Visiting Las Vegas The Week Before Christmas

Visited Vegas at just about the slowest time of the year, the week before Christmas. We rented a car from Thrifty through your service and didn’t regret it. At $19/day plus tax and just driving between strip casinos and the Outlet Mall, it was well worth it. (Incidentally, we booked our San Diego resort and car through your service for the following 5 days, very pleased.) Regarding self parking, always free, but the walk from the parking ramps to the casino can be quite long, though.

Most large-production shows were dark; warning to November and December visitors. We did see EFX and booked advanced tickets about a month early through the MGM Grand to save service charges. EFX was well worth the money and had a variety of “acts” which were long enough to enjoy but short enough not to get board, including aerobatics, Irish tap dancing, battling fire-breathing dragons, a 3-D movie clip, and a little magic, among others.

We stayed at the Mirage, booked through your service. A gorgeous reception area (huge fish tank), but a rather long wait (20+ minutes). The receptionist was very friendly and interacted with us like a good friend. All the staff was extremely friendly and courteous. A very nice room and good mattress, except for loud shower noise coming from the neighboring room. We thought the Mirage buffet was mediocre and would not recommend. The California Pizza kitchen was good but would recommend ordering one pizza for two people and saving room for desert (we’re on vacation, you know). We are big eaters, but had to leave pizza leftovers. We should have tried the Samba Grill as it has all-you-can-eat marinated meats. We missed the Secret Garden as the winds were too brisk. The pool was closed, but invited to swim at Treasure Island, but didn’t; not warm enough. For us, this resort sure beats out Bally’s, Imperial Palace, Maxim, and LV Hilton. Another complaint at the Mirage was that the air was very stuffy; felt like we had to get out of the casino. Rooms were same way; with AC on too cold/damp, with heat on, too hot/stuffy. Maybe it’s just the time of the year, no AC in the casino? Felt the same way in NY, NY casino.

The drive down the strip from the airport to the Mirage took more than 45 minutes but is a great introduction to Vegas. The corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvd. was the longest wait, but the sights were great with the Statue of Liberty and the MGM Lion to look at. Inside the New York, New York was great with a Central Park and Times Square theme. Inside the Paris was great for its city street shops and sidewalk cafes to get a pastry and latte; very realistic. The legs of the Tour Eiffel go right through the roof. The ceiling was painted as the sky, a common scheme throughout Vegas hotels. It would have been a nice touch to paint the ceiling with a perspective of the Tower from those legs. They look cut off.

The inside of the entrance to the Venetian is gorgeous with fantastic “old-world” murals painted on the ceiling and walls. The Venetian shops area was okay, but the canal was nothing special. As you are walking along the shops/canal, it just dead-ends at a wall with a fire exit. You go over a bridge and just walk down the other side of the canal. It would have been better if it was a loop; spoiled the effect. The courtyard was impressive, but looked cavernous and empty. Some of the shops are interesting and one-of-a-kind, and one in particular sells porcelain dolls from Venice, where else, one of which we had sent home. Had one of our best meals at a large beautiful restaurant away from the shops (can’t remember the name, but is run by the CheeseCake Factory). The lunch specials were huge premium-quality pasta dishes under $10 (?).

The Bellagio is beautiful but definitely for the upper crust. The atrium was decorated with holiday flowers and trees. Just glimpsed the fountains from a window, but no time to catch a show. All the restaurants were way too expensive ($30+ entrees), so just passed them by. Wanted to eat at the buffet at 7:30 PM, but had a 2.5 hour line. Wanted to visit the art gallery, but just not enough time and seemed too expensive.

Saving the best for last, The Star Trek Experience at the LV Hilton was great, well worth the $16; found a $1 off/person coupon in a mini-magazine in our Mirage room. The starship models hanging from the ceiling are huge and fantastic. The at-your-own-pace museum had all sorts of props and costumes, but is very dark to take pictures/video. The historic timeline would have taken an hour to read; maybe to entertain when long lines are present, which there were none. Exciting Star Trek clips playing constantly in the background on giant view screens with theme music and familiar voices (they should sell a video tape of the clip loop, but don’t). The “ride” part is very well done, with a really cool transporter “beaming” onto the Enterprise, a visit to the Enterprise-D bridge for a briefing, a cheesy turbolift ride, and a very realistic ride in a shuttlecraft escaping enemy Klingons (I thought they were our friends in the 24th century?) and the obligatory fly-over of the LV strip crashing into the Hilton Marquee, only to land on Deep Space Nine. The food and drink were surprisingly good (gourmet) at Quark’s Bar (recommend the Creole dish named after the captain of DS9). The wife’s Saucer Section quesadilla looked like nothing special but the dishes were futuristic. Since it was lunch, we passed on the Klingon blood wine and other enticing drinks. I had to give the ambassador a hard time for serving Tribble Tenders; how could you!! The Klingon and Ferengi walking around the shops were true to life. The shops had some great stuff, and had to have them ship me an Enterprise-D sculpture home (no tax, but shipping). The Spacequest casino was okay, and had a nice warp core to look at. The Mrs. won $45 with the nickel slots in ten minutes (had to wait 30 minutes for someone to refill the machine to finish the payoff!). In the main Hilton casino, looking bland compared with what we have seen on this trip, I lost $40 playing table blackjack while the Mrs. won another $60 playing nickel slots in our total of one hour of casino play on our 4 day visit; who has time to gamble.

Thank you Access Vegas News for your great newsletter. It was a great help in planning our vacation.