Venice, Off The Strip Excellence and Happy Lunar New Year
There are not many events that can draw me to the madness which is Las Vegas. However, when we received an invitation to my niece’s wedding and found out it would be presided over by none other than Elvis, I figured It’s Now or Never.

Early on a Saturday morning in February, Tracy and I drove the nearly four hours to Sin City (we gambled there wouldn’t be much traffic at that hour). We briefly thought about stopping for a photo of the overrated “World’s Tallest Thermometer” in Baker, California, but upon seeing it for about the 100th time in my life, I realized it still is not worth a stop.

Just outside of Vegas, we did see something of interest on the side of the road that would cause us to detour on our way home.

Getting into Las Vegas, we took the offramp where Allegiant Stadium is located. In just a little more than a week, it would be filled with thousands trying to catch a glimpse of Taylor Swift along with some football game.

Our goal at the moment was to stop and photograph the famed “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. So, it seemed, did hordes of other people. The 25-foot sign was designed by Betty Willis (who we would find out more about on our journey) and erected in 1969. There is a small parking area adjacent to the sign which was a nightmare to navigate with cars cutting others off to secure spots, knowing my patience (or lack thereof) in these situations, Tracy took a photo out the car window.

We stopped nearby to take a photo of a museum that we would unfortunately not have time to visit. The Pinball Hall of Fame relocated its 25,000 square-foot facility to 4925 Las Vegas Blvd. South a few years ago. Tracy wouldn’t let me inside because she figured I would spend the entire 66 hours playing pinball.

It might be my imagination, or does that sign seem to tilt?

We would stay at two hotels during our stay. The first night would be at the “Home Of Vegas’ Largest Martini,” The Tuscany Suites & Casino located just off the Strip (255 E Flamingo Road).

Not able to book The Blue Man Group, the hotel did the next best thing and features The Jew Man Group.

The room was spacious (450 square feet), the shower great, free parking and the price? Inexpensive by Vegas standards (a little less than $200). As it turned out, we probably should have stayed here all three nights (more later).

While most people would immediately head out to the casinos, Tracy and I had organized crime on our mind, as we drove to downtown Vegas to visit one of the city’s many unusual attractions, The Mob Museum (300 Stewart Avenue). I believe it’s the only place in Vegas where you can be shot, electrocuted and plied with bourbon in one setting.

We purchased our tickets online ($34.95 per person) to what is technically called the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. The 1933 building has housed a number of businesses over the years, including the federal courthouse, post office and other government entities. After getting suited up with a wrist band, we were instructed to walk up the stairs (always dangerous for me) to the third floor to begin our self-guided tour. I hoped I would end up better off than this guy who looked a little shot after attempting his climb. And you thought the newspaper business was tough now!

Before entering the museum’s displays, Tracy and I were called in to be a part of a police lineup. Although innocent, we were told to make a face for the camera. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure if Tracy looked like a little like Lucy Ricardo in the photo or someone having a stroke. In any case, this will not be included on our Christmas card.

First we learned about the birth of the mob, and how each “immigrant group faced discrimination from those who had arrived before them.” The mob was involved in all sorts of illegal activities, and I was frightened someone would learn about my recent Fantasy Football winnings.

Then we discovered the origins of Las Vegas and some of the dangerous shenanigans that took place in the early days of this desert town.

Not everything was illegal. The building of Hoover Dam was supposed to take seven years, but was completed in two.

Although we were in Vegas for a wedding, we found out the business of divorce was profitable for the city … and Clark Gable’s ex-wife.

The museum’s most famous attraction was just around the corner in the next room. Here is the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall where seven of bootlegger Bugs Moran’s men were executed in Chicago’s North Clark Street garage on February 14, 1929.

When the building was torn down, the bricks were removed, numbered and relocated to a nightclub in Vancouver, BC. The Mob Museum acquired them and the wall stands here as it did in 1929. The only thing missing were Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

No, these are not real blood stains.

What is real? The only firearm recovered from the actual scene of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Frank Gusenberg, a contract killer and enforcer was a member of the North Street Gang, and one of the seven men who were lined up against the wall before being shot by four men, two of whom were disguised in police uniforms. Gusenberg was shot 14 times. He was transported to Alexian Brothers Hospital. Sergeant Clarence Sweeny asked Gusenberg who shot him. Declining to rat anyone out, reportedly his last words were, "I ain't no copper.” It is thought the hit was carried out by Al Capone’s men, but it was never proven.

The Mob Museum has Gusenberg’s Colt .38 special, which was found at the scene. Later that year, two Tommy Guns which were also used in the massacre, were recovered in St. Joseph, Michigan and are now owned by the Berrien County Michigan Sheriff’s Office. They are shipped to the Mob Museum every Valentine’s Day to be reunited with the Colt .38 for display. As a bonus, the museum also offers free admittance on that day.

There was only one survivor of the massacre, a German shepherd named Highball (aka Martini). Unfortunately, poor Highball had to be euthanized due to post traumatic stress syndrome. Legend has it that Highball’s ghost haunts the scene of the crime (in Chicago) to this day.

The museum also showcases one of Capone’s revolvers.

Stories about other infamous mobsters could be found. They all give a new definition to high caliber individuals.

From Dick Tracy to J. Edgar Hoover, the stories of the crime fighters were also highlighted.

Next we visited a replica of “Old Sparky,” Sing Sing’s electric chair. Sing Sing prison was where mob boss, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter was executed. He was the only mob boss to meet such a fate (at least not by other mobsters). Somehow I survived my shocking current event encounter.

Sports gambling has been a haven for illegal activities, including the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Say it ain’t so Joe!

I attempted to get some info on the third race at Santa Anita.

Mobsters were not shy … or modest.

The mafia in film created some tense moments on the set.

And dealing drugs was no small tomatoes (poetic license).

The second floor courtroom is where the Kefauver hearings took place. Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver conducted interviews about organized crime involvement in the Las Vegas casino industry. Numerous mob people were interviewed. The courtroom was restored and looks as it did during the 1950 hearings (photo courtesy of The Mob Museum).

Also on the second floor is Open City, which was a term used meaning any mob syndicate could operate here (Nevada had legalized gambling from 1931). The displays brought me back to when I was a kid and came here with my parents, who, by the way, were not mobsters.

We read about different hotels and their place in the history of Las Vegas.

Ah, the fabulous Flamingo had ties to mobster Bugsy Siegel (who has been highlighted in other Mai Tai Tom tales, from the Formosa Cafe to Hollywood Forever Cemetery where Siegel is interred).

Developer Del Webb was apprehensive about the mob, but Bugsy reassured him by saying, “We only kill each other.”
Bugsy opened the Flamingo in December of 1946.

Things did not go well for Bugsy, and the hotel was hemorrhaging money. By the time it started turning a profit some months later his quote to Del Webb became true. While sitting in his girlfriend’s house in Beverly Hills reading the newspaper, he was gunned down by shots fired through a window. The following day, mobsters, including Moe Sedway, took over operation of the Flamingo. No one was ever charged with Siegel’s murder, but it had all the earmarks of a mob hit.

The Desert Inn had quite the back story. On Thanksgiving Day 1966 Howard Hughes took up residence at the DI (renting the hotel's entire top two floors) eventually purchasing the hotel in 1967. By now a recluse with uncut fingernails, he did not leave his room until Thanksgiving Eve 1970, when he was carried on a stretcher, put on a plane and flown to the Bahamas. In the interim, Hughes had purchased many other Vegas hotels and casinos.

The Open Space is a fascinating area, with a number of cool gangster and celebrity tales.

We then watched a film about the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy, and how the mobs and unions “helped” him win the key state of Illinois. It also delved into how the mob might have assisted in JFK’s assassination.

If electrocution didn’t provide enough entertainment, this form of execution was a gas.

Returning to the first floor, we found out how other mobsters met their ultimate fate. A pretty picture it was not.

As you can see, smoking can be hazardous to your health.

I believe this was the original title of McCartney and Wings 70s album.

That was the end of our Mob Museum official visit, however it was now time to head downstairs to the Roaring Twenties and a cocktail at The Underground, The Mob Museum’s Speakeasy.

As we waited, we spied some posters espousing the virtues and pitfalls of drinking.

Oh, who should I vote for?

After sitting down at The Speakeasy bar, I voted for an Old Fashioned.

Since this was Prohibition, a glass filled with ice and a book were surreptitiously delivered to my spot at the bar.

Opening the book, I found a cocktail refreshment was only a bottle away. We also enjoyed some delicious pretzel bites with jalapeño cheese and spicy mustard dipping sauces.

Upon exiting, Tracy wanted to take a photo of the building, where she would have to stand in the street. She told me to warn her if any cars approached. I probably should have listened better. A few moments later some guy was laying on the horn, and as he passed Tracy very closely she pounded on his trunk and flipped him the bird. The guy next to me asked if I was with her. “Yes,” I said, “It seems I’m married to the mob.” Needless to say, I heard about my pathetic lookout skills all the way back to the hotel.

Back in Tuscany, we got ready for dinner. Unfortunately it was only 5 pm, and our reservations were not until eight, so what to do? As we walked outside the hotel, we caught a glimpse of The Sphere at the Venetian. It claims to be the world’s largest spherical structure and looked to be very close by. When you look out your car side mirror it states, “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” In Vegas, objects seem much closer than they appear. As we walked toward The Sphere, we gazed to our left to see The High Roller Observation Wheel, where you can take a spin 550 feet over the Las Vegas Strip.

Eventually, we made it to The Sphere where we were greeted by a large Pepsi ad and then an eyeball.

We walked around the entire thing, but it definitely is more impressive from a distance. People were starting to gather for the U2 concert. We asked what tickets were selling for. One of the parking guards said $650. I told Tracy, “I’m not going With or Without You at that price.”

I then made the critical error of wanting to see the Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian. We entered through the Palazzo and immediately became lost. As we looked at the directory map, a woman from a nearby beauty store offered to help.

Fifteen minutes and $90 poorer after buying something to help with the bags under our eyes, we were on our way to the exit.

There were some dragons as we walked and walked and walked attempting to find somewhere to catch a taxi or an Uber.

We passed by the Grand Canal with gondoliers singing for their supper money. I’ve never been as lost in the real Venice as I was in the faux Venice.

As we continued to look for the non-existent exit, I told Tracy I felt like U2, “Why?” she asked. I answered, “because I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

We finally located the ride share area in the Venetian parking lot, contacted an Uber, who texted us that he was ready to pick us up … at Harrahs. We attempted to call the Uber driver (twice) who never picked up his phone, while the app would not let us cancel. They charged us 10 bucks, so we used taxis the rest of our stay.

We finally found an exit and caught a cab that whisked us off the Strip to a restaurant Tracy’s friend Garrett had recommended. He has never led us astray, and once again his choice was spot on.

Ferraro’s Ristorante (4480 Paradise Road) turned out to be magnificent. Great ambiance with a modern decor, fantastic service (our server was smart and funny) and delectable dishes from start to finish.

I had ordered a bottle of wine, but our server misheard me and brought me a glass. I said, no worries, I’ll drink this and then bring over a bottle. He insisted on comping me for the glass, although I said that wasn’t necessary. He replied, “You can say that, but I’m taking it off your bill anyway.” I love that guy!

By the way, Tracy’s Tomtini in a metal martini glass might be the best one ever made.

Oh, did we eat! But first I had to read the menu, once again forgetting my cheaters. Not to worry, the sommelier lent me hers and said they also keep a box of them at the reception desk for idiots (my words, not hers) like me who also forget to bring them. Soon afterward, the personable owner came over to chat with us for a bit.

I started with the Carpaccio Di Manzo; thinly sliced raw prime sirloin, arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil, lemon, and mustard sauce. Perfecto!

Then we asked our server which he recommended between the Gnocchi Tre Color; Potato dumplings, pachino tomatoes, spinach pureé and ricotta salata or the Vitello Picatta. He replied, “Why not have both?” He said I could have a side of the gnocchi with my veal. He added, “Our gnocchi is made the way it should be … airy pillows of deliciousness.” And they were.

Tracy ordered the Ferraro Salad; Spring mix salad, cherry tomato, dry cranberries, pistachio, sunflower seed, shaved carrots, Parmigiano Reggiano and 4 foglie balsamico dressing.

Her main dish was Bucatini Amatriciana; thick short hollow pasta with traditional Roman sauce, guanciale, tomato, pecorino cheese and red pepper flakes. The bucatini is made in house and was spectacular, as were all the dishes.

Did we have room for dessert? Of course. There is cheesecake and then there is Ferraro’s heavenly cheesecake. Tracy, who is not a huge cheesecake fan, declared it “Light as air,” and we seriously considered coming here for lunch just to have another piece. The berries were deliciously ripe.

Garrett told us that Ferraro’s steaks are great, and the tiramisu can’t be beat. I would also consider ordering the Chef’s Tasting menu should we return.

Our server called a cab for us, and it was on to our final destination of the night. We were going to pay a visit to the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, which reinvents itself five times during the year. As we exited the taxi, we looked across to our hotel for the following two nights, Paris Las Vegas.

Inside the Bellagio, as we walked toward the conservatory we were first stuck (not literally) by the glass sculpture that hangs from the ceiling. It’s called Fiori di Como, and was created by artist Dale Chihuly. According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “the sculpture consists of 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms that weigh about 40,000 pounds. They are supported by a 10,000-pound steel armature. Every morning between 2 and 5 a.m., a team of eight to 10 engineers cleans and maintains the sculpture.” Very cool.

When we visited in February, the Botanical Garden was celebrating Lunar New Year with its “Infinite Prosperity: The Year of the Dragon.”

It’s quite a display that was enjoyed by the throngs of people as we walked through.

You could certainly tell it was The Year of the Dragon.

We paid our respects to Cashen, “the revered Chinese God of Wealth” (who could come in handy for many in Vegas). The accompanying sign stated, “the popular deity is said to have the power to grant blessings for wealth and prosperity in the year ahead.” I’m still waiting. We spent about a half hour admiring the beautiful displays.

Waterfalls, bridges, cherry blossom trees (24 of them) along with thousands and thousands of fresh and preserved flowers and plants make this an enchanting venue.

You can even reserve The Garden Table set inside a replica of the Temple of Six Banyan Trees in Guangzhou, China. If you want to dine in the middle of all this splendor, reserve its one table for what looks like a unique dining experience.

That was it for a busy first afternoon and evening. Somehow in just a short amount of time we had walked more than five miles, which I assume half of it was trying to escape the Venetian.

Tomorrow, we’d switch to the Paris hotel, and it did not get off to a swift start. After a few hotel snafus, we’d finally witness what we had come to see, my niece and new husband’s marriage presided over by The King himself, complete with a few songs and numerous puns. A visit to a kitschy dive Las Vegas haunt with my nephew to toast the wedding followed, and finally a wedding party dinner in a hotel fit for an emperor. Hail Caesar!
Next - Chapter Two: Put On My Blue Suede Shoes

Day Two: Hey It’s Worked For the Last 24 Years, Don’t Be Like Your Parents, Standing In The Idiot Line, There’s A Pool In Our Bathroom, $15 for Pringles!, Going To The Chapel, The Wedding Singer, Hitched, A Mai Tai (or two) For Mai Tai, You Can’t Beat Bobby Flay, The Fabulous Forum, Family And Family-Style, Short Cut and Martha Would Be Ashamed

maitaitom is online now  
Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 06:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 7,477
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I really enjoyed reading this Tom. Yesterday I was tryna describe Vegas for Mrs Z (who has never been) and it was not an easy thing to do.
You've captured it well with both words and imagery.
Poor Highball. Do dogs get tinnitus?

I am done. the U2
zebec is online now  
Old Feb 24th, 2024, 09:51 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 11,719
Likes: 0
Received 17 Likes on 4 Posts
The only time I went to Las Vegas for a wedding we got a ride in a limo to the venue. The bride had her choice of 4 different rooms. I took the place of the brides father and marched her 3 steps down the short aisle.
tomfuller is offline  
Old Feb 24th, 2024, 12:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,407
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
When were you there? We saw U2 at the Sphere a little over a week before the Super Bowl. Amazing A/V in that venue. Not sure how much our tickets were because it was a package deal with two nights at the Palazzo. You did far more in one day than we did in our 48 hours.
ms_go is online now  
Old Feb 24th, 2024, 01:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,268
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
"When were you there?"

We were there the Saturday of the weekend before the Super Bowl. We might have walked right by you. I heard the concert and venue was great. Would have liked to see it, but instead spent our money on eye bag remover
maitaitom is online now  
Old Feb 26th, 2024, 03:08 AM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 313
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Funnily enough, I was also in Vegas that same Saturday. We, in fact, saw U2 that very night! As for the price of the tickets - I didn’t ask because they were a gift. Fantastic show!

nylilly is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2024, 04:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,407
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Looks like we were there right before you. We saw the U2 show on Wednesday the 31st and then flew back to Chicago on Friday the 2nd.
ms_go is online now  
Old Mar 6th, 2024, 01:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,268
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
It was time (for my niece) to get married! Elvis would preside over the ceremony, complete with a few songs and plenty of puns to keep the bride and groom, along with guests, very entertained. A few of us celebrated the nuptials with a Mai Tai (or two) at one of the finest dive bars in Las Vegas and then we all gathered for a celebratory dinner in Rome (sort of). We only had one day left, and tomorrow would be action packed starting with viewing artifacts from the most famous ocean liner disaster in history.


maitaitom is online now  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Aug 7th, 2018 12:47 PM
May 15th, 2017 07:16 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -