Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trip Report: 21

My daughter turned 21 last month. The only time she's stayed in Vegas before, she was 8 years old. My wife and I took her to Vegas last week, hoping she catches the Vegas bug like I have (spoiler: she didn't). Here's the details, with her commentary in red italics.

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas
Sunday, December 11: We're delayed two hours out of SeaTac due to some mechanical issues on an earlier leg of the flight, but that gives us extra time to watch the Seahawks' pitiful loss to Green Bay before we board. The flight is uneventful, but I've placed her on the right hand side, so she sees the lights of the strip as we land. At baggage claim, I surprise her with Presidential Limo. We stop by the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, drive up the strip (while I prattle off history and random facts about each of the properties we pass), and eventually finish at Elara, where I've gone overboard and booked a two-bedroom suite.

I try the $20 on the front desk clerk. "We don't have complimentary upgrades, sir, but let me see what I can do." I end up with a top floor suite, but no balcony, facing the south strip. The clerk describes the room as "slightly larger." It was certainly big enough for the three of us. Full kitchen, 6-seat dining table, projection TV, two bathrooms, jetted tub, and except for a few scuffs on the furniture and mis-aligned cabinetry doors, in perfect condition.

We ditch our bags and head over to Yong Kang Street at Paris. My daughter's a big fan of dim sum, and she declared that it was merely adequate. The dim sum she makes herself is a little better, and neither are as good as Din Tai Fung, but then again, what is?

Places like Paris are going to fail, because millennials don't appreciate the artificial themeing. It seems fake and insincere. Disney does it better and more classy.

On the way back out through Paris, she mentions how smoky it is. I didn't notice, but she's lived in a tobacco-free environment most of her life -- not at home, in restaurants, or in most public spaces -- so it's an unpleasant place for her. This revulsion continues throughout the week, especially at Flamingo, Mirage, and Planet Hollywood. Aria and Cosmo were OK, and Cromwell was well ventilated near the doors. I didn't even consider showing her Casino Royale, and threatened her with a trip to El Cortez's Home for Wayward Emphysema Patients.

Cigarette smoke is a huge turn-off for millennials, who grew up in a smoke-free environment. Weed, however, is somehow okay with us.

Monday, December 12: While my wife and daughter sleep in, I'm in Vegas mode (go! go! go!) so I head down to Planet Hollywood to play on the best 25¢ video poker machine in the Caesars empire: a 100-play Jacks or Better machine in the high limit room, on which I only play one hand at a time. About 20 minutes in, I hit quad 4's, which sadly ends up being the best hand of the trip.

French toast incoming
Once they're awake, we head over to Mon Ami Gabi for breakfast (tasty) and then to the Cosmopolitan for drinks and video poker at my happy place, Chandelier. My favorite bartender, Sone, is working, and she picks out a delicious wine for my daughter and makes an outstanding whiskey sour for me. Cosmo is on the drink ticket system now, and because my daughter is unemployed and frugal, she's betting small and not getting tickets. No matter; my wife and I are playing enough to hand some tickets off to her and keep a few extras for later.

My daughter heads back to Elara for a nap, and my wife and I head upstairs to China Poblano for a light lunch. It's one of my favorite restaurants in Vegas. Our waiter, Kevin, suggests the Tamal Roja, so we order that, a plate of lamb pot stickers, and a basket of chips and salsa. The chips are seasoned with a little black pepper, which somehow makes them seem a little crisper. I'm sure the lamb pot stickers were outstanding, but realized after my second meal of lamb in three months... I just don't care for lamb. However, the pot stickers' lacy coating had a surprising mild spiciness to them, which offset the earthy gaminess of the lamb a little bit. And the tamal roja? Wow. I know that chef José Andrés refuses to call this place a Chinese-Mexican fusion restaurant, but how else can I describe it? Pulverized pork, as one would find in a pot sticker or xing bao, is molded into a candy bar-sized loaf and cooked in a corn husk. It's served open-faced with a drizzle of salsa. It's so good.

arrive hungrier than I did
Back to Elara, my wife (tired) and daughter (refreshed) switch places. Daughter and I wander up to Cromwell, where she has what I think was her only winning video poker session. We've got reservations for three of us at Carbone, but only my daughter and I make it, and I wasn't that hungry. Oops. You're supposed to be hungry and carnivorous and pulling out the stops, but we order prosciutto with mozzarella, a side of meatballs, and split a mushroom fettuccine. No table-side flair, not to-die-for food, but it was good, elegant, and with excellent service. My daughter described the food as over-oily, and the fettuccine was a little watery, the cardinal sin of pasta preparation. Next time, I go in hungry and order a slab of meat.

We drop off the leftovers for my wife, and then head back out, catching an Lyft to Cromwell and then moseying back through Bellagio, Cosmo, Aria (with a stop for gelato and a macaroon at Jean Philippe Patisserie), The Park, and New York New York, Upon entering NYNY, my daughter points out one of the only millennials she's seen on our stroll. "What she doing here," she wonders out loud, then realizes, "Oh. There's her parents."

Wandering over the skybridge towards the Dismal Castle, I give her the option to check it out or head over to the Tropicana. She's got no interest in Excalibur, and the skybridge to Tropicana is still closed, so instead, we call it a night and Uber back to Elara.

I have negative interest in Excalibur after what I've seen. Another smoke-filled fake casino is not my idea of fun.

Drink tickets; boooo!
Tuesday, December 13: My new morning routine: while the family sleeps in, I play Jacks or Better in the Planet Hollywood high limit room. Once they've woken, I grab some water bottles from the ABC store and head up. It's late enough that we skip breakfast and catch a Lyft up to Lucky Dragon for lunch, which just opened 10 days earlier. Their food court is good, authentic Chinese food, but there's not much else there of interest. I knew going in that I wasn't the target audience, but I'm not sure I'll have a reason to come back. It's pretty, though.

We catch an Uber to Fashion Show Mall, check out a few stores, and then Uber back to Elara for wife and daughter to nap. I wander down to MGM, losing $20 on the Sigma Derby horses but winning double that back on slots. My daughter calls, and we meet back at Cosmo for more VP and drinks at Chandelier. I have a drink coupon left from yesterday, and use it without issue.

Down a little bit, we head out and pick up my wife, getting a Lyft to Battista's Hole in the Wall: classic Italian food, with photos on the walls and a roving accordion player and all-you-can-drink wine. So good. So filling. We wander back to Elara and tuck my wife in, and then we head back to Cosmo for drinks and video poker at Chandelier.

Pomegranate goodness, leading to hazy grins
I feel like it's a good idea to follow up my half carafe of Battista's wine with an old fashioned. My daughter has a Riesling. The bartender is hopping, making drinks non-stop and joking with the other staff. At one point, he pulls out a bottle of pomegranate liqueur and makes martinis for the cocktail waitress to deliver. My eyes widen; my daughter's jaw drops. "One of those, please," I request. "And a pomegranate Sprite for me," asks my daughter. The bartender makes them strong. I'm quite tipsy, maybe the second drunkest I've been in Vegas. "You're the best drinking buddy ever," I quip to my daughter. She grins back, through her intoxicated haze.

When we were there, another millennial ordering a drink leaned in to order a drink, and said to me "I don't know what I'd be doing playing video poker." I never saw anyone else my age playing any machines at all. I only really saw them playing craps and poker, and that was even rare.

Props to another Vegas photog for coming up
with the idea for this shot. I liked it enough to
try it for myself.
Wednesday, December 14: I'm up early, so video poker in PHo's high limit room. My wife wakes up, and we lose a big chunk of change on PHo's slot machines. Once my daughter wakes up, we catch an Uber downtown to Eat. Their pancakes are the best in town (sorry, DuPars lovers, but you're wrong). The cinnamon biscuits are as amazing as we remember. And my daughter's grilled cheese is a four-inch-thick block of gooey goodness. She's not feeling well, so instead of giving her a tour of Fremont Street, we Uber back to Elara for another round of "family naps while Travis plays." I mosey down to Excalibur and slowly whittle away my chip stack at the craps table until I get the call that they're awake. On a whim, I choose Uber Pool for the return trip. It's cheaper, and the app doesn't find any other customers on the way, so that's a great choice when it's not three of us in the car.

We stop by Urban Outfitters and Victorias Secret. I'd allocated a fund of daily "play money" to my daughter, thinking she'd use it for gambling, but shopping appeals to her more. I'm somewhat proud of that. Everybody does their own Vegas, and maybe shopping is her thing.

All you need is LOVE
The three of us are now in a happy rut: back to Cosmo for afternoon drinks and video poker at Chandelier. After a bit of play, we pocket our extra drink tickets and walk back to Elara to get ready for the evening. My wife's now feeling a little under the weather, so it's just my daughter and I catching a Lyft to see the dress rehearsal of Beatles LOVE. The show has a lot of new features since I last saw it, and its as amazing as ever.

As we exited the LOVE theatre, I couldn't stay in the Mirage. I nearly ran out -- the smoke made my throat feel as if it was filling with liquid and I couldn't catch my breath. 

My daughter and I wander back to Elara, checking out the Caesar's lobby and the Chihuly art in the Bellagio lobby.

Chihuly seems to be everywhere in Vegas, and it's unimpressive. We've got a ton of Chihuly works at home, too. It's like we can't walk down the street at home without tripping on a piece.

She's craving street tacos, my wife is, too, so we hop in a Lyft to Tacos El Gordo. Mind you, I know this is the slow time of year for Vegas, but I didn't expect to be one of the only customers in Tacos El Gordo. The line here is usually out the door. Our Lyft driver recommended the Abadabo fries, so that's what I ordered. They're really good, though quite sloppy. My wife and daughter have the steak tacos, and they're unimpressed (due to the amazing tacos at home). We hop in another Uber Pool back to Elara, with one brief stop at Morton's to pick up another passenger. Not too inconvenient for a super-low rate. Seriously: $6.37, Tacos El Gordo to Elara. Hope they didn't mind the taco smell.

Slow time of year
I tuck them in, and at midnight head out on my own, wandering up the strip, breaking even at the O'Shea's craps table, and coming out ahead at Casino Royale's slot machines. At Venetian, around 2 AM, I'm tired as well, and Uber Pool back to Elara. Again, no other passengers pop up, and the fare is $5.52. Cheap!

Thursday, December 15: It's our last day in Vegas, and although check-out time is 10 AM, our flight doesn't leave until 9:30 PM. Both wife and daughter are still showing signs of blah-ness, so I book a cheap $27 room at the Flamingo for the day ($66 with fees). We drag our bags over via Lyft, but know better than to eat breakfast at the Dirty Bird, so Uber back to the Miracle Mile Shops for a cheap breakfast at Blondies. We each order the $3.99 eggs, bacon, and hashbrown special. It's cheap and edible. Good enough. We then Uber back to Flamingo, where my wife naps, and my daughter and I head out to wander a bit. While I grab slices of pizza at Cosmo's Secret Pizza, she tries to redeem yesterday's video poker voucher for a drink. Sorry -- it's expired. They just started scanning the barcodes this week. Dang. After pizza, we head up to the pool to look at the somewhat unimpressive ice skating rink, then head over to play video poker at Cromwell. After an hour or so, my daughter she heads up to take a nap while I play craps, just about breaking even.

I wander a bit more, get a text from my family that they're awake, and head up to the room to see how they're doing. I pocket the soaps, pen, and notepad from the room, like I always do. My wife's still bleh, but my daughter's up to going out. I'd originally planned to catch the start of the Seahawks game at Westgate, but my daughter suggested we watch it at the Cosmo sportsbook bar. We play video poker through most of the first half of the game; I break even, she loses a little, but far less than she would have if the machine hadn't been offline for the first 10 minutes. Somebody stuffed pennies in the card reader. Who does that?

I love the Cosmopolitan because of its drinks and atmosphere. It doesn't feel like it's trying to be anything other than what it is, and I think people my age will appreciate it for that. The only other property close to feeling this way is Aria, but it feels more uptight and pretentious.

Another pomegranate and Sprite.
They won't take my expired drink ticket here, either.
I pointed out the nearby shuffleboard and pool tables, and joked to my daughter, "there's no cornhole. How do they expect to attract millennials?"

He jokes, but that's serious. Millennials want to game, but not lose money to games. We'd rather spend it on drinks. Games like cornhole and giant Jenga really do pull us in.

My Seahawks don't cover the first half spread, so I'm leaving town with a loss. We grab my wife and our bags from Flamingo, Uber to the airport, and watch the 'hawks cover the game spread. You couldn't have done that in the first half, guys?

The flight home is uneventful. All in all, a pretty good trip. Too bad my family wasn't feeling great, but there's always next time.

When we got home, I hated how the smoke seems to have clung to all my clothes. Everything, clean and dirty, goes in the wash.

If the casinos want to appeal to millennials, they'll need to improve their free wifi coverage. I only found it at Aria and Mirage. I'm more likely to go to a casino that has wifi than to one that doesn't.

Overall, I just don't think Vegas appeals to millennials. We're already looking at screens all day, and we vacation to escape that. We want what's real, and that usually involves getting outdoors, not staying inside with smokers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If I was in your shoes, I would be taking ALL my trips to Vegas (and everywhere else) without my wife and daughter. They seem like quite the morning, midday and evening buzzkills.

Your daughter has an attitude against everything and I have a feeling she is using your blog to make the millennial stereotype even more entrenched. Her commentary is unappreciative of your generosity and I can only assume still lives at home with no desire to get a job in the near future. She comments that she hasn't seen anyone her age for the trip, but maybe its because she sleeps half the day, goes to bed early and has a generally negative attitude for your trip-young people are all over that town. Better WIFI coverage is needed, but "we're already looking at our screens all day, and we vacation to escape that" is quite contradictory and discredits nearly everything she comments on.

Most of your reviews are a good read, but this just takes a dump on your family but at least you know now to leave the women behind. I am a millennial as well and would *NEVER* have this level of pretentiousness and snobbery for a family vacation my parents included me on.