Las Vegas 2011 (Day 4)
We started Day Four with lunch at Aria. Yep, lunch. Party foul—we did a little work before heading out. Anyway, Aria is one of the hotels that’s part of the relatively new CityCenter development. It is set off the strip a bit though you can still walk to it from Las Vegas Boulevard. There’s also a tram that will take you from the Monte Carlo to Aria and CityCenter. We walked and got a chance to admire the multi-colored canoe sculpture in front of the hotel. We’ve stayed at both Aria and Vdara, its sister hotel, and like the fact that both places are much quieter than anything you’ll find on The Strip. Vdara is particularly calm, since there’s not a casino in the hotel.
As far as we know, the Aria lunch is one of the few quality lunch buffets to feature crab legs. There was a decent line of people waiting to get in, but it didn’t take long for us to be seated. The food was fresh and the crab legs were abundant. The views of the Aria pool are nice, too. But the buffet isn’t as expansive as Wynn’s and lacked personality. (For our a list of our top buffet picks, check out this post.)
From there, we walked back to The Strip to catch The Deuce to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. There are two outlet malls reachable by The Deuce, one is north and the other south. We chose to go morth since it was a nice day (though a bit warm, as temps hit 112) and it is an outdoor, slightly more upscale shopping experience. Getting on the right bus was rather tricky. The routes have changed since the last time we went and there’s now an “express” bus that takes you from The Strip to old downtown and then to the mall. This saves you the trouble of having to transfer but you have to figure out where to pick this “express” bus up on The Strip since it doesn’t make all the stops that The Deuce does, though you can easily transfer fairly easily at a designated stop.
We got picked up the express bus in front of Paris and then made our way out to the mall, passing the spectacular Frank Gehry-designed Cleveland Clinic building along the way. We also caught a glimpse of a new, energy efficient City Hall and a sign for a new entertainment complex that suggests it might make staying in the old downtown more attractive as it would provide some of the shopping, dining and entertainment amenities that are currently missing from Fremont Street.
We didn’t have much luck finding deals at the outlet mall. While the mall has a few factory stores you don’t find standard at every outlet mall (Hugo Boss, Ted Baker, LaCoste, Armani Exchange, Diesel), but in some cases prices seemed as high if not higher than what you’d find at a department store sale. Regardless, the place was hopping with tourists and locals alike, who, judging from the big bags and new luggage being lugged around, had better luck than we did.
Knowing that we had to be back on the Strip to see O at the Bellagio, we caught a late afternoon bus back to The Strip (the return bus stops are clearly marked and easy to find) and arrived in plenty of time. We stopped in at Caramel, a fancy and conveniently-located bar that’s in the middle of the casino and near the theater. The place didn’t have much atmosphere, but we did have a two-for-one drink coupon that a promotions person handed us, so that saved us some cash. The line for O was long but we got to our great seats (you don’t need to spring for the expensive tickets because there really isn’t a bad seat in the house) just a few moments before the performance began. The show has been running for over a decade now, and is one of the only Cirque du Soleil shows we haven’t seen for three reasons: 1) it’s often dark when we come (we travel to Vegas Sunday through Thursday to save money, as the highest rates for rooms are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights), 2) it’s not often discounted at the ticket outlets and, 3) it’s often sold out.
It began as most Cirque shows do – with a couple of clowns goofing around with audience members. They pulled one guy out and brought him on stage, only to have him hoisted into the rafters (don’t worry about this happening to you – he was clearly a plant). Once the curtains unfolded in dramatic fashion, the show began in earnest. It centers around water and much of the action involves diving into or performing acrobatic tricks up above a pool. We thought that Le Reve, a newer Cirque show with an aquatic theme, was just a bit more exciting and dramatic. Still, we didn’t dislike O. Some of the diving segments were astonishing and the trapeze tricks were awe-inspiring.
We spent the rest of the night casino-hopping and trying out a variety of penny slot games, with our favs being Planet Moolah attached to a Monopoly Big Event and Alice (being sure to play the one with four screens and a trail of accumulated white rabbit gifts that trigger a Mad Tea Party, Caucus Race, Red Queen, Wild Jury and Caterpillar bonus rounds—the more traditional wheel spinning version is just not as fun). When we figured we had lost enough money (the machines at the hotels in old downtown seemed much more forgiving), we headed back to New York New York so we could prep for an 8am flight back to reality.
Top 5 other really cool things to do on a Vegas trip
We hit Las Vegas when there are deals and we’re not big gamblers, so we’ve done a few things around town that we’d recommend to first-timers or repeat visitors:
- The Atomic Testing Museum
- Fremont Street Experience light and sound show (after dusk, see the show overhead)
- Hoover Dam (or a day trip to Laughlin) Take a bus (or a helicopter) to the Hoover Dam or a free trip to Laughlin, affordable day tours can be a welcome break from the feeling of timelessness on The Strip.
- Desert Tours In a Hummer, aboard an ATV or as a Pink Jeep passenger (this is the one we tried on a past visit), head way off road for neon-free panoramic views of the desert.
- Eiffel Tower at the Paris It’s not the Strat, but it’s a great view and a popular spot for Vegas-goers looking to propose. We know, we saw two guys pop the question in one short visit.
Note: We really, really miss the Liberace Museum. This tribute to an over-the-top Vegas icon was a lot of glitter and kitsch and a heck of a lot of fun.