Vegas, here we come!

It’s been four years since I’ve been to Vegas, and I still can’t believe it’s been so long.

There was a time — oh, when the University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team played in the WAC Tournament at the MGM Grand, for example — when I used to go to Las Vegas at least once a year, often twice.

I’m not a big gambler — though I’ll play blackjack, roulette and, of course, the Wheel of Fortune progressive slots — but I enjoyed wandering about the City of Lost Wages, marveling at the larger-than-life hotels and other over-the-top extravagance the desert town is known for.

But after ATA Airlines shut down, I never went back.

Until now.

Apparently, a lot, as we quickly discovered last night at our Vegas planning meeting — yes, we’re getting old — at Panya Bistro. Next weekend my girlfriends and I are heading to Sin City, most of us for the first time in years. A lot has changed — I haven’t seen Encore, for example — so we’re a little lost as to what to do. No sense buying omiyage from Bath & Body Works anymore, since the chain opened up a shop in Ala Moana Center. And by now we’ve all had a Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr., shopped at Express and bought PJs from Victoria’s Secret.

So what’s left?

There’s still In-N-Out Burger, Trader Joe’s and the awe-inspiring Hoover Dam.

Yes, these are on our list.

So we’re throwing it out there to you: what restaurants, boutiques, hotels and attractions should we put on our four-day itinerary? Got any must-dos in Vegas?

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65 Responses to “Vegas, here we come!”

  1. David Jackson September 15, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    If you have never seen the Grand canyon it is a must. There is simply not a photograph taken that does her justice.

    • Catherine Toth September 15, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      OK, I went to the Grand Canyon from Vegas once. It was a freaking long drive! Maybe six hours? Longer? Anyway, it was an all-day affair. I think going to the Hoover Dam is already at our driving limit! LOL!

      • David Jackson September 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

        Yep. If you have done it before the six hours the second time is a bit much. One March when I was in grad school in Arizona we hiked down Kai-bob and out Bright Angel. Walked across the bridge at he bottom over the Colorado River. Apart from being sore all over it was the best hike ever. Las Vegas or the Canton… OK I am a nerd… Grand Canyon wins.

  2. 9th island Cuz September 15, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    Cuz what about Red Rock Canyon, renting ATV’s at the dunes, rollercoaster at stateline when at stateline play the lottery $$$$$

  3. Makiki September 15, 2011 at 4:18 am #

    A plate of spaghetti at Scarpetta’s and the tasting menu or any seafood dish at Bartolotta are always must-eats for me.

    • Catherine Toth September 15, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      It’s only 6 a.m. and that already sounds good. :)

  4. Ron September 15, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    Eating an All-American Cheeseburger at Smash Burger – on Maryland Parkway between Tropicana and Flamingo near UNLV.

    Going to Primm to place enter the California Lottery.

    Visit the Mike O’Callahan-Pat Tillman bridge near Hoover Dam, then visit the Hoover Dam. Travel to Rosie’s in Arizona and play the Powerball.

    Ride the Extreme atop the Stratosphere.

    Go on the Area 51 tour. You can book it at the Cal. Eat lunch at the The Little A’le’Inn at Rachel and check out the place.

    Visit Pahrumph, and buy fireworks.

    Visit Mt. Charleston, and goof of at the park area.

    Too bad the Thunderbirds aren’t flying that weekend. It’ll be for the November 12 and 13.

    http://www.nellis.af.mil/aviationnation/

  5. jaydee September 15, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    I can give you no advice on what to do or what to see Cat. When I go it’s usually with the guys and we do nothing but the 3 “g’s”; golf, gamble and go crazy! Hah! Have fun and enjoy!

  6. Catherine Toth September 15, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    LOL! We’ll definitely do that last one!

  7. wes September 15, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    seafood buffet at the M Resort (fri/sat/sun). includes all you can drink beer and wine.

  8. Brian September 15, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    Indoor skydiving!!!

    http://www.vegasindoorskydiving.com/

  9. M September 15, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    Hello Cat, we are planning a trip to Sin City in the beginning of Oct. but can’t find a good airfare so far, the cheapest was 560.00 round trip. It use to be cheap to go before but that’s long gone.

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      We got ours awhile back. I think we paid less than $400. Not bad, eh?

  10. tol September 15, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Hi Cat!

    May I add Bachi Burger or Create a Burger to your burger list. Burgers seem to be all the rage lately and these are two of the ones that are not bad…in addition to Smash Burger. Of course we have the high end burger joints like the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay or KGB – Kerry’s (Kerry Simon) Gourmet Burgers at Harrahs.

    Shopping – Hawaii has most, if not all the same shops so nothing exciting to say but if you like to window shop, do check out Crystals at City Center or any the shops at Via Bellagio or Wynn or Palazzo. Of course all high end shopping.

    Buffets – just about every hotel has one. Wicked Spoon at Cosmopolitan was good. Rio’s Seafood Buffet is also good. Bellagio is another good one.

    We have our “chinatown” … but you can’t beat the food in Hawaii…IMHO. But, when we crave something Asian, that’s where we go. Just a few places if you are interested and want something outside of the hotel… Pho Kim Long for Vietnamese, Tofu Hut for Korean, Kung Fu for Thai-Chinese…all located on Spring Mountain Rd.

    If you love meat, check out Texas de Brazil at Town Square. Also you may want to walk around Town Square – lots of shops and restaurants.
    http://www.texasdebrazil.com/

    Famous Daves for BBQ – lots of food and tasty. http://www.famousdaves.com/

    If nothing else, check out the hotels. A casino is a casino, but you might find the decor interesting in the hotels. Bellagio’s Conservatory is nice to see. They should have the Harvest exhibit soon for Fall.

    If you are into night life there are a number of clubs in the hotels.

    Fremont Street Experience – http://www.vegasexperience.com/
    check their schedule for events. You might try the zipline across fremont street downtown.

    Just some suggestions – hope it helps in your planning.

  11. Nate September 15, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Do the SkyJump off the Stratosphere. I did it this summer and it was really fun.

    http://www.skyjumplasvegas.com/

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      Negative. I’ll pitch it to the girls, but I’m not doing it :/

  12. Eric September 15, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Belagio buffet was good. My wife and I have only visited LV once in the past 10 years.

    You have a typewritten itinerary ….. Now, that is impressive!

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      You have to know the girls I’m traveling with! LOL!

  13. MaxMaxMax September 15, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    My you’re an early bird today Cat!

    It’s been four years or so for me too. In fact, the last couple of opportunities I had to go, I passed on. Having been there a dozen times or so, I got tired of it. I transitioned from gambling to going to shows (a forward progress in my book). And now, we just stay with family who’ve relocated there and mostly kick back and chill with them and don’t even hit the strip unless we all want to go to a restaurant featured there. But as of now, I have no desire to go back to the glitzy city for a while.

    The only advice I have is to have fun, set limits for gambling and don’t look at it as a loss if you lose, but rather having spent your intended entertainment budget. Where people always meet their demise is chasing after that money, LOL!

  14. MaxMaxMax September 15, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Uh oh… no Vegas on the list… but Honolulu made #11!!!

    http://eater.com/archives/2011/09/14/here-is-a-list-of-americas-best-cities-for-foodies.php

  15. R-Dizzle September 15, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    Sonic, Olive Garden, Joe’s Crab Shack, Cici’s Pizza, Red Robin, and Johnny Rockets. Just some of the fast food chains I visit while on the mainland.

  16. Nate September 15, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    The Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmopolitan hotel was good too. They have a made to order Mac and Cheese bar…

  17. matt September 15, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    Per Se? I’d think that would be a no brainer for a foodie.

    • Mona September 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      I think you might mean Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in The Venetian. Per Se is only in New York.

      • matt September 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

        oops. I must’ve just (electronically) blurted out the first TK room that crossed my mind. my bad for posting at work, I guess.

        anyway, Cat, knowing that you like fries, Anthony Bourdain said that, while he knew he wasn’t a great chef, he also knew (like deep down in his heart, knew) that no one in this country made better fries than he did. until he ate Thomas Keller’s.

        • Amy September 16, 2011 at 6:13 am #

          I would have to agree with the assessment about the french fries. Those french fries are to die for delicious…. I’ll admit I haven’t had them in Vegas, only in Yountville, but I’m certain that they are just as good in Vegas :)

          • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

            Did you say French fries? I’m so there!

  18. rayboyjr September 15, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Hey Cat … I am soooooo envious … every time I hear of someone going to Vegas … because I haven’t been there in like 6 years … but I AM a gambler, small limits, but addicted nonetheless … sorry, I have no clue what’s new or different there to do …

    … why don’t you girls wing it … discover new places and sample different restaurants and shows … find “must-do-or-see-or-eat” places by chance … after all, it is Vegas baybee!!! … take a gamble on new casinos, resorts, malls, shows and restaurants … not the “sure-thing” stuff that people always tell you about … haha, easy for me to say!!! …

    … I hope to go sometime in the next couple of years … geez, one of my best friends lives there … I actually have a good reason to go … because I know gambling and losing are not good reasons to go …

    … Have a Good One Everyone!!! …

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

      Thanks! We’re planning to have fun. It’s in the itinerary! LOL!

  19. Mona September 15, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Cat – someone mentioned Scarpetta. It’s at The Cosmopolitan. A must visit hotel. It’s the newest on the strip having opened in Dec 2010. I went to Vegas 2x this year and stayed there both times. Secret pizza place is located next to the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill which had the best bone marrow ever! 3-story chandelier bar made from a few million Swarovski crystals. This place is chic, sleek and has a cool vibe and great customer service. Must check out the always moving designs on lighted columns in the west lobby. Ingenious design. So mesmerizing. Lunch at Comme Ca was great too. And their buffet at The Wicked Spoon is cheap but full of gourmet items. If you go to Mandalay Place. Rick Moonen’s prix fixe dinner is awesome from the amuse bouche to the special elixir at the end of the meal (but skip Rick Moonen’s sushi fate downstairs – description of rolls sound yummy but dont pan out) but they do have a dessert with 16 mini scoops of sorbets/ice creams and if u guess all the flavors, it’s free and if u don’t it’s still yummy. Oh forgot to mention the wicked spoon buffet at The Cosmopolitan has a full gelato bar that’s just a small portion of the dessert offerings there!

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      God, it’s been so long, I think I have to Google that hotel! Never been — but it’s sure on the list now!

  20. M September 15, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    I don’t gamble but my wife does, so she deposit my share…..
    My in-laws goes every other month.

  21. Robert Laidlaw September 15, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Cat: I live here and would suugest that you definitely check out the Cosmopolitan resort with a walkthrough, you won’t be disappointed, you can then walk right next door to City Center, another great complex. You will definitely be overwhelmed with the foodie choices here now, it’s over the top!!! Have Fun!

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

      You’re the second one (so far) to recommend the Cosmopolitan. It’s definitely on the list!

  22. guest September 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Cheeeeeehoooooooooooo!!! Las Vegas is the best. I love LV!!! Yeah, gotta go out to Primm and ride that Desperado. Keep your eyes open and your head up for that first drop cause it’s a doozey. New York, New York’s Manhattan Express is the best in the city part. I only play the Wheel of Fortune $1 slots until I hit the $1000 payoff on the spin. Couple of people have won the progressive jackpot at the Cal maybe you might be next. I’ve heard that there is a tour of the nuclear weapons testing site in the desert, that might be cool to see.

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      There’s a website that tracks the progressive slots in real time. I can’t remember the URL, but I need it, STAT!

  23. M September 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Have a prime rib dinner at Lawry’s.

  24. San September 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Yup, agreed, Lawry’s is a MUST when in Vegas. The Kobe sampler at Craftsteak in the MGM was also superb.

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      I went to Lawry’s the last time I was there — and was NOT disappointed :)

  25. matt September 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    mini donuts at the indoor flea market

  26. eggfooyoung September 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    M buffet at the M Hotel south of the strip is the latest craze. seagfood buffet for $34. warning, long wait. i went around 530 on friday, it was a 1hr wait. try a weekday and also if you go before a certain time (4pm?), you can pay the lunch price, and wait a little for the dinner items to be swapped in.

    Bachi Burgers i heard is popular, some unique burgers.

    Island sushi has all you can eat sushi and local hawaii grinds like mochiko chix, garlic chix, etc. yes you can get it here, but not all you eat!

    Fireflys has tapas that was pretty good

    Serendipity 3 is at Caesar, food was ok, just go for the frozen hot chocolate.

    new casinos are aria with city center and cosmopolitan. wynn and encore.

    Dueling Pianos is suppose to be a neat event.

    I heard Komex (korean and mexican) is new. hole in the wall i think.

    don’t forget to get coupons at the north and south outlets, as well as Towne Center.

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

      I’ve heard so much about Bachi Burgers. We gotta try that out. Thanks for all the recs!

  27. Gavin September 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Holsteins Shakes and Buns at the Cosmopolitan on the strip. Good burgers. They also give you truffle popcorn while you wait.

    Ichiban Sushi in Bally’s, near the monorail. It’s a hidden gem. There’s just something about their salad dressing that keeps me going back year after year.

    Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. Giant sandwiches.

    Also, check out “Ka” at the MGM Grand. All of the Cirque shows feature acrobatics, but this is the only one with everything from martial arts to shadow puppets. It even has a discernible storyline to it.

    • Shelly Smiles September 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

      Cat…

      After reading the suggestions, sounds like we should check out the Cosmopolitan and Primm if we have time. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to zipline, and we can do it across Fremont Street downtown!!! What do you say? My brother is in Vegas now and ate at Smash burger today, seems to be another popular place. I’ll try and get some suggestions from him when he gets back next week Monday. :)

      • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

        LOL, the zipline! Did you see the video? I think we’ll need to drink first!

  28. Amy September 16, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    Hi Cat,

    Here is my list of recommendations (mostly having to do with food…):
    * Bouchon Bakery in Venetian. Their macarons are fabulous.
    * City Center / Crystals shopping center and Aria for shopping or window shopping / walking around (Jean Philippe Patisserie in Aria has some gorgeous pastries that are fun to look at (and eat, too!!) The Jean Philippe in Bellagio is smaller, but has the world’s largest chocolate fountain. Crystals has some neat architectural elements and high tech gadgets – just fun to look around (and shop)
    * B&B Ristorante in Venetian (Mario Batali) – fabulous dinner choice – pricey, but so worth it if you’re looking for a fancier dinner – if not, Enoteca San Marco upstairs is also Mario Batali / Bastianich and quite delicious as well (pizza, pasta, salads, etc.)!!

    Have fun!!! Can’t wait to read about what you end up doing and eating out there!!

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Crystal, thanks so much for this list! These all sound deliciously awesome!

  29. tol September 16, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    If you want to try something different and off the strip check out Hofbrauhaus. Bavarian food and a unique experience I’m told. Even though I live here, I haven’t tried everything LV has to offer.
    http://www.hofbrauhauslasvegas.com/

    Ellis Island for the BBQ deal : http://www.ellisislandcasino.com/ellis/dining.html

    Hash House a Go-Go : http://www.hashhouseagogo.com/

    Valley of Fire State Park. http://parks.nv.gov/vf.htm
    (Korean Drama Swallow the Sun filmed scenes here)

    Springs Preserve : http://www.springspreserve.org/

    just a few more suggestions.

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Thanks for all these links! Hash a Go-Go sounds like a must!

  30. Mona September 16, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    I agree with Gavin re: Cirque du Soleil’s Ka. I saw it 2x – awesome! And I forgot to mention if you like foie gras you must try the foie GRAS custard brûlée with blood orange cocoa nibs and salted brioche from Sage at Aria hotel. Like our server said, “if you eat this and don’t like it, something is wrong with you!” oh and about that bone marrow. It is also offered on the buffet line at The Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan. Here’s @thirstymatty fabulous pic of the bone marrow dish at Blue Ribbon Sushi at The Cosmo. So yummy, tasted like a garlic jam.
    http://twitpic.com/6ljtr9

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Foie gras custard brulee? Really? OMG. That sounds DANGEROUS!

  31. Mark September 16, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Hi Kat,

    If you want to try a simple artery-clogging but satisfying experience, you may want to visit Original Tommy’s burger house south of the Strip . . . chili cheese burgers, chili cheese friesn, yummy shakes, and other treats on the menu . . .

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

      I’m going to Google that right now! I’m a sucker for chili cheese fries!

  32. Daryl W. September 17, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Hi Cat. We thought that the Thursday night Polynesian Buffet ($20.99) at the Silverton Casino south of the strip would be pretty hokey but it turned out to have lau lau’s, a whole Chinese roast pig, poke, poi, and haupia for dessert. I agree that the Wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan is one of the best with the most interesting buffet presentation.

    • Catherine Toth September 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

      Wicked Spoon is on the list! WHOO! I’m SO EXCITED!

  33. TerenceTwkWong September 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    Cat,

    Primm Valley. Shop. Dine. Ride.

    In N Out

    Indoor Skydiving – what a rush! Here’s the link: http://www.vegasindoorskydiving.com/

    Enjoy your trip!!

  34. Kim September 19, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Simply must go in Las Vegas: Lotus of Siam on Sahara.

    Some critics have called it the best Thai restaurant in the country. I have not eaten at enough Thai restaurants across the country to confirm this, but my experience with the food at Lotus of Siam was good, damn good. Try the dishes from the Northern Cuisine menu. I can’t say much for the service and the location, and be careful if you ask for hot/spicy.

  35. Shari September 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    You have to try max breners in caesars palace! If you don’t eat there for a meal…. You have to go for desert!! The chocolate is amaaaaaazing!!! I had the ice-cream fondu thing. It has milk chocolate dipping sause and then you can dip it in small chocolate crunch pieces or hazelnut crushed pieces. There are so may deserts to pick from! Each of you will have to order one and share :) i go to Vegas a lot with my mom and friends and I always try to stop there to try something new! And there is a gift shop so you can buy chocolates as omiyage! My fav is the chocolate wafer balls :)
    Also there is this Japanese restaurant called naked fish (try google) I think they were renovating but I’m not sure if they are done. If you like Saba you have to go here! They debone the fish and it doesnt have that fishy after taste like so many. It’s on Durango. Also I recently stayed at the aria hotel… And there is this chocolate store/resturant (i forget the name) that is also really good! It’s a little pricey though but worth it :) ((I really love chocolate)). There are many more places but idk if you can jam everything in!!

  36. Jen September 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    I know I am a little late since you are leaving RIGHT NOW! LOL.

    Check out the Cosmo’s hidden pizza parlor. So good and very well hidden. I wrote a post on it on how to find it.

    http://jenkakio.com/2011/01/15/vegas-hidden-pizza/

    Have fun and good luck on winning the MEGAbucks!

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