I’ve been to Vegas many, many times. My girlfriends and I used to take an annual girls trip every summer for years and our trips were absolutely insane. We would land in Vegas around 9 am on a Thursday, drop our luggage off to the hotel, and change immediately into our bikinis that were conveniently packed in our carry-ons. No time could be wasted. We would then head to the hotel’s pool where we would impatiently wait until the more exclusive pool clubs would open up – Liquid, Wet Republic, Daylight, etc. We would spend the next three days at the pool clubs all day, head back to the room to nap, eat quick dinners, and then go to the nightclubs. Wake up, repeat. Come Sunday, we all wanted to die and had to crawl through McCarran Airport to get to our gate. I swear every one of us swore off Vegas for the rest of our lives (until the next summer, of course!).
Then I married my husband, a professional poker player, who frequents Vegas for work and play. My trips with him vary slightly – a little less clubbing, a little more gambling. However, we still always manage to get a little carried away with drinking while we are there.
My trips to Vegas have been slowly dwindling due to other life commitments, but I was lucky enough to be able to go with my family last week to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday! The crew: Me, my husband, my sister, her boyfriend, and my mom. Obviously this was going to be a different kind of Vegas trip. It was like I was going to a brand new city. No joke. I literally said I didn’t know what to pack and had no clue what our trip would be like. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I decided to put together a low-key travel guide for anyone interested in going in the offseason.
Where To Stay
If you read my post about Marco Island, you already know that my mom is a Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare owner. She had extra points to use and generously provided all of our accommodations. When she was booking our stay, she only had two options – one that was off the strip and the other… Trump Hotel. (FYI – this post has no political affiliation whatsoever.) My mom decided to go with the Trump Hotel because of the location. We were all a little nervous to stay there. Especially considering I was personally affected by the Trump protestors the day after the election in Chicago. They surrounded my car when I was driving on Michigan Avenue. It was peaceful, but incredibly scary nonetheless.
Anyways, the hotel ended up being amazing. My mom secured a two bedroom suite and a studio. My sister and her boyfriend took the studio.
My mom, Chris and I took the two bedroom suite. It turned out that the “two bedroom” suite is actually just a studio AND a larger one bedroom suite located right next to each other. The only thing that made it technically a two bedroom suite was that our keys were made to open both rooms. My mom took the studio portion and Chris and I took the larger one bedroom suite. Chris and I had a full kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, and a large bedroom.
In my best Donald Trump voice, “huge!”
Aside from the space, the rooms were upscale and beautiful. The decor was pretty sleek and modern.
The lobby of the hotel was a bit tacky, but I loved it. Gold and sparkles EVERYWHERE.
They had a nice fitness center, spa, and outdoor pool. Unfortunately, it was only in the mid 50’s and 60’s the entire time we were there.
They also have a complimentary shuttle that takes guests to the Wynn and to Ceasar’s Palace. I would say the only downside to this hotel is that it isn’t a gaming hotel. Chris and I have both stayed at many different hotels along the strip and agreed that we would definitely stay at Trump Hotel again. Oh, and another great perk about this hotel is that it is right across the street from Nordstrom.
Where to Eat
We ate breakfast at DJT Restaurant in the lobby of the hotel purely based out of convenience. The buffet was just ok. I’d advise ordering from the menu. The oatmeal and the omelets were legit.
We only had lunch the first day we were there as we ate breakfast super late the other days. We went to Country Club in the Wynn. The views at this restaurant were stellar as they overlooked the Wynn Golf Course. We all had burgers. They were good. FYI they come with homemade chips. It appears on the menu that everything is a la carte, so we ordered fries for the table to share and were kind of annoyed when our meals arrived. The waiter never mentioned we would all have sides of chips. My sister ordered the sweet corn chowder soup and it was phenomenal.
Thursday night, we went to Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens Hotel. It was a cozy little steakhouse in Old Vegas. They give all the ladies red long stem roses and provide bud vases on the tables. The prices on the menu were steep. I was definitely taken aback when we first sat down. However, it’s quite the bang for your buck. Each entree includes a custom salad made table side, palate cleansing sorbet, and dessert. The portions were generous too. I ordered a dirty martini. While it was an $18 cocktail, it came in the shaker and filled my martini glass up three times. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their meal. I personally ordered the petite filet and shrimp in a peppercorn sauce. The shrimp were plump and delicious.
Friday night, my sister really wanted to go to The Golden Steer all because of a funny story a few years ago involving my dad.
A few years ago, my parents went to Vegas for their 28th wedding anniversary with their friends, Lynn and Sheryl, who were also celebrating Sheryl’s birthday. They happened to drive by The Golden Steer and Lynn said he heard great things about it and wanted to go for Sheryl’s birthday dinner. My dad took one look out the window and thought to himself that there is no way in hell he is going there. It is a free standing steakhouse that looks very unappealing from the outside.
My parents checked into their room and my dad immediately started researching The Golden Steer online. Everyone online was raving about it. In fact, Zagat selected it as one of the USA’s most iconic restaurants. When my parents met back up with Lynn and Sheryl, my dad said to them, “Ya know, Lynn, I was going to respectfully decline dinner at The Golden Steer, but it got fabulous reviews on Zagat, so we are in.” Lynn loves telling us this story.
They went to dinner later that night and my dad loved every second of this restaurant. It’s the oldest steakhouse in Vegas. All of the famous Vegas old timers frequented this spot. Think Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. The booths are giant red curved leather seats that really bring you back in time.
They had the best experience. Their food was fabulous. Their service was fantastic. My dad spoke about this restaurant multiple times. We just had to check it out for ourselves.
Now, back to our experience. We decided to celebrate Britt’s birthday here since it had special meaning to our family. We couldn’t get a reservation until 9 pm though. We were somewhat ok with this because we were doing very well at the blackjack table. Haha.
Anyways, once we sat down our service was incredibly slow. My husband got up to tell the staff privately that we were celebrating a birthday. Our appetizers were the crab cakes and toasted ravioli. Both were delicious. My sister’s boyfriend and Chris ordered salads that were again made table side. Nothing beats a freshly made caesar salad. Mmm. After waiting what seemed like forever, our entrees finally came. I ordered the king crab legs and they were covered in seasoning. Why on earth would anyone alter KING CRAB LEGS?! Especially at market price!!!! OMG. But then I had a bite. Whatever they did was incredible because they were the best crab legs I have ever had.
My sister ordered the eggplant parm and it came undercooked and tough. The waiter took for-ev-er to come back to our table to check on us. When he finally came, my sister said and I quote, “This is terrible and undercooked. You can just take it off the bill. Thanks.” She gave this man no opportunity to do or say anything other than, “ok.” Haha. You tell ’em, Britt!
All the sudden, the waiter comes back with our check. They never acknowledged her birthday or anything!!!! My mom and I were secretly fuming. I sent Chris back out on a mission to remind them they forgot her birthday. And then – they sent a slice of cheese cake out with a sparkler on top while Chris was gone. Talk about a clusterfuck. (Excuse my language.)
I’d like to think that our poor experience was due to us dining so late at night and having a sucky server. The majority of our food was delicious. I would definitely give it a second chance. However, we did feel very let down with it being a special place for us and celebrating a special occasion there.
What to Do
Gamble. Duh. Like I said before, my husband is a poker pro. Yes, he plays in the World Series of Poker every year. (I get that question all the time.) Yes, he’s been on tv. (This is always the follow up question. Haha) Now that we got that out of the way… the rest of us love blackjack. When Chris is in Vegas with non-poker playing people, you can find him playing with me at the blackjack table. I learned a lot about the game this trip. Here are my basic tips for playing:
- If the dealer has a 7 or above, always hit until you have 17 or higher.
- If the dealer has 6 or below, stay if you have 12 or above.
- Always double your bet if you have 11 regardless of what the dealer has.
- Never buy insurance on your bet. (They ask you this when the dealer has an Ace. It seems tempting, but just don’t do it. The odds are not in your favor.)
Here are my tips for how to bet (we call this the Dave method because our nice dealer named Dave taught us this):
- Place the minimum bet. Let’s say it’s a $15 table. You play with $15 in chips to start.
- If you win a hand, you now have $30 in chips. Add ONE chip to your stack. Now you are playing with $20. Keep the other $10 in chips and add to your chip pile.
- You continue to add a chip to your betting stack until the following things happen
- you lose a hand
- the shoe ends (shoe means the deck of cards you are playing with in the shoe shaped box on the table)
- someone gets up to leave the table
- a new person joins the table
- the dealer changes
- When any of the above happens, go back to the minimum bet of $15.
See a show. I’ve seen several shows in Vegas. My favorite by far is Michael Jackson ONE. Michael is a hologram, so it feels like you are really watching him live. Gah, it’s so good. I would definitely see that show again.
This trip my mom came across buy one, get one free tickets for Penn & Teller. We all agreed that seeing a magic show would be super fun and got the tickets. Let me just say… this should be listed as what NOT to do in Vegas. The show was awful and super cheesy. I was expecting more of a Criss Angel type of magic show. It wasn’t. It was pulling rabbits out of hats type of magic. Dumb.
Shop. There are nice stores every two steps you take in Vegas. Play blackjack with my tips and go buy yourself a new Louis Vuitton. You’re welcome.
Old Vegas. If you decide to eat at Hugo’s Cellar, you should allow some time either before or after to spend in Old Vegas. It’s best to go here at night as it is all lit up like crazy! There are lots of bars with live music and tons of casinos. It’s fun.
Lagasse’s Stadium. If you like to watch sports, Lagasse’s Stadium is the best sportsbook in Vegas and is located in The Palazzo. It has stadium style seating or if you prefer to have a private booth with your own tv, they have that too. It’s owned by celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse. The food is super legit. Although, we went to watch Wisconsin playing in the B1G Ten Championship and only ordered game day type of food…. giant pretzel with beer cheese, buffalo wings, nachos, chili cheese fries, buffalo chicken pizza, and Chris got fancy with a tuna poke. Lol! Everything was really good. My only complaint is that Wisconsin lost. Boo.
This Vegas trip was far different than any of my previous trips and I do have to say it really did feel like I was exploring a new city. I loved seeing it from a new angle. What are your favorite things to do in Vegas? Leave me a comment below!