The Linq Promenade

2015 has not been a stellar year for my Vegas blog.  Particularly since I hadn’t been to Vegas in a year and a half, and was blogging off fumes of previous adventures.  I finally got back there for a week in October….. I say finally like I don’t find a way to go once a year, and there are people who have never been, but for me it felt right to say finally ok?

What was new in Vegas?  In a year and a half, you’d be surprised.  It’s partially why I love the place, but it never stops evolving, and just when you think there’s just no way it can amass any more stuff, it amasses more stuff.  The most improved cluster on the strip since I was last there, is the stretch between Bally’s and The Linq.  The Linq hotel is in the area where the Imperial Palace used to be, and if you remember Imperial Palace, you remember low ceilings and shortening your life expectancy with the second-hand smoke in a casino where your dealer was almost always a celebrity impersonator of some sort.  It had its charm and the rooms were cheap and cheerful, but as much as I love a bargain, I always ponied up for something better.  The Linq looks nice!  We had breakfast there a couple of times.  Both times we were trying to eat at Hash House A-go-go, but the lineups were in excess of 45 minutes both times.  I’ve seen pics of the food there.  It looks wild.  Oh well, another good reason to go back ;).  We ate at Guy Fieri’s restaurant instead the first time, and checked out Chayo’s Mexican kitchen and Tequila Bar.  Guy’s had a great breakfast.  Chayo’s is probably not known for their breakfast, but it was decent still.  Below is an example of a breakfast item at Guy Fieri’s.  I don’t know what it is because the waitress brought it to me by mistake.  I really wanted it, but they caught the mistake before I could start eating it.  Mine tasted good too, but I’m using this pic because of the presentation.

IMG_6152

At Bally’s they got rid of that huge moving sidewalk that brought you from the strip to the casino entrance, and traded it for a mini shopping center clustered with tiny stores, and a huge Starbucks.  Why I didn’t take a picture of that is a mystery, but I quite liked walking through those little shops instead of the dead space which was the moving sidewalk before.  Next time you’re there, you won’t have to go out of your way to see what I’m talking about.  It’s all very close to the sidewalk on the strip.

Across the road, the former Wild Bill’s Gambling Saloon has been replaced with a boutique hotel called The Cromwell.  I do remember spending a morning in Wild Bill’s playing $5 blackjack while the rest of Vegas (or the people I was travelling with) were still asleep.  The Cromwell is a pretty nice facelift though.  It features a restaurant from celebrity chef Giada De Laurentis.  We didn’t get in there this time, but it was on the list.  You should see the list though.

Finally The Linq Promenade……

IMG_6144

Right in between The Flamingo and the Linq Hotels is a huge alley way that features a lot of brand new shops and restaurants.  Not to mention the High Roller which is the largest Observation Wheel (Ferris Wheel?) in the world.  No I didn’t go on that.  Yes it is on the list.  Places I did go (aside from previously mentioned breakfast spots at Linq) were Yard House, The Tilted Kilt, and Flour & Barley Brick Oven Pizza.  My wife and I don’t always love eating outside.  Drinking is different, but when I’m eating, I don’t like bugs or dealing with the elements, call me soft, I don’t care.  When we went to the Flour & Barley it was such a perfect evening.  It had probably cooled down to about 22 degrees celsius.  There was no wind, and the sun had gone down.  I don’t ever remember enjoying dining on a patio as much as I did here.  The Linq Promenade has several street performers in the evening.  They’re spread out so there’s always one within ear shot.  When the girl near our patio set up shop, I sort of groaned like she was going to end our perfect evening, but she moved from Sam Cooke to Fleetwood Mac effortlessly.  I’m pretty picky with music, but she was very entertaining.

IMG_6147

Other fun things on the Promenade were a new version of O’Shea’s casino, The Brooklyn Bowl, Ghirardelli store, Haute Doggery, a great little store called Kitson (kind of Urban Outfitterish) which my son loved, and of course Sprinkles which boasts of the world’s first Cupcake ATM which dispenses fresh cupcakes 24/7.  Only in Vegas would this be available, and only in Vegas SHOULD this be available, because there is a very real possibility of a 4:30 am cupcake emergency in this town, but now it’s covered.  Who thinks of these things?

IMG_6145

In summary, The Linq Promenade is so much better than I even thought it could be.  I would argue it’s now on a short list of my favourite places in Vegas.  We happened to be staying a few blocks away from it, which is why I ended up there so many times.  I was off strip and was simply using it as a path to get to the strip, but on some occasions I didn’t even make it to the strip because I had everything I needed on the Promenade.

 

Advertisements

Why Stay At Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas?

I’ve got my next Vegas trip planned.  It’s not for a few months yet, but I’m feeling the excitement already.  Time to breathe a little life into this blog.  I’ll be staying at a time share property just off the strip which I’ve done a few times before.  I think I’ll be able to discuss that option in a future post as it will be my 3rd different time share property there.  I’ve only really reviewed one hotel in this blog so far, and I thought tonight I would build on that.

The following link is about my stays at the Cosmopolitan.  (Speaking of stays at the Cosmopolitan, all of my photos of the front of Planet Hollywood are from the balcony of the Cosmopolitan, but half it is cut off by the tower that is closer to the strip.  I literally only have one good PH photo)

https://paymevegas.com/2014/02/07/my-stay-at-the-cosmopolitan-las-vegas/

066

I thought here I would write about my stay at Planet Hollywood.  I have fond memories of it.  What I can remember anyways.  This trip was my stag, and the mission was to organize a 5 day trip to Vegas for 8 guys, most of whom had never been there before.  This was one of my favorite trips because it’s the only time these 8 guys had travelled together.  We just couldn’t get time and money organized when we were younger, and when we got older, we just couldn’t get time and money organized, but in a different way.  A lot of guys went through a lot of turmoil to make that happen for me, and I love them for it.  I remember being at an airport (in Denver?) waiting for a connecting flight, and we were all stuffing pizza slices into our faces as quickly as possible.  At that moment, in my mind it was already the best stag a guy could ever have, just to have my boys there with me.  Of course it got much better with our arrival in Vegas.

Most of us were broke as shit, I’m not gonna lie.  I had to be fairly sensitive surrounding the booking, and trying to get it into a reasonable price range for everyone.  We started by choosing a weekend in late January, which is probably the slowest weekend in the 52 week Vegas calendar.  There were deals to be had.  It’s a no-brainer that we wanted to stay on the strip, but where did we want to live on the 3-5 star ranking system?  Seemed like the boys didn’t want to totally cheap out on accommodations, but they couldn’t afford to break the bank, so 4 star hotels seemed to be the move.  Hotels that were in the mix included Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand (which I’d stayed at recently, was so big, I thought we’d never find each other in there), New York New York, Monte Carlo, Paris (but for a stag?), Treasure Island, and I think Harrah’s was in there for some reason.

Planet Hollywood usually lives on the higher side of the price range for 4 star hotels on the strip.  It was a long shot at first, but there was some sort of promotion going on that weekend that evened the playing field a bit.  My impression of PH before I had stayed there was that it was a good ‘stag’ hotel.  It’s kind of darkish in the casino, and most of the time they have games dealers that are extremely hot women dressed up somewhat playboybunnyish if that’s a word.  So it’s a nice walk-through, but maybe not for everyone.  It’s hip, and has a party atmosphere, but feels a lot more accessible than some of the other hotels.  I like it for the 20-40 crowd, which is what we were at the time 😉

The rooms are clean, comfortable, but borderline tacky.  Each room has a theme with some memorabilia from a movie that may not be so memorable.  We all stayed on the same floor (except for a couple of buddies who were at the PH Westgate which is the attached tower in behind Planet Hollywood), and I had a look at their rooms, and I don’t know any of those movies.  That said, who cares?  The rooms were adequate, let’s move on.

If I have one complaint, it’s that the elevators are so well hidden, that after 5 nights there, I still wasn’t too sure where they were.  I feel like the location changed every day.  I feel they do this intentionally, so I’ll get frustrated looking for them, and need to take a rest, and while resting I’ll put more money in their slot machines

This was my stag trip.  After the second day, I completely forgot I even had my camera with me.  I have hardly any photos from that trip, and none of PH.  I can tell you this…. One guy ate at ‘Planet Dailies’ just about every day because he had a crush on a waitress that worked there.  Another buddy ate at Earl of Sandwich on multiple occasions and swears by it.  Man, I had trouble pulling guys out of their comfort zones.  These places are great for casual dining.  I’ve also eaten at Gordon Ramsey’s BurGR which is also sensational, and makes my top Vegas burger list below.

https://paymevegas.com/2014/07/07/vegas-burgers/

Other random reasons to stay at Planet Hollywood, should you be considering it……

– The ‘Miracle Mile’ runs through it.  This is a shopping center with some decent restaurants, and I’ve eaten at a few and been happy.  You gotta have a few spots near home base just in case you didn’t think through your dinner plans.  Also, nobody wants to stray too far for breakfast or a good coffee.

– There is a huge 2 level Walgreen’s attached to it.  I always find myself there for one reason or another.  Snacks and supplies my friends.  Also, this particular Walgreen’s has a huge walk in beer fridge.  Sometimes you need some hotel beers, and some walking around beers (I’ll mention here to first timers that you can indeed walk the strip with a bottle of beer in your hand).

– Location!  There are several hotels that could claim to be smack dab in the middle of the strip.  I don’t know if there’s a hotel that could claim to be more centrally located.  I always prefer the south side of the strip for whatever reason.  Shorter cab ride to the airport I guess.  Planet Hollywood is close to absolutely everything.

– They seem to have a lot of shows.  Britney Spears is there right now.  I can’t say I’m into that, but I did really enjoy the Beatles tribute band that performs there.

– Garrett’s Popcorn.  I know I mention this in every post, and I know that it’s a Chicago thing, and not specifically a Vegas thing, but you must try it if you haven’t, and it’s in the Miracle Mile.  The last couple of the years I’ve noticed the grocery store is filled with wannabe Chicago Mix popcorn brands.  This makes all other forms of Chicago Mix seem ridiculous.  I’d almost stay at Planet Hollywood just to be closer to it.

I’m stopping at Garrett’s because it’s the only other PH photo I have that worked out.  There is one taken in my hotel room when we were getting ready to go out.  The behaviour had already deteriorated so badly at that point, that I don’t feel comfortable showing it.  It in no way would make you want to stay at a hotel with lunatics like this.

023

 

 

RIP Coach Tarkanian

I was so sad today to hear about the passing of former UNLV Runnin’ Rebels men’s basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. Less than a week after Dean Smith from North Carolina passed away. What’s with the legendary college basketball coaches this week? This isn’t a sports blog, nor do I have enough knowledge about Coach Tarkanian to make this any sort of meaningful summary of his life. Friends of mine know of my strange obsession for Vegas (is it so strange?), but before I ever set foot there, I had a strange obsession for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.

images

I was in high school when basketball became an interest/hobby that would take up enormous amounts of my time and energy, and still does.  I loved playing, and loved following the NBA at a time when Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were the 3 biggest superstars, and living near Toronto, we still didn’t even have an NBA franchise.  I couldn’t get enough hoops, and a lot of kids I knew started following NCAA basketball.  Living in Canada I had no local allegiance, so I could pretty much cheer for whoever I wanted.  According to all the hats I saw people wearing, everyone liked Duke, or Michigan, or Syracuse, or Georgetown.  I wanted to choose something unique.  After weighing the options, realizing that I had a UNLV T-shirt that my dad got for my while on a business trip, I thought ‘why not these guys?’  As it turned out, my timing was good.

They were expected to be one of the best teams that year, so they got a fair bit of National TV coverage, even though they didn’t play in one of the bigger, and better known conferences.  This was good for me, because if I was going to start wearing my shirt with pride and buying a hat to go with it, I wanted to know a lot about the team so I didn’t seem like a fraud.  This is pre-internet, so I pretty much relied on their games being televised, and I had to be there to watch, or tape it on the VCR (OK I’ll stop talking about old technology now).  When I started watching their games, I couldn’t believe how good they were.  They were beating everybody, and not just beating them.  Most of their games were laughers.  It got to the point where I was as familiar with the guys on the end of the bench as I was with the starters, because a lot of these games were over mid way through the second half.  Who was this coach??  Jerry Tarkanian!! The Shark!! Why is he chewing on a towel all the time (stories about this range from superstition to him wanting to keep hydrated, but not wanting to drink so he won’t want to pee).  The eccentricity is right up my alley.  I couldn’t have felt better about my college team.

jerry-tarkanian_crop_north

They went on to win the NCAA championship that year.  Thanks in part to having great players, but also to coach Tarkanian who taught and coached and developed these really young guys.  His ‘Amoeba Defence’ created constant fast break opportunities leaving just about every team they played against completely overmatched.  The following season after winning, all the starters came back for their senior year (which never happens anymore, especially when 3 of them were to be drafted into the NBA in the first round).  To defend your NCAA championship is one thing, but if you’re going to turn down millions to do it, you better really love your coach, and by all accounts they did.  That team went undefeated in the regular season that following year only to lose in the semi-finals in what was a complete shocker.  Still they go down as arguably the best college basketball team in the history of the NCAA.  I was wearing my shirt with pride until I grew out of it.  The bragging rights I had from jumping on that bandwagon just slightly before all my friends did felt awesome.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  The March Madness has never been the same for me since.  I don’t know if it was just the age I was when it happened that made it special, or just that they were a once in a generation type of team that comes around less and less often now that most  of the best college players flee to the NBA as soon as they feel like they’ll have the chance.  I do know that still being a UNLV fan isn’t nearly as rewarding as it was in the Tarkanian era (but I stayed true despite my bandwagon comment earlier, I don’t switch teams).

I still follow the Rebels when I can.  If I go to Vegas in the winter, I’ll usually head down to the Thomas & Mack Center to catch a game on ‘Tarkanian Court’.  It was nice that he was inducted into the Basketball Hall Of Fame before he died.  An NCAA coach for 34 years, and 19 in Vegas.  From what I’ve read, he was as great of a mentor and family man as he was a basketball coach.  Sad to hear of his death, but a life well lived.

193

Need An Excuse To Go To Vegas?? Invent A Convention!!

My next trip to Vegas will be boys only.  My wife is my main Vegas partner, and my son has been there twice even though he just turned 2.  I just feel the need to Vegas it up with the boys this time, and have some drinks, but not change diapers.  I’m celebrating a milestone birthday, and for me, that was enough of an excuse to do it.

If I want my boys to go, it’s another story.  We got to an age where we didn’t have to ask our parents for permission to do things.  That passed by in a flash, and now we’re back to asking for permission again, but from our spouses this time.  Based on what’s going on with the children, the money, the vacation time, the money, it’s not too easy to get everyone on the same page at the same time to pull off one of these trips.

I’m not blaming the spouses either.  It’s tough to have to work and take care of kids with no help while your other half is in Sin City doing God knows what.  I understand.  For the wives to sign off on this, we might need to create the illusion that we’re doing this for a purpose.  Something other than to just waste money and act like fools.  Something that might just benefit the aforementioned spouses.  I call it “The Better Husbands Convention”.  Thousands of conventions are held in Las Vegas every year.  Some far less believable than this one.

Intrigued???  Read the pitch……

Do you need your husband to be………. better?  A better listener?  Better at doing chores in a timely fashion?  More attentive?  Less of a football watcher?  A better cook?  A guy that makes the bed, and puts stuff away?  Less stressed out?  More stressed out?  Colour coordinated?  Willing to watch more Rom-Coms?  Better with the kids?  More of a handyman?  More agreeable to your suggestions?……. For this and MUCH MUCH more, make sure he attends “The Better Husbands Convention” in Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada!  For 4 nights and 5 gruelling days at the (favorite hotel on the strip) convention center, we will break your husband down and analyze everything that’s wrong with him.  Then we begin the healing process.  Our husband improvement experts will work closely with him in HI (husband improvement) workshops such as “Stop being such a crappy husband”, “Being better than you are currently” and “Let’s talk about our feelings”.  Isn’t it time you gave him the resources he needs to be the husband you need?  You need to send him to Las Vegas for “The Better Husbands Convention”.  Let’s set him on the right path!

065

What do you think about that?  Ladies, would you let your man go to Vegas to attend this fictitious event?  We’ll see if it works.  If even one poor bugger gets a Vegas trip out of this, then I’ve served my purpose!

Why Cincinnati Reminded Me Of Vegas

Why would a city like Cincinnati remind me of Las Vegas?  Simple….. Everything reminds me of Las Vegas if I let my mind wander a bit.  There is more to it than that.  My wife and I decided to go on a road trip last month.  Vegas was on the table like always, but for one of the first times, I decided against going to Vegas.  I know… Crazy right?  Well, we’d been there earlier this year, and we’d be travelling with an ‘almost 2-year-old’ (who’s been to Vegas twice already).  I thought maybe it was time to switch it up a bit and do the road trip thing, which we have fairly limited experience with.  My wife wondered if my son would hold up with all the driving, but I preferred the thought of that over trying to keep him contained on an airplane for 5 hours, plus all the customs and security BS.

So we chose Ohio.  We’d been to Cleveland before, but this time we stopped in Akron to visit friends, and continued on to Cincinnati, with a couple of stops in Columbus before heading over to Pittsburgh.  I know my wife was thinking that Vegas might be easier.  She was preaching to the converted.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder however, and I thought that going somewhere else this time was the right call.

Cincinnati had some reminders of Vegas though.  The first one was actually not in Cincinnati itself, but in Newport Kentucky, which is a walk across the pedestrian bridge away.  We ate at the Hofbrauhaus which is a German brewery/restaurant that has great food (who would have known that I would love Sauerkraut Balls), and also great beer.  The original Hofbrauhaus was built in Germany in the 1500s.  There’s quite a few of them in Europe, but this was the first one built in America.  Guess where the second one was built??  Vegas baby!!!  It’s slightly off the strip, close to the Hard Rock Hotel.  I always seem to pass there on my cab ride from the Airport to the strip.  The menu is good.  I had Schnitzel, but the appetizer sampler platter was awesome.  As nice as the quiet lunch we had was, I’d love to see it at night with a bunch of drunks in there 🙂

IMG_5581

IMG_5582

IMG_5583

The next day we went to the Great American Ballpark to watch a Cincinnati Reds game.  Very nice experience, especially when it came to the food and beer selection.  Before the game I went into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.  Even though the Reds aren’t my team, I’m certainly ‘baseball nerdy’ enough to know a lot about their history, and appreciate much of what I saw in what I thought was a great attraction.  The Reds best teams were in the mid-70’s when they won back to back World Series Championships.  One name that kept popping up was Pete Rose.

IMG_5573

Pete Rose is an absolute legend in Cincinnati as he should be.  He is the most prolific hitter in the history of major league baseball.  He owns the major league record for most hits over a career.  A record which will likely never be touched in my lifetime.  Derek Jeter who recently retired is the closest this past generation got, and he was still about 800 hits off the mark.  Below is a tribute to the World Series team as well as that record.

IMG_5622

IMG_5621

Pete Rose unfortunately is known a lot more these days as the guy who got kicked out of baseball for gambling.  I’m not necessarily saying I’m OK with that, but I’ve seen a lot worse in terms of crimes going either unpunished, or being forgiven.  This happened so long ago, and the MLB has been so stubborn about upholding this lifetime ban.  I’m not saying they should let him manage a team or anything, but at least let him into the Hall of Fame.  It’s not like his accomplishments on the field should be in question like if he took steroids or something.

Pete Rose is in Las Vegas if you ever want to meet him.  He makes his living signing autographs at memorabilia shops in Casinos.  I’ve seen him at Caesar’s Palace, and I’ve seen him at Mandalay Bay.  It’s sad, because for all he’s accomplished I feel like there should be a huge lineup of people trying to meet him.  It might just be that I tend to go during ‘off travel season’ when it’s quieter, but I’ve seen him alone with no lineup, eating takeout food waiting for someone to come in.  It’s sad.

I’ll leave you with a Pete Rose quote from the ESPN 30 for 30 short doc…….

“I”m just a guy looking for a second chance….other people get second chances….. alcoholics, drug addicts, spouse abusers…… not gamblers though.  If you want to put something on my tombstone that was very important to me.  It’s 1972.  That’s how many winning games I played in.  So that makes me the biggest winner in the history of sports.  No one else can say that.”

Good on you Cincinnati for not forgetting him.

Vegas Burgers

So……Hungry……Right……Now……

I feel like a burger.  I also feel like going to Vegas.  You know what they have in Vegas??  Burgers!!!  Among other things.  I’ve been trying not to think about Vegas.  Once I come back from there, I have a cooling down period where I still get a kick out of looking at photos, and reminiscing about my trip.  Then a sadness comes over me when I realize that I won’t be headed back anytime soon.  Then the travel deals start coming by every available media outlet.  Then my wife and I start giving each other that look like, ‘We really should go somewhere else this time…… let’s just compare prices……..oh…… Vegas looks cheaper than that other place………Is it weird if we go again?……..’  It goes on and on.  Who knows when we’ll end up there again.  Maybe sooner than later.  In the meantime, let’s talk about hamburgers.

I’m not the foremost expert on hamburgers in Las Vegas.  Not even close.  I’m thinking that I can tell you a few things, and maybe you can tell me a few things.  I want to know what Vegas burger I should try next.  Any input would be appreciated.

The first place I’ll probably go that I haven’t tried yet is……

076

The last time I was in Vegas, I walked by here on the day that it opened for the first time, about an hour before it opened.  As you can see, there was already a small lineup.

075

Bobby Flay was there promoting it, and I took a picture through the window like some strange celebrity gawker.  As much as I like him, and have total faith that he would make a good burger, I had just finished a buffet breakfast at the Cosmopolitan, and wasn’t going to eat for another 4 or 5 hours.  Friends of mine,  who travelled to Vegas about a month later, ate there twice, and provided me with this picture of the New Mexico Burger.  Note the location of the potato chips.

Bobby Flay New Mexico Burger

 

Some of my favourite Vegas burgers include…….

The Rising Sun Burger at Holstein’s (Cosmopolitan).  Man, I wish I took a picture.  Kobe Beef, Teriyaki Glaze, Nori Furikake, Crispy Yam, Spicy Mayo & Tempura Avocado.  This was a recommendation from the waiter.

The Euro Burger at Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR (Planet Hollywood).  Truffle Aioli, Goat Cheese, Arugula, Oven Roasted Tomato.  I ate this before going to a UNLV basketball game.  Go Rebels!!

The Famous Blue Cheese Burger at Strip Burger.  Normal-ish ingredients other than the blue cheese, but this was the best cooked burger I had.  There could have been nothing on it, and it would have been amazing.  This is up near Fashion Show Mall, right on the strip.

ABC Burger at Serendipity 3 (Caesar’s Palace).  Avocado, Brie and Caramelized Onions.  This one I took a picture of.  Notice how proud I look.

Summer 2010 057

What Burgers should I try next time I go???