Vegas Revisited: Beer, Craps & Poker
Our trip to Las Vegas was arranged to coincide with our wedding anniversary, which is on the 10th November. We were married at the Chapel of the Flowers, Las Vegas, in 2012. Again, this was an intentional date, as it makes remembering it very easy as it is 10/11/12 in the day-month-year date format we use in the UK. During this first visit to Sin City, 3 years ago, the focus was purely on the wedding and all the organisational matters leading up to the actual day, such as obtaining the marriage licence from Clark County Marriage Bureau. On the way home, as a happily married couple, having enjoyed the whole experience, we realised we had not done Vegas properly in terms of drinking, partying and gambling…that was rectified this time around!
Chris and Jen Daws, our drinking buddies, joined us for this visit and we had a list of activities to nail over the 5 night stay. We arrived on the same plane, but travelled to The Mirage Hotel & Casino separately to the Daws’ as they had a transfer in their package and we didn’t. It was not an issue as the taxi journey is short and cheap. In fact, we arrived first, grabbed our room key and made it to the lobby bar 5 minutes before Happy Hour finished at 3pm. With two bottles of Samuel Adams each, Amanda signed the $18 to the room which is crazy to think that a bottle of beer is $9 each when not on Happy Hour…I hope we brought enough money with us or at least a credit card with available balance!!!
Travelling affects people in different ways and we left the Daws’ to chill whilst we headed down The Strip visiting some of the hotels we’d missed on the last trip and found a great Irish bar attached to the New York New York hotel called Nine Fine Irishmen. They had a live band on as we arrived and a great old lady enjoying herself on the dance floor. The craziness had started.
Saturday was all about Freemont Street and seeking out craft beer and enjoying the atmosphere of Downtown Vegas, including Binion’s Gambling Hall and the Golden Nugget casino. We’d also planned on doing the SlotZilla Zip Line, but by the time we decided to give it a go the wait was far too long and we binned the idea. It looks great, with two height and length options, so if you fancy it, my advice is to book ahead or as soon as you arrive Downtown. Our first stop was at Pizza Rock, a great bar and restaurant promising gourmet pies, craft beer and cocktails. What a lovely place…we could have stopped here all afternoon to be honest. However, we needed to move on and find one of the places we’d researched before leaving the UK, a place called Banger Brewing. This is a craft brewery with a range of offbeat ales, including pepper & fruit infusions. I tried EL HEFFE (5.2% ABV), which is a Hefeweizen and is infused with freshly roasted jalapenos and Serrano peppers. It was not for the fainthearted and I didn’t order a second. Instead I opted for the DTB (6.0% ABV), which is a brown ale full of malty goodness…much nicer. We headed back towards The Mirage as Freemont Street became so busy it was a pain in the arse to move around, however, it is still a highly recommended day out.
Sunday was a more relaxed day; with a late breakfast at Denny’s before jumping on the SDX (Strip & Downtown Express) bus to Las Vegas Premium Outlets – North. This is nowhere near as good at the Premium Outlet mall in Orlando and we returned to The Mirage with the wallet unopened.
As you would expect, gambling options are everywhere in Vegas, but what you play is very much down to personal preference. We had a poker session planned for later in the week and Craps is always a draw for us given that you never find it in the UK casinos. It looks a complicated game and can be quite intimidating to the beginner. We played 3 years ago at 4am one morning when we couldn’t sleep, which was great as we got a tutorial from the guys running the game. However, 3 years is a long time and we’d forgotten most of what we’d learnt. It soon came back and we took turns rolling the dice, studying what other players were doing and generally having a great time. Losing money is to be expected, but losing it on the craps table is much better than blackjack or roulette.
Monday was the day we hired a car and headed out into the Nevada and Arizona Mojave Desert. We picked up a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SUV at McCarran Airport, heading to the Hoover Dam first. This is amazing and well worth the effort. The views are spectacular and the feat of engineering mind-blowing. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression. The Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. The dam is located near Boulder City, Nevada, a town originally constructed for workers on the construction project, about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Next was the long drive to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. It is a transparent horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge, commissioned and owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, with a vertical drop directly under the skywalk of 500-800 feet. Amanda conquered her fear of heights and ventured back out onto the bridge unaided after a swift whizz around it attached to my arm. It is a breath-taking experience and provides amazing views of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. The trip back to Vegas provided us with an impressive sunset and a drive back through the town of Dolan Springs, a weird place were the buildings in the town look like they’ve been thrown together with absolutely no planning or fore-thought. Based on what we saw as we sped through it, it has half a dozen churches, but zero pubs…I’m sure I heard the distant sound of duelling banjos at one point!
If you’ve read the above blog post, you will realise why Tuesday, our wedding anniversary, was a complete washout. We never left the room all day apart from to stagger down the hotel corridor to collect ice and water. We’d planned on going to Herbs & Rye for a massive steak and loads of cocktails, but it just wasn’t going to happen. At least it gives us a reason to come back to Vegas as this was one of our pre-trip ‘must do’ places, given the recommendations on TripAdvisor and other review sites.
Wednesday was our last day and we met up with Chris and Jen for a stroll up the Strip, a bit of shopping and some lunch before heading back to the hotel and onto the airport. The flight home was one of the best trans-Atlantic journeys we’ve ever had. It was with Virgin Atlantic, as is usual for us, but I think the difference was either the fact that we were completely knackered or because we’d secured seats on the upper deck in ‘the bubble’ which was much quieter than in the lower deck economy cabin.
It was another amazing and memorable trip. Thanks to the Daws’ for sharing it with us, plus Bryan the puking poker player for his company around the green felt and apologies to Herbs & Rye for the missing our reservation. Finally, massive hugs and kisses to my gorgeous wife Amanda for 3 fabulous years of marriage. Now it’s time for a rest and less alcohol as my kidneys really hurt…