… goes on the internet. Is that not how the saying goes? It does now!
Many moons ago (I mean not that many moons, how old do you think I am, jeez?) my girl Kristin and two of our other partners in crime from high school jetted off to Sin City for our twenty-first birthdays. Our Hangover-style hijinks from that trip have gone down in friendship history and Kristin and I have been laughing over them ever since. We’ve always talked about going back and with Kris about to sign on for a demanding medical degree, we figured it was high time we go make some new good old days.
Our first order of business was getting a good hotel deal, which finally came in the form of Travelzoo‘s weekly email blast. You have to jump on those deals fast, and so when we spied an enticing deal for Vdara, we pounced — and snagged the last available dates in April. Our final take? Thursday through Sunday in a Vdara suite for $220 each, including taxes and resort fees. That’s $73 a night each for a five-star property on the Vegas strip!
The Vdara is flanked on each side by the two fabulous hotels I’ve stayed in on previous trips to Vegas — The Aria and The Cosmopolitan — so I figured it was at least in good company. As a relatively small non-gaming and non-smoking property, Vdara definitely has a more relaxed atmosphere than more places on the strip, and I was a little nervous leading up to the trip that it wouldn’t be the right fit for us.
Turns out Vdara was steps away from the frenetic energy of its neighbors, and was a calming oasis to return to when we needed a break from the madness.
Can we talk about this suite? Because it was all kinds of wonderful. Now, I know you can get some super cheap $39 hotel rooms on the Strip. And you know I love me some grungy hostels. Heck, I spent two weeks out of the last year sleeping in tents! But not in Vegas. In Vegas, it’s five star or bust.
We really appreciated touches like having a mini-fridge and a microwave, and being able to open and close the blackout shades with the (hungover) touch of a button. And don’t even get me started on that cloud of a bed.
Our views weren’t bad either — The Bellagio fountains in one direction and the sprawling city of Las Vegas in the other.
But one quick note to fellow Vegas deal seekers — the company we booked our Travelzoo voucher with, Jet Luxury Resorts, had some drawbacks. When we arrived, we sweet talked the guy at the front desk into giving us an upgrade, and letting us check in early. Score! But, actually not. He couldn’t, because we had booked through Jet Luxury Resorts. And after the first day we were surprised to see housekeeping hadn’t come. But, jokes on us — housekeeping cost an extra $40 a day, because we had booked through Jet Luxury Resorts (we passed). So while we got a good deal, there were some drawbacks.
But back to business — after landing on our direct flight from Albany (love you for that one, Southwest!) we spent the afternoon decompressing by the pool, toasting to the trip with some early afternoon cocktails. And why shouldn’t every hour be happy, I ask?
We kicked off our night early with a casual meal at Hecho in Vegas in the MGM Grand, which I can highly recommend for the tableside guacamole-making as well as the delish tacos. But what really set the tone for a great weekend was when we were sent a round of tequila shots from a nearby table of crematorium construction crew — true story. Oh, Las Vegas, how I love you and your limitless possibilities for amusing anecdotes!
Afterwards, we took ourselves back to Vdara to enjoy the bottle of champagne Kristin’s boyfriend had had sent to our room (future men in my life, take notes). And I mean we really enjoyed it.
At some point we remembered that there was a party going on somewhere outside our hotel room, and we went to go join it. After being unimpressed with the scene at The Aria’s Haze we retreated back to MGM Grand, where a promoter had sold us on trying out Hakkasan. We loved it — it was a massive, multi-level club with music we were seriously feeling.
Now, I don’t write in much detail about my after-hours activities on Alex in Wanderland, and I can assure you that’s because I can’t remember. Just kidding, it’s because they follow a pretty standard formula of mayhem that doesn’t need spelled out over and over. I can say that one special memory of this particular night was dollar bills raining from the ceiling, dollar bills that were later found located in my Spanx. I mean, I’m pretty sure my clutch would have been an equally great location to store them, but who am I to argue with myself after a bottle of champagne?
We were back in bed by about 2am which is basically grandma hour in Vegas time, but in our defense we had been awake more than 24 hours at that point due to the time change and our early morning flight. The benefit though was that we were up relatively early in order to make our way to Wet Republic’s Friday pool party! I was super excited to be checking out my first Vegas pool party, even more so since my girl Abby had our names put on the list. Just say no to standing in line in a bikini.
One thing you should know about Wet Republic — aside from the fact that “stylish upscale swim attire” is required, *snort* — is that you can’t bring anything larger than a nightclub clutch inside. So we were forced to check our beach bags for five bucks and carry in our phones, sunscreen, chapstick and other poolside necessities by hand.
When we asked one of the bouncers about it, he said it was to keep the poolside looking neat — um, wouldn’t it be nicer looking to let ladies put their clothes and other items into their bags rather than have piles of random stuff lying around? Clearly, we were not consulted.
Regardless, we had a great time at Wet Republic. As we were walking in we recognized a group that we’d chatted with briefly on our way out of Hakkasan the night before. They were splurging on poolside table service and we selflessly volunteered to help them meet their food and drink minimum for the day. We’re just nice girls like that.
It was everything I pictured a Vegas day club to be — loud music, beat synchronized splashing, bikini clad bartenders, and poolside twerk lessons.
After a serious siesta session back at the room, it was time to tackle Friday night on the Strip. We were joined by one of our dear friends from high school, Liz, who has relocated to Las Vegas for work and agreed to come party like a tourist with us for the weekend.
First up? Dinner at STK in The Cosmopolitan. Splurging there was one of my favorite experiences of my last Vegas trip, and I was not shy about pulling strings to get a table a second time. Hilariously, Liz chose our meal at a renown steakhouse to break the news to that she’s gone vegan (she knew how excited I’d been about STK and didn’t want to rain on my parade when I got the reservation) but the chef was amazingly accommodating. STK is basically a nightclub where they serve sixty dollar steaks, but we managed to have a heartfelt catchup while dancing in our seats. I can’t recommend STK more highly — but if you want to eat there on the weekend, make your reservation as soon as you book your flight.
Post-dinner we beelined for Chandelier bar, my favorite bar on the Strip. It was every bit as good as I remembered from the cocktail tasting I’d done there the year before. Each level of the bar, which literally sits within a three story chandelier, has a different cocktail menu, with level 1.5 being my favorite.
After seriously studying the menu I went for a Film Noir — an unbeatable mix of run, cardamom tea, movie theater buttered popcorn syrup, Olorosso sherry, and a garnish of popcorn. Liz ordered the Pioneer Woman, which was made up of fig and walnut infused Bourbon, butternut squash puree, and housemade pecan liquer, and topped with a toasted marshmallow bruleed foam. I don’t say this loosely, but these cocktails were worth ever penny of the $14 they cost. Can we get these guys some mixology awards up in here or what?
After, a promoter pulled us towards Rose Rabbit Lie, the Cosmo’s newest nightlife venture. I was super excited to check it out after hearing so much hype (including a comparison to the unreal Sleep No More) but we were shocked to see it was basically empty. We downed our free drinks and sought out livelier pastures.
Strangely, our night continued in a similar fashion — we showed up at club after club that was eerily empty, to the point that at one point I whipped out my iPhone to see if there was some kind of natural disaster evacuation warning we had somehow missed. Granted we had gotten a late start to our night, but even Liz confirmed she had never seen Vegas so dead. Later we discovered there had been a major boxing event and a big name DJ at the MGM Grand that “all of Vegas attended!” We were able to confirm that that was no exaggeration.
But you can’t have a bad night with good company, and so it still went down in the books as a smashing success — especially since this time, these grandmas stayed out almost till the sun came up.
Stay tuned for Part II!
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Many thanks to STK for our fabulous dinner. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.