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Say Aria

I wasn’t there, but I don’t really care.  It’ll still be there by the time I get to Vegas.

The Aria casino and hotel opened its doors a few hours ago, after launching a firework display from the roof that single-handedly put to shame the combined efforts on the Las Vegas Strip for New Year’s Eve last year.  Although, frankly, that wouldn’t have been difficult.

Of course, it’s on YouTube already.

It doesn’t make much difference to the effect, but this video seems to be mirrored.  Sadly it was the position of the hotels – and not the backwards letters in the “Aria” logo – that made me first notice this.

Room comp fail

Claire got this complimentary room offer in an email from The Orleans today.

Basically: “Come and stay with us for the New Year’s Eve Fireworks.  Offer excludes New Year’s Eve.”

orleansnye2

Oh I wish it could be Christmas dinner every day

Last year, I compiled a list of Christmas Day menus for Las Vegas casinos.

Over the past week, I’ve noticed quite a few hits coming in from people looking for exactly this – and presumably leaving disappointed after finding the 2008 menus.

So below are all the ones I’ve found so far for Christmas Day 2009.  There’s still quite a lot missing though, but I’ll update it as I find more information.

Notably, none of the Harrah’s properties have been updated with their Christmas offerings at the time of writing, with the exception of Guy Savoy and Mon Ami Gabi (which had details on its own web site).  Most of the MGM Mirage properties still have Thanksgiving info showing.  Although Excalibur says it has the same menus for Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, I’m not sure the others are relevant.

If you did happen to stumble here looking for festive Vegas food, why not subscribe to my RSS feed to get my next delicious trip report, beginning on December 20th, and see which of these I end up going for!

Casino web sites:

Unofficial links:

Last updated: Dec 17th 13:50 GMT

Happy anniversary Mr Terrible

It’s never a good sign when a casino makes a big deal out of celebrating a random anniversary.

Stardust was very keen to publicise the property’s 45th year as a landmark.  Even though nothing had been finalised at the time, it was inevitable that it would be pulled down before it got to the half century.

Today is apparently the ninth anniversary of Terrible’s Las Vegas casino.  I had this mailer to tell me about the free cake.

THC03999-9th-anniv-email

I don’t remember hearing about anything like this for the 8th or 7th… before they filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

It doesn’t inspire much confidence that the casino that gives me all the fuel I can guzzle and has possibly the best mascot ever will be around to make it to a decade.

El Cortez has world's smallest promotions girl

Picture doesn’t lie.

December Gift Cards at El Cortez

T-21

The cards went up today as it’s just 21 days until I go back to Las Vegas.

In fact I’ve been counting the days for much longer than that thanks to the “T-Minus” iPhone app I wrote.  It’s hard to call a countdown timer revolutionary, but it’s actually the first one that works this way: by updating the number of days as a badge number on the icon so you never need to start up the app again.

And because it’s one I wrote myself, I can change the icon whenever I damn well like – which is exactly what I did.

T-Vegas for iPhone and iPod Touch

The copy on my iPhone has looked this way for a while, but since the new version – “T-Vegas” – hit the App Store last week anyone can join in the fun too.  Download it here.

I also now know which hotels I’ll be staying in 21 days from now.

We actually cancelled two existing (comped) bookings at Harrah’s Las Vegas and Imperial Palace which we didn’t need any more after taking advantage of a few offers that had come in the mail that were too good to refuse.

It hurts to throw away ten nights on the Strip just like that.  Sure, I could have kept the bookings and tried to steal the soap, but needing to be in the right place at the right time to check in and out of unnecessarily looked like it was going to be too much of a strain on a schedule where we still have 15 nights booked for a 10 night trip.

Here’s how the itinerary looks:

Day 1: Arrive, check in to Four Queens.  3 nights complimentary room and food for the duration, including one meal in Hugo’s Cellar. Free room service before crashing out will go down a treat.

Day 2: Check in to Suncoast.  I don’t like the Suncoast. I don’t want to spend any more time there than I have to, but Claire’s offer for 2 free nights included $200 in slot play which makes it worth putting up with.  I wonder if the players will look even more suicidal at Christmas time.

Day 3: No hotel shenanigans, but as the free play is split over two days we’ll have to go back to the Suncoast to take advantage of that.

Day 4: Check out of Four Queens, head back to Suncoast to check out and say thanks for the free money and get on the road to Laughlin.  Harrah’s Laughlin gave me a four night comp with $99 in cash for turning up.  We’ll actually use one of those hotel nights, and take advantage of a “Diamond in a Day” promotion that means I can keep my shiny players card until March 31st 2011 (thanks to the legendary Jean Scott for pointing this out).

Day 5: Leave “do not disturb” sign on door at Harrah’s Laughlin and head back to Vegas and check in at Sam’s Town, where we were both offered 3 nights comp but Claire’s offer came with $60 of food credit whereas mine was only $25.

Days 6/7: We can actually stay still for a while.  Includes trying to find a way to enjoy a free Christmas dinner and then download Top of the Pops and Doctor Who.

Day 8: Check out of Sam’s Town and into the Rio.  No extra freebies here, just a free suite for 3 nights.  But to be honest I can’t believe I’m still getting any room comps here.

And then that’s it.  We can finally relax!

On the shelves, in the pub

My tiny video poker book is actually on the shelves of a book store.

It’s only one book store, but if I had to pick just one place to sell it, this would be it: The Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.

It’s round about now that I’m starting to wish I’d bothered designing a cover for it.  But still, it’s there and I’m even told that the staff have even been briefed on how to read the strategy charts so they can demonstrate its awesome power to customers in the store.

Strongly considering an incognito visit when I’m back in Vegas in December :-)

If you happen to be heading that way yourself, the new GBS location is about 300 yards from the Crown and Anchor so you can buy my book and then head over to the pub, stick $20 in a video poker machine and play perfect strategy while you get a totally free lunch (currently #7 on the Las Vegas Advisor top ten) and a pint of Old Speckled Hen.

How can you go wrong with that?  Seriously?

Update: Also on Amazon now: http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Video-Poker-Pocket-Book/dp/0557120454

Don't mention the gambling

A couple of years ago I remember stumbling on a Children’s BBC program where Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates managed to drive around Las Vegas for half an hour without ever once mentioning the word “casino”.

I know it was for kids and some people feel we have to protect their young minds from the evils of Sin City.  I do sort of get it.

I could understand them not ordering up some hot girls direct to their room or trying to find the best daiquiri that comes in a glass shaped like dice.  But watching a documentary about Vegas without them even mentioning gambling – not even once – was a very odd thing.

It was with a similar sense of wtf-ness that I just watched this commercial for Aria, which opens on the Strip next month.

It’s an advert for a casino and we have to assume it’s aimed at grown ups.  But if it didn’t have the c-word in small print at the very end, how would you ever know they had gambling there?

In fact it tells me what?  That it’s a funny shape, and I can go sailing in the middle of a faux-urban development in the desert?  At least half of that’s true…

Walkway to heaven

I haven’t posted anything like as many videos from my last Las Vegas trip as I intended to, and I just realised that the very next thing I wrote on this blog would push the last remaining clip off the bottom of the page.

So it was with a degree of irrational obsession that I had to go scraping around on my hard disk for some kind of video that I could put up in a hurry.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this one minute film of an empty conveyor belt is absolutely fascinating.

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This was filmed on the moving walkway that takes you from the Strip into Caesars Palace in the slowest way possible. 

Most of the travelators in Vegas are blocked by idle tourists who just jump on and make themselves comfortable for the long haul while the next best thing to a luxury VIP shuttle carries them to their destination at speeds of up to 2mph.

But, to be fair, this one in particular is not pleasant to walk on as the outdoor, uphill stretch is ridiculously springy – it’s like treading on a bouncy castle.

In normal circumstances, I’d be diving between taxis to get out of the heat and back into the action when heading for Caesars.  But it was late and nobody was about, so I thought it was worth taking a detour to see whether I could get any good photos from up there.  (In the end, I didn’t.)

And of course, on this particular night, the only bit of the belt that was actually going round was the final (flat) stretch that you see in the video.  I had to climb Mount Sponge all the way to the summit to get there.

But it wasn’t a completely wasted climb.  What I’ve now realised is that this seemingly bland corridor can actually provide a snapshot of Las Vegas history in its own concise, Caesars-only kind of way.

See that first advert on the left for Bette Midler?  Her run of shows comes to an end in January 2010.  The last one on the left for Serendipty 3?  That only opened in April 2009.  Even just the big banner for Cher at the bottom of the escalator is enough to indicate the timeframe to within just a few years. 

The poster for Luis Miguel at the Colosseum is the real giveaway.  That concert was on September 12th.  There may not always be something so specific, but turnover of shows, restaurants and clubs in Las Vegas is so frequent that I’d wager whatever is on display on this route into the casino is always going to be enough information to date a video of the journey to at least the correct year.

It’s not quite the same as the ever-changing skyline, which means I can try to work out when a particular episode of CSI was made from whether the Stardust is still standing or whether the Luxor has been defaced by an advert for vodka when they show the aerial shots of the Strip.  It’s just low-tech adverts for Caesars Palace.

No TV screens here, just a bunch of posters that show what’s on offer at the time. 

But Caesars is not an insignificant property.  Most of what goes on there is either influential to or influenced by trends in Las Vegas and, in its own way, looking at what’s changed in this corridor is a window onto the city’s evolution.

Because I’m weird and find that interesting, I’ll be back for another look next time 

The complete list (August 2009): Bette Midler, Cypress Street Marketplace, Martorano’s (at the Rio), Beijing Noodle No. 9, Qua Spa, Pure Nightclub, Color Salon, Luis Miguel, Bradley Ogden, Serendipity 3.

Grab your terrible trunks

The clocks have gone back, it’s getting dark early and the weather’s getting really miserable.  Summer has been well and truly over for weeks.

Except in Las Vegas where it officially ends today – according to Terrible’s casino, who are running the last pool party of the year.

Considering I’m already sick of hearing about Christmas, seeing this would have been a pleasant surprise even without the awesome picture of Mr Terrible in his swimming trunks.

It’s clearly not going to be Rehab and I doubt they’ve done any kind of deal to make sure there are some whores strippers there.

In fact, I wish I could go to see what kind of turnout they get to a late October pool party at five on a weekday evening where the price of admission is a thousand slot points.

That’s worth just $3.33 when you spend it on beer or donuts – and even less at the buffet – but it’s probably high enough to weed out most of Terrible’s clientele.