I’ve been vacationing in Las Vegas during December almost every year since I turned 21. The trip has gone through many iterations since it started. I’m happy that the “December Trip” still exists with the same group even though I’m living in Las Vegas.
This has become a different vacation for me. Even after moving to Las Vegas, I used to stay in a hotel with everyone else during this mini-vacation. I’ve opted out of that. The cost to take Uber or Lyft to and from my house costs less than the resort fee at most hotels.
This trip was slightly different since I wasn’t around the crew all day and night. To be honest, the working vacation after ZorkFest was welcome. This felt like an “adult” Vegas vacation more than previous years. We gambled less often (probably still more than most) and bounced around town less than normal. The mix returned an equally great winter Vegas Vacation for everyone.
The day started with a quick lunch at SLS Las Vegas before a driverless car cut us off on the way to playing a little beer pong and slots at The Linq. This was all filler until the Vegas Golden Knights game.
We spent a couple hours hanging out at The Park before the game. The entire area was overflowing with thousands of Pittsburgh Penguins fans. It’s a strange sight for someone used to fans of the home team dominating local bars. In Las Vegas, the local bar is the Vegas Strip and you’re bound to find more tourists hanging out. Still, it was a bit strange.
The four hockey fans of the group sat in the first two rows while my group had general admission tickets to Hyde Lounge on the 5th level. The atmosphere for the Golden Knights versus Penguins was fantastic. Like great to the point that it can’t be undersold. It was part typical hockey game and partially what you might expect in Las Vegas. If you’re a hockey fan you should probably see your team play in Las Vegas.
I loved the Hyde Lounge tickets because there were multiple bars and this non-hockey fan could walk away from the game whenever I was bored. T-Mobile Arena is a fantastic place for a hockey game. The variety of seating, drinking, and dining is fantastic. I’m told the club level seats are probably the best available premium seats on the secondary market. You get access to two bars, mid-level bowl seats, and VIP parking if you’re driving.
There’s a black hole for a few hours after the game that may have involved three bottles of vodka.
We ended up at the SLS where half of the crew went back to their rooms at W Las Vegas and the rest grabbed a bite and played blackjack for a while. There was one 3:2 table with a $50 minimum. We opted for the low limits 6:5 single deck pitch game. We called it a night after a couple of drinks. I think I walked away with enough money to pay for my hockey ticket.
This vacation often begins at Gold Coast for a session of gambling and lunch at Ping Pang Pong. I saved my first visit to the new Ping Pang Pong specifically for this trip. The new restaurant is larger and somehow more chaotic.
There are food carts being pushed up and down the aisles non-stop. This was not a quiet and relaxing lunch. We sat down at a large table with a lazy Susan in the center. In less than five minutes we had about 10 different dishes and hot tea on the table. Drink orders weren’t even taken yet.
The food was great as always and plentiful. We had so much food and paid so little. Ping Pang Pong is still one of the best values inside of a casino even with the larger restaurant. After gorging ourselves on Chinese food, we head out to the casino. Some of us hit the slots and others played blackjack.
I had someone play Texas Tea “Skill Pinball” so I could record the skill portion of the slot machine. Why isn’t there a video? Because the guy playing had three balls and hit a ball once. Sad trombone. We bounced around the casino trying any new slot machine we could find. Gold Coast has a great assortment of new games. The only new slot machine I didn’t notice was “Anchorman.”
After the Gold Coast, a group of us drove downtown for a little gambling at the El Cortez. We had an epically bad craps session. Each roll was basically setting a point so we could place out money on the table then proceed to seven out. Hey, at least it was a $5 minimum and we each were able to make a roll. After wasting a few more bucks on $0.50 roulette we walked out of the casino.
Some of the group headed back to the hotel after a short walk. My crew stayed for a snack at La Comida. I don’t love this place as much as others but it’s never bad. The carnitas tacos were good and hit the spot. I probably didn’t need all three tacos but they were there and who am I to say no?
After watching the end of the 76ers game and milling around SLS for awhile, we headed over to Cleo for dinner. This was only a couple hours after the taco snack so I wasn’t too hungry. However, that didn’t stop the feast! I think we had about 15 dishes, 4 bottles of wine, and some side drinks for a table of nine people.
The food and service at Cleo are both fantastic. I’m not sure what the future holds for the restaurant as SLS may go bankrupt or be sold. I highly recommend making a visit to Cleo if you’re in Las Vegas soon. If nothing else, stop by for social hour and get some discounted Wagyu beef kebabs. They are phenomenal.
The large meal didn’t slow down the plan for some after dinner fun. We headed over to Topgolf for an 11 p.m. tee time. This became a wine night and we proceeded to drink six or eight bottles. Details from the night are a bit fuzzy from the second half of the night.
I wasn’t in the condition to play blackjack with everyone else so I headed home after the fun at Topgolf. I think the total cost for a couple hours and all of the booze was about $100 per person. Not cheap but not out of line for the Vegas Strip.
I spent the next day working on Vegas News while the crew headed out to the Las Vegas Bowl and got massages. We met up at the W Las Vegas lobby bar (at SLS) for some drinks before heading to Bazaar Meats for a snack and more drinks. This was the beginning of one of the more mellow but fun nights.
We walked into the Lionel Richie show at Planet Hollywood just as the lights were dimming. I’m not much of a fan and enjoyed the show WAAAAAY more than I expected. Richie plays only his and Commodores hits.
Lionel Richie and Commodores songs include: Running With the Night, Brickhouse, Hello, Easy, All Night Long, and more. He played about 20 songs in total.
I knew almost every song which surprised me. His banter in between song was perfect. The crowd loved him. I loved him! The show was fantastic. I highly recommend this show if you’re remotely a fan of Lionel Richie. The show was tight and we were done in less than 90 minutes.
Blackjack was awful at Planet Hollywood so I turned to slots for a little while. They were equally bad and thankfully it was time for a legit dinner. I met up with some of the crew at Striphouse for an underwhelming filet mignon. Everyone else was a bit more satisfied with their meal. I’m just not a filet guy and should probably remember that. I just wanted a smaller steak.
Overall, this was a different Winter Vegas Vacation. Hockey, Topgolf, and a concert with a 68-year-old musician aren’t the anchors of a trip to Las Vegas that I’ve ever imagined. That said, we all had a great time every day and every night. We might be different but the fun of a Vegas vacation is still as great as ever.
Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas – Suite Escape Stay 2 nights and get the 3rd night on us.
IHG (Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza) Stay in the Moment 25% off sale
Ends 10/21. Dreams Resorts & Spas sale – Southwest Vacations
Ends 10/21. Caesars Entertainment sale – Southwest Vacations