I had a few days of remaining vacation, and the wife had off for a week. What better place to kill a weekend+ of vacation? Except we are not gambling "people" nor do we prioritize drinking. Odd place to go then, right?
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Tropical Desert just off the strip directly East of the Flamingo. It was a pretty nice place; more functional then luxurious if anything. It had a little kitchenette which we didn't use. We were taking the tourist route so our plans included the Hoover Dam and a park west of the city. "How can you go to Vegas and not see a show?" Cirque do Soleil was the answer to that. Two and a half days and three nights, it's a bit of a crunch.
We landed, got the car rental and made our way to the hotel. It had free parking, and a rental made sense for when our day two activities were considered. We walked a bunch of the strip, and eventually found a place we could get cheaper tickets to Le Rêve, the Dream. We neglected the time zone change and chose a 9:30pm show which we regret later. Great show. Amazing talent. But kind of sleepy.
After sleeping in and grabbing some snacks, we hit the road east to the Hoover Dam. The landscape is such a leap apart from our regular. I am always in awe driving in the southwest. We pulled into the parking lot after a spell, dropped a few dam jokes, and made our way to the visitor center. A security line, a historical movie, and an elevator ride puts us in the heart of the dam. Such a massive amount of concrete went into this thing. The wife said I went crazy with pictures. We walked through the dam, and back and forth on the top. It is such an impressively massive structure.
We hit the road west, grabbed a late lunch, and drove around Vegas to the southwest. The goal was to hit the Red Rock Park before the sun went down. It is such a gorgeous deep red, and comes as a stark contrast to the typical northern fare to which we are accustomed. We made it and drove the loop before the sunset, taking pictures at stops along the way. I insisted that we drive the 14 mile loop a second time with the sunset even. Unfortunately to my dismay, the mountains just cast a great shadow over the whole area. Oh well! We drove back into town, crashed for a bit, and made our way back to the strip.
Everyone spoke highly of the Cesar's palace buffet so that was on the dinner checklist. The vast array of international foodie faire was impressive. After trying everything I would never order normally, we struck out to explore. We walked through lobbies and watched the displays that every casino has out front. The Bellogio fountains were particularly captivating. Then finally the trek back to the hotel in exhaustion for some well needed sleep.
Our trip is quickly coming to a close. This is our last full day, but a completely free day. The goal? See all that we have not seen. In retrospect, it is a rather involved goal as our first stop was the Vegas sign at the south end of the strip. Let me tell you, don't walk to it... The heat without a breeze and the distance took its toll. We got our picture and headed back north. It is surprising how bare the south end of the strip felt. Passing the obelisk and a crazy drunk guy, we started to notice more people again.
We got back into familiar territory and solidified the intention to visit the Secret Garden at the Mirage before dinner. It was a bit of a push, but we made good time. We effectively walked straight into the Secret Garden, as it was not busy. Considering the other zoos and aquariums we have been to, the place was not huge. We briefly stopped at the dolphins to recuperate, and then moved to the "jungle" portion of the garden.
The tigers were lovely. Gorgeous creatures, especially with the unusual white coat. A few were clearly getting up there in age. There were also a couple of young, full of energy tigers as well. We watched the brother and sister play for a while, and then left to dinner. Eating at a Brazilian steakhouse was the first time for the wife. A good dinner down, we went back to the hotel to crash.
On the last day, we slept in a bit and eventually made our way to the airport. After a whirlwind of days of fun, it's nice to have a slow day.
All in all, it was an enjoyable trip. I feel like we were able to see everything we had hoped for. We missed out on seeing old downtown Vegas, but I am not terribly bothered by that fact. We didn't get the typical "crazy Vegas weekend" and night life, but we had no intentions to pursue that. Great trip for us, but we don't see visiting again in the near term. Too many other great places to visit!