I thought about putting this post under our family vacation blog (instead of this blog), but decided to post it here instead.  It’s gonna be a long read…. so get comfortable.

Jim and I flew out on a Friday night- our flight leaving at 9:15pm.  An uneventful flight, as it should be, and we landed nearly 20 minutes early, before 11pm! We found out which gate Sarah and Ryan would be at and walked rode the tram to their terminal and saw that their flight wasn’t due for another 45 minutes plus.  Fortunately there was a bar across from their gate, so Jim and I enjoyed a beverage while we waited. Beers were $9 each. YIKES. Sarah and Ryan arrived safely, so we trammed back to the main terminal to exit the airport and begin our fun vacation.

We had previously researched that it’s cheaper to take a taxi than a shuttle, so we hailed a taxi and loaded all 4 carryon suitcases + 2 backpacks + 1 giant purse into the trunk and away we went!  (I was pleased to see that he could fit so much in the trunk of a Dodge Charger!) The driver was telling us some of the interesting things he sees, and that “puking hours” begin around 2am.  Yuck.  Our fare to the airport came to $24 (I think)- we took the freeway which is a few dollars more, but quicker.  Dunno.

We were in for a shock as we entered the Monte Carlo.  Um, I don’t remember the dress code being so “interesting” before.  Lots of women were running around in tight tight tight short short short skirts and dresses and super high heels, some could barely walk in their shoes, and most should not have been wearing such short and tight clothing!  Wow.

Here’s an example of the types of dresses we saw (borrowing pictures from the internet):



Except 90% of the women wearing those dresses didn’t look like that.

Here they are in “real life” at the Casino:


Yep, that’s “stealth” photography.


I’m not really taking a picture of  Jim and Ryan fist bumping- or of Sarah- look BEHIND the people you know.

The girl behind Jim does look good in her dress, but seeing those types of dresses and high heels was just a shock!

Here’s another example of “stealth” photography…




Anyway, back to the story.  WOW.  We were almost speechless.  It was very entertaining to check out the outfits around us.

We didn’t stay out late or venture outside of the casino- we took our bags to our rooms, met back up to wander the casino, the guys bought beers (I think this time they were $6/bottle?), we ate Stromboli’s from Sbarros (yes, at 2am), then went to bed.  After all, Friday was a regular work day for us and we were up at 5am that morning.

The next day was Saturday- we were up at a decent time…..8:30ish I think.  Jim and I went to McDonald’s in the casino for breakfast (dollar menu) and I got a Starbucks coffee.  We ate that, checked out the pool area, then met up with Sarah and Ryan (herein after known jointly as ‘Saran’ (SARAH + RYAN pronounced “SAIR-in”)).  First stop- the CVS store next door to buy some cheaper beers, a cooler, some SPF 15 sunscreen, and water.  The hotel water is DISGUSTING.  And bottled water at the hotel is THREE DOLLARS PER BOTTLE.  And although they give you 2 free bottles in your room every day, they are half-sized, AND you have to use them to make your coffee because the tap water is so gross!  Ugh.

OH, and I forgot to mention that we had booked king-size rooms, but upon check in we were given queens (and ours was a smoking room), so we were supposed to go back to the front desk on Saturday to switch to our new rooms….sometime between 11-3.  We went back down at 11am, and were told that our rooms would be ready before 5pm and that we’d receive a call on my cell….we just have to be checked back in before 5pm.

That meant we couldn’t go too far- we decided to walk the strip, heading north.  Clothing was much more appropriate during the daytime, but the streets of Vegas are still dirty, stinky, and have lots of nudity (advertisements, cards on the ground, etc.)

Immediately upon crossing the street we saw the Cookie Monster!  I thought the kids would get a kick out of a picture- so Jim and I posed and Cookie Monster whispered to me, “We do this for tips, you know”.


OK, so I gave him two bucks.  Happy with my purchase until we got about 10 steps further and there were SO MANY other better options!  Captain Jack Sparrow, BumbleBee, the guy from the Hangover.  Oh man……that would have been SO MUCH BETTER!  Oh well.

Check these guys out!

IMG_4894 IMG_4900

We walked through the Planet Hollywood casino a bit and decided we were hungry, and in the mood for burgers, but we wanted to wait another 30 minutes or so.  We opted to keep walking North.  Past Paris, past Bally’s, we ended up at Margaritaville outside The Flamingo.  We really lucked out because we came in a side entrance and didn’t know where to find the seating hostess….the restaurant was pretty crowded!  ‘Saran’ turned to find the check-in while Jim and I lagged behind and were stopped by a waitress who told us that any “tall” tables were seat yourself….and there was a free table!  I snagged it while Jim hailed ‘Saran’ back.  I ordered the Black and Bleu burger which was really good (it had black pepper bacon and bleu cheese on it!).  In retrospect, Margaritaville was probably our best meal the entire weekend!

After eating, we crossed the street to the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace and walked the mall.  We snapped some pictures at the Aquarium (there were some really neat and BIG fish!).

???????? ???????? ????????

Time was moving quickly so we beelined it back to the Monte Carlo to get our rooms swapped.  Check out our view!



Notice the “leaning” buildings?  They’re a little more evident in this picture:



We needed another stop at the CVS for beverages for us girls.  I ended up buying a bottle of champagne,  Sarah got some Kahlua.  We were all fairly tired, too, so agreed to take a couple hour break and meet up at 7pm.   I think we all ended up napping!

‘Saran’ met us in our room and the guys made themselves some Crown & 7 drinks, Sarah used my vanilla vodka (airplane bottle we brought with us) to mix with her Kahlua for a tasty drink, and I started drinking my champagne.  After a bit we all transferred our drinks to portable containers (aka the half-size water bottles) and decided to walk South this time.

Fairly buzzed and feeling good, we were once again entertained by all the clubwear we were seeing out and about.  We walked through New York New York, continued on to Excalibur, decided we were all pretty hungry by then and we set a mission to find some dinner.  Since our Margaritaville LUNCH came to $42 (for just TWO of us!), we agreed that we should eat a frugal dinner.  Which ended up being Popeye’s chicken.  A first for Jim and I.

We made it back decently “early” that night, before 2am.  And as I expected, I woke up hangover free.  And I drank THE WHOLE BOTTLE (which is why I prefer drinking champagne, no-hangovers!).  Sunday’s game plan was to spend the first half of the day at the pool.  McDonalds for breakfast again, OJ for me (not coffee) and lots of water.  Jim and I found 2 spots in the sun to start our “tanning” day……it was HOT in the sun.  We chose the sandy ‘beach’ area of the pool:


We lay out for almost an hour, but being coated in sunscreen, we got no color from the session.  :(   Saran wanted shade, so we relocated to four empty permanently shaded lounge chairs:


We dropped our stuff and rented inflatables for the day- so we could float the lazy river!


We floated for a bit, then found a couple spots in the sun to dry off, then relocated back to the cooler shade to relax, then repeated with another longer float.

The pool closes around 5:30pm, and it was probably 4:30pm when we finally decided we’d had enough and it was time to go up to the rooms.  We’d made dinner reservations at PF Chang’s in Planet Hollywood for 7pm, and factoring in the walk up the strip we decided we’d need to meet at 6:30 to head out.

Here’s my official 40th birthday cameo:


We got there just in time and snapped some pictures while we waited for our table- they turned out great!





Here at home, PF Chang’s serves huge portions.  In Las Vegas, not so much.  We thought we were safe with ordering 1 Lettuce Wrap and 3 entrees to share.  Well, each entrée only served one person, not two, so we were short on food!



I got a free dessert choice for my birthday, and Saran ordered a slice of cheesecake to split.  (Selfishly I ate all of my dessert by myself, only giving Jim 2 bites!).


We planned on doing some gambling and more “sightseeing”….and thought it would be fun to head up to Freemont Street.  But it was quite windy (not good for wearing flowy shortish dresses), and we were both in our heels, so decided we’d walk back to Monte Carlo and change into warmer and more comfortable clothing before hitting Freemont.  While we changed, Ryan looked up the Deuce bus route/schedule/fares and we decided that would be the best way to get to and from.


Public transportation is interesting no matter where you are, and this was no different.  (Note, the bus ride takes nearly 45 minutes to go from Monte Carlo to Freemont, due to all the traffic and pedestrians and stops!  Another note- instead of riding all the way up to the official “Freemont Street” stops, get off at Carson St.)

Freemont is VERY entertaining.  So much to see, so much to see….I mean, I don’t really know how else to explain it!  There’s a reason they call it the “Freemont Experience”.  Cheap beers ($2-$3), ziplining, people watching, the illuminated “canopy”, we saw a live band/group, people were dancing in the street, there were guys wearing dresses and heels but not an ounce of make-up, we saw all kinds of things.

The first thing we saw was a man in a spandex suit just standing there frozen on a podium.  Ryan walked over and dropped buck (or maybe it was 2 bucks) into his tip jar and he came to life- started doing some sort of routine that ended up being a contortionist routine.  Money well spent, we agreed!  The crowd gathered around and he got all the attention he was looking for (sadly not many more people tipped him, though).


The next thing we noticed was the cheap beer signs, and then we saw the zipline.  That looked like fun so we went to check it out and saw that it was only twenty bucks, but an hour wait.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

Oh, one of the newest trends (both at Freemont and on the Strip)- some of the gaming tables and bars have dancers ON THE BAR.  The Golden Gate on Freemont has LOTS of girls dancing on the bars.  This particular casino also has an outside bar, where they serve “slushies” and yep- a dancer on the table.


You’ll have to watch the video at the end of this post to really “get” the Freemont Experience.

The overhead canopy turned into a light show which was fun to watch!




We walked to the other end where we found a band with a Redfoo lookalike playing Blackeyed Peas music!


They were great!  And it was so much fun to watch everyone dancing and enjoying themselves.  (In my video the sound is awful (too close to the speakers) so don’t judge the sound based on that please.  I was recording the experience- what a party!)  The “concert” ended and as we started walking back towards the bus area, we realized all the shops and everything had shut down.  What?  I thought Vegas was open 24 hours?!  The casinos were still open, but all the vendors surrounding them were closed.  We went back to the stop we got off at and were so excited the bus was empty- we got front row seats!  But as the bus got to the end of the route, they made us get off and get onto a different bus.  Which was CROWDED and we were far from having front seats.   And it was loud- full of drunken partiers…it was an entertaining 35 minute ride to get back to our casino.  Once again, it was around 2:30 when we went to bed.

Slept in REALLY late Monday- not getting up until after 9:00.  Tuesday morning (departure day) is going to be PAINFUL.  But, let’s not worry about that yet.  We met up with Saran for breakfast, eating McDonald’s once again.  Jim and I wanted to get a little sun since we had no luck the prior day, so after breakfast we went separate ways and decided to meet up at 2:00 for our “free” buffet lunch (advertised special for booking our room).  Jim and I found two sunny spots and soaked up the rays for about an hour, went back to our room and showered.


Yay, I actually got a little bit of color this time!

We met up before buffet time and thought it would be fun to play a group slot game- the game of LIFE!  There were 4 seats so it was perfect!  We each put $20 into the machine…..I lost all of mine, except for $.16.  Jim was the winner for much of the game and ended up pulling out $14.25 at the end.  I can’t remember how Sarah and Ryan did.

Buffet time- although we were pleased with the selections and variety and the flavor was pretty good (but could have been better), it SURELY isn’t worth the $20+ per person they want you to pay!  Yikes!

Our bellies were full (too full really) so we decided to walk tram the strip.   There’s a tram between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio, so we hopped on that, walked through the Bellagio for a bit, then went outside to walk up the strip.  We chose to walk outside Caesar’s Palace this time (instead of cutting through the shops), walked through Mirage, and then into Treasure Island where we found a neat “country style” bar that offers bull riding and mud wrestling….but it was daytime and none of that was going on.

It was super windy, and quite chilly for shorts/tanktops, and the dust in the air was super thick.  It was hard to see either end of the strip and the mountain range wasn’t visible at all!  Yuck.

Once again, we had somewhere to be by a certain time- we wanted to catch the “electric parade” at the Monte Carlo so we beelined back as quickly as we could, staying indoors as much as possible.   It was also time to kick back and stay “home” and do some gambling.  After a quick change into warmer clothes (brrrrrr in Vegas?) we went down and split up for a bit…..slots, roulette, blackjack tables, etc.   I chose a party slot game that Sarah had played earlier (not the exact same machine though) and it was a penny slot, so I put in my $0.16 slip I had and at one point I was up $1.60!


Then I lost it.  Of course. Got 2 free beers out of it, though.  And we watched the parade, which was interesting, and very short.


We ate dinner at The Pub (a burger/pizza type place at the MC).  We were hungry, but not hungry enough to eat an entire meal, so Jim and I split a burger, Saran split a flatbread pizza, and the 4 of us split an onion ring…..and we left food at the table.  Couldn’t finish it.

Full bellies again, it was gambling time.  Ryan had a message from his mom suggesting he try craps.  We had gone up to our room again for a bit so he looked it up on their ipad and shared what he’d learned (none of us have played, or played much).  Down in the casino again we crowded around a craps table to watch and learn.  Seemed easy enough after a while, but Jim and Sarah weren’t interested in playing, so Ryan and I decided to try out one of the new computerized tables:


I put Jim’s $14.25 ticket in and ended up playing for at least an hour, maybe it was two hours?  I ended up pulling out with over $60!  Ryan quintupled his money if I remember correctly.  It was very entertaining, seemed to ebb and flow….we both quit on a high.  Definitely a game I’ll play again!

Back up to our room around 10:45, packed, and in bed by 11:30.

Tuesday morning (my birthday!) our alarm went off at 5:30am.  Yikes.  I showered, finished packing, we did the TV checkout, met up with Saran and headed down to catch a taxi.  It was only $13 to get back to the airport….hmmm….half of what it cost to get FROM the airport?  We had done the online check-in and boarding pass printing the previous night, so we just needed to go straight to security and our gates.  Going through security was quick and easy, and since we had a lot of time to spare we grabbed some tables in the food area and drank coffee and ate some breakfast sandwiches.  I was glad we got there so early- not only from the standpoint of being able to spend more time with my sister…..but also because as we walked past the security line again, it had more than doubled tripled quadrupled ah heck- it had decupled!  Probably even more than that! So yes, moral of the story, get there 2 hours early.

Boring wait at the gate (our flight was leaving 40 minutes after Saran’s), and another uneventful flight home.  I ended up recording the landing for the kids to watch since they’ve never been on a plane.  The flights were dramatically different- funny how the flight TO Vegas is all energized and fun, but the flight home has everyone wearing sunglasses and sleeping!

And boy did I feel like I needed a vacation from my vacation!  We got home before 1:00pm, put all our stuff away and greeted the girls as they came home from school.  Trevor had soccer practice so we didn’t think we’d be able to go out to dinner as a family, and frankly our bellies were still full and feeling bloated and eating more high-calorie food just did not sound good.  So birthday dinner with the kids is still on hold.

Anyway- here’s the video I was mentioning earlier…..enjoy!