Grand Canyon & Gettin’ Money: Vegas 2016

I began this blog as a travel journal, so naturally, I should record my experiences in Vegas verbatim, either for my memory and possibly for others’ entertainment.

A group of RAs from my floor remained very close even after our time working together and decided to try to travel together each year. Last year, the other 3 visited New York City, but unfortunately, I was undergoing surgery at the time. When we decided on Vegas this year, I was hesitant because of funds. My dad was in the process of being disbarred from practicing law, and I am still transitioning to being fully independent. The thought of paying for my own vacation sounded absurd, especially in a city like Vegas. Still, I decided to embrace the adventure of travel, especially after they said we would visit the Grand Canyon. I was sold, and we planned our adventure right after our graduation.

I took off a week from my internship, jobs, and classes, but being the workaholic I am, no one seemed to mind much and was glad to hear I was finally taking some time for myself. At least that’s what they told me.

We left for Vegas on a Monday afternoon. Thankfully, our flying experience was easy despite rumors of American Airlines complications. We saw lots of #VIEWS overlooking the mountains and the canyons, and we couldn’t wait. When we touched down, I was appalled by abundant casinos by the hotel gates. What is this place?

We took a quick Uber ride to our hotel, Bally’s (which is pronounced like “valleys,” by the way). While waiting to check in, Garett and I explored the casino and connected Paris. We were fascinated by the alcoholic slushie machines, the buffets, the crepes, the casinos, the fact that we were under the Eiffel Tower, and by the variety of people. We already knew this was going to be a weird trip.

We checked into our room, which was extremely nice considering everyone’s reaction to Bally’s. We took a quick trip to the nearby CVS to stock up on snacks and sunscreen. We walked down the Strip for the rest of the afternoon and marveled at the sights — buildings and people.

That evening, we had dinner inside Bally’s at Tequila Taqueria. These tacos were surprisingly tasty, and I highly recommend if you stay in Bally’s. I would have gone back for another meal, if it wasn’t for the buffets (just wait). After much discussion and concern, we met our club promoter Nabu at the Cosmopolitan Nightclub, Marquee. With our promoter/host, we got free VIP entrance (aka second in line aka first in the club aka awkward), and one hour of open bar for the ladies. The hotel and club is exquisite, especially the chandelier.

Inside, the club was fabulous. We gamed the open bars so that Kylie and I would get drinks from one bar, pass them off to Garett and Marc, and then go to the other bar to get our drinks. We all got sufficiently drunk in an hour, and we calculated that we saved $300 that night and didn’t spend a time. Pretty solid deal.

We found the club also had an outdoor, rooftop club scene with DJ included. We felt fabulous. We felt drunk. We had a blast.

Juicy J was the highlight of the night, but we didn’t even make it to see him. The other three left as I had befriended a Brit (he was tall, wtf?), but once I found out that Juicy J wouldn’t be out til 1-2am, I gave up, gave a quick goodbye to my Brit, and went home.

Walking home alone, drunk in Vegas? It’s me – what did you expect? I FaceTimed Meg the whole way home, so I was fine. I got back into the hotel room full of giggles with the other three as we realized how bizarre this place was. Garett said, “Mary, I thought you were going to go home with that British guy, be home by 4am to run 5 miles, then shower and be ready to leave for the Grand Canyon at 6am.” My friends know my priorities, but no, not quite GareBear.

We left bright and early the next morning for the Grand Canyon. We had a private “VIP” (so much VIP, I hope you all realize my sarcasm) tour, which meant a van with one other couple instead of a large tour bus. We drove to the “Welcome to Vegas” sign and got our 7am picture taken. We stopped at Hoover Dam, which made me go “dayummmmmm” because that shit is huge. We made multiple stops along the Grand Canyon and got to soak in the #VIEWS. It was great. It was amazing. It was windy. I took a lot of shameless pictures, and every one was worth it. The tour guide hated me at first for climbing on all of the “suicide rocks,” but finally, he accepted I was adventurous and took a lot of pictures for me. Do it for the gram. And maybe, one day, my children will think I’m far cooler than I actually am.

After a long drive back (about 10 hours in the car in one day) with very swollen ankles, we decided to go out, again. Tuesday night was Omnia, the club inside Caesar’s Palace. This was my favorite venue. We got to cut the line and get straight into the club for free, which I still love even if it is absolutely ridiculous. No free drinks tonight, but I was more than fine with that. When Kylie and I walked in, the first club is the Heart Club. This is smaller and has R&B/Hip-Hop Music. There was also a rooftop area of the club. Both cool, but nothing compared to the main nightclub. It has two levels: the lower level packed full of awkward dancing to EDM, the upstairs more observational of the entire scene. David Guetta is the DJ for the night, enough said. At 12am on the dot, the giant, rigged up chandelier in the middle of the club lowers, lights up, and smoke and streamers start flying. You know how confetti felt at your 4th birthday? It felt like that multiplied by a million. It was awesome. We weren’t drunk, we weren’t even dancing, but the experience was incomparable. It was a show within itself. Still, we headed home relatively early.

The next morning, I was up early, of course, and ran the strip. About 4.5 miles, I got a better feel of the strip. I truly believe running is the best place to explore and learn a new place. I love every second of it. Hence, #itsmarykrunstheworld.

After I finally showered (I never shower unless I sweat…so when I don’t sweat, things get weird for everyone), we headed to our first buffet experience. We went to the Flamingo hotel and we were in love. We had too many plates to count, full of everything from breakfast food like eggs, French Toast, bacon, and crepes, to all foods like salad, fruit, all the meats, all the desserts — ALL the goods. I’m hungry now just remembering it. Good times. Not to mention, there were bottomless mimosas and we ate right beside flamingos. Livin’ the dream.

Afterwards, we walked around some more and took in the sights. That night, we met up with Marc’s dad for dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant. I had an awesome burger, and we were all loving food and loving life. We then went to the Mandarin Oriental for drinks with a fabulous view of the Strip. We felt like we were some seriously bougie ass VIPs. Then, we went to Treasure Island to see Cirque du Soleil’s show Mystere. I realized I had seen it before, but Cirque du Soleil is always my favorite.

Later that night, we went to Surrender Nightclub at Encore Resort. This was further along the strip than we had been before, so the walk home sucked, but it was so worth it. Kylie and I got VIP Bottle Service with our host. We drunkenly mingled with other girls who were being used for their good looks to look like we’re having fun at the club. How fucked up, right? There were several intentional photos prompted by, “Look like you’re having a blast!” I mean, I was having a blast, but still. This nightclub had an indoor portion as well as an outdoor area with pools as decor. Dillon Francis DJed, and he was my favorite of the week. He played music that was best to dance to, and he had the funniest screen displays. Slightly propaganda, but it made me want to talk to Dillon because he seemed like a fucked up yet cool dude. We had originally planned to stay for 30 minutes just to see the venue, but we ended up staying almost 4 hours because it was that fun.

On Thursday, our group was losing steam. We went to another buffet, this time at the Aria. This was a magical experience, and we consumed an insane amount of calories with absolutely zero regrets. I ate everything from Mexican chips and many guacs, Mediterranean veggies with hummus, different bao (BBQ and custard were to die for), snow crab, oysters (never again, thank you), SUSHI, all the way to an absurd amount of dessert. There was a rotating gelato wheel, and I’m pretty sure I had a few cups. It was all a blur with the sugar, so no promises. I remember starting with a delicious strawberry sorbet, then I decided to say “fuck it” to my lactose intolerance. The peanut butter caramel pretzel was amazing, and the coconut was also great too. As for regular desserts, there were bread pudding, cannolis, cake pops, and decadent cakes. When we arrived, we laughed that there was a 2-hour limit to dining at the buffet. An hour and 45 minutes later, we kind of hated ourselves but we were also kind of proud that we had taken that long to eat.

We took a much needed walk down the South Strip. We walked through New York, which was the coolest resort in my opinion. We also visited Excalibur, where I remember staying as a kindergartener. It’s kinda weird that I still remember specific little features 16 years ago, but then again, I’m not surprised. We also visited MGM Grand, which was surprisingly lackluster. Then, we took a long walk back and passed out for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening, we saw the show, Absinthe. This show was amazing, and I highly recommend to anyone visiting Vegas. The small, quaint atmosphere under a circus tent felt intimate. There was sex, nudity, crude humor, incredible talent and tricks, and lots of laughs. My favorite act was acrobatics in roller skates. Terrifying, but tremendous.

We went to downtown Vegas afterwards, which I do NOT recommend to anyone EVER! Maybe we were all fed up with Vegas at this point, but this place was disgusting and gross. Everyone was sloppy and shit-faced, and there was so many cheap, scammy thrills. The light show was pretty cool, but short-lived. We found a Mediterranean restaurant and ate some delicious food, but I think we were all ready to hop on the next flight home after visiting downtown Vegas.

On Friday, we went to another buffet, this time at Paris, right by our hotel. For breakfast, I had prime rib, crepes, waffles, fresh fruit, quiche, bacon, and so much more. So gluttonous, and SO good. We checked out of our hotel, and went to explore for the rest of the day.

Kylie and I returned to Encore for their dayclub. Dillon Francis was back, and it was a totally different vibe. All chairs were reserved for those with actual money (or really good promoters), forcing everyone to stay in the water. The jets were actually pumping out hot water — I personally believe the hot water was to make people thirstier. It worked. We had two free drinks. We started with mimosas, but we were desperate for water quickly. We traded in our free drink vouchers for a water bottle ($12 value) and were given itty bitty mini water bottles that weren’t even name brand. We were PISSED.

We befriended some girls who had just graduated med school, and they were super friendly to us as we were making out the scene. They told us this dayclub was the best, so we were lucky. I even braided one girl’s hair. So girls, so cliche. When Dillon Francis came out, we joined the dancing scene at the stage. One rich table was THROWING MONEY. Multiple times, he made it rain dollar bills. I suspect he threw at least $1000 that day. I claimed $15. You can tell most of us are all actually poor because we all got super grabby once the money was thrown. My Snapchat even made it on Vegas’s snap story. NBD. Overall, dayclubs are gross. There were handjobs, jersey turnpikes, and everything like a nightclub, except it was pure daylight and I was sober. It was weird.

We left and returned to our dingy pool at Bally’s, where we quickly fell asleep. After minimally showering off in their bathrooms, we went to an Italian dinner and then went to the airport. Our flight wasn’t until 12:30am, so we were all zombies at the airport. I wrote a blog post, which seemed to be pretty well-written despite my lack of sleep. Minds are weird.

After a quick flight, I was back in Chicago, falling asleep at my chair waiting for my flight to Springfield. I was ready to be home and sleep. Naturally, I didn’t sleep at all for a good 48 hours, then I was sick the subsequent week and felt like absolute shit. I needed a vacation after that vacation. It was rough.

I would consider visiting Vegas again if I had to plan one of my best friend’s Bachelorette Parties, but I would never return otherwise. It was gross, fucked up, and not my scene. It makes me realize my ideal travel is not the typical “vacation.” I want exploration, culture, and preferably authenticity. I’m optimistic.

This made me realize there are so many trips I want to take this summer…. but funds are limited and working 4 jobs as a student makes it difficult to commit to any trip. Alas, I am making a bucketlist for the future once I have a steady salary. I can’t wait. Next up for sure, I will be studying abroad in Southeast Asia this winter. Until then, it will likely be weekend or day-trips, but I hope to continue explore other areas of Chicago. Never be content — always be exploring and learning more.



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