2:45am: What the hell was I thinking? 

 

In the last couple of days leading up to my big Vegas trip of 2023, I started to realize just how ambitious I had been with our flight out of Kansas City. 

 

I’d have to be awake somewhere around 3am to pull it off. The advantage was a very full day in Vegas, but… for someone who’s typically not in bed until midnight, a 3 am “call time” was a bit wild. 

 

That said, I had sent my dad my bootleg recording of the 360 Vegas podcast opening a couple of days before our departure (You know it — “The day after tomorrow gentlemen, we’ll be in Las Vegas…”). I had packed and triple-checked my list. I read my son his Las Vegas board book and kissed my wife goodbye. 

 

Let the journey begin. 

 

I picked my dad up from my parent’s condo right around 3:30. I forgot how big golf clubs are. I had agreed to take them and deal with checking them in at the airport. Thankfully, they fit in my Mustang and we were off. 

 

I had planned on playing him some Vegas podcasts on the way. He had planned on playing some music he selected (Maroon 5 — to get us excited for the show). Neither really panned out as we navigated our way to the airport and just chatted away. 

 

Correction: I chatted his ear off about all things Las Vegas and he tried to drink from the firehose. This trend would continue until…

 

Well, it’s still happening today. 

 

The new Kansas City airport is pretty swell — despite the fact there’s not a single Starbucks in the joint. My dad dropped me at the door to check our bags and he went to park the car at my brother-in-law’s place of employment, the rental car facility. This means free parking, but a bit of some extra logistics work. 

 

I made the stereotypical mistake of thinking the TSA pre-check lane was the lane for everyone, and so I took a seat while I waited for him to return. What’s the rush? There was hardly anyone waiting in line.

 

Then I got a somewhat panicked text from him that said he wasn’t going to try and find me but instead just, “Jump in this crazy line.” 

 

What?! 

 

I stepped out a little further to see one of the longest TSA lines I’d ever experienced in person. I ran to join him and it wasn’t all too bad. In my desire to avoid the stress of worrying about missing my flight, we had arrived with plenty of time. 

 

We passed through, two at a time, a dog sniffing area, which I’d never seen before. Once through security, we started the splurge with a Cinnabon. I’d not had a Cinnabon in years and had recently been thinking about getting one as my in-laws moved right near a big location. So it was perfect timing and rather enjoyable. 

 

The flight was one of the smoothest I’ve experienced in a minute. No turbulence, great company, good times, and plenty of excitement.

 

7:30am: Arrive in Las Vegas 

 

We went straight for Cosmo via Uber and were too early to even put our name in for check-in (it was like 7:45). 

 

So, we checked out bags with the bell service and scurried our way over to Eggslut. My dad wasn’t that hungry (he was still nibbling away on his Cinnabon hardly an hour before we landed), but I managed to convince him that he couldn’t simply share my hashbrowns. He’d thank me later. 

 

According to him, he was game to try, as an entree, anything I decided he might like. He also said I could have a few bits. 

 

Now was the time to get The Slut. It’s a bit intimidating and I wasn’t sure if I’d be into it. I got the Fairfax sandwich and hashbrowns and ordered him hashbrowns as well. 

 

This early, the line wasn’t too intimidating and we were also able to find a table fairly easily. He found a great spot in the sort of “Alice in Wonderland” feeling area nearby and took a call while I waited for food. 

 

Once I had it, I began setting some things up on the table while he finished his call. I took a few pictures for the Las Vegas merch brand and, when he was still on the call, I started eating and he wasn’t far behind. 

 

I started with a bite of his Slut. It blew my mind. A bit of an underdone egg for me, but I was going for it. My eyes popped. 

 

He dug into a hashbrown and his eyes popped as well. 

 

 

We enjoyed the meal (ate every last bit) and he thanked me later for pushing him to get the full experience. 

 

We gambled a bit, and I don’t remember for certain, but I’m assuming I started on my Top Dollar machine towards the front of the casino. We were $9 down after a bit of a “dip our toes in the water” sort of session. 

We went back to the desk and officially “checked in,” though it was still too early to get a room. I did mention to the woman that I was trying to impress my dad for his first time in Vegas. I didn’t try to do the “$20 trick” (It would need to be $50 at Cosmo anyways and $50s are bad luck in Vegas!). I was just super friendly and passionate and I think it paid off… 

 

So we were checked in (with no room keys or assignment) and off to see the Fabulous Welcome to Las Vegas Sign. 

 

Despite suffering from the Vegas bug (I’ve got it real bad) for a number of years now, I’ve never actually visited the sign in person. I hear that this trait is more common than you’d think. 

 

It was a quick Uber there and, before we knew it, we were getting out of the car onto the hot pavement of the parking lot. Greeted, of course, by an unassuming white Ford Fusion parked in the first handicapped space with a door open and a very tan… ‘Elvis’ sitting inside. 

 

I quickly saw how you could wait in the center line and have the unsanctioned photo taker (I hesitate to call him a photographer… but I suppose I will from here on out) get a good snapshot of you and your group. But I also knew you could poke around to one of the sides for a less-than-optimal view but with instant access. I was rather prepared for this whole scene. 

 

 

We opted for the center line and it wasn’t all that bad of a wait. However, as we got closer to the front, there was some disgruntledness between the gentlemen taking the photos and various people around the sides that would aggressively step into the shot to get a good photo — despite not having waited in line (even though, again, it’s “unofficial.” ) 

 

He was pretty aggressive, which, to stake your spot as the day’s photographer (which I’m assuming is just whoever gets there first and doesn’t back down), you probably have to be. 

 

Then, as it came to be our turn, things kind of started to boil over. There was a European family (German, perhaps?) that came around the side and basically stood right in the center of the sign right where we should “rightfully” be. 

 

The photographer was fairly aggressively trying to stop them and kept yelling that there was a line. 

 

My dad was not having it. He pretty much dragged me by the hand to join their photo. 

 

“We’ll be in your photo!” he said. He would not let me leave. So every photo they took had us standing with them. 

 

There were a few words exchanged — but nothing too extreme as the language barrier seemed to prevent folks from getting in any real jabs that the other party understood. 

 

Anyways, somewhere… somewhere out there is a family with a great story and two random guys in their photos at the Las Vegas sign. 

 

It was horrifying. It was hilarious. It was satisfying. It was… very Vegas. 

 

After our turn, we moved around to one of the sides and I took a few product shots. We looked at the historical marker for a bit and just took in the moment. 

 

From the sign, we crossed to the sidewalk adjacent to the private jet and Maverick Helicopter area of the airport. I’ve seen Steven of Not Leaving Las Vegas do it a 100 times, so I knew what to expect. 

 

I waffled a bit and ran back to get just a few more product shots I had forgotten. It had taken this long to get there, so might as well spend 10 more minutes to do it right. 

 

Then, we went to the Harley Davidson. I could’ve used some water and energy, but from the condition of the signs on the outside, I could tell the cafe they advertised had long ago gone the way of the Riviera

 

We enjoyed taking pictures inside at the staged Harley and looking around at all of the cool merch. I went in really wanting a Las Vegas Harley Davidson shirt — assuming they’d have something pretty awesome. 

 

 

They had lots of great options, but it was difficult to find one that had both the design and fabric quality I preferred. I understand their pain as I’ve learned the difficulties involved in certain kinds of printing for specific designs and fabrics. But trust me… I promise to always have super-soft Las Vegas shirts in our store. 

 

We were helped by a middle-aged woman, a bit weathered, and who simply had the… Harley Davidson look. You’re imagining a tough, fun, no-nonsense woman who’d kick someone’s ass if they looked at her friend wrong, right? Right. 

 

We must have pulled out six or seven meticulously-folded shirts to try and find the right option. The stacks of shirts didn’t quite properly line up with the designs they displayed above. 

 

But, in the end, we found some great options and went on our way. 

 

Now, the next part I was really excited about because my dad is a bit of a pinball wizard. 

 

Yes, we continued our walk down to the Pinball Hall of Fame. I noted the “ruins” of the Dream project. I’ve seen pictures and video, but somehow it was more lame than I anticipated. 

 

All I could really think about was how they promised the project would only be stalled for a few weeks but we all knew better. It’s the epitome of the classic, “Summer Hiatus” Tim Dressen of Five Hundy by Midnight always refers to. 

 

The hall of fame sign? Awesome. The hall of fame exterior? Just as I anticipated. 

 

The inside of the hall of fame? It was both better and worse than expected. 

 

It was fairly bland, but I was aware it would be. 

 

The amount and variety of pinball machines really impressed me, though. 

 

The vast number of out-of-order machines and the barely-above-lukewarm drink machine disappointed me. 

 

The service, which I was warned about, shocked me. I was warned but not prepared. More on that in a second… 

 

We got our quarters and enjoyed some machines. They were all just 50 cents or maybe 75 cents. Great deals. 

 

It became immediately evident, however, that I had zero skill with pinball. None. Not a fraction. Not a smidge. 

 

My dad was amazing and tried to teach me a few things. Well, he did teach me a few things because, by the end, I even managed to hit the ball with the little flipper things a few times.

Okay, I wasn’t that bad, but it’s also not that far off from an accurate description.  

 

As I remember, we played The Simpsons, South Park, Ford Mustang, Wheel of Fortune (I think I just stick to the slot machine versions, thank you very much) and other themed machines while a large, school-aged group ran about. 

 

We had a fine time. I’m not sure it was as exciting as I hoped. I suspect my dad had more fun, but I was kind of over it fairly quickly. That said, I wanted my dad to experience as much as possible despite the struggle to find machines that were both interesting and working. 

 

At one point, my dad put coins in a machine and it malfunctioned. I was ready to just move on to the next machine (heck, I was ready to lose $400 that night on slots), but my dad — being the ever-frugal man that he is — was not. 

 

He left his bottled water (closed) on the machine and went to the desk behind us to wait on someone to help. I stood there with my lukewarm energy drink in hand. 

 

As I waited patiently, a grumpy older woman in tight jeans and a bland khaki shirt ran over to me and yelled, “NO DRINKS ON THE MACHINE!!!”

 

And I don’t mean she said to this paying customer, “No drinks on the machine, please”, as a normal person would the first time they saw someone they suspected was breaking a rule. She YELLED it in the nastiest, drill-sargentist, bitchiest voice I’ve ever heard. 

 

I just stared at her. 

 

“IS THAT YOUR DRINK?!?!” I looked over and noticed my dad’s closed bottle of water and just then my dad came over and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, that’s mine.” 

 

“NO DRINKS ON MACHINES!” she snapped at him. 

 

He apologized and asked her for assistance with the quarters he had entered into the machine.

 

She proceeded to angrily approach the machine and yell some sort of nonsense about how to work it and, to her credit, did make it work almost instantly. 

 

Meanwhile, I haven’t said a word as I was almost literally biting my tongue. 

 

I’m sure a million thoughts passed through my mind, but the only one I remember was one I was milliseconds from saying, which was on the more polite side of my thoughts — ”Wow, no one ever taught you basic human communication skills did they?” 

 

My dad thought the whole thing was… funny (maybe?) and even said that I must easily get flustered. This kind of enraged me a bit more because… I wasn’t flustered as much as I was shocked that someone would talk to us that way so instantaneously. 

 

Now, maybe I have more of a problem with authority than I realize. But I expect to be treated with respect. I always lead with kindness and go above and beyond not to hurt people’s feelings. 

 

But I was not flustered as much as I was enraged and at the edge of causing a major fucking scene. I was outraged. 

 

I had heard stories (and if you read the reviews, you’ll see what I mean), but this was worse than I expected. 

 

I went on to see her running around bitching at employees and at parents not watching their kids, etc. What a miserable woman to be around. And this, apparently, is an everyday occurrence. How could anyone work there? I imagine she has a high turnover rate which just further spirals her into a bad mood.

 

I’ve come to realize that this woman, who was clearly in charge with her husband(?), had probably been part of turning this hall of fame into what it is today. It’s been around for a long time (in other, smaller locations) and is a non-profit effort (I believe) and clearly a labor of love. Probably hers. 

 

But if that’s her way of lovin’, I don’t want any.

 

Every day, she sees people coming in and treating machines with a lack of respect. She sees kids running and screaming in a place that she calls a “hall of fame.” 

 

But it is a room full of playable pinball machines. It is a place of fun (I thought). 

 

I’m sorry people are so disrespectful, but maybe don’t allow kids if this place is so sacred? Maybe don’t make all of the machines playable? 

 

And, most importantly, don’t assume that everyone is there to do harm. 

 

 

We could not have been more respectful. I didn’t want to tilt the machines or press buttons too hard in fear of risking damage. The whole damn time I had been almost literally tip-toeing around the place. I love Vegas history and this is a part of it. So to be treated like I gallivanted in there with no respect for what they’ve built, the history of this great city… I just couldn’t stand it. 

 

She went from zero to 100(thousand) in a split of a second. 

 

I won’t be back and I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to go either. I’d rather invest my money and time and recommendations on true gems like the Neon Museum. 

 

My dad didn’t seem that phased, but I was shaking and ready to get out of that place. I don’t plan on spending another dime there. 

 

I’m redacting a line here about the lawsuit with the Dream project, so just look that up if you’d like. Oh look, I did it for you. You can guess what my thoughts are. 

Good riddance. 

Noon: The Horseshoe and Dirt Dog 

 

From the Pinball Hall of Fame we took an Uber to The Horseshoe. Well, our real goal was to get to Dirt Dog. 

 

I’d been bragging on Dirt Dog to my dad for likely well over a year. We were able to find a high-top table right outside the pickup window which offered a little relief from the heat (especially when the overhead mister fans turned on), but it was still pretty uncomfortable. 

 

Though the heat definitely detracted from the experience (nothing like eating slightly spicy food while you’re already sweating in the 110 degree heat!), I really loved the food. I think my dad was impressed. Perhaps more spicy than he prefers. 

 

We both got the chili dog and dirty esquite. My dad got a sprite and returned it because it was flat. They didn’t seem to give him any trouble about it, so that’s nice. 

 

Overall, it was perhaps not as earth-shatteringly amazing as I remembered, but I think it was mostly the heat’s fault. 

 

After Dirt Dog, we went on a tour of The Horseshoe and I gave him an overview of the Bally’s branding change and some of the things that have been updated. 

 

The place, though not unrecognizably different by any means, does seem fresher (amazing what new carpet can do) and perhaps more inviting. There’s still something I like about this property. It’s nice enough, but still a bit old school and smokey. 

 

We toured the new arcade area. It wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be. It was definitely overrun with kids (which I mean, duh… especially since it was too early for the bar portion to even be open) and smaller than I expected. 

 

We poked our head in The Twilight Zone mini golf experience. I kind of knew this wasn’t going to be all that impressive, so it pretty much met my expectations. We were ready to get towards the Cosmo to check in or I would have pushed harder to play a round (because it still seemed like fun and, more importantly, was air conditioned fun). 

 

We walked by the slushy place I’ve pointed out in past blog posts. They finally changed it to a Purple Zebra (I believe). 

 

Things are constantly changing in Vegas and I was kind of surprised the old branding lasted that long. But that’s just it… it’s pretty much the same thing as always with some fresh paint and a new sign. 

 

It’s an important part of my Vegas history and I’m excited to see that it’s still there in some form. 

 

To avoid the heat as much as possible, we walked through the connection between Horseshoe and Paris. 

 

We saw the new Guy Fieri restaurant and it seemed pretty cool, but nothing that I had to just stop and marvel at. 

 

I walked him through Paris and I mentioned something about, “There’s the bottom of the Eiffel tower!”

 

Later he’d tell me, as he looked at the outside of the Paris from the Cosmopolitan balcony, that he didn’t know I was being serious when I said the bottom of the tower went right into the casino floor! 

 

We got our keys and room assignment. I saw we were on the 51st floor (nice and high!) and was so excited! I should have tipped the woman who helped us!

 

We got up and, off the elevator, we were just down the hall to the left. As we looked for the room the first time, my dad said something about it being on the left. I got anxious for a second, but said “no it should be on the right”.

 

I know too much about Vegas.

 

I knew the ones on the right would have the Bellagio fountain view (which is what we payed for). Thankfully, our room was on the right and when we entered my dad said, “Wow! Yeah, this is pretty neat!” 

 

I was so thrilled he was happy with the room, the layout, and everything else. We spent some time on the balcony and relaxed before getting ready for Oscar’s. 

 

I think I may have taken a nap. I probably talked to Kathryn on the phone at some point. I know I took advantage of a cold Fiji water from the mini bar. I did not want to do any more walking for a minute. One thing I did, since they had some cold ones and they also had some out on sensors on the counter, was replace the cold one from the fridge with one of the room temperature ones. Since you have a few seconds to look at and replace items before being charged, and the weights would be the same, I simply did this to keep a cold one available at all times but still only be charged for one. 

 

6:30 Oscar’s at The Plaza Las Vegas

Now, we got ready for Oscar’s and I played my Vegas music on my portable speaker. I’m not sure my dad was as into it as I hoped, but It’s part of the tradition! 

 

I made several notes about a crazy Uber driver on the way to Oscar’s. I’m not sure what that’s all about but I’ll mention it because I sure thought it was important at the time. I’m glad I’ve forgotten though, because it doesn’t sound like fun.

 

We were dropped off at Circa which, and this wasn’t the first time this has happened to me, I forgot would actually mean the back entrance to the casino floor and not The Garage Mahal like I anticipated. That’s okay, we did a quick walk through Circa (had to to show off the impressive sports book!) and then we went right over to the corner exit that faces The Plaza. 

 

Through the doors I could see the glorious site of the new carousel bar and Pink Box donuts. I was more excited than I expected! It was stunning to finally see what I’d anticipated for many months! Shout out to the On the Corner of Main Street podcast for doing your job… you’ve made a regular Plaza visitor out of me. 

 

We left and waited to cross the road while looking down as much of the Fremont Street Experience (FSE) as we could see. 

 

I explained a bit more about the history of downtown Las Vegas, how and why the Fremont Street Experience was created (and why The Plaza seemed shunned right at the end of the street) and the resurgence of the area overall. 

 

We didn’t have a ton of time to waste, so we very briefly walked past the carousel bar and pretty much straight over to the turn to the upstairs and Oscars. On the way I pointed out the Top Dollar machine I usually play as my donation to The Plaza and the old Brian Christopher slots area. It may still be there, but I don’t remember. 

 

I’d never been to the upstairs area, not even to look around. 

 

It was cool to see the area designated for Bingo and the conference area I always hear about (where they do a lot of the Super… ugh “Big Game” parties and the like). I also looked through the windows of the chapel. 

 

I enjoyed walking down the hall leading to Oscar’s and seeing the many pictures of celebrities that I’d only ever previously seen on YouTube and heard about on the podcast. The statue of Tony Spilotro that Vital Vegas always bitches about (not that he doesn’t have a point. Don’t @ me Scott, it’s all in fun) was enjoyable to see as well. 

 

I told the host about our reservation and let her know we’d be willing to wait a bit longer to get a great seat. I was also prepared to hand her a $20 bill, but it wasn’t ever needed. 

 

We got a great big booth on the second row from the window and just to the right if you’re looking at The Fremont Street Experience. 

 

The service was impeccable. 

 

We made it fairly clear that we weren’t in a rush and they let us take plenty of time. 

 


I actually was looking for, and delighted that I found, Bobby from Say Hi to Matthew fame. He was as jovial as ever — constantly taking more time than he probably should have to chat with his tables. We were being served by someone else, but I couldn’t help but stop him and say hi and shake his hand at some point during our meal. After the meal, I mulled waiting around to get a picture with him. 

I don’t always like doing these things, but I stuck it out and found an opportunity (we had already left our table so I was kind of awkwardly just hanging out in the dining room). 

I almost gave up and thought about coming back on another trip. But, like I said, I found the opportunity and my dad took my picture with Bobby. 

I’m sure glad we did. 

If you follow the Las Vegas happenings, you know that barely a month after our trip, on September 5th, Bobby passed away. He was seriously an amazing, shining light and a big part of Vegas culture. He’ll be missed forever. 


 

Overall, I really treasured our time at Oscar’s. We got to enjoy a slow-paced, high-end meal with a view of Vintage Vegas. 

 

I only got one cocktail — The Kentucky Mule. I’d say it was my least favorite thing of the evening. It wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t that good. 

 

We split the Oscar’s Chopped salad. It was lovely that they actually split it for us. Chopped, plated beautifully, and perfectly dressed. I was delighted. 

 

 

The “destination” bread I always hear about was good. The butter was great. I’m not a huge bread person, so I’m not a good judge of table bread. I’m sure you’d love it, but there’s not much more I can say, though. Sorry. 

 

We both ordered steaks and we split a side of mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. 

 

I got the filet mignon Oscar style.  

 

The mashed potatoes were incredibly smooth. The brussel sprouts were okay. I’m not a big fan in general, but I’ve been wanting to give them another go. This didn’t redeem them for me. 

 

The steak was mostly amazing. However, there were a few parts that were a bit underdone for me (I’m a bit of a wimp for this and I should have asked for medium well. I got medium and I’m pretty sure it would’ve easily passed for medium rare). There were a few parts that kind of tasted “aged” to me, and that threw me off. So I didn’t eat it all, but I still thought it was mostly great. 

 

What was 100% amazing was the Oscar style sauce. Tons of delicious crab. The most amazing sauce. Great, great, great, choice. 

 

 

Here’s the order of my items from least to most favorite. 

 

7) Kentucky Mule

6) Brussel Sprouts

5) Bread

4) Mashed potatoes

3) Steak

2) Salad

1) Oscar sauce 

 

8:30pm: Exploring Downtown Las Vegas 

From Oscar’s, we meandered the Fremont Street Experience. We stopped to watch part of the show at one point. We stopped to watch one of the spray paint artists. We laughed at some of the street performers and walked quickly past some of the sketchy folks. 

 

The whole time I don’t think we stepped foot into a single casino. 

 

 

Well, except we continued to walk outside of FSE to Fremont East and ended up at The El Cortez. I was happy to take my dad in and talk more about the history of Las Vegas yet again. 

 

We passed a CVS (or was it a Walgreens? And if it was, does anyone care? Should I go to Google maps for the accuracy of this article… ugh… no, I’m too lazy. You’ll recognize it when you see it.) along our path and decided to circle back to it to do some essentials shopping.

 

This way, we could call an Uber and take this stuff directly back to the room instead of walking all the way to Harmon corner on the strip and walking a bunch of heavy bags back.  

 

This was a great idea. It worked out brilliantly other than they weren’t selling beer. Bummer. 

 

The Uber picked us up right outside of Nacho Daddy and it was a pleasant ride back. That’s as close as I’ve been to Nacho Daddy in real life, but I’ll get there eventually!! 

 

We played a few slots at The Cosmopolitan (a $62 Dragon Link bonus being the highlight) and then my dad proclaimed it time to be done for the evening (for himself). 

 

This was fine with me as it would give me some solo time to enjoy. 

 

We went upstairs and, I think, I grabbed a minibar beer and got into some more comfortable attire. 

 

We decided to compile our gambling money together each day (today’s budget was $200 each) and my dad was, though I could sense a bit of hesitation, trusting enough to let me take our remaining joint bankroll and continue on. 

 

I’d go back down and enjoy a couple more beers, see one of the last fountain shows of the evening and pretty much call it an “early” night (I think I was back by like 12:45, at the latest). 

 

I got a $94 Kronos bonus right at the end which was the perfect way to end it. This was a welcome hit as it meant that, not only had I not gone out and lost a bunch of our bankroll, but  I actually clawed back like $20 each for both of us.

 

 

Overall, I believe we were only down $100, or $50 each, for the first day. Not a bad way to start. 

 

To me, since I go with a budget I’m okay with and expect to lose, anything I come back home with I consider a win. 

 

So, in my unofficial books, I ended day one $150 up for the trip. I’d at least have that much to take home with me and put towards my next Vegas vacation. 

 

Thanks for reading. See you bright and early “tomorrow” for an amazing, adventurous day! 

 

Viva Las Vegas.