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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Vegas Trip That Wasn’t

As I’m starting to type this I could be in Vegas right now, but I’m not.  It would be 5:25pm right now, and I’d probably be thinking about what to have for my last dinner before heading to the airport and getting on the red-eye to come back home.  I’d had this loosely laid plan which has been a moving target with various factors contributing to if I could go, when I could go, as well as in what style could I afford to go.  Without getting into all that, I’ll just say that it didn’t work out.  It was probably for the best.  My son was really sick this week with a fever, and he has been a handful for both my wife and I.  I’m sure she would have been cursing me to the blazes of damnation if I was in Vegas right now, and she’d be right to do so.  If you’re going to go to Vegas, you need to leave your guilt at the door, or don’t go.  Unless it’s a Stag….. then you have to go!

The truth is that this blog has been suffering a bit.  When I first thought about doing it, I envisioned eventually going back there to take some pictures to use.  I have lots of Vegas pics from the 6 times I was there, but they’re of people with Vegas in the background.  I don’t really want to use pictures of myself, my family and my friends for privacy reasons.  I haven’t been back since I started writing this blog, and the way things are shaping up, I won’t get there again until next year.  I know, I know…. First world problems, right?

So this isn’t a complete bummer, I’m going to list off a few things I haven’t seen or done yet that are on my list of things to see next time I go, (or if I want to stay in a negative space, I’ll call it ‘things I would have done in the last 3 days’).  Maybe some of you have seen/done these things and can tell me if I’m on the right track or not.

SHOWS

I kind of want to see Jabbawockeez at the Luxor.  I think that would be cool.  I like any kind of comedy.  Maybe something with rotating comics.  Brad Garrett’s comedy club at the MGM maybe.  Not too into magic, but I think my first pick would be Penn & Teller at Rio.  Gotta pick a Cirque show too.  I’ve only seen the Beatles LOVE show so far.  I think I’ll go with KA, although there’s a new Michael Jackson show at Mandalay Bay which might be interesting.  Always check the Tix4tonight booths around the strip to see if you can get some cheaper tickets for shows.  I always do that first.

EX-BEER-IENCE

Don’t even think about stealing that word from me 🙂  There are a few bars I’d like to try for different beers.  Near Fremont there are a couple of micro-brewery pubs I’d like to go to.  The Triple 7 which is at the Main St. hotel, and the Chicago Brewing Company at the Four Queens hotel.  Near UNLV I need to head back to the Freakin’ Frog to see if they still have St. Bernardus Witbier which I swear is the best beer in the entire world (at least that I’ve tasted), and I can’t find it anywhere. It’s been almost 3 years since I had one.  I also saw that Gordon Ramsay opened a pub in Caesar’s Palace which is supposed to have a great beer menu as well.  I’ve still yet to set foot into the Nine Fine Irishmen pub at New York New York.  So many left to tick off the list.

RESTAURANTS

Bobby Flay’s MESA grill at Caesar’s.  Holstein’s at the Cosmo.  Yellowtail at Bellagio.  Countless buffets at countless hotels.  There’s a million of them, and no point in me even trying to list them here.  If you go to www.vegas.com they have 867 of them mentioned, so if you’re there for 3 or 4 days…… they’ve got you covered!  Maybe in a future blog I’ll list off my 10 favorite Vegas meals so far.

As far as other stuff goes, I just take it as it comes.  I do a bit of gambling, a bit of shopping, a lot of eating, and if I’m there long enough, I just might take in a tourist attraction or two.  If you don’t know what to try, I can’t recommend the www.tix4tonight.com booths enough.  Get a good price if you’re gonna take a gamble on a restaurant or show.  I’ve almost never been let down.

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5 Things I Love About Fremont St.

Yet another reason I love to go to Las Vegas is the Fremont Street Experience.  For those that haven’t been, it’s a taste of Old Vegas.  There’s something nostalgic and awesome about some of these older casinos, and all the gaudy lights they have on their signs.  It’s an absolute drain of electricity, but c’mon…… it’s also a great spectacle that you don’t want to miss.  There are quite a few hotels and casinos here that are within walking distance, and the street is closed off to vehicles, so there’s a lot going on outside the casinos as well.  It’s best to visit in the evening, so you can see the light show they put on.  Like other parts of Vegas, you can’t possibly go to all the bars and restaurants in one trip, so if you’re like me you’re always looking to try something different every time you’re there.  There are a few things that I can vouch for, but I’ve still got lots of research ahead of me. 

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Here are 5 things that I love about Fremont St.

1.  It’s not anywhere near as expensive as the strip.  These are older hotels and casinos, and they are losing business to a lot of the latest and greatest properties.  They know they can’t stand up to the hotels on the strip, but the prices reflect that.  The gambling is cheaper, the food is cheaper, the drinks are cheaper.  If you find you’re in Vegas and running out of money a little faster than you’d hoped, you can definitely stretch your dollar out a bit further at Fremont St. 

2.  Call me ignorant, but I can’t get enough of the freedom of walking out onto the sidewalk with a bottle of beer.  You can do this anywhere in Vegas mind you, but at the Fremont Hotel, Corona and Heineken bottles are $2 all the time.  Where else can you get road beers for that price?

3.  The light show they have after dark, which changes periodically (so is different every time I travel there) is really cool.  The one that sticks out in my mind was a tribute to the band ‘KISS’.  This is happening in the middle of the street at night-time usually about once an hour.  Grab a $2 beer and enjoy the free entertainment!!

4.  There is zip lining available as well.  I’m too scared to do it, but it looks really fun.

5.  Deals on Prime Rib Dinners.  I’ve had the one at Tony Roma’s at Fremont Hotel, and the one at the Gold Spike although they closed their doors this year 😦  I can’t wait to try more of them!!!

Do you know of any cool things for me to check out next time I’m there?