December 2-6, 2007
We flew from Providence to Las Vegas on a Southwest Airlines non-stop, and arrived at about noon. Since MGM Grand operates a check-in desk right at the airport, near the baggage carousels (very convenient!) we checked in there, got our room keys, and the bellman put us (and our luggage) onto the hotel shuttle ($8 per person, one way). At MGM, we were able to go right to our room to drop the bags, and then head out to explore. The resort itself is HUGE, and it took a while just to find our way around. We had a quick (but expensive, which would be a recurring theme) lunch at the Grand Wok, and then headed up the strip to spend the afternoon exploring the other hotels. The weather was perfect (60’s and sunny) and we spent hours going in and out of NY NY, Paris Las Vegas, Caesar’s Palace, Bellagio, and more. After shopping for some holiday gifts at the M&M store and the Harley Davidson store, and stopping for a drink at Margaritaville, it was time to head back and get ready for dinner.
We had made advance reservations at Emeril’s that night, and we enjoyed what was one of the best restaurant meals I have ever had! We opted for the six-course “Chef’s tasting menu” which was a real gourmet experience (both the food and the service) and included lobster, shrimp, ahi tuna, beef and more.
When we returned, we checked out of MGM Grand and took a cab over to the Mandalay Bay (it would have been a very easy walk, if we did not have our bags). We spent the rest of our trip in this hotel, as I was attending a conference that was being held here. Our twelfth-floor room had a great view, straight down the strip, and faced away from the airport (which I had requested). It definitely had a more luxurious feel than our room at MGM, with a marble bathroom, Jacuzzi tub, flat screen TV, and more. In fact, the resort on the whole had a more “high-end” feel. But it also lacked any reasonably-priced places to eat. We found that, unless you wanted to spend $40 on breakfast, you had to take the tram to one of the adjacent hotels to find a quick coffee and a bagel.
We woke up very early Monday morning, due to the time difference, and were more than ready for the 10 am pick-up for our Papillon Helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon. For me, this excursion was the highlight of the week! We were picked up at our hotel for the 30-minute drive to an airfield outside the city, where we received some basic safety instructions and were then escorted (with a small group of people) to a six-passenger helicopter. The pilot flew us over the Hoover Dam and across the Mojave Desert to the Grand Canyon, while we listened to a narrated audio track over our headphones. He flew down into the canyon and pointed out some of the geology to us, and then landed inside the canyon for a champagne picnic and photo op, before flying us back to the airfield. All told, it was about an hour and a half in the air, and it was awesome!
We spent the afternoon exploring some more, and visited the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, which was a small aquarium with an audio tour. After watching (and losing some money on) the Patriots football game, we had another great dinner at Rum Jungle – an exotic Brazilian-style restaurant with cascading waterfalls and delicious mojitos!
Tuesday morning we took the tram to both Luxor and Excalibur to explore those resorts, and then returned to Mandalay Bay for the noontime kickoff of the Luxury Travel Expo. After the afternoon seminars, we had dinner (margaritas and quesadillas) in the Mandalay Bay Cantina, and then we had tickets to see Mamma Mia, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.
Wednesday was the first full day of the conference, so we were tied up until about 3 pm. After that, we took a cab downtown to Fremont Street (old-time Las Vegas, before the strip became the strip). We had a great time wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, and visiting places like the Golden Nugget and Fitzgerald’s. The Rodeo Championships were in town, and there were lots of big hats and belt buckles to be seen, as well as a free country and western concert (the “Downtown Hoedown”) going on. We grabbed a table at the Vue Bar (a tiny little outdoor balcony at Fitzgerald’s Casino that looks over Fremont Street) and enjoyed juicy burgers, dollar beers, and front-row seats for the concert and the Fremont Street Experience – an hourly laser-light show projected onto the canopy over the street. It was great! After that, it was time to head back to MGM Grand for a private party (part of the travel expo) at Studio 54 nightclub. Free drinks, dancing, and all the people-watching you could want!
Thursday was our last day, and I headed to a full day of seminars/sessions while Everett took the monorail up the strip to visit a few resorts we had missed (like the Venetian) and to make a quick trip to the Cowboy Marketplace (part of the rodeo festivities) for Christmas presents. We were back at the airport by 2:30 pm for our non-stop flight home, and back in Rhode Island about midnight.