You heard about my thoughts on our flight down to Vegas, which we managed to accomplish without the plane crashing. (You’ll be glad to hear we got home without crashing too.) While we were there, we had a surprisingly nice time. The last time I was in Vegas was in about 1999. This was when Vegas was in the process of swinging back from their “We’re a family destination!” efforts of the 90s to the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign. Now they’re going back the other way, and trying to attract families with kids again. There’s actually rather a lot to do with your children, if you don’t mind paying for it. No one has ever accused Las Vegas of being cheap. Here’s Part One of a chronological rundown of What I Did On My Summer Vacation.
The Mob Museum. Yes, the Mafia. It’s a museum that describes the start of the Mob, the opposition to it by government and law enforcement, and follows both almost to the present day. It’s in an old post office/courthouse down near Freemont Street, and I highly recommend it. There’s some pretty graphic stuff, so if you have sensitive or squeamish kids, you might want to skip it, but I think my kids didn’t really “get” the gore. They’re so used to the Hollywood version I think they might not really believe that’s real blood on that guy’s shirt in the photograph. That may not be a good thing in general, but in this particular circumstance, I was kind of glad it was the case, because I didn’t have to worry about trauma or nightmares.
There are a ton of interactive exhibits, and it’s really quite fascinating. Three of my kids were in “Come on, Mommy—let’s get back to the gift shop” mode (with good reason—it’s a cool gift shop), but one of them would have spent hours in the museum part with me. There was so much to read and learn. In fact, at one point later that weekend we were in some gift shop, and my studious child was standing in front of a rack of personalized dice you could buy. He remarked on the fact that they were transparent, not opaque.
Me: “Why do you think that is?"
Him: “Because if they’re clear, you can see if they’ve been loaded. Loaded dice are cheating. They’re illegal.”
Me: “Where did you learn that?”
Him: “The Mob Museum.”
That alone was worth the price of admission.
One of their favorite parts was the replica Tommy gun you could fire. It was on an adjustable pole and had one of those shooting range human target things in front of it that lit up showing your “hits” after you fired for a few seconds. While we were in there, another visitor who said he was a professional balloon animal maker (well it was Vegas) called my kids over and made them a balloon Tommy gun. They took turns carrying it around the rest of the afternoon, fighting over whose turn it was to carry it next.
The reason we went to Vegas at all was because my husband’s company was exhibiting in a trade show there at Mandalay Bay. He was working Thursday morning, but was supposed to get off around 2 on Thursday afternoon. The kids and I decided to head there for a late lunch. There’s allegedly a Johnny Rockets in Mandalay Bay, but I was damned if I could find it. We walked through one part of Mandalay Bay, then when we reached the exhibit hall, we turned back and walked through the casino, into the Shops in the Luxor, desperately trying to find the fucking Johnny Rockets.
I finally asked at an information booth, and the older gentleman I asked looked puzzled.
“People keep asking about this place, but I don’t know where it is,” he said.
The girl next to him knew—apparently it’s in a food court-type place on the other fucking side of Mandalay Bay not far from the goddamned exhibit hall where we’d just been. Fuck. Me.
And this is one of my major frustrations with Las Vegas. Everything is so fucking far away from everything else in the goddamned casinos. The day we arrived (Wednesday) I had to go back up to my hotel room from the “beach bar” at the pool to get my credit card out of my wallet (to pay eleven dollars for a glass of wine, thank you very fucking much). By the time I got back, my wine was warm and the pool was closing. It’s insane. A word of advice: a trip to Las Vegas is the perfect excuse to order a Fitbit if you were looking for one.
On a related note, my husband discovered we (read: they) could walk from our hotel, through Excalibur, over to the MGM Grand, through the Luxor, and all the way to the Mandalay Bay pool. Which brings us to…
Because my husband had been staying at Mandalay Bay (as had a number of his coworkers, although my husband moved hotels when we arrived on Wednesday afternoon), he had room keys for the hotel. Getting into the pool there requires nothing more than showing your room key (if you’re over 14—under 14 they don’t have to have one), as opposed to scanning it somehow to prove its validity. We decided to drive over there and spend the morning. We couldn’t have made a better choice.
This? Not sucky.
There’s a lazy river that you can float around in without an inner tube, or you can buy them (paying, of course, up the ass for them, but you get to keep them, so whatever). We are now the proud owners of three large and one small Mandalay Bay inner tubes. (My husband is a total sucker.)
There’s a wave pool that has a big wave that’s generated about once every minute that my kids liked to body surf. We wandered back and forth between the lazy river and the wave pool for hours. The lazy river has a waterfall and you can take your drink in it. You can paddle around in the wave pool in between waves, and generally relax and wonder what the poor people are doing.
At about 10:30, my oldest was whining to leave. I figured if I bought him a Coke, he’d be good for another hour or two. We walked down to the Taco Bar at the far end of the wave pool. The guy asked if he could help us. I ordered a Coke for my son, and was then seized by the Spirit of Las Vegas.
Me: “And I’ll have a margarita.”
Him: “Frozen or rocks?”
Him: “Souvenir cup?”
The Spirit reached over and punched me in the arm.
(Total bill: $35. For a Coke and a frozen margarita.)
And this is how I am now the proud owner of a pinky/purpley Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino souvenir cup that I’m using at my office for ice water. (The frozen margarita it came with would be infinitely preferred, but even my generous and lenient company has its limits).
Las Vegas: Brought to you by tequila. Apparently.
At some point we were sufficiently water logged that we decided to leave. We headed back to our hotel to change before heading for Circus Circus. If you’re not familiar with this particular hotel and casino, it was built in 1968, and it feels all of its 45 years (me, too). It’s a bit worse for the wear, faded and dated. However, it has the Adventuredome, which is an indoor amusement park under an enormous glass dome.
I don't know that it was really this pink in there. But it was fucking hot.
We had quick service Mexican for lunch, which was fine, if not spectacular. I had a frozen margarita at lunch (clearly this was kind of becoming a trend for me), and my husband had a Negra Modelo. Then we headed across the hall to the Adventuredome to experience their special brand of torture.
The problem with anything under an enormous glass dome in Las Vegas is that when the temperature outside reaches 106 degrees (as it did that day), no amount of air conditioning short of the “Arctic” setting, which involves setting actual icebergs afloat on indoor pools in addition to lowering the thermostat, was going to make it bearable.
We got the kids wristbands to ride the rides, but decided not to ride ourselves (for economic reasons, not to mention that we really didn’t want to). We trailed around after them from one thrill ride to another. At one point we were waiting at the exit to some barf inducer or other, when my husband announced that he was going to go find a restroom while the kids were waiting. I hoped with all my heart that “I’m going to find a restroom” was code for, “I’m going to buy you another frozen margarita,” but alas that was not the case.
While the kids had a great time, the twin who is most inclined to car sickness succumbed to a combination of cheap Mexican food (he ate one of my chicken enchiladas in addition to his own lunch), the elevated heat within the Adventuredome, the stomach-churning motion of the various rides, and the heat within our car as we drove back to our hotel, and ended up depositing his lunch (and the part of mine he consumed) in the bushes of the parking lot.
But he’s a resilient little guy who’s had this happen before, and was more than ready for our next set of adventures, which you can find out about in Part Two of What I Did On My Summer Vacation! Coming soon!