Lee, our daughter, Christina, and I are in Las Vegas this weekend to celebrate their birthdays which occurred earlier this month.
Our Southwest Airlines plane lands at McCarran Airport on a bright and cool late afternoon. After collecting our luggage, we proceed to pick up the rental car and drive to our hotel, the Venetian on the Strip.
We were in Vegas four years ago to attend a niece’s wedding and things have changed. In 2007, a building craze was raging on, developers were racing to complete their projects, construction cranes cropped up all over town, people flooded the sidewalks day and night, and traffic endlessly clogged the palm-tree-lined Strip. But now, it is very apparent that the economy has slowed the City down significantly. Not much construction is going on and the streets and sidewalks seem less crowded. Regardless, Las Vegas is still a magnificent city.
Stock picture of Las Vegas
Lee at the Venetian Lobby
Structures outside the Venetian Hotel
Lee’s sister, Khanh, and her husband, Don, are also here for the weekend before they head to southern California for a quick visit with Don’s family. They flew in on a different flight and stay at the Hilton.
Our hotel, the Venetian and its connected hotel, the Palazzo, occupy the corner of Sands Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard and are across the street from the Mirage. Venetian was constructed to resemble Venice in Italy. On the outside, one can find the Rialto Bridge and the Bell Tower of St Mark. Inside, murals, trompe l’oeil ornaments, and decorative finishes cover ceilings and walls throughout this grand hotel. It has a canal on which gondolas traverse, and a town square with shops similar to St Mark's Square. Having been to Venice, we appreciate what they have done at this hotel.
Trompe l’oeil ornaments on the ceiling
Our suite has a sunken living area, a roomy marble bathroom, and looks down into the pool area. This is the first time we stay here and although our suite is a long walk from the elevators, we love this hotel.
Our room at the Venetian
Glass-flower ceiling at the Bellagio
After showers and a short rest in the room, we head to the Bellagio to meet Don and Khanh for dinner.
I love the Bellagio too especially its colorful glass-flower ceiling in the lobby and the elegant red-carpeted casino areas. We stroll into the Bellagio's Garden where Lunar New Year exhibits are on display. There, a huge Chinese God of Prosperity stands on a pile of golden coins in a garden of flowers and rabbit-shaped topiaries since this is the Year of the Rabbit. Ancient Chinese terra cotta warriors, appearing ready to cross a foot bridge to board an authentic sailboat, look amazing. We take a lot of pictures here.
Chinese New Year exhibit at Bellagio
Chinese New Year exhibit at Bellagio
We then go to Cafe Bellagio, a bistro located in a quiet corner of the hotel, to have dinner. Over plates of pasta, steaks, lettuce wraps, and fish and chips, we discuss and laugh at the "drama" that happened at the Cungs' house the week before.
We spend the rest of the night checking out Bellagio's slot machines and hanging out and sipping our drinks at the Baccarat Bar adjacent to the casino.
Dinner at Cafe Bellagio. L-R: Don, Khanh, Christina, and Lee
Dinner at Cafe Bellagio. L-R: Lee, Bo, Don, and Khanh
Saturday, February 19, 2011
After joining Don and Khanh at their hotel, the Hilton, we go to the Hilton's Buffet Restaurant for a complimentary champagne brunch since Don and Khanh are the hotel's VIP guests. This typical Vegas buffet has everything from crab legs, prime rib, fish, chicken, assorted vegetables, to a wide selection of desserts.
Over lunch, we discuss our plan for today which is mainly to check out as many new hotels as possible and meet up with Khanh's and Don's friends, Al and Kelly Curran, who are staying at the Mandalay Bay.
A short drive from the Hilton takes us to the Wynn Hotel.
Walking from the Wynn's enclosed parking garage to its lobby, we pass by numerous fancy shops, night clubs, theatres, restaurants, and of course, casinos. If you had money to burn, check out the $25,000 gold and diamond studded cell phone at the Vertu phone boutique.
The Wynn lobby is graced with an indoor garden full of beautiful flowers and mature trees, and an attractive waterfall just outside the glass doors. A group of young male singers from South Africa delight guests with their soothing and harmony singing. I think the Wynn is even more luxurious than the Bellagio and we linger here for a long time.
Lee and Christina at the Wynn hotel lobby
Christina, Lee, and Khanh outside of the Wynn in front of its waterfall
Since Christina and Lee want to see 'Lion King' at the Mandalay Bay, we drive to that gold hotel on the southern end of the Strip for them to attend the 4:00 PM show. Khanh, Don and I then meet Al and Kelly for drinks at Fluer Restaurant inside the Mandalay Bay. The Currans live in Mansfield, Texas and visit Vegas regularly. We have lively conversations while sipping our drinks and munching on meesa wings, cheeses, and olives.
After the show, we all go to the new Aria Hotel to window shop at luxurious shops in the new City Center then head back to the Wynn for dinner at the elegantly decorated Wing Lei Restaurant.
The new Aria Hotel
Al, Kelly, Khanh and Don outside of the Aria Hotel in front the waterfall wall
I have been to Vegas several times and have heard about the light show on Fremont Street near downtown but never seen it and have determined to see it this time. After dinner, some of us stay at the Wynn and the rest of us go to the light show.
Several blocks of Fremont Street are converted into a pedestrian mall and covered with a vaulted canopy. Along the mall are casinos, restaurants and gift shops. Under the canopy, millions of small LED lights are programmed to display moving images and synchronize with music. The 'Fremont Experience' is something you should see.
Our full day in Vegas is almost over. Tomorrow, we will head home. Don and Khanh will go to Los Angeles, and Al and Kelly will stay here until Tuesday. We have been so busy going from place to place and have not really spent time gambling and hence, have not lost much to the house and that's good.
Vegas is such a vibrant city and that is why I love to visit it even though I don't gamble or shop. We are glad that our regular travel companions, Don and Khanh, meet us on this trip. We are also glad to have met Al and Kelly. I like Al's calmness and Kelly's enthusiasm. I'm sure we will meet again soon.