November 17, 2010

Beer and Losing in Las Vegas

People get a certain look about them on about their third day in Las Vegas. Me, I looked awesome like this:

There's a lot to do in Vegas, including:
*losing track of time
*drinking free cocktails at any hour
*riding ATVs around in the barren desert
*dumping cash into sweet slot machines
*beer- and wine-related stuff

I did all these things and more! Some highlights:

ATVs and the Desert
If ever you get the chance, take an ATV (in Wisconsin, we call them "Four Wheelers") out into the desert. Bring with you a cooler full of Bud Light and some sandwiches. It'll make for a good time, I promise!

Sensi @ Bellagio
This is a fancier type restaurant serving Italian, seafood, American Grill, and Asian dishes at a range of $25-$50 per plate. And they have a lot of wine. The Bellagio stores over 60,000 bottles; 5,250 selections; offers 250 wines by the glass, with a staff that includes 17 sommeliers and 4 master sommeliers. Sensi holds the Guinness World Record for the most number of wine selections on display. They sell more wine than any other hospitality venue in the world!

Ellis Island
$1.75 Ellis Island Brewery beers 24 hours a day. And that's for an entire pint! This place is located two blocks off the Strip, and makes for a great steak and eggs breakfast on that terrible feeling third day in Vegas for only $4.99! Ron Siebel gave the place high accolades, and so do I.

Grape Expectations
Some friends of mine have a solid group of pals who participate in making wine at a place called Grape Expectations. I had the pleasure of joining this group in crushing hundreds of pounds of grapes that'll eventually become wine. While crushing, we shared wine - both homemade and commercial varieties while snacking on cheese and bread and sushi and Doritos.

Big Dog's Brewing Co
Packer fans should definitely visit Big Dog's Brewing on a game day. The owner is a hard-core Packer fan, and so are most of the patrons. Wear a cheesehead into the place, and you'll be treated like a King. Oh, and they make their own beers, consistently offering 8-12 beers at any given time!

The rest of Vegas is sort of a blur... but I'm pretty sure it was very much like a wicked combination of Ocean's 11, Casino, 21, Rounders, and The Hangover. All in all, I spent only about $500, which includes what I lost to those highly entertaining slot machines, cheap airfare, skanky hotel room, fancy meals, and confessional taxi rides.

10 tips on how to stretch your buck on your amazing trip to Vegas:

1. Utilize frequent flyer miles and reward points from your lame credit card purchases to reduce the cost of your red-eye flights. Plenty of deals are out there. If the flight is full, the airline may comp you a flight to anywhere and give you a hotel room and some cash for food when you agree to take the next available flight. Also, don't rent a car in Vegas; instead, ride the tram or monorail or walk while sipping on a free cocktail.

2. As soon as you win on that Blackjack table or slot machine, slip your winnings into your left pocket and keep it there until you get home or simply cash out and move along. Keep your gambling budget in your right pocket, and never replenish it - once it's gone, it's gone.

3. Don't let taxi drivers take you down the Strip. Tell them you live there and request they take you down back roads to your seedy hotel. Taxis charge by the time you spend in them, not by the mileage in Vegas!

4. Drink your cocktails for free by sitting and playing a machine for a few rounds, and tip your waitress out of your left pocket. I recommend you tip her in advance - when she comes back, she'll spend less time waiting for you to take your damn eyes off of the damn game, pull out your damn wallet, and slip her two damn bucks. She'll appreciate this advance tip because she'll be able to run off more quickly and make more tips from other high rollers.

5. Order water to drink with your fancy $25 meals. Water is not only free, but helps you hydrate between all the walking and cocktail drinking you've been doing.

6. Spend some time off the Strip, both inside and outside of the casinos. Visit Fremont Street for the Fremont Street Experience. There's magnificent light shows every half hour or so. Plus, Firefly is there, where you can have some lovely tapas and try their delectable berry-infused vodka ($4 for 2oz).

7. Don't be afraid to eat at fancy restaurants. Most places range between $8-$25 per plate. The super swanky joints can get to be as much as $50 or more. Do not order a cocktail here, drink water. Alternatively, you can find a Subway, Panda Express, or McDonald's just about everywhere...

8. Sleep normally. Seriously, the more you sleep, the less you're tipping waitresses, the less glitter you get rubbed on you, and the less you confess your secrets to taxi drivers. BONUS: you can't drop major coinage into slot machines in your dreams.

9. Join a Rewards Program at the casino - it'll get you $5 of free slot play. When utilized on the penny slots, this can last for hours! Also, you'll start to accrue Reward Points and may eventually get compensated for a hotel room.

10. Visit a small town called "Jean". There is an old skool casino there called "Gold Strike Hotel and Casino" that totally pays out. It sounds like this: ching, ka-ching, clang, clang, ka-ching-ching-ching-ching!

Vegas, baby! Vegas.

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