Las Vegas

Nosing around online one lazy day, I found flights to Las Vegas for $65. In that moment, I was like, I should take Blaise and Laine on a mom trip. I mentioned the idea to Brian who was sitting on the couch, me at my desk, and he said go for it. I booked round-trip tickets to Las Vegas for early March. Flights wet up later in the month, closer to spring break. I have no shame pulling my kiddos from whatever classes they have for fun stuff. I mean, we homeschool for a reason. And even if we didn’t, I’d still pull them. Life should be about fun and experiences, not sitting in capitalistic training camp school. Okay, perhaps cynical. Education is an amazing thing! School is just one way of the many ways to learn. Taking trips is another way to learn, and to broaden your worldview. And I should add, I did have to pull Blaise and Laine from their part-time public school for Vegas. Their teachers said to have fun and enjoy the trip! No pressure at all about missing classes.

After booking the flights, I found the cheapest hotel deal ever. Probably not ever but it worked. Brian’s work has this employee discount program and I found the Excalibur for $27/night. How cheap is that?! Plus resort fees, so it came out to be like $60/night. Still not too shabby. I’m not a huge fan of the Excalibur but it’s kid-friendlyish for Las Vegas. They have an arcade and it’s extra cheesy, even for Las Vegas standards. Last year we stayed at the Mirage but it’s Hard Rock now, and I wanted the kids to experience another hotel. Flights, hotel, and car rental booked, it was time to find shows. I sat on this for a few weeks, thinking through what we’d do while in town.

Blaise and Laine started researching, watching videos of the best shows to see in Vegas, along with finding other things to do. Blaise is a huge map fan, always looking on Google Maps all over the world. He started looking at Las Vegas and found a fossil bed area he wanted to check out. And Laine found a doughnut shop on TikTok she wanted to visit. Brian suggested two things, which we added to our itinerary—a murder mystery dinner and a fancy steakhouse dinner. Now that I’m back to eating meat. We had our plan.

The flight out Monday morning was early, 6:50am. We left home at 4:30am for SeaTac. It was smooth. Parking was easy, security was dead, and the wait at the gate went quickly. The flight was maybe half-full, if not a third-full. We sat in the very back row, my favorite. I’m not a huge fan of flying so I like to sit where I can see and listen to the flight attendants. It helps my anxiety if they’re going about business as usual. There was also a pilot as a passenger; this always helps my anxiety also. The flight was as smooth as could be and we arrived early. Tail wind I suppose?

The Vegas airport was busy, as expected. The city that ever sleeps, right? The kids were amused, we had to take the tram from our terminal to the main airport. They hadn’t experienced airport trams before. We found the rental car shuttle, loaded up, and made our way to the rental car place. That was a smooth process also. I suppose flying first thing makes life easier. We had this cute little sporty SUV, an odd green color. I think it’s a rental car because nobody wants to buy the color. It grew on us. Straight from the collecting the rental car, we drove to the Peppermill. If I’m anything, Im a stickler for consistency. The Peppermill was my favorite restaurant in Sacramento until it closed. Brian and I used to go there all the time. We went to the Peppermill last year when we all went to Las Vegas. We hadn’t had a proper breakfast. Well, Laine hadn’t; Blaise and I aren’t breakfast eaters. But it was approaching lunchtime by now.

There was a small wait but we scored a table within 10 minutes. I think we had the same waitress we had last year. I’m 99.9% certain. Lunch, check. It was time to head to the Excalibur. Check in was 2pm but I went for it early, and did mobile check in. It said our room was ready. We bypassed the long line at the front desk and went straight to our room, to use the electronic key in the app. It didn’t work. Thankfully there was a security man on the floor and he radioed down to confirm it was okay to let us in, and he did. I was a little disappointed; I had selected the strip view upgrade. Our view was a wall. Down in the long line, I was greeted by a super unhelpful woman who had zero patience for anyone. I can imagine she deals with it all. I thanked her for her time but walked away still disappointed that our room wasn’t upgraded. My disappointment didn’t last long, we were only going to sleep in the room anyway so whatever. We went back to our room settle in before heading to Cesar’s Palace to shop. Laine really wanted Air Jordans. I told her we’d get them in Las Vegas. She’s starting to care about style a bit more. Target shoes no longer made the cut for her.

Cesar’s Palace has a Nike store but it was a bust for Laine. But Blaise scored. There’s an NFL shop there. He found a jersey he really wanted. And more jerseys he really wanted, but we limited it to one. After Cesar’s, we headed to Target. My bra strap randomly broke—like severed itself and wasn’t fixable—and we also needed some supplies. Target in Las Vegas was interesting. So many things were in locked cases. Like teeth whitening strips. It was so different than here; I don’t think anything is locked up at our Target? Water and some snacks, the kids found Prime, and a cheap bra later, we left Target to head back to our hotel. We had reservations at Smith & Wollensky at 6pm.

It was close to 4:30pm when we parked at the Venetian. We had enough time to nose about before our reservation. Laine found a store that sells Nikes and scored their last pair of Air Jordans in the style and size she wanted. She was elated.

Smith & Wollensky moved since I last went in Las Vegas. It used to be a stand-alone place on the strip; it’s now in the Venetian shops. I asked and the waiter said Target gave them an offer to take their old space; he said they couldn’t pass it up. We were seated upstairs in the far corner. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a desired spot and the restaurant was still relatively quiet or if it’s because we had kids. No complaints, it was a nice spot with a view out the fake balcony to the shops below. Blaise and Laine had their manners on, and we had a lovely meal. They each had their first ever filet mignon steaks; they thought it was good but weren’t overly impressed.

That first day was a LONG day. We were up at 4am and after a full day, we still had a show at 9pm. The kids had watched a YouTube video about the best shows to see in Las Vegas, and the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show was their pick. There was a 7:30pm show also but when I bought the tickets the week before, the seat selection at 9pm was better. With Blaise and Laine short (being kids and all) I wanted specific seats. Our seats were the first row of the back section, so they wouldn’t have anyone in front of them. It worked out well. Although the leg space was incredibly small, between our seat at the wall. And I have short legs. We walked over to Mandalay Bay from the Excalibur. I’m not sure if I’m impressed the casinos are connected and you can get places without ever stepping foot outside or if I don’t like this concept.

The show was impressive. Vegas at its finest. I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed. It’s not that I don’t like Michael Jackson, I’m indifferent to him. I like a few of his songs and I know he was an amazing artist, but I never really cared enough about his music to buy an album. If one of his songs came on and I like it, I’d listen, but I never went out of my way to listen to him. After seeing the Cirque du Soleil show, I was so incredibly impressed at how much of an amazing artist he was. There’s a moment in the show were they have a hologram of Michael Jackson dancing and singing on stage. That. Was. Amazing. The kids were impressed! They had seen the Beatles Cirque du Soleil last year, so they somewhat knew what they were in for this time. Because they are kids and were sitting in the front of our section, they artists kept walking by during the show—it had interactive parts—and they’d high five Blaise and Laine, chat with them… kids always get all the attention.

It was approaching 11pm when we made it back to our room. Straight to bed, after we all took about a half-hour to wind down, watching TikTok on our respective devices. It had been a long day.

The plan Tuesday was to sleep in, hit up the donut shop Laine found on TikTok, head to Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument for Blaise, grab lunch, and then nose around the strip before our murder mystery dinner at 6pm. Another jam-packed day.

So much for sleeping in, at least for me. And kind of for Blaise and Laine. I was up by 6am. Blaise and Laine were still passed out. I kept quiet while I got ready, waiting to wake them up around 9am. They would sleep until 11am otherwise. Which would have put us on a tight time schedule to do all the things.

First up, a drive to Saint Honoré Doughnuts & Beignets. Laine found this place on TikTok and really wanted to try them. Fancy schmancy. Gold leaf on some of the doughnuts. It was over $20 for four, because of course it was. The doughnuts looked picture-perfect. They each tasted one while sitting at the bistro table out front. Neither finished one doughnut. I’m not sure if they didn’t really like them or if they were too sweet… I think it was the idea of them was what mattered. We left Saint Honoré for Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

It’s so strange, being in a place without trees. Living in the Evergreen state, trees galore, and then going to the desert… it’s eye-opening. We drove through a cute neighborhood before reaching the parking area for Tule Springs. There were a few other cars there but it looked fairly dead. Nice. We passed a park ranger on the trail heading into the monument. We chatted for a bit, with her giving us some information about the place. We asked if we were free to walk off the trail, and explore the area. We were given the okay. It was the first warm morning we’d had in ages. Coming from the freezing cold up here, wearing sweaters all day, to there where it was in the 60s already in the morning. I dare admit it felt nice. Damn sunshine and warmth.

The kids and I explored for about an hour, nosing about the fossil beds. Admiring the different landscape. It was beautiful, in its own way. Normally I’m a green gal but this place has its own charm. And we saw a hummingbird! Brian loves hummingbirds, so it made us think of him. Pictures don’t do the place justice. But still nice to look at.

It was lunchtime. Again, being a stickler for consistency, we went to CPK for lunch. I always liked CPK and they closed down all the ones up here, no good. We found the CPK in Las Vegas last year and went back to the same one. Lunch was uneventful, pizza was good. It was time to get our strip on. Blaise and Laine really wanted to check out the M&M and Coke stores; we didn’t go to either last year. Back to the hotel to park and walk the strip.

Laine was all about being an NPC. I took a few videos after lunch. Man, she does the NPC thing well. Haha. I kept laughing that maybe someone could see her through the opaque window, which killed me. Hahaha.

The murder mystery dinner was at 6pm so we had ample time. We footed it from the Excalibur to New York-New York, to the other side of the strip to the M&M and Coke stores. The kids stopped in quite a few stores, checking out all the useless stuff they sell. They did each decide to buy something with their own money, and we picked up small gifts for the siblings. It wasn’t long before we all felt we needed some downtime. Las Vegas is sensory overload. I’m glad Blaise and Laine can recognize when they need a break.

Back in our room, we had about two hours to kill before heading to the Orleans Hotel & Casino. The show is called Marriage Can Be Murder. We checked in and snagged our tickets, and had about 30 minutes to kill. Luckily the Orleans has a huge arcade for kids. Blaise and Laine quickly spotted one of those grabber games, filled with stuffed characters from Rick and Morty. They both really wanted Pickle Rick. It would have been cheaper to go on Amazon and buy the damn stuffed Pickle Rick but they wanted to try. A $25 arcade card later, we left with nothing. The pickle is a tough stuffy to grab; Laine usually always grabs something in those games. It was time to head to the dinner.

Talk about super cheesy. But I loved this! The dinner is in a bleak hotel ballroom-type space, with shoddy tables set up. It was so bad it was good. They have it all down. They take pictures before to use during the dinner show, Blaise and Laine had fun with this. The hostess sat us at a table with a woman and man, both there individually. The man was in town for a conference; he’s an orthopedic surgeon from England. The woman said she’s a school teacher who had tickets with her fiancée but they broke up, and she deiced to go alone. We introduced ourselves and settled in for the dinner show. I had no idea what to expect and I was not disappointed.

The dinner show is interactive. There are actors amongst the dinner crowd. But you have no idea who they are. The hostess goes around talking to different folks, gathering information to be used during the show. There are moments when they have all diners get up on stage, and then later mingle, to collect information on paper about each other—also to be used during the show. And every time the hostess talks with someone, the emcee guy puts up a celebrity whom the person looks like. It’s so cheesy and so good. The unknown actors in the audience get murdered during different breaks. The other host—a cop wearing short shorts like Lieutenant Dangle—interviews different folks in using information gathered, to try to solve the murders. Blaise and Laine were interviewed by the cop, and Blaise asked for an attorney before speaking to the cop. My kid! They had a great time with this. I don’t think any of us knew what to expect. It’s just such an experience, a full-on entertaining show.

The food was eh but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t invested in the murder or solving anything; I just wanted to be entertained and gain the experience. Turns out the murderer was the woman sitting next to me. I feel like I should have realized this but again, I wasn’t invested. The whole dinner was highly entertaining and as comical as could be. Blaise and Laine seemed to really enjoy themselves also. And I think they liked the virgin Jell-O shot. They weren’t too into the whole dinner at first but came around.

We left for our hotel. Blaise and Laine wanted to walk back to Mandalay Bay to check out the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil store. We didn’t hit it up the night before; it was crowded. Turns out the show is dark Tuesdays and the store was closed. We nosed around the shops connecting Mandalay Bay and Luxor. There’s a Raiders shop there and Blaise wanted a sweatshirt. Laine had her heart set on a Seahawks starter jacket she saw in the NFL store in the Cesar’s Palace shops but we couldn’t find one where we were. We decided we’d stop there the next morning before heading to the airport.

More NPC Laine with Blaise narrating.

Wednesday morning was an early one for me. Summer camp registration opened at 6am for a camp I wanted to register Saige and Baby. I scored two spots and then decided I may as well get up and moving. I let Blaise and Laine sleep a bit more as I showered and packed. They were up around 8:30am, readied, and packed, and we left for Cesar’s Palace. The Forum Shops, that’s what they’re called. We hit the NFL shop for a starter jacket for Laine. No success. Nothing was in her size. Blaise bought another jersey, because of course he did. I told Laine I still have my Raiders starter jacket from when I was in sixth grade. I never liked football but it was all the rage when I was her age, like how she wanted Air Jordans. I remember picking out my starter jacket. And I HAD to have my name embroidered on the front, like everyone else did. And I can still remember walking into the store to pick it up after they embroidered my name. I was so excited. I told Laine she can wear my old jacket, and she didn’t forget the moment we made it home.

Back when Brian and I first went to Las Vegas, we ate at the Cheesecake Factory in the Forum Shops. That’s where we decided to have lunch before heading to the airport this trip. It didn’t open until 11am and we were there at 10:50am. We killed time in another store before being seated right at 11am. The food was eh but we ate, and it was time to make our way to the airport. We still had ample time to kill. I found a local coffee roaster to buy a few pounds to bring home to Brian. That didn’t take long so we ended up driving around a bit more. There were billboards for Pinkbox Doughnuts all over, and we kept seeing them. Driving around, we came upon a Pinkbox Doughnuts. Of course we had to stop. This place was more my vibe than Saint Honoré. Both nice places but Pinkbox has more traditional doughnuts. After a doughnut each, to the rental car return and then airport.

Smooth sailing returning the car and catching the shuttle to the airport. Security was smooth also. No lines. Laine had a few rocks she was taking back that caught the security guy’s attention. Because there was no line, he took the time to show us how they appeared on the X-ray machine, and how they can look nefarious. At our gate, we had about two hours to kill. We all plugged in and zoned out on our devices. It had been an exhausting few days.

The flight home was full. We score the second-to-last row in the back. Damn. I like the absolute last row but apparently another lady likes that row also. It was a smooth flight, mostly. A little bit of turbulence but nothing that caused me to panic. That Jell-O video on TikTok actually helped my turbulence anxiety, haha. And they want to ban TikTok.

It was after dinner when we made it home, back into the swing of things. It was a great trip. Now I owe Saige and Baby a mom trip. And Brian want to take Blaise and Laine to DC for a dad trip. So many options, not enough time (or money).

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