Adventures At The Dam Short Film Festival In Boulder City

Readers of this particular blog know I’m a Vegas enthusiast.  What you may not know is that I’m a filmmaker as well.  Actually…. let me qualify that.  I’ve made a film.  I’m no more Filmmaker than I am Travel Blogger, but it’s fair to say I’ve dabbled in both.  For a little back story, I made a short film called “To Do List”.  If you really want to dive into that for a couple of minutes, here’s a link from a blog post I wrote about just that….

That Time I Wrote/Directed/Acted In A Short Film

For those that don’t (or for those that did and have now returned), I would like to tell you the story of how I finally sort of went to Las Vegas on business.  (which is a dream of mine… I hear people all the time telling me they had to go to Vegas for a conference.  Poor souls.  Why can’t I have a job like that?).  Anyways, here it goes…

So I made a short film, and I don’t know what the end game is for a short film, other than showing it to audiences.  There’s certainly no money in it (that I’m aware of).  What better audience than a film festival, of which there are hundreds all over the world.  So my goal was to try to get it into a film festival (ideally several), and potentially go to some of them to see what the audience thought of it and so on.  When looking for potential festivals, I was first hoping for something local so that family and friends could attend.  Failing that, I was hoping for something within a reasonable distance so I could travel there, and see it first hand.  Road trips are ideal because they aren’t as expensive.  From a budget standpoint I probably wasn’t going to be able to fly to any of them, unless I rolled it into a family vacation.

So when I was looking at potential festivals, I quietly wondered if there was any way this film could take me to Las Vegas again.  I hadn’t been since 2015, and I was getting the itch.  There weren’t too many of them out there, but one did catch my eye.  The Dam Short Film Festival.

It was in Boulder City which isn’t too far from Vegas.  It’s best known as the home of the Hoover Dam, and I had been once before, although never gone into town which was an over-sight on my part.  I made sure to submit to that festival in particular as well as whatever else I thought I could afford and made sense.  More than just location, I liked that this festival specialized in short films.  Most festivals show a few shorts, but also have a lot of documentaries and feature-length films, lessening your chances of getting in.

Last year after my submission process had started, my wife and I started chatting about what to do in 2018 for vacation.  She was the one that casually mentioned ‘Vegas again?’, and when she did, the wheels started turning.  I told her there was this festival in February that I was submitting to.  Obviously I didn’t think I’d get in, but if the perfect storm scenario occurred, wouldn’t it be cool if we were in Vegas at that time?  So we agreed to do it, but because the festival ran from Thursday to Sunday, and we were there from Saturday to Saturday, I was going to have to choose which half of the festival I would want to see.  I chose for the 2nd half and we made our travel arrangements.

Fast forward a few months, and after a lot of rejections my film had finally been selected to a festival in Tampa Bay.  I didn’t end up going because the timing was awkward, but after reading so many rejection emails it was nice to have that breakthrough.  I was still really hoping for something I would be able to attend, but it was really nice not to get ‘shut out’.  I finally got an email from the Dam Short Film Festival, and as I saw the subject line of the email, I knew I was about to find out.  I really really wanted this one, but I assumed I wouldn’t get it.  Before I clicked on that email I took a moment to dream one last time as you would before checking the numbers on your lottery ticket.  I opened the email and the first word was ‘Congratulations!!’. Woooohooooo!!!!!  Man, I was so excited.  I felt like a little kid.  So I went to their website to check out their schedule because I knew I was only going to be there for half of the festival.  I was flying in on the 10th, and when I saw To Do List was going to be screening on the 9th, I had to go out and show my wife the puppy dog eyes.  I mean I can’t have my film showing in Nevada the day before I arrive.  That’s just too close.  It would be different if I hadn’t already planned on going there.  She agreed, so we made arrangements for me to fly out Thursday night, and I convinced my friend Jay who was the Cinematographer of the film to fly out for the weekend too.

So on Thursday February 8th, off we flew to Las Vegas.  It was almost midnight when the plane finally landed, which was 3 am to us.  We had to rent a car and drive out to Henderson.  I drove through the strip just to get re-acquainted.  See you in a couple of days, Vegas!!!  The festival put us up in a Hotel called The Railroad Pass, which is the oldest Casino Hotel in Nevada.  It was kind of on its own…. I hate to use the words ‘in the middle of nowhere’, but in the middle of the night, it was just this bright shiny light off in the distance.  If I had to describe the decor, I would use the word ‘Smoky Nostalgia’.  There was a no-nonsense ‘old school’ steakhouse in there that I would have loved to have tried, but the 24 hour restaurant that served up some corned beef hash at what seemed like 4:30 am to me was the perfect welcome.  Also, my understanding is that not a lot of festivals would put you up for 2 nights just for a short film.  That’s not lost on us.

Friday was film day.  Our program ‘The Great White North’ was the first one, and was going to kick off at noon, so Jay and I got up just early enough so we could go into Boulder City and have a nice breakfast in town before going to see our film.

I have a Trip Advisor app on my phone.  I don’t mess around with food when I’m in another town, and the Coffee Cup Cafe was the spot according to my research.  Jay would want the world to know that they have the best Huevos Rancheros that he’s ever had.  Perfect start to the perfect day.

The part of town that the theater is in, is cute.  I wish we had more time to just walk around and look in the shops and stuff.  I don’t like to use the word quaint….. it’s charming!!!!  Boulder City was built for the workers who built the Hoover Dam.  The Boulder Theater was built in the 1930’s and for a while was the only air-conditioned building in town.  Desi Arnaz Jr. (The baby from I Love Lucy) bought it and had it restored a few years back, and that’s where I would see ‘To Do List’ in the theater for the first time.

We headed over to the Boulder Dam Hotel which is right beside the theater and served as the headquarters for the festival.  We signed in, picked up our Swag Bag, and off to the show we went.

The fun thing about seeing your own film with total strangers is that you get an unfiltered response that you wouldn’t get from friends or family.  ‘To Do List’ is a comedy, so for me it’s important to know if people actually find it funny.  The screening at the Boulder Theater was more than I could have hoped for.  Every moment in the film that I’d hoped to get a response, the crowd was on it.  Even the most subtle gags got the necessary snicker or two that I had been hoping for.  It went really well.  We met a couple of Filmmakers during the Q&A session, and went for some afternoon beers after.  Sat on the patio at The Boulder Dam Brewing Company Pub, and I enjoyed some of their Wheat Beer while occasionally thinking about all the Canadian suckers that were at work on a cold Friday afternoon, while I was chilling like a famous movie director (all of that is true except for the famous part).

After beers, some of these guys went to see the Hoover Dam.  Jay and I went out for lunch, and drove around a bit to take some pictures.  I think he must have a lot of the cool ones on his camera, but Boulder City is really picturesque.  Especially when you drive over to Lake Mead and see the mountains.  I could have spent all day doing that, but we wanted to go back to the hotel and take a nap before the filmmaker meet and greet in the early evening.  Here’s a picture of Jay taking a picture of Jay.

We went back to Boulder.  Attended the meet and greet, and later went to see the program for music videos to support a couple of the guys we made friends with earlier in the day who were from Paris, France.  They ended up winning the prize for best music video.  We all went out for drinks after that.  The festival provided shuttles between the hotel and Boulder City, so everyone was able to have a good time without worrying about driving.  I can’t say enough about the Dam Short Film Festival.  They really thought of everything, and it was such a good experience.

The next morning we checked out and headed to Las Vegas, where my wife and son would be flying in for what was supposed to be the beginning of my vacation.  There was an awards ceremony back on Boulder City on Sunday night.  Jay and I had to do some soul-searching as to whether we should go back for that or not.  Jay was flying out early Monday morning, so he had to choose between a last night on the Las Vegas strip, or going back to Boulder City for an awards ceremony when there was only a slim chance we would win an award.  Don’t get me wrong.  I felt like our film performed well in the slot that we were in, but there were only 2 other comedies in that slot.  The 4 day festival had approximately 26 more of them.  I just felt like there was no way, but……

We won.  Bittersweet.  If I knew, we totally would have gone back for it.  Apparently they screened all the winners again, so I missed out on the opportunity to see the film screened one more time in front of a mostly new audience.  Still though…. while I really still regret that, and it still bugs me even as I’m typing this…… I have to say, from not really thinking we would ever get into that festival or any others, to getting in, being able to actually go, and then winning an award????  I can’t complain about my luck too much.  I mean until I got to Vegas and let those casinos clean me out… that was bad luck, but all the important stuff was amazing!



Fire It Up

I just started reading some of my Vegas Blog Posts.  My biggest takeaway was that I hadn’t written anything in this blog since November of 2015.  What I didn’t understand about this process when I first thought of having a Vegas travel blog was that I would have to actually go to Las Vegas periodically to actually have anything to write, and that there wouldn’t just be an unlimited amount of stories and pictures from previous trips to sustain a travel blog.  I also felt a bit sad when I didn’t have a Vegas trip planned in the foreseeable future, which also made my not want to write in this blog.  So from November 2015 to February 2018, and why am I suddenly writing in this blog again?

Vegas Baby!  Just got back from a 9 day trip.  My longest ever!  How do you survive 9 days in Vegas you ask?  Comfy sneakers man…. comfy sneakers.  Control your drinking, because you can’t possibly control your eating.  I honestly stored enough food that I could easily hibernate for the rest of the winter.  It was a family trip though.  I had a 5 year old with me, and that limits the shenanigans somewhat.

I have a few new blog topics about a few new things I saw and did.  Should sustain this poor blog for a few months.  I’ll just leave you with a few random highlights, thoughts, pics and teasers.

  • Spent a couple of nights in Boulder City for the Dam Short Film Festival where I had a short film selected to play there.  That’s worthy of it’s own blog so stay tuned.
  • Just because it’s winter in the Desert, and the temperatures are below 20 degrees (or 70 if you do Farenheit), don’t think that it’s not still incredibly dry there.  Drink lots of water and bring lots of body lotion.  You need that lotion dude!
  • Downtown is coming up a bit since the last time I was there.  The hipsters have opened some restaurants, and you know how that goes.  Just don’t expect to take a cab to Fremont street at 1:30 am and have it not be toothless and gritty.  Still though, the surrounding area is coming up a bit.
  • Stayed at another time-share property.  Best one yet.  That’s worthy of it’s own blog too for you time share owners, or prospective time-share owners.  I mean don’t buy a time-share property just for Vegas trips…..  but if you need to burn a week every couple of years and don’t know where to go, Vegas has you covered.
  • The food was good as per usual.  Got to eat in a few new places as well as a few familiar ones.  Broke the vacation rule of not eating in the same place twice so my wife could go to IN-N-OUT Burger on the first and last day of the trip.  Probably should have had Gordon Ramsey’s Fish and Chips that day, but I was teetering on the brink of having a heart attack if I had another greasy meal (LOL, I know the fries at IN-N-OUT, but still, Fish & Chips is a double whammy).
  • My 5 year old had a good time too, and says it was best vacation ever.  He’s been to Vegas more times than most of you, but he rated it over Jamaica and Hawaii.  Still he’s 5.  He probably doesn’t remember Hawaii that well.  People always ask me what you do with a 5 year old in Vegas.  That’s probably worthy of it’s own blog too.


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.


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……


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.


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?


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.


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)


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.

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.




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!


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 🙂




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.


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.



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


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……


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.


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???

The Beatles In Vegas

Last week was the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  In the history of pop culture and rock n’ roll, this was about as historic a night as there was.  I tried to think of things that have happened in my lifetime that have been as significant, and couldn’t come up with many.  How many amazing artists have come and gone, and made appearances on prime time television in the last 50 years?  Many.  How many appearances were so memorable that they will be remembered 50 years later?  Few I think.  There was a great tribute show on TV commemorating it, and it was great to see Paul and RIngo up on stage together, as well as all of the other artists that paid musical tribute, not to mention the Cirque du Soleil performers who joined the spectacle.  It made me think of Las Vegas!


What doesn’t make me think of Las Vegas?  When I drive to the store tomorrow morning to pick up milk for my son, I will find a way to think of Vegas.  That’s just how my mind works.  There is a good Vegas/Beatles connection though.  One of the Cirque du Soleil shows on the Strip titled “LOVE” is a fantastic show inspired by the music of The Beatles.  When I went to The Mirage Hotel to see this a couple of years ago, it was the first Cirque performance I’d ever seen.  I had heard that it was something not to be missed if you were a big music fan, but if you wanted to see the crazy acrobatics that these shows are known for, then maybe there were better Cirque shows to see.  Personally, I’m all about the music, and I could care less about the degree of difficulty for the performers, as long as they perform well, and they did.  In fact, this show was so well done on every level that I contemplate seeing it again every time I go back.  There wasn’t a bad seat in the house.  The visual presentation was stunning.  I can’t speak on behalf of all Beatles’ fans, but I loved the music.  It’s almost like a mash-up of The Beatles catalogue, which probably has purists cringing, but the mixing was done by The Beatles’ original producer George Martin and his son Giles.  This gives the show some extra credibility for the music fans.  I liked that it wasn’t a greatest hits collection either, but a great mix of #1s and album tracks with subtle re-workings and remixes thrown in.  Any uptight music nerds can un-clench, and trust me.  It’s awesome, but buy the soundtrack at your own risk.  The performers were incredible too.  I get so nervous for them while I’m watching.  I don’t have a good stomach for that stuff.  They really brought the music to life.

In case “LOVE” is out of your price range, there is another intriguing option for The Beatles’ fans travelling to Vegas.  At Planet Hollywood Hotel, there is a show called “B – A Tribute To The Beatles”.  This one is cheap and cheerful by Vegas standards, and has a 5:30 pm start time, which means you can watch the show, and not have to rush through dinner afterwards.  These guys are impersonators who put on a full concert in full costume, which they change 3 times during the show to reflect their evolving looks.  The music is dead on, and whether you think watching impersonators is cool or not, there is no way any of us will ever see The Beatles in concert, and this might be as close as we’ll ever get.  If this sucked, I would tell you, but to be honest, these guys are pretty incredible.  If you sit too close, you’ll realize they’re way older than the guys they’re impersonating were, but it must have taken them years to get the act sounding this good.  It might be the best bang for the buck show on the strip if you like The Beatles.

My Stay At The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas


This Vegas blog is gonna get better and better now that I’ve actually been to Vegas again.  Last week I spent 4 nights at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  When deciding where to stay, I searched through, and looked at the hotels on the strip.  I don’t have the patience to stay off the strip at this point, although maybe in the future I’ll branch out a bit.  I had stayed at the Cosmo last year, so I did have a comfort level with it, as I had really enjoyed my time there.  It’s a little pricier than most of the hotels I was looking at, but it fulfilled all of my requirements, being centrally located, with lots of cool restaurants, and great rooms.  Expedia had a deal which included free breakfast at the Wicked Spoon each day.  That put me over the top, and made it easier to justify paying the extra money.  In a previous post I’ve talked about some of my favorite buffets in Vegas, and The Wicked Spoon tops the list.  Not only were we not going to be buying breakfast every day, but after feasting there, nobody wanted lunch most days either.


The service there was great.  It is a 5 star hotel and it’s first class all the way.  I had my son staying with us, so we needed a crib.  When we checked in, the lady at the desk co-ordinated crib drop-off and also asked if we were going to be using the mini-bar, warning us that moving items in the mini-bar would result in a charge to the room.  Anticipating that we might need the fridge for milk for our son, she offered to have someone come up and clear out the mini-bar.  This was thoughtful and a nice touch.  By the time we got up to our room, the crib was there in under 5 minutes.

I love the second floor.  This is going to sound crazy, but one of my favourite parts of the hotel is a spot where there is almost nothing going on.  There are two towers at the Cosmo, and the distance between them is substantial.  On the first floor, it’s mostly casino, but on the second floor there are some shops and restaurants in the front, but there’s a long carpeted path to get to the back.  Pretty quiet there most of the time, but actually a great place to bring a 15 month old who needs to run around a bit.  They play obscure 70’s soul music, and have a lot of great pictures of classic Vegas performers to look at as you walk through like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte.  There are 3 TV screens with footage of old Vegas, and some people just stop and watch it for a bit.  It’s a sharp bit of decor that gives a great retro feel without being tacky.  The rest of the hotel doesn’t seem retro at all, but I think its ultra cool that there’s this little quiet pocket where you can take a trip through time as you walk to your elevator.  I also like that they’re paying homage to old Vegas, even though it’s a newer hotel.  


I’ve eaten at a few of the restaurants there as well.  I had previously eaten at STK which is a chic steakhouse that usually has a DJ spinning while you eat.  I remember really enjoying it there.  This time I went to China Poblano which is a Chinese Mexican fusion restaurant which is worth going to for the originality of their offerings.  Holsteins is a burger place that has a great beer menu, and specializes in adult shakes.  Probably the most interesting place is the pizzeria which not everybody knows about.  This pizza place (I believe) is open 24 hours, and is located down a hallway with no signage.  I don’t even know what it’s called.  It’s not on The Cosmopolitan website.  It’s a secret pizza place!!  How cool is that??  I had a White Pizza slice.  It was really really good.  Might be the best $5 I spent while I was there.  I would include a photo of that, but I don’t want to blow their cover.


If you’re going to go to Vegas and get hooked on it like I did, get a rewards card.  The Cosmopolitan has a good one.  The drawback is that they only own that one hotel, so you can only use it there, but the awesome part is that you can swipe it for any money you spend there, so even if you aren’t a big gambler, you can still get points for staying there and eating in their restaurants.

I don’t have much to say that would be considered negative regarding my trip to the Cosmo.  If I have to nit-pick, I’d say that the doors to your room are loud enough to hear at Caesar’s Palace, so it’s difficult to sneak in after a night of gambling when you have a baby in the room.  Light sleepers beware.  Also, there’s a significant difference between the views from the windows.  If it’s your first time, try to get a room that faces the Bellagio.  That’s the best view.  If you get a suite, you get a balcony, and that’s the only place on the strip where that is the case to my knowledge.

All told, The Cosmopolitan is an amazing hotel, and I haven’t told you about half of the stuff there.  I highly recommend it, and it’s worth a couple of extra bucks in my opinion.



Wow, my first blog post actually being typed and posted from Las Vegas itself.  Seems like a long journey.  How did I ever think I could do a blog about another city without going there to do more research?  Life gets in the way of Vegas sometimes.

Today I wanted to do a post that would be universal enough that I might be able to post it in as well.  Kind of a lazy move that I don’t usually like to do, but as I’m typing this, I’m sitting in a hotel room at the Cosmopolitan hotel, fully equipped with a bottle of Blue Moon that I got for free while gambling (free my ass, it turned out to be the most expensive bottle of beer ever purchased, if you’re counting the money I was losing while waiting for it to arrive), a day old bag of Garrett’s popcorn (which is supposed to be consumed the day of, but tastes better a day old than all other popcorn no matter what day), and I’m watching a TV station called Palladia which seems to be nothing other than classic rock concerts (I’m watching Queen live from Montreal in 1981), so I won’t be writing two separate blogs!!!  My wife took her mother and aunt to see Human Nature at the Venetian, so I’m on babysitting duties as my son is fast asleep in the other room.  This will allow me to blog and slow the rate of me losing money in the casino.

Here are some Vegas observations from things I’ve noticed the last couple of days.

– If you travel to Vegas with a baby who is sleep trained to go to bed for the night at 6:30 pm Eastern Standard time, and you decide to bring this baby to a place like Las Vegas, or any other place that’s on Pacific Time, you have to be prepared for this baby to want to go to sleep for the night at 3:30 pm, and want to wake up for the day at approximately 3:30 am.  Obviously as the days go by, you can inch him closer to a respectable time, but we’re only here for 4 nights.  He has yet to sleep in past 4:30 am.  My wife tries to let me sleep until 6 am.  I love her for that, but these are not the Vegas vacations of old.  That said, it’s still far better than being at home where people are sweating icicles.

– Anytime you’re in Vegas with a first timer (my mother in law), you usually want to take them for a walk up and down the strip and into all of the famous hotel properties.  As we passed through Belllagio and Caesar’s Palace, I couldn’t help but notice how many high-end jewelry stores there are.  So you can walk right out of a casino, and right into a jewelry store.  I’ll probably never know what it’s like to have the disposable income where you can blow a ton of money in the casino, and still have money left to buy jewelry, artwork, or a car.  Oh to be a high roller…. I wonder if this is a way for the hotel to get back any money won from their casino……’yeah you hit the jackpot alright, but if you buy a diamond necklace that money’s staying right here’.  Or perhaps it’s a ‘hey buddy, feeling guilty about all the debauchery???  Why don’t you get something for your wife that says sorry I was at a strip club on our anniversary, honey’.  Either way, I give Vegas full marks for ALWAYS thinking of everything.  There is no indulgence that isn’t right at your fingertips here.

– I’ve seen a bunch of movies with Las Vegas as the backdrop.  I really like watching them now so I can see what hotel something was shot in, or see a scene from somewhere I’ve been recently.  There’s no movie that Vegas has capitalized off more than The Hangover.  In that movie they stayed at Caesar’s Palace, and the gift shop there has close to 10 different shirts with Zach Galifinakis on the front with a quote from the movie.  I even saw a look-alike out on the strip with a fake baby strapped to him taking photographs with tourists for tips.  If you never saw the movie, I’m really not sure it needed to be a trilogy, but the first one was brilliant.  Great laughs, awesome Vegas shots for the enthusiast.

Well that about covers it.  Freddie Mercury has done a costume change near the end of this concert I’m watching.  His outfit is fruity by the fruitiest of standards.  Not that I want to see it, but I’m morbidly curious to know if his balls are going to fall out of these shorts or not.  That said, he was awesome, and the rest of the band doesn’t get enough credit.  They were sensational.  Got a bit more gambling to do tonight.  Gotta remember to take some pictures to use in future blogs tomorrow.  Hope Thoughts and Rants fans enjoyed my Vegas post.  🙂