Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vegas Vacation!

I recently vacationed in Las Vegas with my mother and four sisters. We scored an awesome (what felt like "all-inclusive") 4- day/3-night package (included 2 FREE buffets per room for breakfast, lunch and dinner!) at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. It has been almost 5 years since my last trip to Sin City and, boy, have things really changed!

Several skyscraping magnificent hotels & casinos have popped up all along the Strip... the Wynn/Encore (2005), Planet Hollywood (2007; previously "The Aladdin"), the Palazzo (2008), Trump Hotel (2008)... and who can miss "City Center" -- the enormous billion-dollar multi-building complex currently under construction in the middle of the Strip between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo!

The weather forecast during our stay in Vegas -- sunny skies, high temperatures and extreme heat! While we were blessed with sunny days in Vegas, the temperature rose above 100 degrees every single day! My skin felt like it was burning after being outside for just 5 minutes. It was almost unbearable!

Mental note to self: Do not visit Vegas over the summer! :)

Even with the extreme dry heat, I had the most memorable, awesome vacation in Vegas! There was so much to see and do, you may almost forget to sleep (I actually slept early every night!).

Vegas Highlights (in no particular order):

**Eiffel Tower @ Paris Hotel**
will take you from zero to 50 in just a few minutes! My two younger sisters, my mother and I decided to venture up 50 stories to the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Casino & Hotel.

There are great views of the Strip from the Eiffel Tower, and if you time your trip right, there is also a perfect view for the Bellagio Fountains show!

**Las Vegas Premium Outlets**
Though the Strip offers tons of great shopping, there's really nothing like outlet shopping.

Located between the Strip and Downtown, the Las Vegas Premium Outlets is by far one of the best outlet malls that I've ever visited. What a huge variety of shops -- from Gap Outlet to Dolce & Gabbana, Adidas to Stuart Weitzman, Coach to Kate Spade! For the mall directory, click here.

Bonus... misting stations! Sporadically set up throughout the mall, the misting stations helped us cool down while shopping in the Vegas heat.

**Madame Tussauds Wax Museum @ Venetian Resort~Hotel~Casino**
Become Paris Hilton's new BFF, play 1-on-1 with Shaq or take a snapshot with Prez Obama... all for only $25 at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum!

We had a blast at this interactive wax museum (you can physically touch the wax figures!). We were even brave enough to step inside Scream! -- a "scary" mini maze within the wax museum.

We took a ton of silly pictures with all the celebrities, professional athletes and politicians, but some are way too embarrassing to post.

**The Buffet @ the Wynn**
One must refuel in-between sightseeing and shopping! Vegas certainly offers many, many places to eat... however, we found much comfort in the abundant buffets!

We ate primarily at the MGM Grand because the food was included with our rooms. However, we did make an effort to have dinner at The Buffet at the Wynn. Costing at over $40 per person, this buffet is definitely not for budget-friendly travelers (unless you only eat once a day!). King crab legs, prime rib, sushi, pasta, dessert bar... did I mention king crab legs?!? Overall, the food was excellent, the environment was clean and the service was mediocre. The Wynn Buffet is worth checking out -- even if just for the crab legs!

**Cirque du Soleil -- KÀ @ MGM Grand**
I have a confession... I'm addicted to Cirque du Soleil! Ever since seeing Alegría years ago, I've been wanting more. The shows are always so spectacular... you must ask yourself, "How did they do do that?"

was so spectacular -- it blew my flip-flops off (I wasn't wearing any socks)! Everything about the show was amazing, including the theater, the main stage of two huge hydraulic platforms that rotate and the speakers built into the headrests. I was "oohing" and "ahhing" throughout the entire show -- which reminded me of an old school Hong Kong kung fu type of movie! :)

Tickets for range from $69-150. We took advantage of the 25-year anniversary special, so our tickets ended up costing $73 per person. Our seats were kind of far from the stage... but it was still a great show!

**Bootleg Canyon Flightlines**
While in Vegas, we hopped over to Boulder City (25 minutes from the Strip) to zip-line with Bootleg Canyon Flightlines.

Definitely the ultimate highlight of my vacation, zip-lining was thrilling, extremely fun and the views were breathtaking.

No experience necessary! As an inexperienced bunch from MN, BC Flightlines taught us everything we needed to know to zip-line over the desert. The hardest part was the 15-minute hike up to the top of Red Mountain. Talk about being out of shape... I didn't think I was going to make it to the starting run!! :/

The heavier you are, the faster you go! On Run #3, my skinny lil'est sister couldn't build enough momentum and slowed to a stop about 100 feet from the platform. One of the instructors had to pull a Sly Stallone/Cliffhanger move to "rescue" her. Funny thing was the instructor looked like Sean Penn!

The entire excursion was about 2.5 hours long. There are 4 runs and 4 lines per run. Three instructors helped us along the way, provided much-needed water and even gave us a little history of Boulder City and Bootleg Canyon Park.

Props to our excellent instructors -- Brina, Nate and Ryan!

Total cost per person: $149 per person ($159 on weekends)! Yes, it is expensive... however, the experience is worth every penny!

Thank goodness I brought along my Flip camcorder to record memories!!