This is a guest trip report by Matt Streby of Granite Falls, WA. You can find Vegas trip videos, live music videos, and more on his YouTube channel, “Concerts by Strebfest.” 


This is my first Vegas trip summary of 2023. I went with my brother, Michael, from January 10th through the 15th and stayed at the New York-New York. He had gotten a free Player’s jacuzzi suite with no resort fees, $600 in Free Play, and $600 in Resort Credit. So we ate all but one meal at MGM Properties (free on resort credit). 

We bought our plane tickets on an Alaska Airlines Cyber Monday sale and saved over $200 each round trip as we paid $69 to Las Vegas, $79 to Everett, WA. Then, on Christmas, my brother gifted me my airplane ticket. 

And, yes, I normally have an insane itinerary, but I only planned out a couple of things that I really wanted to do and a rough draft on where to eat each day. I  just winged the rest.

Tuesday, January 10th

We landed around 9:30am and knew we were going to be hungry. We took a quick cab ride to NYNY and left our luggage at Bell Hop as our room wasn’t ready as was expected. 

So we went straight to America Restaurant at NYNY to grab breakfast & used player club points to pay for this meal since you can’t use your resort credit until you check into your room. I had the chocolate chip pancakes and my brother had the New York State of Mind. 

Pancakes at the America restaurant in New-York New-York Las Vegas

Food & service was great. One thing we noticed is everything cost .50 to $2 more than what is advertised on almost every restaurant’s website. So my brother likes to make a spreadsheet and just put our food costs into it at the end of each night to try to not go over our $600 resort credit. This kind of helps us know when we can order a 2nd cocktail and such. 

After breakfast, we figured we had a couple hours before checking in, so we gambled for awhile at NYNY. After 2 hours we were both up — him on slots and me on video blackjack. 

We checked into the room around 1:30pm then headed over to Park MGM to use my first of many MyVegas Rewards for $15 Matchplay on Blackjack. I played 1 hand and was dealt a 20 to dealer’s 15. The dealer busted on 23, and I won a quick $30. I then went on to win a little more on slots. 

Next, I wanted to run across the street and check out the newest rooftop bar in Vegas and the 2nd largest BrewDog in the world. As it’s a two story bar, I thought it would be a great place to watch our Seahawks play on Saturday.

I’m glad I scouted it out, though.

It’s a great place to get a bite and a beer (there’s 96 on tap). It’s got great rooftop views of the strip, shuffleboard, pinball and other games. But the lack of TVs was shocking. They only have three  medium TV’s on the first floor by the bar, and I didn’t see a single one on the top level. 

So BrewDog was a definite “no” for watching sports for us. They do have live music & DJ’s often on the rooftop, so I’ll definitely check that out on a later trip. 

Next, we walked down to MGM Grand to play the Fortune Cup Derby Deluxe horse racing game which we just love to play. We played for about an hour and I was down $10, my brother won about $30 and we had three complimentary Blue Moons while we played.

At 4pm, I wanted to go listen to Country Artist Gabe Walsh followed up by Jason Owens at Losers Bar. It’s a great country bar, with FREE Live music daily, usually 2 artists each day at 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, & 10pm, and almost all of them will do requests. 

Gabe was playing Courtesy of the Red White and Blue by Toby Keith and I just really liked his voice, so sat down, got another Blue Moon, and a gal with some extra seats said pull up a chair so I did. I listened to the rest of his set, then he came over to our table and apparently the gal was a fan of his and was having dinner with him. He took the time to chat with me for a few minutes before leaving. 

Next up was Jason Owens and his wife Rebecca. They were also really good. 

Around 6:30 my brother texted me and wanted to grab dinner as he wasn’t hitting anymore on Fortune Cup. So we decided to try a place we had not eaten at before — Bonanno’s New York Pizzeria inside MGM Grand. I saw on their website they had a meat trio pizza for $26, so I got in line and found out the cost was now $54. At this same time, the man at the front of the line was losing his mind (may have been a little intoxicated) about the prices of the pizza and was just letting everyone behind the counter know what a load of crap it was to be charging that much. 

We decided to get it as we were hungry, & had Resort Credit to use, but then found out they are a separate entity from MGM Properties and we could not use Resort credit there. We still wanted pizza, so we went back to our hotel NYNY & got a whole pepperoni pizza & used resort credit at Sirrocos and then grabbed 4 drinks from the deli next door with our credit, and took pizza up to the room to eat and rest for a bit. 

Pepperoni pizza from Sirrocos at New-York New-York Las Vegas

Around 8pm we decided to go back to Park MGM to play slots and get a couple complimentary drinks, before taking the free tram to Aria and spend about 30 minutes there. My brother played played slots while I searched out for the Lobby Bar to use a MyVegas Reward for a complimentary cocktail (I had not used this reward before but had read that you can pick any of the 4 Specialty Cocktails on there menu which were $18 (a great value reward). So I already knew which one I wanted, but was told those are not available on the reward. So I requested a double Jack on the rocks instead, somewhat disappointed, as I really wanted the specialty cocktail.

But then I met Tom from Minnesota sitting next to me and we started telling Vegas stories and having great a conversation. In fact, it was so great that I lost track of time and forgot my brother was waiting for me at the complete other end of the casino.  Whoops!  So I told Tom I enjoyed our conversation but had to go. 

Next up we wanted to get back on the tram and go to Bellagio and walk through the Conservatory which just opened their newest display only two days prior and was themed Chinese New Year the year of the Rabbit.

I Figured we had about 10 minutes to walk through it and could catch the next Fountain show at 9pm. Conservatory was amazing as always, and is a must see free attraction, as well as the fountain show. So we made it outside just as the fountain show started and we were getting sprayed by all the mist as it was very windy and freezing cold outside. 

The fountain show wasn’t the best as we couldn’t really hear the music. After the show my brother wanted to play some slots back inside Bellagio and just work his way back to Aria, Park MGM, & NYNY for the rest of his evening. My plan was to hit one of my favorite places in Vegas and it was just a minute walk next door to the Cosmopolitan and go to the secret Speakeasy called The Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails for live Rock Band Karaoke (which happens on Tuesday nights, and again offers FREE Live Music every night from approximately. 8pm to 1am/2am) it was supposed to start at 9pm but they were hosting a private event & I was told to come back at 10pm.

So I decided to go up to the food court and get one of my favorite cocktails at the Ghost Donkey Speakeasy — the El Diablo Swizzle — and it was so good. While drinking my cocktail, there were 2 different couples that both were asking if I had any good recommendations for something to do that evening, so I mentioned I was going to the other speakeasy for Karaoke with a live band and invited them all to join me. They all loved that idea and followed me to the Barbershop. 

I have become pretty good friends with the bartender there, Tony,  as we both love a lot of the same metal bands and always have great stories to tell each other. He’s probably one of the top 3 best bartenders in Vegas. 

Well I was disappointed that Tony was off that night, but I was pretty sure I’d see him another night of this trip. I did meet Ian (I think that was his name) and he was awesome too, so it was great meeting him. 

One other thing besides great whisky drinks, they sell my beer Blue Moon on draft 16oz for $9 which is a great price at a FREE Live Music venue. Well the atmosphere was great as always and the band needed it’s first singer, well one of my new friends decided she was going for it & sang “What’s Up?” By 4 Non Blondes & absolutely slayed it, and just one great singer after another and great song choices by everyone, the band says they always have a few duds, but not tonight. 

Then there was a special guest appearance by Bryce Soderburg, vocalist and bassist for the band Lifehouse. He played Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” and was playing while walking across the tops of couches, through the crowd, and wound up on top of the bar. Everyone was going crazy and singing along at the top of their lungs. It was awesome. 

A while later, I saw him standing behind me and I introduced myself and told him that the night I discovered this place his cover band, the Regulators, played and his energy made that one of the most fun nights of my life. I told him that it was that experience that keeps me returning to The Barbershop. 

He was so moved by that, that he invited me over to his VIP couch and poured me a couple of tequilas as we talked music for quite some time. I also met a few other musicians he knew and his buddy Matt.  We were just having a great conversation and realized the lights had come on and it was 2am and closing time! 

After the band finished, I met the Bass player J Aaron Boynton & told him he was pretty awesome on the bass and next thing I know he’s handing me & Bryce a shot of tequila just for my love of music, I guess. 

So I again lost track of time having so much fun, and my phone died, so found out I only had 8 minutes to get back to the tram at Bellagio before it stopped running for the night. 

I thought I could make it, so I hustled all the way up to the station, to see the tram was just arriving! But then I got on and heard the announcement, “this ends our service for the evening.” 

I had to walk all the way back out to Las Vegas Blvd. and take the Deuce Bus back to Park MGM, so I went ahead and got the three day pass for $20. I made my way back to my room to crash out a little after 3am. Such a great first day!

Wednesday January 11th:

We slept in until 10:30am, and decided to use our resort credit to go back to Gonzalez Y Gonzalez at our hotel, New-York, New-York, for lunch. This place has become a favorite of ours. We shared an order of Honey Chipotle Wings, Chicken Enchiladas, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice and two Very Berry Rita’s. 

Very Berry Ritas at Gonzalez Y Gonzalez in Las Vegas

While the food was really good, the Margarita’s were delicious, and, for me, probably a short second behind Nacho Daddy’s. Again, the service was really great! I’m a big believer in karma and felt we needed to leave a very generous tip to get our day started well, so we did. 

Today we’re splitting up and doing our own thing. I was headed across the street to jump on the Deuce Bus and spend the day & night on Fremont Street as I wanted to watch one of my favorite Vegas bands Roxy Gunn Project play at the Sand Dollar Lounge at the Plaza later in the evening.  

My brother was going back out to the casino to gamble for most of the afternoon and evening.

Before I even got to the bus station, I received a text from him with a picture of his $1,008 slot win on a $1 spin. This was literally minutes after our talk about good karma. It would be his biggest hit of the trip, and his best day winding up almost $2K on the day.

I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the Deuce bus made it to Fremont. It’s usually about an hour, but this time it only took 35 minutes. 

The first thing I wanted to do was try and get a high quality whiskey drink after watching a video a few days prior of a guy that found five bars on Fremont that would comp a Makers Mark or a Bulleit Rye instead of the standard Jack Daniel’s or Jim Beam. He said the five bars that would comp a higher quality cocktail as long as you put in at least $20 were the Long Bar at The D, The bar at Golden Gate, and 3 bars at Golden Nugget. Circa’s Mega Bar would not (I even tried later in the evening & he was correct — Jim Beam or Jack). 

So I went to Long Bar at the D first and I put $100 in and was immediately comped a Makers Mark on the rocks (probably a $16 to $18 drink if I had to pay, but it was free) played about 10 hands on $2 Video Blackjack and cashed out even. I left a nice tip and took my comped drink upstairs to play the super old school .25 cent Sigma Derby Horse Racing game.

Sigma Derby-style racing game in Las Vegas

I got $5 in quarters and slow played it while enjoying my cocktail, getting a couple more beers, and having some great conversation with this guy from Canada and another couple sitting next to us. It was a fun time. I won a few games, but eventually lost my $5. 

I noticed it was almost 4pm and one of my favorite Happy Hours was about to start at Cadillac Mexican Kitchen inside Golden Nugget, and timed it perfectly sitting down at the bar right at 4pm. 

I got a $5 frozen margarita (1/2 off) — they are really good! The couple next to me got some chips and salsa and fish tacos for just a couple of dollars. So, they have great prices on bites, too!

As I’m drinking my Margarita, I notice they have the frozen bottle of Fireball sitting in front of me, and I thought it would be great time for some more good karma as back in October I lost my girlfriend to brain cancer. We had only been together a short time but she was the one for me, Fireball was her drink (mine also). 

I texted her best friend and told her I was going to do a shot of Fireball in Angela’s memory and she said do it, and I’ll do one with you from my house. So we did, I won’t lie I could feel her presence with me the entire trip. I really believe her positive energy and spirit kept attracting people to gravitate to me the entire trip. 

I was feeling pretty buzzed around this time and I knew I needed to get some food, but wanted see if I could get a Bulleit Rye at Circa’s Mega Bar. I put $100 into the bar top slot, and as I mentioned above, was denied. So, I got a complimentary Jack on the Rocks, played a few spins, and left a nice tip. 

I played a few more slots and got a complimentary beer, but lost about $25. So next I was off to my favorite Vegas Happy Hour at Pizza Rock for an $8 personal pizza (I got the Ol’Smokey — one of my favorites) and a 32oz PBR for $4. I quickly noticed the PBR’s went up to $5.

Ol’Smokey pizza from Pizza Rock in Las Vegas

I mentioned to the bar tender,  Andre, that I noticed they raised the price on the PBR’s in a totally sarcastic voice. He busted out laughing. We instantly clicked and discovered we both are total metal heads and started telling stories for about 30 minutes. He was a great guy, and I really enjoyed our conversation. 

While I was at Pizza Rock, one of my girlfriend Angela’s best friends, and the mutual friends that were the reason I met Angela, said they saw on Facebook that I was at Pizza Rock and told me I had to go to Hogs & Heifers Saloon. They said Angela would have loved that place. 

So I found out it’s literally right next door so I headed there next. I was greeted with a very rude comment which I was expecting as I was very familiar with this bar. I ordered a PBR and the bar tender, Lex, said, “ok and are you buying me a shot?”  I told her I would buy her and I each a shot of Fireball in Memory of Angela who recently passed away from Cancer. Lex not only did the shot with me, she then bought Angela a shot and placed it on the shelf in memory of her. It was a really emotional moment and such an amazing gesture when she did that, I started crying. Lex came over the bar and gave me a huge hug. I told her that was and will be my favorite memory from this trip. 

I ordered another PBR and was just enjoying all the craziness going on on top of the bar and from other patrons. But it was time to head back to Fremont Street as it was 8pm and I wanted to see at least one Viva Vision show (If you haven’t seen one they are FREE & Amazing, they go every hour on the hour from like 6pm to 1am). The one I saw was Shakira.

Next, I decided I want to get this $1.99 Frozen Margarita I saw they had at the Fremont Hotel/Casino on a YouTube video. So I went to the first bar I saw and asked which bar sells it and they said none of them did (maybe it was inside one of the restaurants). So I just got a frozen Margarita for $7 & decided to go up to Binions and watch the Tony Marques Band (whom I had never heard before). 

I wanted a different view, so I went up and sat at the enclosed, but see-through, bubble that rotates 360 degrees and found myself just rocking out to them just a few songs into their set. They were so good! Country with a Rock Vibe, but cover lots of genres. As I’m rocking out and recording some video I look down and see these 2 gals looking up at me and pointing up at me, they were rocking out also. I acknowledged by waving and went back to videoing the band. Then this elderly gentleman next to me says I think you should go down and introduce yourself to those lady’s — they keep pointing up at you. So I said ok yeah why not. 

I went down and stood right behind them and watched them keep looking up to where I was standing and heard them say, “well where in the hell did he go?” So I instantly said, “looking for someone?” 

They laughed hysterically and we wound up all rocking out to the band until they finished their first set. We exchanged names and hometowns and such, but I only remember they were from Santa Rosa, & Oklahoma City. They asked if I wanted to go inside Circa and get a Tito’s and Soda from the Mega Bar, so I said sure. We all got to know each other a bit and they said, “well come join us for their next set!” I said absolutely as I still had an hour until Roxy Gunn started to play at the Plaza. 

So we went back out as the band played their next set and we just went right back to rocking out, and the whole crowd was just totally rocking out at this point. After that set ended they said, “We know you’re heading to the Plaza for your band, but please come have another Tito’s and Soda with us, and we will try to meet up with you at the Plaza after our band’s last set.” 

So I agreed as I figured I wouldn’t miss much. As we go into Circa they check your ID as it’s 21 & over only. I realize at this moment that I dropped my ID somewhere as it is not in my wallet or any pockets. That is not a good feeling. 

I started panicking and asked the security guy checking ID’s if he found it or if anyone turned one in, as this was the only place I took my ID out at all night. So he call’s security to meet me and says come with me to our office and we can see if anything has been turned in. As soon as I walked in I saw it on the desk. Someone turned it in thank God, but I think Angela was looking out for me on that one.

So I met back up with the gals and told them I got my ID back, so we had our Tito’s & Soda and said it was great meeting each other and said our goodbyes in case they didn’t make it back to the Plaza. They did not, but we all had a great time.

As I entered the Sand Dollar Lounge (another great venue with FREE Live Music) and saw the band going on stage to start their set, I felt bad about how few people turned out to see them. 

They’re such a great band! So they asked for a request or 3 shots a Jameson, and I instantly thought about good Karma as someone just turned my ID in.  I decided to pay it forward and bought them their 3 shots of Jameson and 1 for myself. I gave it to them and they said it was awesome and we all said cheers and took them together. 

Nobody was really throwing out requests so I threw out my favorites that I have heard them play which were Zombie by Cranberries, Barracuda by Heart, and Bring Me To Life by Evanescence. After their first set, they all came over to my table and we all chatted for a while and they asked if I had another request. I was thinking Nutshell by Alice In Chains and Roxy says, “We’ll we only play two Alice In Chains Songs —  Man in the Box and Nutshell so you’re in luck. We would be honored to play Nutshell as we all love that song and nobody ever requests it.”

So they played a great cover of it. I stayed for a few more songs then decided to get back on the Deuce and I might be able to catch Tony behind the bar at the Barbershop. I got off at the Cosmopolitan around 1am and walked in to see the band had just finished and Tony was not behind the bar, but Ian was again so we chatted for a few, got a Kona draft (as they no longer had Blue Moon) in a to-go cup and said good night to Ian. I  knew I had 15 minutes until the next bus to finish my beer and call it a night.

I made it to bed around 2am.

Thursday January 12th:

I slept in until about 10am, and we decided to go over and get the Brunch Buffet at Excalibur & used Resort Credit. It’s a very good and underrated buffet for just under $30 

We had some Brisket, and other Sausages, Mac N Cheese, pizza, pineapple, cantaloupe bacon and eggs, Cinnamon Rolls, orange chicken, Pie, and Ice Cream (Meat Carving Station, Omelet Station, & Desert selection are big positives).

We didn’t have anything planned until dinner so we decided to play slots for awhile at Excalibur, Luxor ,and Mandalay Bay. After about an hour and a half, we both weren’t really winning anything, so I decided to go back to our room and chill out and relax in the Jacuzzi. 

My brother headed back to play the ponies at MGM Grand and hit a 90 to 1 long shot and won $90, it was almost 3pm and I remembered Gabe Walsh would be starting to play at Losers Bar and thought I’d go back and request a couple songs and hang out there until dinner. 

He was just about to start his set and saw me walk in, and he said, “Hey man thanks for coming back to hear me play! It means a lot,” and asked if there were any songs I wanted him to play. 

I asked if he could play “Forever After All” by Luke Combs and he said, “Absolutely.” I told him that it would mean the world to me as that was me and my girlfriend, Angela’s, song and that she just recently passed away with brain cancer. 

He was deeply moved, and said I will play it and dedicate it to Angela. He played it and got a standing ovation, I was very emotional as that’s the first time I’ve heard that song live since her passing. It is another amazing memory I will cherish forever. 

I also requested “Are You One of Those Girls?” by Lee Brice, which Gabe played and he did them justice. So time flew by, I thanked Gabe for dedicating the song to Angela and he just said,  “I could tell by the emotion on your face while I played it she meant the world to you, it was my honor.”

I told Gabe goodbye as I had to run. I was headed to meet my brother for dinner at 5 at Tom’s Urban. I thought it would be the perfect spot right before I take my brother to his first NHL Game (my Christmas present to him). It would be our first Golden Knights game. 

I thought beers would be super expensive in the arena (which they were $18), so I figured I would use a MyVegas Reward for BOGO 40oz Tom Size Beers ($22 Savings) at dinner and should be feeling great after 80oz going straight into the game. So two Blue Moons it was! 

I got the Nashville Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich w/Loaded Tots and my brother got the Bacon Mac N Cheese, and we asked the staff if they could put the Seattle Kraken V’s Boston Bruin game on and they not only put it on one tv, but made sure each of us could see it from each direction we were facing and declined to change one of the TV’s when someone wanted to watch something else. I thought that was great. The food was so good. 80oz of Blue Moon hit me perfectly.

Kraken beat the best team in the NHL in Boston. 

I was so pumped for the Knights game. The atmosphere outside and inside that arena is something so special. If you’re a hockey fan, you need to attend a game to experience it, It doesn’t matter if your team is playing or not. 

There are all kinds of great spots to grab a beer right inside or outside NYNY, a live DJ outside the arena, a drum line with the team mascot, showgirls, & cheer leaders all parading through NYNY and into and through arena. 

The lights, music, and atmosphere is like playing Hockey in a nightclub. We had so much fun we are already planning a trip to come back and see our Kraken play the Knights in April. It was a great game with two good fights and the Knights beat the Panthers 4-2! 

After the game, I was pumped up! I was contemplating heading to Town Square for Lady’s night at Stoney’s Rockin Country bar for line dancing and bull riding, Seeing DJ Party Favor at Hakkasan, or some more live music at the Barbershop. 

I decided on the Barbershop at Cosmo thinking, “Ok, Tony has to be working tonight.” My brother was going to casino hop for the night. 

There was a bit of a line at the Barbershop for another band I was unfamiliar with — an all request band called Live Music Society. I finally got in and the place was at capacity and again — no Tony behind the bar. 

The Barbershop cuts, speakeasy, and music venue at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

So I got a beer and noticed the guitarist, Andy, for my favorite Vegas party band — Mr. & Mrs. Smith — was playing with this band now. The first couple song requests weren’t really my style and weren’t getting anyone too excited. So I looked at their song list and two stuck out for me that I thought could raise the energy level up quite a few notches. So I requested “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, and the whole band said, “nice choice” and later told me that song was the perfect choice to set the tone for the remainder of the night. 

And boy did it. 

Next was Zombie by Cranberries, Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine, 7 Nation Army by Whitestripes, and ending with Dream On by Aerosmith. The place was Rockin. 

Well it closed it down again and I chatted with Andy, the guitarist, and the drummer for a bit, and headed out to catch the bus and go back to NYNY. I heard the dueling pianos were still going at the Bar at Times Square, so I sat down and listened to them play their last 3 songs. 

I then played a few slots — winning a little bit — before heading up to bed at about 3:30am 

Friday January 13th

We woke up around 10am, and wanted some pasta, so we decided to go to Buca di Beppo’s at Excalibur for lunch. Neither of us have ever eaten there and we used Resort Credit.

I got the Baked Ziti, my brother got the lasagna, and we shared the Garlic Cheesy Bread. The portions were huge and looked so good, but we both agreed that the flavor wasn’t great. The Cheesy Bread was dry and pretty hard and not very good at all. We both agreed we probably wouldn’t go back other than to get their Colossal Brownie Sundae that was so good. I could only finish 1/2 of mine but took it to go to give to a homeless man with a dog we passed on our walk to Excalibur. 

The Baked Ziti at Buca di Beppo Las Vegas

After lunch, I wanted to head down to my favorite place in Vegas — the Harrah’s Carnaval Court Bar. My brother was going to go back and use the jacuzzi in the room, make some sports bets, and gamble until we planned on meeting up for dinner at 5pm. So I started walking to the bus stop at MGM Grand and unfortunately never saw the homeless man with the dog, nor any other homeless person before I arrived at Carnaval Court. 

It was great to see my friends Flippy, Jamie, Scott, & Darren had just opened and they were all happy to see me.  I gave Flippy my Baked Ziti leftovers and he was pretty excited about that. I got a great picture of the four of them, had a Blue Moon, and caught up with them for a bit. 

They told me that The Whip It’s would be playing in about an hour & a half (one of the best bands in Vegas). I said, “perfect see you guys back here then.” 

I decided to use my 3rd & last MyVegas Premium Reward for Complimentary entry to Madam Tussauds Wax Museum at the Venetian (A savings of $37). I did a quick walk through to see if there was anything new, as I’ve been through it a couple times. It’s always very cool and I would recommend it if you haven’t been before. I still had an hour or so before The Whip It’s played, so I went into the Venetian to play one of my favorite slots — National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, but it was either removed or moved from where it used to be and I never found it. So that was a bummer. 

I lost $100 on slots and decided to go play slots at Casino Royale. I was down another $40, but noticed the minor progressive on Deluxe Money Storm had to hit by $20 and was $19.94 so I had to do no more than six spins at .50 to hit the $20 progressive. So no brainer. Well, two spins later, I hit the Bonus round and won $80. Then, two spins after that I hit the $20 progressive. So I was happy to be only down $40 rather than $140. 

By now it was time to go back to watch The Whip It’s. The band had already started when I arrived and I was surprised to see it was pretty full for a somewhat cold chilly day. I found the last seat at the bar and got myself another Blue Moon.

I wound up talking to the couple beside me from Texas — John and his wife Jamie — and we all just became instant friends and had a great time conversing throughout the band’s first set. 

It was a few songs into set two when Flippy made it all the way around the Bar with a giant stack of bottles balanced on his forehead which means free shots for everyone. So I tipped him $5 and he poured about 5 shots down my throat. The bar was getting pretty wild at this point with more and more people just rocking out in front of the stage — especially these two guys that reminded me of me and my friend many years ago. I was feeling it and went down close to the stage to shoot some video and introduced myself to the two guys — Quinten & Cliff from Michigan. 

We quickly exchanged Facebook info and were instantly friends. The three of us were rocking out and singing along as loud as we could for the next few songs, and it seemed to have gotten the energy level up pretty quick as soon there were about 50 of us all singing and dancing and just having a great time (especially for 4pm — it seemed more like an 11pm crowd). 

I went back up to the bar after they finished the second set to talk with all my bartender buds and the couple from Texas. I had until about 4:30pm until I had to get over to Caesars and catch a bus back to NYNY to meet back up with my brother. The plan was then to take the tram to Luxor for 5pm reservations at Public House. 

We arrived at 4:59 and saw a pretty long line waiting for seating, so we were glad we made reservations and we were seated immediately. We used resort credit for the meal, but I also recommend using the MyVegas Reward for the — spend $40 get $20 off — if possible. 

My brother got the Standard Burger with Loaded Cheese Fries and a strawberry shake. I got one of my favorite burgers anywhere — the Big Texan Burger — with Fries and a 23oz Angry Orchard as they were out of Shock Top (and we found out they changed their Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm to Reverse Happy from 10pm to Close so Beers weren’t discounted).

They have a really good Happy hour, so if you need some appetizers and a beer after 10pm, hit them up. 

This was probably our favorite meal of the trip. The burgers we’re terrific, the loaded Cheese Fries were so good, and so were the Shakes and Hard Cider (all their beers are chilled to perfection every time I go there). It’s a great spot to watch sports with three big screens and lots of others. 

After dinner, I was headed back to Carnaval Court to watch Mr. & Mrs. Smith —  my favorite party band — and knew it was going to be a really great night just from the atmosphere earlier. 

Like usual, my bro was off to casino hop and gamble for the night. So I jumped back on the tram to Excalibur, crossed over to MGM and took the Deuce back to Harrahs. As I walked back down to the bar, I was happy to see I made it back before shift change. I always have great conversations and love their antics behind the bar. 

I also noticed my friend Gordon, whom I met there in August last year, was sitting at the bar. I really enjoyed all his stories and I re-introduced myself and he remembered me and we just hit it off —  just like last time. The stories flowed and it was so awesome to see him again. What a great Guy! (He’s been going there as long as I have — 25 years). 

Then it was time for Shift change, so we said our goodbyes and I got some great pics with the guys. Then it was Adam & Rene on Night shift and they are just awesome as well! 

Finally, Mr. & Mrs. Smith came on stage and it was on, I had a couple of drinks as the crowd started filing back in and I saw Cliff & Quinten were back and we picked right back up where we left off at 4pm. 

It was just a super fun night of dancing and singing along and I met a wedding party group from California and we all became friends pretty quick. Everyone was buying each other shots and drinks — it was such a great time. 

Well, around 1am, Mr. & Mrs. Smith were done so I decided I would go back to the Barbershop to hopefully catch Tony behind the bar (4th time had to be the charm). I also wanted to see Hard Rock cover band Original Chaos play for an hour or so.

Well I got right in line and could hear the band was still playing inside, so I was happy about that. Once inside, I instantly saw Tony was working and wedged myself between some people at the extremely crowded bar. Tony turned around and, after he saw me, got a huge smile on his face and gave me a welcoming hug. 

He said he was sorry, but couldn’t pour my usual Blue Moon and asked if I wanted a Kona draft instead. I told him that was fine and went to hand him cash and he told me to put my money away — the beer’s on him tonight. 

I’ve never had that happen before, so I thanked him and told him I was going to go up by the stage and that I’d be back to talk once the band was done. 

I was digging the setlist — Blink 182, Def Leopard, Dropkick Murphy’s, AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, and they finished with Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. The energy and atmosphere there was amazing like always. I met the band and caught up with Ziggy the sound & light guy (he is amazing on the boards and a great dude). Then I got to catch up with Tony and talk some metal music before finally closing the bar down at 2:30am.  

I got on the Deuce right outside and got back to NYNY within minutes and was hoping the Center Bar would be hopping with a live DJ, but I discovered there was no DJ and it was pretty dead. 

But I did hear music coming from the Coyote Ugly Saloon upstairs, so I wandered up there and grabbed a beer and met some gals from Edmonton that were in town to watch the Oilers play the Golden Knights. So we talked Hockey and danced until the bar closed at 3:30am. We said our good nights and went to bed.

Saturday January 14th:

We were up again around 10:30am and decided to try another new place for lunch — The Crack Shack right outside Park MGM. We headed over shortly after 11am, when they opened, and discovered the line was already out the door. So, I knew it must be good. 

I got the California Drip w/Shack Fries & Strawberry Shake, my bro got the same except a Double Clucker. The food was so good and so filling. One sandwich can easily be shared (I only finished half, and could only finish half of a half the next day). We’ll definitely be back. 

A meal at Crack Shack Las Vegas

After lunch, we put our leftovers in the room and started to get our drink on while gambling — anxiously awaiting our Seahawks vs 49ers 1:30 Kickoff. I won $60 on the first slot I sat down on and got a couple of complimentary Blue Moons.

My brother was up about $100 on video Roulette and also had 3 complimentary Rum & Cokes. There was a great view of the Hawks game on the TV right next to the video Roulette, so we wound up watching the entire first half while playing video roulette slowly winning more & more and many more complimentary cocktails. 

We started with a $5 tip then $1 or $2 per drink and we were served or asked if we needed another drink about every 15 minutes or less (the cocktail servers are awesome at NYNY, at least I’ve always had fast great service). 

As halftime neared, we had hit quite a losing streak but were both still up about $75 each. Plus, we’d definitely got our money’s worth of comped drinks. We decided to get another round of comped drinks to take up to our room to watch the 2nd half. This way we could chill in the jacuzzi and enjoy the huge tv in the room. Plus, we needed to start packing up our things for Sunday checkout. 

After our Hawks were miraculously leading at the half, the 2nd half was a disaster and our Hawks had been eliminated from the playoffs. We still had 40 minutes until our dinner reservations at Tap Sports Bar at Excalibur (we made our reservation at exactly 5:15 for kickoff between Chargers and Jaguars). So, we decided to play slots at Excalibur until our reservation. 

As we made the walk, it was pretty nasty outside — steady rain and wind. I knew the rain would put a damper on the atmosphere at my after dinner destination — the Carnaval Court Bar. 

Once inside Excalibur, we each won a tiny amount. We got to Tap Sports Bar and they had a great view of the big screen for us just as I had asked for in the reservation. So we Used the last of our Resort Credit here and decided to order the Excalibur Loaded Nachos to share / Steak, Black Beans, Jalapeños, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Pico & Cheese Sauce & the Turtle Sundae for Dessert. We just got Mt. Dew for some caffeine as we both were dragging ass. 

Turtle Sundae at Tap Sports Bar in Excalibur Las Vegas

Their nachos were pretty decent, but their menu said $4 to add chicken so we asked them to add chicken also. But when it arrived, it was just chicken and no steak (which is why we ordered it to begin with — but whatever — they didn’t charge us for the add on just substituted the meats). But the Turtle Sundae was really really good. I’m pretty sure we will try this place again in the future. 

Well, it’s 24-0 Chargers and Jaguars just turned the ball over for a 5th time. This game’s over, right? So I headed out to catch the Deuce at Tropicana to head to Carnaval Court in hopes to catch the boys behind the bar before they ended their shift. That’s been my Vegas ritual for some time to say goodbye to Flippy the night before or day of my flight home. 

My brother was going back to do his thing and casino hop for the night. I got down to Harrahs with about 20 minutes to spare to see that Flippy, Jamie, & Scott were all still there. And, because of the rain, The Whip Its had just finished playing and there were only about 12 people left at the bar. But I was happy to see my friend Gordon was one of them, and Jamie & John the couple from Texas were two of the others. 

It was great to see all of them again and I also met another couple — Tom & Melissa from Cleveland. We were all having some great conversations and stories with all the bartenders and Tom From Cleveland bought two buckets of Coors Lights and generously offered everyone one. 

So we then all realized the Jaguars had climbed back into the game and were within 10 points with the 4th quarter remaining. At this time, Gordon had to get to bed for an early flight. Me & Flippy gave each other a hug goodbye, took our ritual selfie, and said goodbye to Scott & Jamie as well (“until the next time guys,” as we always say). 

Then, a group of Jaguars fans came in and we were on pins and needles right until the last second Field Goal for the Jaguars winning in, what I believe, was the 3rd or 4th biggest comeback in NFL history. The Jaguars fans along with everyone at the bar were cheering and we were all happy for the Jags fans.

Well it was time for the next band to come on to play to the three of us that were still there — me, the couple from Cleveland, and Adam & Rene behind the bar. But as soon as Mr. & Mrs. Smith came on stage and started playing, about 30 people quickly filed in.

A nice couple from California sat down next to me and we started talking and became quick friends. Shortly after they sat down, I noticed a fellow Hawks fan coming in with two buddies, so I yell out “Go Hawks!” and the dude comes over and we start talking about the game earlier and just talking everything Seahawks. His name was Rob and apaprently used to live near me, but lives in Palm Springs now. 

He says, “You’re a great guy — let’s do a shot.” So I say, “Ok let’s do a shot of Fireball. It would mean alot to me.”

So we get our shots and I get my cash out and Rob says it’s on him. Wow! Another awesome gesture from a person I just met. So we do the shot and I thanked him and he asked me why I said it would mean a lot. I told him of my Girlfriend’s Passing from Cancer in October and told him Fireball was her drink, and told him she was a die hard Seahawk fan and showed him a picture of us decked out in our a Seahawk gear from a year ago. 

He was so moved he told me sorry for your loss and gave me a hug. Rob then said, “We’re all going to do a shot of fireball on me in Memory of Matt’s girlfriend Angela who recently passed away from cancer,” and him and his two buddies and the couple from San Diego all said cheers to Angela and we all took our shot, & I captured it all on video. 

We all exchanged info and became friends, and this was just another amazing moment I will cherish forever. So I thanked them all and had to excuse myself as I needed to catch the Deuce to Resorts World to close out the trip with an EPIC birthday celebration for one of the best DJ’s in the world  — Tiesto (whom is one of my favorites and I had not seen him in person before) at Zouk Nightclub.

I use No Cover Nightclubs online to get on Free Guest List, I usually just need to be in line before 11pm. The reason I choose Zouk Nightclub is that they’re the only Nightclub I know of that offers a Free Guest List for men without needing an even number of more females to accompany you. 

So I arrived at Zouk at 9:45 and got in the Guest List line which was already a mile long. Two hours later I was finally inside and found out why it took so long to get in: this club was definitely at max capacity. But the warm up DJ was great and played until about 1:30. 

Finally it was time for Tiesto and he was amazing. The club just went off. About an hour later, a group from Houston were all dancing beside me and one of the guys, Christian, asked if I could take a few pictures of them. I said, “of course,” and was thanked. 

A few minutes later, him and his friend Kim came back with shots of Tequila and Kim handed me one. I told them, “You didn’t have to do that!” But he say they did it because they thought I was a great guy and wanted to get me a shot. That was pretty awesome. 

Then they all invited me to be a part of their crew for the rest of the night. So we exchanged info and all became friends. after an amazing night of music and dancing, I excused myself, thanked my new friends from Houston for their awesomeness, and headed for the bus at 3:45am.

As I walked, unaware of exactly where the next Deuce Pick up location was, I found one that didn’t have the machines to purchase the tickets but had two gals waiting for the bus. Well I found out they just got to Vegas and they had never been before and were hoping I knew if it was the right spot. I told them I didn’t think so, so we got two choices — we can walk down to Fashion Show Mall where I know there’s a spot to get on the Deuce, or we can wait here until a bus either stops and picks us up, or drives past us. 

So we decided to stay put. They asked me where I was from and I told them I was from Seattle. They tell me they are from a small farming town in Indiana called Kendallville and said, “I’m positive you’ve never heard of it.” I said, “You won’t believe this, but my dad is from Kendallville!”

They couldn’t believe it, so we instantly had that cool connection and I proceeded to give them some tips on what to see and do in the short time they were going to be in town. At this point, the Deuce bus goes blowing right by us (so we learned if there is no machine to purchase tickets you’re not at the right bus stop) and they decided to walk back to Circus Circus as I told them there wouldn’t be anything really happening at 4am on the strip anyways, 

They said, “Thank you so much for all your helpful info and Goodnight,” so I wound up walking down to Fashion Show Mall and caught the next bus back to NYNY. 

I was laid wide awake in bed until about 5:30 just thinking about what an amazing trip this was — one of — if not the best trip I’ve ever have.

Sunday January 15th: 

We woke up at 9:30 and checked out at 10am. It was a quick cab ride back to the airport. We got through security in no time and had about an hour and a half until boarding, so we played some slots in our terminal with my brother winning about $120.

We decided to take the tram to the other side of the airport and see what slots they had over there. I saw the Chili’s sign which got me so excited as I absolutely love their Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers and only get to have them about once a year as the nearest Chili’s is five hours from my house. So I told my brother that I had to get some. He continued to play slots and, after I got my Chili’s, he had won another $50, so it was an awesome way to end the trip!

My brother was up about $3k for the trip, I was down about $125/$150

I’m sorry this summary was sooooooooooo long, but I just started typing and decided to see where it would end, lol. I hope you enjoyed the read and can take something from my summary on how to make your trip less expensive and enjoyable. Thanks for taking the time to read it! 

On a side note, I returned home to discover today — Monday — I finished in 2nd Place in our two local casino’s NFL season-long Pick ‘Em Contest. I won $1,000 at each casino — $2,000 in total. My biggest win in anything my whole life was $725 last summer on a slot machine. I’m telling you Karma is real. 

Until the next time, Vegas!