Thursday, July 9, 2015

Virtual Vacation: Las Vegas

When I tell people I want to hang out in Las Vegas, they often cringe. And I get that - the general Las Vegas vibe and the pictures and stories that come back from Vegas most of the time are not the kinds of experiences I'm after. But, Las Vegas is a pretty doable vacation in terms of price and proximity for those of us on the Central Coast, so here's my [proposed] way of doing Vegas... 

(Can you believe I've never been? I was at the Greyhound bus stop in LV once as a kid, and we walked down a sidewalk where there was a man swaying around with a chair on his head, so I think it's time I go back and re-experience this city.) 


In short, skip the strip, and head downtown. I will not lose a penny to regular gambling, though a street artist occasionally gets the best of me. My money will not be spent getting sloshed, but rather on some of America's finest Thai food. 

A round trip flight for two from the Santa Maria airport (3 minutes from our house) is $274 - not bad. But, I calculated the cost to drive if we assume gas is $3.40/gallon (it's currently cheaper) and it would only be $90 in gas, round trip! It's 12 hours of driving, but... podcasts. 

I'd imagine the public transport is pretty good since this city's livelihood is built around tourism, but if you drove, at least you'd have your own car to shuttle out to the best eats in Chinatown, or track down the best shopping. 

I'm packing all the sequins I never have a reason to wear in Santa Maria! I steer clear of "slinky", but I definitely own flashy. Also, all the high heels I can't wear with children hanging on me. And sparkly jewelry. But when it comes to what to wear during the day, I'm thinking heat-resistant, and a nod to retro, like high waisted shorts and my Elvis tee. Mmm? Don't forget a water bottle and cash (for vintage shops, not gambling, duh!). Oh, and maybe I'll even have a moment to read by the pool, so a book! 

Typically, I'm all about Air BNB to save money, but you can get REALLY CHEAP accommodations at hotels in LV. The Rumor Boutique Hotel looks fun and fancy enough to be special, but has very cool rooms for $45-65! Apparently there might be a resort fee (?), but there are also deals for buying in advance, and discounts on their website. It's Vegas-y without being TOO Vegas-y or seedy. You can find stuff a lot cheaper, but I haven't found anything else that looks this cool for a price I can afford. 

Las Vegas has some of the coolest musuems! I'd want to stop at The Mob Museum (tickets are $20, but it's worth flashing a student ID if you have one) - home of Bonnie and Clyde's shot-up car! -, the Burlesque Hall of Fame (free), and most of all, the Neon Boneyard {image}, because what kind of hipster-blogger-vintage-shop-owner would I be if I passed that up?! There's a pinball hall of fame, if that's up your alley (ehhh, see what I did there? ;)), too. Tickets to the neon boneyard are $18 and BE SURE to reserve your tour spot in advance, because they sell out. The website mentions that you can buy a combo ticket for the Neon and Mob museums, so hopefully that would be a good deal. I'm thinking the night tour over the day tour? I'm really going to have trouble deciding. 

I've also never been to a Cirque du Soleil show, and Vegas seems like the place to do it! This would be a splurge, but I've heard it's pretty spectacular. Tickets are around $70. I can't decide between the shows, Ka, O {image}, and Mystere. 

Of COURSE, I'll be thrifting my heart out for costumes and memorabilia of bygone eras and generally trying to uncover "old Vegas". A quick[ish] search of vintage LV shops has me wanting to visit: The Attic, Amberjoy's Vintage Closet, Vintage Vegas Antiques, and Glam Factory Vintage. Other recommended shops are Patina, Electric Lemonade Shop, and Retro Vegas. However, as any thrifter knows, the best deals and steals are probably still at thrift stores, where people don't realize what they're selling for pennies. 

Mostly for my own reference, here is a list of places to check out if you want to feel like you're in retro LV. None of them look amazing, basically the advice is "go Downtown" or go to Palm Springs if you want to see mid century life preserved, which I do want to do sometime for sure. 

It's no secret that I like to eat. A lot. As in, I like it very much, and I like to eat great quantities. Vegas seems like my kind of place in that regard. I mean, I'm not above a buffet, people. Especially something like Wicked Spoon. $22 for elegant all-you-can-eat brunch tapas? I'm there, no shame. Trust me, I get my money's worth from buffets (you should see me in the cafeteria at Biola when I visit my sister! :')) 

Raku Grill is on all the must-go-to lists, and was endorsed by Bon Appetite for their home made tofu (though I'll be skipping that, thankyouverymuch). The Splendid Table said to stop at Manta Ramen next store as well. I can squeeze both places in to one meal, right? {image}

Now, about that Thai food I mentioned. If you know anything about the foodie scene in LV, you've heard of Lotus of Siam. It's been on cooking contest shows, Anthony Bourdain raves about it, you get the picture... Other than being Thai, the thing I'm excited about is that I can totally afford it. But I'll hunt you down if you order Pad Thai. Northern Thai food is their specialty, and apparently their beef jerky is incredible. 

Then there's this guy, Jose Andres. His eight-seat restaurant é by josé andrés is a "gastromolecular adventure" (sounds fun and so mysterious!) but probably too pricey for us. Perhaps more affordable (?) is his place Jaleo, which supposedly has "massive pans of wood fired paella". Um, yum. Best of all, given my tastes, would be his restaurant China Poblan where one critic recommended the tacos - "the Viva China - soft beef tendon, Kumamoto oysters and scallions in Sichuan peppercorn sauce is the single best item I ate in 2012". Not bad. 

Other recommended bites (probably only worth it if I happened to be right there on my way to somewhere else, because these aren't full meals) from my internet searching...

I'm not really a breakfast-loving gal, but I think I could make an exception for Cannoli from Buddy V's, as endorsed by Bon Appetit, and I pretty much believe everything they say. Don't even worry that it's actually on the dessert menu.

Highlights from this list:
Ceviche and gazpacho at Julian Serrano.
Whatever punch they're ladling out at The Velveteen Rabbit.

In the mean time... 
There's not a lot to put in this category, since this trip is close to our home and pretty likely to actually happen. I'll just keep saving coins and stashing sequins. 

These posts take a lot of time to put together, but they're some of my very favorite to make! Check out my virtual guides to Japan and Curacao

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