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I love to travel with my children. They really are the best vacation companions. And even more so now that they are a little “older.” They are great adventurers and are always up for new things. I’m pretty sure that’s my doing.
But every now and then, on average two times a year to be specific, my husband and I try to get away, for just a few nights, together, without the kiddies.
Trips like these are so special and something we make a priority with our time and budget. It’s not easy to get away. It takes a lot of planning to leave the kids with great aunts and grandparents. The kids get off their normal routine, they eat too much sugar and probably watch too much TV in our absence. But to us, so worth it to reconnect, enjoy some grown-up conversation, and partake in adult-friendly activities.
We try to do a local night away in the winter –NYC, Atlantic City, and the North Fork of Long Island have been favorite overnight destinations. In the warmer months we try to do a longer (3-4 night) trip — and always to Las Vegas.
We love Vegas and honestly, what could be a more appropriate destination for a kid-free weekend?
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48 Hours in Las Vegas: The Best Things to do in Las Vegas
Most of our traveling is done in short bursts, and this is my first post (hopefully of many) in my 48 Hours In… series. In place like Las Vegas, you can take thousands of 48-hour trips and still not hit all the awesome stuff there is to do. There are so many great things to do in Las Vegas! I will preface this by saying we were in Vegas for a little over 48 actual hours, but the idea here is to share with you some of the highlights on a short trip to Sin City.
Where To Stay
There are lots of great hotel options in Vegas. There are a few factors to consider when booking a room – such as cost, location (on or off the strip/uptown or downtown), and size (mega-resorts vs. smaller properties, or the increasingly popular boutique hotel).
We are loyal to the Venetian/Palazzo properties. This particular trip we stayed in the Palazzo based on availability. The Venetian/Palazzo is centrally located on the strip. You can easily walk to other casinos, restaurants, and to the Fashion Show Mall across Las Vegas Boulevard. Although, you probably could stay at the Venetian for a month and never even have to leave the property! With two hotels and the Grand Canal Shoppes, there are a ton of restaurants and stores right on-site.
I love the gym at the Venetian. There is also a rock climbing wall and the Canyon Ranch Spa, which I am dying to visit. I also really love the pool at the Palazzo. As a guest you can use either the Venetian or Palazzo pool, they are connected by a walkway. Sitting by the pool and reading a book is how I will spend at least one day in Vegas, so an awesome pool is a key amenity for me.
My husband loves the Venetian/Palazzo because every room is an enormous suite with a gorgeous and large bathroom. It’s very luxurious and makes you feel like you are a high roller! The rooms are spacious, fancy and indulgent in the way you want to feel on vacation. It is ironic that when traveling with kids we are always stretching our budget to get the largest room for our money, and here without the kids we have a Duggar-sized room!
My husband is a Club Grazie member (their casino loyalty program) and year-round we receive promotions in the mail enticing us to come back. For this trip, we did receive a “discounted” rate and our resort fee was waived.
Where To Eat… and Drink, it is Las Vegas after all
Forget the casinos, Vegas is a foodie town. It really is. The restaurant choices are endless. This year we made a point to reserve new-to-us restaurants for our three dinners in Las Vegas. I know for me, I am always torn between old faves and trying something new!
We did a lot of eating in Vegas. A lot.
Breakfast is really the most important meal of the day. And coffee of course. I’ve always been a breakfast lover, and my favorite breakfast IN THE WORLD, hands down, is at Bouchon in the Venetian.
Bouchon is one of Thomas Keller’s French restaurants. It’s tucked away on the 10th floor of the Venezia Tower in the Venetian hotel.
The breakfast menu offers pastries, egg dishes, and waffles. Hubby and I love the Petit Dejeuner Americaine, which is an incredible breakfast experience. At $23, it is such a great value considering the amount and quality of food that you get. If you ask the server to make the breakfast Jardin, they will sub out spinach for the meat and Lyonnais potatoes for the croquettes (which have meat).
I also highly recommend the croissants. They are truly amazing. My second day there (we ate breakfast there twice) I had a quiche Florentine which was beyond incredible. Even the OJ was outstanding. Seriously if you go to Las Vegas, this is where you want to be for breakfast!
One of the great things about heading out west is that when you travel to Las Vegas, you gain an extra three hours in your day. We departed JFK at 11am and touched down at McCarran by 1:30. We hopped in a cab and were at the Palazzo in time for a late lunch. Upon arrival, before checking in, we ditched our luggage with the bellman and headed straight to Taqueria Canonita.
Hubby’s Vegas Pro-Tip: At the airport, get on the terminal shuttle at the FAR car, so when you exit, you are closest to the door and will be first in line for a taxi.
Canonita is located in the Grand Canal Shoppes. It’s a Mexican restaurant (Mexico City soul food is their tag line). Hubby and I ultimately ate lunch here twice, both times sitting at the bar. Canonita makes a great margarita and on both visits I enjoyed their mushroom tacos. Hubby had the triple tacos one day (one chicken, one beef, and one fish) and the second day he ordered carne asada, which he is still talking about! Everything was fresh and delicious.
The service here is friendly and fast. Personally I like when Mexican food feels light and healthy – like the food here. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a delicious lunch, or if you need a margarita pit-stop.
Hubby and I discussed the dinner options at length before the trip. We always make reservations prior to arriving because Vegas is a busy town and even midweek, restaurants can get booked up. Before the trip, I scoured websites and menus (since I eat vegetarian I always check menus first) and put together a short list of potential eateries. Ultimately, hubby made reservations at his favorites from my list. Again, we consciously decided to try all new-to-us places and were not disappointed.
The first night we wanted to stay on the Venetian property because we had been traveling all day and it’s easy to just head right downstairs to get a great meal. We chose Mario Batali’s Carnevino because there was an extensive steak menu (the Carne for hubby) and a long pasta menu as well (for me- and vino is for me too).
When we were seated, the server gave us a loooonnnggg shpiel about how the menu was set up, and how the steak was dry aged, and honestly I heard Charlie Brown teacher wah wah wah for most of it. We were disappointed to learn many of the steaks were served family style and the pastas were meant to be a small first course rather than an entrée (you don’t get that from a quick look at the online menu). But hubby loved his steak and I had a delicious gnocchi with gorgonzola, figs and walnuts. Since we had a late lunch we tried to keep the meal light.
The wine list was extensive, although each of us had only one glass. This restaurant is great for those knowledgeable about steaks, which we are not, or for a large party that could experience the intended sharing aspect of the menu.
When in Vegas, we always make a point to have a meal at the Wynn/Encore hotels. The Wynn connected to the Palazzo by a short pedestrian bridge so you can go somewhere new, and save on cab fare. Also, a vegetarian or vegan menu is offered at EVERY one of their restaurants. This is like my marriage’s ideal dining situation. Full fancy menu for hubby, and vegetarian options for me!
For this trip, we chose Lakeside, a seafood restaurant. Lakeside is located in the Wynn, on the lower level from the main lobby. We were literally seated lakeside and every 15 minutes or so there is an incredible electronic art/music show that plays on the lake and waterfall.
The food was excellent. Hubby had a grilled octopus starter and swordfish with black truffles for dinner. I had a salad to start. I recall my exact words were “this is the best salad I have ever had” and believe me, I eat a lot of salad. My vegan entrée was a tofu curry, which was so flavorful. It was a large portion and I wish I could have taken my leftovers home, the dish was so yummy!
We’ve had some great meals at the Wynn, but I think this dinner at Lakeside was the best. Good service, excellent wine, and a bizarre but interesting show on the lake — I highly recommend this restaurant.
Our last night in Las Vegas, we had show tickets for the Laugh Factory at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino located at the south end of the strip. For pre-theatre dinner, we headed to Hakkasan, located in the MGM hotel and casino across the street from the Tropicana. Hakkasan offers modern Cantonese cooking, and is also a big Vegas nightclub. This spot is trendy and sexy, and was an indulgent way to end the trip.
When you walk into the restaurant, you are guided through a bit of a maze that is created by the décor, but keeps each table relatively private. The menu is extensive and includes some “Only in Vegas” dishes and many vegetarian options. To start, hubby and I split the vegetarian version of their signature dumplings. For an entrée, hubby had the Mongolian beef and the server convinced me to try the “chicken” stir-fry. I usually shy away from meats that come in quotation marks, but this was really delicious and had the consistency of seitan.
Overall, I was happy with our dining choices in Vegas. In my notes for next year, I will try to remember to mix up the dinners in terms of less fine dining and maybe one night at a more casual (fun, loud, less stuffy) restaurant. Plus Vegas dining is expensive and we definitely had three pricy dinners, although they were enjoyable and memorable.
Fun Stuff To Do
I do think the secret is out- there is way more to do in Vegas than gamble. Hubby did gamble a bit, and I played blackjack with him for about a half an hour before I wanted to indulge in a nap (kid-free time FTW).
As I mentioned before, one of my favorite amenities at the Venetian/Palazzo property is the pool. Since we visited in mid-October, I was very much looking forward to a little pool and hot tub time, as sadly, summer is over here in the Northeast.
The pool deck at the Palazzo is great. For a chunk of change you can rent a cabana or hang out at Azure, the pool club but to me that is an unnecessary expense. On the regular pool deck, there are tons of chairs, both in the shade and in the sun.
If you visit Las Vegas in the summer, it’s literally almost too hot to sit out by the pool. You have to arrive early (say 10am) you can sit for a good two or three hours in the shade (by the Solaro restaurant). In the warmer months (warmer being in the 100s), once the pool deck is sunny, you pretty much have to sit IN the pool or its truly too hot.
The Venetian/Palazzo pools are large so they don’t feel too crowded. Coming by frequently are servers to bring drinks, and there are bathrooms and water bottle filling stations all around. To me, there is no better way to relax (especially without kids) than sitting by the pool with a good book or magazine, and a frosty beverage in hand. The Palazzo also has three hot tubs sprinkled around – they are a little tucked away, but trust me they are there!
Vegas pro-tip: hit the Walgreens when you arrive to stock up on snacks, waters, soda and beer in aluminum bottles. You can bring those beers to the pool with you- save a few bucks!
We did manage to venture out of the Venetian, and hubby and I did want to do “something” during our second day in Vegas. We walked down to the Linq promenade, which is located between the Quad hotel and the Flamingo. The Linq promenade is a pedestrian walkway filled with shops, bars, restaurants and a bowling alley! We did some window shopping and picked up some souvenirs for the kids (poop emoji pillows, anyone?).
Vegas Pro-tip: Pick up a Fat-Tuesdays refillable adult slushy cup filled with a frozen drink of your choice and you can sip it all day, and refill again (at a discount) at one of their many Vegas locations.
The Linq is the location of the High Roller observation wheel, which only opened in 2014. Since we rode on previous trips, we wanted to try something new. So we called an Uber (a popular way to get around) and headed over to the new TopGolf.
A few years back, I had been to TopGolf in Virginia and loved it. I’ve been golfing since I was 7 (although I’m not that good) and I love anyplace you can indulge in a competitive activity while people bring you drinks. TopGolf is located on Koval Road, which runs parallel to the strip. It’s affiliated with the MGM casino/hotel, and they provide a free shuttle to and from. It was a quick and cheap Uber ride from the High Roller (less than $7).
If you’ve never been to TopGolf, it’s essentially a driving range, where you rent a bay by the hour. Your balls are chipped, so the computer knows who is hitting. When it’s your turn, you hit into targets out on the range. You get points depending on which nets you hit into and how close to the flag your ball goes. It then keeps score on the TV screens that you can see in your bay. It’s a lot like going bowling, but with golf.
Even if you have never swung a golf club, you can have fun at TopGolf. TopGolf provides a complimentary set of men’s clubs, women’s clubs and lefty clubs in each bay – so you don’t have to worry about having the right equipment. Hell, I was hitting in my Tory Burch sandals, its not like serious golf. It’s fun golf.
While you are playing, you can eat and drink in your bay. We had some wings and chips/dip as a light lunch. The food was good and the service was excellent. Hubby and I played several games. You can switch up the games, playing for maximum points or choosing games where the computer prompts you where to hit and you are awarded points accordingly.
We had so much fun at TopGolf Vegas, I highly recommend checking it out and I will keep bugging @TopGolf on twitter until they open one of these here on Long Island!
Besides golf and walking around, we did try to partake in some of the nightlife Vegas has to offer. The first morning, we were jetlagged and got up nice and early. We saw the sunrise, I worked out (the Palazzo has a great gym), and had a sophisticated breakfast at Bouchon. It was like a G-rated Parents Gone Wild.
But by the second night, we were ready for a little fun. Hubby and I are not club-goers. We like bars that have music and we were disappointed to learn that our favorite Vegas go-to hangout, The Bourbon Room, had closed since our last visit.
Looking for a new favorite spot, we decided to check out The Rockhouse, in the Venetian. When we walked up, I realized that we hit the jackpot- we arrived on LIVE BAND KARAOKE night!
I love karaoke.
Needless to say, we had a blast. The band was really awesome. There were clearly several regulars in the house who could rock the mic. And yes, I sang. Twice. But you know how it is, what happens in Vegas…
But seriously, if you want a fun bar to hang in, check out The Rockhouse. Live Band Karaoke is on Thursday nights from 9 until midnight. They have many food and drink specials (all day happy hour, $50 open bar bracelets, half-price apps) and lots of opportunities to hear, or sing, live music.
On our last night, we decided to see a show. In the past we have seen Love, Le Reve, Michael Jackson’s One, Rock of Ages and O. All of these were amazing, especially O (I always recommend this if you are new to Vegas).
For this trip, we checked what was playing and decided to buy tickets for Andrew Dice Clay at the Laugh Factory comedy club at the Tropicana Hotel. I bought the tickets through Groupon, which were half price! I just googled the name of the show + “Coupon code” and the Groupon link came up!
Hubby and I have seen Dice before. He is totally hilarious but also totally raunchy. Definitely not for everyone. Although I will say, even if you are not a huge fan, I highly recommend checking out his most recent show, Dice on Showtime. This is a scripted comedy series where he plays himself. Its really funny as he basically pokes fun of the fact that he is now a has-been trying to still be cool in Vegas. You can catch the six half-hour episodes of this show on Showtime On Demand.
Unfortunately we did not hit it big in the casinos. No bringing home that giant sack of money. But we did bring home lots of great memories, and the chance to look forward to next year’s Vegas trip. With 48 hours in Vegas you can’t even scratch the surface of all the fun and great food there is to be had in Sin City, but we definitely had a great time together!
What are you favorite things to do in Las Vegas?
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