This week, Justine and I took a short overnight trip to Las Vegas. We left Wednesday morning, and came home Thursday night, staying just the one night. For those of you that have been following the NHL expansion talks, there's a group trying to get a team in Las Vegas (how awesome would that be?), and part of that plan was to build a new arena. So the arena is done now, and on April 6th, they did the official opening.
The band they picked to do the official opening was the Killers, a bunch of local guys that did good and made it big over the last few years. I've been a huge fan since the beginning, and have seen them a number of times over the years, from small venues to stadiums to festivals. When I heard that they'd be opening the new T-Mobile Arena, I knew that I had to be there. So a few months ago I ordered some tickets, and booked us a couple of days in one of my favorite places!
As we have done in the past, we drove down to Bellingham to fly Allegiant Airlines to Vegas. It's way cheaper, especially going midweek. The flight left at 8:00 a.m., making for an early start to the day. The border was completely empty, so we flew through in no time. Everything at the airport was easy too, and in no time we were on the plane and on our way south. Being in Vancouver, it's only a ~2 hour flight to Vegas, so by lunchtime we were at the hotel and all checked in.
I booked as a room at Planet Hollywood (PH) for the night, given it's perfect location mid-Strip. We had never stayed there before, so it was good to try something new. The room was nice, and we had a view of the pool, and looked out over the Strip to the Bellagio and it's cool fountain. It was a good start. Given the short duration of the trip we didn't really pack a lot, and it turned out to be way hotter than we had expected. There's a pretty sizable mall as part of the PH complex, and so we did a bit of shopping to buy me a pair of shorts, and Justine a hat to deal with the warmer temperatures.
Once we were a settled, we went for a walk up the Strip, just to enjoy the warmth and stretch our legs. We had a big day planned, and lots to pack in. We headed up to the Mirage, with plans to have some lunch at a burger place we really like. But it was under construction, so we had to settle for the Carnegie Deli. And ate way too much as a result. Needing to walk off that meal, we continued North up the Strip, and wandered into the Fashion Show Mall, so Justine could do a bit of shopping. We didn't stay long, and soon headed across the Strip to walk back south to the hotel. We wandered through the Shops at the Venetian, which was to be our destination for dinner later that night.
In the last couple of years, they built this huge observation wheel, kind of like the London Eye, only a bit larger. They claim it's the largest observation wheel on the planet. It's called the High Roller, and it's part of the new Linq complex on the Strip. As part of our hotel package, we ended up with two free passes to go on the HIgh Roller (before 6 p.m.). Since we were walking by, and we had some time, we figured we'd check it out. There were no lines, and we were able to walk right on. The thing was pretty cool. At it's apex, you are 550 feet above the Strip, with amazing views across all of Las Vegas. The trip took about 30 minutes, and was quite fun.
After that, we had a drink at one of the bars on the Promenade, then decided it was time to head back to the hotel. Eventually, we made it back to PH, and relaxed for a bit, before grabbing a shower and getting ready for dinner. Our favorite restaurant in Las Vegas is Tao, an Asian fusion place that makes some great food, and has a really fun atmosphere. We go there every time we're in town, and this time was no exception. I had booked us a table at 5:30, to give us enough time to make it back up to the other end of the Strip to get to the concert. Not surprisingly, the place was pretty empty when we arrived.
We ordered some drinks, then had a leisurely time ordering all of our favorites, and having a couple of glasses of wine along the way. All too soon, and hour and a half had passed, and it was time to head to the show! We hopped in a cab, and headed up to the venue. The new arena is located just between the Monte Carlo and New York New York, set back from the Strip. They've built this great outdoor plaza around it, with a spot for bands and some cool art. As you would imagine for Las Vegas, the arena itself is something to see. The whole outside of it is covered with LEDs, giving them some pretty amazing options for displays on the building.
We were pretty much on time, and getting into the venue went very smoothly. They had metal detectors set-up, but the process seemed pretty efficient, and we were through without any delay. BC Place could learn a thing or two. The arena is huge - they seemed to have built it with the thought of the whole experience in mind. Not just being in you seats, but the time you spend at concessions, and even just the walkways around the venue seem really well throughout and spacious. It's bright and airy, and might be the nicest arena I've been in.
Once we got to our seats, you discovered how they managed to make everything seem so spacious. The seats themselves are super-steep, and they managed to cram a ton of seats in. It was good, as the people in front of you were never going to block your view. I'm not sure what the capacity is, but it seems like a big venue.
As we arrived, the first of two opening acts was wrapping up. Shamir, whom I've never heard of seems to be another local musician, but we missed is whole set. Next up was a Las Vegas icon - Wayne Newton! I'm not going to pretend to be a fan, but his set was pretty entertaining. Other than Viva Las Vegas, I barely recognized most of his stuff - other than the Elvis pieces he pulled out. It seemed appropriate. It was a bit of a bizarre set as well. At one point, he started playing every instrument that was nearby - guitar, banjo, fiddle, trumpet - no idea why really. It was odd. But he soon wrapped it up, and it was time for the main event!
As local kids that made it big, it seemed appropriate that the Killers open this new venue that will be (until hockey comes along) primarily for concerts. As locals, they have a real appreciation for what this means to the city, but they also have a very good sense and appreciation for honoring the people that make Las Vegas the unique place that it is. I had a feeling that they would honor their home town, and do some fun things as part of it all. And I wasn't disappointed.
The show was amazing - the crowd was right into it (although it was disappointing to see empty seats in the lower bowl for this "sold out" event), singing along with all the hits. Brandon Flowers, the lead singer is a born showman, and he engages with the crowed really well. He told a bunch of fun stories, and as expected brought out a number of guests to be part of the big night.
As someone that understands the history, I expected him to pay tribute to Wayne Newton, and they had him come out and play on a couple of songs. They also had the Blue Man Group come out and drum as part of one of their big hits, which was really entertaining. It was a pretty long set, and was still going strong as midnight approached. For the big finale, they pulled out Viva Las Vegas again, and hand this whole menagerie out on stage - Wayne Newton, the Blue Man Group, Carrot Top, Dancing Girls, a dude on a huge unicycle - you get the picture. It was a fitting wrap up to the evening. What a show - I was so glad we decided to go!
Getting out wasn't as easy as getting in, but it was still pretty easy. The areas is really high, so the escalators between floors are huge! After getting outside, we were treated to some fireworks for the top of the arena, as well as more live music in the plaza. Everyone was in a good mood, and it was pretty easy getting back to the Strip. We popped into New York New York, and stopped at the piano bar for a drink. The two guys at the dueling pianos weren't very good, so we didn't stay very long.
After leaving, we walked back along the Strip. We stopped in the Cosmopolitan, hoping to find an interesting bar to have a last drink, but that didn't work out very well. We went back to Planet Hollywood, and once again didn't;t have a lot of luck with the bars in the casino. Too many people smoking, and Justine kind of lost her energy levels. So Justine went up to bed, and I spent about an hour playing poker before running out of gas myself. It was a very profitable hour, so that was good. There was a really drunk guy at the table that was giving money away - I love Vegas!
We slept in for a bit on Thursday morning, knowing that we had until about 11:00 a.m. Before we had to check out. We had a leisurely morning, popped down to the lobby to grab some breakfast and got organized. We got checked out and dropped off our bag, then headed up to the pool for an hour or so. The hotel had a surfing pool, which was kind of cool. There were some kids trying it out, and I watched for a bit. Once the sun got up too high, and we couldn't hand by the pool any longer, we headed out.
I wanted to use the money I won last night to buy a keyboard for my new iPad Pro, so we hopped in a cab up to the Fashion Show Mall to go to the Apple Store. As I am typing this up on that keyboard, it was a successful excursion. We looked around the mall for a bit, before heading back out into the sunshine to walk back towards the hotel. We stopped for a slushy drink at Caesar's Palace, then checked out the display at the Bellagio. As always, it was very impressive, with a theme of "spring". Lots of flowers, and some cool birds in cages.
As we needed some food before heading to the airport, we walked over to Aria and had lunch sitting outside at a Todd English pub. It's one of our regulars, and despite the $15 beers, was a good lunch stop. We had a leisurely late lunch, then walked back to the hotel and took a cab to the airport.
The trip home was pretty easy. It's a bit of a drag having to drive back to Vancouver from Bellingham, but that was the only downside to an otherwise amazing trip to Vegas.