Sunday, March 16, 2014

Grand Canyon / Las Vegas - Las Vegas

It's an easy five hour drive from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and thanks to the time change back to Pacific Time we arrived mid-afternoon.  As we almost always do, we checked into Harrah's. Not because it's such a great hotel,  although there's nothing wrong with the rooms, but more because of it's mid-Strip location.  Our room was ready and although it was on the 14th floor with a view of the Strip, it was a pretty small standard room.  There was a big NASCAR race over the weekend in Las Vegas so the hotel was crowded and there were no room upgrades to be had.

There's no use going into too much detail on our visit as we did our usual Las Vegas things.  We didn't do as much walking around as we were limited by Val's knee, but she is doing so much better you can tell she's on the road to recovery.  Val had pretty good success gambling, but for me it was terrible.  I have had a pretty good run over the last few years, but that came to an end this trip as I lost almost all the money I brought to gamble with.  Oh well, they don't build these big hotels by letting people walk away with their money.  

After having two really nice, multi-course dinners at the El Tovar, we didn't feel much like another heavy meal so we mostly settled for comfort food.  We did try one new restaurant at the newly remodeled Quad (more on the Quad later) called the Chayo Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar.  It is a large restaurant with inside seating, a bar and terrace seating outside in the Linq area (more on the Linq later also).  We enjoyed our dinner and I would say the food was very good, but not great.  The menu was a little limited, but overall it was a good experience and a welcome addition to the limited restaurants available at the Quad and Harrah's.  We also ate at the new Yard House restaurant.  Although it's a chain we had never eaten at one.  We liked it quite a lot.  They have a very varied menu with something for everyone.  We will definitely go back.

So that was about it for Las Vegas, an enjoyable visit, lots of fun, but nothing new or exciting except for one big change, which I'll write about next (anyone not really interested in Las Vegas may want to skip the next part).

The Linq
Last February when we visited Las Vegas they had just started the Linq Project and the Imperial Palace had just been rebranded as The Quad, and the renovation had just started.  Well, things have changed quite a bit in the last year.  

I'll start with the Quad. They are just finishing up the renovation, but the improvements are remarkable.  The Imperial Palace was a bit of dump, dark and smoky with no easy access off the Strip and just generally old and worn.  Now the valet and drive-through area has been moved to the side of the hotel and the casino extends all the way to the Strip with a real front entrance. They have all new carpeting and furnishings and the layout is totally different.  They also seem to have improved the ventilation as it didn't seem smoky.  We ended up spending much more time in the Quad casino than we did at Harrah's.  We would probably consider staying there except from what I understand, the renovation did not include the rooms which are said to be old and not very nice.

The biggest surprise for us was the Linq, we really liked it.  It is essentially a pedestrian walkway (street) between the Quad and the Flamingo, lined with restaurants, shops and other things.  It starts at the Strip and goes all the way back to High Roller.  The High Roller is the world's highest observation wheel with it's highest point being 550 feet high. Each "car" on the wheel holds 40 people. Here is a picture we took at night of the Linq with the High Roller in the background.

The High Roller isn't open yet as it is going through safety certification, but it is supposed to open in April or May.  It is an impressive and dominating structure.  Here are a few more pictures of the High Roller and the Linq.

The entrance to the Quad as seen from Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip).

Looking back towards the Strip.
O'Sheas has reopened as a mini casino within the Quad with an entrance from the Linq.

The new entrance to the Flamingo from the Linq.
We visited the Linq several times and really enjoyed it.  A lot of things aren't open yet, and the ones that are open have only been open a few weeks, but it looks like it's going to be pretty popular.  We talked to several security people and staff in a couple of the restaurants and everyone was very polite, helpful and super enthusiastic.  We also like the fact that you can now walk out of Harrah's, across the Carnival Court, into the Quad, through the Quad and into the Linq, and then you if you want to go on into the Flamingo you can do so through a new entrance from the Linq.  Much easier and quicker than before if you wanted to go from casino to casino.  I'll spare any more details as I've written more than enough, but as you can tell, the Linq looks like a place we will go to eat and hang out the next time we visit.

That's about it for the trip.  The drive home was easy, but we did get home a bit late as we stopped at the outlets in Primm, NV to go to Wiilams-Sonoma. The nearest Williams-Sonoma outlet is in Texas so it's a real rarity and Val really enjoys walking through the store. It was a great trip, we really enjoyed our visit to the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas is always fun.  Val's knee passed another test and is getting better and better which bodes well for future trips.

Our next planned trip is at the end of May and we will be taking the train to Chicago where we will meet my Aunt Judy (see Aunt Judy Visits Tahoe ) and spend a few days seeing the sights.  We will then go on to Michigan where I'll see many of my relatives whom I haven't seen in a long time.  Then we will take a short tour of Michigan with Judy and my brother's family (who are flying in from California) before returning home by train.  After being home from Michigan for a couple of weeks, we will be going on a 20-day cruise / tour to Alaska which leaves from Vancouver, so we will be pretty busy in June and July.  We are looking forward to it.

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