Livin’ La Vida Las Vegas

Yes, I’m finally talking about my Vegas trip! I mean, it’s not as if it happened *that* long ago (we were there 7/10-7/13), but still – I need to get back on my blogging game! After all, with a 2.5-week trip to Europe coming up in less than a month, I’m going to be doing it a lot of writing in the very near future!

So…Vegas. It pretty much is exactly what you’d expect to be, right? To be honest, Vegas isn’t a city that calls to me in any way. I had been there once before, in October 2008, but that was for a work conference, so a) it wasn’t on my dime and b) I was busy doing conference-related stuff most of the time anyway. I’m not into gambling (I didn’t even use a slot machine on either of my trips) and I’m not that enthused by all the noise, crowds, etc., so I just never have a reason to go there. I didn’t, that is, until my favorite musical artist of all time, Mariah Carey, announced a Caesar’s Palace residency. At that point, it was pretty much a given that I would go there because, although I’ve loved her music since I was about nine years old, I had never seen her perform live. She does do tours, but she’s never performed in a city I’ve lived in while I lived there, so I knew this was my chance to see her! Scott was on board right away, as were a couple of other friends, so we made plans, bought tickets (six rows from the front, no less), and before we knew it, the time had come to go!

Scott and I traveled with our friend Nicole while my other friends Annie and India traveled separately. Because the concert was being held at Caesar’s Palace, Annie and India opted to just stay there, while the rest of us got a room at Treasure Island. We found a decent deal for TI through Expedia and Scott and I flew using the companion certificate I get every year for being a platinum Delta Amex cardholder, which worked out well since we had to shell out close to $275 each for our concert tickets (TOTALLY worth it, by the way). Our room was decent, but not amazing. Given the ever-present triple-digit temperatures in Vegas, I was hoping for arctic-level air conditioning in the room, but that wasn’t meant to be. The AC worked, but not very well, so that was a big detractor for me. Still, the staff was nice and the one time we ate there (at The Buffet at TI), the food was good, so it wasn’t all bad. The location on the strip was also convenient for walking around, generally and to get to Caesar’s Palace for the concert. If TI upped their AC game, it would be easy to recommend them, but that would be my one hesitation in returning there.

Okay, so we got to Vegas on a Friday evening and the concert wasn’t happening until Sunday evening. We really had no other plans, so how do you fill the time on a weekend trip? In a city like Vegas, we didn’t have to search very hard to find options. Knowing that gambling didn’t appeal to us, we decided to go the show route, so we stopped by Tix4Tonight to see if we could catch a deal. Vegas certainly has no shortage of shows, so after looking through the list of what was available on the one night we could go (Saturday), we settled on Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity. I’d previously seen their Alegria show in Minneapolis, but Zumanity was a pretty different experience. Of course it had the requisite acrobatic work (amazing!), but that’s really where the similarity ended. Zumanity is hosted by a pretty fabulous drag queen named Edie and had a variety show feel to it, with healthy doses of profanity and a bit of nudity (topless women, but that’s pretty standard for Vegas). We all enjoyed it, though the comic-relief couple who made various appearances throughout the show weren’t really very funny. It’s still a show worth seeing, but be warned that you may get pulled into some audience-participation activities if you’re sitting near the stage (we weren’t, but still had good seats to see the people who did get pulled in).

Right, so that covers Saturday night, but what about Sunday? In addition to psyching ourselves up for an amazing concert, we also decided to do a Hoover Dam tour. None of us had been there before, but it sounded fun and the tickets were pretty cheap ($40 each), so we booked. Our tour was through the Grand Canyon Tour Company and I would recommend them! Although we did have to get up a bit early (by 630a), they picked us up right from our hotel and then took us to their office, where they had another bus waiting to take us and the folks on our tour to the dam. We had a fun driver with a good sense of humor (Jackie, I think her name was). The dam is within an hour of Vegas, so it was a fairly quick drive, with Jackie pointing out various fun facts about the area as we meandered down the road. The dam itself is definitely worth a visit. Although it was pretty hot (no shocker, considering the time of year we were there), the sky was clear and the sun was shining, giving us great views, both from the dam itself as well as from the bridge that overlooks it (we actually went to the bridge first and then to the dam). When we reached the dam, we were told our tickets didn’t include a tour of the generator room, so when you book your own tour, be sure to double-check that. Luckily, we only had to pay an additional $5 each to get the tour added and it was certainly worth it. The Hoover Dam generates a huge amount of power, so it was really cool to learn a bit about how that happens. Look it up the next time you’re near Vegas!

To wrap the weekend up, we finally got to see MC live! The show, #1 to Infinity, is a journey through her 18 Billboard Hot 100 #1 songs as well as an additional song, Infinity, which was released earlier this year. While she has received some criticism for not sounding as amazing as she once did, I can say that her voice was in good form for this show. She hit tons of great notes, had us on our feet pretty much the whole time, and fulfilled something I’d been wanting to do for my entire adult life. It was definitely a great night! The show is especially interesting because she sings her way through her songs in chronological order, as opposed to singing a variety of songs from different eras as she would do in a traditional concert. We had really good seats – just six rows from the stage! To have her singing her hits to me (of course she was singing only to me, right??) while being a mere ten feet away (at times) was amazing to say the least. It was a fantastic experience and one I would do again in a heartbeat! Yeah, I know I said I didn’t have any interest in going back to Vegas again, but when it comes to MC, I make exceptions. She does have more shows there next year, so we’ll see what happens. Don’t rule out a return visit just yet! 🙂

Okay, picture time. You get a plus-sized assortment of pictures in this post since I’m cramming everything about the trip into one post rather than multiple.

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Our home in Vegas – Treasure Island.

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Treasure Island is also host to another Cirque show, Mystére.

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The retro filter somehow makes the craziness of the strip look a little more subdued.

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Our first glimpse of MC – the anticipation was building from the night we arrived!

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Very colorful floral carousel at the Wynn, where we enjoyed a nice brunch on Saturday.

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Our first stop on the Hoover Dam tour.

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Really glad we got this view before touring the dam because it puts the scale of it into perspective.

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More of that damn dam.

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We weren’t sweating too badly yet, thankfully.

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Dam selfie!

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Straddling Nevada and Arizona.

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Going underground to see the generator room.

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That’s a lot of generators (and this is only half of them!).

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That’s the same bridge we took our selfies on. Seems so far away!

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Sage advice.

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One more shot of the bridge.

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One more selfie, too.

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Scott and Nicole ready to see MC!

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Lack of flash + darkened theatre = mediocre selfie. But who cares – it’s time for MC!

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My heart skipped at few beats when she came on stage. AMAZING!!

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The lack of flash also made pictures hard…

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…but they were much easier when Mariah was only ten feet away!

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I mean, what else would she be on when singing Honey?!

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Not to boast, but I think this picture is pretty much perfection.

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She hit all the high notes in Heartbreaker with ease.

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Back to lounging after all that walking around on stage.

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This is my second-favorite picture from the concert.

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Wrapping up the concert. Such a great time!

So, to sum this trip up:

  • Plane ticket – $200
  • Hotel – $300
  • Zumanity – $75
  • Hoover Dam – $45
  • Seeing Mariah Carey live for the first time ever – PRICELESS. Okay, it was about $275, but the bucket-list value is priceless. 🙂

Thanks for a fun time, Vegas! If any of you have been to Mariah’s Vegas show (or to any of the other things we did on this trip), I’d love to hear what you thought. Leave a comment and let me know!

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel and horror. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey of travel and horror (though not necessarily in that order).