My first Vegas trip was in May 1993 when I came to town to see the Grateful Dead play three shows out at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl. Sting opened, which was good but as weird as the rest of the week. We'd roll out Tropicana close to noon every day to get ready for Sting's afternoon set. The Dead would wind down around sunset and most of those Deadheads would wind up back on the Strip. I saw my first Cirque du Soleil performance at the then-new Mirage on one of those nights. Let's just say it was strange. Anyway, one of the guys I went with got a bunch of half-price room coupons from his sister. So we wound up in an odd progression of three hotels during our five-night trip. Our first two nights were at the fresh-faced and non-smoky Excalibur. It was so new it was clean. And the renaissance fair vibe was in full swing. All I really remember about it was that we sat in our room for about an hour and watched workers install glass panels on Luxor, which only had glass up to the level of our Excalibur room at the time. Then we spent one night at Circus-Circus. I remember playing nickel slots, drinking lots of draft beer and fully realizing my clown-o-phobia there. I have never gone back, probably never will. The final nights were spent at the Las Vegas Hilton, which at that time was duking it out with Caesars and Mirage for the title of the nicest place in town. I was in awe of the gigantic screens in the sports book, the Elvis apparel hanging in the lobby and the cocktail waitresses at the pool. On more than one occasion, I wondered, "Why didn't we stay here the whole time?" We went home and I pretty much never thought about Vegas again. Fast forward thirteen years. My wife and I decided it would be fun to travel somewhere with friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. A couple of good friends always raved about the great fun they had in Vegas. We stayed a week at Treasure Island right after the de-piratization. It was great, all of the things we love: good food, relaxing by the pool, free booze. My wife took to the slots and I timidly approached the rail of the craps table. The next year, our vacation choice of Vegas was a given and it has been ever since. We have made trips at least annually and have stayed at MGM Grand, Mirage and Wynn. We thought Mirage was "our place" until we stayed at Wynn. Since then, we have stayed at Encore, Main Street Station, M Resort, the new new Tropicana, Planet Hollywood and Aria. Every time, there is something new to love.
Vegas Fave 10 (The Hard Way)
Worth every bit of the slight hassle it is to get there! The dining is great. The gambling choices are good. The employees are friendly. The pool and spa are fantastic with such affordable options that you may find yourself leaving your cabana to go get a massage before returning to your cabana to wind down from your exhausting day (< speaking from experience). Stay at M for a couple of days on your next trip. It's like a little vacation while you're on vacation.
The room is hard to beat. The XS pool is hard to beat. Wasuzu is hard to beat. If I could just find a cocktail waitress.
Say what you will about the old Gold Coast. But it's tough to find a more fun mid-day mid-week craps game and above-average VP. In general, it's an older, more sedate crowd with an older, more sedate staff. But if you need a fun casino afternoon away from the big places, it's a good choice.
It's so much fun to gamble at Binion's, you barely notice you're playing 6:5 blackjack. Seriously, find a hopping craps game here and hang on for a great time. Great cocktail service, great coffee shop and sports bar.
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