Nevada


With the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon in the evening this Sunday, I thought I would offer up some evening race tips that I learned (the hard way) at the DisneyWorld Wine and Dine ½ Marathon this past October. The three main issues are sleep, food, and post-race partying.

Sleep:

The DisneyWorld race started at ten o’clock at night, so a bit of a sleep schedule adjustment was required. Some participants slept in late while some opted for a mid-day nap. This will be less of an issue with the Las Vegas Marathon, since the full marathon is at 4:00, the half at 5:30. I’d bet that most Vegas Marathon participants will be better rested than any other race, since most races tend to start at some god-awful hour in the morning. Sin City Runners will have all day to sleep in before working their way down to the start line.

Food:

Eating was my problem during the DisneyWorld ½. For no reason at all, I live in mortal fear of being hungry, so I unwisely decided to eat a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner before the race. After mile six or seven my stomach was not happy with me. I think it would have been better to mimic my typical morning race eating habits: I don’t eat at night (unless I’m sleep-walking and eating, which I hope isn’t going on!) and have a small breakfast a couple of hours before the race start. Mimicking this pattern for a ten o’clock race would have meant enjoying a carbo-loading type breakfast in the morning, skipping lunch and dinner, and then having a small snack a few hours before the race. For the late afternoon start in Vegas, I would go with a dinner the night before, a very small breakfast and a small snack around lunchtime.

Post-race Party:

An evening race in both Orlando and Las Vegas make sense because of the atmosphere of both cities. Although the type of partying that happens in Orlando is completely different than what happens in Vegas, each town survives on tourism and celebrations tend to be extravagant. So an evening race is perfect. In Orlando, finishers of the Wine and Dine event are treated with a free glass of wine and a gift card to spend at one of the many “around the world” eateries scattered throughout the park. In Las Vegas, runners get free admission to a variety of nightclubs (Tao, XS, and Lavo).

Therefore, this is NOT the race to kill yourself over. Don’t try and set a PR, qualify for the Boston Marathon, or reach any other running goals. You’ll want to ride that post-race high all night into your celebration.

Trust me. I didn’t do this. I was bound and determined to run my DisneyWorld 13.1 miles in less than two hours (on a full stomach, apparently), and was miserable after the race. I ran it in 1:57, but had no interest in wine or food afterwards. My plan to document and enjoy the post race party went by the wayside (you’ll notice there are no pictures here). I went home and crawled into bed.

So to those of you running in Las Vegas on Sunday, ENJOY IT! Have a nice easy race, high five an Elvis every mile, pump your fists at the finish line, and rock the night away.          

They say to never buy the most expensive home on a not-so-nice street. The opposite is true for hotel stays in Las Vegas. If you’re staying on Fremont Street (Sin City’s B-side to The Strip), opt for the best hotel. The choice is not debatable. Since its 2006 renovation, the Golden Nugget is the swankiest stay on the tackiest street.

The lobby is upscale and (relatively) tasteful, the pool is worth dodging security to get into, and the huge rooms don’t even smell like smoke. For $130 a night on the weekend, the Golden Nugget is worth it. Especially if your friend is paying. (Thanks Sandy!)

Let’s start with the pool.

Golden Nugget Pool

Located courtyard style in the middle of the hotel (so jealous passerby’s can stare longingly inside), the pool circles a two story fish/shark tank. Climb the stairs to the top of the tank and enjoy either a waterslide back down or a very chill 16-and-over area. Cabana rentals are available for the usual exorbitant prices – $250 on weekends. Although the pool isn’t huge, space is used very well. Some chairs are even available in six inches water. Securing a sunbathing location isn’t the chore it can be at Mandalay Bay or The Palms (wherein you’d better be up at 8am in order to get a prime spot) and the service is pretty good too. I got my eight dollar pink lemonade in less than ten minutes and later secured two “free” drinks while playing poolside blackjack. The pool is open until 8, but the party continues in the hot tub area until two in the morning.

The food options at the Golden Nugget are plentiful, the most talked about being Vic & Anthony’s, Chart House and Grotto. On Friday we started at The Grotto for happy hour decided to stay at the bar for dinner. It was a good decision. The bruschetta appetizer was a great start, particularly the balsamic vinaigrette dressing and the waiter’s insistence that HE dishes us up.

The pizza choice was tough. The best looking one had pine nuts, prosciutto, and fontina cheese, but we went with the happy hour special: A roasted herb chicken pie. While not the best pizza in the world (that would be Serious Pie in Seattle, in case you’re interested) if was pretty good. I ate more than my fair share. After that was a slice of Italian wedding cake, one of the few Italian desserts I like. The white strawberry-topped cake was so light and airy that I had my fair share of that too. 

On Saturday morning we were in search of a quick breakfast before hitting the pool. The Starbucks had a double-tall line and we’d heard the 24 hour Carson Street Café was bad. So we stopped at The Grill, a three-seat-plus-barstool eatery next to the Sports Book. The service sucked, but the food was alright. Kinda. We did better Sunday afternoon with the $20 buffet. We got a seat right above the pool and the food was basic (no crab legs or fancy spread of ten international cheeses), but very good.

We also had a dinner at Lillie’s Asian Cuisine (not to be confused with Red Sushi, also at the Golden Nugget) at their Hibachi Grill.

As is always the case with these places, our experience was a reflection of our hibachi man and our co-diners. Our hibachi griller guy made his customary onion volcano, tapped out a little ditty with his knives and called it good. He didn’t even throw food in anyone’s mouth (isn’t that mandatory?!?) Our dining compatriots consisted of six cookie-cutter guys, all in stripped blue button-downs and fresh-out-of-college haircuts. I immediately started making fun of them, which proved to be good entertainment for the evening (for me anyways). They were in town for a bachelor party (of course) and were reportedly heading to a strip club (of course). But I ran into them a few hours later and there was no way they were gonna make it to a strip club that night. Congratulations to John, or Adam, or Steve, or whichever one of you is getting married.  

In between eating and sun-bathing, the Fremont Street Experience is a great place to wander around. It features…

  • A traffic-free space covered by the world’s largest movie screen
  • Three free bands. This year is themed I-Love-the-‘80’s. Last year the cover bands were rocking ‘70’s tunes. I have a guess at next year’s playlist…
  • A high population of Elvis’s (Elvi?), Zorro’s, members of Kiss, and feathered dancers. Tip ‘em if you take their picture!  
  • La Bayou (15 East Fremont St) – one of the last spots you can collect your winnings in buckets full of nickels.
  • Zip-lining. $15 before 6, $20 at night, or a $50 pass all day. Not as scary as you think, and worth the short flight over the chaos.

Between “The Hangover”, “Waking up in Vegas,” and the array of suggestive commercials that the Nevada’s tourism board puts on your television, people no longer come to Vegas expecting to get rich – they come almost hoping to lose all their money so they can go home and tell their friends about how they had to bail themselves out of jail for jumping in the Bellagio fountains with a gang of European soccer players in celebration of a spur-of-the-moment marriage to the bathroom attendant at Tao.

Or whatever.

Every weekend flocks of people head to Sin City for what will surely be “the craziest weekend of my life!” Sorry bachelors: It won’t be. You will NEVER wake up sans front tooth in the same room as Mike Tyson’s tiger, no matter how many drugs you “accidently” take. The more you hope for a crazy weekend, the less crazy it will be. It is impossible for Las Vegas to be as exciting as you think it is.

Not to say that things don’t get crazy sometimes. I’ve definitely had those nights when I couldn’t reach my friend who’d left with a…um…dancer…and I’d thrown my cell phone in a toilet and a guy in a wheelchair had to change our newly-flattened tires because we didn’t want to scratch our corsets. But I’m just as likely to spend all evening curling my hair only to end up at the McDonalds in Luxor, eating fries and laughing with my friends until two in the morning. Not that I’m knocking it – last night was really fun. But it’s not the story blockbuster movies and songs go to for inspiration.

So while planning your next trip to Las Vegas (or Thailand), get The Hangover out of your head, resign yourself to the fact that you probably won’t get trick rolled or married, and try to have a good time anyways.

 

Headed to Las Vegas? Don’t even think about heading to the buffet, blackjack table or bar before getting yourself a player’s card. Player’s cards allow you to get all those Vegas comps and freebies that you always hear people bragging about. Every casino or casino family dispenses (free) cards akin to the kind of cards you get at grocery stores to get the advertised sale prices.

Cards are inserted into slot machines, recorded at tables, swiped at buffets, and noted at check-in. Once you rack up enough points, the casino in question will start sending you free passes to restaurants and money for slot play. For big spenders,  rooms and poolside cabanas are offered.

Cards are important for the non-gamblers (an ever-increasing group of Vegas tourists) as well. When you first sign up for the card it often comes pre-loaded with $10 of free slot play. I always head to a penny machine, place a bet and cash out my $9.99. Signing up for a card also ensures a place on the casino’s emailing list so all the best deals on rooms and restaurants will be sent your way.

The card to have nowadays is the Identity player’s card from the new Cosmopolitan hotel. Without gambling a dime on the casino floor, I received an email shortly after signing up for the card advertising free wine tastings on Thursdays and free Around-the-World menu tastings every other Tuesday in May. The tastings are excellent, and I’ve always gone home full. Yesterday’s free meal consisted of Chinese style couscous, a sausage encased in a flaky strudel-like shell, sweet-potato mini cakes, fried trout, and a strawberry-topped cheesecake square. Or in my case, three strawberry-topped cheesecake squares. And three drinks. The green tea-lavender-gin concoction wasn’t really my thing, but who’s complaining when it’s free?

So whether you’ve come to Vegas to eat, play, drink, or gamble, leave that credit card at home and replace the empty slot in your wallet with a new player’s card.

I don’t care how broke, scared of planes, or “not into craziness” you claim to be. When it’s time for a bachelorette party, it’s time for Las Vegas. Period. Here are a few tips on how to maximize the debauchery:

  • You and your crew of gals need an outfit. There are times in life to blend in with the crowd, and this is not one of them. The best outfits are a little sexy, a little flirty, and a little outrageous. These are not the trendy, skimpy outfits that will get you VIP passes into nightclubs. Bachelorette outfits should be a litle crazy.

  • Make a list. To keep things interesting, compile a scavenger hunt of sorts. The best tasks involved a challenge and require strangers to help you out. This is why Vegas is so great – most people walking the Strip will be more then happy to help you out on your quest. As tasks are completed, check ‘em off and snap a picture. Some examples…
    • Find someone who can sing a song from your college days (R. Kelly’s “Remix to the Ignition” is a good one)
    • Challenge someone to a foot race (if you are a runner. If volleyball is your thing, find someone to bump, set and serve a cocktail napkin with you)
    • Take a picture with a police officer, a showgirl, and an Elvis
    • Find a casino worker who’s name is the same as the groom
    • Learn how to say “bachelorette” in three different languages – find native speakers for this one
    • Interview an old couple regarding their first fight as a married couple
  • Provide alcohol. Stash a cooler of alcohol in your room and another one in someone’s rental car at the other end of the strip, for re-stocking purposes. Travel Las Vegas Blvd with your own booze and shot glasses. Offer up a swig to anyone who was useful in completing your scavenger hunt. It’s surprising how many people will take a shot from strangers…
  • Take notes on the nightly happenings right on that scavenger list. It will make for good reading over greasy food and coffee the morning after.

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