An HGVC member's perspective with advice about having an active vacation in and around Sin City.
by Dagnasty on May 14, 2007
My Wife and I stayed for five nights using our Hilton timeshare points. Our friends joined us. We stayed in a 'penthouse' suite in Tower 2 on the 32nd floor. Our friends stayed in a regular suite on the 8th. Penthouse level rooms have upgraded amenities including larger flat screen TVs, Bose 5.1 surround sound, cathedral ceilings, multiple jets in the shower, and Jacuzzi jets in the tub.From our room, we could see the MGM, the Wynn, Palms, Rio, and others. The rooms facing the strip have a limited view of Las Vegas Blvd. because of a high-rise condo tower next door. The higher floors of the next new towers might offer a better view.The hotel is quiet even with construction across the street. The rooms are dark when the curtains are closed. The A/C was not noisy. All the kitchen features you expect from any HGVC were available. The hot water is instantly very hot! Water pressure is great.My only problem was the Bose system would turn itself on at random times. Engineering service arrived within seven minutes of my call. Apparently Bose 5.1 units can interfere with each other if their radio signals overlap. They changed my base system to use a different radio frequency, and the problem was resolved. If you return late at night, you may have to park farther from the doors. A new parking structure is currently being built.The pool area seemed smaller than other HGVC properties we've stayed at. I'm only guessing if Hilton will build additional pools when the new towers are built. The fitness center is very good; its hours are from 6am to 10pm.The convenience store was comfortably stocked, and had good prepared deli foods. The line for coffee at the deli gets pretty long in the mornings, even though you get Starbucks coffee packets in the room for the coffeemaker. The ladies didn't use the day spa, but it had nice decor and listed all services you'd expect. Lunch by the pool was very good, and reasonably priced. Standard fare, apps, sandwiches, burgers, salads, mixed drinks, etc.Security is very noticeable and pleasant at this hotel; it was very comforting. The concierge service is quite capable of helping you book a tour or show. They did provide us with some excellent restaurant tips. They have a special Japanese-speaking desk for Japanese travelers. Free 802.11b Wi-Fi in this hotel. But watch out for Internet and printing fees in the business center. Read the fees and instructions carefully!They are still selling timeshares at this hotel. They have two offices onsite, one for existing owners, and one for potential buyers. In my opinion, this is the nicest Hilton property in Vegas.(aka TumbleWyed on the net)
A $215 dinner for two. Was it worth it?I wanted to treat my wife and myself to a really nice evening out in Vegas. We had a great meal, and a good time. So I suppose it was worth it.We had reservations for the evening of April 3, and were seated immediately upon arrival. The host sized us up for a second, but wasn't obvious about it. We were dressed smart, or business casual, and were seated in a quiet corner of the front room. It wasn't until I went to the restroom that I learned that those dressed down are relegated to a glass enclosed "casual room" tucked away from view.We enjoyed the crab cakes appetizer and a garden salad before the main course. Both were very good. I also had a glass of chianti. While the specials looked very appealing we figured we should sample the house specialty—steak.My wife had the filet mignon. I ordered the steak tenderloins with scallops. For the sides, we ordered garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. When you read this, you might not think of this selection as true fine dining. But the presentation, preparation, and taste were up to our already high expectations.The steaks were cooked perfectly. The scallops wonderfully tender. The leftover filet still tasted terrific and melted on the palate for breakfast, the morning after.My wife was disappointed with the banana creme pie or cake. It didn't taste very lively to me either. But I thoroughly enjoyed my personal-sized pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was obviously homemade (in their kitchen) and was very light and fluffy sweet.The great food was matched with impeccable, doting service that wasn't haughty. The soft jazz, food presentation, and general atmosphere were what I consider signature Emeril.I was, however, oddly surprised that for a restaurant that is only 4 years old (opened in 2003), the leather chairs were beat up and tattered.Chairs aside, dining at Delmonico is an experience on par with other four- and five-star restaurants in big cities like New York, LA, or Chicago.(aka TumbleWyed on the net)
by Dagnasty on May 15, 2007
Tapas-style dining allows you to sample lots of different dishes. You can order as little or as much as you'd like to suit your appetite. Firefly, on Paradise Road, is one of two tapas restaurants in Vegas. I can't speak about Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (at the Fashion Mall), but Firefly's menu is an infusion of Spanish, Asian, and other food flavors.We went with friends, and I recommend you do the same. It's more fun, and you can order more and sample more.Their mojitos (a minty Cuban rum drink) tasted pretty authentic though I'm not a fan. I preferred their sangria; fruity and just as refreshing on a warm evening.I can't describe all the dishes we had that night. After the alcohol, can you blame me? I can say nothing was horrible. Some dishes that stand out were the empanadas, the crispy duck rolls, the lamb chops, shrimp, and BBQ skewers. The thing about going with friends is that everyone will like something different.For dessert, we were pretty unanimous in that we all liked the Tres Leches chocolate cake and the flan. It's not too expensive, and the atmosphere is relaxed. Their lighting is dim in some corners, but if you're just a couple, dining by candlelight is pretty romantic. Have fun!
It seems there are sushi joints all over the place these days. Even the local supermarket sells prepared sushi."Authentic" sushi is hard to find. Most sushi restaurants are owned by Chinese or Koreans. If you're lucky enough to find a Japanese sushi chef, the sushi menu is usually Americanized with entries like "M-16" or "Brooklyn" rolls.My buddy and I have traveled extensively throughout Asia, including long stints in Japan. We don't claim to be experts, but we both speak conversational Japanese. Shibuya at the MGM is pretty authentic. This was my second visit in 7 years. The wait staff actually are Japanese. They have a pretty good selection of tempura (agemono or deep-fried items), hibachi (griddle cooked meats and veggies prepared in front of you), udon (noodles and soups), and of course sushi and sashimi (raw fish).On my previous visit, we had hibachi dinners. (the cooking performance was quite entertaining). I'll keep this review to the quality of the raw stuff, as the other cooked foods are hard to mess up. Firstly, a restaurant with a respectable sake menu can't be that bad. If you go, try some sake hot or cold! Don't be afraid to ask the waiter for advice. My buddy and I ordered a range of sushi/sashimi items. We didn't order anything too exotic because the wives aren't into conch, or octopus. You can get different cuts of tuna: Maguro (regular, almost white tuna) or toro (fatty tuna, dark red meat). Toro, of course, is tastier.With sushi, freshness is king. Shibuya does not disappoint. The tuna, salmon, yellowtail were exquisite. The eel (unagi), like the raw, had no trace of fishiness. The nori-maki (seaweed rolls) were elegant and tasty. In Japan, the chefs put a dab of wasabi on the rice ball before laying a slice of fish on top. Again, Shibuya did the rice balls perfectly.Traditionally, soy sauce blends are as varied as balsamic vinegar. I was mildly disappointed that Shibuya basically only had regular or Kikkoman lite soy. Hey, you don't have to be a sushi snob or Japanese expert to enjoy a good meal, right?You can't go wrong (or get sick) at Shibuya.
I made reservations for our party of four at Seablue because we were going to see KA at the MGM that night.I had read reviews about Seablue prior to our visit—they said to avoid the shellfish, which seemed odd since they claim to fly everything in fresh daily. So the ladies ordered the tuna steaks, my buddy ordered the prawns. I ordered a pork tagine (seasoned baked dish in a Moroccan clay pot). The tuna steaks were good, but not to die for. The pork dish I got was better, but oddly out of place for a seafood restaurant.They had an OK wine selection, but it was pricey. The tiramisu wasn't very memorable.While the food wasn't bad, we felt it wasn't spectacular, and it was overpriced. Next time, I think we'll try Craftsteak.
I'll keep this short. To date, we've seen two travelling Cirque shows, "O" and Mystere in Vegas, LaNouba in Orlando, and Ka at the MGM Grand. Ka isn't like the traditional Cirque show. There aren't the usual graceful circus performers; no trapeze or Chinese gymnasts. This show is pretty dark, with lots of drums, flashes of pyrotechnics, and pseudo-martial arts epic battles. In my opinion, the story line is the easiest to follow of all the Cirque shows. You might count the stage as part of the essential cast. It tilts, giving you almost a bird's-eye-view of the action (but not as innovative as the water tank in "O"). The sword, spear, arrows, and cannon battles were pretty cool. Maybe it was because my wife and I were super tired from the flight, but it failed to keep us riveted. We knew how the story would end from almost the start. The rest of the show seemed like just a lot of fighting, and more fighting. At $100+ a ticket, this didn't leave us as satisfied as the other Cirque shows.
The Secret Garden isn't flashy like SeaWorld, and it isn't as informative as some modern zoos. But it's a nice slow break from the hustle and bustle.
We've swam with dolphins before in Mexico, and at Discovery Cove (SeaWorld, Orlando). The "trainer experience" is available through the Mirage Hotel. Check the website for current price$e$.
The Secret Garden staff don't claim and don't pretend that anything they do is a show. After a brief safety lecture, you're free to walk around and spend as much time as you'd like in the garden. You get to watch some "training" sessions with the high-paying guests.
In our opinion, this was pretty amusing, educational, and entertaining. Your general admission lets you get pretty close to the dolphins. Closer than at SeaWorld, for a fraction of the price.
In one of the quiet pools, we got to observe a mother and her (full grown) calf playing. At one point, the mother hopped out of the water to rest on the side of the pool. A trainer told us that "Mom" sometimes gets fed up and tired of the rough play. In fact, the mommy dolphin was panting for a bit. She seemed to enjoy a little peace before slipping back into the pool.
You can even watch the dolphins swim underwater from an underground windowed viewing area.
As far as the big cats go...be warned, they like to sleep all day in the hot Vegas climate. They are nice to look at, but it's more like a static zoo experience.
Gildah the elephant was not there when we visited.
If you've got kids, or are a big kid at heart, $15 and an hour is cheap for Vegas.
Still looking for a $5 card table in Vegas? The Palace Station is a local favorite.
I must say, I don't always feel comfortable at most of the big glitzy casinos. I'm no high rolling card shark, but I'm no cheapskate either. That's why I really like the homey feeling you get at the Palace Station Casino.
Five-dollar and up tables let you gamble safely, and let you stretch your entertainment dollars farther and longer.
I like straight blackjack, but they've also got pai-gow poker and other card games. Most of Vegas is using a six-deck shoe, but some are going to eight decks to combat graduates of the MIT Card Counting Team.
The ladies in our group really liked that the dealers at Palace Station were friendly, very patient, and even took the time to teach beginners.
Of course your player's card here might not be as glam as say...the Wynn's. And chances are you won't get picked up by a high-class working girl. But the drinks aren't watery, and when you're done playing table games, you can play the machines for quarters, dimes, nickels, or even pennies.
It's a fun place if you're on a budget, and it's not a dive either.
Two-and-a-half hours from Vegas via the Hoover Dam is the new Grand Canyon Skywalk. You can find news reports and general info on the web about it. If you really must see the Grand Canyon, but don't have time to drive to the National Park, the Hualapai Indian Reservation (aka Grand Canyon West) is a pretty good option, albeit pricey.We spent our last day visiting the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. We rented a car for our week stay in Vegas; an SUV would have been better... We left the hotel at 6am, crossed the dam just before 7am. Our plan was to finish the tour of the Indian reservation and be back to the Grand Canyon around 1pm. A bonus is the time zone change, which lets you eat lunch earlier in MT. The last leg of the drive once you reach the Haulapai property is a 14-mile rocky, twisty, dusty dirt road through a joshua tree forest to reach the visitor center. A car is OK to the task, but I recommend checking your rental agreement before going off-road. Twenty-five dollars gets you to the Cowboy ranch, but not to Guano Point, nor Eagle Point, and no view of the canyon. Fifty dollars gets you full access to the reservation and includes lunch. An additional $25 is required to step on the Skywalk ($75 per person total). Once you pay the entrance fee, a tour bus takes you to a few stops. First, a natural rock formation: the namesake of Eagle Point. While you can wonder at the canyon standing on solid ground, adventurous souls prefer to loop the Skywalk, which juts out 4,000 above the canyon floor. My wife, who normally gets panic attacks at the thought of flying and is afraid of heights, managed to stomach the Skywalk. But we did encounter a few large, burly men, too petrified to complete the walk. I don't want to spoil the experience for folks. But be warned, they don't want you carrying anything on the Skywalk, including cameras, for fear of dropping things on the glass, or down the canyon. If you're crafty, you can rig a spy camera of sorts. A short bus ride shuttles you to Guano Point. If you're a fan of HBO's Entourage, you'll recognize where Johnny Drama parked the Lincoln and woke up at dawn. I recommend eating lunch at Guano Point. If you hike to the top of the point you get almost 360-degree views of the canyon around you. At one stop, we were treated to a traditional dance by a lovely little hualapai girl. You can take the shuttle to the Cowboy ranch or to see more of the Hualapai culture if you wish. Instead we chose to get back to the visitor's center so we could drive back to the dam before traffic got too busy. We managed to get back to the dam and a line to attend a semi-guided tour. I understand that since 9/11 the original tour is no more. Instead you get a short film and elevator ride to the generator room. I'd recommend skipping the tour if you're pressed for time. But it only costs $11. You can find ads for bus tours everywhere to the Skywalk and Hoover Dam. These trips last all day (15+ hours).
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