Anthony Bennett!!!

I’m so excited tonight, and I know this is a travel blog, and it’s my second basketball related post in a row.  I’ll tie it into travel later in the post.  Anthony Bennett was the first overall pick in the NBA draft tonight.  This is a big deal to me for 2 reasons.  First, he is the first Canadian to be the top pick in the draft.  Second, he played his College ball for my favorite NCAA basketball team, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels!!!

This is the first time a UNLV player has been drafted first overall since Larry Johnson in 1992 when the Rebels were the GREATEST COLLEGE TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF THE NCAA!!!!!!! They weren’t that this year.  They were an unfortunate first round knockout in March Madness in a game that Bennett didn’t really dominate…. but it’s a team game.  I guess the Cleveland Cavaliers thought he was the guy, and I’m super stoked that they did. It’s historical for Canadian Basketball, and should be great for the UNLV program.

Where does this turn into a travel blog??  It just so happens that I attended a UNLV home game this year during my last trip to Vegas.  I love going to the Thomas & Mack Center especially because of the reminders of that amazing team from the early 90s.  I even bought a Stacey Augmon jersey from the concession stand when I was there.  Being Canadians, we were of course cheering for Bennett, but I had no idea I was watching the top player in the NBA draft that night.

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I missed some of the game too.  Shortly after this picture was taken, my 3 month old son (don’t ask me why I thought it was appropriate to bring a 3 month old baby to an NCAA basketball game….. I just did) lost his mind when the crowd started cheering after they announced the starting 5.  He was sleepy, and I thought he might sleep through it, but the sudden bursts of noise were too much for him.  My wife gave me the look, and the 3 of us jumped in a cab to go back to the Cosmopolitan.  After they were tucked in, I jumped in another cab and went back to watch the 2nd half of the game.  The Rebels won!!!

If you’ve never been to an NCAA basketball game, I strongly urge you to experience it.  The fans are great.  I’d almost say better than the NBA.  It’s just such an electric atmosphere.  I love the marching bands and cheerleaders and all the chanting and craziness that goes with it.  These kids aren’t getting paid either.  It’s just pure youthful enthusiasm.  Lot’s of fun!  Yet another fun thing to do in Vegas.

Yay Anthony Bennett!!!

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NBA Finals in Vegas???

I wish…..

I’m sitting in my condo in Toronto which is finally getting some good summer weather.  I’ll be watching Game 7 from the comfort of my own couch.  I’m cheering hard for the Spurs. I really don’t like the whole ‘let’s get all our buddies together and create an unbeatable super-team’ thing that the Heat has going on.  Now that they’ve already won, I guess I don’t care, but I wanted them to lose soooo badly last year.  Guess where I was???

VEGAS BABY!!!

We went to Town Square the day of the deciding game.  This is about a 5 minute cab ride south of Mandalay Bay.  Don’t try to walk it…. that’s another story for another blog.  We ate dinner at Kabuki which is an excellent Sushi restaurant.  We were there in the late afternoon because we wanted to finish before the deciding game started.  This worked out well because they have a Happy Hour between 3-6 pm where a selection of sushi and specialty rolls are discounted, not to mention cocktails.  I have a picture (which I’m not posting here) of my with an unreasonably sized can of Asahi Extra Dry (which is my favorite Japanese beer).  Kabuki was awesome…. it really got the night going in the right direction, well before it took that awful turn. \

Speaking of Happy Hours…… First let me tell you why Happy Hours in Vegas are the best. If you’re a sports fan like me, and you’re used to watching the games in the Eastern Time Zone, then your favorite team probably has a game at 4 pm Vegas time.  With most of the Happy Hours being around  3-6 pm, you can go have reasonably priced drinks while you watch your favorite team, and the night is still young when the game is over.  I’m tired of all these people telling me that Vegas is just sucking all the money out of us….. if you know where to go and when, Vegas can be the most reasonably priced place around!!

Speaking of Happy Hours, we moved over to the Yard House to watch the first half of the game.  They have an absurd selection of beer from all over the world, and even though it’s a chain and there’s quite a few of them, I’d never been to one before.  I wish I had more time to spend there because there were a lot of different beers there that I wanted to get acquainted with.  Since we’d already eaten at Kabuki, and who can remember how early in the day I actually started drinking, I was no match for Yard House.

We decided to go back to the Cosmopolitan to watch the 2nd half in my friend’s suite.  The Cosmo is a gorgeous 5 star hotel, and this suite was really nice.  I love that they have balconies at the Cosmo, because most Strip hotels do not have them.  I’m not sure why, but I would suggest that liability issues are at play.  We had beers in the fridge that we had purchased at the new Walgreen’s earlier (the Walgreen’s on the corner outside of the Planet Hollywood hotel has a walk in beer fridge with excellent selection, so we weren’t stuck with Bud Lights), so it was just a matter of drinking away the pain of the Miami Heat beating the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2012 NBA championship.  When I would get upset at the game, I could go out onto the balcony and watch the Bellagio fountain show.  We were so high up that they looked like lawn sprinklers, but if you’ve seen them up close you know how massive they are.

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I’m hoping and praying that San Antonio wins tonight.  I don’t have ‘chillin in an elaborate suite at the Cosmo with a breathtaking view of the strip in Las Vegas’ to take the edge off a Heat championship this time.

 

Guac Man

One time I was staying at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  It was the last day of our trip and we were taking the red-eye flight back to Toronto, which wasn’t leaving until 11:30 Pacific time.  After we checked out we had a bunch of time (all day) to kill before we went to the airport.  I had a couple of complimentary drink tickets from the MGM Grand which I wanted to use, so my wife and I were walking around the hotel so I could drink my free Dos Equis (you’ll notice me always celebrating free things in this blog), while we looked for a place to eat dinner.  When we saw ‘Diego’, she asked if I wanted Mexican food.  I was already drinking Mexican beer, but I wasn’t too hungry.  I have a habit of eating so much when in Vegas that by the last day of the trip, I’m just ordering salads and cereal as a measure of self-preservation.  I also thought that eating Mexican before getting on a red-eye had to be a bad idea.

I finally agreed to go to Diego, so we went in and had a seat.  I think it was only 5pm or something, so the restaurant wasn’t busy yet.  We sat down and started eating some tortilla chips when the waiter came by and asked if we wanted some guacamole with our chips.  It sounded pretty casual, like it might be complimentary like the salsa, or perhaps it would cost extra, but I do love me some guacamole, so I said ‘yes please’, and the waiter disappeared.  At this point, my wife (who is a faster reader than me) whispers the price of the guacamole to me.  This story is from a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember how much it was, but it was in the $12-$16 range.  For guacamole??

Now it’s important to understand where I am in the whole ‘food chain’ thing.  I am not a high roller by any means.  This was our 2nd trip to Vegas that year however, so my wife and I are not necessarily poor either.  On a regular night out at home, I might spend $7 or $8 on some guacamole.  On vacation, maybe $10.  This guacamole seemed a bit pricey to me at the time.  Not going to break me, but pretty expensive for guacamole.

The waiter is gone though, so we’re just going to enjoy this guacamole, and for that price I’m expecting that it will be pretty good.  Then this happened…..

Guac Man

Guac Man

 

This Mexican guy came out with a cart and started making guacamole right in front of our eyes.  Made to order.  Cut the avocados, squeezed the lime, added however much of whatever we wanted……..  I was not expecting this.  He was a great guy.  He chatted us up while he made our guacamole like a true professional in a fraction of the time it would have taken me to do it.

This was a show!  This was worth every penny.  I don’t dine like this every day, and sometimes it’s the little details like this that make your experience.  The food at this place was great.  The service was excellent, but I can’t get my mind around the guacamole show and how much I enjoyed it.

If you ever make it out to the MGM Vegas, don’t forget to go to ‘Diego’ and get some guacamole.  Just one of the millions of things that will add to your Vegas experience.

Father’s Day In Vegas??

Father’s Day is fast approaching and it makes me want to go to Las Vegas.  I know what you’re thinking….. What doesn’t make you want to go to Las Vegas??  Valid point.  I guess the Father’s Day-Vegas connection started last year.  I only became a father for the first time last October, but since my wife was 5 months pregnant last June, we celebrated Father’s Day in anticipation of me being a father.  The fact that we were in Vegas was totally unrelated.  Some call it a Babymoon.  It’s that last trip before crazy times ensue.  I can think of no better place to be than my beloved Las Vegas.

Father’s Day started for me last year at ‘Mon Ami Gabi’ which is an incredible French Bistro at the Paris Hotel.  If you’ve spent anytime in Vegas, you’ve seen it, because they have some seating that actually overlooks the strip.  We were dining in the inside portion of the restaurant because, let’s face it….. my wife was pregnant and it’s Las Vegas in June which is extremely warm.  I got a corned beef hash with poached eggs.  My wife got oatmeal, with a side of bacon.  I’m not sure what they did with her bacon, but it was the BEST BACON EVER, and I know that sounds cliché, but it was ridiculously good.  So ridiculous… So good…. I remember thinking as I was eating this meal that it could very well be the best breakfast I ever had in my entire life.  IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!  We just looked the menu up on-line, and it said ‘Date Glazed Bacon’.  I’m pretty sure that was it.  So do yourselves a favour.  Get on a plane.  Fly there now.  Celebrate Father’s Day the way I did last year.  We ate there again later in the week, even though I have a thing against eating in the same restaurant twice when I’m on a trip.  We had to break that rule.  Another couple we knew had arrived for the following weekend, and the way I was talking????  They had to go too.

After brunch we jumped in a cab, and headed to Cashman Field to watch the Las Vegas 51’s game.  They were the AAA team of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays at the time, although they no longer are.  This didn’t go so well.  First it was crazy hot, and my wife was giving me the look in the 2nd inning.  Second, the 51’s pitchers were getting lit up to the tune of 12 runs in 3 innings, making it impossible for anything good to come out of the game.  I made a mental note to go to a night game next time.  It was probably irresponsible to bring my pregnant wife to an outdoor ballpark in 105 degree heat, but hey……. It’s not the craziest thing someone ever did in Vegas.

Cashman Field

Cashman Field

After we went back to the hotel to get changed, we headed to the Mirage to watch ‘LOVE’ which is the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show.  If you love the Beatles, love dancing, love performance, love music, or basically love anything, you need to see this.  It was awesome!  My first Cirque show (which is strange since you could throw a golf ball down the street and hit about 8 of them), but it won’t be my last.  We got half price tickets, which helped.

We FINished the night off at the restaurant FIN which serves upscale Chinese food also at the Mirage.  I don’t remember what all we ordered, but I do remember it being a perfect ending to an amazing day.  That was the first day of that particular trip, which started off with a bang!

Vegas Blintrog

Ladies and Gentlemen……

A blintrog is a word I created that means intro blog.  It’s almost like I’m intentionally starting new blogs just for the sake of using that word over and over again.  I kind of stated why I’m here in the ‘about’ section, however I believe strongly that most of you will never read the ‘about’ section, so I will just repeat information hoping that it isn’t redundant for most of you.

I’m here because I love going to Las Vegas.  It’s a bizarre love affair that started well into my 30s.  I say bizarre because some of the first things that come to mind when we think of Vegas are gambling, drinking, clubbing, prostitution etc….. at least that’s what came into my mind.  The truth is that aside from really enjoying the freedom of drinking a bottle of beer on the sidewalk, I don’t partake in a lot of that stuff.  Yet somehow, I have a blast every time I go.  I’ve been there 6 times now, and I keep thinking about what I’ll do the next time I go.  There are a lot of like-minded people who go to Vegas all the time either because they love gambling, or just because it seems to be a cheap getaway as far as getaways go.  There are also a lot of people who watch the ‘Hangover’ movies and think that unless you are going on an absolute bender, then Vegas would have nothing for them.  It’s those people I try to convert.  Anytime the conversation comes up at a get-together, or chatting with co-workers, I always find myself selling it to people or trying to convert non-believers.  There are so many things to do there, and I think it doesn’t get enough credit for all of the amazing restaurants, bars, shops, shows, and overall entertainment.  Yes it’s Sin City…. yes there are people on the sidewalks passing out business cards for prostitutes…… I’m not suggesting that there can’t be some Fear and Loathing involved.  I just want everyone to know that there’s more to it.  I want you to go, and I want to help plan your trip, and I believe that there is a perfect trip for everyone, no matter what your tastes are.

The most efficient way to do this is by writing a blog.  Something I have a bit of experience with (ahem ahem www.thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com – please drop by if you haven’t already, pardon the plug… the internet is a cruel, cruel world), and I figured I could share some experiences as well as review some places I’ve been to.  When I say ‘review’, I don’t mean that I’m going to be a critic….. I don’t think it will be all fluff pieces either, but if I don’t like something, or at least find it interesting, I probably won’t waste time writing about it.

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Speaking of wasting time, isn’t that what this blog is?  I already have a tough enough time keeping up with one blog.  My wife isn’t going to be happy with this.  Unless….. I could….. somehow….. get paid for it.  Probably not going to happen, but stay tuned.  If I get enough of a following, who knows??  I dream of a day when some Vegas entity or another says, ‘hey Ryan…. Great Blog!!!  Thanks for writing about us….. Here’s 3 free nights at *** hotel, and a resort voucher.’  Then I can take my wife to Vegas to see more stuff, and I know she’ll forgive me at that point!  This plan isfool-proof!!!  Pay Me Vegas!!!!  Pay ME!!!!!!!!  Until then, I hope you enjoy my Vegas stories, and reviews 🙂