Spring Break in Vegas, Family Style 2015

Another adventure that has happened in the past year was a Spring Break vacation with the kids to Las Vegas.  The last time they were there was back in 2009 so this time around it was a bit different but still a lot of fun.  My parents were supposed to go with us but my mother took on a new job right before and had to travel to MD for training that week.  Bad timing.  But I still urged my dad to come with us.

We had 4 nights comped at MGM and one night at Excalibur…also had 4 nights + one paid night at Flamingo – which is where my dad stayed. This was great for a mid-strip resting point most days.

This is the longest we have ever been in Vegas at one time. Did a lot of walking and mainly played slots at night after the kids were tuckered out. My husband had a few good wins on the 2nd and 3rd nights which let us go home with one day’s full budget still in the bank. That has never happened before!

Unfortunately I was the only one recording slot bonuses and I wasn’t winning anything big. We missed out on recording some nice big wins by my husband which would’ve been good to add to our slot channel. Isn’t that the way it always happens?!

The trip was too long for me to post the daily details so I will just post the highs and lows.

Highs:
– Limo transport both ways via Presidential Limo. I booked this as a surprise for everyone. We got in from Dallas really late so it was nice to just get in a vehicle and go without making a gazillion stops and without having to worry about the tunnel. The cost included gratuity but I tipped extra there and back. The way in we had a stretch limo with champagne for us adults and on the way back it was one of the SUV stretch cars. Complete with mood lighting and an awesome sound system – everything was perfect. Hubby and I have decided we will spring for this every trip now that we are spoiled!

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– Freeplay at MGM through MLife and MyVegas turned into a profit. Not much but $75 freeplay at MGM turned into $95 cash and $20 freeplay at Excalibur turned into $35 cash. It was nice not to lose it for once.

– MGM breakfast buffet was great. We ate here twice and normally I don’t like breakfast buffets but going around 10am gets you breakfast and lunch so there was a wide variety of food.

– Sprinkles cupcakes in the Linq area. My daughter is Vegan so we got two Vegan red velvet cupcakes there. They were so good and I think we inhaled them in under 4 minutes!

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– Diablo’s Cantina @ Monte Carlo. We had the $50 food credit from MyVegas to use there and our bill came to about $100. The waitress came back and said that their cashier wasn’t there and the bartender said he didn’t know how to apply it so the entire lunch was FREE! We were floored and I gave her a big tip that she was very appreciative of.

– Ka @ MGM. Of course it is always a good show. Hubby and I saw it about 6 years ago. The pre-show entertainers (the ushers) were really fun. Dad dozed off in the beginning but midway through it grabbed his attention and he stayed awake. One of the ushers playing with “George”, my daughters stuffed whatever it is

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– Dad’s room at Famingo. It was a CET comp and I think it may have been a Go room. Hardwood floors and a nice view of the pool area. I was actually impressed.

– Slots at NYNY and MGM – for my husband at least. He had a nice $310 win on a new Azure progressive slot at MGM we had never played before (picture below) and the whole bank of them were playing out nicely for a few hours hitting progressive amounts every now and then. I was able to catch the very end of it on video. He also had a nice $260 bonus win at NYNY on some WMS slot we don’t know the name of and another $150 line hit on 50 cent Wicked Winnings there. His best hit of the trip was at MGM on a Monopoly game. Not sure the name but the bonus win was $38 and then he hit a 10x multiplier for a $380 total win. He also had a $188 bonus on Goldfish 3. My one good win came from the Reel Em In slot at MGM for a catch of about $160. I did manage to get that one on video. One night we went back to the room with that entire day’s budget, including what we had spent during the day on non-gaming activities and food.

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– Monorail transportation. All I can say is thank God for it. With Dad mid strip and us on the South end, it made meeting up each day and going back much easier!

– The weather. After being in the Dallas area with nothing but rain and recent ice – it was so nice to walk around in 80 degree weather for a few days.

– Lucky Cat @ Cosmo. Even though my fortune said “By the time you turn around the person in front of you will have disappeared” it was pretty cute and they let the kids come in and take a pic.

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– Hash House a Go Go. Man the pancakes are huge! Nobody could finish theirs. The biscuit that came with my veggie hash was the best I’ve ever had.

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– The Secret Garden at Mirage! After watching the dolphins play, we walked through to the tiger area and who was there? Seigfried!! Probably the highlight of my trip, it was an honor to meet such a Vegas legend. Totally unexpected and worth the price to get in. I’m so glad my daughter talked me into it! They say he just shows up sometimes to meet people and hang out. We caught him before he left for the day.

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– Pink’s hot dogs. The boys really enjoyed theirs and I was able to get a veggie dog. It was the cheapest meal we had the whole week.

$8.99 Prime Rib dinner at Tony Roma’s downtown. The boys loved this meal.

– The Bellagio Conservatory. It’s so much prettier at night!

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– Adventure dome @ Circus Circus. It’s pricey to get in but my husband and the kids said the rides were great and they liked that there wasn’t a wait for any of them unlike most amusement parks. I bowed out of that one and lost some $$ in the casino while waiting with my dad.

20150312_141909– The dude impersonating Dr Evil in front of Planet Hollywood. Spot on!

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-Gold and Silver Pawn Shop…aka. Pawn Stars.  We took the bus towards downtown and walked to visit the shop.  It’s a tiny little place but fun to see, especially since my dad and my husband are fans of the show.

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Lows:
– Our room debacle at MGM. I opted for the $34 upgrade from the offer I got via email before our trip to the tower spa suite so we would have more room. Upon arrival very late that night, she said they were all out of them but we could do a 1 bedroom instead. The catch – it was their last one on the 1st floor – but she said she put an 8th floor room on hold for us that we could move to the next day. I hate those first floor rooms. Right off of the casino floor, you feel like you are in a dungeon. The couch and couch pillows had what appeared to be crusty food – or vomit on them. It was a large room and would’ve been great on a different floor and minus the unidentifiable substance on the couch. The next day I went to check on the 8th floor room and the lady said come back around 2 and it should be ready. 3pm I go to the desk and the agent is talking forever – talking to a manager back and forth a hundred times. She tells me that the room that was on hold had a maintenance issue and we were being upgraded to a different room on the 20th floor. I didn’t mind that because I heard the word upgrade. Getting to the room, it wasn’t an upgrade – it was the tower spa suite I originally reserved. That room is actually smaller than the one on the first floor. But on a good note – there was no vomit on the couch. On the 2nd night around 915pm, the shower backed up and flooded the bathroom. We waited an hour and a half for maintenance to come up and plunge it and for housekeeping to replenish our towels and take away the soaked ones. They did give us 4 free buffets but in hindsight I think I may still write them a note. They charged me $40 per night for the upgrade instead of $34 because we were supposed to keep the 1 bedroom – which we weren’t able to.

– The crowds. The college basketball tournament was going on at MGM and by Wednesday there were fans and players everywhere. When the games let out you could barely walk without stepping on someone.

– Chasing progressives. I need to make a mental note here. Chasing progressives only make you frustrated and depressed. There was one hanging on at over $460 on a must pay by $500 WMS Queen of Africa at Flamingo. I played it for a long time and hit about 7 bonuses. That damn thing never dropped. I gave up. The next day of course I just had to go check it. Yup…someone won it and it was back at $250. Dammit.

– Flamingo slots in general. We lost our butts there and couldn’t hit a damn thing. They don’t seem to have many new slots, just a bunch of old ones.

– The smoke. I’m an ex-smoker. I vape now. Maybe I’m just more sensitive now but the smoke at the casinos – especially NYNY – was so heavy I could literally taste it. Made me wonder why the hell I ever smoked those things. Our clothes went straight into the washer when we got home.

– The line at Carlo’s Bakery! Insane!

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– The Walking Dead slot machine. OMG. $200 gone in no time on max bet without one bonus and only one good hit for $90. Unbelievable. Never again!

– The Excalibur room – oh…the Excalibur room. What can I say? Motel 6 downgraded a few categories with 1970’s décor, little plastic cups in the restroom and hallways that smell like an old gym sock. Yuck. I’ll never stay there again. I added the night as an afterthought when we bought our airline tickets and had to extend a night to get the cheap fare. One good thing, they did not charge the resort fee so it was completely free. I will never stay there again and I made it clear on my survey that they are in dire need of a renovation!

– Downtown. Not really a low for me and my husband but my dad hated it this time around. I think the 70 year old man wearing a diaper up his ass and the naked large ladies with nothing on but duct taped nipples did him in this time. I found it hilarious and didn’t mind our teens seeing it, it made for some funny conversation. I mean, it is Vegas!

And finally, Chief Two Cheeks:

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The trip was fun overall but I think 5 nights is a little much in Vegas!  My daughter had a blast.  My son, well he’d rather be home playing video games or on a beach vacation. At least I don’t have to worry that he’ll slip off to Vegas when he turns 21 and become a degenerate gambler like his mom and dad!

California Adventure – VidCon 2014

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The last 3 days of our California vacation were spent taking the kiddos to VidCon. For those who don’t know, VidCon is the year’s largest convention for artists that publish videos and entertain on YouTube.  YouTube has become a modern day phenomenon.  My kids, for example, don’t hardly even watch regular TV anymore.  They watch YouTube!  Going to VidCon for them is like one of us going to the Academy Awards and mingling with the celebrities.

We really didn’t know what to expect on the first day so we just got up early and headed out. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot not too far into the convention center parking garage.  When we walked up to the doors, the crowd was ridiculous.  A line winded around the building and curved about 1 million times.  Doors had not even opened yet and there were at least 3000 people in front of us. I got on Facebook from my phone and read tons of angry comments from fed up parents who had spent lots of time and money just to sit in line and have their kids cry because the disorganization led to them missing a signing or picture with their favorite YouTuber.

We really didn’t have a plan in place so when they opened the doors to the arena, we ran inside to watch the opening celebration.

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It was actually pretty fun and really set the tone for the rest of the convention.  Inside the convention hall, it was pure madness.  Everyone trying to figure out how the process worked to line up for signings and autographs was pure hell.  I felt as if I was in a teenage mosh pit.

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Since we did this over a year ago, my memory is a little spotty on what exactly we did our first day so here are some pictures to help me remember:

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Tyler Oakley

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That guy from HGTV

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The mobbing of a guy who does videos on Vine

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The only YouTubers that my husband and I watch are the ShayTards.  I’m amazed that one video of Shay Butler romping around like a dork in a unitard has turned his family into millionaires over the course of 5 years.  They have over a million subscribers and their company Maker Studios – was just bought out last year by Disney for over 500 million dollars.  Talk about success!  I was bummed I wasn’t able to go to their signing on the first day because of the crowds.  We did get to meet them but more on that later.

The next day my daughter wanted to meet one of her favorites, Joey Graceffa.  This kid is a beautiful boy, no wonder the line we waited in was 6 hours long.  Yes,  SIX HOURS. At least the end result was worth it:

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His was a traditional signing, so that meant no pictures.  Just a high five and a handshake.  We made up for that earlier this year when Joey came to our area to do a book signing.  My daughter finally got her picture!

While we were standing in that 6 hour line, my husband texts me this picture:

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Apparently Shay Butler was waking through the center and was nice enough to take a selfie with my husband.  Ugh, I was jealous!

My son went on his own little adventure and attended a few YouTuber panels.  During one, he was able to get a picture with Chris Hardwick aka. The Nerdist…aka…that guy who hosts the Talking Dead on AMC.  Yep, that’s me being jealous again!

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The last day we were there, I was able to get into the ShayTards family panel.  That was a ton of fun.  I was able to ask them a question over the mic – I think I asked Collette how she stays so calm, being the mother of 5 children and the wife of Shay!

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While I was at the panel, my daughter got more pictures with a few of her faves:

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Alfie from Pointless Blog

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The hilarious Tobuscus

Finally on our last afternoon the ShayTards called a pop up signing for those who didn’t get to see them on the first day due to the crowds.  We waited about 1.5 hr and had a great meet.

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Overall VidCon was certainly an experience.  It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be and I know the kids enjoyed themselves.  I’m not sure that we would do it again, but maybe….

California Adventure Day Five

I’m trying really hard to finish this trip report….seriously.

Day five was our Disneyland day.  We got up early and headed out to Disneyland, which was literally about 2 blocks down the street.  After parking in the lot and taking the tram, we had arrived to Disneyland California Adventure!

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We’ve been to Walt Disney World at least 8 times in the last 12 years but we’ve only been to Disneyland once and that’s when the kids were very young.  The California Adventure park was a first for us.  First things first…our favorite ride:

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There was no line.  Then we hopped on the California Screamin’ rollercoaster.  It was a lot of fun.  I wanted to video the whole ride but as soon as our car took off up the hill, my camera stopped!  Here’s a few shots of it:

And this should give you an idea of how fun it was:

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We saw the parade:

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And caught the end of Goofy’s fountain show:

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And rode the Monster’s Inc Ride.  Disney is quite clever with their attention to detail:

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20140625_105928Here’s the whole ride.  It was really cute!

 

We walked through Cars Land:


We took a mid-afternoon break to register for VidCon.  The convention center was only a few blocks down the street so we trekked it down there and picked up our passes.

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After we got back to Disneyland we rode Mickey’s Fun Wheel.  This is the big ferris wheel you see in all of the pictures.  From a glance it looks tame.  But we decided to sit in one of the swinging gondolas vs. one of the stationary ones.  How bad could it be?  Or so we thought….

After recovering from that horror…we went on another vomit-inducing ride – The Golden Zephyr **warning, don’t watch if you get dizzy easily!**

It was getting more crowded as the evening went on so we decided to call it a day early and went back to the hotel to rest up for the VidCon madness to come!

California Adventure Day Four

Day four was our last day in the LA area before heading to Anaheim for VidCon.  I didn’t have much planned for us besides visiting the Griffith Observatory.  The Observatory is a cross between a museum and a planetarium – with an awesome view.  It sits atop Mount Hollywood and you can see for miles. Best part about it – admission is free!

The weather was perfect and we got there early before the first planetarium show started so we had plenty of time to roam around the grounds and get some great pictures.

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Hollywood sign view

View up from a long trail behind the building

View up from a long trail behind the building

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The fight scene from “Rebel Without a Cause” was filmed on the front steps

Here’s our walk around the building:

 

The inside was just as impressive as the outside.

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Murals on the wall

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Ceiling of the entry way

We got tickets for two planetarium shows.  Channeling my inner nerd, I was beyond excited about this because I think the last time I was in a planetarium, I was in sixth grade!  The shows were really neat.  The guy who was narrating them looked and sounded just like he actor in the Cadillac commercials.  You know the one who says we parked a car on the moon and left the keys in it?  Yeah, that guy.

Lunch was at the on site cafe and after we successfully pissed off everyone behind us in line by ordering 3 burritos (one lady making them) we sat outside.  Here is where I experienced something I don’t think I will ever forget.  I had to use the restroom and entering the door before me was a lady with a baby and a boy who couldn’t have been more than 5.  They went into the large stall with the baby changer.  We were the only ones in there.  I hear the lady talking to the boy and she’s using the F word in every sentence, just casually like it was no big deal.  Then the boy said something as a whisper which I couldn’t hear to which she replied LOUDLY ” I don’t give a F! What the F is she gonna do?  I’ll tear her F-ing head off and feed it to her for lunch!” At this point I hope to God she’s not talking about me and decide I’d better finish up and get the hell out of there.  This lady had some serious issues to be cussing in front of a young boy like that.  Later on during lunch I see her leaving with another lady and I assume that is who she was talking about.

Our lunch view before the bathroom horror show

Our lunch view before the bathroom horror show

From lunch we decide we’ve seen everything and decide to make our way back to the car.  About halfway there, my daughter asked…what about the gift shop?  So we headed back and checked that out.  To the left of the gift shop was another exhibit area that we didn’t even know existed.  It was an entire area devoted to space and the planets.  I could feel my inner nerd tingling again so we had to go in.

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Not sure what this was

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After seeing the last few sights of the observatory it was time to head back.  We had been there all day, as it was now almost 4pm!  Time flies when you’re having fun.  We had to drive to Anaheim to check into our hotel for VidCon.  The LA traffic was horrid and a 30 mile ride took us about 4 hours!  We made a pit stop at the iconic Randy’s Donuts near the airport.

That's one big donut!

That’s one big donut!

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The donut itself…not that impressive unfortunately!  Finally made our way into Anaheim and downed some crabs at Joe’s Crab Shack before calling it a night!

Day Five – Disneyland and VidCon registration!

 

 

 

California Adventure Day Three

I know, I’m a few days late on this.  The weekend was busy and I just didn’t have the energy!

Day three was our Long Beach / Queen Mary day.  I love all things paranormal and had heard of the “ghosts” aboard the ship.  I booked our tickets for entry onto the ship which included the Ghosts and Legends “tour”.  We got there early and entered the ship – the “tour” began at 11am.  I keep saying “tour” with quotation marks because it was not really a tour.  More about this after a few pictures:

Our Clan

Our Clan

BIG Boat!

BIG Boat!

I was really excited about the Ghosts and Legends “tour” until they started talking about special effects.  Whaaaat?  Noooo! I wanted to experience the underbelly of the boat (the old swimming pool, the boiler room) in all of its original glory.  Instead we got a staged Disney-like version of a haunted tour with special effects, sounds, lights etc… which really distracted from the history of those areas.  I was really disappointed.  I’m sure if there are really spirits living down there, they are pretty pissed off!

After that mess, we explored the common areas of the boat.  Outside was really beautiful and most of it has been restored to make it look good but most everything is original  The deck was quite impressive:

Ahoy Matey!

Ahoy Matey!

 

Thinking she's Kate Winslet.  Where Leo?

Thinking she’s Kate Winslet. Where Leo?

 

An old gun

An old gun

 

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Hello?

Hello?

After the deck we looked around inside a bit before lunch.

Creepy old hallway

Creepy old hallway

 

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Original controls

Of course by this time everyone was starving so good thing the Queen Mary is also a hotel with a restaurant on board.  Lunch was pricey but good and it was nice to rest our feet for a bit.  Overall, I would say that the Queen Mary is a very over-rated tourist attraction.  It would be nice to spend a nite or two on board but I really felt like I spent over $200 to walk around a hotel for a few hours.  Good to see once, but we won’t be doing it again.

Our son had been bugging us about going to Venice beach because he’s into skateboarding and there was a skatepark he had heard about there.  I was a bit apprehensive because according to Tripadvisor – Venice Beach is a s***-hole.  We got there quickly and after paying another gazillion dollars to park our car, we checked the place out.  Yep – Venice Beach definitely does have a certain “flavor”.  Somewhere in between 10- days- without -a -shower body odor, soured milk and dog poo.  No it did not smell good and no I would never eat at any of the places that line the boardwalk.  But, it didn’t feel unsafe as many of the Tripadvisor posters had mentioned.  We were there in the middle of the day so I’m sure that added to the comfort factor.

 

The skate park was really cool however and we spent some time watching kids with some pretty great skills on their boards.  One boy couldn’t have been more than 8 years old and he was killing it in the bowl (like a big empty swimming pool).  Being a mom I was tense every time he would drop in and fly out but he had it totally under control.  Mark my words, we will see this kid again some day – X Games, Olympics…something.  He was amazing. I don’t know if you can see him real good in this short video but he’s the one with the long blond hair. There are a few more clips on my YouTube channel.


We walked down the boardwalk a bit, bought my son a retro-style skateboard at the skate shop and then headed back up the coast.

The kids wanted to see surfers so we drove into Malibu to spend some time at Surfrider beach. The water was coooold!  I don’t know how some of those surfers could be out there without wet suits on.

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The seagulls in Malibu must eat really good because they are giants.  I’ve never seen such huge seagulls!

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We watched this one gull stalk a lady’s bag of Fritos as she was sunning.  He would wait until she closed her eyes…then creep over and try to steal the bag.  She was getting quite frustrated and thought it would be a good idea to hide the Fritos in her bag.  Not deterred in the least…that was one determined gull!  He waited for her to close her eyes and then went for the bag.  This went on for a while and I couldn’t help but laugh and cheer the gull on!  Who brings Fritos to the beach anyway and not share??

The offending seagull

The offending, Frito loving seagull

We stayed in Malibu until the sun went down and began our drive back into Thousand Oaks.  We ended the night with a dinner at the local Olive Garden.

Next up…The Griffith Observatory and lovely CA traffic!

 

California Adventure Day Two

This day I had planned for us to go into the Hollywood area and do some sight seeing.  We got up early and after a nice (and free) breakfast in the hotel we headed out to Hollywood.  On the way there we drove through the ta-ta area of Beverly Hills:

 

Arriving into Hollywood, we parked right across from Hollywood High school:

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First on the agenda was the Hollywood Museum but they weren’t going to open for about an hour so we wandered down Sunset and came across the coolest store ever built:

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It was certainly the biggest candy store I had ever seen and there were a couple of really cool rooms that had different themes.  My favorite:

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Disclaimer: No humans were harmed in the making of this blog

Warning!

Warning!

 

Being the Walking Dead fan that I am, I had to check out the goods:

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I don’t even know how they were able to collect this and put it in a jar…

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Now we know, zombie brains are small

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Paying homage to the best show ever

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Might be a good disguise in the event of the zombie apocalypse…

The boys made a pit stop:

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The “gross” room

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When you gotta go you gotta go

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The best ideas are thought up while in this position….

There was even a gas station inside:

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And a Wonka section of course:

 

Holy Wonka!

Holy Wonka!

And this creepy baby thing:

No thanks!

No thanks!

By the time we were done navigating our way through the largest candy store ever, the Hollywood Museum opened up.

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Marilyn guards the front door

Marilyn guards the front door

 

Apparently this was the old Max Factor building where the stars like Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe would go to get made up before a shoot.  It is filled with years and years of movie memorabilia – which was a big hit for our move loving family.  It was three floors full of movie making goodness.  Here are some of my favorites:

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Costumes from Sweeny Todd

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We all know this guy

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Effie’s dress from the Hunger Games

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I’m dating myself here, but this is Pee-Wee’s bicycle from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

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Prop for the long distance shots of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”

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Dexter!!

We spent a good two hours in here at least, it was well worth every minute!  The museum is connected to Mel’s Diner so after we were done we got a jump on the lunch crowd and got a table.

20140622_093419 Food was good.  Expensive but good. By the time we left there were about 50 people waiting to get in.  Mel’s is kind of a Hollywood icon I guess.

Next on our “tour” was Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Which I think is now Egyptian or something because it says so.

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This is where they used to roll out the red carpet

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See, I wasn’t kidding

Of course we had to take the obligatory tourist photos in front of the building:

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Note my USA jersey…it was game day vs. Portugal

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And of course checked out the footprints:

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I took a million of these pictures so here’s two

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For those of you just itching to see about a hundred stars on the walk of fame –  I took this just for you:

 

Walking back down Sunset you can see the Hollywood Sign

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See, it’s waaaaay back there

After our Hollywood romp, my husband was growing restless because we had passed lunch and the USA game was approaching…yet we didn’t know where we would stop and watch it.  We decided to go down to Santa Monica and see if we could find a place.

Parking at the Santa Monica Pier was interesting.  After paying another gazillion dollars for a few hours access, we drove into this little parking garage, wedged our minivan into the smallest spot possible between another car and a brick wall – and handed our keys over to the valet who said “you pick up your car over there” and pointed across the street at yet another parking garage.

The pier was packed!  I’ve never seen so many people crammed into one space (well, I see that later in the trip but that’s another day).  Here’s our walk from the parking area down to the boardwalk:

The water was freezing so the hopes my kids had of swimming did not become reality (they are used to FL beaches).  We didn’t do the amusement park area but walked all the way down to the end.

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At some point my son’s flip flop had a blow out (no he didn’t step on a pop top thank goodness) and we had to buy a new pair.  One pair of $8 Santa Monica flip flops coming right up!  I’ve never seen a kid get so mad at shoes before.  I’m thankful that little shop was there!

By this time, I had another man in my life getting a bit grumpy.  Game was about to start and nowhere in sight to watch it.  We had surrendered to the fact we would have to load up the WatchESPN app on the iphone and listen to it on the drive back but then I saw a little restaurant across the way.  I said “what about there?” There was a sign out front that read “Watch World Cup Here!” It was about 10 minutes until kickoff and as we walked through the door the owner greeted us with “Are you here to watch the game or eat?” We responded in unison “Watch the game”.

He seated us right in front of the big screen TV!  To our surprise there was not many people in there yet.  A few at the bar, but there were 6 of us and the table was for…get this – exactly 6 people!  God really wanted us to be able to watch this game.  Over the course of those 2 hours, even though we had eaten lunch just a few hours before, we ate…and ate…and ate….and watched the USA tie Portugal. *sigh* By the end of the game the place was hoppin but we made our exit.  The food was excellent and the hosts gracious.  We can’t thank them enough for such a great time!

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Intense

With full bellies we waddled back to our car…which was again, across the street…and made our way out of town.  Somewhere along the way someone in the car  thought it would be a good idea to take Mulholland Dr up the mountain in a quest to reach the Hollywood sign.  I think it might have been the driver…my husband.  Before long we were literally hanging off the edge of the mountain (ok not literally but it felt like it) and I was holding back my stomach from spontaneously leaping out of my body completely on it’s own accord.  We have to be getting closer….we have to be…were the words we were repeating, as we could see the sign but couldn’t quite get there.  As we drove higher and higher….

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Nothing but a steep drop off to the side of the car!

Needless to say we never made it.  We followed every tour bus we saw until finally we asked this guy how to get to the base of the sign.  The directions went something like this “Take that street until it curves right, then left…take a right and then at the next curve take a left…take another left…then go a little ways and take a right…then another left and an immediate left…yada yada” My husband was just nodding his head.  I was thinking “Are you serious right now??” We decided to just make due with the overlook area and saw it from a distance:

 

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This was as close as we were gonna get

Making our way back down Mulholland (thank goodness) we ran into a traffic jam because something was going on at the Hollywood Bowl.

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Not sure who it was that drew such a crowd

By the time we got back into Thousand Oaks, where our hotel was we were tired.  Because we stuffed ourselves silly while at Santa Monica…I can’t even remember if we had dinner that night!  I don’t think we did.  I think we all go back and crashed.  My kids are still giving me grief that we didn’t make it all the way to the sign!

Day three coming next….The Queen Mary and Malibu!

California Adventure Day One

On the agenda: Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Malibu, Long Beach and Anaheim.

We scored some tickets on Virgin America at a good price from DFW to LAX.  Our flight was leaving at around 145pm so after getting the animals all squared away at home and a lunch at the airport before the flight, we were up up and away!  Let me tell you, we loved Virgin America.  We are American Airlines flyers usually and there’s nothing special about AA.  But on Virgin, all the seats are a black leather type of material, there is 5 times more leg room than AA flights and every seat has it’s own TV/entertainment system where you can watch movies, listen to music, watch LIVE satellite TV and even order food and drinks from.  The cabin has what they call “mood lighting” with a purple hue.  The satellite TV came in handy because we wanted to keep up on the World Cup and was able to watch a game while flying.  My husband was in heaven!

World Cup at 30k feet!

World Cup at 30k feet!

The flight was good, minus some minor turbulence (I do not like flying) and after the mile long walk and a bus ride, we met my parents at the car rental center.  The drive to Thousand Oaks, where the hotel was, was uneventful and only took about an hour despite LA traffic.  This was probably the lightest traffic of the trip.

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Got settled into the Hampton Inn Thousand Oaks (which was really nice) and headed out for a bite to eat at Carl’s Jr.  We have a few of those here in DFW but my husband and kids made it seem like their burgers are made of rainbows and unicorns….add extra sunshine and diamonds for being a Carl’s Jr. in California! I’m a vegetarian so I just have to take their word for it.

It was an early night because everyone was pooped so we enjoyed the rest of the evening at the hotel.  Day two – Hollywood, Beverly Hills and a drive on the side of a mountain!

Anybody out there?

Happy Thursday to my followers!  It’s been a whirlwind here and we just returned last week from our 8 day vacation to beautiful Southern California!  I finally got all the videos uploaded and the pictures saved and will start my trip report tonight. I’m not sure if I want to post it all at once or day by day, I’d hate to bore anyone to death!

I was just posting to see who is still out there reading this craziness…if you are then thank you!  I’m the worst at maintaining my blog but I’m trying to get better.  My husband is even toying with the idea of vlogging at some point – you can say he was inspried during our VidCon experience.  Boy is that a story!  But that’s to follow soon…..

In the meantime here’s a little taste:

Stay tuned!

 

Vegas Trip Report: The good, the bad, the ugly!

I’m going to do this report a bit different from my others because I didn’t take notes this time around. I will just detail a few areas of the trip. We went May 7 – May 10 for our 15th wedding anniversary. First night at MGM and last 2 at NYNY on MyVegas rewards.

Rooms:

Having read others’ experiences with MyVegas room rewards, I wasn’t expecting much and good thing I didn’t. I didn’t want to bother with the $20 trick but I was very nice to the check in agents to see if that would make a difference. It didn’t. We got to the desk early at both places and knew that we wouldn’t be able to come back to our room until the afternoon, which was fine. The room at MGM was one of the West Wing rooms. It seemed smaller than I remember but it was only for one night and the bed was really confortable. We did have to wait over an hour for our luggage to be brought up, which was kind of a pain. When I called to see what the deal was, it sounded like they had either forgotten or lost our request.

MGM West Wing Room with that damn window right behind the bed

MGM West Wing Room with that damn window right behind the bed

The agent at NYNY engaged us in conversation about our wedding anniversary and said she’d give us a nice view. We ended up in the New Yorker tower with a view towards the south. Not really what I was thinking but oh well, it was just a room! It was about a million miles from the elevator with lots of twists and turns, which was hell to walk to and from. The bathroom left much to be desired with a tiny bathroom. Rooms are not a big deal to us when we go to Vegas because we don’t spend much time in them anyway but I was totally underwhelmed.

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Gambling:

The slot play was awful this trip. The Mlife casinos seemed much tighter this year than ever before. I did not leave any of their casinos with more money than I walked in with except for a good run on a bank of Willy Wonka machines and a decent bonus on a 1 cent Cleo II at Monte Carlo – also a few small wins on Mystical Unicorn, Tarzan and the Mummy at Excalibur. MGM was probably the worst as I didn’t win a penny there but must’ve cycled hundreds through their machines. We did the Lions Share for $42…gone in 3 minutes (no line at 10am) and tried the Cherries Jubilee machines as well. Almost peed myself when two progressive symbols appeared and then hit nothing on the third reel.

Lions Share Current Jackpot

Lions Share Current Jackpot

Did the best at Bally’s and Planet Hollywood, which is a change from past trips. Spent about 3 hours grinding out low roller bets on a bank of WMS G+ deluxe machines at Pho, hitting a small minor progressive for $30 once and a final 87 spin bonus on Nepoleon and Josephine which put me over $100. I had started with a TITO for $7 so I consider that a good profit. (although it could’ve been soooo much better!)

 

I played several Aristocrat machines this trip and only did well on a small bet on Buffalo Deluxe at Bally’s. Timber Wolf Deluxe took a bunch of my money…I hit bonuses but they were mostly dead spins. I’ve decided I hate Bally’s machines and most IGT. The Konami machines sucked my money away and we even tried a few of the new Ainsworth machines. They’re pretty and all that but unless you are betting big, there’s not much return on them.

 

We did play some $5 blackjack at Excalibur. I had a good run for quite a while until these guys sat down and started playing crazy. Got back down to my original buy in and walked. I really hate when people do that. They were also chain smoking – as an ex-smoker, I get it. Smoking in Vegas is one of God’s gifts to smokers. I hope they enjoyed every single puff but after a while I was starting to feel sick and glad I left when I did. Never got to a craps table although I really wanted to.

My husband discovered super times pay poker and had a good run on a 10 cent machine at Pho. I lasted for a while on a $20, hitting a couple of good hands and he was able to walk away with a little under $100 profit from his initial investment. The next day we went back to see if the luck would continue but it was no bueno. $60 lost in about an hour. Vegas giveth and Vegas taketh away.

We tried a bit at the high limit room in NYNY on the 9 line $1 Texas Tea (I mean we’re from TX so why not?) Got a small hit for around $30 and then nothing. Didn’t risk more there. Played a $1 5 line Ainsworth machine room the HL that gave us a $15 hit and nothing more. Played a $1 5 line jumbo machine somewhere, I can’t remember where it was and hit for $173. Good thing too because my husband had already lost his daily bankroll that day and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet!

$20 investment

$20 investment

We had good play at TI and the Venetian with some memorable bonuses as well as a good Gems Gems Gems win for my husband at the Plaza downtown. I’ve put the videos up on my YouTube channel…not all are big wins (most are not) but I like to show that it’s not all winning when you go to the casino!

Click here to watch all of our videos!

 

Food:

We had some good food this trip. With over $200 in Total Rewards credits, a MyVegas reward and some end of trip comps from Mlife, we only paid out of pocket for 2 meals the entire trip which totaled just over $55. We hit Starbucks several times and only paid for the visit in Downtown.

Monte Carlo BuffetGROSS. Since my husband had just started playing MyVegas he didn’t have the points necessary for one of thie higher end buffets so we settled for the one at MC. We ate at around 1130am on a Wednesday. There were flies swarming the desserts, no crab legs or shrimp….the fish they had was undercooked, the lo mein was nothing but a glob of congealed noodles and there were numerous items on the buffet that were totally unrecognizeable. I felt as if I were eating with Cousin Eddie from Vegas Vacation (“Bread puddin’s extra runny tonight!”) If you have a choice – don’t waste your coins on this buffet!

 House of Blues Mandalay Bay – Lunch here was excellent. We ate around noon and they were still serving breakfast as well as lunch. My husband had breakfast and I had the shrimp poboy. It was really good. We paid for this one from our bankroll (forgot all about charging to our NYNY room!) and it was $40 for the 2 of us.

 

Hubby's Food

Hubby’s Food

 

My Food

My Food



La Salsa Cantina @ Miracle Mile – You can’t beat $3.99 for breakfast. I like their coffee and she gave a me one to go without charging me the extra $1 she said it costs.

 Pizza/Bakery place @ Paris – This was awful, at around 10pm on Wednesday night the had one lady working and a line of about 15 people. We waited forever for my husbands pizza and I ordered the clam chowder bread bowl. I had to wait another 20 minutes for that. When I got it, I couldn’t tell if it was my stuffy nose or what but it had no taste whatsoever. My husband got bad heartburn the next morning from the extra greasy pizza. The bill was around $24 covered by TR credits. We won’t be going back there.

California Pizza Kitchen @ Mirage – I know it’s a chain but I really like this place. We never eat here in our own city even though there is one about 15 min from us but I try to go at least once during our Vegas trips. I had the wild mushroom pizza and my husband just had the pepperoni. Bill was just over $40 and we charged this one to the room.

Margaritaville @ Flamingo– We wanted to use our reward credits for lunch so we stopped in. I had the shrimp wedge salad and my husband had a burger. I wasn’t crazy about having to assemble my own salad so to speak but even though it took me forever to eat it, it was yummy. It’s the only place I know to get Landshark beer – which is a favorite of mine. Bill was about $40 and they used our RC s no problem.

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PF Changs @ Pho – Yep, another chain but we never go to the one at home and I was dying for chinese food. I ordered the vegetarian lettuce wraps and my husband had sweet and sour pork. They brought me the chicken wraps first, until I told the lady it was definitely not tofu. (there is a noticeable difference in the color and texture) Since I don’t eat meat I had to send it back. I don’t think she heard me correctly when I ordered, as it was pretty loud in there. The correct meal came out quickly and it satisfied my craving for chinese this trip.

Chin Chin Cafe Breakfast Buffet @ NYNY – This was given to us as a back end comp on the day of check out. It is a small buffet but the items were good and I really enjoyed the red velvet pancakes. We were kind of in a hurry that day so I only had one but that’s probably a good thing because I could’ve sat there all morning and enjoyed them!

Carlo’s Bakery @ Palazzo – Not really a restaurant but we did get 2 cannoli’s and a t-shirt for my mom’s mother’s day gift here. When we arrived we saw it was the number system – they were on 85 and we picked #95. It wasn’t too long before we got our cannolis and when we left there were at least 30 people crammed in there waiting for their number to be called. Great decision by Buddy Valastro to open shop here, I can see it will be crazy popular for a really long time.

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The actual restaurant is right across the hall

The actual restaurant is right across the hall

 

Comps – We used the hell out of our comps and reward credits this time. Like I said, we only paid for two meals out of the whole trip and all of our starbucks visits. My husband bought himself a shirt at Margaritaville with his TR credits and also got one of the pops from Sugar Factory and some extra refills for his sister’s birthday. The Mlife lady upon check out comped our resort fees and the CPK meal at Mirage. She also gave us the free breakfast buffet at NYNY and $50 Starbucks credit that we used before we left for coffee (of course) and 3 Starbucks LV mugs to take home with us.

 

Random Musings:

  • I was told to stop recording my bonus rounds at Mirage and TI. The cocktail waitress at TI said “you know, you’re not supposed to do that…people try to figure out how to beat the games that way” Really? Beat the slot machine? I told her, nope…not doing that, just doing it for YouTube. She then said “Well I’ve seen people get arrested for that and that’s not what you come to Vegas for” assuming she meant you don’t come to Vegas to get arrested…I chuckled at that. I’ve never heard of one single person getting arrested for recoridng their bonus rounds a a casino. There is not one sign up that I could see that said it is not allowed and I’ve recorded several times in both of those places in the past. I was really pissed that I finally got the Willy Wonka Chocolate River bonus and had to turn it off halfway through. The local here in OK actually encourages video. You would think the casino owners would like for others to see people winning. It’s good advertising! Oh well.
  • A bus pass is the way to go. We got one on day 2 for 24 hours to go downtown and used it the next morning as well to hit Carlo’s before leaving for the airport. Next time I definitely will get one again.
  • Downtown is a crazy place at night. I’m all for having a good time but the noise of 10 thousand bands and music all going at the same time about drove me nuts. I guess I’m just getting old!
  • We did the Shark Reef as a MyVegas reward. It was cool but if I had to pay for it out of pocket I would’ve been pissed. It is definitely not worth $18 pp.
  • Everyone was extremely nice…from the restaurant staff, to the Mlife desk people to the cocktail waitresses. They all had smiles on their faces and made it easy to tip them. I don’t mind tipping extra for good service.
  • The timeshare people are a total nusiance! They seem much more pushy than ever before and there is one every 10 feet getting into your face. I’d much rather have the porn slappers lining the strip than these assholes. Some wouldn’t take no for an answer which was quite annoying. Why would anyone even want to do that job. I guess there is a demand for them or else they wouldn’t be out there. A sucker born every minute.
  • We had a good sized bankroll for  3.5 days but truthfully it is not enough. I planned on playing more than low rolling bets this time but those $20s were disappearing fast! The money lasts so much longer at our local and I think we were getting spoiled since we’ve been going pretty regularly there and bringing home winnings each time. I chased several major WMS progressives and couldn’t get any of them to drop. Maybe next time…..

Final thoughts:

Overall it was a good trip. It sucks when you look forward to something for so long and then it seems to fly by. That’s how it felt this time around. We’ve decided that we will go back next year and bring our teens and my parents. We commonly vacation with my parents and we have a great time. Don’t flame me for this but I think our kids would really enjoy it much more than they did 5 years ago. They will be 14 and 16 by then and have been asking to go back with us. Not only will we enjoy having them with us but it would mean a more structured trip (shows/attractions etc..) which I’m thinking will be a win for all of us. My husband and I always say “we should’ve gone here…or we shoudl’ve done this” but we get so caught up in the gaming part of Vegas that there is so much more to enjoy out there. I doubt we will go back before next spring but we will definitely be hitting up the locals within a few months to get our slot fix on. First things first, we have our family vacation to California in about 5 weeks!

Thanks for reading (if you lasted this long!)

More Pictures:

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Interesting sights in Downtown!

Interesting sights in Downtown!

Inside the "new  Cromwell

Inside the “new
Cromwell

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