Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I made no secret of my anxiety surrounding a trip to Vegas with a pile of my husband's friends who - though perfectly lovely people - have very different values and vices than myself.  I would have never chosen Vegas as a desirable destination but, now that I've been, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it, that there are things worth seeing, and that it can be an agreeable experience without a blurry haze of alcohol blocking your vision.

To be fair, I only spent seven days in the city but that's 168 hours of compiled wisdom I'm now ready to share.  {And, by the way, seven days is abnormal. The usual reaction we received from people who learned we were staying so long was: oh really, are you okay?

My first word of advice to any sober girl taking on this city is to acclimatize yourself slowly.  I found myself quickly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of partying.  Prepare yourself emotionally. It was a bit of a culture shock - drunks and smoking EVERYWHERE and babies crying in strollers at 3 am while mommy has one more spin at the slot machine. 

We arrived in the city at 10:00 pm Vegas time and by the time we were settled, things around us had escalated to a fever pitch of shouting and toasts and 'VEGAS BABY!!!' If I had full control I would ensure a morning flight that lands while the crazies sleep it off so I could work my tolerance up to what was needed to maintain my sanity at night.

Where To Stay - The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I can only speak from my own experience. We did not do our own booking or choose our own hotel - this was a free sponsored trip for hubby's pool team - but we ended up in Circus Circus which, at first glance, appears to be the epitome of cheese-ball-corniness {if you're older than eleven} BUT the rooms were modern, the hallways were quiet, the linens were clean, and the staff was mostly helpful.

{In a happy accident, we arrived at the hotel to find they had no record of a room booked for us. This immediately added to my bad first impression of the city until we realized it meant we didn't have to share a room with another member of the pool team which had been one of my biggest worries all along.  Yay for computer glitches!}

Because I was curious, I actually checked into the cost of a room.  I could have booked us four nights next week for $24 a night!  What???

I am not a hotel snob. If it's clean I'll be happy. I'd definitely stay there again if opportunity ever knocked a second time. 

I also checked the prices of The Venetian - which is beyond gorgeous - and the idea of pretending to be somewhere in Italy is certainly appealing.  Rooms start around $250.  Right.  Circus Circus it is!

The abundance of hotel possibilities is astounding and there is obviously something for every price range.  I would not recommend staying anywhere farther down than we did...like that fancy Holiday Motel in the title photo at the top of this post...it's in the curfew zone - the Stay Off The Street Between 9 pm and 5 am zone.  Yikes!





The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Take a walking tour. Take many! There's so much to see and you can see everything for free. Every casino allows you to walk through and gawk without spending a penny and each casino is so unique that it's a brand new experience with each set of doors you walk through. My absolute favorite was the Venetian because it was so beautiful and because I've dreamed of Italy since I was thirteen. 

You will feel like you've never walked so much and so far in your life so pack good, supportive shoes. I wish I'd taken a step counter just because it would be interesting to know how far we actually walked while we were there.

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakShoot a Gun. There are gun ranges all over and this was one thing we'd talked about doing before we came. I'm not going to lie - I was totally scared! Feeling the power in that pistol was overwhelming and intimidating and I'm not sure I can really say I liked it.  I had more of a vision of tin cans in the desert than a tight little sound proof box with targets. It freaked me out a little. I'm still glad we did it and the pictures make me look pretty tough even though I was shaking in my boots!  {Funny story: I posted the second photo from the left on facebook and the custodian at work made it his iPhone screensaver. Ha! It'd be creepy if he wasn't over 70.}

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak


See a show. Oh my goodness, I can't recommend this enough!  There are so many to choose from and I heard good things about most of them. We went and saw Zombie Burlesque and Vegas! The Show and both exceeded our expectations, were wildly fun and professionally executed. Tickets are pricey {around $80} so don't pay full price! Many hotels offer deals with your stay or you could take our route and sit through a pushy time-share presentation to get them for $15!

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Rent a car. When we went to the car rental counter and all they had available was a 2014 Convertible Camaro, it only took us a moment to say, 'yes, please!' We had figured on a $34/day Ford Focus but this was amazing and absolutely worth the extra cost! I am not a car girl but something weird and sexy happens when you're driving with the top down along a street lined in palm trees. Sigh.

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Fremont Street. This was a little crazy for my liking but it was still amazing to see. {We hadn't been in Vegas 24 hours yet before going so I think I would have enjoyed it more if we'd left it until later in our week.}  It's a pedestrian street full of all the things you think of when you think Vegas: girls in feathers, drag queens, costumed weirdos, posing chip and dales, dancing...even a restaurant where you can eat for free if you're over 350 lbs {they even had a scale outside}. There is an arched ceiling over the street, covered in millions of light bulbs over which they play a trippy light show through the night.  There was live music and a piano playing cowboy. It was wacky and weird and certainly an experience.

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Ride a Bull. I did not do this {can you imagine?!?} but I had a lot of fun watching the people who did. Normally I don't have fun hanging out in a bar but Gilley's is a good old country saloon with great energy and great music.  {Bachelor contestant, the much despised Tierra Licausi, was there while we were and I had a ball spying on her - yes, I watch The Bachelor and no, I'm not ashamed!}

The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas : What To Do In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

The Vegas Sign. Because you have to right?! A word of advice: either go during the day or make sure you take a good camera with you. Most of our trip photos were taken with our iPhones because we didn't want to lug around the big camera everywhere we went but they do not take good photos at night - they either only captured the sign or only captured us - we couldn't get a really good one.  There is free parking right there {parking is actually free everywhere!} but it was a mob of people and I'm sure it is no matter what time you go.


Shark Reef.  On our last day we went to the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay and it was incredible! It costs $18 a person which felt steep but it was amazing if you appreciate wildlife and we'd just gone a week without any.  {Did you know there are no birds in Vegas?? We saw one during our whole time there. The only other sign of life was the one cockroach we watched scurry across the pavement behind our hotel.}

Get Out Of The City!  Red Rock Canyon is only about forty minutes away and the Hoover Dam is about the same distance in the other direction.  We went to both on the day we rented the car and I enjoyed these far more than anything we saw in the city. The scenery is so beautiful and the break from the noise and bustle of the city was so welcome. The canyon offers a 13 miles one-way loop that takes you to all the best viewing points and at any point you can leave your car and make friends with a cactus. And the Dam? Wow! It's incredible to see what man can accomplish!

Sleep in. Because you're on vacation. {Look how cute he is!} Our room had amazing black-out blinds and we could sleep late and heavy whenever we wanted - plus you can get breakfast at any time of day so it didn't really matter when you got up or when you went to bed!


The Sober Girl's Guide To Las Vegas: Where To Eat - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
*photos from Battista's website
We were there for A LOT of meals and that means we tried A LOT of different places.  I can remember hearing people talk about all the cheap food in Vegas - the $3 buffets and endless lobster - but if this is still true it's in some secret back room that we didn't have the password for BUT still, we probably spent less on food than we would have eating out at home.  

My top three favorites are as follows:

Battista's Hole In The Wall. If you want to surround yourself in old Vegas memorabilia, dim lighting, pleasant staff and the best pasta you've ever tasted you have to go here. It's not cheap - at least not by my standards but your $30{ish} meal includes free wine for the table {for your non-sober friends} minestrone soup or house salad, as much garlic bread as you can eat, and huge portions of your delicious main course.  And every meal ends with a complimentary cappuccino with an {un}healthy swirl of whipped cream. If budget allowed I would have gone again and again. It's worth going just for the atmosphere and don't worry - all those buckets and baskets hanging from the ceiling? - they've been there for years, they're not going to fall. 

Peppermill. With weird purple lighting, indoor trees, and rainbow sugar, the Peppermill is a great place to get a great steak - not too expensive and portions were so massive that we could share one meal and still come away uncomfortably full. We had varying experiences with the staff, ranging from very pleasant to very inefficient BUT the food and the price still put this in my top three.

Circus Circus Pizzeria. This was right inside our hotel and offered fresh fire-grilled pizza that was reasonably priced and worlds beyond the slices we bought at the Riviera food court.

And a bonus number 4 just because: Slots A Fun Hotdogs. Because not every meal can be a huge thing and these are probably the best hotdogs you'll ever taste. I'm sure I rolled my eyes when Scott tried to tell me that but then I tried them and yeah, yum!

One final word about food...Thou Shalt Not Eat At Denny's! Seriously. Let's take a moment and define disgusting, shall we?
disgusting |disˈgəsti ng |
adjective
1. arousing revulsion or strong indignation
2. the Denny's restaurant on Las Vegas Boulevard
3. any place that tries to pass off white, tasteless paste as gravy



We basically explored every option: walking, limo, party bus, taxi, monorail, the express bus, and car rental. There's something to be said for every option and I'd recommend them all - except the party bus because it smelled like pee - but things like the limo and party bus are only cost effective if you're traveling in a big group like we were. 

By far, walking allows you to see the most. I would suggest buying a monorail pass and using to get to a destination and then walk back - that way you're saving your feet one direction but not missing out on all you can see and explore on the way back.


My final advice? Accept nothing from people on the street - there's always a catch. Avoid costumed characters like the plague - they might be fun to look at but they'll rob you blind if you want to take a picture with them. Keep your cash safe {and your pocket is not safe} - Scott lost nearly $300 from his pocket. Hopefully it was found by someone who really needed it.

All in all, I was pleasantly pleased to discover that Vegas is as welcome an experience to a sober girl as it is to someone who just wants to party and - should opportunity present itself again with a sponsored trip - I would happily go.  Because even after seven days there are things I still didn't get to see.

What about you? Have you traveled to Las Vegas before? Do you have any advice to add?


2 comments :

  1. You've compiled a ton of great information! We went to Vegas for our honeymoon, but we're not partiers or gamblers. Ha! It was still fun and we found a ton to do. We only lived 2 1/2 hours from Vegas when we first got married. I still consider it one of my favorite places to visit. I never would have thought that Circus Circus would be a good place to stay, but we might have to try it next time.

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    Replies
    1. You'll like it as long as you're not a hotel snob (ha!) We stayed in the casino tower - apparently each area of the hotel is different so I can only speak to the part we stayed in but we were honestly very happy with it!

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