A couple friends of mine lived in the thrilling city of Las Vegas, NV for a period of time and I decided to join them the next time they returned. I also wanted to treat myself with a birthday gift to a visit to Vegas, but what I did not realize was the added bonus of the NCAA Tournament a.k.a. March Madness!! I am a huge basketball fan and played the game throughout my childhood, so I was particularly excited to be in Vegas and attracting people flooding the streets in the city for spring break. What a time to be alive and gamble (just kidding)! I have my reservations about betting on games or gambling in general. However, when I hear stories that your luck can change overnight by betting against the odds on unlikely teams, it’s no wonder how people can become addicted and allured to gambling. For example, the weekend after I arrived back at home, I heard in the news that the unlikely No. 10 Seed – Syracuse was in the Final Four of the Tournament. An individual placed a $100 bet on Syracuse to win the Championship and if the team does win, that $100 gamble will payout $100,000. Check it out: Wager on Syracuse
The following post are the details of my trip to Vegas, including mode of travel, lodging, activities, and entertainment. I am not a millionaire, so I typically try to travel on a modest budget. Surprisingly, I was not broke after spending three nights in Las Vegas! Find out how you don’t have to spend a lot to have fun in Sin City. Do not hesitate to comment below your thoughts and/or suggestions!
Travel & Lodging
As aforementioned, my friends who lived in Vegas decided to drive to Sin City from my hometown Milwaukee, WI. I decided to join them for the drive since gas was relatively inexpensive, but I did not want to take an excessive amount of time off of work. I decided to book a flight back, rather than waste an entire day driving. We left at 4AM on Thursday morning and arrived in Denver, CO. at approximately 7:30PM that evening. We decided to stop there to get some rest that evening, but also to check out the marijuana dispensaries. I haven’t dabbled in marijuana since high school and was willing to partake in the experience since it is legal in the state of Colorado. We stopped at a recreational dispensary along the highway and purchased an edible form of marijuana or gummies. The gummies were the only item I was wiling to try since I do not like inhaling smoke. I consumed a gummy, which we were told to have the potency equivalent effect as smoking an entire joint. Therefore, we were advised not consume more than one at a time unless we wanted to eat a lot of junk food and pass out. After consuming half of one (I know, I’m a wimp), I was becoming more calm. Within 45 minutes, my body felt completely relaxed and I barely spoke. I would describe myself as “the quiet one” when I am high. HA! We finally arrived at our Airbnb condominium near downtown Denver. As the sky was beginning to turn into dusk, snow started to fall, the munchies started to kick in. We walked to a local restaurant, Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana. Although the pizza was delicious, we erroneously ordered two pizzas for four people. The pizzas are small in size and have a thin crust, I suggest each individual order a personal pizza. Otherwise you’ll end up like me, eating 3 tiny slices, when I could have easily eat the whole pie.
After dinner, we decided to explore a little more since we were there for the night. We walked to a bar closer to the downtown bar area. The snow was beginning to accumulate on the ground, causing less people to be outside and in bars after March Madness games were over. When I ordered a drink, I encountered some trouble with the bartender because of my Wisconsin driver’s license. When I was 16, Wisconsin issued vertical id’s to easily identify individuals under the age of 21. However, since my vertical license does not expire until 2018, I would be 27 years old before I had to renew it. Regardless, the bartender had to get the manager in order to review my license more thoroughly. I can only assume that this bar has experienced issues serving underage, out-of-state minors in the past, but I got my drink! Yay! It would have sucked that I am 25 years old and not permitted a beverage. We started to head back, to where we see people stumbling out of bars after St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Finally, after walking for 15 minutes back to the condo and the snow continues to fall overnight, we go to sleep at 11PM.
The following morning weather was insane! The snow accumulated so much so, that the roads were not yet plowed and morning commute traffic was backing up by 8AM. We were hardly moving faster than 10 mph in a pick-up truck. We were easily delayed on our arrival time to Las Vegas by over an hour. The delay caused me to become frustrated and upset, but I had to remind myself that no one controls the weather and to just deal with it. Maybe I should have taken another gummy…
The views however, were beautiful!
IMPORTANT TIP (FOR SOME PEOPLE): Please be aware that it is illegal to carry marijuana across state lines and should only be consumed in private. Additionally, research the weather before traveling, Snowstorm Selene hit Denver and delayed the drive back another day due to the road conditions.
Let the Good Times Roll!
We finally arrived in Las Vegas at about 8PM? Not sure on the time, but I could not wait to get out of the car and reach our destination. We were staying at another Airbnb, since we were so pleased with our stay in Denver. However, once we arrived the host was still changing the sheets well after the check-in time of 6PM. The place looked like it was straight out of the 70’s with some modern amenities. We were also shocked that we were not closer to The Las Vegas Strip, as indicated on the host’s Airbnb map. We were very disappointed in our stay and should have paid a premium to be in a hotel on The Strip. My cab ride from the condo to Treasure Island was <$40! This was in part because the taxi driver did not take the highway to bypass the chaos of traffic on The Strip. Locals said the streets are typically not THAT busy, but since it was March Madness, everyone is in town to gamble and spend their spring breaks in the city.
IMPORTANT TIP: If the traffic is bad, do not disclose that you are from out of town. If you have a GPS on your phone, suggest to the taxi driver that you prefer to take the highway in order to arrive at your destination faster. In many major cities, taxi drivers incidentally take a slower path because you are not from the area and do not know any better. This is particularly true in foreign countries.
It’s Saturday Night!
In the morning, my friends and I decided to do some shopping. There are local malls and we decided to shop at the Town Square & North Premium Outlets. It took a lot of will power not to spend frivolously, but there was an array of stores to choose from. After shopping, we decided to walk The Strip. I wanted to get to a ticket for a show that evening, so I stopped at a Tix4tonight booth, which sells tickets to several shows including Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, and a litany of hotel restaurants at discounted prices. I was in line to purchase tickets at about noon. The line was not terrible and I was able to buy a third row ticket for the Mystere Show at 7PM for roughly $83. Face-value ticket prices are roughly $120.00, so I was able to save in regards to entertainment. It is advised to arrive an hour before the show to check-in to the show, check-in lines can get long, fast. In the meantime, after purchasing my ticket and exploring the hotel lobbies such as the Bellagio, Cosmopolitan, and several others, we decided to get more pizza for lunch since my friends were obsessed with 800 Degrees Pizza located in the SLS Hotel. Now that we learned our lesson with our last pizza encounter, we each ordered a pizza and had leftovers. The pizza was delicious and reasonably priced, but not incredibly notable to go out of your way to taste. We returned to the condo to get ready for the evening.
After putting on a nice outfit and heels, I noticed the streets were very casual attire and hardly any women wore heels. The overall crowd appeared to have opted to wear more comfortable shoes and only dress up when going to a popular nightclub. Regardless, I enjoy looking presentable when on vacation. This is just so readers like yourself can decide on what to pack for clothing. That weekend, the temperature was in the comfortable 70-80 degrees. I took the cab from the condo to Treasure Island Hotel where the Mystere show resides. This is the moment where the cab ride cost me over $40 for the driver using the busy streets instead of the highway. Grr! I was able to check-in to the show fairly early before the queue was growing. In the meantime, I went to the bar of the lobby and had a few martinis, while simultaneously watching the NCAA Tournament. Important Tip: If you decide to gamble, the drinks are FREE. I was aware of this in advance, but since I do not know how to gamble, I ultimately paid for my drinks like a loser because I was afraid of accidentally owing the hotel hundreds of dollars. 😛
The Mystere show was has been in Las Vegas for over two decades and is still a popular attraction. I would recommend reading the meaning of Mystere, or any other show in advance, so that you can more accurately follow what is happening during the performance. The physical nature of the performers is unreal! I highly recommend seeing at least one Cirque show during your time in Vegas. After the show, I continued to drink and meet a couple from Los Angeles. From there, we decided to go to a club/bar within the Treasure Island hotel casino/resort. It is definitely fun to get to know people who are from the area and make the most of what the people of Vegas have to offer!
My friends are extremely active individuals who enjoy going hiking wherever and whenever. On Sunday, I agreed to go hiking with them and was very excited thinking the trail would be similar to a Los Angeles trail (just climbing up a hill). My friends presented two trail options for me: Red Rock Canyon or Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail. Regrettably, I mentioned I wanted an interesting trail, so we went with Gold Strike Trail. The trail leads to the Colorado River, right by the hoover dam. Oh. My. God. The hike started off very well, it was not difficult by any means, I generally walk for 2-3 hours straight with plenty of energy back at home, this was no different. We packed a backpack full of water bottles, which visitors on the Yelp website have warned that each hiker should have about a gallon of water. Very True! This trail is closed between the end of May to early September due to the heat and risk of heat stroke and being well hydrated is critical. About halfway through the trail begins the boulders in the canyon. At this point, there is literally no trail, just jumping down rocks and propelling down ropes, praying you don’t slip and crack your head open! I sound like a wuss, but I am preparing individuals (like mid westerners) that hiking in canyons is very different than hiking hills. Locals in the area are very hydrated and aware of the risks and what to expect when going hiking. I didn’t even have proper shoes on to hike up and down these wet boulders. I was wearing Nike Free-Runs, which did not secure my ankle or provide traction when my shoes got inevitably wet from the hot springs below. Additionally, I have very poor upper body strength and completed the trail in 3 hours, all which contributed to the climb back much more challenging. I would rate this hike very challenging if you are not prepared and/or do not pace yourself, unlike myself. I hope I don’t have a local commenting on how dumb I was, because believe me, I’m fully aware…IMPORTANT TIP: Please read reviews from locals. Gathering notes to know what to expect before a hike could be the difference between fun and excruciating pain.
Below: my poor, pathetic legs after the hike.
After the hike, we checked into to the Linq Hotel and checked out of the Airbnb condo. This was my final evening in Las Vegas so I had to make the most of it. I could not wallow over how sore and bruised I was from the hike. I simply wore pants and a nice top to disguise my atrocious legs! We met up with more people that we knew who just landed to spend spring break in the city as well. We ended up purchasing drinks and touring the slot machines, blackjack tables, and bars. I returned to my glorious college days by playing beer pong with the guys inside a bar. In pairs, the opposing team beat me and my partner, but we won the second game to redeem ourselves. This lasted until 3:00AM. I had to be in the airport at 4:00AM. Whoops! One of my friends who was so high from the remaining gummies, passed out at 10PM was able to take me to the airport, while the rest of us were continuing to drink (thankfully, the airport is extremely close to The Strip). After standing in an excruciatingly long TSA line, I made my flight and fell fast asleep as soon as I clicked my seatbelt.
Final Thoughts on Las Vegas or Paradise, NV
Growing to love and appreciate green grass and luscious trees, I did not think I would appreciate what Vegas had to offer. It was definitely an experience to adjust to the climate, but I had so much fun, I cannot emphasize how much I want to go back next year for my 26th birthday. When large gambling events such as the NCAA tournament are attracting tourists from all over the country, mid-March makes Las Vegas the ideal time to explore the exciting architecture, but more importantly the diversity of people! If you want to see my experiences in real time, add me on Snapchat! Snapchat Username: efiggs