August of 2019 was definitely hot, but nowhere near as hot as the 104 degree weather we had while adventuring in Las Vegas for Russ’s 28th birthday. While hot, it wasn’t as humid as it is back home in Virginia; so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Being the travel and adventure lovers that we are, we packed our bags and headed across the country to experience Sin City in the span of just four days. Let me tell you, trying to see all that Vegas has to offer in four cram packed days is not for the faint of heart, but boy was it worth it!
The morning of August 15th started off in a rush as we dashed to the airport and got our morning cardio making our way to our gate. We have never been so close to missing our flight, but we made it! Granted a little out of breath, but we were finally on the plane and on our way to Vegas! Flying is always full of excitement because it signals the start of our next adventure, so we had our faces pressed against the window throughout a majority of the flight. Even when Russ tried to catch up on the sleep we didn’t have the night before, I made sure he was awake to see as we crossed the country. Oops! :p
After a brief layover at LAX, we finally landed in Vegas just in time to grab our rental car and make our way to our first stop – Pampas Brazilian Steakhouse! Pampas is located inside of the Miracle Mile Shops, so we had fun wandering through the mall on our way to our lunch. We arrived at about 2:30pm PT and were STARVING since all we had were a handful of snacks and the Stroopwafles on the plane (fun fact, we have now developed a slight addiction to these and they may have been one of our stocking stuffers this past Christmas).
Before arriving in Vegas, we did some pretty heavy Grouponing and we definitely recommend doing some Grouponing of your own before your next adventure. Pampas was one of the places we purchased a Groupon for. We spent $63 on our voucher and got endless surf and turf lunch for two, with one dessert, and an hour of unlimited drinks. Who can say no to that? It may have been one of our best meals – or maybe I should say experience meals – we had while in Vegas.
We ate to the point of bursting and drank just as much! Our favorite drink was the white sangria, which had a good combination of the flavors we both like – sweet, but not overly sweet, with a citrusy flavor profile accompanied by notes of orange, lemon, coconut, and peaches. The red sangria was a little zesty with hints of oak, brandy, and Cabernet. The salad bar was a bit lacking and the seafood options were okay, offering cold shrimp cocktails, mussels, and tilapia. But, the meat is where the flavor explosion is really at! The steak was phenomenal and cooked perfectly! The accompanying chimichurri sauce was absolutely delicious and really enhanced the flavor of the various meats. We describe it as an almost Brazillian pesto. We left feeling warm and satisfied, and with a couple wonderful souvenir pictures.
After lunch, we slowly made our way through the mall, exploring the various shops until we stumbled across an art gallery that had some of Russ’ favorite artist’s pictures – Chris DeRubeis. We spent probably close to two hours wandering through the tiny gallery and excitedly talking about pieces we both loved. While roaming through the colorful gallery, we came across a piece that we both instantly fell in love with. It swirled with colors of greens and blues, and depicted a ship in full sail. It was mesmerizing. And we very nearly bought it. Since it was such a large purchase, we decided to talk about it and give our Vegas adventure a few more days before dropping a few thousand dollars. We didn’t wind up buying the picture, but I still envision it and hope that one day we will bring it home.
After settling in at our hotel, we went to Voodoo wings for dinner. Picture a fast food version of wings but not a dive bar, literal fast food like McDonald’s. Russ thought it was okay, but nothing special. I downright didn’t like it. There was no oomph behind the wings that we expected after seeing some of the reviews. The chicken was tender, though, but greasy. The restaurant itself was not very clean and was sort of bland with its overall decor, and the staff was not very friendly and were incredibly slow. After a very greasy and disappointing dinner, we headed back to the hotel and climbed in bed since we had a jam packed next couple of days. Friday was spent exploring the Vegas strip.
We started our Saturday morning off in Caesar’s Palace and stuffed ourselves with the Bacchanal Buffet that we also Grouponed. The Groupon included two hours of unlimited food and two mimosas per person. It cost us $88 plus tax and was a very enjoyable brunch! A majority of the food was absolutely delicious with a wide variety of food options from different regions around the world, such as Mexican, seafood, Asian, American, pizza, yogurts, smoothies, etc. The dessert buffet was also pretty good, with an assortment of pastries that were cute and decorative and gelato. Prior to our trip to Vegas, I had never had pistachio gelato and I was not disappointed. Now, I get pistachio ice cream (and slightly regret it later since my body has decided to not like lactose anymore) to help curb my craving for more of the delicious gelato from Caesar’s Palace.
After brunch, we enjoyed getting lost exploring all that Caesar’s Palace has to offer (and walking off some of the food baby we now had). The atmosphere is something that we haven’t experienced anywhere else. It was so full of life. After wandering the strip for several hours, we went back to our hotel to change for dinner at Envy Steakhouse (yes, this was another Groupon :p). Envy was Russ’s official birthday dinner even though it was still several days before his actual birthday. Unfortunately, the steakhouse wasn’t quite as nice as I had expected. The staff, however, were very friendly. The food was okay, but nothing to rave about. I think the best part of our meal, were the clams Russ got as his appetizer. For dessert, we got two slices of chocolate cake. The staff even wrote Happy Birthday on the plate in chocolate sauce, which was a super nice touch! Unfortunately for me, the cakes were a bit too dense and chocolatey – who would have ever thought I’d think something had too much chocolate in it?!
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and relaxed for a few minutes before heading back out onto the strip to explore it at night. We used yet another Groupon to get two 32oz margaritas from Tacos N’ Ritas to tote around with us as we explored the strip and found our way to the High Roller at the Linq. The margaritas were good and helped cut the heat, but there couldn’t have been more than a shot of liquor in them, so we definitely don’t recommend them – especially if you pay full price.
We walked the several blocks to the High Roller and got in the very long line. We discovered that if we had bought our High Roller tickets at the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck, then the tickets would have only been $20 per person with the open bar (our tickets didn’t include the open bar, but we had our margaritas). The line was ridiculously long, but it was worth the wait since it’s one of those things we feel like you need to do at least once when you visit Vegas. The strip at night is beautiful and the zip lining you can do near the High Roller looks awesome (definitely on the list for next time)! All in all, it was a fun experience and nice to see the strip from the sky, but it was slow and not as thrilling as we had thought it would be. Next time we are in Vegas, we are considering trying it with the bar included and maybe it’ll enhance the experience to a whole new level.
After the High Roller, we walked back to the hotel and prepared for our Saturday adventure kayaking from the base of the Hoover Dam!
Saturday morning started off with a mad dash out of bed and to our rental car since we woke up when we should have been arriving at the Hoover Dam to start our kayaking adventure thanks to my alarm on my phone suddenly breaking. We learned the hard way to always have a backup alarm on another device set if you have an early morning outing – especially when you’re running on next to no sleep and in a different time zone.
The last stretch of the drive to the Hoover Dam was gorgeous as the dam came into view. Once parked, we were driven down the winding road to the base of the hoover dam where we grabbed our kayaks and were given a quick tutorial on how to maneuver them before embarking on our 14 mile kayaking trip with our tour guide.
Seeing the Hoover Dam from the base is like nothing else and we highly recommend doing it. Our guide kept a very fast pace that is definitely exhausting if you’re not used to kayaking – yes, this was our first legit kayaking trip, so we have a few blisters that have left a permanent reminder of our trip on our hands.
Kayaking has become a new favorite of ours and we can’t wait to go on another kayaking adventure! Our Hoover Dam trip took us to some natural hot springs where each hot spring got hotter and hotter as you climbed higher up. After we stopped for lunch, I definitely managed to flip my kayak when getting back in like the immense grace I am. :p
The winds were strong, especially when crossing from one side of the river to the other. So, we would have to build up a good momentum and not stop as we pushed our way across the large (very large after several hours of intense kayaking) river. The hardest part about our kayaking adventure was the pace our guide set. She was very strict at keeping a fast pace, so she would push us and give us little to no breaks which is extremely challenging if your pace is slower than the rest of the group since the second you catch up, she starts going again, leaving you with zero break and making it harder to maintain her pace.
Just before we arrived at our final stop, we saw some wild Mountain Sheep that none of the other tours had gotten to see that day. Our tour guide told us we could see more by going to Boulder Park just up the road from the Hoover Dam Lodge. Which we definitely went to and saw a huge heard of Mountain Sheep lounging on one of the only patches of grass we saw in the entire state.
We then explored the Emerald Cave, which was green due to the algae that naturally grows there. It was breath taking and something we highly recommend doing. It was bitter sweet as we neared the marina and our adventure came to an end. We were exhausted but full of a new sort of energy after the rewarding and tiresome day we had just had.
After arriving at the marina, we bought a snack and relaxed as we waited for the van to take us back to the Hoover Dam Lodge and our car. We were exhausted, so after spending an hour or so enjoying the Boulder Park we drove back to the hotel where we changed and relaxed for a while at the hotel with some much needed drinks. I decided to head down to the pool and enjoy some time in the hot tub while Russ spent some time relaxing in the room before he got bored and came to join me.
Later that night, we walked to the strip to use our last Groupon on the Eiffel Tower viewing deck! I was DEAD TIRED and literally fell asleep while waiting in the ridiculously long line to get to the viewing deck. Even if you aren’t so tired that you’re falling asleep while waiting in line, we recommend spending the extra money to skip the line. We are glad we had the experience, but it definitely isn’t one that we feel like we need to repeat. It was somewhat underwhelming once we **finally** made it to the top of the viewing deck and was really hard to get a view of the Belagio Fountains, one of the main things we wanted to see while up there. The view of the strip at night from that height was pretty cool, though and so we definitely recommend doing it at least once. When we were there, the second elevator was out of order, and so getting back down was a challenge since they didn’t note that properly and so a lot of people were waiting in line for a lift that wasn’t even working. Add in being EXTREMELY exhausted, and it’s a recipe for grumpiness.
Once we finally made it back down, we headed straight back to the hotel to shower and spend some much needed time unwinding and relaxing. We had planned to have dinner in our hotel’s restaurant that night, but decided to get room service instead so that we could just relax and unwind after an extremely exhausting day. Having been our first ever time ordering room service, we were pretty thrilled by the experience (feel free to laugh at us, we certainly did). Ordering room service was such a fun experience for us and so incredibly relaxing! The man who delivered it was also very nice and professional. The food was delicious and it felt very romantic and intimate despite being in our pj’s and eating food that wasn’t what most would call elegant. I got a burger and Russ got chicken tenders, but all of the food was absolutely delicious!
Our last day was bitter sweet since we weren’t ready for our adventure to end. Our lunch was arguably our favorite meal in Vegas. We went to Gordon Ramsay’s Hells Kitchen! Everything we had was absolutely delicious, especially my Beef Wellington! My cocktail even had some hilarious personality, compliments of Chef Ramsay. I got the Notes From Gordon cocktail and left with a hilariously insulting note.
The atmosphere is very casual and not what I had been expecting. My Wellington was absolutely phenomenal and was very tender and full of flavor. Russ got wings (shocker) and fries on the side, both were very good. The fries, however, were definitely overpriced at $12 for the order – it was almost the price of another order of wings.
After lunch, we spent our last few hours in Vegas by walking the strip and exploring Caesar’s Palace some more. For a quick bite on our way to the airport, we stopped at In-N-Out Burger since how could we not? With it being our first time at In-N-Out and hearing all the hype, we had pretty high expectations. The burgers were good, just not quite as good as we had expected from the hype. It was a fun and casual last stop in Vegas.
It was dark by the time our plane was taking off from Vegas, and let me tell you if you think the strip looks cool from the High Roller or the Eiffel Tower Viewing deck, it’s nothing compared to the view from a plane! Everything about Vegas was fun, full of life, and the mountains surrounding Vegas were more beautiful than I expected. We can’t wait until we are back in Vegas again in August of 2021 for Russ’s 30th birthday!! We will be catching some shows and checking out the Grand Canyon for sure!
Have any awesome things you think we should do, see, or experience when we’re in Vegas next? Let us know in the comments!
Lindsey and Russ
*** Pro Tip: When (not if, when) you are approached by the millions of people trying to sell you something – aptly named Body Snatchers – just tell them that you’re on your way to the airport and they will leave you alone.