from Seattle to Vegas---spring break with the family
We are ardent fans of Seattle, loyal to the drizzle. Seattle is known for gray skies and light, frequent rain. Sogginess. But with cons there are pros: it is green. Trees, grass and plants love to be watered.
We have the ocean and mountains, mild weather and a great food scene. People are into urban farming and sustainability, and fanatical sport fans. Soccer is huge---and easily our favorite sport. We ski, we cycle, we kayak. It is a quick ferry ride to the San Juan Islands. Seattle loves recreation, outings, events.
This city thrives on new technology and business innovation, it bursts with entrepreneurs and champions cutting edge health-care. We have strong neighborhoods, theater and layers and layers of art. We recycle like crazy.
But admittedly, we could stand a little more warmth. A better relationship with the fireball in the sky. I kid you not: Seattleites strip to their shorts at a paltry 58 degrees and the mere promise of sun. Seattle has a long, mild winter and by about mid spring, our family is yearning for warmth.
This year, we jetted to Vegas. James had a conference and with promise of pools and lazy rivers, top-notch chefs and glaring heat: it took no convincing. We piled our air-miles and reserved our seats. And found exactly what we were looking for: sun. pools. rum. entertainment. sun. time to read. more sun.
This is our second time to Vegas as a family. Years ago, also mid-Spring, we spent a weekend in Vegas. We still have stories of coming home like a pile of lobsters. On that visit, we went to KA---a Cirque du Soleil show---and loved it. This year we opted to see Blue Man Group. It was quirky, with off-beat humor and some intense drumming. Drumming hardly captures the intense musical components, in fact it is hard to describe the show itself. While my husband and myself were entertained, my teenage sons LOVED it. It was the perfect mix for their tastes.
Now that I have been to Vegasa fewtimes, I am beginning to appreciate the high-end hotels and fine dining. Each hotel on the strip offers a range of restaurants---the pricier the hotel, the more exquisite the restaurants. You can find a range of cuisines, prices and a restaurant for every mood or whim. I like spending time getting to know each hotel. That means: learning the layout of the resort, finding favorite spots by the pools and sampling a number of their restaurants.
We stayed a few nights at MGM Grand (middle of the strip) and a few nights at Mandalay Bay (south end of the strip). MGM Grand nailed the pool and lazy river experience. The lazy river is lengthy and creates all sorts of alcoves and 'front row seating' for lounging. The service was fantastic, the drinks were memorable and we spent long hours soaking up each other and the sun. Oh lets be honest: I blew through the first two books of Hunger Games while sipping coconut mojitos and working on my tan. What is not to love?
Check out my Las Vegas album on Facebook.
Both MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay offer cardio rooms (we enjoy working out while on vacation)---but weights and/or gym were located in the spa and required a 'daily spa rate' for entrance. If you are big fans of exercising on vacation [in Vegas], Aria has a substantial cardio and weight room---no fees---with complimentary water and apples. A nice touch.
Whether a hotel separates cardio from the rest of the spa or not, I highly recommend looking into the 'daily spa rate' at your hotel. It varies from $20 - $30 a day, and you can often buy a 1 or 3 day pass. Spa access will give you space to decompress: steam rooms, hot tubs, sometimes a lap pool, weights and cardio equipment, meditation rooms, etc. You can opt for a spa service too---like a massage or facial---the daily entry fee is waived.
- water consumption is key---especially with all the sun and cocktails. Water at kiosks and coffee shops were $3 for a small bottle. While we asked for tap-water at the pool (which servers brought us graciously), we still needed bottles in our room and in-between pool visits. We went to a drugstore---there are a few on the strip---and bought a case of water (24 bottles) for $8.
- Pool-side drinks can be pricey. Most cocktails were $14. We thought ourselves clever: we bought a fifth of golden rum (at the kiosks in the hotels) and put it in a water bottle (plastic not glass for pool-side). Then we ordered the boys yard-stick size virgin strawberry daiquiris. We stole some of their drinks and added rum. For approximately $25 we had 6 cocktails. AND felt super smart.
- Pool-side food can be a tiny pricey too. We found that most pools allowed you to bring in outside food. You can exit the pool, and buy sandwiches or pizza or salads for half the price of the pool-side snack shack.
- we ate lunch at American Burger Works at Excalibur---literally while strolling with suitcases from MGM Grand to Mandalay Bay. If you go: try their turkey burger and get gobs of the Jack Daniels Ketchup for your fries.
- Stripsteak (Mandalay Bay): hands down the best dinner of the week. I am increasingly a fan of Michael Mina. He is willing to reinvent/revisit cooking methodology to make food taste better than expected. Like poaching lamb in olive oil then searing it on the grill to finish. Or creating a 'fries tasting' each with their own seasoning and sauce (more truffle aioli please). When it comes to cooking meat and seafood to its greatest potential---this chef I trust.
- Diego Mexican Cuisine (MGM Grand): loved it. Great food. Everyone was happy with what they ordered.
- Lupo by Wolfgang Puck (Mandalay Bay): try the pastas and desserts. Divine.
- Fleur by Hubert Keller (Mandalaly Bay): some of the appetizers were fun (chickpeas, flat-breads), smallish portions and food I would normally make at home so wasn't a 'wow'
- Borders Grill (Mandalay Bay): loved their steak salad for lunch.
- Onda (The Mirage): read review here.
- Mix (Mandalay Bay): we didn't eat dinner here, but James and I popped up to The Hotel's roof-top bar for an after dinner drink. Gorgeous views of the strip.
*Elements of my trip were hosted and arranged MGM resorts International. My experience—and opinions—are my own.