What Happens in Vegas…

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino Las Vegas – a view at night from the Palms

…often returns to Hawaii. Or perhaps doesn’t return, depending how you did in the casino.

Whew, Just got back from Las Vegas and what a blast!

As a first-timer here, everyone was telling me “beginner’s luck” this and that, but still, I didn’t do much gambling, as it’s not my bag. At least with what little I did, on my last night out at the Palms Playboy Hotel & Casino, I finished out winning enough to put me “ahead” and not in the hole. So not bad.

We booked our trip through Vacations Hawaii, which included a 5 day and 5 night stay at Sam Boyd’s Main Street Station Hotel and Casino…

That card is the hotel room key

The package included R/T airfare with their own charter, Omni Air International airlines. With that, you might think “sardine can flight”. Yep., you’re right!…

Omni Air International/Vacations Hawaii Las Vegas charter – Boeing 757 coach class

How those “big braddahs” lasted over 5 hours in flight sitting in one of these chairs is beyond me.. but they did! Speaking of “big braddahs”, our flight was ALL LOCALS. I’m pretty sure almost everyone onboard were familiar with the words “mahalo”, “howzit” and “Spam Musubi”. lo

At least it included an inflight meal, which offered a choice of ham or turkey sandwich, along with crackers and cheese and a chocolate bar and juice, soda or water. Not bad. It also included a “dessert”, which was ROCK HARD FROZEN ice cream cookie sandwich. Actually pretty good, once it softened up.

Main Street Station Casino is one of 3 sister Sam Boyd hotels located in the downtown Las Vegas area, along with the adjoining California Hotel & Casino, and a block up, the Fremont, located at the center of the Fremont Experience.

Main Street Station Hotel & Casino – Casino area

Our room was located on one of the lower floors on the north side, overlooking the beautiful freeway and the Mount Charleston range.

One thing you don’t see in Hawaii that you see all over Vegas are MASSIVE billboards…

Many of them now are high tech, and employ massive electronic video screens.

The room itself was spacious and clean, with two comfy queen beds, although I was disappointed there wasn’t a refrigerator. Wassup wit dat? I was going to request one (or a room change), but didn’t bother, as we didn’t spend much time in there, except to sleep, anyway. But still. Points minus for that. Otherwise, the staff was very friendly and accommodating and (quite large) property nicely kept and presented.

Actually, when it comes to hotels in Vegas, “property” truly is an understatement. These arent “just properties”, but more like CITIES… KINGDOMS… PALACES… TEMPLES, or any other grand term you can think of. The gist of it is, most hotels here are, on an architectural and social, and economic stature level, bigger than life.

We got to visit all the major names on the strip, including the MGM Grand…

The New York…

The Paris…

Could this slot machine, located in the Paris, be the biggest in the world?…

The Venetian…

This may look like day time, but this is actually at night, and “sky” is painted on the ceiling and lit up to appear like it’s daylight. Amazing. I just missed a couple being serenaded in a gondola (shown just leaving that bridge in the background).

Attention to detail is the name of the game in hotel design in Vegas, as shown here of this Michelangelo replica painted on the ceiling of a junction area on the lobby level at the Venetian..

The Luxor…

The Mandalay Bay…

The Excalibur…

Of course, we had to catch the water fountain show at the Bellagio…

Gotta’ dig how they have those “power blasts” that almost sound like fireworks when they shoot high and straight upwards. The stereophonic, hifi sound is also fantastic, with weatherproof speakers mounted above in the street lights surrounding the massive pool fronting the hotel. We caught two “performances”, including one that was opera and one a pop country song.

If you stop by the Bellagio, don’t forget to check out the garden at the backside of their lobby main entrance. It’s almost surreal…

What’s amazing is just about ALL the foliage in here is LIVE, not fake plants, right down to the moss that makes up this bear’s vest…

Even those sunflowers are all REAL!

They even had this miniature version of the hotel grounds, including a working fountain show!…

In downtown, we “did” the Fremont Experience, as well as the Fremont Hotel, Plaza and Golden Nugget.

Fremont Experience on a busy Saturday night

The Golden Nugget has a new attraction at their pool in the form of a water slide where you travel through a shark tank via a clear acrylic tunnel. There’s some huge sand tiger sharks in that bugger…

Click on image to see the sharks! Note, those two sand tiger sharks are at least 8 ft. in length. Huge.

Hawaii never escapes you when you’re in Vegas, as is (again) evident by this ABC store located on Fremont street…

And there’s certainly no shortage of all that is sexy and cool in Vegas. Check out this very cool “Smokin’ Chopper” they had on display in front of Rub BBQ restaurant and bar in the Rio Hotel and Casino…

Kikaida ain’t got nothin’ on this side car motorcycle!

Speaking of BBQ smokers, how about the food? Well, our Vacations Hawaii package included a voucher good for 3 meals a day at any of Sam Boyd’s stable of hotels…

Notice the date is punched through the entire voucher book, and is no longer valid after that. So, sorry, but you can’t pass any unused vouchers here on to a loved one who might be visiting Vegas a month or two later.

Even without vouchers, these casinos know how to draw people by offering mad prices in their restaurants, like this!…

$7.95 Prime Rib, including All-You-Can Salad Bar and Dessert?! Oh my, this would never last without the primary income of a casino here in the islands.

Most of our vouchers were used at the Garden Court Buffet, since it’s located conveniently in the Main Street Hotel where we were staying…

Garden Court is heralded as one of the best buffets in the SB chain, so lucky us.

An assortment of Italian, Greek and American antipasti style salads, along with a bass covered in Marinara sauce in the center

Of course what I’m showing here is just scratching the surface of this $2-out-of-pocket buffet. There’s everything from local food (Kalua Pig, Hawaiian Beef Stew, Manapua), to southern fried chicken and collard greens, roast beef, omelet station, pizza, fresh fruits, salad bar, pastries, pies and soft serve ice cream. Something for everyone, that’s for sure.

And if this “budget” buffet weren’t enough, we also had the dinner buffet at the MGM Grand Buffet, and the Carnival Buffet at the Rio, which were both just under $28 for a selection that’s just head spinning. Prime Rib, made-to-order steaks, Teppanyaki station, crab legs, you name it, they had it. The latter even included an “Asian Soup” station that had a most delicious made-to-order Pho. These “mega buffets” blow whatever we have here on Oahu through the dinner table cloth.

Once again, it’s the attention to detail that is most impressive here. Just look at this trellis design adorning the ceiling at the Garden Court restaurant…

As for Omiyage, I went by a few folk’s suggestions and stopped by Trader Joe’s in an off-the-strip strip mall…

And picked up a bunch of snacks…

Also got a couple of things from Vegas 808, a store located on the mezzanine level of the California Hotel…

Many folks like to bring home beef jerky from here, but I find Honolulu has enough beef jerky already, and not that much of a novelty…

So instead we got several cans of the Cinnamon Bagels and Smoked Salmon Jerky…

They also had these dried beef and pork items…

Vegas 808’s Cinnamon Bagel…

Smoked Salmon Jerky…

If you’re a Hawaii expat living in Vegas, you may miss the beach, but apparently you’re not missing the grinds, as was apparent by a few “local” plate lunch stands located in the outskirts of town…

At this particular place named Maui Rose, they had the usual suspects, including Loco Moco, Chicken Katsu, Kal Bi (it’s operated by Korean Americans), and what you see above, all at a reasonable price with decent portions.

Scoping out the restaurant chains around the city and outskirts of Las Vegas, there were just a few names I noticed that we DON”T have here on Oahu.

One of those that I finally got to try was In-N-Out Burger…

They’re named “In-N-Out” because of their simple menu which includes just a few burger options, fries, milk shakes and soda. That’s it. I like that.

So how was it? First of all the burgers are griddled, not flame grilled, so minus points on that. They’re topped with a savory onion mixture that taste like the Lipton powdered soup mix in flavor. This adds lots of flavor, but I’m not sure if it really helped it or detracted from it. Perhaps an acquired taste. Must say the fresh lettuce and tomato, along with a supple bun certainly helped it, but otherwise it was a more greasy, yet slightly better burger than McDonald’s, for whatever you take that as. And fries? They tasted undercooked, as their process involves cooking them from scratch potatoes. They were also undersalted, adding to the blandness. Even with the addition of salt which they provided, it hardly helped, nor did ketchup.

Then again, at the time of our stop here, I wasn’t exactly hungry (yet), so that may have contributed to my less-than-stellar opinion of the food. If for anything else, In-N-Out is easy on the wallet at just under $4 for a burger, fries and drink.

In-N-Out was actually a stop we made after visiting Hoover Dam…

Which is fed by the waters of Lake Mead, which as you can see by the “bathtub ring” of the whitened rocks where the waterline once was, that it’s getting frighteningly low….

Doing double duty, not only were we here for a vacation, but also to attend a family member’s high school graduation, which took place at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center…

I noticed the flower vendors there at the graduation were selling fresh Orchid and fake Kukui Nut leis….

Orchid Lei prices? $20 per single strand and $30 per double strand… OUCH!

Anyway, congratulations to our 2008 graduates!

To sum it all up, Just being able to see all those spectacular hotel grounds, along with the fantastic shows, buffets and thrill of gambling, either as a spectator or player, made this past week’s Vegas vacation one to remember. If you haven’t been there yet, do it. If you have, and plan on returning again (and again), good luck!


For your convenience, here’s an easy-to-read map of Las Vegas strip and downtown…

Click to view full size map (2MB image file)


19 thoughts on “What Happens in Vegas…

  1. Dude! sounds awesome. i’m glad you got to experience both downtown and the strip. (most people only walk away with the strip and its pretty sad they don’t get to see the other side of vegas). i was sad you didn’t get to eat and rate Aloha Specialites which is across from vegas 808 in california hotel. i have to say that they have the best mixed plates that i’ve ever come across on the mainland.

    anways, glad u had fun. next time you should check out the premier outlets which is between the old and new strip. probably one of the best outlets around these parts.

  2. Oy, brah…you making me jealous! Going be there in a couple weeks but you making me hungry already. Eh, Aloha Specialties wen open up wun place here in LA in the city of Artesia recently. I hear get similar grinds dey serve in Vegas. Next time you vacation in LA, go visit. Thanks for da excellent tour of Vegas. Love your website!

  3. Glad you enjoyed visiting the 8th Hawaiian Island! Loved all the photos, but the one that really got me drooling was the tempura udon.

    I love Trader Joe’s. I do a lot of my regular food shopping there (great quality at low prices) and get my gifts there before visiting the family on Oahu. It’s getting harder and harder to find something on the mainland that you can’t get on Oahu, so Trader Joe’s is it for now, and the Oahu family members love the snack items.

  4. The Vegas buffets are wonderful. Twenty-eight dollars does sound like a lot but made to order steaks that you can load up on in one location for a set price is unbeatable. They have prime rib, seafood, and it’s just a giant buffeet. I have only been in the buffet at the Wynn and it was wonderful.

  5. Welcome back! I hope you had a good break and are feeling refreshed. Your trip sounds like it was a blast! Eating, sightseeing, and shopping-you can’t go wrong with that combo.

  6. Wow… I usually don’t read every word of a trip report, but yours was great and the photos really captured everything you awere talking about!

    Many don’t know that basically 1 out of every 40 visitors to Las Vegas comes from Hawai’i and I myself have made many friends from your Islands over the years.

    I watched every UH football game I could see this past year including a couple on pay-per-view via my computer. (UH Athletic department has a pay-per-stream for some games online).

    We know that times are tight and air service from Hawai’i has been lost, but we thank you for visiting and hope you have many great visits to come!

    Ted Newkirk
    Managing Editor

  7. Thanks for a very entertaining review! I really enjoy your website and even though I knew you were on vacation, I still clicked on everyday hoping for a new topic. I live in NYC but am from Oahu-and totally look forward to your postings-keep up the good work!!

  8. Drool-worthy photos as ever. Looks like you had a a good vacay!

    And I will happily eat your In-N-Out burger for you any time…

  9. Danny, some of the ohana in our group ate there, which, IIRC, one person ordered the Ox Tail Soup. Every time we walked past there going back and forth between Mainstreet and California Hotel, it was always busy with local travelers getting their grind on.

    Personally, I have a creed when traveling NOT to eat what I can get at home, therefore avoided “local food” establishments up there as much as possible, although that can almost be a challenge in Vegas! lol Even at the Maui Rose, all I ordered was a small bowl of Miso Soup, as Chicken Katsu and Loco Moco was the last thing I wanted to eat up there. Problem is, Oahu has so many mainland chains and other culturally-diverse culinary options, it’s difficult to find something when traveling that you can’t find right here at home.

    Lori, now that I look at that photo, it looks like there’s a Key Lime Pie, which I wish I picked to try out. Instead I mostly ate fruits for dessert, but did indulge a few times on their house-made Cinnabons, drenched with buttery glaze, accompanied by a bowl of soft-serve vanilla ice cream… brah, das’ da’ bomb!

    Neme, best of luck in winnings on your soon-to-happen Vegas trip!

    Jenny, the Trader Joe’s we visited was in the Summerlin area, which was smaller than I expected, but overall, the prices were fantastic. I wish they’d open one here on Oahu. We’ll be getting a Whole Foods store soon, but I’m not sure if they have all those exotic nuts and snacks at bargain prices like TJ’s.

    Thanks Molly, I’m still in memory lane from the trip.

    “LGME”, I’m honored that you enjoyed reading my travelog. And I will be back to see the rest of the hotels that I missed on this first trip! As for UH Football, us Hawaii folks are all going to be cheering on Colt Brennan in the NFL!

    Howzit Reid, there’s no way I can catch up to you on all your amazing world culinary journeys. I told myself on this trip NOT to food blog anything while on vacation. As you see with the In-N-Out, and the buffet coverage… once blogging is in your system, it’s hard to avoid doing it. My “foodie” camera kept fighting with my conscience. lol Gambling? Nah… still not my bag, even after seeing “what it’s all about” in LV.

    Aloha UES Mayor. Hey, someone commented in the Mango Pie post about “Meat Pies”, and I told him about a place in NYC called Down Under Bakery, which features Australian style “Meat Pies”. Ever try that place? Apparently the place is a big hit. I’m curious how these “DUB Pies” taste.

    Hi Kat!

    Spotty, I hear you. One of the guys in my office said he really enjoyed In-N-Out’s burger and fries, so certainly a matter opinion on that one. One of our hosts, who lives in LV says his favorite place is Fat Burger. I seen them at several places, including one on the strip. Hmmm… just the name is tempting!

    Mahalo for all the comments. Now I gotta’ get back on “Hawaiian Time”.


  10. Sorry to hear that you were not very impressed with the In-N-Out burgers and fries. I love the burgers and love the fries even more. I’m not much of a salt person so thus the reason why I enjoy them. My DH is like you, the fries are too bland for him. But did you try their shakes? As far as fast food shakes go they beat everyone else by a longshot.

  11. Pomai,
    Lurking for a while on your blog and finally had to comment. Too bad you didn’t try the chili burgers at Tommy’s. They just opened up recently in Vegas. Can’t wait for the UH game next year to have an excuse to visit Vegas. Enjoy the blog a lot. Thanks..

  12. for in and out fries, the only way to eat them imo is with extra secret sauce. ask em for some extra on the side and man…heaven!

  13. Pomai, When I was in Vegas not too long ago went to a Chinese restaurant with my friends. I charge meal on my card and few months later credit company called me asking if I went to Japan using my card. I did not so worker from that restaurant using my numbers on it and left job and took girlfriend on trip.

    They charge tickets and shopped on the Ginza with card numbers. They were found and spend time in jail and fine by law in state.

  14. Shelly, yikes! In that case, the slogan should be “What happens in Vegas happens in Japan too”.

    asdf, In ‘n Out seems to draw plenty attention to their “secret menu”. Sounds like the way to go there.

  15. I think it the one at Ranch 99 Plaza. That Chinese restaurant and there not many in Vegas. Food not good at all workers well there always one that might be dishonest to do it. Never charge at small business when traveling they could take your credit card numbers knowing you are tourists.

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