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A Sinfully Grand Christmas Trip Report

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I was at the Hilton years ago, and a guest there showed me a (somewhat hidden) glass case with a mannequin inside that had on one of Elvis' stage outfits -- the white bell bottoms, top cape, incredible beading--think it was a bird (eagle?) on the back of the cape--just stunning.) He had passed away long before I visited Vegas, so I never saw his show.

Wayne used to perform at the Hilton for many years - a few shows a night, and I think they were always sold out. I did see his show there one night, and it was great. (Nowadays, I think he's usually out in Branson, but does some limited engagements in Vegas.) I know he has (or had) a large estate in Vegas, with horses, etc.

Oh wow! Sounds like you saw the eagle jumpsuit! My friend was at Graceland last year and said they had some really incredible pieces there as well. I guess if I ever really wanted my own :hilarious::hilarious: https://www.shopelvis.com/product/EPCM327/elvis-collectors-edition-jumpsuit-costume?cp=796_56192_3831

I'm not sure if he had a cold when we saw him or if his voice is showing his age. Still, it was a really fun show and I loved how much he seemed to enjoy interacting with the audience. I really need to dig out those pics and try and scan them in, since his jewelry was phenomenal! I've only been to Branson once, and it was in the off season, so there wasn't much going on when we were there. Neat area though and we had a nice view along the lake.
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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Dec 27th Cont-

It was finally time for the biggest gift fun of the trip. We walked from Bellagio to Caesars and popped into the restroom along the way. I know this is going to sound silly, but Frank Sinatra singing Luck Be A Lady came on at this time and I FINALLY really felt like we were in Vegas...just from hearing that. Of course, it's my favorite Frank. Also got a dress compliment when we were in there...bonus!

We headed down to Hell's Kitchen (which is free-standing...outside of Caesar's). Sadly, it was too cold and windy for them to light this baby up...



We watch a lot of cooking shows in our house and the kids are very familiar with Gordon Ramsay, so this was pretty exciting for them as well.

We checked in and waited along the wall of winners to be seated.



I had wanted to go here for our special day all along, but didn't finalize our show plans until a few weeks before the trip. By that point, I couldn't find a single spot. Less than a week out from the trip, a few late afternoon slots opened and I was able to get us in. I heard them turning away walk ups at the door, so I was very thankful for the opening I snagged.

We were seated pretty far from the kitchen, but could still see it from our table.



The kids also loved that nearly everything had the logo or fit with the theme.





Not the greatest pic since I was using my phone, but even the ceiling lighting was a bunch of pitchforks...



I also loved that we were right along the famous Caesar's Palace fountains.





The Bellagio's fountains may now be better known, but I look at these and think of Evel and Robbie Knievel.

They had a really fun drink menu. I think this one was called Fear & Loathing...



And in case you were wondering, the garnish is being held together by a little pitchfork.

Awful pic, but this was my appetizer. It's pan seared scallops, with celery room, braised bacon lardons, and pickled granny smith apples...and it's sort of whipped butter underneath.



Another bad pic, but David started with the lobster risotto. I believe Kendall also got this for part of her dinner. It's poached lobster tail, truffle risotto, and crisped onions.



Sam started with the Iberico ham flatbread. She didn't like it, but the rest of us picked off the ham...because it was DELICIOUS!



Kendall was continuing in her shrimpy ways and got the shrimp cocktail. It had this really good gin cocktail sauce with it.



David also decided to have a few adult bevs with me, but he kept it traditional and went with the side car...which he said is probably the best he's ever had.



We also noticed a neighboring table get a really interesting looking dessert. They kindly allowed me to photograph it before they started digging in.



Horrible pic, but this was my filet mignon. It was very good and the bearnaise was nice, but it's also not the best I've ever had. It also didn't help that I was super sad about not being able to eat the famous Wellington.



Another blurry pic...David's braised short rib with creamy polenta. David said this was absolutely divine and worth every penny. He gave me a taste of the polenta because he knows I often make polenta at home, but he didn't remember until after I took a teeny bite that it was "creamy" polenta. So, I tried to discreetly get rid of what I'd taken.



Sam and Kendall both combined appetizers and sides to make their meals.

Wagyu meatballs



Baked mac and cheese with smoked gouda and prosciutto



David also ordered the potato gratin because it sounded (and looked) so good

 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I skipped a side and decided to add a new drink into the mix...



This was called the Yuki Onna...and it was STRONG...but still very good.

And while not the most exciting thing, I really love it when sparkling water is an option.



We decided to order dessert, and while we were waiting, we also decided it was picture time. We were all getting a bit loopy...especially since the fire alarm had been going off for a portion of our meal. It was a false alarm, but the strobes were flashing and the after the alarm stopped, an announcement still periodically came on over the PA system. We thought it was part of the "show," but it wasn't. The chefs in the kitchen did have a few team rally moments that were entertaining and Hell's Kitchen show highlights were playing on big tvs throughout the restaurant...but the alarm wasn't a part of this.











I'm also guessing they went with these plates as a nod to being at Caesar's...



Dessert came out and it was our turn to have some fun. Sorry for the low lighting, but I think you get the idea.


It's pineapple carpaccio with citrus foam, coconut sorbet, passion fruit, and coriander. It was delicious...minus one thing...

a hair.

The kids and I all got portions that were fine, but the small bit David took had a long blonde hair in it. David notified our server and the manager came over immediately. He was extremely nice and apologetic...also taking the time to chit chat with us about our evening. I was only expecting for him to take off the cost of the dessert from our bill, but he wound up knocking $75 off the ticket.

Before leaving, we also popped into the bathrooms which also continued with the theme. The vanity counter in the women's room was glowing red and the men's was glowing blue. Each toilet stall also had arrows with green pointing up and red pointing down...or something like that.

All in all, it was an expensive meal (even with the $ knocked off) and the alarm and hair were a bit disappointing...BUT- the service was phenomenal and the food was between very good to excellent. I had initially thought about Spago for dinner since it had a view of the fountains (a pretty incredible one at that), but I think this was definitely the better option and the kids are still telling people that they got to go to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. They know who he is. Nothing against Wolfgang Puck...he's a great chef and the kids became more interested when I told them about meeting Puck before they were born at a restaurant opening/book signing. I didn't really have much to say to him, but I loved how he was getting people samples and discussing how they may have gone wrong in trying to replicate some of his dishes.

It was time to head out into the cold...and it was feeling pretty chilly. My weather app said 42 and and there was a really brisk wind. This is where I headed north with the kids and took them to the Mirage while David headed south to get something he forgot at the Bellagio.



Kind of blurry, but you can sort of see how the wind is taking the spray off of Caesar's fountains.



We were all pretty chilly, so I was just trying to take strip pics to forget that I was cold.







Finally inside of the Mirage!







We still had a decent bit of time until the show and were obviously waiting on David...so I took this as an opportunity to really start the girls on my trip down memory lane.

Back when we got married, we had our wedding dinner in the Mirage. I still have vivid memories of walking through the big atrium above in my huge wedding dress on our way to and from dinner. Mirage attracted more kids back then because of the tigers, so this area was just loaded with little ones and I could hear so many voices saying things like "mommy, she looks like a princess!" So, it was pretty neat to be standing in there with my own kiddos.

We moved on to the fish...because I love this aquarium.



They also had some cute holiday decor...



I seriously thought about staying at the Mirage for this portion of the trip. They have a 2 bedroom suite that's a little over 1,600 sq ft and the price is only a little bit more than the room I booked at the Bellgio. It also has a volcano view, which we never saw erupt during this trip.

We walked around a bit to see if there was anything left of the tiger display, but sadly, it's gone. I think everything is behind closed doors now with a fee. I found another mom (with much younger kids) lamenting about the same thing. Still, I took pics in Mirage (and out by the gardens area) as we wandered.



 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster






No word from David yet, so we decided to check out the shop by the theater for the show.















David met up with us and we decided to make our way in...





There was also no trouble in finding our seats.








As you can see, we are right on top of the stage. These are the cheap seats. It was either this or all the way in the back. Part of that was price and part was getting four seats together. As it stands, I picked this show because it's one of the cheaper Cirque shows. David would have preferred to do Blue Man, but I couldn't find any good seats for that + we can see that in Orlando if we really want. I would have preferred to see O, but those tickets are more $, some of the masks and face painting looked like it would have scared Sam, and there weren't any good seats open for our dates...I think it was even dark one night. KA was another option, but no good seats open for that. I know day of seating is a possibility, but you can't gift that to your kids on Christmas and it's risky since you may not get seats or get them together. LOVE gets excellent reviews, David likes and I love Beatles music, and it seemed fun...so...here we were. David didn't want to be right on the stage but I knew the kids would love it and from seeing other Cirque shows, I knew it would add up to cast interaction for us.

This was right after the finale number...



So, I thought the show was INCREDIBLE. So did the kids. David liked, but did not love it. I know Mystere is still his fave of what we've seen. I was also right about interacting with the cast. I was seated in the center of our section and got the bulk of it, but we all got some. And I know they must rehears these things a million times, it's all intentional and well planned...but it really felt like I was going to have the blackbird in my lap in the middle of the show. It was a riot!

After the show, it was time to really hit up the nostalgia kick and head to Treasure Island. The tram and track between TI and Mirage is still there, but I know it's been down for some time and I'm sure there's little incentive to fix it now that MGM sold off TI. Passed by Siegfried and Roy along the way...



I still remember how they used to be the faces of the Mirage...plastered all over the building and signs.

And now time to get to TI...





 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
My friend stayed here last year and said it was awful and the casino smelled bad, but it will always be special to us...and to be perfectly honest, the casino smelled exactly the way it always smelled. I guess it must be something with the combo of the smoke and the chlorinated water outside, because it is a similar olfactory impact as Disney water rides...except that it's distinctly TI to me.

David and I were also excited to see that one of our favorte bars was largely unchanged...right down to the color changing columns.



It was late and I had a feeling it would be closed, but we figured we'd get the kids as close as we could to where we got married.



I know people think elopement and cheesy when they think Vegas weddings, but this was soooo not that. Our friends who had the vow renewal with Elvis several years earlier went closer to that route, but this was very traditional and was all part of a plan to have a wedding that worked for all. Long story short...the stress and budget of the big traditional wedding I had booked in Houston had me losing my mind. I was also worried that the travel was too much for some of my older relatives. So, we invited all 275 people on our guest list to Vegas (10 came) and then had a second (more casual) reception in NJ for all of my family and family friends and a third (really casual) reception in TX for all of our TX family and friends. We saved a lot of money, got to celebrate with everyone, and we had THREE wedding cakes (and one groom's cake).

We wandered a bit more after this...







Blurry, but the kids saw the Venetian and started asking about shakes...since David told them they could have something later on since the pinapple carpaccio was really light AND we ended up having a lot of it thrown away.



I gave them a hard NO on going back to Black Tap, but offered to walk through the Forum Shops at Caesar's to see what we could find. I found a Transformer!



We hadn't found much of anything, so we had a heart to heart around the fountain...



I know some of it was because they were tired, but the kids were getting pretty obnoxious at this point. Still, David wanted a shake, so I decided to take a more educated approach to this shake matter. I pulled up Caesar's website on my phone, went through all of the restaurants, and found they had a Shake Shack in their food court. It wouldn't be fancy...but it would be shakes. Kendall started to panic because we won't normally let her have them there because they have peanut butter shakes and normally use the same machine. Well, this location didn't serve peanut butter so I told her to stop freaking out.

David and the kids waited in the seating area while I ordered. Sam is clearly very interested in something...



I ended up jacking up the line for a good 15-20 minutes. They had one person working the front area and she was the only one who could make shakes. So, all other ordering came to a halt while she made our three shakes. I believe it was two chocolate and one Oreo. Thankfully, the masses waiting were in really good spirits and we all had a few good laughs when I rejoined the line to claim the shakes that caused everything to come to a complete standstill.

Coming up...

The sad tale of our room
What a buffet should be
Good bye to the Bellagio
Is that a narwhal in your bag?
Good bye to Vegas
 

MinnieM123

Well-Known Member
Passed by Siegfried and Roy along the way...

I still remember how they used to be the faces of the Mirage...plastered all over the building and signs.
I was fortunate enough to have seen their show, (some years prior to the on-stage accident).

Enjoying your TR immensely -- seeing a lot of the old stuff that's still around, and all of the newer hotels and attractions, too. :)
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I was fortunate enough to have seen their show, (some years prior to the on-stage accident).

Enjoying your TR immensely -- seeing a lot of the old stuff that's still around, and all of the newer hotels and attractions, too. :)

That's awesome that you got to see them. They were one of the hottest show tickets on the strip for our first handful of trips to LV and everyone I know that saw them said it was a great show.

It's amazing to see how much Vegas has changed in just the 11 years we've been away, but good to see a number of familiar things as well.


Can we all stop for a moment and just appreciate how bored the fellow in this picture seems. :hilarious:

Seriously though, this has been a great trip report so far. Between this one and your Yellowstone one earlier, you've definitely gotten out west on my bucket list. :cool:
LOL I don't think I noticed him until now! Hopefully, he enjoyed the show more than the shop.

Thank you! I'm really trying to make good on my promise to get out there and see a wide variety of things during our Disney break time.
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Dec 28th-

Last day...time to go home...but not before relaxing into our morning. I could have saved a lot of money if I'd paid for flights that got us in after midnight and returned at the crack of dawn, but I decided one of my gifts to the fam for this trip was the luxury of convenient flight times.

I took a quick look out the window...



And then it was time to start packing up. I will spare you my room issue pictures, but I will tell you about them... 1. one of the two sinks took 20-30 min to drain, so there was always some kind of soap scum nastiness caked all over it 2. the pretty glass shower's seal was missing in several spots and the bathroom flooded multiple times from shower spray getting out- also caused the shower and caulk to look pretty nasty 3. I don't think they ever vacuumed our room or cleaned the surfaces from the past guests- there was fuzz and fur all over the floor- a dirty broken coffee stirrer on the night stand- left over packaging from a memory card someone bough 4. While I know some windows are prone to condensation, this was bad enough that it was dripping into the carpet and made for a bit of a musty smell 5. Both sides of the makeup mirror were scratched out in the center 6. the room door was filthy...black marks all over it 6. the room door wouldn't always lock and when it did, it wouldn't always open 7. more of a floor woe, but the elevator buttons on one side were completely dead. They were booked solid and never were interested in fixing any of the problems...so this was our room...flaws and all.

I did report the issues, I did fill out the survey and detail everything again, I have posted detailed reviews on external sites, and I have not heard anything from MGM. I'm an MLife member and even my offer emails and such have stopped. Needless to say, we're done with the Bellagio. David wouldn't mind another MGM resort in the future, but we'll see. David still really likes all of the themes, but who knows what things will be like when we go back.

We loaded the bags in the car and then made our way to breakfast.





I'm really not much of a buffet person because I feel the quality often suffers when food is mass produced...yet you also pay a hefty price for that endless food production. Still, it's Vegas and we have to do one buffet...and Bellagio's is usually one of the better ones. On top of that, as you can see...there's no line. I've seen this buffet line stretching to over an hour wait.

After irritating the cashier by having children, since she already keyed in four diners, we were seated.



I stayed back at the table while David and the kids got some food. Sam started with this breakfast of champions style plate...



Kendall's was a bit better, minus her tipping her eggs Benedict...



My turn...



I did not tip my Benedict, BUT I had to take it apart since I couldn't have the muffin and there was a lot of muffin residue stuck to the ham/Canadian bacon, so that was a no for me as well. Really...I just took the "poached" egg off the tip and that's all I had. It's in quotes because the yolk was like that of a hard boiled egg. The hollandaise really wasn't awful (my friend loves it), but I've found mass produced hollandaise is often powdered stuff or has cheats in it to keep it together. I took the risk that it had those cheats (cream and/or flour). I ate some other things that I know upset my tummy, so not sure if this was partly to blame or not. All I know is that when I make hollandaise, it's silky and has butter, egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and salt. This was not that...but I've had much worse.

Here's where I know I slipped up...



The little cakes and that muffin were gluten free, but they weren't lactose free.

Samantha moved on to her next round of breakfast. I was surprised that they had little bits of filling injected all the way around. You can kind of see it in the crab pic below.



On my final pass, I noticed that they added snow crab legs...so David and Kendall decided they had to have some...and David had to teach Kendall how to eat them.





I know it sounds overly critical, but this was actually a very good buffet and I appreciated that this was more brunch than just breakfast. I don't remember everything I ate, but a lot of it was very tasty and they had a number of gluten free and sugar free options as well as great labeling for all major allergies.

I think, for the price, our breakfast the previous day was still better quality, but we left the Bellagio buffet pretty pleased and I have a feeling I would have loved it even more if I was doing full dairy and gluten. I want to say it was around $137 before gratuity (2 kids/2 adults), so the pricing is in line with some of the Disney breakfast buffets. I bring it up because I had quite a few dining rants about Disney buffet quality after our Dec 2017 trip. I still stand by those opinions...feeling that characters and pricing based on demand and non-food experience are taking major priority over food quality/offerings. Of course, there are no characters at the Bellagio's buffet and it's not in the middle of a Disney park, but Disney could be doing its guests a great service by looking to something like this buffet and plussing their quality and offerings based on it.

By the time we got out of the buffet, a bit of a line had formed. So, we'd gotten there at a good time.

Time to check out. I positioned myself near the front desk in case I had any difficulties...



Instead...I got this message. Guessing housekeeping saw the room cleared out and assumed we were gone.



Nothing left to do but head to the car and get back to the rental facility...and take a few pics along the way...









We got to the airport on the early side because we weren't sure how long rental return would take, among other things. It wound up being pretty simple. Security, on the other hand, was interesting. Kendall had a freakout because the scanner forgot to scan her bag and it had to go through a second time. She thought she was in trouble. Samantha also forgot to take her tablet out of her bag, so hers needed a full inspection. The agent was reviewing the scan before opening it up and he asked her 'you got a narwhal in your bag?' It took her by surprise and she was like...yes, yes I do! It was all in good fun and we all got a laugh from it.

So, we just sat around for what seemed like forever taking random airport pics...





 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Eventually, it was time to get on the plane...



While Kendall got the window, I made sure to annoy her until sunset with leaning in for pics and video. We even got to wave good-bye to the Grand Canyon.














We'd eventually fly into evening and there was nothing really left to see in the dark. We arrived in Houston early, but made up that time sitting for 20-25 min waiting for our gate to open up. Our bags were some of the last off the plane and we were the last to be dropped off at our vehicle since we were all the way at the back of the lot, but all was good. I made a stop at Wendy's on the way home for David and the kids...and we all settled in. David's allergies had cleared up just enough while we were away for him to even smell the Christmas tree for a few minutes!

So, that's it. Not 100% sure on our upcoming adventures. We will eventually go back to Vegas, but hoping it's kid free next time around. Not that we didn't have fun, but there are just little things...like sitting at a bar playing video poker for a few hours...that just doesn't work with minors in the mix. We're trying to go to New Orleans in a few months and I have lodging and dog boarding booked, but everything is up in the air because of some big things going on at work. NOLA is nothing new for me and David, but the kids have never been and there are a number of things we've never done there that we want to do with the kids. We're also thinking Colorado for the summer, but I haven't booked anything yet. I know David really likes this idea since I've talked about catching some baseball, whitewater rafting, and Rocky Mountain National Park. If there's time, I also want to get to the Four Corners monument. And who knows...maybe we'll get to the north rim of GCNP if we do the other western trip I have in mind (at some point...in warmer months). We're also waiting on next year's school schedule because it's looking like skiing in New Mexico will be up after that. I've already made it very clear to David and the kids that I'll tube and snowmobile, but apres ski is more my thing. :D

Thanks for following along on our journeys :) And let's all keep our fingers crossed that I have a new adventure to share in a few months!
 

Nemo14

Well-Known Member
I guess I missed a notification here so I’m trying to catch up. TBH, I’m not much of a fan of Vegas but your pictures are wonderful - your girls are awesome.
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I guess I missed a notification here so I’m trying to catch up. TBH, I’m not much of a fan of Vegas but your pictures are wonderful - your girls are awesome.
It's funny...I never wanted to go to Vegas until my arm was twisted to go for that friend's vow renewal trip. I was shocked by how much I loved it, but I know others who have been and have a "one and done" feeling after visiting. Thanks! The girls can be pretty fun and it's nice being able to share these sorts of things with them.

Colorado is pretty neat with a great variety of things to do, but I wouldn’t bother with the 4 corners monument actuallly.
I think it's the Clark Griswold in me that wants to go to 4 corners. I did something similar when we drove down to Key West a few years ago. I refused to get in the line for the southernmost point, but I drove as close as I could legally get so the kids could see it out the car window. Of course, that wasn't quite as far out of our way as 4 corners would be. We shall see.
 

Nemo14

Well-Known Member
It's funny...I never wanted to go to Vegas until my arm was twisted to go for that friend's vow renewal trip. I was shocked by how much I loved it, but I know others who have been and have a "one and done" feeling after visiting. Thanks! The girls can be pretty fun and it's nice being able to share these sorts of things with them.



I think it's the Clark Griswold in me that wants to go to 4 corners. I did something similar when we drove down to Key West a few years ago. I refused to get in the line for the southernmost point, but I drove as close as I could legally get so the kids could see it out the car window. Of course, that wasn't quite as far out of our way as 4 corners would be. We shall see.
I went to 4 corners as a kid and it was pretty neat, but years later when we brought our kids it had changed significantly. The little road to get there is a toll road now and is lined with questionable vendors. I was so disappointed.
As far as Vegas goes, we fly in there often when we do our western trips, and have seen a few shows there. We loved the shows (KA was our favorite) and we'll definitely see another some day, but by the end of the second day we're ready to get out to the national parks. :joyfull:
 

MinnieM123

Well-Known Member
Surprised to read about the room issues at your hotel--that's supposed to be one of the top hotels out there. The buffet looked pretty good, for the most part anyway. Although the price wasn't awful, I still remember when buffets were dirt cheap. I recall talking to a tour operator out there (this was quite a few years ago), and he lived in Las Vegas. He told me that he and his wife ate dinner out 5 days a week, because the food prices were so cheap, it cost them less than buying groceries. :)

Well, thank you for an interesting TR. Your family now has pleasant memories of a fun and different sort of vacation. Always good to try new things! :happy:
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Surprised to read about the room issues at your hotel--that's supposed to be one of the top hotels out there. The buffet looked pretty good, for the most part anyway. Although the price wasn't awful, I still remember when buffets were dirt cheap. I recall talking to a tour operator out there (this was quite a few years ago), and he lived in Las Vegas. He told me that he and his wife ate dinner out 5 days a week, because the food prices were so cheap, it cost them less than buying groceries. :)

Well, thank you for an interesting TR. Your family now has pleasant memories of a fun and different sort of vacation. Always good to try new things! :happy:
I was pretty shocked with the room, but these things happen and it could have been worse. The view was still phenomenal and if anything, it's just an excuse to try new places whenever we go back. I think there are still a few cheap buffets out there, but they are on the decline. I remember on my first trip seeing all kinds of signs offering $6.99 buffets with steak and lobster, but a lot of that has disappeared.

You're welcome :) Thanks for reading along!
 
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