Since my best friend moved in 2013, we have tried to meet up at least once a year and have some fun. Sometimes that means staying in her new city of San Diego, but usually, we go to Las Vegas.
Because of the pandemic, the last time we got together was in the fall of 2019. We swore we were sick of it and wouldn’t go back for a LONG time. However, being housebound for nearly two years tends to change one’s perspective, and around Christmas time of last year, we started planning a trip to Vegas for early March 2022.
When first planning, I saw a screaming deal for the Bellagio hotel, but alas didn’t jump on it fast enough and ended up at an unnamed hotel very close by….more on that later. With that detail taken care of, we decided to change our usual mode of fun for the four days and three nights we’d be in town and do things differently.
I’d fly to San Diego for all our past trips, and we’d drive to Vegas. The drive over was SO fun; the drive back? Not so much. So, this time, we both flew to Vegas and met up at the airport.
In the past, our routine was strictly gambling and eating. I would set a gambling budget and when that was blown, stop. In 2019, I blew my budget on the second day and was cranky about it for the rest of the trip (sorry, Julie.) So, this year we decided to each pick an event, not tell the other, book it and surprise each other.
My first thought was to go incredibly cheesy. I got on Vegas.com and started going through all the choices, Donny Osmond? Magic Mike? Zombie Burlesque? Wayne Newton? I was considering all the above when Kamu Ultra Karaoke popped up. We’d been big karaoke fans back in the day, and this place had private rooms and Korean food! Perfect!
After conferring briefly with my friend’s 18-year-old daughter, I had to see if it had her approval; I signed up for 2 hours, thinking I obviously would have the best event. Shortly after, my friend picked her spot, and we waited the long three months for our trip.
Finally, after some issues that nearly derailed our trip, the day came, and we flew to Vegas. I had checked in to our hotel online, and we ubered over, thinking it would be a quick process to get in and to our room. Boy, were we wrong.
As we walked into the lobby, it was clear that this was prime check-in time. No problem, we had done the “skip the line thingy” and could sashay up to the kiosk, right?
It was just 50 new friends and us standing around waiting for the kiosks. As we neared the front, we decided to wait a little bit longer and see about a room upgrade. Why not, right? In the end, it was a bit too pricey, and we went with our original ‘view’ room.
*Cue the ominous foreshadowing music*
We spent the rest of the day eating, window shopping and gambling, happily retiring to our room at a relatively early hour so we’d be fresh as daisies the next day. We caught up for a couple of hours, and Julie went to sleep wearing earbuds to listen to music as she slept.
Suddenly, a band started playing in the room. Ok, it wasn’t in the room, but it sure sounded like the primarily 80’s pop cover band was now serenading me to sleep in the bathroom. Ok, no problem, this is Vegas. I can endure.
Midnight passed, 1:00 am, 2:00 am…What the heck? I’m no stranger to late nights, but I do want to sleep at some point, so I called the concierge to see when I could expect to do that. “Oh, didn’t they tell you about the nightclub noise when you booked?” NO! “Well, it will be over by 4:00 am.” Sigh, no rest for this sweaty light sleeper as the air conditioning appeared to be out too.
The following day my now rested friend showered while I went back to the 50-person line to see about changing the room. After a long wait, I got the room changed and headed back to pack up and move. I arrived to find the air-con had been fixed, but my poor friend was now covered in soap and shampoo with no water.
After calling downstairs again, she managed to rinse off with bottled water, we headed to the new room, and the keys didn’t work. Down I went to the 50-person line, where I was scolded for putting the key card next to my phone (I didn’t have it with me), but eventually, we unpacked in our new room.
The new day marked our first event, Karaoke. After an afternoon of gambling, we ubered to the Venetian for a night of fun. The host ushered us down a flashing glass hallway to our private room, where we ate Wagyu sliders, Kalbi Tacos and drank Lychee & Hibiscus cocktails while attempting to sing our old favorite songs unsuccessfully.
I highly recommend Kamu but take a wad of cash as 2 hours, dinner and drinks set me back several hundred. We then gambled back to our thankfully quiet room to rest up for whatever my friend had in store for me the next day.
The next day dawned to me trying to guess what was on the docket for that night. I tried to pry it out of her, but she was busily making dinner reservations refusing to give it up. After another day of wandering, we set out to our first stop, Beni Hana.
Oddly, I had never been to Beni Hana but was game to try it out. It turned out to be good with a very chatty chef who made it fun for the whole table. I’ll never forget the meal, for the food and because a month and a half later, my purse still smells like sesame oil.
Finally, as we headed for the main event, my friend told me where we were headed, the Westgate Hotel for a Barry Manilow show. To my great shame, my friend had out cheesed me. Manilow brought back my very early childhood, eight-track tapes (yes, I’m old), and family car trips singing Mandy in the Chevrolet Caprice Classic.
Not knowing what to expect, we sat down as the house lights dimmed and the music started. After all, Manilow is now in his late 70’s. How much could he still do?
I set the bar very low, and he leaped over it wearing a feather boa on a catwalk, dancing far above the audience. Was he lip-syncing? Maybe. He was very active in some parts, but the man honestly made me feel like I needed to step up my game, even being decades younger. If you are a Fanilow, or even if you’re not, and have the chance, see him.
The next day after going back to the 50-person line to explain that “no, we hadn’t upgraded to a suite and would not be paying for one,” we flew back to our homes. Another Vegas trip was over, and we decided we’d wait another five-ish years to go back this time.
Maybe. But maybe we’ll be back next year for Donny Osmond, who knows?
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