You’ve read how the actual journey to Vegas was a dream come true, and admittedly it was hard to top.
But when you suddenly find yourself on a free vacation on your 30th birthday, you try. (Sorry, but a day in Vegas doesn’t come close to a plane ride with NKOTB!)
Our first mission was to find dinner. We had been drinking on the plane (because Donnie bought us all free drinks, remember), had nothing to eat except for the cookies Jonathan offered us, and we were starving. How fortunate we were that just across the street from the famous Bellagio buffet, which also just so happens to be one of Zack’s “bucket list” meals. Vegas has always been so low on my to-visit list I never thought we’d eat there, so I’m glad it worked out for him, and I certainly enjoyed it too!
This place was insane. It embodies so much of what Las Vegas is: excess. We ate till we were physically ill, and we’re not even sorry.
After catching the tail end of the Bellagio fountain show, we just strolled down the Strip without any purpose. It was hot and dry and really kind of unappealing in a lot of ways. Some people were trying to shove cards in our hands that advertised naked women, others were stumbling by us with their own personal blenders of margaritas, and it was all just lights, excess, and gluttony. We’re European museum people, so it wasn’t our scene, but we took it for what it was and enjoyed the opportunity we were given! Seriously, don’t get me wrong, NO complaints here.
It really is kind of pretty in its own way, all lit up at night.
The next morning, I woke up 30 years old. Might as well make the best of it, right? My plans otherwise were to go to work and feel sorry for myself all day.
We hopped in a cab and headed up the strip to the beautiful Venetian, because that is where Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery is located! Bouchon has been on my restaurant bucket list for a very long time, and it was one of the loveliest experiences ever. We sat outside on the patio, and because of the light rain that morning and overcast skies, the weather felt perfect. You almost wouldn’t even know that the seedy Las Vegas strip was just on the other side of the wall.
I had the brioche French toast with vanilla custard, bananas and caramelized apples, and Zack ordered smoked ham omelette with (of course) a heaping of bacon on the side. The butteriest butter and house-made blackberry jam came out served the prettiest rack of toast, and it was all perfect. Dining is such an experience, and these little details are what elevates a great meal to an unforgettable one.
As were finishing up, Thomas Keller himself sent out my birthday present! Ok he didn’t really, but our waiter did surprise me with a beautiful plate of brownies and vanilla bean ice cream, served with raspberry coulis, a paper-thin candied pineapple, and my own swirly birthday candle. I was stuffed, but had no trouble making room for more!
After Zack physically drug me out of Bouchon, we headed to…surprise surprise…a museum! The Neon Boneyard to be exact. I had read about it and seen photos, and with Zack being a graphic designer and me loving all things mid-century, we knew we couldn’t miss it, and the place didn’t disappoint. Our guide was more than excellent, and he brought the relics to life with the stories and history of each piece. I can’t emphasize enough how much you should go hear next time you find yourself in Vegas. Just because you’re in Sin City doesn’t give you the excuse to not squeeze in a little bit of culture, people.
For lunch we hit up another Bucket List meal…the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger. A right of passage for all grease-loving foodies who don’t live out west!
Double-doubles, Animal Style fries, and Neapolitan shakes. It was the only way to go.
And it was in fact just as greasy and delicious as we knew it would be, but I think that this was the meal that caught up with us. We had been cramming in all of this rich food and by time we made it back to the hotel, we were done. We wanted to walk around the side of the Strip were the Luxor and MGM are located, but the ability to move soon fizzled. We passed out in our hotel room and didn’t drag ourselves out till we decided to head down the rooftop pool.
You know what’s crazy? It was almost cold in Las Vegas while we were there. July 10, 2014, was a cold day in Vegas. Who would have thought? I ordered my birthday $15 coco-jito and sat with my legs dangling in the pool (because that was as much as I could get in), looked at the famous Paris Hotel balloon and fake Eiffel Tower, wondered if the middle-aged women was paying the handsome 20-something to be her guest that afternoon, talked to a cute 5-year-old and her mom, and enjoyed every second that I had been given.
Maybe it wasn’t the most exciting thing to during a 36-hour stay in Vegas, but it was exactly what we needed. We do have a toddler at home, we both work for non-profits, and hadn’t had a trip together since before I was pregnancy. It really is funny how things work out. Not two weeks before, I had emphasized once again to Zack to NOT plan ANYTHING for my 30th birthday. I wanted to ignore it completely. God wanted me to embrace my 30s, I guess, so He made sure I did!
Dinner! By time we got ready for the concert, it was only about 30 minutes from starting, so we went down to Pink’s Hot Dogs. A beloved Hollywood institution we’ve both always wanted to try, but its charm and taste got lost in Vegas translation. But again, we were in Vegas for free, so there wasn’t any complaining :)
Most likely you’re only reading this because you’re a fellow Blockhead, so let’s talk #NKOTBafterDark. Coming soon is a whole post dedicated to that wonderful night, because it deserves its own.
The next morning, after breakfast (and no breakfast will ever compare to the day before’s, so why even write about my stack of pancakes?), we thought we’d spend the $1 we had with us in cash on a slot. So we headed over to the Bellagio and fed it into a $.25 slot. (Ok, fine. That’s not why we went to the Bellagio. We went because we heard there was a museum inside, but it wasn’t open for the day just yet.) So did you know that there are other things on a slot besides a handle? Because I did not. I was going to do two pulls and Zack was going to do two pulls. I hit a button and our $1 was gone before I ever got experience the thrill of pulling a Vegas slot handle.
I actually called a waitress over, thinking maybe something was wrong with the machine? I’m such a dork. She explained about “max bets” and “lines” and some other Vegas-y jargon we didn’t understand. But then assured us that we learned a valuable lesson for just $1, and as our reward for not be money-squandering morons, she brought us mimosas! Including an extra special “Bellagio” mimosa.
I do believe virtually all cocktails in Vegas are $15, and we got $45 worth of mimosas that morning, so THAT my friends, is winning in Vegas.
After a direct home flight from Vegas later that day, we got home just in time to tuck this little Evie into bed. It was so good to see her; we missed her so much even though we had an amazing 48 hours!
Thank you Southwest Airlines, Planet Hollywood, Three07, and the 5 awesome guys of New Kids for giving me a birthday I will not only never forget, but tell stories about for years to come. (My grandkids will be telling this story.