August 2022 Las Vegas Trip Recap Part 1 (Full Version)

Our plans changed before we even left town. It was neither a surprise nor a disappointment, really. 

If you read my August 2022 Trip Itinerary post, you know that I made a “schedule” more in an attempt to save me from indecisiveness while there (this time is so valuable to me I could see myself getting paralyzsed with indecision trying to make the most of it) and to get excited about the trip than to coordinate every single second. 

I’m happy to go with the flow, but I like a bit of a plan. Plus, it’s fun to look at the itinerary and compare it to what actually happened. We didn’t do all that bad. 

Either way, what you’re about to read about was one of the best Vegas trips I’ve ever had. It turned out wonderfully and I’m so excited to share it (in way too much detail) with you. 

Day 1: Wednesday 

1:20pm: Departure 

I’ll save you from most of the boring stuff. We dropped off our 14 month old son. It was harder than we expected. I’ve left him before, but this was a first for his mom to be so far away. It was harder for me, too, knowing that at least one of us wasn’t right near him at all times.

Airport and flight were relatively uneventful. I was a bit worried about some lightning and ominous clouds we saw on the drive to the airport, but all was well.

2:15pm (local time) landing 

Our flight left about 15 minutes late, but we more than made up for it in the sky. But by the time we landed, our plans had changed again. The first change, made a couple of days later, was to move a reservation at Area 15 from our first afternoon to the final morning. It was less of a squeeze during that period and it just felt right. It was like $4 to change times, so all was well. 

But now, because we had gotten hungry — Kathryn had gotten really hungry — we decided to skip our original plan of an uber straight to Cosmo to check in. We needed food. Thankfully it was the second thing on our agenda. 

So as we walked down the jetway, and I — with an audible “yelp!” — caught the first glimpses of flashing slot machine lights, Kathryn and I decided that we better skip ahead and take an Uber straight to…

3:15 Dirt Dog (Grand Bazaar Shops / Bally’s / Horseshoe) 

We were dropped off right at the Bally’s entrance. We passed our first homeless encampment. Wow, there really is more of a problem than I remember (this became a theme). 

Inside of Bally’s I got that old excited feeling. Kathryn and I have a lot of memories here. This is where I stayed the very first time I came to Vegas. It was on a work trip of sorts as a desperate young college kid trying to learn the business and sales world. 

Kathryn met me there because she too dreamed of becoming a world-renowned salesperson. 

Okay, she didn’t care at all about the conference, but apparently (thank God she did), she cared a lot about me. 

I had heard that Bally’s was undergoing a lot of renovations in preparation for it becoming the Horseshoe. This didn’t seem to be an issue. But man was this place smoky. It was quite terrible, actually. 

Anyways, we found a corner elevator (the escalator to leave was broken), and with our bags in tow, we made it to the Grand Bazaar shops. 

I warned her that Dirt Dog did not have a fancy facade. But she had heard over and over and over again about how great this place was. I learned about it from We Work to Visit Vegas and soon after from my Air Force buddy Jake who is often given stays on or just off the Vegas strip while he takes part in special exercises at Nellis Air Force Base. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had added “Dirt Dog Bar” next door which looked pretty nice and I think helped Kathryn feel a bit better about the place. 

A Picture of the outside of Dirt Dog Bar in Las Vegas in the Grand Bazaar Shops

Apparently you can’t order just food in the bar, so we still had to go next door to the almost literal hole in the wall to order. 

We did so and found two bar stools that we questionably only for the bar — but they seemed okay with it. 

Our food was STUPID good. It was better than I remember. 

The bacon wrapped hot dog itself… OMG. I hate soggy bacon so you’d think I’d dislike it, but somehow they manage to get the bacon crispy while still wrapping it all the way around the hot dog. AMAZING. I mean that’s some real David Blaine type stuff right there. 

A Dirty Chili dog at Dirt Dog Las Vegas

I got the chili dog. It was hot — in both temperature and spice.  Kathryn got the Elote Dog. 

I also got the Dirty Esquite which is a cup of corn with lime, mayo, chile poweder, cojita cheese, cilantro, and bacon bits. 

I’m not drooling… you are.

Dirty Esquite cup of corn at Dirt Dog Las Vegas

Kathryn was a HUGE fan and I was so excited. 

We went back through Bally’s, past the “shivers” frozen cocktail bar that holds some special memories for us, and on through to Paris. 

As soon as we got through to the Paris side, honestly, the air quality went up dramatically. Maybe Bally’s was having legitimate issues with their system. 

Anyways, through Paris for what would turn out to be the only time during the trip, and out the doors for the final trek to the side entrance of Cosmo. 

I was proud that I navigated us through Paris like I’d lived there my entire life. GoodNESS do I know this town too well. So far I could point Kathryn to every bathroom, every type of store, every entrance — whatever she wanted to know or was curious about, I knew. 

Okay, enough bragging.

When we made it to the cosmo side doors, heavy bags still weighing us down, it was like walking into paradise. 

4pm Cosmopolitan

The smell I remembered — but could only dream of the past few months — touched my nose. Even Kathyrn exclaimed at how amazing it was. 

We made our way to the back for check in. Lovely lobby. Of course. 

The line didn’t seem too bad. But boy did it move slowly. Then it moved slower. Then it essentially stopped. 

Then, we made a terrible but typical mistake. We hopped lines. And of course, our original line moved and moved and we were stuck, stuck, stuck. 

I stayed pleasant for almost 40 minutes before I started noticeably losing my cool. You hear about this happening at the Flamingo. But at the Cosmo? When we only had like literally three couples in front of us originally?! 

We finally made it to the front and the receptionist was a delight. I was delightful, too. I know these people have the power to place me in a terrible room or make my trip unforgettable. 

I did learn that they were having problems with their computers. Earlier I had joked that they must be etching details into stone. Well… they kind of were. Well they were writing everything down on paper and taking it to the back for filing. 

No, really. 

Room was AWESOME. Of course! We paid for a one bedroom fountain view and that’s what we got. So excited! Kathryn was thrilled to lay eyes on her huge Japanese soaking tub. 

I was thrilled to see that we had our fridge (I swear, last time we didn’t get one) and everything was in top shape. The room was even bigger than expected. The balcony? Breathtaking. 

We ran across to Walgreens / CVS at Harmon corner to get some supplies and, when we got back, with our next remaining scheduled event dinner at Mayfair Supper Club, we had some time to kill. Kathryn was tired. 

I later found out she was tired, and rather homesick (don’t worry, it turns around). I was happy to take some solo time and she was happy to take a quiet bath and a quick nap. 

So on our respective ways we went. I got a new player’s card and tried a few machines and she enjoyed a rest. 

When we met back up, we were both feeling pretty good (but perhaps not amazing). I turned on some Vegas music (Luck Be a Lady, Dean Martin’s Las Vegas, etc.) and we got dressed up all fancy. 

A young, dressed-up couple take a selfie on the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas balcony in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was great. Turned our mood up to a solid 8.5 (honesty is the name of this blogging game)! 

Now, for an Uber to Bellagio. 

Yes, it may seem silly since it’s next door. But we all know that when you’re wearing a suit in 100 degree Vegas summer weather before a fancy dinner, you need to keep fresh!! 

7:30pm arrive at Bellagio

After enjoying the strip version of the “Garage Mahal” that Cosmo has, Bellagio’s Uber pickup/dropoff area was quite the disappointment. Like a smoggy basement loading area of a dying urban mall. 

But its proximity to the front entrance of the Bellagio is nice. And though it would be better to be dropped off under the portico, we still got to walk through the front doors of Bellagio and enter to see the beautiful Chihuly on the ceiling. Totally worth it. 

P.S. If you love the Bellagio and want a Bellagio coffee mug, you know where to look. Advertisement complete!

We wandered for a minute and made our way to the Conservatory. Kathryn told me later that she wasn’t sure what I was even talking about and why I thought it was so important to go there, but she trusted whatever it was would be cool. 

And it was. 

I’ve avoided, to the extent it’s possible for me, watching too many videos of the summer conservatory because I wanted to see if for myself. It was splendid. I loved the way they worked in the LED backdrops in places (that’s new, right?)

The summer 2022 exhibit at the Conservatory of Bellagio Las Vegas

I loved seeing Sadelle’s and the new single dining table they they’re advertising for folks to “dine in the conservatory.” I’m not sure where the menu / food comes from. There was an unassuming asian man there… looked like he was missing his escort.

Honestly. It didn’t seem like it would really be that great of an experience. Especially considering how hard it likely is to get a table. I’d pass.

Anyways, it was jam packed. We still enjoyed seeing everything, but I wish it wasn’t so busy. I would have been able to take it all in a bit more. I feel like I passed this part of the trip a little too fast. 

We wandered on through the casino and took a stroll down the corridor with all of the fancy shops (I felt bad that I couldn’t remember the name for these shops, but it turns out it doesn’t have one! Whew!) We stopped to appreciate the entrance to Le Cirque and Picaso and some of the other fine dining choices. 

We passed a fancy restaurant and I elbowed Kathryn to appreciate a nicely-dressed man having dinner by himself with a baby in a carriage. 

Turned out it was a dog. 

Oh the number of ridiculous people I saw pushing their dogs in baby carriages while on this trip. It was unbelievable, really. 

We decided to save our bit of gambling for after dinner.

8:00PM Reservations at Mayfair Supper Club

We made our way into Mayfair Supper Club’s entrance. They didn’t push us away for dress code violations. I forgot in the moment that I was even worried about it, but we passed nonetheless. 

They found our reservation and walked us into the main dining room. 

We walked past the booths I had seen The Coin Show occupy during their visit. Seemed like good seats — I would have been okay with those. 

We walked closer toward the windows by the fountains. We approached a group of tables that were neither here nor there — not at the window, but not with a direct view of the stage. 

We passed those. 

We walked right up to a small empty table with an impeccable view of the stage and right next to the window with the most fabulous view of the fountains. The host slowed to a stop. 

Then turned to the left and placed menus on the table to its left. 

Obscured was the fountain by a giant column. 

Distant seemed the stage. And a view of the performer’s backs at that.

Not. My. Favorite. Table. 

For the expense of the meal we were about to enjoy and the months of anticipation, I should have said something. But I was nearly scolded earlier about almost losing my cool and becoming a “karen” at the Cosmo front desk. I kept my mouth shut. 

Pushover. 

We moved on. The show was great. The music was fantastic, though I was hoping to be a bit more impressed by the actual showmanship. Generally, it was just a few great musicians performing in a prohibition-era style. Great stuff, but not mind-blowing. 

We ordered drinks from a massive menu on a digital tablet. It was the only time we saw it. When Kathryn first opened the menu, all she saw were wines for $329, $250, $2200, $3200.

Finally, she found the glasses of wine. Whew — cheap things at a mere $35 / glass or something like that. 

I found a delightful cocktail that was basically a beachy-fruity-pineapple thing. Delicious. Amazing actually. Probably the best speciality cocktail I had on the trip. 

The decor of the Mayfair supper club fit that drink, though I didn’t immediately notice it. The beach touches were subtle, but displayed throughout. Silhouettes of fish on the walls and understated aquariums behind the bars. 

A table in the dining room of the Mayfair Supper Club at the Bellagio with a view of the fountains and Paris Eiffel power.

Basically, from what I slowly took-in, this was a prohibition-era, upscale dinner club in Miami. 

Love it. 

I’d go on to get an off-menu Mojito. I was complimented and told they make lovely mojitos. They did. 

We were eventually given bread (service became a bit slow… and stayed that way) that Kathyrn LOVED. 

A warm bunch of rolls in a hot, silver pan. Butter that was sweet, salty, and heavenly. 

I thankfully went ahead and ordered the coconut shrimp. I had always planned to, but as the day got close and I realized we were bound to rack up a $500 bill, I started thinking about cutting back.

Plus, Kathryn’s paranoia of foodborne illnesses (a really odd thing because she’s such an extreme foodie … so the two work against each other) has rubbed off on me. I was worried that I might get food poisoning from the shrimp and ruin the trip. 

In the weeks leading up to the trip I had done everything possible to protect the sanctity of this vacation. What if a simple shrimp dish brought it all down? 

Anyways, I got the shrimp. 

Hot damn. This was the best thing I think I ate on the entire trip. 

The sauce that it comes in gave instant joy to my life. You know when you take a bite of something so good that you just can’t help but smile? This was it. 

The depth of flavor that they managed to get into this sauce… I mean the flavors kept going and going and going. Your palette was discovering something new every instant. 

A picture of the coconut shrimp and a cocktail at the Mayfair Supper Club at the Bellagio Las Vegas

I honestly can only relate depth of flavor that deep to the shot of Pappy Van Winkle I was once gifted when I got engaged. By far the most expensive, and delicious, shot of Whiskey I’ve ever had. I can still taste it and I can still see the memories the scent and flavor brought to my mind. Memories that I actually never had. It was like it transported me to some old, heavenly barn in the middle of Tennessee and I was somehow eating the keys of a storied grand piano. 

Anyways… 

Wow, Luke. 

The shrimp was amazing. Breading amazing. Sauce heavenly. 

For our main courses, I got the truffle-crusted Filet Mignon and Kathryn got a Kansas City strip. I added Crab Oscar topping to mine. For a meager $34 upcharge, why not?!

Well the filet was one of the best I’ve ever had. The crab topping was fine. Though I think the creaminess of the topping may have contributed to why I loved the filet so much, so I wouldn’t change a thing. 

Kathryn’s strip steak, while cooked perfectly, was unfortunately not so great. The vinegar and onion topping was a weird flavor. It kind of made the whole thing flat. 

I was rather disappointed for her. 

The parmesan fries were good. She loved those. I didn’t think they were that much to write home (or blog) about — seemed like pretty standard fries with some parmesan and truffle seasoning sprinkled on. 

Kathryn loved the green beans. I again thought they were just okay. 

I think I had been spoiled by the green beans and truffle fries we’d recently had from famed Food Network star Ree Drummond. Good lawd can she cook. 

Anyways… 

We had a great time and I enjoyed the variety of music and various acts that appeared on stage. 

If I worked hard enough, I could see the fountain show and it was cool to see it from a rare angle like this. I took a quick video of the fountain show on my right (leaning around the column… my bitter self is going to keep mentioning this) and the show on my left going on at the same time. A great memory and once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

A picture of the Bellagio fountains as taken from the Mayfair Supper Club.

Overall, we had a great time and I’d definitely go back. 

I’d demand better seats and I think Kathryn would change her order up. 

We got out of there for, including tip, just shy of $400. 

Kathryn says she’s never been so relieved to see a $400 dinner bill! 

I did try to charge it to the Cosmo. They just started that ability a few days prior and I had heard about it in one of my Vegas forums. The receptionist at the Cosmo was excited I knew about it (I asked just in case) and said to let whomever I talked to know it was a “cross charge.” 

Our server, who more or less abandoned us more and more throughout the evening, couldn’t seem to make it happen.

9:50pm Gambling at the Bellagio

This section is going to be short. 

I finally found an MGM Rewards desk and got a new print of my players card. We made our way around to a few games but, to preserve Kathryn’s feet, we decided to head out relatively quickly. 

Down to the nasty Uber pickup area (a shame after such a special dinner) and back over to Cosmo we went. 

We went to the room first for a quick change, and fresh beer in hand (okay, just for me), went downstairs. We played some games (made sure to hit Wheel of Fortune) and, pretty quickly, Kathryn was ready to head up to the room for some rest (or another bath). 

I was fine with this as I was ready to continue some gaming on my own and wanted to explore just a bit. First night celebration!

I walked her back to the room and went back down with her blessing. 

11:00pm Out on my own 

I had a heck of a time. A couple more beers and a lot more games. 

I started with top dollar. I had some ups and downs, stared off a few people who were circling to try to play it, and eventually ended about $10 down. No bonus yet. 

I have really started to love playing in the Cosmo (like I needed much convincing). 

The side entrance of Cosmo and the Bellagio fountains are just so temptingly close, so this started a tradition of walking over to the fountains to see one of the last shows of the night. 

It was “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.

It was a great show but boy was it a crowded mess. Maybe I’ve changed, but all of the street performers and like literally a dozen different people pushing coolers full of beers and waters for sale has really begun to annoy me. It ruins what should otherwise be an elegant atmosphere. 

I was inspired and continued to walk toward Caesars. There was a random bonus show (probably someone who had the special $250,000 button to set it off). The song? Viva Las Vegas

Okay, now the night is rocking! 

Lots of folks out, lots of performers, and some vagrants. Honestly, I was glad Kathryn wasn’t with me because it was all a bit much. 

I skipped Caesars because I had special plans for it later in the trip. 

I crossed over to Linq and, after some trouble, got my players card. So now I’m all set with the MGM, Caesars, and Identity (Cosmo) cards!

I saw a dancing drums machine that was calling me and when I finally made it over, did a couple of $1.20 spins and hit a $45 bonus! I pretty much took it and ran. 

I made it over to a Buffalo Luxury Line game and played out $30 before hitting a $15 bonus and calling it quits still $30 up for the property. 

I was going to stop at CVS just before Paris on the way back, but there was a long line. I made it to Cosmo and bought another beer there. 

I played Kitty Glitter and some “retro-style games” (sorry, I remember playing, but don’t remember what these games were called, so I just copied what my notes said) before losing $50 total and calling it a night. 

A great night, but a night. 

My notes say that I was down about $90 for the day. 

Considering that I brought a $200 per day gambling budget, I’d rather say I was up $110 for the day ;) 

1am (or so): Sleep at the Cosmopolitan

I kept things generally pretty responsible and I think I was back in the room by 1am or so. I spent a brief moment on the balcony. That’s why you pay so much for Cosmo (okay, one reason). I was going to enjoy it. 

The view at night from the balcony of a room at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

The huge room meant a separate living area and sectional couch. To save Kathryn from my inevitable snoring, I went to bed and slept most of the night on the couch. Not a problem with me considering I had my entirely own hotel room coming up for the second half of the trip.

Day 2: Thursday 

This was Kathryn’s only full day in Vegas. This turned out to be one of the best trips ever, but going into it I was worried that she had such a short stay. It ended up being perfect for everyone. 

As predicted, she woke up pretty early (time difference worked against us in that regard). She decided to go get Starbucks while I enjoyed some more leisure time in bed. 

So you could stay it was a “Starbucks run,” but for her it really only was for coffee. She said the line was rather long but moved quickly. She came back with a small breakfast sandwich and a giant shaken espresso for me (my go-to drink).

Quick aside: Get Las Vegas Coffee Mugs and other Vegas Souvenirs on our store!  

Two Las Vegas coffee mugs on the balcony of a hotel room at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

We sat on the patio. Temperature was lovely. We nibbled as we had a reservation at Momofuku coming up. I love looking out over Vegas in the morning. So dang calm. 

We headed down to the casino floor a little ahead of our 11:30 reservation time. We walked around, got out my $200 for the day and just enjoyed ourselves. 

11:30am Momofuku reservations 

We walked right up to Momofuku at our reservation time and, though it was fairly calm as I expected it, it was nice to see there was a decent crowd. 

We got great seats in the main dining room (last time we were seated in the front near the bar). From here we could see out on Las Vegas blvd and I was just thrilled about that, of course. 

We had a very interesting waiter (very artsy and almost overly / disingenuously sweet, but seemed like a nice guy). His assistant was also pretty interesting and talkative. 

We got the bao buns as an appetizer. This was one of the things that Kathryn was looking forward to the most on this trip. 

They did not disappoint. SO delicious. Last trip I was feeling kind of bad during our trip to Momofuku, so I was happy to be feeling great this morning. 

Bao buns at Momofuku Las Vegas

We also got the Shishito Peppers. These weren’t super flavorful, but were decent nonetheless. It was kind of like eating a lightly fried bell pepper. 

The Shoyu Pork Ramen I got was AH-mazing. Great stuff. The broth had a great depth of flavor and was just so deliciously rich. The pork wasn’t nearly as good as it was in the bao buns, but I ate it all right up. 

The shoyu Pork Ramen at Momofuku in Las Vegas

Honestly, armed only with chopsticks and a “spoon,” I was glad I felt like I ate pretty proficiently. At the very least I don’t think I embarrassed myself too badly. 

A chance encounter 

As we left Momofuku after a relatively modest bill (I decided to abstain from trying any Sake, which probably helped), I made eye contact with a really familiar face. 

She seemed to lock eyes with me as well. For an instant I had that odd feeling where you think you see someone you recognize, but it’s not really them. 

Then that feeling was replaced by a certainty that I knew this person. This was an old friend. This was someone I absolutely should know but I couldn’t place them. 

I went to elbow Kathryn to tell her I knew that person, but Kathryn reached me first and exclaimed, “That’s a Top Chef contestant!” 

Sure enough… it was Jo Chan from the most recent season of Top Chef. We’d just finished it a month or so prior to coming.

I tried to convince Kathryn to ask for a pic with her, but she didn’t want to be a bother. 

The moment passed with great hesitation on my part. 

12:30pm Miracle Mile Shops 

We went over to the Miracle Mile Shops for a look around. It may seem silly, but even though I would be staying a Planet Hollywood soon (which is connected to the mall), I knew I might not otherwise see much of them. 

Last fall, when I came to Vegas with the guys, I didn’t get to see much of the mall in reality. 

So we went over and immediately stopped at Lush so Kathryn could search for the perfect bath bomb. I poked around outside and tried to get some pictures of the Tipsy Robot. Tried to include some Las Vegas Merch co. products in the pics as well. I got one of the Las Vegas Street Names shot glass (coming to an Instagram near you). 

A picture of a Las Vegas shot glass with names of famous Las Vegas street on it.

We went to the typical Vegas souvenir shops (not nearly as good as our Vegas souvenir shop) and made note that they had a terrible selection of kids / baby stuff. 

We went the Penguin store. I basically let Penguin lead my wardrobe these days, so it was cool to see stuff in person instead of just online. 

We made a full look and then went out to the Crystals shops. 

For once, upon entering from the Cosmo side, we went left at the split. I usually go right and head to Aria or the Starbucks in the middle of the shops. 

We passed through the shops and out the doors. We stopped for a few quick pics by the golden cards along the walkway from Waldorf Astoria to the Aria. 

1:30pm Eataly and Park MGM

Then we made our way to Eataly! Yahoo! 

Kathryn was super excited about Eataly and I was excited for her. 

A view of the main entrance area at Eataly in Las Vegas

We shopped. Filled a tiny bag with like 12 mini candies that came to $17+ dollars (shoot me now!)

I didn’t want to leave without trying some sort of food. Kathryn recommended that I try arancini. 

It ended up being… kind of bland and boring, honestly. Disappointing. 

We bought a bag of truffle risotto, though. I’m excited to give that a go when we’re back home. 

We walked through Park MGM to check it out. 

I have some free rooms on the property thanks to the MyVegas app. I wanted to see if it might be worth redeeming to save some bucks and get me back to Vegas sooner. The fresh air in the smokeless casino was nice. I didn’t feel a ton of soul right away, but I could get along with the place. 

We saw Best Friend and some Rabbits or deer or jackelopes??? something I recognized. Someone please tell me where I know these from. 

Colorful rabbits at a bar and/or restaurant in Park MGM in Las Vegas.

We also saw the Lady Gaga exhibit (or the outside of it, at least). 

We went out through the NoMad lobby. Spun an unattended giant prize wheel. Took some pics. Had fun. 

Out through the NoMad lobby to the promenade around t-mobile (there’s a name for this place, but I can’t remember it). Saw salt BAE. 

2:30pm New York, New York

We made it into New York, New York. And, as much as I don’t care for the actual city all that much, I love the vibe in this place. So much energy and fun. I’m sure I’ll be back a good bit if I end up staying at Park MGM next door. After the upcoming room renovations are done, I might even consider staying at New York, New York on a solo trip!

We spent a lot of time walking around the Hershey / Reese’s store. We made it up the second floor, which I don’t think I had ever done before. 

We built our own candy bags with some of the more novel candy choices and went on our way. 

Hershey’s Bar

I was excited to have a Chocolate martini at the Hershey bar. We had kind of been circling and waiting for a spot. I was thrilled when one was available. 

The lone bartender, Steven, was great. 

The drink, as I now remember martinis are, was strong. I got the Reese’s martini with chocolate and peanut butter liquors. 

A Reese's Cup martini at the Heshey's bar in New York, New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas

It took a minute to finish on my own (Kathryn wasn’t interested nor could she have it on account of the real cream it contained). But it had me feeling good and it was a fun experience. I’d go back. 

3:30pm Coke World and M&Ms

We went over to Coke world because we didn’t want to miss it. We were disappointed that the first floor was once again the only one that seemed accessible. Unless you went by elevator. We tried to take an elevator from a different part of the complex, but it literally only went from the first floor to the 4th floor entrance of Outback Steakhouse. 

We were on the elevator with an asian couple that seemed confused. The door opened, we all kind of looked out at the Outback greeter who must see this all day long and he said, “Just riding?” and we all took the ride back down. 

M&Ms characters posing for a picture in front of a depiction of the Las Vegas sign at M&Ms world Las Vegas

M&M’s world was fun. Saw some things that might be nice for our son, but ended up saving our money. 

We decided to head back towards the Cosmopolitan. 

Now this was a bit of a mistake because we should have crossed over to the MGM side of the strip again. This side, including the now-abandoned Hawaiian marketplace, has gotten sketchy as hell. 

There were weirdos and vagrants all over the place. I dropped our bottle of water at one point and Kathryn refused to ever touch it again. 

We did not like this part. 

4:30pm Relaxing back at Cosmo

But we made it back to Cosmo all right and enjoyed some time relaxing in the room and refreshing ourselves before the pending fun night out! 

5:30pm Early dinner reservations – Giada (Cromwell)

Part of the reason we ate lunch early and didn’t try too much at Eataly was because of this early dinner reservation. We had this early dinner reservation because of our planned activities later this evening. 

Dressed nicely, but comfortably, we Ubered over to the Cromwell. I was excited to show Kathryn another boutique, upscale property in a different part of the strip. 

We made it up the escalator to Giada and were promptly seated with our reservation. I was delighted to have a window seat, though my view wasn’t as good as it could have been. Looking back, I should have switched with Kathryn because her view was better and I don’t think she cared as much. ANYWAYS… 

We had a bread board, which is like heaven to Kathryn. It was quite delicious. 

We split an Arugula salad with pancetta and fried lemon bits.

A Risotto and Scallop dish at the Giada restaurant in Las Vegas.

She had a pasta and I had Risotto with scallops (cooked to perfection). 

We also both had a delicious strawberry mojito-type drink. Good stuff. Second-best cocktail I had on this trip. 

A luxurious, strawberry-based cocktail at the Giada restaurant in Las Vegas

Dinner came to about $150 total. It was good, but maybe not as good as we hoped. Definitely expensive for what it was. 

That said, we both (unrelated to the food, presumably) felt a little off after the meal and wanted to go back to Cosmo to rest. My reservations turned out to be earlier than necessary. 

Instead of Ubering, Kathryn insisted we walk back to Cosmo despite my warnings. She didn’t want to feel sick in someone else’s car. 

Well the walk back was similar to our walk earlier. Same side (west) of the strip, but further north. Lots of sketchy people and weird behavior. Kathryn was really not a fan. “I just want this to be over,” is a direct quote from that walk. 

We didn’t really enjoy any of our walks on the strip together on this trip. And my walks alone were generally never a highlight, either. There’s been a noticeable downslide in the atmosphere (in this regard) of Vegas even since last October. 

Here’s a screenshot from one of the Vegas groups I’m in on Facebook. It sums it up rather perfectly, actually: 

A screenshot from post on a Las Vegas group on Facebook describing how MGM's property management and policing of homeless and vagrants is far superior to that of Caesars Entertainment.

 

But a quick break in the room was just what the doctor ordered. We were soon refreshed and ready for an exciting evening!  

And, actually, we were running a bit late to a really important event for us. After all this prep and planning and super early dinner reservations, I was about to screw this up!

We hustled down to the Uber pickup area and waited for our ride. If all went to schedule, we’d arrive just 7 minutes before our 8pm tour time at the Neon Museum!

Neon Museum: 8pm Tour Reservations

The ride over was somewhat uneventful. As we exited the highway into a not-so-great area, we were pretty close to the Fremont Street experience and downtown Las Vegas. It got me excited for my adventures still to come later this trip. 

As we approached the Neon Museum, the directions took our driver behind the main entrance to some sort of back road. The gate to get to the drop off area was closed. 

Suddenly, my heart was again pumping for fear we’d miss our time slot. 

We had tried several times before to get to the Neon Museum. For one reason or the other, it always seemed to elude us. We really wanted to make this happen. 

I thought about just asking the driver to let us out there — it was within walking distance for sure. But a quick look around the umm… neighborhood we were in, and I thought better of it. 

Thankfully, we were able to circle around (after a few dead-ends and lots of anxiety) and she dropped us off and we ran up to the door. 

We passed a security officer who confirmed our time and then an usher at the door who checked again. The noticeably strong security presence would be a pattern.

We made it into the lobby — the main building is the reconstructed, original lobby from the La Concha hotel — just in time for the tour to start. We booked a guided tour of the main boneyard and the Brilliant! show afterwards. 

I loved our guide. Peppy, local, and authentic, she engaged all of us individually and set the tone for a really exiting tour. 

Literally just a few minutes into the tour there was a sound that, let’s just say… were definitely gunshots. Or a car backfiring a few times in a row?? There was no ignoring the sounds and even our guide sarcastically remarked, “Oh, fun sounds!” 

Maybe not the best neighborhood. 

After the tour kicked off with a literal bang, we were on to a really exciting time. The old Fitzgerald sign had a really cool surprise when you took a picture (even with the flash off) as hidden symbols revealed themselves. 

We moved through the boneyard in awe as the sky’s light had faded and the glow of neon shown down like the most glorious Hollywood stage setting you’d ever seen. 

We got a history lesson and lots of time for personal photos. 

The neon museum is notoriously strict about protecting copyrights and licensing for any imagery. That’s why, unfortunately, I’ve decided to obey for now and you won’t see any pictures of the tour on this blog or our social media. Lame, but understandable. 

I so highly recommend this tour if you’re a fan of Vegas history and the neon that accompanies it. 

We had a 15 minute break between this tour and the show and of course we spent it in the gift shop. 

They had some Vegas versions of the exact notebook I always purchase for my work note taking. It was incredible to see. Several were purchased. 

The meeting place for the show was across the street in what I’d describe as a small, private park with a little pavilion. It’s worth noting that several security guards were outside and the meeting area had a pretty beefy fence. 

And when I say this place was across the street, I mean it was 20 feet across a small private road used for drop-offs and such. It was close.  

The people attending the show were a mesh of various tours and new guests. It wasn’t just a transfer of our same group. I actually thought, for some reason, that we’d have the same guide but it was a new one. I was a bit thrown off. 

Once this new “show” started, it was really just a speech and then an organized walk down the street a block to another property owned by the Neon Museum. We went through the museum’s small, guarded parking lot and a bit of a neighborhood street. 

I’m just telling you… I couldn’t get over the security guards that were quietly escorting us in the background. I love security and all of that stuff, so maybe it was just noticeable to me. However, the point I’m making is that this clearly was not a great part of town, but also that the Neon Museum was definitely going above and beyond to keep everyone safe. I never actually felt unsafe, but more like felt that I should

Anyways, we stopped at the new mural and got a brief history lesson. We then went into a walled, guarded area and were told all about the show we were about to see. We were surrounded by unlit signs. 

We were then escorted into the main show area and it was quite neat. Kathryn and I hustled to grab a bench (there were not enough for everyone). This was a good and bad decision because the benches surrounded the two “poles” that were in the middle of the square space. These “poles” were more like large, round concrete pillars in size. Within them were the high-end projectors that would make the show come to life. 

The reason this was “bad” was because we couldn’t see around the other side of the pole that our bench encircled. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, and I was happy to do anything on this trip to save our feet / health / etc. Hence all the Ubers instead of long walks on the strip. 

The show was miraculous. The artist had digitally mapped every square inch of this space and the old, non-working neon signs that were all around us. Then, like magic, the “projectors” brought the signs to life just like they were really working again! It was a show with a few different themes as the signs were lit up in different orders. The soundtrack was amazing. I had heard it was. 

And they acknowledged this later as you can actually scan a QR code to get the playlist. 

Anyways, after the show was over, the signs remained dimly lit for about 10 minutes so people could go around and get photos and not be tempted to do so during the show itself. 

The nostalgic, dramatic music that played during this time, accompanied by the fact that I was seeing historical signs I had read and seen pictures of for years and years — like one of the original Golden Nugget Signs — literally moved me to tears. I can’t describe the full feeling, but it was just really emotionally impactful. 

I’m so glad we finally made it. 

Now you know a bit more about the level of passion that lead me to start this online Las Vegas souvenir store.

__

Back to Cosmo

We left past a heavily armed security guard, spent more time in the gift shop, and finally Ubered back to Cosmo (I briefly tried to see if Kathryn wanted to go downtown or at least see Circa, but I didn’t push hard). 

Back at Cosmo we had a few gambles, but Kathryn was clearly ready and excited to get up to her bath bomb. I walked her up and did a bit of light packing to make sure the morning transition could be as smooth as possible. 

I then went back downstairs with a beer in hand. I had a great time. 

I won a $127 bonus, perhaps sadly my biggest single win of the trip, and also wandered outside for an obligatory view of the Bellagio fountain show. 

It was some lame show tune. And I don’t hate show tunes, but this one sucked. I didn’t even know there was a fountain show song that I wouldn’t recognize from watching so many of them in person and in live streams on YouTube. But I found one! 

I went back to Cosmo to return my winnings. No big deal, it’s the Vegas way. Then, I went back to the room for one last beer and a relaxing sit on the Cosmo balcony. 

Day 3: Friday

To make sure Kathryn had a full last day, despite leaving at 2pm, we had to be up and going pretty “early.” So, by 8:30am, we were packed and headed out the door.

But not before we took one more sit on the balcony and even observed an odd drizzle or mist in the air. Was this Fog in Vegas? It was just so unusual. Leading up to our trip, the town had been hit by a monsoon (no, seriously) and the random wet weather continued sporadically throughout our trip. 

Morning fog over the Las Vegas strip in October 2022

We wheeled our stuff out through Cosmo (what a shame to leave) and across the street to Planet Hollywood. One the way we took a few last-minute pics of Kathryn in a Las Vegas t-shirt for the Merch Co. site. 

The lobby was busier than I remembered it last October’s trip, but wasn’t too bad. We found an open digital kiosk and elected to spend the $30 (ish) for early check-in. 

Unfortunately the room still wasn’t ready (in October it was immediately ready for me by the time I arrived at 7:45am). 

So we checked out bags at the bell desk and headed for an Uber. No time to waste! 

Bagelmania

We made our way towards the Wynn and the convention center. We took some back roads and were there pretty quick. 

It was cool to pull up to the building and it was neat, but maybe not quite as glorious as the pictures made it seem. 

But any shred of a let-down immediately vanished when we walked through the front door. First of all, the handle on the door is a giant bagel. What’s not to love? And the smell when you walk inside? Just feed me now. 

There were a few groups waiting for tables, but, being just the two of us and willing to sit at a booth in the “bar area” (not even noticeable), we were able to be seated right away. 

The Bar area at Bagelmania in Las Vegas. The background of the bar reads, "Soup of the day... whiskey."

I don’t want to forget to mention that the lobby area had a takeaway area for a quicker experience and it even had a Pinkbox donuts. 

But yes, even an authentic Jewish delicatessen has an active bar at 9:30am in Vegas. 

As we observed the interactions of guests around us and took in the scenery, we began to appreciate that this place was much more authentic than we expected. For a lot of the guests, this truly was their local morning breakfast spot. Regulars haggled with the waitstaff and shared well wishes. A young lady shouted at a man in the kitchen who sent her on with messages for her father. 

A couple dine at Bagelmania in Las Vegas

Our waitress seemed like the kind of gal you’d expect at a diner. Wrinkled lips from decades of smoking, friendly, but no-nonsense demeanor. It was great. 

They had speciality coffees, so I got a nice iced mocha. Kathryn got a lightly-sweetened, black iced coffee of some kind. 

Kathryn wasn’t feeling too well and I can’t say that I was perfectly chipper, but we carried on. She ordered a salted bagel pretzel (come on, now… her favorite things wrapped into one) and a Vegan veggie schmear. What a great opportunity for her (she can’t have dairy so rarely gets to have “cream” schmears). She also got a giant bowl of fruit. 

I, on the other hand, way over-ordered (intentionally). If I was going to a random local’s bagel place (okay, maybe not random) while in Vegas, I was going to try a bunch of things. For $12-15 / piece the sandwiches seemed like a bargain. 

The New School bagel sandwich at Bagelmania in Las Vegas

I got the New School on an everything bagel, which had bacon, melted cheddar, chive schmear and two fried eggs and a hashbrown. Plenty to send you back to bed. Now that I type it all out, it does seem a bit excessive, doesn’t it?

I also got, almost against my better judgment, the Wake and Bake. This had THC-infused oils to give you a nice high to start your day.

Kidding.

It had a Nova and baked salmon salad, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and chive schmear. Honestly, if I had thought a bit longer and didn’t think I’d be called names, I would have ordered the salmon on the side. It was a good sandwich, but I didn’t love the fish taste. If it had been smoked, it would’ve probably helped. But all the other things on the sandwich seemed right up my alley and the New School is so typical “me” that I wanted to venture out at least a little bit. 

I’m not sure I’d get it again, but I don’t regret the experience. __ 

__

We left Bagelmania and decided to walk the short two-tenths of a mile down to a Walgreens to get Kathryn some Advil (forgot to bring some with us) and a few other quick supplies. I got a five-hour energy to sneak into Area 15 (I didn’t really need to sneak it, as it turns out). 

After the walks we’d had so far along the strip, going to this Walgreens even just a block down the road actually had to take some consideration. But it wasn’t bad. It was sketch immediately outside the Walgreens, but an Uber wouldn’t have saved us from that anyways. 

From the Walgreens we Ubered to area 15. So excited. 

11:00AM AREA 15. 

Before you go in the building, you actually have to pass through an outside security area I wasn’t expecting. Great on one hand, but of course I had pockets full of Five Hour Energy. 

Compared to the edibles (which are not illegal here so… I guess who really cares) and other “party favors” (as the kids call them), that a lot of folks bring in, this was probably no big deal. 

A rusted, metal depiction of the Las Vegas sign outside of the entrance to Area 15 in Las Vegas

And that was the case. I went through the metal detectors, put the stuff in the bowl to be screened and had no issue. 

You then proceeded to the really unassuming double doors on this warehouse-looking building and through a short corridor with an automatic sliding door. 

BAM! 

You’re immediately hit with the euphoria of neon-painted artwork in the biggest blacklight-lit dark room you’ve ever seen. 

It was just like I imagined from all of the pictures and videos, but somehow cooler. 

Omega Mart 

We didn’t really have time to walk around at this point, so we headed straight for the line designated for the 11am check-in time and got ready for an amazing “trip.” 

Before we got to the front of the line to enter the grocery store (Omega Mart), I realized there was another security checkpoint. Goodness. 

This time, everything out of pockets again and a hand-wand scan of every body part. 

Again… I got through with my five hour energy drinks. I don’t know if they just didn’t see them, didn’t care, or what… so no guarantees that you will, but it seemed chill. 

Next time I’ll try with mini Jack Daniel’s bottles??? Probably not. 

We passed on the opportunity to get the “Boop cards” for $3 more (In Vegas, honestly, that seems free… I hear the bars in Caesars are even charging for cups of ice water, now). 

These cards unlock the storyline / mystery part of the experience so you can go through with some prompts and kind of get guided through things in a narrative-style experience. 

But it wasn’t about the $3 anyways. They say it adds a couple of hours to the experience and we didn’t have time. Plus, we’d already heard the joy is in just exploring. 

Off we went. 

The store was really amazing. I had seen a lot of spoilers, I’ll avoid most of those for you today, but it was still awesome. 

A wacky product in Omega Mart, part of Meow Wolf in Area 15 in Las Vegas — Corn PM as a fake "Advil PM"

Every product has a price and… apparently, is available for purchase. Some were absurd, but if you were willing to pay $999 for a multi-colored Jello crab like you’ve never seen before… it’s all yours. 

We both loved seeing all the funky products and the spins on everyday consumerism (thank God it wasn’t in a preachy / making a political statement kind of way. It’s all just fun here). 

They also did a great job at truly making everything explorable. You could touch and explore anything you could ever want to. It’s all part of the deal. Go into the employee-only areas, try doors, open windows, pull back the souvenir shirts for sale and go through whatever portal you find here (hint). 

It’s a COVID nightmare, but a dreamer’s dream. 

Dehydrated Water — a funny fake product available at Omega Mart as part of Meow Wolf in Area 15 Las Vegas

Once you do go through a corridor, you’ll enter whole new worlds with more options for exploration. It just seems to go forever. And I mean, I tried to take it slow because I thought we’d end up back in some sort of a loop and see the same things over and over or “complete” the experience too soon. No way. There is so much to explore and it feels like there’s endless space.  

Eventually, you will start to figure your way around (to an extent). And I can see how, eventually, they get you to see the critical things one way or another, but it’s like the best choose your own adventure book you ever read. 

But in real life. 

And in Vegas. 

And presumably you could do it while enjoying the substance of your choice. Though we did it without any artificial help and had a trippy enough time. 

The rest of Area 15 (sort of)

We reluctantly left Omega Mart and headed to the gift store. We explored around Area 15 a bit, which was now open and filled with people (when we first showed up it was only open for Omega Mart visitors as the rest of the complex was closed). 

We didn’t have much time to look around, though, honestly. We only saw a few opportunities for further adventures (everything is a separate ticket / experience). But what happened next was pretty cool. 

Kathryn was going on about how playing the little bit of slots that she did with me, it made her want to play arcade games. There’s more of a challenge and skills payoff and it’s definitely less expensive.

I was thinking about what arcades we might have time to still do. We were pretty close to Circus Circus. I know Bally’s (probably Horseshoe by the time you read this) is getting a new arcade, but it’s not open yet. Hmm… 

Then we noticed there was actually an arcade and bar in Area 15. 

PERFECT!

We wandered over and, after showing our IDs, made our way into a pretty big and open space with a desolate bar and a smattering of machines. 

It wasn’t really all that impressive. 

But $5 in a change machine and we had a heavy batch of tokens in our pockets. 

We played a bunch of 80’s arcade games and had a blast. 

Kathryn played a basketball shooting game. We played Tetris. Frogger. Pinball machines of various types. Had. A. Blast. 

A young woman plays a basketball arcade game at Area 15 in Las Vegas

$5 more in the coin machine. 

Then, what appeared to be the owner came by and mentioned that, upstairs, they had 90’s machines and a staffed bar. 

We made our way up to second level and were surprised to see a wider selection of machines and a fair amount of folks playing. 

We put more money in the coin machine. We ended up playing a two person shooter game. It was some of the most fun we had on the entire trip. 

We each had a gun and took turns destroying the bad guys. It’s one of those deals where after you lose three lives you have to put in two more coins to keep playing. 

We cleaned out the coins in our pockets — throwing every last one we had in the machine. 

We ran out of coins but left with smiles and amazing memories., Honestly, I’d love to go right back this second and do it again. I could travel all the way back to Vegas and if this is the first thing Kathryn wanted to do, I’d be all about it. 

We skipped any drinks, but it did seem like such a cool place to have a few if you were so inclined. 

Kathryn had more games she wanted to play downstairs, but I was out of small bills. 

$20 in the coin machine. 

Massive amounts of tokens. 

We played as long as we could, but we were over our time limit already. I gifted our leftover coins to a group of nearby “dudes,” and we went on our way. A quick walk around the complex and we were headed for an Uber back to the hotel to get Kathryn on her way. 

Yes, we’ve already had what may seem like a full day to you, but I still have a ton planned. 

When we made it back to the Hotel, Kathryn was pretty worn out and not feeling 100%. 

Thankfully, the room was ready and we just grabbed our bags from the bellman. 

This gave us just a few minutes to get bags up to the room and get some last-minute things sorted for Kathryn. 

When we arrived, the door was a bit wonky, but I didn’t think too much of it (this is called foreshadowing, folks). The view was lovely and room was nice enough. With only a King bed instead of the two queens that I had last time I was there, it seemed like a ton more space.

It’s no Cosmo, but I was pretty happy. 

We decided to skip Earl of Sandwich and Kathryn would just get something to eat at the airpot. 

Back downstairs and we’re in an Uber. 

I left my bags in the Planet Hollywood room with a view just waiting for me. 

Dropping Kathryn off was pretty seamless. I went in with her and helped her get situated. It’s a quick walk to security and… all the feels. 

We were both sad to be departing. I had been so excited for my solo time, but it was really tough to see her go. I also hated that she had to travel back on her own. We both kind of realized that downside a couple of weeks before we went out on the trip. This was especially the case given our fear that she’d get caught in one of the many delays or cancellations that plagued airlines in 2022.

We said our goodbyes and she made her way to the security line. I headed back downstairs. 

The solo time was about to begin. But first… I made my way back to the baggage claim area for arrivals. I wanted to feel like I had just arrived for my trip. That feeling when you see the first slot machines and all the ads in the baggage claim area for fun things to do. Not so many of those in the departures area. 

I went over that way — I learned it’s quite easy to get to. And so it begins…